What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? What’s this about Coach Thorp telling a kid to get an abortion? July – September 2022


Neal Rubin stepped down as writer for Gil Thorp, with his last strip running as my last recap ran. This is convenient for me; I don’t need to explain deep background lore and … oh. Uhm.

So. Henry Barajas knows much more of the lore of Gil Thorp than I do. As part of his first three months of writing the strip he’s brought back Melissa Gordon, who was a student athlete seen in a story from 2002-03. Back then the strip was written by Jerry Jenkins. Yes, the Left Behind novelist. (And illustrated by Frank McLaughlin.) This Week In Milford dug out the original strips and summarized the story, with examples of the strip. I’ll make the story even shorter. Melissa, pregnant with fellow student Kyle Gordon, took refuge with the Thorps when her parents kicked her out. She and Kyle had decided on an abortion and Coach Thorp talked her out of it.

Melissa recounting her past story: 'We went through some rough times.' In flashback Thorp asks her, 'Can you be swayed?' and Mel answers, 'You can't tell me what to do with my body!' In the present, Thorp says, 'Mel, I shouldn't have told you to get that abortion --- ' Mel, tearing: 'Wow. Really, Gil?'
Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 15th of September, 2022. In the subsequent strip Melissa says she’s not ready to accept Thorp’s apology and asks him to imagine if that were to happen today: ‘I’d have to fly back to Los Angeles or worse’. I’m not precisely sure what she means, but commenters on GoComics say that in the full 2002-03 story, Gil Thorp pushed his way into Melissa and Kyle’s decision. So while she may well love her child, it also complicated, and changed, her life and can hold Thorp accountable for talking her into it.

Then it got confusing. On the 15th of September (this year) Thorp apologized, saying, “I shouldn’t have told you to get that abortion.” In the comments on GoComics that day it’s explained that this was a lettering error. Barajas had written that Thorp apologized for telling her not to get that abortion. It’s always the critical word that gets dropped, isn’t it?

One can’t fault Thorp for having regrets about advice he gave long ago. One can fault him for saying this to Mel, when he’s having a meal with her and her child. So this makes Mel’s reaction — to someone who had, when she was a vulnerable teen, shown kindness — more understandable. Well, Thorp has been going through a rough time himself. let me try and catch up on all that. Here’s my first attempt at recapping the plot in Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp.

If you’re reading this essay after around December 2022 the most current plot recap should be at this link. Thanks for reading this one, though.

Gil Thorp.

11 July – 24 September 2022.

Barajas opened his writing tenure with Gil Thorp receiving the Jack Berrill Coach of the Year award. (Jack Berrill was, in reader time, the creator of Gil Thorp.) Again. Presenter Emmett Tays introduces Thorp with a quick football story. It’s about how Coach Thorp bonded with him over having abusive parents(!) to help him find the drive to win the big game. It’s a story that makes you ask: wait, isn’t Coach Thorp a mandatory reporter? Even if he wasn’t at the time of the story, is it admirable he saw a kid’s traumatized home life as a chance to complete forward passes? Not that a character has to be admirable to be worth our focus, but Tays is trying to tell a story of Gil Thorp doing something great.

Tays, in flashback: 'Why? I don't need to give [ my mother ] a reason to give me a matching [ black eye ]'. Thorp, in flashback: 'I ain't no snitch.' Tays snickers. Thorp continues: 'My pa was a drinker. He did't know how to communicate any way but with his fists and the belt. But those fellas out thre? You need them as much as they need you. So, let's not send them to the ER?' Tays: 'Heh. Fo sho, Coach.'
Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 16th of July, 2022. By the way, we haven’t heard any mention about whether they’re still ‘playdowns’, although I imagine Barajas wouldn’t lose something that distinctive to the strip.

I hesitate to play the “unreliable narrator” card. But it seems important how in the story Thorp speaks with Tays’s voice. I’m willing to suppose the story was compressed to the point it created confusion. What I don’t know is whether this was an adaptation of an actual story from deep in the Thorp archives. What I can say is what this establishes for Barajas’s writing here. It starts with a quick sports story, a promise that he’s not losing sight of that as we get into some serious family drama.

The drama: Coach Thorp’s family is not there. Mimi’s mother is dying, and Mimi’s taking a leave of absence to deal with her. Also, Mimi has not revealed how bad her mother’s health is to Gil. The subject got buried under how their own marriage is failing. She’s taken to leaving notes about how she thinks she’s worthy of his love, but not answering his phone calls. It’s a frustrating level of conflict-avoidance, one that her own child Keri calls her out on. I’m frustrated because I can’t tell you exactly what they’re struggling with. The reader’s desire to know who’s in the Right is understandable. But I’ve seen where people can fail to recognize one another’s signals of acceptance, so the relationship fails without anyone doing wrong.

Beth, a bartender at wherever it is the ceremony was, hits on Gil Thorp before finding out he’s married. Natural mistake. But they’re seen by Luke Martinez, the new coach of Valley Tech, a bombastic and outgoing and somewhat aggressive man. He declares he’s tired of Thorp winning this trophy every year and offers the deal. If Martinez wins next year, Thorp quits, and if he doesn’t, Martinez gives up coaching. Thorp doesn’t see why this man has decided to be Thorp’s problem.

Marty Moon: 'I've known Gil and his wife Mimi for a long time. He would never cheat on her!' Luke Hernandez: 'Are you callin' me a liar, Moon?' Moon; 'I just find it hard to believe --- ' Hernandez: 'You'll see! Gil is not as brilliant as me. I'm in Mensa. My mind is quick.' Moon: 'Anyway, what plans to you have for Valley Tech?' Hernandez: 'Take a wild guess ... '
Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 11th of August, 2022. Does … does it involve setting up a web site with Squarespace?

Martinez goes on Marty Moon’s “Behind the Playbook” podcast to boast to everyone about how good he is, which shows how new Martinez is in town. (Also for some reason he’s introduced as Luke Martinnez. Maybe a middle name.) But he drops a mention of seeing Thorp flirting with the bartender. Moon is skeptical. But Martinez says how he’s in Mensa, so anyone should know never to take a thing he ever says seriously. Moon calls Thorp for his side before publishing. Thorp says what happened. He also opens up to Marty Moon of all people about how Mimi’s avoided him and took the kids to her mother’s while he was away for the awards.

When she learns of this Mimi says of course she doesn’t believe anything went on. She’s not jealous of some random person hitting on Gil Thorp. Also that the trip was not set off by anything; it was the only weekend free before his Pinewood summer camp coaching. But she still wants him to be at home, emotionally, more. This desire seems to contradict scheduling a trip away the last weekend he’s free. But it’s muddled but in a way people are.

On the golf course — I think at Pinewood — Gil and Mimi run into Luke and Francesca Martinez and their son Pedro. They play together, and Luke turns on what he believes is charm. His jolly references to Mimi as the ‘ball and chain’ or ‘your old lady’ sink him somehow even farther in Gil’s eyes. Francesca’s happy to meet the Thorps, though, and mentions how she’s a heart surgeon starting at Milford Medical. This is where we the readers learned Mimi was a “stay at home” mother now, though not yet that it’s to care for her own mother.

Mimi: 'You two look neat! Jami, don't stain your new pants!' Gil Thorp, taking pictures: 'Say cheese!' Jami Thorp: 'Huh? Cheese?!' Caption beside him: 'Jami Thorp. Likes: Anime he's not old enough to watch, cheese sticks, Mom's homemade pot pies. Dislikes: THe dark. Radishes. Keri's zines. Dream job: Being dad's assistant coach.' Gil: 'Nice smile, sweetie!' Keri: 'Thanks, Daddy!' Caption beside them: 'Keri Thorp, Pronouns: they/them. Likes: Kurt Vonnegut, the Linda Lindas. Drawing zines. Dislikes: the patriarchy.'
Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 31st of August, 2022. No argument with Keri about the Patriarchy here, which is only hurting everyone, including the patriarchs.

This gets us to the new school year, though. And the formal reintroduction of the Thorp Children, who’d gone without much (any?) mention in years. It’s also where we learn that Keri Thorp goes by they/them pronouns, the second nonbinary human character I know of in the syndicated strips. (The first would be Kelly Welly, in Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail.)

We also meet Melissa Gordon, and her child, born Tabatha but now her son Tobias. I don’t know that this is the first transgender human character in syndicated newspaper comics, but Tobias is at least the first in a long while. (I’m adding the ‘human’ qualifier as I’m not sure how to characterize Rosebud from the 1980s Bloom County. I imagine “aged in awkward ways”. And of course Krazy Kat is a bunch of essays.) Also that, apparently, she and Kyle married, but separated. Melissa asks for Thorp’s hep watching after Tobias, who, yeah, can’t be having a good time in high school. I’m sure it’s better now than it would be in, oh, 1992, but that’s still not great.

And we finally see Mimi Thorp going to Milford Adult Care, spending time with her mother, who says she has six months to live. Also we meet Mimi’s replacement as girls coach, Cami Ochoa, a name that seems familiar but that I haven’t mentioned here at least. (Also the part of my brain that used to do Jumble notes her name is an anagram for ‘I Am Coach O’. This I suppose is coincidence.) The girls volleyball team wins their first game, but Coach Ochoa crops her out of the team photo for some reason.

Keri, seeing Pedro Hernandez: 'Uh, I'm Keri ... ' Fernanda Hernandez: 'The Thorp kids are here? Ay! Nice to meet you, Mija!' Luke: 'Stay for dinner! Fran cooked some arroz con pollo y papas!' Keri: 'If you say so!' Whispering to Jami: 'Why didn't you tell me your friend's brother is super hot?!' Jami, whispering back: 'You're the worst.'
Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 26th of September, 2022. Quite like the sibling dynamic here, by the way.

Meanwhile, Jami Thorp doesn’t have to worry so much about making friends at school. He’s getting along great with this Luke Martinez Junior character, prompting Coach Thorp to eat his glass. Jami and Keri like the Martinez kids, though, as if they have an instinct to drive their father crazy.

And it falls outside the official date range for this recap. But we learned this week that Assistant Coach Kaz is moving to another school after this year. We’ll see whether it’s Valley Tech or someone else.

Milford Sports Watch!

Here’s my attempt at tracking all the schools besides Milford that get a mention or appearance. Summers usually see a lull in team references, but this has been a quite short season. All that time on new drama, I suppose.

Next Week!

This was a lot of work on changed character relationships and settings and newly complicated backstory. I’m looking forward to settling down to a nice easy recap week. I look at Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker next Tuesday, if all goes to plan.

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? Who’s writing Gil Thorp now? April – July 2022


Neal Rubin stepped down as author of the Gil Thorp comic strip on Saturday. Per the Daily Cartoonist, Rubin said he felt himself running short on ideas after eighteen years at this. And he wanted to focus on his day job, sports writer for the Detroit Free Press. His comic strip retirement coincides suspiciously well with the window for my plot recaps. It’s convenient for me when the story strips have plots end right around my plot recaps. So I’d like to make explicit to them, you know, don’t contort your plans for my sake. I can cope with a period where I pay attention to how I credit these strips.

The new writer — the fourth in the strip’s history — is Henry Barajas. Barajas has some renown for comic book series that I admit I was unaware of. (This is not a slight on his work; it’s me admitting my ignorance. I haven’t followed comic books directly since Marvel’s New Universe was put out of its misery.) But they include Helm Greycastle, the biographical La Voz De M.A.Y.O. Tata Rambo, and some Avengers and Batman stuff. An interview with the Tucson Daily Star says “He plans to introduce characters of color and with different sexual orientations and gun violence,” as good a case for the Oxford Comma as I know.

Anyway, this recap should get you up to speed on the final story of Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp. If you’re reading this after about September 2022, or any more news breaks about Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp, you may want to check the essays here. Thanks for reading.

Gil Thorp.

25 April – 9 July 2022.

Greg Hamm, on the boys’ baseball team at Milford, was losing his eyesight. Rapidly. His catcher, Wilson Henry, and the second baseman, sports trivia maven Eli “Scooter” Borden, had a scheme to work around this. Borden would relay the catcher’s signals by code words in his chatter. This works okay for pitching. Fielding is harder; if a ball isn’t in Hamm’s dwindling field of vision he’s helpless. When a hit zooms right past Hamm’s head without his even flinching Coach Thorp works out what’s up, and pulls the kid.

It turns out Hamm’s done an outstanding job concealing his vision problems. He even worked out how to fake his way through eye tests, so his parents and eye doctor didn’t know how bad it was. Now that they do know? Dr Maisano explains to Coach Thorp that this is the last year he could play baseball. If he wears facial protection, something like a catcher’s mask, he should be reasonably safe. Coach Thorp finally accedes to letting Hamm play.

[ Paying a visit to Gregg Hamm's eye specialist ... ] Dr Maisano: 'Trust me, Coach. I'm more irate than you. He's taken so many eye tests, he figured out how to fake his way through one.' Thorp: 'And now that you've re-tested, Doctor?' Maisano: 'Let's go talk behind his back.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 25th of May, 2022. Everyone dad-jokes about studying for their eye exams and then this kid went and did it!

The trick with a vision-impaired pitcher is the other teams work out where his blind spot is, and can hit to it. Borden’s girlfriend Charis Thompkins has an answer, direct from Borden’s trivia banks. Relief pitcher Ryne Duren played a decade in the late 50s and early 60s, and used his poor vision as a psychological weapon. Duren’s warmup pitches would go wild, an intimidating thing for batters to face. (Oh, and the plot bits about Thompkins and the girls’ tennis teams were not followed up on.)

An old trick is good again. Hamm warns a batter off bunting by “accidentally” throwing a pitch that barely misses the batter. The umpire demands Hamm be thrown out but Coach Thorp refuses, noting, you can’t eject a player for one bad pitch, whatever you think of his eyesight. This seems like a good way to insult the umpire while staying within the rules and make sure you never get a toss-up call your way again. Thorp tosses in an insult of how that umpire called an earlier game, which probably felt good anyway.

The blend of Hamm’s actual control, and ability to look uncontrolled when it’s intimidating, works. It launches the boys baseball team into the postseason. And the local media is quite interested in a blind pitcher.

[ After Gregg Hamm whistles a fastball four feet outside ... ] Umpire: 'Your pitcher is a menace. Take him out.' Thorp; 'You're ejecting him because he threw ball one?' Umpire: 'I'm not tossing him. But he can't see.' Thorp: 'He just fielded a batted ball. He hasn't even hit anyone. And no rule says you can make me pull him!'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 10th of June, 2022. I’m a little surprised if there isn’t any rule by which an umpire can declare a pitcher (or other player) is too dangerous — or endangered — to play. But, as Thorp notes, he hasn’t hit a pitcher, or thrown anything wilder than ball one, and he’d fielded a ball well just one or two strips before. I suppose an umpire would have to be able to point to specific cause, that isn’t shown. This even though everyone knows what stunt Hamm was pulling. (Thorp goes on to warn Hamm not to pull the stunt again, although it’s not needed.)

The trouble is the other major part of this story. Hamm’s father is pathologically camera-shy, to the point he hides from people taking cell phone pictures of the parents in the stands. He works so hard to not be noticed that everyone notices, and feeds rumors that he’s in the witness protection program or something. Coach Thorp hears the rumors and decides to just ask the Hamms what’s going on. Greg Hamm’s mother gives the clue.

Before he was a ghost-writer for businesspeople committing books, Greg’s father was Mason Hamstetter. Hamstetter had been a hot journalist, with great cover stories in big magazines, book deals, everything you hope for when you’re a writer. He was also a plagiarist. He faked quotes. He invented sources. He got caught. So he fled New York, and truncated his name, and did his best to completely hide from a shaming public. And now, after a decade of hiding, Hamm’s wife has had enough.

Mason Hamm meets Coach Thorp, who admits he doesn’t see how there’s anything to talk to him about. But if you ask his opinion, it’s this: nobody has any idea who he is or why they should care about him. Meanwhile his son’s got an amazing story that shouldn’t be hidden for the fear that one of the four guys in a Manhattan publishing office who kind of remember his name might hear about it. It’s a hard truth that Mason accepts. He allows his son to do interviews and talk about his experience. A reporter is curious about Mason, and suggests a “where is he now” interview. But his boss kills the story because nobody cares. Having lived through his two worst fears and finding them not so bad after all? He’s able to settle in to having a son whose story might become an inspirational book he might write.

Gil Thorp: 'What now? More ghost-writing?' Mason 'Hamm' Hamstetter: 'Some. But I'm thinking of finally writing a book under my own name ... about watching my son lose his vision, and how that helped open my eyes.' They shake hands. Thorp: 'That, Mr Hamstetter, I'd buy.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 9th of July, 2022. The last week of the story included several parting moments, including a “be seeing you” on the wall at Channel 6, which looked like a reference to something else. But it’s not reading too much into the text to notice having a ghostwriter resolve to publish under his own name being the farewell thought of a comic strip writer — surely the slightest level of fame a writer can enjoy — moving on to other projects. On the other hand, who ever heard of a Detroit sports writer getting into the inspirational-disease-memoir racket?

Greg Hamm pitches for Milford in the state tournament, but the team loses 9-4. It was still a good season.

And with that, the 9th of July, the story ends, as does Neal Rubin’s tenure writing Gil Thorp. I’ll learn the new direction of the comic strip as you all do, but I intend to recap it in just about three months. See you then.

Milford Sports Watch!

Next Week!

Sam and Abbey’s marriage collapses while Randy Parker tries to clear his wife’s name by slipping a hard drive full of super-ultra-duper CIA secrets to a streaming-media TV show consultant. This and more in Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker, next week, if all goes like I plan.

In Which I Do My Thinking About Baseball For The Year


Not watching or playing baseball, of course, just thinking about baseball statistics. So I got to looking up World Series and postseason-play droughts from the Major League Baseball teams and, you know? I always think of the Mets as a particularly hapless team because, you know, the Mets. Right? But you know what it turns out? There’s eight teams that have gone longer than the Mets without winning the World Series. They’re not even in the top quartile of World Series winlessnessness. There’s 22 teams with longer streaks of not winning World Serieses. And pennants? The Tigers have three streaks of twenty or more seasons where they didn’t win a penant, and the Red Sox and the White Sox have two each. The Pirates have two streaks of over thirty seasons without a penant. And the Mets? They don’t even have one lousy twenty-year streak without a penant to their name.

So anyway now I’m learning to appreciate how the Mets are somehow particularly hapless at being particularly hapless.

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? What is Scooter’s deal? February – April 2022


Eli “Scooter” Borden seems to be a key figure in this season’s story in Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp. We met him challenging folks with his baseball trivia. He’s part of the scheming to help pitcher Gregg Hamm cover up his lousy eyesight. His girlfriend’s on the girls’ tennis team.

He picked his own nickname. He says “without it, I’m a too-short kid named Eli”, but that with it, coaches figure he’s a small speedy guy. We do see Coach Thorp and Assistant Coach Kaz talking about how he’s fast. It’s not clear to me whether they’ve fallen for his branding or because they’ve watched him move.

This should get you caught up to late April 2022 in Gil Thorp. If you’re reading after about July 2022, or news about the strip comes out, a more useful essay should be here. Also, on my mathematics blog I try to talk about mathematics-themed comic strips. Must admit it’s been a little slow for that, lately, though. Maybe it’ll pick up. Meanwhile, let’s get back to the high school sports.

Gil Thorp.

7 February – 23 April 2022.

Pranit Smith, on the boys’ basketball team, figured he was pretty good at sports betting. Then he snuck his way into a real for-money sports betting web site. And then friends started asking him to place bets for them. And, thing is, he takes bets before he takes the cash to cover them. When many of them don’t win — and even his own bets fail — he’s in a fix, since the people who did win want their payouts.

Achebe: 'You want me to *hurt* guys so they'll pay their gambling debts?' Smith: 'No! Um, not exactly. I mean, a threat should do it, mostly. Or just a hint.' Achebe, talking to Gil Thorp: 'You gotta step in, Coach. This is crazy.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 26th of February, 2022. So this explains why the strip made a point of mentioning Gordon Achebe’s joining the basketball team. The text never mentions the racial component of Smith hoping this large (he was a football player) Black kid trying to be threatening. It’s an extra element of danger that I’m not sure the story meant for Smith to realize he was flirting with.

He has a brilliant idea. Like most brilliant ideas the kids in the strip have, it’s dumb. He asks Gordon Achebe, who again I think was on the football team before, to … you know, go mention to people who still owe Smith money. Not beat them up or anything, understand, just kind of … you know, noticeable and intimidating.

Achebe goes right to Coach Thorp, who once again can not believe what his idiot players are up to. He walks Smith through exactly how dumb this scheme is. And suspends him from games indefinitely. Smith also gets a five-day suspension. But Smith gets in line fast and behaves well enough that Thorp lets him into the final game of the season. He does well, scoring 13 points on a game that’s a 14-point win anyway.

Smith’s even able to solve his deadbeat-bettors problem. He lets it be known that his suspension can’t end until he turns over the names of everyone who owes him money, so, people pay up. He’s bluffing, but it works. He tosses off a joke about how if he’s this good at betting there are online poker sites. His friends toss him out of the story.


Meanwhile, the girls’ basketball team also had a story, unrelated to this one. Team Captain Hollis Talley freaks out on learning she was at a party where some teammates were drinking alcohol. Almost, anyway. They had two cans of hard seltzer for six people. She sees this as something that could threaten the team and/or her appointment to the US Air Force Academy. Her team responds to her concern with eye-rolling disdain and nominate her for Team Karen.

Talley: 'Drinking could cost us suspensions --- and if things blow up, the Air Force Academy could turn me away.' Teammates: 'So, this is you being selfish 'cause we want to be a little stupid.' 'Let's get out of here.' Sasaki: 'That went well.' Talley: 'I'm a born leader.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 18th of February, 2022. This is a nice little show of the different levels of maturity within the group here. Talley can see how something that is, really, harmless (two hard seltzers for six kids) could still explode and leave her covered in blame. Her teammates can’t see how their actions could have a consequence and can only understand Talley as selfish or controlling. And there is a struggle in establishing yourself as a leader so that people go along with you even if they don’t agree with your stated reasons. Talley getting along that path, even if she doesn’t get there, is a big element of this story. And, to add some pleasant ambiguity, there are absolutely no consequences for the drinking at the party. No grown-ups ever learn about it (that we know about), nobody gets in trouble, nothing bad happens except her teammates think Talley is power-tripping.

She has some constructive moping about this, and about the team’s poor performance and worse morale. Talley asks Coach Mimi Thorp to move her from center to guard, displacing her friend Cathy Sasaki. And working outside of regular practice with Maddie Bloom, another guard. This works well for the team, which gets them some compelling wins against teams that had been beating them. The important thing is getting the team to work. One person, and I’m not sure who, says she hopes that if she is Team Captain next year she’ll be able to make choices like Talley has.


The 26th of March saw the basketball storylines end. The 28th of March saw the start of the spring, boys softball, story. The key player here is Gregg Hamm, pitcher who’s going blind. His vision’s bad enough he can’t read the catcher’s signals anymore. But he, catcher Wilson Henry, and second baseman Eli ‘Scooter’ Borden work out an alternative. Borden will catch Henry’s signals and relay them by code words in his relentless chatter. Despite being a brilliant plan, it’s not too dumb, although I’m not clear how well Hamm can pitch if he has that poor vision. Also I don’t know why a sixteen(?)-year-old is losing his vision that fast and whether his parents know about this. He does fine his first game of the season, though.

Thompkins: 'So, Wilson is on board?' Borden: 'As long as Gregg doesn't hurt himself, or the team.' [ Cooley at Milford, and ... ] Borden, at second: 'C'mon, guys! Let's make some noise out there!' (The catcher signals) Borden: 'No stick, 32. Rock and fire!' Gregg Hamm, thinking: 'OK ... fastball it is!'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 22nd of April, 2022. So Hamm says his right eye is useless, his left eye is blurry and getting worse, and Coach Thorp doesn’t know. But we also know he’s doing all right on pop quizzes. I understand that Hamm has exactly the eye condition that causes what the plot is. But I don’t know what eye problem would fit all these traits (plus that it hits a teenager). But I’m also fortunate to have never had a serious eye problem myself. The closest I’ve had is needing to give our pet rabbit eyedrops for her cataracts, and pet rabbits are almost never expected to play even slow-pitch softball.
Hamm’s parents, by the way, include a father who ghost-writes autobiographies for business people. I don’t know whether this will have thematic or even plot significance.

In the parallel, girls’ tennis, story, Scooter Borden and his friends come out to cheer for his girlfriend Charis Thompkins. They bring their enthusiasm, if not an understanding that one simply does not hoot in the middle of a volley. It’s too soon to say where this storyline’s going too.

Milford Sports Watch!

Here’s my best attempt at keeping track of who’s played against Milford teams the past couple months and when they did it.

(It’s really the only attempt I made.)

Next Week!

Randy Parker returns to his dad’s comic strip! How does this roil Cavelton? I explore Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker next week, all going well. I need to start writing this recap, like, today.

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: Third Place vs Balls


Third

The Case For: Is the second place of second place.

The Case Against: Is the zeroth place of fourth place.

Balls

The Case For: Are the most egg-like of sports equipment.

The Case Against: There exist minimum and maximum sizes of balls for any regulation sports.

Statistics Saturday: Some More Winter Olympics Trivia


  • For several months the 1956 Winter Olympics were scheduled to be held in Santo Domingo until someone asked why Avery Brundage’s geography whiz of a grand-nephew kept giggling.
  • If this were 1988? You could get a laugh anywhere, anytime, out of anyone, just talking about the “luge”. Just the idea of the sport was the most funniest thing anyone could imagine. By 1992, the moment had passed. Sorry if you missed it.
  • Although they’re formally named the “Winter Olympics”, in the southern hemisphere where the seasons are opposite they’re known as the “Winter”.
  • They didn’t originally plan to have the 1976 Games in Innsbruck, it’s just everyone assumed that’s where the Games would be and everyone had bought their plane tickets before anyone checked where they were supposed to be held (Santo Domingo).
  • Fictional nation with the greatest number of gold medals in the Winter Olympics? Freedonia. Greatest number of medals, period? Klopstokia.
  • Sports never played in the Winter Olympics include ice baseball, snow basketball, sleet football, frost hockey, and slush rugby.
  • Like you could pretend you’re trying to think of the name of “luge” and then say your brain keeps on wanting you to say “luge” and that isn’t even a word, and if it’s 1988, you’re beloved for your sense of humor.
  • Oh yeah and if this were 1994? It would be crazy funny for David Letterman to have his Mom asking Olympics athletes questions, and that’s why to this day we have the talk show comedy genre of “somebody’s relative does a halting, insecure interview that would be painfully embarrassing to watch if you weren’t at least 75% sure the relative was in on and liked the joke”.
  • Luge, though. Luge.
  • Olympic events added for Richie Rich include $ledding, bob$leigh, $peed $kating, and ¢ro$$-¢ountry $kiing.
  • They are figuring to sneak in an extra Winter Olympics in Innsbruck next year, just to stay in practice.
  • Happy luge, everybody! We probably missed it for this year, though.

Reference: Expository Sciences, Editors Terry Shinn, Richard Whitley.

Statistics Saturday: Some Winter Olympics Trivia


  • Since 1984 the official mascot of the Winter Olympics has been Groo the Wanderer and nobody knows why.
  • They wanted to organize some winter events for the Stockholm Olympics of 1912 but couldn’t find a good place to hold them.
  • Each gold medal is initially struck in stainless steel and then touched by King Midas.
  • The typical Winter Olympics athlete will consume over twelve pounds of vegetables in their lifetime.
  • The first Winter Games were named in 1925 when the International Winter Olympics Committee woke up in the middle of the night remembering that’s what they meant to do last year and sent Chamonix, France, an exciting letter.
  • The correct answer to any trivia question about any Winter Olympics up to those of 1960? Sonja Henie.
  • Each silver medal is initially struck in stainless steel and then touched by King Midas’s decent but not really ready eldest son.
  • Ice skating was originally in the Winter Games as Ice Kating — that is, putting on a performance of Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate — until a typesetting error in the program for the 1952 Games changed things forever. (Not Olympics-related, but a similar mishap with the event of rotating episodes of Mrs Columbo gave us roller skating!)
  • Each bronze medal is initially struck in stainless steel and then touched by King Midas’s brother who, you know, he’s trying, he means well, he just doesn’t get it.
  • The first ski jump was put in place because the event course had to get over State Road 832 somehow.
  • There is a 288-way tie among all the countries and special teams for greatest number of copper medals won at the Winter Games, with zero each.
  • Taking the most Winter Olympics gold medals through to 2022? Carmen Sandiego.

Reference: Expository Sciences, Editors Terry Shinn, Richard Whitley.

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? Why Is That Kid Betting on Sports Events? November 2021 – February 2022


That kid, Pranit Smith, is betting on sports things because if you do it right you win money. He may be urgently short on money — he at one point says he gets the coffees he does because of a “low budget”. But that hasn’t been explicit. He’s betting online using his older brother’s identity. He also gives a curiously long explanation for how his brother has the name ‘Bob’. I believe that’s so we the readers understand Bob is a real person and Pranit’s misdemeanor is just using that driver’s license (or whatever the proof of age was) instead of counterfeiting one. It’s about setting the level of his transgression.

This should catch you up on Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for mid-February 2022. If you’re reading this after about May 2022, or if news about the strip breaks, there’s probably a more useful essay here. Thanks for reading.

Gil Thorp.

15 November 2021 – 5 February 2022.

Last time you’ll recall, consciousness enthusiast Boyd Spiller had been hypnotizing the problems out of everyone. Worked great until the overloaded Kianna Bello sprains her foot after one of Spiller’s hypno-rest sessions. Tevin Claxton, whose choking under pressure seemed relieved by Spiller’s help, had enough.

He climbed on the lunchroom table to announce he’d been seeing a sports psychiatrist who was helping him. Spiller’s YouTube-lesson hypnosis was harmless nonsense until it wasn’t. But thanks for trying to help.

[ The normally reticent Chance Macy takes the pulpit ... ] Kid 'Dude, can you speak up?' Macy: 'Probably not. But here's Tevin, our quarterback. He's been great --- but he had to deal with negative expectations, based on just four or five plays last year.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 3rd of December, 2021. Regarding that first panel: I do not read the comics to be called out like that. And no, the evidence is that I can’t speak up.
So that’s got Bello not talking to Claxton. And Coach Thorp required to give a pep talk about how the team was good because they worked hard and together. They lose the next football game, though, and one of the players gets wounded. The ever-reticent Chance Macy decides it’s his turn to say something. He announces where he’s going to college so he can play football without anyone seeing (it’s Canada). And that everybody has to learn to say when expectations on them are unreasonable.

For example there’s Bello, burdened by how everyone expected she could take on more responsibilities. Or Claxton, who got razzed a lot for a couple bad plays the previous year. Macy calls for everyone to go easier on each other, and ourselves, and “snot-pound Valley Tech”. It reads like a goofy replacement for something an actual high schooler might say. But everyone in the strip agrees they have no idea what that means. Macy just said something weird and got away with it. Since they beat Valley Tech, that’s all working out well. Unfortunately Goshen beating Oakwood means that Milford will finish the season in second place. At least they close the season on a win.


And that closes the football-season story. The 13th of December started the basketball-season story. Girls basketball player, and swiftly-named team captain, Hollis Talley is going to the US Air Force Academy. And, on the boys team, Pranit Smith is doing great in his fantasy-football picks. He’s a mediocre player, but in a tight game Coach Thorp spots where passing the ball to Smith can let him get a three-pointer that wins the match. It sets him on a string of great performances. Since this is early in the season, this has to set some terrible comeuppance in motion.

Smith: 'My first bet was a four-team parlay. One of the teams pushed ... ' Teammate: 'It's football. Everyone pushes.' Smith: ''Push' means tie. Anyway, that made ita three-teamer at 6-1 odds. And I won. I just wish I'd bet more.' Other teammate: 'Congratulations. Sounds like a great first step toward disaster.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 24th of January, 2022. Since there’s no ties in college football, this indicates Smith was betting on professional football. If we were to foolishly try to tie this to current events, then this has to be the week of November 14, when the Lions and Steelers tied. Anyway, since it is true that every team in football pushes, wouldn’t it be a better name for the sport if we called it “pushball”? Let’s just see what happens if we try.

Using his elder brother’s name, Smith opens an actual betting for-cash account. And, worse, it starts out great. Some other kids start giving money to him to put down bets. So everybody else waits for the incredible obvious disaster even people in adjacent comic strips sees coming. Even Coach Gil Thorp Assistant Coach Kaz, who only gets to overhear the players’ nonsense, notices he’s paying attention to his phone rather than the game he’s playing.

Meanwhile on the girls team, the season’s starting pretty rough. Talley feels she should be doing something captain-y to turn things around. But she doesn’t know what. Ask people to do extra practices? Coach Mimi Thorp is also frustrated but hasn’t got an answer. Talley is able to coax some of it out of Cressa Baxter: her knee hurts, but she’s not willing to spend her last season benched. The doctor’s supposed to drain it in a few days so that problem may fix itself.

And one last bit. Gordon Achebe, who I think was on the football team, joined the basketball team. I don’t know the significance of this. (I don’t seem to have mentioned him before, around here.) That it was established suggests he might be being set up for something.

Milford Sports Watch!

Who’s Milford playing? What schools get mentioned in the strip? There’ve been a lot the past couple months, as the strip showed a lot of games being played and a lot of talking about conference rivals. Here’s, to the best of my knowledge, the full list. Also mentioned, as schools that seniors were graduating to, were McGill University and the Air Force Academy.

Next Week!

Whatever happened to Judge Parker? I share what I know from readingFrancesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker, if all goes well.

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? What is Chance Macy’s Problem? August – November 2021


You might remember “Blowtop Mad” Chance Macy from the 2019 football story in Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp. Macy’s a senior now. He’s not much for hanging out, not much anyway. He’s also not one for talking with the local sports reporters. Colleges are trying to recruit him. He’s not answering the phone, e-mail, or physical mail, which, mood. A recruiter from Milford State University comes to ask what his deal is. What he’s thinking is he doesn’t know he wants all this.

College recruiter: 'It's a long way to the NFL, and it takes a ferocious amount of work and focus. But we've put a lot of halfbacks into the NFL - another reason to come to State U!' Chance Macy thinks. Later, he says to Coach Thorp, 'So if I over-devote myself to football, I have an outside shot at a career I don't want.' Thorp: 'Sounds tempting.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 3rd of November, 2021. It’s a nice bit of composition to have Macy’s third-panel word balloon underneath his face in the second panel. It depicts how he’s forming thoughts he can only articulate later.

I didn’t know the athletes at my high school, so I can’t say how authentic this is. But there is a recurring Gil Thorp motif of pretty good athletes figuring they don’t want to keep doing this. It feels mature, but that might be because I suspect I wouldn’t want to have to go on playing any sports. It intrigues me the strip has its characters feel such ambiguity about the sports they work that hard at.

This should get you caught up to mid-November 2021 in Gil Thorp. If you’re reading this after about February 2022, or any news about the strip breaks, there’s likely a more useful essay at this link.

And my A-to-Z project, on my mathematics blog, continues. Last week I tried to explain Analysis, which is one of the big things of mathematics. I left some stuff out. You might enjoy it.

Gil Thorp.

24 August – 13 November 2021.

Last time, young Heather Burns’s detective work, teasing out golf cheat Carson Hendry, had impressed Milford Star reporter Marjie Ducey. But there were no job openings at the Star … and then Ducey decided there would be if she took the buyout package and retired. So Burns has a new job. Also, per Coach Thorp’s tip, a volunteer position coaching the city youth program for Wick Harmon. So that’s nice for her.


From the 30th of August the autumn, and current, storyline started. One key figure is Kianna Bello, a bit overcommitted to girls volleyball and the gymnastics team. Another is Boyd Spiller, on the boys football team, who’s discovered this thing called consciousness and wants to see it raised. He has a glorious scene trying to turn the annual Bonfire into a visualization of the cosmic All that happens to include beating Oakwood. They beat Oakwood anyway.

[ The Traditional Pre-Season Bonfire ] Tevin Claxton: 'They handed me the microphone because I'm the quarterback - but meet the heart of our team, the offensive line!' Mimi Thorp, to Gil: 'Boyd Spiller and a microphone. Watch out.' Spiller: 'Okay, everyone. Let's close our eyes and *visualize* beating Oakwood.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 16th of September, 2021. I love Spiller’s wholehearted embrace of this stuff. I am only sad that he’s on a trajectory to be an Internet Atheist within ten years.

They also beat Kettering, although it’s a closer thing than Oakwood. Tevin Claxton fumbles and Spiller asks if he wants to do something about his choking problem. After Claxton misses a pass in the Goshen game he hears what Spiller has to offer. It’s hypnosis. Which Spiller totally knows how to do because he learned it on YouTube. I adore this, and I wish also to thank whatever junior high teacher assigned him a book report on Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

[ The hypnosis session continues - Boyd Spiller, presiding. ] Spiller, waving a flashlight in front of Claxton's eyes; 'Keep looking at the light. You live for tough situations, Tevin. Your breathing is steady. Your mind is clear. When the light goes off, up you go ... ' He clicks the light off.
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 22nd of October, 2021. And yes, this is all a bit silly. But a lot of sports psychology is silly. For example: if you have a little superstitious ritual going in to some competition? You actually do play better, even if you’re not superstitious and you’re just doing it because you heard it helps you play better. People, you know?

Thing is, it seems to work, with Claxton putting in clutch performances the next couple games. More people start coming to Spiller for hypnotherapy. Including, finally, Kianna Bello. The strip’s cut back to her and her overloaded schedule several times. Her frustration at taking only third in a tournament; she’d been second the year before. Her barely getting enough rest, and keeping going on caffeine and competitiveness. She thinks Spiller’s hypnosis might be a way to push through her fatigue.

[ A high difficulty Tsukhara vault, an off-balance landing --- ] Bello: 'Ugh!' The trainer examines: 'This isn't good.' Bello: 'You went to trainer school to know *that*?' on the phone: 'Oh no. I'm sorry, Kianna .. how long?'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 12th of November, 2021. The Tsukhara vault, I am told by Wikipedia, is any of a family of vaults, featuring a quarter or half turn on the vault table into a backwards somersault. It’s named for Mitsuo Tsukahara.

But she doesn’t feel better-rested. And she takes a bad landing at the district meet, spraining her foot and putting her out of competition for two weeks. She can not believe what an idiot she’s been. And (we learn this week) Claxton has had enough, and has secrets to reveal.


Milford Sports Watch!

Who’s Milford been playing? These schools, back around these dates:

Next Week!

We see court-related action in Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker! No actual courthouses, so far, but at there is some promise of professional misconduct so that’s something to look forward to.

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? What’s with Carter Hendricks’s jacket? May – August 2021


The Summer story in Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp turned, in part, on what school a “BSU” jacket belonged to. The school colors therefore mattered. Gil Thorp has started running, in GoComics, in color. But, as is common for weekday comics, the colorizing gets done without checking the writers for guidance. I do not know why the colorizers of daily strips don’t get guidance from the original cartoonists. I understand if the cartoonists do not wish to do the extra work of picking out colors if they’re not paid for it. It makes every day as much work as a Sunday strip.

But the practice keeps screwing things up. Here, at least, it’s an innocent screw-up. The BSU jacket colors were not mentioned in text until several weeks after the jacket’s appearance. Whoever put color in had no direction. And that’s the sad usual for colorized dailies.

So this should catch you up to late August 2021. If you’re reading this after about November 2021, or if any news breaks about Gil Thorp, a more useful essay may be at this link. Thanks for reading, high school sports fans.

Gil Thorp.

31 May – 21 August 2021.

The Spring story — a long one — was mostly about who would be on the library board. There was a small piece going on about Corina Karenna, not related to the main action. So I’ll close that out.

Karenna saw no point going to college. She’s got an appalling record. All the athletic scholarships she could apply for are long gone. And her mother is too depressed to function without her. Still, Mimi Thorp hates to see a talented, bright, determined kid just peter out. She pokes around her contacts and alumni and finds a setup. Karenna moves to Syracuse, takes community college classes to get her credentials in order. Transfer to Le Moyne College, where there’s volleyball scholarship money and roommates to be had.

Mimi Thorp: 'It's all set. You'll start at a community college in Syracuse, New York. Play there, and then transfer to Le Moyne College. Great school. You won't admit it, but you'll love it. A couple of the Le Moyne players need a roommate, so you're all set.' Corina Karenna: 'Stop. You don't get to run my life!'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 23rd of June, 2021. There’s story detail lost in my compression. An important one is Mimi Thorp talking with Corina Karenna’s mother. And her mother talking about how she feels her daughter’s protecting her more than she actually needs. So the later assertion that Karenna’s mother did “a lot of the work” in setting this up has some textual basis. And it at least addresses the question of whether Karenna’s mother can function without her daughter. Anyway, I still don’t see how you could tell someone needs a roommate in two years.

And … Karenna’s mother? She, Thorp says, did a lot of the work putting this together. And believes she can keep herself together while her daughter’s at school. One likes her optimism, but I admit seeing many failure modes.

Meanwhile, the vacancy on the Library Board. The Board loves it. It’s drawn them, like, attention. It helps they have two candidates. One is young Zane Clark whose family depends on the library’s public good. The other is cranky middle-aged Abel Brito who doesn’t see why the public should be paying for good. And the juicy part is that Zane’s dating Katy Brito. So Zane’s and Abel’s every interaction is a good rousing fight.

The Library Board plays it for what it’s worth, with a public debate and everything. Zane pushing ideas of ways the library could do more. Abel pushing ways that the library could run like a business, unaware that almost every business is appallingly run. Only one person can get the seat, though, and either way will hurt Katy. Coach Thorp pushes his way into the action for some reason.

Mimi Thorp: 'I wonder what's holding up the show.' Gil Thorp: 'I mean to say hi to Rollie Conlan ... I'll go check.' At the library board table, Conlan says, 'Gil! You lobbying for one of our applicants?' Gil Thorp: 'Just saying hello. I don't see you now that your grandson graduated.' Conlan: 'It's a wonder you saw me at all, as little as he played.' Thorp: 'Life in a meritocracy.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 14th of June, 2021. And having re-read the story a couple times to summarize it, no, I still don’t understand why Gil Thorp considers this worth his attention. I guess it’s nice to relieve some stress from Zane Clark and Katy Brito’s lives? Which, I guess, if he’s a nice guy should be enough motivation, but I really would have thought “didn’t get to be on the Milford Library Board” the sort of thing someone bounces back from. Also nervous about talking up “life in a meritocracy”, since what that means is “we made up charts so our racism looks like test scores”.

What he does is nudge Rollie Conlan, 29-year veteran of the Library Board, into retiring. The argument being they need both Zane Clark’s ideas about providing public services and Abel Brito’s ideas about making money. So, two vacancies, two candidates, and all is happy. Apart from family dinners that now argue about whether the library should be providing a service or something.


With that, the 10th of July, the Spring story ended. The Summer story began the 12th of July and it looks to wrap up this week or next. This was a hard one to parse, as Rubin and Whigham played coy about what the conflict even was. And there were two threads that didn’t seem to have anything to do with one another, not until the end. I can’t fault them for verisimilitude. Often in life we have no idea we’re in a story until it’s ending. But as art? It meant we had weeks that seemed to be watching people deploy golf terminology.

So here’s the golf thread. Carter Hendricks is in his second summer as part of the Milford Country Club. And he’s a popular guy. Does well, as a “humble industrial solvents salesman”, playing games for money. Oh, he blows the occasional shot, sure, but somehow he’s always got what he needs when it counts. Almost suspiciously so. Like, when he happens to play a cheap golf ball instead of his usual.

Thorp, golfing: 'Another big drive, Carter!' Hendricks: 'Blind pigs and acorns!' [ Two holes later, Hendricks watches a shot of his. ] Hendricks: 'Whoa --- where did that come from? And where the heck is it going?' [ Then, on hole #12 ] Heather Burns: 'Those clouds look ominous. Are they headed our way?'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 4th of August, 2021. A pivotal moment: if they’d gone golfing two hours earlier Hendry’s scam might have gone unproven. Also a good example of the frustrations in reading Gil Thorp. The first two panels are dropping plot points, and the third is setting up the important reveal of Hendry’s Bemidji Statue University jacket. Read the whole month, or even the whole week, and it makes sense. Read just the day’s strip and there’s no guessing what’s happening. I don’t have a good solution to this.

Enter someone who can be suspicious, besides Gil Thorp. Heather Burns, who’d been star of the summer storyline in 2017, is back from college. University of Iowa. Thorp’s able to get her a spot as assistant coach for Milford Football, which pays in glory. She wants to be a reporter, because she doesn’t know where money comes from. It comes from selling coffee in the library’s former periodicals alcove.

She puts together Thorp’s doubts with Hendricks’s green-and-white “BSU” rain jacket that he got from somewhere. He’s in fact Carson Hendry, who won two conference golf championships for Bemidji State University, in Minnesota. Had a minor career as a pro. Also had a six-month jail term for stealing clients’ money. He is, in short, hustling the club members.

Hendry, on the defensive: 'I was undercover, working with the police.' Burns: 'Translation: he rolled over on his fellow crooks and only served six months.' Hendry: 'But, I --- ' Club President: 'Save it, Carson Hendry. You're done here. And if I don't have a check in three days for every dollar you've hustled, we're pressing charges.' Club Member: 'Gil, let's help Mr *Hendry* find his car.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 19th of August, 2021. I admit I’m not clear what charges the golf club could press. I guess faking your handicap while betting on games is some kind of fraud but does it rise to a prosecutable offense? The characters admit that’s all a bluff, but I’d expect a good hustler to be sure of what he can get away with claiming without provably breaking a law. But it could be Hendry isn’t all that good a hustler, too.

They kick him out, demanding he repay his winnings, which they know he’ll never do. Meanwhile, at the Milford Star, sportswriter Marjie Ducey sees good reporting talent, albeit in the service of a non-story. Hendry isn’t a public figure, at least not public enough, unless the country club presses charges, which they don’t see any good reason to do. Editor Dale Parry agrees this shows Burns to have good instincts and abilities. But he’s already offered their job to someone with two years’ reporting experience.

And that is about where we land. It’s again a point for Rubin and Whigham’s verisimilitude that Burns’s good work doesn’t get rewarded with the job she wants and needs. Sometimes things suck and you have to muddle along with what’s all right in the circumstances. But the story isn’t quite over yet, and as you can see, sometimes Coach Thorp figures a back door into solutions.

Milford Sports Watch!

Who’s Milford been playing, at least until the summer break caught up ? These teams have turned up in past months.

And colleges get mention!

  • Le Moyne College (23 – 26 June)
  • Onondaga Community College (25 June)
  • Bemidji State University (5, 6, 16 August.) Also a reference in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode Red Zone Cuba that’s now about something I specifically kind-of understand. (“They’re over the Cuba-Bemidji border.”)
  • Boise State University (16 August.) A guess about the BSU jacket.

Next Week!

It’s been months since Randy Parker disappeared from Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker! And weeks since the bed-and-breakfast burned down! And we haven’t been seeing Norton any! Is there anything left in the comic strip? We’ll check in soon, if all goes well.

Statistics Saturday: Some Rules of Baseball


  • 5.01. Starting the Game (“Play Ball!”).
  • 6.01(g). Interference With Squeeze Play or Steal of Home.
  • 8.03. Umpire position.
  • 5.06(a). Occupying the Base.
  • 9.23. Guidelines for Cumulative Performance Records.
  • 5.07(a)(1). The Windup Position.
  • 3.05. First baseman’s gloves.
  • 5.07(f). Ambidextrous Pitchers.
  • 6.01(i). Collisions at Home Plate.
  • 9.06. Determining Values of Base Hits.
  • 5.09(d). Effect of Preceding Runner’s Failure to Touch a Base.
  • 3.09. Undue Commercialization.
  • 4.03. Exchange of Lineup Cards.
  • 1.00. Objectives of the Game.
  • 2.05. Benches.

Reference: Empires Of Food: Feast, Famine, And The Rise And Fall Of Civilizations, Evan D G Fraser, Andrew Rimas.

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? Why is Gil Thorp sometimes in color now? March – May 2021


Beats me! There’s a couple different feeds for Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp and one of them offers colorized pictures. GoComics.com, where I read the strip, has, like, always used the black-and-white feed. But then in March it started, sometimes, switching to the color feed for a week or two. And then switching back to black-and-white. If I ever hear an explanation why I’ll pass it on. I do find the color version of the strip easier to read, making me wonder how Rod Whigham plans out the comics.

So this essay, I hope, will catch you up to date on Gil Thorp for late May 2021. If you’re reading after about August 2021 there’s likely a more up-to-date Gil Thorp plot recap here. Thanks for reading.

Gil Thorp.

8 March – 30 May 2021.

When last we saw Milford Sports, girls basketball center Tessi Milton was declining Vic Doucette for a date. Any date. This after she flirted with him to get the enthusiastic student sports commenter to cover girls basketball games.

The other girls basketball players decide Doucette needs to know she’ll never date him and why. She says it’s because he drives this “grandpa van”. The other players take her at her word. I’d wonder if Milton was offering a less-bad excuse than that she doesn’t want to date someone handicapped like Doucette is. His car is a 2004 GMC Something, modified so that he can drive it on days his cerebral palsy is particularly bad.

So they tell him. She won’t date him, because of his car. “And because she’s vapid and shallow”. Doucette says he can stop working on his prom-posal, then, a statement they take at face value. I’m not sure he wasn’t being wry. Doucette’s friend Doug Guthrie (they bonded over car stuff) tries consoling by the weird tack of asking why he was interested in Milton at all. Doucette liked how she was cute and seemed interested in him, and asks if that isn’t shallow. Which … like, all right, but you don’t need deep reasons to go see a movie with someone. It could be Guthrie’s bad at sympathy. But Guthrie does know that revenge is a dish best served in a cryptic, confusing way.

[ At the unofficial team photo ] A 1966 Pontiac GTO, licence plate 'MST3K', drives up in front of the girls basketball team. Vic Doucette waves from the driver's seat: 'Hey, Tessi! Looking good!' And then the car tears out of there.
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 26th of March, 2021. Okay, so I see why the boys teams can’t get to the playdowns if they’re made up of Mystery Science Theater 3000 nerds and not athletes. Quick check here, Coach Thorp: if you tell a player “heads up” and toss a softball at them, do they flinch before or after the ball hits them? If it’s after, maybe make them second-string.

Guthrie gets the team to take some photos. At the photo session, after the team gets knocked out of the first round of playdowns? Why, Doucette pulls up behind the wheels of a 1966 Pontiac Something, which I’m told is a cool car to have. He waves to Milton and then tears off.

He’s physically able to do this because Doug Guthrie crouches under the seat, working the pedals. (It’s Guthrie’s car; he and his father restored it.) And that sure showed her … uh … I’m not sure I can tell you. It has the shape of revenge, but I can’t imagine Milton feeling humiliated by this. But I also can’t read Doucette as being too traumatized by someone who flirted with him not being willing to date. Disappointed, sure, but … ? Eh, what do I understand of high school drama?


With that, the 27th of March, the Vic Doucette and girls-basketball storyline ended. The current one began the 29th of March, with one of the Milford Library Board resigning. Family’s moving to Denver. Also with senior Zane Clark rejoining the boys softball team. Things are “looking up” at home, in that he thinks he can make the time to be on the ball team. His father’s disabled, and his mother can only work part-time. So Zane Clark’s working, like, to midnight most nights. I am not sure what Zane thinks is “looking up”. But he’s also the vice-president of the senior class. So he seems to be one of those people who needs to do everything. He might even see his girlfriend Katy Brito again.

Meanwhile, Brito’s family Internet is out. This sends her father, grumbling, to the library to get some work done. There, Abel Brito discovers the library has computers that aren’t even being used. And a librarian who’s just, like, standing there answering questions that better signage could handle. He comes home fuming about the waste of taxpayer money.

(At a family dinner) [ Abel Brito gets ramped up --- again --- about the library ] Abel: 'Seriously, why do they need all those computers?' Zach Clark: 'For people like me! We can't even pay for cable anymore, Mr Brito. We have three kids sharing one outdated PC.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 23rd of April, 2021. “And another thing! The library had lights on over stacks that nobody was even in! And don’t get me started on how much money they’re throwing down the toilet with bathrooms on both floors of the building!”

He’s still fuming weeks later, after Zane Clark’s first and ultimately successful spell as relief pitcher, when he comes for a family dinner. Clark takes Abel’s attack on the library having computers personally. He depends on them, after all, and knows other people do, and that the library does not always have more than it needs. And storms out. It plays a bit abrupt, but we have to allow some narrative compression. I suppose also that they must have met before. The story introduces Clark and Katy Brito as an established couple. And Abel Brito must have been like this before. You don’t wake up one day the sort of person who fumes about the city spending money on the library. You get there by making a long series of wrong choices about your politics.

Mrs Brito says if Abel is so worked up about the library why doesn’t he join its board. And since it would be a terrible idea for him to take this advice, he takes this advice. When Clark learns there aren’t any other candidates, he decides to take responsibility and applies. Partly to kick back at Abel Brito, yes. Partly also because Corinna Karenna has pointed out his need to focus instead of bouncing around things. She meant about his pitching, which flutters between lousy and awesome. But when you give someone advice there’s no controlling how they’re going to use it.

So things look to be exciting for Katy Brito, who knew nothing about Clark’s plans until after they were made. So she’s angry at him, even though he declares he can’t see what he was wrong about.

Mimi Thorp: 'I'm telling you, Corina, you're a college-level talent.' Corina Karenna: 'Maybe. But I didn't go to any of the camps that get you noticed. And I haven't even applied, and it isn't going to happen. Okay?' Later, Gil Thorp: 'The problem is, she's right. The athletic scholarships are taken, and most admissions deadlines were months ago.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 27th of May, 2021. I don’t know why every time we cut away to Gil and Mimi Thorp they’re cooking but I guess that’s a normal thing to do. Me, I grew up in a family with the rule that if one person was cooking everyone else cleared out except to fetch things as directed.

Meanwhile there’s a story going about Corina Karenna. She’s been delivering blunt and perceptive advice to the Milford kids. Coach Mimi Thorp also notes she’s a skilled athlete. Has she considered applying for athletic scholarships to college? Karenna has. But her mother’s too depressed to function if she were to go to college. And anyway, all the deadlines are long past. I don’t know whether the Thorps are going to find some way around that. Sometimes the comic strip admits that things suck and there’s only bits one can do about that. We’ll have to wait and see what develops.

Milford Sports Watch!

Who does Milford play? Who do they just talk about playing? Here’s teams that showed up in the strip the last couple months.

Next Week!

Did April Parker just extract Randy Parker from his own comic strip? Did Sam Driver just get arrested? I hope to have any kind of answers when I look over Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker next week, all going well.

60s Popeye: Golf Brawl, which doesn’t actually have fighting to speak of


Finally! It’s been over a half-year since we saw a bit of this cartoon. It was among those featured in the deeply baffling Popeye’s Testimonial Dinner. Now, we get to appreciate how much it did not fit that clip cartoon.

This is, as with the earlier cartoon, a Jack Kinney production. Kinney’s also credited with the story, such as there is. Animation direction is credited to our old friends Volus Jones and Ed Friedman. And now from 1960, take in a Golf Brawl.

As said in the prologue, Jack Kinney’s credited with the story, such as it is. The catch is there isn’t much story. There’s a string of golf jokes at the Meatball Meadows Championship Golf Tournament “to-day”. Popeye, Brutus, Olive Oyl, and Wimpy start as a quartet but go mostly into their own separate threads. The exception is that Popeye and Brutus do taunt one another, most often with the chant to “play the ball where it lies”, one of many repeated refrains. The cartoon flits between these and there’s not much development.

This isn’t to fault the cartoon for not having a plot or story or such. It’s an observation. There is an almost hypnotic pace to the cartoon. This especially with bits like coming back to Olive Oyl hitting the ball only to have it loop around the rim of the hole and come back to her. Or Wimpy counting up from “fore” to “five” to “six” all the way to at “one hundred and twenty-four” without hitting the ball. I can’t even call it antihumor, since it’s clear what’s supposed to be funny about this. It’s closer to that Sideshow-Bob-and-the-Rake thing of repeating a mildly funny joke to an extreme.

Cutaway view showing underground that Popeye is digging a tunnel in his attempts to hit the golf ball. The tunnel is dangerously close to the water hazard, in which Brutus stands, trying to hit his own submerged golf ball.
I mean, I’d even take a two-stroke penalty instead.

Popeye and Brutus have the thread nearest to a story here, as they keep getting into terrible lies and carry on. At one point Brutus hits a ball wild, and it bounces off several trees before klonking Popeye. This bit got used as a clip in Popeye’s Testimonial Dinner and there’s no way to see it as Brutus’s perfidy here. Eventually Brutus ends up stuck in a water hazard, and Popeye’s bad drives dig a tunnel out underneath, releasing the water in a tiny cataclysm. Somehow that isn’t the end of their thread. Nor is Brutus accidentally swallowing Popeye’s ball.

Olive Oyl finally putts her ball into the hole. This earns her the Popeye-the-Sailor-Man musical flourish. It earns her thread the only real resolution of anything this cartoon. Otherwise, given this group’s ability? There’s no reason the cartoon couldn’t carry on forever, drifting between strange failures to play golf.

It won’t be everyone’s taste, but if it is yours, it’s really yours. In any case it doesn’t match the clip show use at all.

60s Popeye: Coach Popeye, crowding on Gil Thorp by not teaching sports any


We’re back to a Jack Kinney-produced cartoon. It’s also Kinney’s story. The animation direction, though, is Volus Jones. The year is 1960 and the name of the short is Coach Popeye.

It’s a rare appearance of Olive Oyl’s niece Deezil Oyl! Deezil first appeared in the 1960s shorts and I’m not sure if she’s been promoted to the “real” comic strip. She got to be in the Popeye’s Cartoon Club feature that ran for a year, but that’s noncanonical.

Deezil’s not here for a deeper exploration of her character. She’s here because if Swee’Pea were throwing baseballs through the window on his own, he’d be a jerk. Instead they can just be kids playing. Popeye steps in to show the kids how to play properly, and Brutus interferes because he’s Brutus. The resulting cartoon is a weird one. The story feels developed well enough. But there’s also a lot of dead air between things happening. Maybe Jack Kinney was leaving space for the kids to finish laughing. I don’t think of other Kinney-produced cartoons having quite so much space between events, though.

I’ve been trying to figure what feels off about Popeye’s and Brutus’s dialogue. It feels, to me, written to be a bunch of wordplay jokes, whether or not they make sense. Like, consider the exchange where Brutus declares “I can do better’n that!”. Popeye answers, “Ya can’t, cause you’re a bully!” Brutus answers, “Bully for you too!” There’s no logic there, but I can absolutely imagine being seven and delighted by the shifting uses of “bully”. Brutus and Popeye then get into a back-and-forth of “Can!” “Can’t!” and I go back-and-forth on that myself. On one watching of this cartoon it struck me as what writers put in when they want a fight but haven’t got anything to fight about. On another watching, the rhythm and pointlessness of it was funny. So I’ll suppose Jack Kinney knew what he was doing and did it.

A dazed Brutus jumps rope while Popeye plays jacks.
Popeye playing jacks on the lawn implies he’s either really confident about his ball-bouncing skills or he has no idea what he’s doing.

A slightly odd moment is Popeye declaring, “Kids, this is the wrong way, but I gots to teach him a lesson” before eating his spinach. Popeye’s always held up spinach as a good thing everyone should eat more of. With that setup, though, it plays into treating spinach as an illicit advantage. I suppose that attitude was in the air. In the 60s we’d still get Underdog having his Proton Energy Pills and SuperChicken havin his super-sauce. But we’d be taking that sort of power-up out of children’s entertainment soon enough.

An unreservedly good bit here: Brutus declaring to the camera, “Gee! I didn’t count on this!” after Popeye eats his spinach. It’s the sort of absurd, facetious touch that I liked as a kid and still like today.

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? Why was that kid going on about the 90s Detroit Pistons? December 2020 – March 2021


The kid, Vic Doucette, was going on about the 90s Pistons because he researched them. He researched them because Coach Gil Thorp referenced them and he wanted to do his job as game announcer well. Not that anything about the Pistons is likely to come up in a Milford basketball game. But a marker of excellence in a field is enthusiasm for its trivia. Doucette’s decided he wants to be an announcer and he is throwing himself wholeheartedly into the role.

This should catch you up to mid-March 2021 in Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp. If you’re reading the strip after about June 2021 there should be a more up-to-date plot recap here. There’ll also be any news about the comic strip that I learn from reading The Daily Cartoonist.

Gil Thorp.

14 December 2020 – 6 March 2021.

It happens that last time I checked in was the week the story wrapped up. I often feel like these recaps happen suspiciously close to a new story’s start. That’s an illusion created by “close” feeling like “within two weeks, give or take” and that covers, like, a third of my cycle. Still, the new and current story started the 14th of December, neat as I would hope.

We start basketball season. First major player: Vic Doucette. He’s not an athlete, owing to cerebral palsy. He asks Coach Gil Thorp to be the announcer for boys’ basketball games. Thorp is impressed with Doucette’s knowledge of basketball trivia and also his existence as a living body willing to do this job.

Next major player: Shooting guard Doug Guthrie. He has a 1966 Pontiac GTO, which I am informed is an impressive car to have. He’d found and rebuilt it with his dad. And he keeps ducking out for thinks like go-kart races in Florida. Like, real kart racing at 70 mph and so on.

Third major player: Tessi Milton, forward for the girls’ basketball team. And teammate to Corina Karenna, who’s transferred over from volleyball. The girls’ team feels disrespected, relative to the boys’ team. She comes into significance later in the proceedings.

Narrator: 'Milford gets hot, the crowd combusts --- and Vic Doucette fans the flames.' Doucette, announcing: 'Three-pointer by Mark 'Fear Of' Godleski!' Narrator: 'Late 4th Quater, Milford by 1 --- and a collision!'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 6th of January, 2021. To get a handle on Doucette’s character: we see him working on these nicknames before the game starts, including things like asking Tessi Milton if “Tessi” is short for anything, so that he can look more spontaneous. That’s a level of professionalism I hope to someday achieve.

Doucette got the job of announcer because he was willing. It turns out he’s eager, though. Enthusiastic even. He works out catchy nicknames for everyone, he rallies the crowd, he shows open and unbridled delight in a high school thing. He goes to away games — where he’s not an announcer — to take notes about the team. He follows Gil Thorp’s mention of the 90s Pistons to study how Ken Calvert announced players, and pick up moves from that work. In short, he shows unbridled interest in a thing. In high school. Vic Doucette is braver than the troops.

At a postgame dinner at The Bucket, Guthrie talks about Doucette’s car. It’s a modified 2004 GMC Safari. The modifications are to help Doucette when he’s having a harder day. They bond over the car talk, though, Guthrie asking about the MV-1, identified as “the first van designed for wheelchairs from the start”. So you know how deep the car thing interests Guthrie.

The girls’ basketball team, meanwhile, wants for attention. Tessi Milton figures to get Vic Doucette to announce their games, too. It’s not a bad plan. In boys’ basketball he’s advanced to running in-game givewaways and stuff that plays well with the crowd. (He’s giving away the hot dog and soda that are his “pay” for announcing. I mention because the strip made a point of mentioning it. I appreciate the craft of that. You can fault Gil Thorp for many things, but it does justify most everything that appears on screen. It may be the story strip that most improves on rereading twelve weeks’ worth at a go.) Fun enough that Guthrie even skips a car-racing thing to play. Doucette even has some decent sports-psychology, talking Guthrie out of the funk of a lousy game.

Tessi Milton: 'The girls need you, Vic. Can you do the announcing at our games?' Doucette: 'Umm ... Well ... Hmm ... ' Later, Guthrie: 'What did you tell her?' Doucette: 'Mostly, I sputtered. I should study more, not less. And I'm already not seeing my friends enough.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 4th of February, 2021. I don’t know whether we’re to take that last panel as Doucette smoking or just that the air is cold. I suspect the latter, on grounds of dramatic economy: if we were supposed to think Doucette smoked, some panel would make that unambiguous.

So Milton asks Doucette to announce their games. He’s not sure. He needs time to study, after all, and see his friends and do stuff that isn’t basketball announcing. Also, I notice, he uses a crutch reliably from mid-January on; he hadn’t needed one earlier. This may be a signal that he’s getting worse.

He decides to announce girls basketball games, though, saying, “studying is overrated, right?” And he brings the same level of research and hard work to this that he did the boys games. It goes well, and Milton’s grateful, to the point everyone tells Doucette that she’s flirting with him. So he asks her out and she “can’t this weekend”.

Guthrie, with Tom Muench, are late to a practice. They’re pulled over by a traffic cop, who recognizes that they’re popular white athletes and lets them off with a little car talk. But, running laps at practice, Muench sprains his knee and is out for a couple games. And this throws Guthrie way off his game.

Doucette notices all this, and tries to sort out Guthrie’s problem. He observes how Guthrie’s interested in someday driving racecars at 200 mph; it’s hard to do that when you’re worried about running laps. And this bit seems to help.

Tessi Milton: 'Vic asked me out. It's awkward.' Corina Karenna: 'Why? It seemed like you were flirting with him.' Milton: 'A little. ... We needed a PA announcer. But seriously: would you go out in that grandpa van?'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 5th of March, 2021. The rest of the team is aghast at describing a 17-year-old Pontiac as a “Grandpa Van”.

After a girls basketball game, Tessi Milton dodges Doucette, whom she points out to her teammates has asked her out twice now. Her teammates point out she was flirting with him. Which she owns up to, yes, but they needed an announcer. And while he’s “a nice guy,” well, “would you go out in that grandpa van?” Which does support Karenna’s earlier assessment that Milton is a deeply shallow person. To be empathetic, though, Milton is in a lousy place herself. Suppose you’ve agreed the team needs Doucette to announce their games; what tools do you have to get him to do it? There’s no pay available, and no glory either. What option does she have but flattery? And — I write before seeing Monday or Tuesday’s strips so may be setting myself up to be a fool — faulting Doucette’s car is less bad than sneering at the idea of dating someone with cerebral palsy.

And that’s the standings as of mid-March. It does feel like Milton’s being set up for some comeuppance. But the story might resolve to something as simple as hurting a guy who’s been quite giving. It does feel to me significant that Doucette’s repeated his worry he’s ignoring friends and school for all this announcing work, though. Also that he’s seen using the crutches more than he was early in the story. Maybe not significant is Guthrie mentioning how his dad teaches driving to the area cops, part of why he and Muench were let off with small talk. I’m not making detailed predictions, though.

Milford Schools Watch

Who’s Milford playing? The past couple months, these teams. If you want the win-loss record, oh, I don’t feel up to tracking that. You have your fun.

Next Week!

Is super-hyper-ultra-duper extra-special spy agent April Parker back in town? I’ll check in on Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker if things go to my plan.

Statistics Saturday: Some Teams Not In The Splendid Bowl This Year


  • The New York Giants
  • The Chicago Bears
  • The Philadelphia Cardinals
  • The Denver Nuggets
  • The Brooklyn Daily Eagles
  • The Detroit Wolpertingers
  • The Albany Diamond Dogs
  • The The
  • The Toledo Ohios of Ohio
  • The Dallas North Bobcats
  • The Oklahoma City Interurban Transit
  • The Seattle Opossums
  • The Toledo Ohios of Kentucky
  • The Mid-Atlantic States Savings Bank
  • The Miami Dolphins
  • The Boise Tumble
  • The Human Metabolic Pathways
  • The St Louis St Pauls
  • The Los Angeles Mangroves
  • The Tonawanda Kardex

Reference: Shakespeare’s Kings: The Great Plays and the History of England in the Middle Ages, 1337-1485, John Julius Norwich.

(Personal note, the Human Metabolic Pathways is my favorite Kraftwerk tribute band.)

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? Why did Coach Thorp care where his players sat? September – December 2020


The football players were attending volleyball games. But they were sitting in mutually hostile cliques. That’s what Gil Thorp cared about and wanted to break up. And this should catch you up on Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for mid-December 2020. Plot recaps for 2021 or later, or news about the strip, I should have at a post here.

And on my mathematics blog, this should be the final week for my A-to-Z essays. These have looked at something mathematical through the whole alphabet and that’s fun but also fun to have finished. You may find something interesting there.

Gil Thorp.

21 September – 12 December 2020.

Corina Karenna had just joined Milford, and the girls volleyball team, in September. She was baffled by the team bonfire rally. Will Thayer, quarterback, is interested in Karenna; she shuts him down, asking how many volleyball games he’s been to, which is none.

Coach Thorp: 'That reverse you called? We were saving it for a conference game. Now it's on film.' Terry Rapson: 'Oh.' Thorp: 'And that pass --- ' Rapson: 'Went for a touchdown!' Thorp: 'Because the defender slipped. It would have been incomplete, or worse, when a few first downs would have run out the clock.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 10th of October, 2020. I get Rapson’s mistake here, though. It’s hard to internalize that point where you win by beating the clock instead of the other team.

In the game against Ballard, backup quarterback Terry Rapson gets put in, with directions to run the clock out. Rapson decides to run more aggressively, getting a touchdown and securing the game win. But also giving away a play that Thorp was keeping in reserve for a more important game. Now any opponent can prepare for it. This has to count as a failure of Thorp’s coaching. Granted teenagers are going to make dumb mistakes. But you can’t expect people to follow what seem like bad directions — here, to refrain from taking scoring chances — without reason. They have to know the point of this all.

Anyway, Rapson and Thayer compete to be the lead quarterback. Also to get the interest of Karenna, who can’t think of a reason to care. Rapson and Thayer are pretty well-matched in both contests. And get increasingly angry with each other. Rapson particularly when Thayer loses the game against Madison (for which Rapson was benched).

Football player: 'I'm saying Rapp should play more. You want to try to shut me up?' Marty Moon, reporting: '40 seconds left and it looks like there's a scuffle on the Milford sideline. That's a first!' Assistant coach, separating the fighting players: 'What the heck is wrong with you two?' Both players: 'Ask him!'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 20th of November, 2020. The story switches to Karenna dealing with Rapson and Thayer’s nonsense. So we don’t get to see what Marty Moon makes of what is, yeah, a ridiculous loss of control on Coach Thorp’s part. This is a shame since we don’t get to see Marty Moon falling on his face with this story too, somehow.

Rapson finally takes Karenna’s hints, and goes to a girls volleyball game. He also gets a bunch of friends to go with him. They don’t understand the game, but are putting in the effort, and Karenna consents to go to a football game. The teams start going to one another’s games and that would be great. Except that the football team divides between Rapson and Thayer for first-string quarterback. (And a couple kids who don’t see why they need to have an opinion on this.) They won’t even sit together in the stands.

Gil Thorp learns about this, and tells Rapson and Thayer to knock it off. Rapson and Thayer figure the other went to the coach so he would make their rival knock it off, so the team remains divided. It gets bad enough that teammates fight on the sidelines at a win.

[ Corina Karenna orchestrates a quarterback summit ] Rapson or Thayer (from inside the depicted house): 'Of course we want to win football games!' Karenna: 'Great. now explain how undercutting each other helps. ... No answers? Excellent. Maybe you're brighter than I thought.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 30th of November, 2020. Oh, jeez. Karenna, I hate to dash your optimism, but, speaking as a recovered teenage boy, oh gads no. We are not nearly as bright as you think, and I’m sorry, but we aren’t going to be before about age 28 or so. You and all society would be better off if you stopped giving us attention, or driver’s licenses, or sharp or blunt objects, until this changes.

So Karenna steps in. She invites Rapson and Thayer to her place to fight it out. She explains the problem with the authority of a teenager who’s had to be the functional adult for years. (Her parents divorced. Her mother’s been too depressed to parent.) They’re being selfish, they’re screwing up the team, and they’re not making themselves attractive to her. So what are you going to do? They agree they’ve, at least, had a weird night at Karenna’s place.

Karenna tells the Thorps she’s solved the quarterback problem. Coach Thorp figures he has, too: playing emergency quarterback Leonard Fleming. It works for the first game. At Valley Tech, it’s a bit tougher, and Fleming gets injured. Thorp tells Thayer to step in. But Thayer bows: he’s aware Rapson is reading the defense, should play instead. So, Rapson plays, and the season ends on a win. The girls volleyball players try to congratulate him. He credits Karenna as the most valuable player. She does a shrugging rah.

And that’s where things stand for the middle of December, 2020.

Milford Schools Watch

It’s a bunch of familiar teams that Milford’s played, in football and girls volleyball, the last three months. The dates are from the starts or first mentions of a rival school in the storyline; several of the games went on for a week-plus.

Next Week!

Did Toni Bowen win the mayoral race? Is Sophie Spencer going to go to Local College? Is Ronnie Huerta still in the comic strip? And what storylines have gone totally bonkers? You already know if you’ve reading Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker. Or you can wait a week and catch my Judge Parker recap here. Thanks for reading.

In Which I Question The Adequacy Of Our Seasons


I don’t mean to suggest we don’t have bigger problems. Also I agree we have smaller problems. The medium-size problem I’m looking at here is: do we have enough seasons? I mean in the year. I mean weather seasons. I know we’ve got all sorts of sports seasons, like baseball and football and preseason baseball and basketball and postseason baseball and hockey playoffs. I mean seasons like spring and summer and stuff. We’ve got four of them, and been trusting that to cover the whole year, and I’m just asking if that’s enough to cover the year as we’ve got it these days.

Take spring, for example. We know it as a time for spring cleaning, which we get around to once we’ve run out of other things to do in spring. And yet for all that cleaning, we never get around to anything else with spring. We never set aside a season for spring curating, for setting our springs out in a thoughtful manner that lets us appreciate them. Or just see their development. Maybe come to understand how new spring technologies have come and changed the way things spring. This paragraph belongs in a different essay written on the same starting point, and doesn’t fit the mood of the one I’m writing at all. But I like it as it is, and so I’m sticking with it. You can go ahead and imagine the essay that goes off in this paragraph’s direction.

The big old blocky names for seasons works fine for some period during them. But when they get a little changing the categories break down. Like, right now we in lower Michigan are in early autumn, or fall, depending on whether you’re east of US 127. That is, we’re in the time of year where it’s autumn, or fall, between 9 pm and 10 am every day, but then it’s summer between 10 am and 2 pm, and again from 5 to 7 pm. Between 7 and 9 pm it’s free pick, the days alternately sunny or ice-monsoon. There is no weather between 3 and 5 pm, as that’s too late in the day to finish anything before rush hour.

The period lasts a while and it’s not fair to call that ‘autumn’ because so much of it is not. All it really has to call it autumn is that we buy more cider than we’ll have time to drink. It’s not like late October, which is some of the most autumn-nest weather you’ll find. That’s when the sun emerging from the clouds somehow makes your skin feel colder. We handle that by around the 24th of October putting the sun behind a cloud, from which it doesn’t emerge until March. Which is another seasonally-elusive time of year, when the cloud-covered sky feels warm on your face, but touching the ground causes a sleeve of ice to run up your boots and cover your legs.

Granting these kinds of periods have enough identity we need to give them names, what names? The early one in the year seems easy enough, since we could go with ‘sprinter’ or ‘wing’, depending on what fits the sentence. The one this time of year is tougher to make the syllables match. ‘Sumtumn’ sounds like the year is a fat baby we’re teasing, and maybe some years are like that but I’m through with teasing 2020 for anything ever.

And I know giving these parts of the year names are going to inspire other problems. Like, there’ll be a part of the year that’s not really summer yet but still not sumtumn. What do we call that, summer-sumtumn? Keep this up and we’re going to end up with seasons given names like summer-sumtumn-summer by half-winter, or something. I didn’t mean ‘something’ as a season name, but maybe that’s where we’ll end up.

You know maybe I should have written that other essay instead, the one where I come up with like four zany seasons of doing mildly quirky behavior. Too late to rewrite it now. All I can do is think back about it during the season of regrets, which is all of them.

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? Is Gil Thorp just ignoring Covid-19 too? June – September 2020


Yes, it appears that Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp is going ahead as though things were normal. It’s a defensible choice. The only sports one could morally play during the pandemic are outdoor sports with physically separated individuals. I don’t know if Milford even has an archery team. There’s a fair chance it’s never come up in the strip before. But that would leave the strip with nothing to write about, which is a heck of a writing challenge.

So. This essay should catch you up to mid-September 2020. If you’re reading this after about December 2020, or want what news on Gil Thorp there is, a more useful essay should be at this link. And, lest we forget, my mathematics blog continues its weekly glossary entries, at this link. This week we get to O, finally. Not zero.

Gil Thorp.

29 June – 19 September 2020.

Milford’s boys’ softball was playing against Valley Modified, the school for delinquents. Not a formal game. Mike “The Mayor” Knappe, kicked out of Milford for bringing a butter knife to school, organized it because hey, wouldn’t it be fun? What would go wrong with Valley Modified’s ragtag bunch of misfits playing against an actual team? Anyway Milford was ahead 149 to nothing at the top of the first inning, with the upstate returns not in yet. Some of the Milford players defect, to give the other kids a chance.

[ Unsurprising: Milford is lots better than Mike Knappe's ragtag team. Unexpected: free pizza! ] Corina Karenna: 'Yo, other catcher. What's your story?' Hiawatha Jones: 'Call me Hiawatha.' Karenna: 'Do I have to?'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 30th of June, 2020. Based on the first panel either some people brought their little kids or else Milford freshmen are 40% the size of the seniors.

And then pizza arrives. 20 pizzas, giving everyone a break. The game resumes and Valley Modified stumbles on until Phoebe Keener, from the Milford Girls Softball team, calls time. She gives Valley’s shortstop some tips. Things resume, less competitive and more collegial, until a someone delivers subs. And, later, ice cream. What would have been a shellacking turns into a picnic and everybody kind of forgets about finishing things.

The adults wrap things up, with Gil Thorp not-denying having a hand in sending the pizza order. Assistant Coach Kaz not-denying sending in the subs. The coolers with pop? Why, that’s Knappe’s English teacher, the one who reported his having a butter knife in school. And so on. And, hey, Generic State University decided not to rescind its acceptance of Knappe. Coach Thorp’s report about Knappe organizing the event convinced them of his good character. Their admission letter even jokes about leaving knives in the dining hall, like the tag of a 70s cop show. Uhm. Right.


That, the 11th of July, finally wrapped up the spring storyline. The summer story began the 13th of July.

It starts with a follow-up to the softball game. Phoebe Keener recognizes Valley Modified’s catcher, Corina Karenna. She got introduced as a nice snarky type who has “problems with authority”, like you want on a sports team. They share a lunch and go shopping, Karenna amazed that Keener is looking for buttons, and sews and such. And Keener … wonders what Karenna is doing in town, actually.

Corina Karenna: 'Our shortstop was Ardis Carhee, not Carver.' Phoebe Keener: 'Right! You passed the test! So, Corina Karenna, what brings you to bustling downtown Milford?' Karenna: 'I'm thinking of committing a series of unspeakable crimes.' Keener: 'Wow, me too!'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 17th of July, 2020. I literally can not imagine being even slightly irked that someone remembered the name of someone she met once as “Carhee” rather than “Carver”. Mind, I have also given up on the cashier at Burger King typing in my name as anything but “Joeseph”. Also given up: going to Burger King.

Also, True Standish is back in Milford. Years ago he’d been the star quarterback and brought Milford to the state championship. He went off to college and now he’s … a pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays. He kept getting injured in football. He’s getting injured in baseball too. But he’s a low enough draft choice that the Rays figure, eh, let him wander around, he’ll probably be all right.

Another lunch hangout. Karenna admits she’s looking for a new direction. Also to return a catcher’s mitt from the ball game. The waitress at the diner shares the bad news; the guy she’s returning the mitt to is out of town for the week. Did you see the plot point dropped there? Because I’ll admit, I didn’t, not until writing this up. And after that we see the two obvious threads come together. Standish needs a catcher for pitching practice. So they set up pitching camp.

True Standish: 'Coach Thorp! Thanks for coming. Meet Corina Karenna.' Karenna: 'Charmed.' Standish: 'I'm ready to roll. Oh --- if I brush my chest, it's a slider.' Gil Thorp: 'You've probably never caught one of hose, Corina. It'll --- ' Karenna: 'I'll figure it out after the first one.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 5th of August, 2020. You might think it obnoxious that Gil Thorp is giving advice to a girl who has not asked for his advice, whom he has no supervisory role over, and whom he has no established relationship of any significance. But remember that Coach Gil Thorp is a white guy.

Coach Thorp watches a session. He notices how Karenna has no trouble handling professional-grade pitching. And Karenna admits to Keener that “I’m thinking of moving to Milford”. Keener asks the obvious: isn’t there a “we”, what with her having a mom and all? And the thing is her mother is depressed, bad enough that Corina has to lead the family. (Her father left long ago.) She mentions how she and her mother could live anywhere there’s support. She mentions this in the diner, where the waitress from earlier happens to be. The waitress drops the advice to ask True Standish about his mom. Standish does more, bringing her to meet her mom.

So, Standish’s mother has similar depression problems, though not as severe. She’s got good support, though I’m not sure how this would transfer to Karenna’s mother. Also, Mimi Thorp watches Karenna at a pitching workout and offers her business card in case Karenna has questions. Also high school girls coaches have business cards. After some prodding about mysteries of the softball game, she decides. Orientation day comes and she’s signed up to Milford. Even to try out for volleyball. The story resolves, more or less, the 4th of September.

I will lose standing in the comics snarker ranks for this: I think this story was pretty well-done. Karenna’s problem gets laid out naturalistically, for the story strips. Her situation, having to be the functioning adult in a broken home, is realistic enough. That she wears a protective layer of sarcasm makes sense. How a resolution will happen gets laid out in the open where it’s easy to miss. The only piece that comes from nowhere is True Standish’s mother also coping with depression. But there’s little reason for him to have discussed that. It’s possible this was established when Standish was a regular character. If it was, then I sincerely bow to Neal Rubin. Even if it wasn’t, it’s a slick move to have introduced a supporting character last story to be the main for this one. And then she seems to be inspiring significant action for the current story. There’s some good crafting here.


With the 5th starts the current story. And yeah, that’s a midweek transition. The heart of this, like many fall storylines, is the boys’ football team. Will Thayer’s bulked up over the summer. This could challenge Charlie Rapson for the quarterback’s position. Radio sports reporter Marty Moon is interested in this quarterback controversy. Coach Thorp isn’t worried by the rivalry, nor by Marty Moon attempting to be clever, since Marty Moon is not a clever man.

Rebecca Ramirez, explaining the Bonfire: 'It's a tradition. We build a bonfire, and the next night, the football team clobbers Oakwood.' Corina Karenna: 'Super. And what does everyone do for the volleyball team?' From a distance, one boy asks, 'Hey, who's that?' and his friend answers, 'Becca Ramierez. You've known her since first grade.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 19th of September, 2020. I went through high school making almost no impression on anyone besides my friends. And the experience wasn’t bad. So were I on the volleyball team, I’d be happy with “everyone carries on as if we did not exist”.

And her new teammates bring Karenna to that most ominous of Milford athletic community events: the Bonfire. So, I never went to a school that had any self-esteem. Occasionally high school would have a pep rally, where we sat in the gym bleachers while people tried to get us excited about … the school, I guess. All it did for me was reinforce my suspicion of mass emotion. I could not imagine participating in a bonfire. So I am very much on Karenna’s side in looking at this as a borderline terrifying activity from a whole other universe.

And that’s our story, so far.

Milford Schools Watch

This may have been the slowest three months on record for Milford’s sports. If I haven’t missed anything there were only two other schools named on-screen. They were:

Next Week!

Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker was the first story strip to incorporate Covid-19 into the story. What’s happening in it now? If all goes well, we’ll see in a week. Thanks for reading.

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? Is Gil Thorp really not doing a pandemic story? April – June 2020


Yeah, so, as of the end of June, 2020, Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp has not mentioned Covid-19 at all. The story strips, as I’ve mentioned, have trouble addressing fast-moving real-world events like this. Even a strip that only runs dailies, like Gil Thorp, has a lead time of at least two to three weeks. And a whole storyline should be sketched out months ahead of time. Granted I suspect that the word “should” there carries a large load. I’m sympathetic to wanting not to throw out large amounts of work, and putting off addressing the pandemic until later. Possibly the summer storyline.

If you’re reading this after about October 2020, I should have another Gil Thorp plot recap at this link. It shall also have any news about the comic strip that I don’t want you to miss.

Gil Thorp.

6 April – 27 June 2020.

The spring storyline had just begun the week before the last recap. We hadn’t even met its star, Mike “The Mayor” Knappe. Like most Gil Thorpe teens he has a dumb but harmless eccentricity. His is eating weird. Like, eating a normal thing (scrambled eggs) in a weird way (out of a baggie, using a spoon). Or weird stuff (orange juice with banana slices) had normally (drunk from a thermos). But he’s popular and outgoing. And keeps celebrating his teammates, and the girls softball team too. So he’s easy to get along with.

Knappe, holding up bagels: 'Today's breakfast a la bus: sesame bagels!' Girl: 'That sounds surprisingly normal.' Knappe, holding up peanut butter and a smooth knife: 'With peanut butter!' Girl, hiding her face: 'I stand corrected.' English Teacher: 'Can we start class now, please?'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 29th of April, 2020. I understand that many people come from food microecosystems for one reason or other, but … I mean, if she’s cover-her-face embarrassed by bagels with peanut butter? She’s going to literally melt when exposed to Cincinatti chili. Anyway I stand by my assertion that cottage-cheese-with-sour-cream is NOT a freak combination of fridge dairy.

This goes on for like a month, inspiring the question: is there even going to be a story? We finally reach “yes” the 29th of April, when Knappe shows off, in English class, today’s weird meal. Sesame bagels with peanut butter. I know people who find peanut butter bagels to be the worst. But as weird goes? If you can get it prepackaged at Wawa it’s not weird yet.

What is weird is that Knappe’s English teacher goes to … I’m not sure. I guess the guidance counsellor, although it might be the school physician or an assistant principal. Dr Pearl, anyway. Pearl joins Gil Thorp at softball practice, and they have Knappe in for A Talk. Knappe realizes his mistake right away, and worries that someone had an allergic reaction to the peanut butter. No, the problem is he brought a knife to school. At this point, if you ever read the comments on Gil Thorp, you should stop. No thread you read will ever lead you to joy.

Because the thing is that a knife is a weapon. Yes, even a butter knife is a knife. And bringing a weapon to school is a bad thing. Even if it is a butter knife. There’s a zero-tolerance rule: mandatory expulsion.

Knappe, at the Conference: 'I'm being suspended for bringing a knife to spread my peanut butter? How long?' Gil Thorp: 'District policy doesn't call for suspension, Mike.' Dr Pearl: 'It's mandator, young man. You're expelled.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 11th of May, 2020. I’m … not clear why Gil Thorp is here, as opposed to (say) Knappe’s homeroom teacher or whoever’s on record as his guidance counsellor if that’s not Dr Pearl there already. I get Thorp would be in the loop on the results but he’s not the teacher who ratted on Knappe or anything that gives him a need-to-know.

Knappe is devastated, reasonably. His classmates are, too, and there’s some short-lived talk about a student walkout. This comes to nothing, which is a pity. It’s good for high school students to do walkout protests, so they can learn what a walkout protest gets. It gets one paragraph in the local newspaper, which quotes no students and carries the principal’s lie that the walkout disrupted no classes and ended within five minutes.

The Knappes consult a lawyer, but there’s not much hope. The point of a zero-tolerance policy is to allow officials to harass minorities while using the formalism of equality. It’s regrettable when a popular white male kid suffers a consequence. But making an example of Knappe means the institution will get to torment dozens of Black boys and girls for a decade or more and claim it’s impartial treatment. The Knappes can’t do anything effective.

Knappe figures his life is over. He’s been expelled, his admission to Generic State University is threatened. And it’s for lousy reasons. Coach Gil Thorp settles in to doing something. He talks with Knappe, explaining how moping can’t make anything better. Going to the alternative school, Valley Modified, can. And being with other people will. Knappe bows finally to the inevitable.

Ardis Carhee, student at the Alternate School: 'Never ask why someone is here.' Knappe: 'Um ... OK. Sorry.' Carhee: 'No worries. You always find out. But the tradition is that you don't ask. I was what they call 'chronically truant'.' Knappe: 'You should probably make up a better story.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 23rd of May, 2020. Carhee: “That … that was my better story.”

Within minutes he’s making friends, though. And finding that his old friends still like him even though his new shellac of Drama. Within hours, Knappe has a plan. Valley Modified doesn’t have any sports teams, but they’ve got individual athletes. Why not a Milford versus Valley Modified softball match?

OK, it’s weird, but weird is Knappe’s thing. Thorp turns down the request to use Milford’s field and equipment; that’s against the rules. But he does point out places they could play and ways to scrounge equipment, so there’s that. Milford’s varsity team wonders … why waste a day beating juvenile delinquents, and the best argument is, Knappe’s a cool guy and it’s better playing than not playing. About the same argument works for Knappe’s new gang.

[ The ballpark ] As friends, families, sun-seekers and the idle curious gather at town park ... Knappe, holding up a T-shirt to his fellow players: 'Check it out, everyone - team T-shirts!' Milford pitcher, to his catcher: 'What do you think ... should I go hard at these guys?' Catcher: 'Until they prove they can't hit ... yes.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 24th of June, 2020. So, this might seem patronizing or even just mean-spirited, but it is the high school varsity team against a team that’s played together for like two weeks total and isn’t even sure why it’s there. And it’s not like choosing to take it easy on them would be any less patronizing. It’s hard competing against someone you have good reason to think you outclass. Anyway that time I needed 90 minutes to beat that vague relative who was seven years old and really wanted a chess set and didn’t know that castling was not some weird thing I made up was for good reasons: I’m not very good at chess.

A surprising number of people turn out for the game. And you know how it goes, if you’ve seen any movie about the scrappy upstarts versus the elite snobs. Valley Modified gives up like 2,038 runs in the first inning, with the upstate returns not in yet, and then starts to falter. It’s embarrassing enough that Gonzalo “Gonzo” Aceves defects from Milford, joining Valley Modified to give them a bit of pitching help. Also equipment advice. It’s an act of kindness and mercy of the sort we all wish we had done for others in school. But he’s repaying Knappe for giving him an upgraded nickname.

Will the game turn out non-humiliating? Will Knappe get accepted into some college? And will Covid-19 hit Milford? We’ll see.

Milford Schools Watch

Who else is in the Milford school district? Or at least rates a mention in the sports comic pages? These schools, the past couple months:

Next Week!

OK, this is an easy one. I know Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker is addressing the pandemic and how it affects the race for mayor of Cavelton. See you in a week to discuss that, barring something urgent happening.

60s Popeye: neat meet with the Track Meet Cheat


… I’m a little surprised that wasn’t the actual title of this short. We’re back to Larry Harmon productions for the cartoon this week. It’s another short directed by Paul Fennell, with story by Charles Shows. Let’s take a moment to watch Track Meet Cheat. The moment takes about five and a half minutes, with credits.

So the cartoon is animated as I’d expect from the future Filmation team. The characters are angular; Brutus is almost a triangle. The movement well-defined or stiff, depending on how good a mood you’re in. The story is … now that’s interesting.

If you watch this when you’re seven years old, or if you watch it while distracted, the story makes good solid sense. Brutus is showing off at the extremely thin stadium. Popeye has enough of this, and challenges him to the track-and-field events. Popeye does great but Brutus cheats until Popeye has enough, spinach, fight, triumph, end.

The thing is that’s not quite what we see. Like, Brutus is showing off, yeah, but he’s also there to put on a show. If we take his ballyhoo in earnest, he is setting world records. And we don’t actually see Popeye challenge him, nor Brutus accept the challenge. If we didn’t know the series we could see this as a relentless heckler spoiling the show. Connective tissue is missing.

It’s not just skipped steps in setting up the story. There are anomalies in motivation all over. For example, in tossing the ball-and-chain, Brutus makes a good impressive throw. Then he runs out and catches it. It’s an impressive stunt, but it spoils the throw as an athletic performance. Popeye does a high jump by tying balloons to himself; how is that supposed to impress the judges? Brutus hands Popeye a bomb, which explodes, and then Brutus wonders where the guy he just blew up went. Why?

Picture of Brutus looking up, nervous, and holding a small consumer-grade circa 1960 camera.
Brutus looks like he’s only now realizing the horror that setting a bomb in Popeye’s hand would actually be. That or he’s sorry he doesn’t have a Polaroid.

If you’re a kid watching this, there’s no trouble. These things just happen because it makes sense for the scene. You know Brutus and Popeye act like this because that’s what they’re doing. If you watch while distracted there’s no problem. You, having learned how narratives work, imagine a connective tissue that makes sense. There’s a hole that swallows up Popeye’s pole, when he tries to vault? Brutus probably dug that to sabotage his opponent.

So there’s a curious anomaly here. The cartoon makes perfect sense, unless you’re an adult paying attention to it.

I’m not saying it’s bad. The stunts are nice, many of the jokes work for me. I love any chance for Popeye to do that angry chimney-puffing on his pipe. Wimpy hawking spinach burgers is a more interesting way to get the spinach than just pulling out a can would be. Wimpy not wanting anyone to actually eat the spinach burgers makes his participation an existentialist absurdity. Or just painting a joke onto an already non-sequitur plot element. It’s just a cartoon that works better if you don’t scrutinize it.

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? Is Milford shut down for Covid-19 yet? January – April 2020


So, no, Gil Thorp hasn’t mentioned Covid-19 yet. Comic strip lead times vary. Some artists work very close to deadline. Some work a long time ahead. The story goes that Tom Batiuk is more than a year ahead of publication on Funky Winkerbean. Some will jump in for an opportunity. Stephen Pastis, of Pearls Before Swine, everyone says is like a year ahead of publication, but this week’s strips are a Covid-19 theme. Anyway this disaster is, at least, a chance for us to learn how far ahead comic strips are being made.

Sunday strips have a greater lead time, usually something like an extra month. It takes time to get comic strips colored on purpose by people who know what the characters are supposed to look like. Story comics that have both the daily and Sunday continuity tied together will have to work to that deadline. Exceptions are Gil Thorp, which has no Sunday strip, and Alley Oop and The Phantom, which have separate Sunday stories.

Anyway, I can’t imagine this news not coming to the story strips, especially one set in high school, about athletes. When it happens it’ll surely interrupt the storyline as much as it interrupted our lives. I’m as curious to see what that’ll do.

But it hasn’t yet. So this essay will get you up to speed on Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp, as it was in early April, 2020. It’s right after the conclusion of a story, which is neat for my purposes. If you’re reading this after summer 2020, and there is a summer 2020, I should have a more up-to-date plot recap at this link. And if you want to follow any story comics at all, all those essays are gathered at this link. Now back to sports.

Gil Thorp.

13 January – 4 April 2020

The story, as it had developed from its start the 9th of December? Alexa Watson is a bright young basketball potential star whose life got annoying in 2011, and then incredibly annoying in 2014. She’s decent but not as good an athlete as everyone agrees she could be. She and Chris Schuring, on the boys basketball team, are hundredths of a point away from each other to be valedictorian. And Teddy Demarco and his posse are mocking Schuring at every chance. So! Who will valedictate? That’s the setup.

Also a lot of the plot. A lot of the fun in Gil Thorp, or any story strip, is stuff getting weird. Or at least operatic, which the core ridiculousness of high school encourages. That never quite came together this plot. It’s not that anything was bad. But if you wanted to see Marty Moon humiliated? And who reads Gil Thorp who doesn’t? It wasn’t happening.

Demarco figures to keep messing with Schuring. His idea: a cheap sound effects machine from a tiresome novelty store. As Schuring tries to present something in Something Class, Demarco buzzing and wah-wah noises. This doesn’t come close to throwing Schuring, or anyone else. But it leaves us wondering why Demarco wants to bully Schuring, and why he’s so god-awful at it.

[ Oral report day for Chris Schuring ] Schuring: 'So what's important to remember is --- ' [ 'Waaah-waaah sound effect ] Schuring: 'Y'know, that's exactly what I was going to say!' Later, Demarco's friend: 'Great job, Teddy. Schuring laughed at us, Miss Perrine took your noisemakers, and we got detention!'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 30th of January, 2020. “Also, having seen your plan play out, I’m still stuck on how we thought it was going to make Schuring look bad? What was the line of reasoning here, Teddy?”
Coach Mimi Thorp tries to get Watson to play more offensively. But she’s got no interest in trying. Schuring identifies her problem as wanting to be invisible. At least in situations she can’t control. Watson, talking this over with her friend Phoebe Keener, grants that Schuring may have a point. But, back in third grade, he was the first person to make a Watson the Supercomputer joke at her. I empathize deeply with the anger at the person who gives you The Joke that’ll harass you through school. In this case, though, I think she’s not being fair to inevitable discovery. Of course, if they were always fair, they wouldn’t be our feelings.

Schuring offers Keener advice, to get Watson to play better basketball. Act more aggressive off the court, and she’ll play more offensively. And it’ll get people to think about her athletics instead of that her name is Alexa Watson. You may protest that this reasoning is dumb, but please remember that it comes from a teenage boy, and so is dumb. Watson tries it, to the point that Coach Mimi Thorp has to get involved, because she’s being a jerk. And getting fouled out of games.

Back to Demarco, who needs to try something dumb. He gets a copy of last year’s AP Chemistry midterm. He offers it to Alexa Watson, who refuses. It’s the mark of a good student, after all, to … not use previous years’ tests, where available, as study guides. This is a point where I felt completely lost. Demarco got the test from “a guy who took it last year”. If it wasn’t a test he was supposed to return to the instructor, then I have no idea what the problem is. But we have to read it as an illicit copy or the whole story falls apart.

With Watson refusing to be valedictorian “by cheating”, Demarco goes to Schuring. He claims that, to make amends for all the pranks, he’s giving this present of last year’s midterm. Schuring tosses it without looking. Doesn’t matter: after the midterm, Demarco goes to Mr Rollins and says he gave Schuring the midterm.

Watson: 'There's something weird going on with Teddy and that AP test.' Keener: 'Weirder than it already was?' [ Coach Thorp's office ] Assistant Coach Kaz: 'Chris? Cheating? C'mon, that's way out of character.' Thorp: 'Completely, but I have to ask him.' [ Later ] Thorp: 'Did Teddy Demarco give you an advance copy of the test?' Schuring: 'I don't know.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 11th of March, 2020. We joke about the one way to make Gil Thorp mad is to force him to do some work for school, but if it weren’t for this he wouldn’t even be IN this story. So he should be grateful for Demarco’s bizarre stunt here.
None of the teachers, nor the coaches, believe Schuring cheated. But they have to investigate. Schuring says he doesn’t even know what he got; he tossed it. Watson vouches for him. Mr Rollins changes out at least some of the questions each year, and Schuring did as well on those as he did on the rest. And they’ve noticed Demarco has been incompetently sniping Schuring for years, so why the change? And then they remember that teenage boys are dumb, and suspend Demarco for, jeez, seriously.

Schuring goes to Demarco to ask what his deal is. As with all high school, it’s dumb. In 9th grade, Schuring’s jock friends picked on Demarco, and Schuring doesn’t do anything about it. Schuring apologizes. He doesn’t remember it at all and admits that he should have stopped it. It doesn’t fix Schuring letting Demarco get bullied years ago, but it’s something. Good thought for everyone who’s callously hurt someone else. It’s never wrong to own up to your mistakes and apologize.

Demarco: 'Remember? 9th grade? I'm this tall. A bunch of your jock friends are picking on me. I'm almost crying, and you just sail on by.' Schuring: 'Sheesh, Teddy, I don't remember that at all. But I'm sorry. Truly. If I noticed it, I should have stepped in.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 19th of March, 2020. Unanswered through this whole saga: Why is 17-year-old Chris Schuring more emotionally mature than I am, today? Is this kid really a 67-year-old who made a wish at a magic fountain to correct the mistakes of his high school senior year and once he fixes things up with Demarco and Watson he gets to go back to the Good Future? If my take on it is wrong, find me the evidence in-text that I am mistaken.

On to valedictation. The guidance counselor asks Watson what she thinks of Schuring’s plan to be co-valedictorians. She doesn’t want a reward for backing up Schuring against Demarco’s failed scam. Schuring says it’s not: he proposed co-valedictorian months ago. All right, then. All’s well. Oh, and he introduces her to his girlfriend, Siri Conti.

And that, the 28th of March, wrapped up the story, which was not the most tense or action-packed one.


The current story started the 30th of March, introducing a bunch of kids And Gil Thorp saying how his favorite opening day is baseball, which is right up. And that’s about all we have. Check back around here in early July, by which time whatever plan Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham had will have been blown apart.

Milford Schools Watch

Who plays Milford? Who are their big rivals? Here’s some other schools mentioned in the strip over the last few months.

Next Week!

Wealth! Prestige! Power! A sullen teenager! Television production schedules! And — if things hold out a few more days — no Norton! It’s Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker, in a week, if things start going well. Thanks for reading.

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? Did Chet Ballard get his comeuppance yet? October 2019 – January 2020


If you’re reading this after about April 2020 there’s probably a more current plot recap for Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp at this link. If you’re reading this in about January 2020, please carry on.

Gil Thorp.

21 October 2019 – 12 January 2020.

The standings at the end of last quarter, back in football season. Chet Ballard doesn’t see why his stepson Charlie Roh isn’t getting more play time. He’s also overheard Chance Macy, who is getting more play time, talk with his grandparents about whether he’s “blowtop mad”. He wants to know what the heck that means, but heck if my essay helped him much. It means uncontrollably mad, the kind of mad that makes you a danger. And why it is Coach Gil Thorp favors the guy who doesn’t fumble so much. Luckily, though, Chet Ballard is also head of the Milford school board, so he can look up Chance Macy’s Permanent Record.

Macy’s Permanent Record reveals a lot of behavior issues, and time at a “special school for problem kids”. Ballard’s wife points out, how is this his business again? Carol Other School Board Person points out there are privacy laws in this state. Ballard agrees to give it a rest. By “a rest” he means “a call to Milford Local Newspaper reporter Marjie Ducey”. Ducey doesn’t see where Macy’s history belongs in the newspaper. Local Newspaper hasn’t carried Gil Thorp since that Left Behind guy stopped writing it. But she wonders about the strange voice mail.

Gil Thorp: 'Legally, I probably shouldn't be telling you all this, so don't turn me in. Poor Chance said, 'I'm sorry I'm a bad teammate, but who'd want to hurt me?'' Mimi Thorp: 'That sad, sweet child.' Gil: 'And the fact is, he's a great teammate. But he doesn't believe it.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 2nd of November, 2019. I choose to believe Neal Rubin is making a wry and self-aware comment in a story that’s built entirely on professionals disregarding a student’s privacy.

Thorp goes to Macy’s home to share what he knows about this leak. Macy takes the news well, but worries about who would want to harass him like this. At the game against Madison, Macy steps aside with an ankle injury, giving Charlie Roh a touchdown. Gil Thorp overheard Ballard saying “all the yards, none of the baggage”, and has his idea who called in the Chance Macy story. Marjie Ducey and Education reporter Niah Peters try to figure out who made the call, but there’s few good leads to follow.

So Chet Ballard, needing to do something dumb, goes to the dumb expert, sports radio broadcaster Marty Moon. He shares his concerns about “irregularities” with one of Thorp’s players. While he does this, Marjie Ducey visits Carol Other School Board Person and learns her last name is Forsman. Also that Chet Ballard was telling people about Chance Macy’s Permanent Record. The reporters ask Superintendent Howard Elston to check this out. The Superintendant asks the IT guy to check if Ballard accessed Chance Macy’s records. The IT guy points out Ballard didn’t delete his browser history and there you are.

To Ducey, Ballard declares that he didn’t do it, and besides he had to do it. So the story comes out: a Milford school board member inappropriately accessed a Permanent Record. And left a weird throaty voice message at the paper. And this anonymized version is the hit scandal of the season. Superintendent Elston is not amused by any of this, especially when he works out that Ballard wanted his stepson more play time. Roh figures out that the unnamed board member was his stepfather. Marty Moon figures out that Ballard’s “concerns” were concern-trolling. And when Marty Moon sees through your scheme, you’re through. Ballard resigns from the school board.

Mrs Roh-Ballard: 'Next time I tell you not to do something stupid, you're going to listen. Right? Good. And you're going to apologize to Chance Macy *and* your stepson.' Chet Ballard: 'But I was only trying to --- ' Mrs Roe-Ballard: 'Catch up, pal. No one cares.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 2nd of December, 2019. Ballard does listen, and apologizes to the people he’s hurt with his selfishness. So this puts a Gil Thorp character one up on four real-life people I had counted as close friends for twenty years.

Roh apologizes to Macy. And Macy accepts, because he knew nobody in high school could care about the school board. Roh offers to treat him to a celebration of the season at local teen hangout The Bucket. (This on Ballard’s credit card, which he really had no choice but to lend.) Macy points out he’s not good with loud and packed places. Roh suggests, you know, a quiet celebration at Ricozzi’s. So all ends well enough, except for Chet Ballard.


The new and current story started the 9th of December, with the trials of Alexa Watson. She had a perfectly good name when she was born seventeen(?) years ago. Now it’s a menace. She’d use her middle name except that’s “Siri”. And her mother’s maiden name is “OK Google” so she’s got nowhere to go.

Chris: 'Yeah, Teddy Demarco is a pain, but why add to his problems?' Friend: 'That's a very mature attitude, Chris.' Other friend: 'But I'd still stuff him in a trash can.' [ On the court, conversely ] Thorp: 'One good thing we've seen is more aggression from Chris Schuring.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 20th of December, 2019. Also, like, Teddy’s harassment this time was pointing out how Chris could have averaged four points per game, like he did last season, without even showing up. So Chris probably realizes that Teddy will spend his adult life realizing he was a fantastically incompetent school bully.

Anyway, she has a sympathetic friend, Phoebe Keener, who’s outgrown that unicorn and joined the girls basketball team. Phoebe’s rebuffing the greetings of Chris Schuring, her rival for valedictorian. Schuring, a slight member of the boys basketball team, gets mocked by Teddy Demarco and his friends, but won’t take that bait. Instead he puts it all into being aggressive enough on the basketball court that Coach Thorp notices. He misses a last-second shot against Springfield, but it’s close. In parallel, Watson is playing well but not quite well enough. So both Thorps have been thinking about how to coach their players.

And that’s where the story is: Schuring and Keener are academic rivals. She takes it more seriously than he does. Demarco is mocking Schuring. Schuring’s putting his response into his practice games instead. And Alexa Watson sometimes goes half a day without getting a joke about her names. How will all this tie together? Too soon to say. Come back around April, most likely, and we’ll have a better idea.

Milford Schools Watch

Of course, Milford is not anywhere; it is every high school, everywhere, except that they say “playdowns” there. But we do know there are other schools around it. Here’s the ones that have recently been named, usually in the course of competition:

Next Week!

How much of everything has happened in Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker since October? I’ll try and reveal how much next week. And if you’re just interested in comic strips mentioning mathematical topics, please try my other blog even this week. Thanks for reading.

Popeye goes Ski Jumping this time


We’ve finally got a break from Jack Kinney-directed episodes. This one’s … oh. Larry Harmon. You know, the with the crew that would go on to be Filmation. I mean, I like Filmation. They made a lot of the cartoons so deeply weird that they appealed to the young me. Who else would think to do a cartoon refresh of Gilligan’s Island by just moving everyone to a new planet? I don’t expect great animation. I’m happy if I can get a weird cartoon, though. So here’s Ski-Jump Chump, another 1960 piece.

This isn’t the first skiing cartoon from Popeye. It’s also not the first one where Jackson Beck plays Bluto as some wholly new character with a French accent. Maybe French-Canadian. Beck was apparently comfortable with that accent; he has it on a fair number of old-time radio characters too. Here he’s Gorgeous Pierre, greatest ski jumper in the world. I too wonder if that’s a riff on Gorgeous George, the 50s pro wrestler who’s the guy being riffed on in those cartoons where a pro wrestler has curly blond hair and a perfume bottle.

And it’s not even the first cartoon this month where the story is Popeye and Bluto Brutus Gorgeous Pierre doing stunts to win Olive Oyl’s affections. What makes this stand out mostly is the animation getting weird. Like, in the first scene Popeye’s right eye keeps doing this little fluttering that made me think they were accidentally opening it. No; it’s just that his eyebrow jumps between spots. Which is a mistake that curiously makes his face look much more alive and real than the animators wanted. So that’s worth talking about because it’s an animation error that makes the cartoon kind of better, somehow. It’s superior to Bluto Brutus Gorgeous Pierre using a jack to lift the end of a ski jump, which my eye keeps trying to parse as an optical illusion. And I have no idea what’s supposed to be happening about 3:04, when Popeye skis into the rope.

This all comes to a ski race because I guess they needed some structure for the back half of the cartoon. We see Bluto Brutus Gorgeous Pierre being all devious by going right after the race starter says to “go”, while Popeye stands around blinking. And here I realized I have mixed feelings about the character designs here. They’re very simple ones. Like, I look at them and think, “I could draw that,” which is a sign of a very simple character design. But simple isn’t the same as bad. I admire how they’re able to get Popeye and Olive Oyl and You-Know-Who drawn and recognizable with so few lines and as many as five colors.

Bluto, using a very long handle on a car jack, lifting up the end of a ski jump by its base. No two elements seem to be in reasonable places, relative to one another. The horizontal bar of the ski jump's posts seems to be at an angle, or else the ends of the posts are cut at an angle and one goes about six inches farther down than the other. It's all subtly disorienting in its composition and layout.
Artist’s challenge: find a vanishing point that could possibly apply here. Civil engineer’s challenge: how did this ski jump pass the state inspection when its foundation is just “sitting on top of the snow, with a jack underneath its one cross bar”?

We do get that cartoon-race motif where the villain would win easily if he didn’t keep stopping to sabotage the hero. In the last minute and a half the cartoon finally gets weird for weirdness’s sake. Gorgeous Pierre paints a tunnel into a tree. It’s a Coyote and Road Runner gag, except for being senseless. There’s a reason to take a tunnel through the mountain; why aim for the one tree on the hill because you think you can pass through it? That said, I apparently like this sort of nonsense because I didn’t think about that until the third time through. Another bit of nonsense I like is Popeye drinking spinach juice for whatever reason. I wonder if this is riffing on some commercial people in 1960 would remember. The cartoon ends with a fight cloud, and a small-pawed bear being roped into things. The bear gets to win the ski race. And Popeye declares “like Napoleon said, you can’t win them all” and spontaneously dons a Napoleon costume. Why? I have no idea.

By now, you know me. I found this a dull but okay cartoon through most of its length. I got more interested as the cartoon got more ridiculous. Also that bear was adorable and I reliably like the comic premise of the character who’s important but asleep through the whole thing. I will not call this a great one, since it isn’t. Popeye turning into Napoleon is a nice surprise, but it’s not the sort of joke which won’t wear out.

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? What does “blowtop mad” mean? July – October 2019


Thanks for coming in, soapy sports fans. If you’re reading this after about January 2020 I probably have a more up-to-date recap of
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp at this link.
If you’re just trying to figure out where the strip was as of mid-October 2019, you’re in a good place. And if you’d like to see me using comic strips to talk about mathematical topics, please try my other blog, here. Now to the story.

Gil Thorp.

20 July – 19 October 2019.

As a Milford student Hadley V Baxendale won the girls’ teams some dignity and larger lockers. She’s since become a star attorney for her Chicagoland firm. She’s also engaged to Jaquan Case, former Milford basketball player turned NBA star. She’s visiting her parents. Her father is all weird about how they don’t even live in the same city, and in ten years he’ll be retired and she won’t. How will they survive these quite survivable problems?

She’s got side projects, though. She’s gotten involved in Tiki Jansen’s story. Jansen was fleeing harassment at New Thayer by his family renting an apartment in Milford that they don’t actually live in. But the school board has reconsidered the matter and concluded that since he doesn’t live in Milford he shouldn’t be going to Milford High. And Baxendale is happy for a chance to fight with the school board again.

Baxendale: 'I'm here about Thomas Jansen, Mr Ballard.' Ballard: 'Are you a lawyer?' Baxendale: 'Right now, I'm just a family friend ... but I *could* be.' Later, Baxendale, on the phone: 'She said she didn't want to sue us, Carol. But she didn't say she wouldn't!'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 29th of July, 2019. I don’t intend to be snarky when I say I don’t know who Carol is, other than, someone connected to the school board. I haven’t caught her last name or what her exact connection is.

If she needs to. Jansen’s family can’t afford an empty apartment anymore. But teammate Leonard Fleming’s family is willing to put Jansen up. With that fact she goes to work. She talks with the Flemings, who say they’re trying to do a favor to someone who needs a favor, and keep the team from losing Jansen. She gets the video that High School Cinema Weenie Joe Bolek made of Jansen’s former schoolmates chasing him down. And she talks with Chet Ballard, head of the school board.

They don’t put Tiki Jansen’s case on the school board agenda. Carol Other School Board Person doesn’t want to do stuff that establishes a precedent. Baxendale is warm to this too, on the grounds that a private deal is more likely to go her way. The strip doesn’t mention but this is an interesting development for Baxendale. She’s arguing for special treatment for someone, not because of the facts of his case, but because of who happens to be Mary Worthing his life. But there is no such thing as not creating a precedent. Getting the school board to agree to this for Jansen means they can be made to agree to this again later.

At the school board. Ballard: 'How do we know Thomas will actually stay with the Flemings, or how often?' Baxendale: 'How do we know what roof anyone is under? You? Me? A child whose parents are divorced? Maybe we can have sign-in sheets for everybody. How many new hires will it take to verify them?'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 10th of August, 2019. “I mean, if we can’t trust the residency of someone whom we know to have lied about his residency within the last six months, who can we trust?”

So, meeting with school board members, Baxendale lays out her case. Jansen’s in physical danger at New Thayer. Reduced (most of his tormentors have graduated), but still credible. And while the old apartment was nonsense, he now has a real verifiable host family in town. To the reasonable question of how do they know he actually lives there, she points out they don’t know where any of their students live. Which is true but not a case I’d want to argue to a judge. Ballard isn’t a judge; he sells insurance. The school board accepts Jansen as student.

Hadley had invited her father Ed to watch her work. He’s impressed. And he’s worked out what his deal with Jaquan Case was. It wasn’t anything do to with Case. It was his longing to have his daughter move home and join his law firm. Seeing her at work, he’s content that she’s living a great life and he doesn’t need to wish her back home.


That, the 17th of August, wrapped up the Baxendale and the Jansen II stories. The current storyline started with football practice the 19th of August. Its star: sophomore Chance Macy, who’s looking to be a good halfback. Supporting player: Charlie Roh, stepson to Chet Ballard, head of the school board. I didn’t make the connection until writing up this summary. Ballard wishes that Charlie accepted him as “dad”, but, you know. That comes, or it doesn’t come. I don’t know if that’s going to end up important to the story.

In the opener Macy does great, getting the ball to the 2-yard line. Charlie Roh, put in to carry it over, fumbles. Ballard blames Coach Thorp for not giving his stepson more time carrying when it wasn’t critical. Macy’s forgiving of the mistake, though. And does a lot to bring Milford its win, too. He’s invited of course to the victory celebration, but declines, claiming fatigue.

Ballard: 'I didn't see Chance Macy out there. I wonder where their star running back is.' Chris Schuring: 'Probably fending off girls. A 180-yard game can upgrade your popularity factor!' Cut to Chance Macy, who's sitting in a chair at home, reading.
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 19th of September, 2019. Oh, wow. I remember when I had the hamstrings to sit like that in a chair. I’m lying. I have never had the hamstrings to sit like that in a chair. I barely have the hamstrings to lie down.

Local Newspaper reporter Marjie Ducey wants to interview Macy. Thorp declines for him. And now we have a story hook. Macy doesn’t want to hang out with anyone or be in the paper or anything. And we have a secondary story. Ballard worries his stepson isn’t getting the time or attention or coaching that he needs. Charlie wants his stepfather to relax already. And a third point: Macy is old for a sophomore. His grades are fine; so why is he a year behind? We readers also see Macy eating dinner with his grandparents, with no parents in view.

In a game against Tilden one of the guards cheap-shots Macy. It escalates, Milford’s guard retaliating against a Tilden linebacker. For once it’s not me losing track of names; that’s all we the readers get told. The tit-for-tat continues until Macy loses his temper. He gets a penalty and a sprained ankle. Bad for Macy, although it does give Charlie Roh the chance to play.

[ Tilden 19, Milford 14 ] Ballard: 'Almost a 5-yard average every time you touched the ball. Good work!' Roh: 'Thanks, Chet. But I didn't get that lats foot when we needed it.' [ While nearby ] Macy's Grandfather: 'I have to ask: were you situationally mad out there, or blowtop mad?'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 10th of October, 2019. “Almost a five-yard average” … oh no, this is going to end with Ballard turning into a hardcore sports stats nerd, isn’t it? Get out of there, Charlie! Go somewhere they just play!

Macy’s grandfather asks Chance whether he was “situationally mad” or “blowtop mad”. He says he was “cheap-shot-from-loudmouth mad”. Ballard, overhearing, wonders what the heck “blowtop mad” means. I share his confusion. There’s an obvious inference, at least. But Gil Thorp just did an “uncontrollable temper” story with the Barry Bader story in spring 2018. They couldn’t be doing that again right away, right? And where are Macy’s parents? Both Tiki Jansen stories were about him not living where he “should”; the strip can’t be doing a third iteration of that, can they?

Ballard asks Charlie what he knows about Macy. He knows only what we readers do. Macy’s fast. Didn’t go to the party. Oh, one more thing. Charlie would swear they were in second grade together but now he’s a grade behind. Ballard suspects Coach Thorp is up to something. And, worse, cheating his stepson of playing time to do it. That Charlie’s developing quite well now that he has some playing time helps Ballard feel suspicious. Finally, Ballard concludes, he’s on the school board. Therefore he has the right to hack into Neal Rubin’s writing notes and figure out what everybody’s deal is.

And that’s where we’ve gotten. There’s probably around a month left before we get out of football season and into basketball. I’ll give you updates as events warrant.

Milford Schools Watch

Here’s the towns or schools that Milford’s been named as playing the last several months.

Next Week!

Has yet another time jump gotten us out of having to deal with Norton? surely not, but we’ll check in on
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker anyway, in one week,
unless something commands my attention more. You know, like how in Francesco Marciuliano and Jim Keefe’s Sally Forth their house has demons and stuff. Thanks for reading.

What’s Got Me Hopelessly Distracted Today


I’m sorry to get nothing done. But I’ve just learned of the Tonawanda Kardex Lumbermen, a team which played one game as a member of the National Football League. This was the 6th of November, 1921, when they lost to the Rochester Jeffersons by a score of 45-0. They didn’t re-join the league in 1922, possibly because the league fee went up from $20 to $1000.

Wikipedia lists the team as, in 1921, having played two other games that season. One was the 9th of October against the Syracuse team, which had no known name, and which people used to think was a member of the National Football League because the Syracuse team claimed they were. The National Football League doesn’t think they were, but maybe all the paperwork saying they joined or were in the league or left got lost? It was a scoreless tie when, seventeen minutes in, the rain was too bad to continue. Their other game was scheduled for the 30th of October, against the Rochester Scalpers, but got cancelled.

Also the article says that professional football was played in Tonawanda by no later than 1913, saying, “this terminus ad quem comes from records that show the team lost to the Lancaster Malleables”. And I am lost in admiration of whatever Wikipedia editor jammed the term “terminus ad quem” in to a paragraph about when we know professional football was played in Tonawanda, New York. So, anyway, you can see why there’s no hope of my doing anything when I have information like this on my plate.

Can’t lie, I kind of miss this era of professional sports.

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? What’s this guy’s problem with NBA stars? May – July 2019


Thanks for being here, high school sports fans. If it’s later than about October 2019 I probably have a more up-to-date recap of Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp at this link. And any old week I should have mathematics-themed comics discussed at this link. That guy, Ed Baxendale, hasn’t yet revealed what his problem is with NBA star Jaquan Case. Thanks.

Gil Thorp.

6 May – 27 July 2019.

So here’s the standings from last time I checked in on Milford Sports. The girls’ softball team was uniting under the “Too Cool For School” motto. This after everyone realized they did stuff that wasn’t softball that they liked. Linda Carr, student, has a volleyball scholarship to college but doesn’t think she likes volleyball that much anymore. You might ask how we can get a story out of this.

That’s answered early on: a friend of the softball girls asks if his being the school’s second-best bowler makes him Too Cool For School. And, they gotta say. Asking if you’re too cool? Also, second-best? Also, he plays clarinet rather than sax? Nah. But since people want to be branded Too Cool For School? They get some badges made. And now we’ve deployed a full, proper high school hellscape.

Nancy: 'I'm with you: Linda and David didn't do anything that cool. But now my double-play partner is mad at me.' Molly: 'Nah. She's mad at me.' Elsewhere, Linda, to David: 'I just need some attention for my softball. I guess Nancy and Molly are too cool to help me out!'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 17th of May, 2019. So part of the Gil Thorp artistic style is to often have the first two panels be one plot thread and the third an unrelated one. If you like it, it’s a way to keep the stories in motion. If you don’t like it, it’s a cheap way to put tension hooks on boring stuff like “teens get a slushie”. Your choice. What frustrates me is when it isn’t clear that the last panel is a separate scene. Looking over it, oh, yes, the first two panels and the third are certainly not taking place in the same building and maybe not at the same time. But is that obvious on a casual read? It’d be fair to look at this and suppose that Linda, David, Nancy, and Molly are about to have a confrontation. When that doesn’t happen, it can make the story seem choppy.

I mean, some of it is okay. They follow leads that, like, a kid in World History raised like $5,000 for the food bank, and recognize that. A couple who both got National Merit Scholarships. Ruled out: a couple, including someone else on the girls softball team, who just had good games the same day. Or a kid who says he wrote a screenplay and hopes to get a Too Cool For School badge. This causes hard feelings, including between the girls who started the Too Cool For School thing.

Coach Mimi Thorp has enough of this. She gives Nancy and Molly, the head of the Too Cool ratification committee, George Orwell’s Animal Farm to read. Nancy reads it. Molly read it in 9th grade so just does some reading about it, which, yeah, sounds right. But both take Coach Thorp’s point: let’s put less judgemental energy into places that are already toxic pits of cliques, please? Once again I feel like the story comics are nudging me. To this I say, I’m trying to be a good reader of these stories. If I sour on a comic I hope it to be for reasons I could articulate, and form part of an earnest discussion of the comic strip’s artistic value.

Molly: 'The committee got to thinking, Tyler. A lot of people talk about writing screenplays, but almost no one does it. That *is* too cool for school!' (She gives the grinning Tyler a Too Cool pin.) Later: Nancy: 'Was Tyler geeked?' Molly: 'Almost as geeked as Harold with his stamp collection. I ordered more badges!'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 7th of June, 2019. Also I don’t think Nancy and Molly are supposed to be twins but they do look distractingly similar to me. Granted, I am not good with names and faces and personal identity and all that. I’m better in your comic strip like Pogo, where there’s at most three people of any species (Mama, Papa, and Child) and you have to work to mistake a beaver for a tiger.

Back to the comic. Nancy and Molly go trying to make amends, giving in Too Cool For School badges to all the people they’d turned down. The new standard is showing that even though you’re in high school you still have a personality. This even if your thing is stamp collecting in 2019 somehow. Did I mention last month I finally updated my ham radio license from when I moved to Michigan seven years ago?

Last thread needing cleanup. Linda Carr still feels burned out on volleyball. Mimi Thorp talks with her, starting by talking about how the Local College Team is going to get crushed next year. Linda rallies to the defense of her future team, and that’s the opening to argue that she still cares about volleyball. What’s bothering her is that she’s not playing for fun anymore; she’ll spend the summer doing that, instead. It’s not bad advice for anyone who’s burned out. Girls softball wins the Valley championship, but loses to Wellington in the playoffs (sic). That’s all right; they’re all still proud of their team-ness.


That finishes the girls softball story for spring. The summer story began the 24th of June. It started with the return of Jaquan Case, and is fiancée Hadley V Baxendale. Their stories were from before I started doing What’s Going On In recaps. But Case had been on the basketball team, and felt conflicted between his skills as a student athlete and that he liked, you know, learning. Baxendale had helped him through this struggle, pointing out that you could go to college and then the NBA. Also Baxendale had her own life, pushing for the girls teams to get full-size lockers and cheerleaders and all that just like the boys teams did. (I do not remember any of this and am cribbing from the Comics Curmudgeon, which has deeper archives, instead.)

Family dinner. The subject: Jaquan and Hadley's romance. Hadley: 'Two seasons ago a client gave me tickets to a Bulls game. And in the second quarter, Jaquan muffed a pass.' Jaquan: 'It was six feet wide!' Flashback: courtside, Hadley holding the ball, Jaquan asking, 'Do I know you?'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 3rd of July, 2019. So this time about a year after I got my bachelor’s I was back in town and stopped in a comic book shop. One of the clerks recognized me and talked with me familiarly and absolutely knew who I was. He seemed familiar but from where? No idea. After several minutes of trying to string the conversation along I gave in and asked where I know you from. He had been my roommate Junior year. Anyway so people who recognize faces from someone they haven’t seen in more than ten days are masters of some kind of freaky magic.

They went their separate ways after high school, the way actual people do. Case eventually did get into pro basketball. Baxendale went to law school and made partner early. One game in Chicago, Case failed to connect with the ball, while Baxendale did, and they connected over that. Nice.

Case and Baxendale have some problems, sure. They have separate hometowns, particularly, and neither of them has a job that relocates well. Hadley’s father worries about this, since, like, how can you have a long-distance relationship? (As one who had a long-distance relationship for years, I have to say: tolerably well. It takes different work than an in-person relationship does. And there’s true pain when your partner needs to be held and you’re a thousand miles away. But a good partner is worth it.) Her father’s really worked up on the impracticalities of a two-city household. And that, like, in a decade Case will be retired and Baxendale won’t. Won’t that be weird? So the question is what’s his real problem here.

Hadley's Father: 'If you played for the Chicago Bulls, Hadley wouldn't need to leave her job.' Jaquan: 'It's not that easy, Mr ... uh .. Ed. The Bulls would have to want me, and vice-versa.' Hadley: 'Besides, I'm *not* leaving my job.' Father: 'But then you'll need two homes.' Hadley: 'Gracious, my NBA all-star darling ... how will we afford it?'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 10th of July, 2019. Ed Baxendale had asked Case why he couldn’t just play for Chicago. This is so delightful. My love and I are academics, or would be if we were both in our ideal careers. Academics get career advice that is pretty much, “Why don’t you knock on the door of Michigan State University and ask if they’re hiring?” (They are not. If you want to cold-call a school, all you can do is the week before class see if they list any classes with instructor TBA. Then you might swing an adjunct spot out of them.) Anyway, if you have career advice for an academic friend or family member? Don’t offer it, unless the same advice given to a pro athlete would not be obviously dumb.

This is thin stuff even for a summer story. Thickening it up: the return of Tiki Jansen. He was avoiding harassment at New Thayer by a dubious but accepted maneuver. His family rented an apartment in Milford to use as his official address and he just drove from New Thayer to Milford every day. The school board has thought about this again and said, yeah, no, you don’t really live in Milford. Sorry.

Gil Thorp mentions this problem to Baxendale. She’s interested in the legal challenge here. And the chance to annoy her old school board, which, yeah, I buy as motivation. She’s got some plan in mind. We haven’t yet heard what that is, either.

And that’s a summer in Milford. There’s probably about a month to go in these storylines and then the fall season should take back over.

Milford Schools Watch

Here’s the towns or other schools that Milford was named as playing the last several months.


Bonus College Mentions

Mentioned as teams that Local College Team would play:

  • Western (11 May)
  • Southern (possibly; the reference might also be to a series of games played in the southern region of the conference, 11 May)

Next Week!

Well, I’ve got a packed week ahead of me. It looks to be great, mind you, and one I’ll be glad to go through. But I just do not have the time to summarize any complicated or intensely packed comics. So I’m looking forward to some nice easy reading, and summarizing, whatever’s next on my big wheel of story strips. Let me just take a nice long sip of hot tea and look up what’s next weekend’s adventure.

It’s Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker.

Well, I knew the job was dangerous when I stumbled unawares into it.

In Which I Misunderstand A Food Objective


I wasn’t listening very closely to the teaser for the Mister Food segment on the noon news Friday. I thought the guy said he was going to show off a “dessert that would be worthy of the Renaissance”. So that kept me hanging on for the whole commercial break. What would this be? My best guess: a slab of honeycomb on top of marzipan, covered in nut-megg and tobacco leaves, bludgeoned the one tymme with a sugar-cayne.

Anyway it turns out they were doing a Kentucky Derby tie in. They had said a “dessert that would be worthy of the Winner’s Circle”. You can see how “Winner’s Circle” and “Renaissance” sound similar, what with both things being made up of words composed of syllables and all. Anyway I’m annoyed because I wanted Mister Food to tell me I was right.

Hey, are they going to have a Kentucky Derby this year? I should look that up. They hold those in prime-numbered years, and also some of the others.

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? What’s With The Hats, Hippo, and Secret Volleyball? February – May 2019


I’m glad you want to know all about Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp. If you’re reading this after about August 2019 I probably have a more up-to-date recap at this link. Also any breaking news, if there is any.

On my other blog I talk about comic strips too, specifically, what mathematical topics get mentioned in the comics. You might enjoy that.

Gil Thorp.

11 February – 4 May 2019.

Gil Thorp was in the fight of his life when I last checked in. The fight for his professional life, anyway. Former student-assistant-coach Robby Howry was blogging mean stuff about his coaching. And teaming up with radio sports reporter Marty Moon to say mean stuff about his coaching, but on the radio. And Gil wasn’t fighting. He was waiting for all this to get done. It’s as if Gil Thorp, deep down, didn’t really care.

[Former player Maxwell Bacon stops by.] Bacon: 'I want to tell everyone why they can't trust Robby Howry.' Gil Thorp: 'But that means telling everyone about you and fake adderall.' Bacon: 'In high school. I'm a college senior now --- ' Thorp: 'Who'll be sending out resumes soon. Robby isn't worth the trouble.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 2nd of February, 2019. The fake adderall story is from slightly before I did these plot recaps regularly. But I’m glad that Bacon can laugh at the stupid stuff he was doing in high school. It bids well for him someday laughing at the stupid stuff he was doing in college. And then, fifteen years from now, lying awake all night kicking himself for being such an idiot his entire life up to about two years ago.

Coming back into the strip was Maxwell Bacon. He was part of the storyline that set off Robby Howry’s quest for revenge. As senior, Bacon had wanted adderall, the better to manage whatever. Howry gave him baby aspirin, filed off, and told him it was adderall. Thorp found out about this, suspended Bacon, and threw Howry off the team-management thing. Bacon’s back from State University to see his mom. But he’s glad to break the silence about Howry’s motivations. Thorp refuses his help. He argues Howry isn’t worth Bacon making a dumb scandal public right as he’s looking for, you know, a job. Bacon leaves, without affecting the plot further.

It’s a neat development, I thought. It seems obvious that Bacon could deflate the Howry bubble. That Thorp won’t do that says something about his character. First, that he won’t screw up even a former student’s life, not on purpose. Second, that he’s confident he’s not going to lose his job to Robby Howry.

Marty Moon: 'I just wanted to say it's nothing personal that my radio guest wants your husband fired.' Mimi Thorp: 'Robby's not after Gil's job, you dope ... he wants *yours*.' She exits, leaving Marty stunned and holding his beer below waist level.
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 26th of February, 2019. The thing that makes me the most uncomfortable about this scene? How Marty Moon’s holding that beer so low and at such an angle that it’s got to be spilling beer foam on his shoes.

Because Howry isn’t after Thorp’s job. Mimi Thorp lays it out for Marty Moon, and everybody else. Howry wants that sweet local-sports-reporter job. And he’s going about it by saying interesting things in a forceful way about local sports.

The Gil Thorp snark-reading community has a consensus opinion about Marty Moon. He’s a hilarious, bumbling fool. He has the ill grace to be kinda right that Thorp’s teams never do great in their divisions. He’s somehow always finding new little ways to be a jerk. (I mean, dropping in Gil Thorp’s wife when she’s hanging with friends? And to say “nothing personal about my daily guest wanting your husband fired”?) But still. He’s kind of a dope.

Ah, but, swiping his job? Doing something about that is within Marty Moon’s set of powers. He and Howry settle in for their next broadcast. Marty casually turns eighty-four microphones over Howry’s way and asks, “So, how much do, Robby Howry of RobbyReport, declare that Milford sucks? As a town, that is. But also as a collection of super-sucktacular individuals? Please freely express your honest opinion while you’re here under no compulsion or duress of any kind.” And Howry must admit, he’s run some metrics and has rarely seen a town better living up to its potential suckitude than Milford. Then learns he was on the air.

[At WDIG] Robby Howry, unwittingly on air: 'I'm too big for Milford, Marty. This dump is just my launching pad. And when I'm marketing through a major market, I won't be looking back!' (Phone lines 1, 2, 3, 8, and 9 light up.) Howry: 'Why are the phone lines lighting up? Are we *live*?'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 1st of March, 2019. We saw Marty Moon leading Bobby Howry into the studio, small-talking. So what did the audience at home hear? Were they getting a prerecorded intro where Marty Moon told listeners he’d be small-talking Robby Howry before the game? But then wouldn’t Howry know when the program was supposed to start and wonder why they weren’t in the studio when it had started? Or did they cut in to the Marty Moon Show ten minutes early? In which case who would even be listening? Did I ever tell the story of how I helped get our college leftist weekly newspaper permanently Not Invited to talk on the boring public-affairs program the student radio station insisted on running in the middle of our weekly staff meeting? To borrow a phrase, these are all questions I feel I cannot answer.

Now, I’m from New Jersey. I went to grad school in Troy, New York. I currently live in Lansing, Michigan. What I mean by all this is I have never lived in a place that had self-esteem. The closest I ever have is when I lived in Singapore, a city-state that takes considerable pride in itself. But it’s also aware that, jeez, it’s only as important as it is so long as it does containerized cargo and hosting a US Navy base well. So I don’t feel the Milford community’s outrage at being called a “Podunk town” he figures to use as a “launching pad”. I’m more inclined to expect people to say hey, but we’re a great “dump”. And were only better before the gentrifiers tore down the abandoned dance studio that used to be a gas station.

Anyway, having provoked a person who isn’t himself into an outburst, Marty Moon throws Howry off the show. His boss does, too.

Marty Moon expects thanks from Gil Thorp for bursting the Howry bubble. Thorp won’t give it. Robby Howry himself thinks, he guesses he’ll finish school. But he knows, he’s got talents and this town will never forget him. As he says this, the strip shows his billboards papered over. It’s a funny end.

Will Milford forget him? I don’t know. It’ll be a while before I do. He’s got a great story-comic personality, that of being far too involved over a petty issue. And students do return for new storylines, sometimes. It wouldn’t be absurd for Howry to make some new attack on the Milford high-school sports ecological balance. But, yeah, nobody in town would remember him three months after this.


The new, and current, storyline started the 11th of March. And it’s focused on the girls’ sports. It’s softball season. The centerpoint student seems to be Linda Carr, who’s playing softball and volleyball. And is very busy. She has to beg off a Saturday scrimmage, for softball, on the grounds she already has a volleyball tournament. This causes one of Linda’s teammates to snap at her for some reason. In all four girls say they can’t make Saturday. Three of them beg off for “family stuff”. It’s a lie.

Linda: 'You're missing the Machester scrimmage? What's up, Molly?' Molly: 'Umm ... family stuff.' (Later.) Linda: 'Molly Hatcher and Nancy Kaffer both told me they're busy with 'family stuff'. That's three of us infielders. But our catcher will be there ... right, Jocelynn?' (Jocelynn holds out her hands, shrugging.)
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 25th of March, 2019. So I know what you’re all thinking: isn’t Molly Hatcher the kid from a couple years ago, where someone very nearly got in trouble for talking about how he was “taking Molly” and he meant he was bringing a person by the name of Molly to events and it was all a big misunderstanding? No, that kid’s Molly was Molly O’Herlihy. This is Molly Hatcher. So I know what you’re wondering. In the early 2000s “Molly” was around the 90th-to-100th most popular name for girls in the United States, a bit more popular than “Brooklyn” but not as big as “Mackenzie”.

Molly Hatcher, for example, was performing in a synchronized ice skating team. She didn’t want to talk about it because whenever she talks about it people make fun of her. Nancy Kaffer’s “family stuff” was that she was going to a comic convention. She says it’s because she writes a blog about female superheroes. I’m not sure if she was running a panel or if it’s just that she’s interested in comic books. She gets about 30,000 visitors a month so excuse me. I need to step over into the breakfast nook and fume about being one-tenth as popular as a fictional high school girl. All right. I’m back.

Anyway, Linda feels the softball team is lacking a needed unity. It’s a good diagnosis. Everybody has other things they like doing, which is fine. Everybody’s getting snippy at other people for their things, though, which isn’t.

At the season opener, Jocelynn Brown takes a moment to rally the team’s spirits. She gets the team through a tough spot and into a win. And her teammates admire her neat hat, which she knitted herself. She had missed the scrimmage because she and her mother had a booth at a craft show. In admiring the hat Molly Hatcher says everyone on the team is “too cool for school”, and for a moment her entire life hangs in the balance.

Nancy: 'Did you ust say 'we're too cool for school'?' Molly: 'I guess I did.' Nancy, high-fiving: 'That's the most uncool thing I've ever heard!' (Later) Mimi Thorp, to Gil: 'I was worried about morale, and now they're bonding over completely extraneous things.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 17th of April, 2019. And as nervous as Marty Moon’s low-hanging beer was making me, the moment when Molly Hatcher blurted out something pretty dorky and was waiting for her entire peer group to respond? That’s the most dangerous thing in the comic strips so far this year, and this year has included The Phantom launching a one-man raid on a terrorist compound ahead of the United States droning it like it was a wedding party and Spider-Man and Mary Jane falling off the top of the Empire State Building.

But the other teens decide this is such an uncool thing to say that it falls over the edge and comes back around to being cool. It becomes their rallying cry for the next month. Jocelynn and her mom knit matching hats for everyone, which Molly declares they’ll wear on game days.

After a close loss to Tilden, Jamila brings out a Rally Hippo, a plush doll from her collection. She declares that to be her contribution to being too-cool-for-school. And, you know? These things can work. Weird thing about sports psychology is that having anything you can do for luck works, even if you don’t believe in luck. Having a thing in your control helps you get bigger control. The Rally Hippo’s only had one outing, but the girls did come back from being down 3-1 to win.

Less sure, and what seems to be the actual problem this story: Linda has gotten bored with volleyball. But it’s the sport that she has a scholarship for. So, what to do about that?

Fair question. Won’t know until the next few weeks of Gil Thorp transpire. We’ll have to see.

There was no secret volleyball. It was synchronized ice skating being kept secret. Also disenchantment with volleyball kept secret. Volleyball itself was always known to all interested parties.

Milford Schools Watch

So here’s the towns or other schools named as competitors to Milford the last several months. Tilden and Oakwood have turned up twice, and in that order, for basketball and for softball.

  • Tilden
  • Oakwood
  • Burke (the Bulldogs)
  • Benson (the Mighty Bunnies)
  • Nebraska City
  • Platteview

And again, of course, Milford isn’t anywhere real. But if “Nebraska City” isn’t the name of someplace in Pennsylvania, it should be.

Next Week!

What’s going on in Judge Parker? Francesco Marciuliano, Mike Manley, and I know. I’ll try to share. And all the story strip plot summaries should appear at this link.

What’s Going On In Dick Tracy? Is Marty Moon Going To Get Killed? December 2018 – March 2019


I’m happy to help you catch up on Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy. If it’s later than June 2019 when you read this there’s probably a more up-to-date plot recap at this link. That might help you more.

Also my mathematics blog looks at comic strips regularly. Like, it did so earlier today. You might like them. I help the blog out with some of this looking.

And a warning before I get started. The antagonist in the major storyline of the past three months is presented with multiple personalities. If you aren’t comfortable with mental health problems used for comic-strip villainy this way, you are right. Skip the plot recap below the ‘Continue reading’ link, and we’ll catch back up in June.

Dick Tracy.

30 December 2018 – 23 March 2019

I last checked in Dick Tracy during a Minit Mystery. Donnie Pitchford wrote the sequence. He, among other things, draws the Lum and Abner comic strip. The mystery began the 30th of December, and ran each day through the 13th of January. It was not your classic Ellery Queen-style bit of piling up suspects and stories and finding who said something erroneous. It was more a very compressed story of a mad bomber sending poison gas bombs, and Tracy finding them by … well, detective work.

Continue reading “What’s Going On In Dick Tracy? Is Marty Moon Going To Get Killed? December 2018 – March 2019”

%d bloggers like this: