A list of grievances, no matter how Smollett is

Back by lukewarm demand, for all of you Festivus enthusiasts, it’s time for the annual airing of grievances.

For Jussie Smollett and anyone else contemplating staging a hate crime, you really need to do better. Maybe he thought his story was so unbelievable, so fantastical, so implausible, that the public would believe it. But no one was buying Jussie’s fable of being attacked in the wee hours of the morning, on his way home from an egg run in Chicago of all things, by two MAGA-hat wearing white guys shouting, “This is MAGA country.” Chicago is a lot of things. MAGA country isn’t one of them. And who goes out to buy eggs at 2 a.m.? People who work third shift and vampires. That’s it.

If you haven’t heard, there’s a swimmer at the University of Pennsylvania who’s dominating the Ivy League and tearing up the competition. Most recently, Lia Thomas, a transgender female and formerly Will Thomas, a biological man, set two school freestyle records and broke a national record in the 500-yard free earlier this month. For the university, this is reason to celebrate. “Lia Thomas delivered another record-breaking performance…” Penn announced, rejoicing in its progressiveness. For two years, Thomas had competed for the men’s team with middling results. Just a couple of years ago, concerns about what would happen when the trans movement hit college sports were dismissed as bigoted and transphobic. They were neither. There were, however, legitimate issues raised about how allowing trans athletes to compete would impact the future of women’s sports. Now we know, or at least we’re beginning to.

In an age when virtually anyone, as long as you’re a billionaire or celebrity, can be launched into space, do motorists still need to hold their phones while talking and driving? You’re navigating a 2,000-pound projectile and you’re driving like an idiot. Please, stop.

For those of you who still frequent an actual post office, a word of advice, as delicately and sensitively as I am able to deliver. Do your business and get out. I’ve never spent more than 90 seconds in any postal transaction. But for some reason, the person in front of me is invariably engaged in some complicated negotiation that involves the manager and other officer personnel trying to figure out how to send a cooler containing a human liver to a cave in Pakistan. All I want are some stamps with birds on them.

There’s nothing new about plug-in headphones. I once used plug-in headphones and a transistor radio to listen to a football game while my parents forced me to sit through a live performance of the Nutcracker. Unfortunately, reception in the Academy of Music in Philadelphia was not good. Thus, I missed the most famous play in the history of NFL football – the “Immaculate Reception” by the Steelers’ Franco Harris against the Oakland Raiders. And no, I still haven’t gotten over it. The point is, Philistine though I was, I didn’t subject the other patrons of the arts to my game, or static as was actually the case. Today there are all sorts of headphone options. If you want to watch the Tiger King sequel or the latest episode of The Bachelorette, that’s between you and God. But I don’t have to hear it.

Here’s one for the media. Not everything is “breaking news.” Now that I’ve dated myself in the previous grievance, I can say that I’m old enough to remember when terms like “breaking news” and “special report” actually meant something. Today, everything is breaking. The president having a scheduled press briefing is not breaking news. On the other hand, if he unexpectedly breaks into a verse of “Being Alive,” that’s “breaking news.” If everything is “breaking” and “special” then nothing is.

Why are flight attendants still so concerned that my seat is in the upright and locked position? If the plane goes down, having my seat reclined two inches will not be among my primary concerns. I thought they’d have more to worry about with unruly passengers and masks, and unruly passengers refusing to wear masks. Speaking of which, after feeding us snacks and drinks on a recent flight, the flight attendant came over the intercom and said: “A reminder. You need to keep your masks on even while eating and drinking. Pull your mask up in between bites and sips.” As I was sitting in my seat thinking about how stupid this is, it came to me that this might be the greatest barrier to overeating ever devised. The “mask diet.” Just in time for the holidays.

Rich Manieri is a professor of journalism at Asbury University in Kentucky. You can reach him at manieri2@gmail.com.