They Suck More Than Me

Mr. Excitement finally finds someone duller than he is.

Find more Fulwood Watch here.
Debate proves unenlightening

Date: September 7, 2006

Topic: After Sam watches the Blackwell-Strickland debate, he comes to the bold conclusion that in the scripted world of modern politics, no one says anything interesting. Coming from Fulwood, that's like Idi Amin calling Pol Pot a butcher.

Originality: 0/10. Reporters have been complaining about dull quotes from politicians since Cain offered a "No comment" on whether he killed Abel.

Difficulty: 0/10. Fulwood tuned into the debate on TV hoping to get a column out of it, but concludes, "I wasted time watching it." Solution: Waste the readers' time with a column about what a waste of time it was.

Sam Gets Poetic: "All I witnessed were two drab candidates standing like department-store mannequins." And they weren't even hot mannequins that come to life, like in that movie that's always on basic cable.

The Master Has Spoken: "From what it did to help voters make an informed choice, this debate was as uselessly verbose as one of those speeches broadcast on Al-Jazeera." But with fewer "Allah Akbars."

What Sam Reveals About Sam: He believes that misery loves company and that if he was bored by something, you should be too.

CliffsNotes Version: I was hoping the candidates would say something fresh so I could quote them rather than come up with my own stuff, but politics is, like, soooo boring. If you're really looking for something to read, Maureen Dowd has a column on page B9.

Another Record!
For the first time, Sammy breaks the 50 percent barrier for freshness!

Headline: Where the men make sure every woman is invited to dance

Date: August 22, 2006

Topic: Raise the rent and bar the doors, dear reader! Sammy actually stumbled onto a good idea! A group of standup guys called Gentlemen of Ballroom holds an annual dance where they spend the night treating women like queens. It's their way of saying, "We may be men, but we can't be assholes all the time, can we?"

Originality: 7/10. For the first time in Fulwoodian history, our hero breaks the 50 percent barrier for freshness! Bust out the wine coolers!

Difficulty: 3/10. Alas, he's still struggling with the whole difficulty thing, and his prose remains as wooden as a four-piece dinette set. But he did drive out to Willoughby Hills. At night! After work hours!

Sam Gets Poetic: "But before taking his leave, he asked whether she would dance with him again before the night ended." Taking his leave? You ever seen Regina Brett bust the old English like that? You gotta know The Tre spent an entire day watching Turner Movie Classics just to nab that line. It's called research, Regina.

The Master Has Spoken: "Chivalry was de rigueur." Jesus Mother Mary Joseph! Sammy even gets French on our ass! Or is that Norwegian?

What Sam Reveals About Sam: Stunningly, nothing. In another bold break from the paint-by-numbers playbook, Sam doesn't spend the first half of the column talking about Sam. No long-winded riff about what spurred our intellectual giant to drive all the way to Willoughby Hills. No waxing poetic about great questions of sociological import that had been raised by his searching mind. Our lips tremble at the thought, but is Sam becoming interested in the parts of humanity not named Sam Fulwood? Be still, thy rampaging heart!

CliffsNotes Version: I finally figured it out! All I gotta do is write stories about small, uplifting human events, and they'll put me in that spot on the front page where they always run stories about small, uplifting events! It's a bummer that I have to leave the house, but if I get good at it, I can probably figure out a way to phone these in. Cha-ching, baby!

This week, our hero reaches previously unfathomable heights for stating the obvious!

Headline: Saving our city: Why it's so hard

Date: August 15, 2006

Topic: Sam goes to all the way to Chautauqua, New York, to discover that -- gasp! -- when all the guys with money move out to Avon and Orange, that's not good for the city of Cleveland!

Originality: 4/10. In case you're one of the three guys in America who hasn't heard yet, there's this thing called suburban sprawl. It's been going on for more than a half-century, but Sam was waiting for his thoughts to ferment, knowing you're counting on him to deliver incisive commentary on the latest in decades-old trends.

Difficulty: 2/10. The column was as obvious as it gets, but he did have to drive all the way to upstate New York. That's gotta count for something, doesn't it?

Sam Gets Poetic: : "Wealthy people who claim 'Cleveland' is their home are more likely to be found cruising motorized scooters through the midday crush of bodies at Chautauqua than driving to dinner at a Euclid Avenue restaurant." If we understand this right, what Sam's trying to say is that people with money tend to go to nice places, instead of Euclid Avenue, because it isn't as nice. Say it ain't so!

The Master Has Spoken: "During the question-and-answer discussion following the showing, a long line of Clevelanders stood to say they know about the city's woes. One after another, they asked, 'What's the solution?' They needed only to look in a mirror."

Translation for the weirdness impaired: "The city's going to hell because of you people. Never mind that I live in Shaker Heights. I'm still quite urbane and write columns about the plight of the inner city, which I've come to understand deeply while driving my Beemer to work every day. But you guys . . ."

What Sam Reveals About Sam: There's a good chance his wife has kept him locked in the closet for the last 50 years. You think his columns are bad? Imagine being forced to listen to Sam's pillow talk.

CliffsNotes Version: I went to New York. I talked with lots of concerned wealthy people. I saw a documentary about people leaving Cleveland, cuz they like the suburbs way better. I find this astonishing. If all the wealthy people really cared about Cleveland, they'd move to Glenville. Unfortunately, wealthy people suck.

This week, Sam Tackles Immigration

Headline: Father seeks time to say good-bye

Date: August, 8, 2006

Topic: Whenever Sam wants to get deep with the human condition, he busts out his "Serious Sam" headshot -- the stern, unsmiling look that says, "I'm about to lay down some rent-raising poetry on the tragedy that is the human animal." In this case, it's about a Mexican father who wants to stay in the United States to visit his dying son, who for unknown reasons got his ass kicked while walking home from a Lorain Avenue bar.

Originality: 6/10. Sammy either stumbled onto a genuine story, or Regina Brett threw him a bone.

Difficulty: 6/10. Not only does Sam interview the father, he even employs a Spanish-speaking nun as a translator. ¡Yo quiero actual work!

Sam Gets Poetic: "A father should have all the time he needs to learn whether his son will live." Even if it means he stays for 30 years and earns a substandard living by mowing lawns in Strongsville.

The Master Has Spoken: "Surely officials at the INS have enough decency to grant Penales's request." After watching Lou Dobbs on CNN for 15 minutes, I have judged this to be a righteous cause.

What Sam Reveals About Sam: He has absolutely no understanding of the debate over illegal immigration.

CliffsNotes Version:

Homobono Pinales has a funny name, but he is a good father. He has come to the United States because his son, Pinales Jr., is in a coma after getting jumped on the way home from the bar. But the INS might ship Pinales Sr. back home before he has a chance to pay his last respects to his dying son. Just in case you were thinking, "Serves the boy right for being an illegal immigrant," you should know that Pinales Jr. is a legal immigrant. Well, he actually entered illegally, but after he illegally immigrated he earned his green card, which makes him legal, and thus worthy of our sympathy.

This week, Sam defends the Jews.

Headline: Bigotry is not just a Hollywood woe

Date: August 3, 2006

Topic: Mel Gibson hates the Jews, but Sam is their friend.

Originality: 1/10. The same column that every lazy columnist in the nation is writing right now.

Difficulty: 2/10. Yes, Sam shamelessly raided the Drudge Report for most of his information, but he did call one person, and when she turned out not to be Jewish, Sam took the unusual step of making a second phone call to find a real live Jew.

Sam Gets Poetic: "If crud chokes your heart, sooner or later, it will ooze out of your mouth."

The Master Has Spoken: Only a bigot would say, as Gibson admits to having said, that "the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world."

What Sam Reveals About Sam: He has spoken to Jews before and found them to be just as capable of providing a sound bite as any other race.

CliffsNotes Version: Didja hear about Mel Gibson bagging on the Jews? What a bigot! I went out and found a lady who was offended by it. Whoops, she's Catholic. So I went and found a rabbi. First question: "Are you Jewish?" The one thing we can all learn from this is that I, Sam Fulwood III, am a pillar of tolerance.

This week, Sammy defends Channel 19

Headline: Treating the rich just like the poor

By Sam Fulwood III

Date: July 25, 2006

Topic: Sam offers his thoughtful analysis of the Randy Lerner-Action News standoff. After editors turn down yet another request from Sam to increase the size of his mug shot, he writes more, somehow making the story about race and poverty.

Originality: 1/10. If Sam had a nickel for every time he force-fed race and poverty into a story, he could afford an even bigger house in Shaker Heights.

Difficulty: 2/10. It appears as if Sam let newsroom researcher Cheryl have the week off, increasing his workload by 100 percent over last week. This column also included multiple activities Sam is known to despise, including "typing" and "waking up."

Sam Gets Poetic: "Channel 19 makes money serving junk food news. Of course, not everyone can stomach it," Sam writes. Cleverly sticking with the digestion motif, he then declares that the Browns are trying to "regurgitate their deal with Channel 19."

The Master Has Spoken: "Channel 19 . . . showed that local broadcasters don't have to be timid -- and that the 'responsible' stations are really just cowardly." That's right, folks. It takes guts to run audio of a mother calling 911 after her six-year-old daughter drowns in a river.

What Sam Reveals About Sam: "I'm not a regular watcher of WOIO Channel 19 News." At least not since they started rerunning Three's Company in the same time slot.

CliffsNotes Version: A story about a rich white guy making a power play against my noble brethren in the almighty field of half-assed journalism? This sounds like a column! And it looks as if a fellow reporter has already gathered all the necessary facts! Which means Sammy F. doesn't have to make any phone calls! Another Monday at the pool! Holler!

This week, Fulwood discovers there's no "me" in team.

Headline: Adding up facts on Blackwell action

Date: July 18, 2006

Topic: Angry reader sends e-mail challenging Sam to prove that Secretary of State Ken Blackwell suppressed the black vote. Sam accepts the challenge, then delegates the task to the newsroom gopher.

Originality: 10/10. Sam reaches outside of the box, employing high-level managerial techniques from Kinko's.

Difficulty: Fulwood: 1/10. Cheryl, the newsroom researcher: 6/10. Nice information gathering skills, Cheryl.

Sam Gets Poetic: "To refresh my memory, I asked Plain Dealer newsroom research Cheryl Diamond to help review and double-check the news stories . . . " Pawning off work never sounded so heroic.

The Master Has Spoken: "Well, sir, I'm delighted to offer you -- and all the others who didn't ask so nicely -- an explanation, though I doubt anything I say will convince you." But perhaps what Cheryl says will. Apparently, she has "facts."

What Sam Reveals About Sam: Despite the head shot at the top of the column, "Sam Fulwood III" is more of a group project, involving whoever can be rounded up in the newsroom.

CliffsNotes Version: Yawwwwwn. What is today? Let's start off slow. Don't want to strain myself. I know, I'll check my e-mail. Let's see, here's a guy saying I don't have enough facts. I better get some of those. CHERYLLLL!!!!

This week, even a blind columnist finds a nut!

Headline: Finding light in the dark

Date: July 13, 2006.

Topic: A boy who was born with retinitis pigmentosa is learning how to live for when he eventually goes blind. Clear-eyed Sammy sees an opportunity to tug our heart strings … and interview a cane?!

Originality: 8/10 For once, "And-1" Fulwood throws up something other than a brick.

Difficulty: 6/10 Pro: Sammy left his house and has the descriptions of the great outdoors to prove it. Con: Still only manages two sources, unless you count the cane.

Sam Gets Poetic: Tap … Thud? … tap! Yes, ladies and gentleman, The Great Master actually quoted the cane that the blind boy uses. In fact, the cane got more quotes than anybody else in the story.

The Master Has Spoken: "At night, it's worse, best compared to what a sighted person experiences when going abruptly from glaring sunlight into a pitch-black theatre." A theatre where people do not stop talking back to the screen, and where there is a heartbreaking lack of Sourpatch Kids.

What Sam Reveals About Sam: Although he struggles with the whole "interviewing people" part of his job, Son of Sam has a knack for understanding the inner feelings of inanimate objects. Look for future columns in which we hear the cane's opinion on the Mexican election.

CliffsNotes Version: Tap . . . tap . . . tap! That, dear reader, is the sound of a blind man's cane, which I know because I went outside. Behold: a tree-shaded suburban neighborhood that is not my office! There's a kid who's going blind who is going to have a challenge almost as difficult as writing my column twice this week, so I really feel for him. He briefly gets lost, but finds his way again, which is a metaphor for how I feel every Monday and Wednesday, when I sit down to write and realize I have absolutely nothing to say. Oh yeah, the Cleveland Sight Center has an upcoming event, which is why I got the press release that inspired this column.

This week, Sammy digs into local politics . . . in Mexico!

Headline: Mexico fights political cynicism

Date: July 6, 2006.

Topic: Hola! El Fulwood Tres — or as he is known South of the Border, “The Conquistador” — offers his opinion on the presidential election in Mexico. Ole!

Originality: 3/10 — A lesser man would have looked at the word “Metro” at the top of the page and assumed he had to report on something within his city, county, or state. Not The Conquistador! His beat knows no borders!

Difficulty: 6/10 — Sam interviews two people . . . who speak Spanish! Exhausted from the Herculean effort, Fulwood pretty much turns the column into a Q&A, thus avoiding the part of the job every writer hates: writing. If only he could have found an illegal immigrant to do this shit for him.

Sam Gets Poetic: “Dedazo, said Victor.” Dedazo apparently means the index finger, which Sam labors to explain for 600 words. Here’s how it’s used in a sentence: “Asked who is the worst columnist in America, God pointed his dedazo at Sam Fulwood III.”

The Master Has Spoken: “And like American voters who were mesmerized by the razor-thin Gore v. Bush election that triggered still-simmering anger and required court battles . . .” Aw, fuck it. He’s just filling space.

What Sam Reveals About Sam: He’s the Chris Matthews of Mexican politics. “You’re playing la pelota de dura!”

CliffsNotes Version: If all politics is local, then what’s happening in Mexico must have something to do with Northeast Ohio. I found a couple immigrants — legal, thank you very much — and asked them about South of the Border politics. Turns out it’s just as rigged as our system. Local angle! Goooooaaaaaaallll!

Breaking News!
Sam actually goes to Cleveland, interviews people!

Headline: Merchants, students find street is 2-way

By Sam Fulwood III

Date: Thursday, June 29

Topic: Coming off of his column about a conversation with a Tampa columnist (see next item), readers were expecting a follow-up column about that columnist’s reaction to Fulwood’s column about their conversation. But something strange happened between Tuesday and Thursday: Sam — gasp! — left his house.

Someone apparently tipped Sam off to a two-year-old beef that involved three of Sammy’s favorite topics: young black kids, old crackers, and coffee. Some kids at Life Skills Center, a charter school on Larchmere Boulevard, were causing trouble when the school opened two years ago. Of course, all that’s behind them now. But that Tampa Bay dude apparently wouldn’t return Sam’s calls, so two-year-old drama would have to do.

Originality: 2/10. The idea was stale, but he didn’t use any of his colleagues’ reporting, or any readers’ e-mails.

Difficulty: 64/10. Sure, the school is only a mile and a half from Fulwood’s Shaker Heights home. But he had to cross the border into Cleveland, an activity known to make him break out in hives. Plus, he appears to have conducted at least three interviews, breaking his previous record by three. Can Sam’s heart take all this activity?

Sam Gets Poetic: “Some fears and stereotypes dissolved as young and old, black and white, students and neighbors got to know each other.” Last year.

The Master Has Spoken: “A class in urban living is in session up and down Larchmere. It’s an example of what must happen across Cleveland.” Or so he hears from his friends who’ve been there more than once.

What Sam Reveals About Sam: Amazingly, nothing. All the quotes from people he actually interviewed don’t leave much room for the usual extensive rumination on all things Sam. Seriously, what the hell is going on? Did they screw up and run an old Connie Schultz column under Sam’s picture?

CliffsNotes Version: Don’t be alarmed, dear reader, but I left my house for this one. I needed a latte, and it turned out this coffee shop by the house also brews instant column ideas. So here ya go:

In the beginning, there was beef. The black kids smoked blunts, cussed, and spit on the sidewalk. The white business owners, not blunt smokers themselves, didn’t like this. They blamed black kids for their street’s demise.

But over time, the kids realized smoking blunts in public probably wasn’t a good idea. And the business owners realized the black kids might make good cheap labor, and wouldn’t scare off customers like they originally feared. So everyone made nice. The street’s demise is still inevitable, since it’s in Cleveland. But no one’s blaming the black kids. Amen.

Next week: I go back to the coffee shop for a follow-up column about how the black kids felt about this column.

We Read Fulwood So You Won't Have To
Sammy continues his shutout streak against originality.

Odds are even on hosting GOP

By Sam Fulwood III

Date: Tuesday, June 27

Topic: Tre Sammy was on vacation last week, which usually means searing tales from his latest trip to North Carolina. But the elusive III goes paradigm shift, instead busting out his take on Cleveland's chances of landing the 2008 Republican National Convention. Go, Sammy, go!

Alas, the Fulmeister doesn't actually have any thoughts of his own on this matter. So he calls a columnist in Tampa to get his take! (It's called getting someone else to do your work, people. Listen and learn. ) The Tampa guy seems to be Fulwood: Florida Edition. His half-baked conclusion: Cleveland is the front-runner over NYC, Minneapolis, and Florida because -- gasp! -- we don't have hurricanes! Memo to convention bureau: Republicans apparently don't like hurricanes.

Originality: 0/10. Sammy continues his shutout streak against originality.

Difficulty: 0/10. Sam actually interviews a guy, but it's only another columnist. That makes it incest. Which makes Sam some kinda pervert. Do not trust this man around small children.

Sam Gets Poetic: "And that means the other two cities don't have the proverbial chance of snow cones in Hades." Notice how he changes "snowball" and "hell" to "snow cones" and "Hades" to freshen up the cliché? Try busting some of that shit, Regina Brett!

The Master Has Spoken: "In an earlier column, I said it was a slam dunk for Tampa to get the GOP convention." Translation: As you surely recall from previous studies of my work . . .

What Sam Reveals About Sam: The III continues to work on his Regular Guy bona fides. A few weeks ago, he claimed to know a guy who drinks beer outta the can. This week, Sam continues to work his new party dog image. "I would love to sample those bars -- I mean cover the GOP convention -- without having to leave town." Bartender, a wine spritzer, please!

CliffsNotes Version: Ah Christ. I just got back from vacation. Should I do another North Carolina column . . .? Maybe I could write something about my rental car . . . Holiday Inn pools aren't what they used to be, but I think Feagler already did that one . . . I got it! I could call that Tampa guy . . .

Sam Mails It in Again
The great master discovers that 'young people' like the internet!

'Citizen Journalists' in Media's Future?

By Sam Fulwood III

Date: June 15, 2006

Topic: It's a time-honored columnist's trick: Whenever you don't want to write, simply run a series of letters you've received in response to a previous "effort." (It's called recycling, people. Remember, Sam's a progressive). In today's adventure, readers chime in about Sam's column on the future of journalism, which unfortunately includes him.

Difficulty: 2/10. This one required several tasks Sam is known to despise and once attempted to have removed from his job description. They include checking his e-mail, using the phone, and talking about things other than "Sammy F."

Originality: 0/10. Sam decides to weigh in on a debate that's 15 years old. Best boldly unoriginal line: "I fretted that young people seem to prefer pixilated communications over traditional ink-on-paper." In other words, Sam reveals that "young people" like the internet.

Sam Gets Poetic: N/A. The rules of the SF3 Remix allow other people to do the talking. Sam just fills the space between their quotes and calls it a day.

The Master Has Spoken: "Most of the more than 500 people who responded by e-mail, letter or phone agreed with me." As usual.

What Sam Reveals About Sam: Despite the grueling nature of the job -- which sometimes requires him to actually leave the house -- Sam likes his job. When a college kid tells Sam he wants to have "a long career at a newspaper," Sam writes: "So do I, Kevin. So do I." Apparently it hasn't been long enough.

CliffsNotes version: Honestly, I tweaked my back yesterday when I was patting it, so I wasn't really up to getting out of bed today. But I've got all these e-mails here from that one column I wrote about the internet and news. So I'll just print those. Robert in Oberlin likes to read me in newsprint. Peter prefers the web. Tim in Avon Lake envisions a future wherein my greatness will be read only online. Kevin the Kent State student wants to be a big-shot journalist like me. And who can blame him? Nap time!

Sam Recycles for John Marshall

By Sam Fulwood III

Date: June 13, 2006

Topic: Sam recycles his graduation speech to the kids at John Marshall High. International War Tribunal now debating whether to charge him with crimes against humanity.

Difficulty: 0/10. Reprinting a graduation speech is the journalistic equivalent of forwarding email.

Sam Gets Poetic: "So instead of tossing clichéd platitudes to the graduates, I want to celebrate those who will soak up every second of this night like a dry sponge absorbs water on the kitchen counter."

The Master Has Spoken: "I suspect you probably won't remember much of what I say anyway."

What Sam Reveals About Sam: When he was waiting to collect his diploma 30 years ago, he was thinking, "Let's get this over, because there's a party somewhere and I want to get there." Sam later had two beers and threw up on his girlfriend, who dumped him for the president of the A/V Club.

CliffsNotes version: I was invited to give a speech to 282 graduates of John Marshall High School. But there's no way I was gonna do that and write an original column this week! So I figured I'd just reprint the address I gave. Here goes: You dumb kids don't care what I'm saying, so I'm gonna speak to your parents. John Donne once said something smart, which will save me the trouble of writing an original paragraph. You kids gotta pay taxes and vote. Life is hard for people who don't have sweet columnist gigs. Congrats, class of 2006, now where's my honorarium?

Sam Denounces Opposition to Gay Marriage

By Sam Fulwood III

Date: June 8, 2006

Topic: Sam boldly pens an open letter to Bush denouncing the president's opposition of gay marriage.

Difficulty: 0/10. Fullwood doesn't interview anyone, and grants anonymity to the two purported "friends" he writes about.

Sam Gets Poetic: "He's invited me to worship at his church, where we prayed for tolerance, respect and dignity for all mankind." God responded with a form letter saying Sam's prayer was being processed, and that He would provide a "formal response and/or miracle within 90 business days."

The Master Has Spoken: "I write you because I suspect you don't know many men like me, who are secure enough in their masculinity to say they love other men." Message to reader: Sam Fulwood is a highly unique and evolved individual.

What Sam Reveals About Sam: Cleveland's reigning metrosexual is actually down with the people, since he has a friend who is a "manly man." Together, they once drank beers "back to back" while watching "ball games" in what Sam describes as a "male-bonding orgy that lasted an entire weekend." In other words, he once behaved like a normal Clevelander.

CliffsNotes Version: I love other men, but that doesn't make me a homo. I once enjoyed a wine spritzer while watching a sporting event with a buddy who drank beer. Out of the can. It was so exciting! I'm so much of a man that I actually met a homo on an airplane once and didn't switch seats. In fact, I've gotten to be good friends with him. He even invited me to dinner and church. To be perfectly honest, I have developed such a close friendship with this swishy gentleman that I often mention him in my columns when I want to prove how much of a man I am (Hey, Steve!). Did I mention I've been married to a woman for 22 years? Yup, I'm a real man. A man who's not afraid to sit next to gay guys on airplanes.

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