The ATC Report

In Control, TAR5 – The Finale

Gee, don’t Steve and Dave work for the FAA? And didn’t they even predict the exact order of finish last column? Hmmmmm….
So everyone knows who won The Amazing Race 5 by now. You all saw Nicole’s breakdown on the “snow bike” run. You saw the climb up the cliff that eliminated Linda & Karen. You saw Chip & Kim wipe out on the luge several times before Chip learned that you could actually steer the sled. Everyone saw Colin & Christie spend the whole last two episodes talking about how they were going to get even with Chip & Kim, only to fail. You all saw everyone talk incessantly about how they were in a race and getting on a specific flight was worth a million dollars (which would have been a death sentence in our race). Everyone even watched those lovable folks at the FAA keep Colin & Christie and Brandon & Nicole from getting anywhere near the United flight to Dallas that the eventual winners were on. (Gee, don’t Steve and Dave work for the FAA? And didn’t they even predict the exact order of finish last column? Hmmmmm….)

So, what could we possibly tell you about the race that you don’t already know? Not much. What insider insights could we provide into the final show that you might not have heard? Not a lot, although they DO film scenes of the eliminated teams clapping before the winners get there. You’re probably wondering exactly what is the purpose of this final column then?

Well, we’ve spent the entire race pointing out the flaws of the racers, mocking the mistakes they made, belittling them, showing utter contempt for their emotions, poking fun at their struggles, and generally having a grand time at their expense. But instead of this column reviewing the finale of The Amazing Race 5, this time we’re going to take shots at…us. You read right, we’re going to review the preceding 12 columns we wrote about TAR5 for TARflies. If you thought we were tough on the racers, just wait until you see what we say about ourselves…

Before we get to the reviews of our columns, we thought we would take a few minutes to respond to some of the questions we get. The question we get most often is, “Isn’t that kind of misshapen?” – but that has nothing to do with this column. Nor do the second, third, fourth, or fifth most often asked questions. But the sixth most often asked question is, “How the heck do you two manage to write a column every week when you don’t see each other that often?” That’s a fair question, so here’s an example of a typical week as we get “In Control” written and submitted:

TUESDAY, 9:00PM: Dave settles into recliner to watch The Amazing Race.

TUESDAY, 9:13PM: Steve settles into recliner to watch The Amazing Race, curses decision made by his town back in 2002 to create “Suburban Time Zone”, which is 13 minutes behind Central Time.

TUESDAY, 9:14PM: Steve places hurried phone call to Dave trying to find out what happened on first 13 minutes of show after realizing that CBS doesn’t recognize “Suburban Time Zone.”

TUESDAY, 10:03PM: Dave calls Steve pretending to be a Mexican day-laborer looking for an escort service.

TUESDAY, 10:12PM: Steve calls Dave to tell him how he just rented his wife out for the evening for $24 and a fajita.

TUESDAY, 10:24PM: Steve’s wife calls Dave’s wife and asks her to please disconnect the telephones again. Both wives do.

WEDNESDAY, 11:03AM: Steve calls Dave at work pretending to be angry United pilot. Supervisor tells “pilot” to call back later as Dave is on break.

WEDNESDAY, 3:15PM: Dave calls Steve at work pretending to be angry American pilot. Supervisor tells “pilot” to call back later as Steve is on break.

THURSDAY, 7:06AM: miri sends gentle e-mail reminder to both Steve and Dave to let them know column is due by Saturday.

THURSDAY, 9:49AM: Steve wakes up and reads miri’s e-mail. He then calls miri and asks if her refrigerator is running.

THURSDAY, 9:57AM: Steve calls Dave at work pretending to be angry Delta pilot. Supervisor tells “pilot” to call back later as Dave is on break.

THURSDAY, 6:38PM: Dave reads miri’s e-mail. He then calls miri and asks if she has Prince Albert in a can.

THURSDAY, 7:01PM: Dave calls Steve at work pretending to be angry Southwest pilot. Supervisor tells “pilot” to call back later as Steve is on break.

FRIDAY, 7:32AM: miri sends Steve and Dave a sterner e-mail requesting to know when to expect column.

FRIDAY, 9:45AM: Steve and Dave both at work, both on break. They discuss recent spate of angry pilots calling Chicago Center.

FRIDAY, 12:57PM: Dave reminds Steve that they should probably work on column. Both agree to do so that evening.

FRIDAY, 5:01PM: Steve leaves for dinner and movie with wife.

FRIDAY, 5:48PM: Dave leaves for bowling.

SATURDAY, 8:12AM: miri sends panicked e-mail to both Steve and Dave demanding column.

SATURDAY, 10:00 AM: Dave wakes up, has nagging sensation that he was supposed to do something on previous evening.

SATURDAY, 10:03 AM: Steve wakes up, has nagging sensation that he was supposed to do something on previous evening.

SATURDAY, 1:55PM: Steve calls Dave pretending to be casting agent for new show “Worse Than Average Joe.”

SATURDAY, 2:14PM: Dave calls Steve to tell him of exciting new television opportunity, “Worse Than Average Joe.” Steve asks for information and attempts to get an interview for himself.

SATURDAY, 4:06PM: Enraged miri calls both Steve and Dave, ordering them to write column.

SATURDAY, 4:45PM: Dave calls Steve to point out that deadline is 15 minutes away.

SATURDAY, 4:50PM: Steve calls Dave asking if he’s got anything yet.

SATURDAY, 4:55PM: Steve and Dave both busily at work playing “Minesweeper.”

SATURDAY, 4:58PM: Steve and Dave get up from respective computers, place monkeys in front of keyboards.

SATURDAY, 5:00PM: Column completed and sent in.

So much for how the column gets written – now it’s time to take you back to the beginning of “In Control”. Here, in week-by-week order are brief synopses of what we thought of that week’s column, how we got them written, what led to the columns as written, etc.

PRE-RACE – “IN CONTROL, THE BEGINNING”
Steve then made a command decision to never allow me to make command decisions again.
Dave: Wow, this one had such potential but really comes across as kind of lame (in hindsight). We even submitted the column without a name. I think miri wanted to call it “The ATC Report,” but I made a command decision and decided to call it “In Control.” Steve then made a command decision to never allow me to make command decisions again. I then countermanded Steve’s command decision and placed him on double-secret probation. He responded with a threat to camp out in my front yard unless I started calling him “Phi Beta Cutenik.” miri then told us to stop acting like three-year-olds and turn in the freaking column. I guess we did just about everything wrong with the submission of the column that we could have done, right down to 10-point type instead of 12-point. I do have to give us credit for the unusual rankings though. We were way off, but the categories (sneaky, funny, and slowness) were all right. I think that this column might have been the only one where the categories were actually race-related. If you look back, you’ll notice that our “dislikes” included Colin/Christie and Brandon/Nicole, while our “likes” featured Chip/Kim, Linda/Karen, and world peace. Of course, we also predicted that Alison/Donny and Dennis/Erika could do well.

Phi Beta Cutenik: Hey, it took 7 years of college before they let me in that fraternity, so I wear those Greek letters proud. Anyway, I’ll start by admitting Dave does most of the work. My by-line is a sham. I should get as much credit for “In Control’ (God, what a shitty name, I voted for Mosaic) as Flo should get for their win in #3. Daver always started the columns and let me play off of him. Hmmm, that could explain how weak the lead-ins are. All I added was proper punctuation and the occasional plagiarized quip off the Stephen Wright website. As a matter of fact I did not even write this.
.


STEVE & DAVE’S RATING:
starstarstar1/2 star
3 1/2 STARS

“IN CONTROL, LEG 1”

Steve: Not a bad start. We were careful not to step on too many toes because we realized the early opinions of the racers were based on a questionnaire the production staff threw at us (along with a dulled crayon) during lunch. We wanted to be glib, humorous, and insightful. How boring! It took us a few columns to learn nobody reads that shit. They want blood. So we acquiesced and started drinking before writing. Voila, instant Susan Hawk. We did have immediate dislikes for the teams we felt were recruited, and were backed up by their behavior. Dave also mentions a rare line uttered by Mirna that cracked him up, admitting the fact that he watched it in Vegas probably helped. Yeah, eight Cosmopolitans will do that.

Dave: Geez, we trotted out the ‘Spawn Of Satan’ bit in leg 1? I guess this column was OK, but it seems to me (as I re-read it) that we blew off a lot of teams with “didn’t do anything memorable, were they even IN this leg.” I did like the fact that we were the first (and perhaps, only) writers to point out how similar TAR5 was to TAR4. Right off the bat, we nailed Brandon & Nicole for asking for help from above without actually trying to accomplish anything on their own, a theme that we would see repeated throughout the race. We also were dead-on with our assessment of Colin & Christie – low face-time equals long stay on the race.


STEVE & DAVE’S RATING:
starstarstar
3 STARS

“IN CONTROL, LEG 2”

Dave: I think that this is where we really started having problems with the TARflies management. They kept referring to something called a “deadline,” while we kept countering with demands for a “paycheck.” Near as I can remember, this column was the first time that Steve and I felt that “the man” was oppressing us. That showed in the column as I think we were more concerned about funny icons than we were about funny writing. I notice that we continued the comparisons between TAR4 and TAR5 – why didn’t someone point out how dull that was?
In actuality, we just missed seeing ourselves spin around in our controller chairs during the opening credits.
Steve: Before my esteemed partner and I were on our favorite show, we sat at home watching it, screaming at the participants and muttering to ourselves that we could do everything better than the lame teams that were gracing the screen. Just like all of you. And by the grace of (insert your God, deity, or pop star diva here), sleep inducing interviews and several dozen crisp, clandestine, hundred dollar bills later, we became fodder for the masses. The reviewers for TAR4 were surgeons with their words and the things we read about ourselves, cut us…deep…to the bone. And it affected us. We decided we would take this lesson and translate it to our column. So we got our medical degrees. Scalpel, nurse. I think the continued comparisons to our race were just rationalizing. Their race is easier. We had 4 buff all male teams and they have the “pizza-puffs.” All of our racers were normal sized; they have this guy named Colin. In actuality, we just missed seeing ourselves spin around in our controller chairs during the opening credits. I also discovered the Anagram Server that week. Could you tell? Kind of funny, but the mistake was giving Dave the web address. All of a sudden, it wasn’t so funny. I’ll bet you saw “that coming,” which of course is an anagram for “Cottingham.”


STEVE & DAVE’S RATING:
starstarstar
3 STARS

“IN CONTROL, LEG 3”

Steve: Dave and I would often get on the phone immediately after an episode and discuss the show. As always we would crack each other up with insightful observations and hysterical quips, which we promptly forgot. Then we would scramble towards deadline for something clever to write. Dave was the spokesman for our column and had the “delight to communicate weekly with mumble, mumble, mumble.” Funny, I could never make out who or what he said at the end. In spite of that, Dave managed one of his best serial-jokes for the whole season. Sometimes I forget Allison’s name, but I always remember her as the “Spawn.”

Dave: You have to admit that we really hit our stride with this one, Stever. The opening featured “Spiffy the Wonder Pony” and all those made-up statistics that still make me laugh just thinking of them. I think that the column was mirroring the ongoing rift between the TARflies management and us, because for the first time in TAR5 our racer comments got a little acerbic as well (I called Marshall & Lance “jerks,” Steve called Jim’s speech “sappy,” we both took shots at Brandon & Nicole). I do remember that Steve and I took off on a two-day bender after turning in the column.

STEVE & DAVE’S RATING:
starstarstarstar
3 1/2 STARS

“IN CONTROL, LEG 4”
Only later did I find out that he had checked himself into the G. Dubya Bush Clinic for treatment of malapropism and dangling participles.
Dave: This column saw the first truly major crisis we had while writing “In Control.” I remember talking to Steve immediately after the show that week, but by the next day he was incommunicado. Only later did I find out that he had checked himself into the G. Dubya Bush Clinic for treatment of malapropism and dangling participles. My request for “a little relief” on the deadline was met with screaming fits from both miri and Daria. As a consequence, I ended up writing the whole freaking column myself, and covered Steve’s absence up by claiming he had had some surgery. I think that Tribefan suspected that there was something strange afoot, because I kept getting e-mails from her asking about Steve’s “condition.” Based on miri, Daria, and even Tribefan’s reaction, I began to realize that we were the outsiders in the TARflies family, and that tensions would probably get worse. The one thing that always kind of bugged me about this column was the fact that there really IS a secret message hidden within the column, and no one has ever found it.

Steve: I’d like to thank my partner for his efforts to conceal my absence. How trendy to say I was in a rehab facility. In actuality, I did have surgery, and with only two more “adjustments” and the hormone treatments, I’ll live the life that can appreciate Oprah, side salads, Manolo Blahniks and SephoraCon. Dave has always cracked me up. And this week’s column was no exception.


STEVE & DAVE’S RATING:
starstarstarstar
3 1/2 STARS

“IN CONTROL, LEG 5”

Steve: Dave said he was starting to have issues with management. He said he’d go into detail but “didn’t want to upset you and pop your stitches.” I shrugged it off, knowing that his history as a union rep would be to our benefit. The race went to Egypt this week and we were jealous. And when we get jealous we get in a pissy mood. And when we get in a pissy mood we want to take it out on someone. Our wives were at another of their many “wine tastings,” so we had to take it out on the racers.

Dave: Steve returned from his break on Tuesday of this week, just in time to begin the whole cycle of writing (on our part) and haranguing (on management’s part) all over again. Steve finally told me where he had really been (which he was required to do as part of his 12-Step program). I don’t know if the clinic actually did anything to actually help Steve with his writing, but that week he came up with the line, “…[p]erhaps the “YP Whistle of Charlaza SW” was the key…”. I have no idea why, but that has always been one of my favorite lines from all of our columns. Regardless of Steve’s line, management was pretty brutal on him this week. They questioned him incessantly about his “surgery,” demanding to know what had been done, why it had been done, who had actually done the surgery, and what the capital of Zimbabwe was.

STEVE & DAVE’S RATING:
starstarstar
2 1/2 STARS

“IN CONTROL, LEG 6”

Dave: Some might call it a “mid-season wall,” but I think we were just fed up with management’s actions towards us. Beginning with the last column and continuing with this one, we again had some funny stuff but overall we were pretty tepid. Further evidence of our anger towards management popped up in the column, as this was the first time we really went off on one of the racers (Mirna). Back in our initial column we had said, “…we understand what it’s like to be under the microscope of reality TV scrutiny and we’ll try to keep that in mind…” but we were now ripping racers as though we were recappers from TWoP. Were we right to shoot holes in Mirna like that? Probably not. Would we do it again? Most assuredly. We did use another running gag in this column that was pretty funny – the definition of “scarab” that we included in each team’s recap.
This is especially true if Mirna reads this column. If not, then all bets are off and we stand by our rants.
Steev: Ass. The name is STEVE, one “S” two “E”s. It’s not that hard. Read all the columns before you insult me like this again. All of them. I. Mean. It. There will be a test. Then read the FAQS (For Asswipes that Question Authority). Then put all these parts in a paper bag, swing them over your head, and scream like a chicken! Dave and I actually loved Mirna. We just needed some material. And her Malarone induced antics were easy pickins’. This is especially true if Mirna reads this column. If not, then all bets are off and we stand by our rants.


STEVE & DAVE’S RATING:
starstar
2 STARS

“IN CONTROL, LEG 7”

Steve: This was our lamest effort. Even the icons sucked. A real weak week. So in order to see if I could infuse some life into the column I told Dave that we were going to be selected for The Amazing Race All-Stars. He immediately quit his five pack-a-day smoking habit by chewing mass quantities of Nicotrol. Even chemically enhanced (I still had a few Demerol left), we wrote like Survivor Sucks posters.

Dave: The feud between management and us reached a boiling point during this week’s column. During our session on Wednesday, I finally decided to chuck the whole gig and stormed out of the studio. The main thing that set me off occurred as we were recording “Get Back.” Every time Daria sang the line “Get Back,” she would look over at Yoko. It was obvious that she blamed Yoko for me distancing myself from the rest of the band, and also because… Oh wait. I seem to have confused my histories. I guess all that I really remember about this column (I had started drinking pretty heavily after Steve’s week in the Dubya Clinic) was the fact that our “Equestrian” icon was initially supposed to be an icon depicting the south end of a northbound horse. We couldn’t figure out a way to tie the icon into both the race and TARflies management, so we abandoned it in favor of the lame equestrian bit.

STEVE & DAVE’S RATING:
starstar
1 1/2 STARS

“IN CONTROL, LEG 8”

Dave: This week went really well for us. I climbed on the AA wagon, Steve said he “felt pretty” and was mostly recovered from his “surgery,” and we didn’t have any major run-ins with TARflies management. That led to one of our best columns, period. We dumped a few vague movie references into the opening, we presented some insight based on our experience on TAR4, and jumped right onto the “despise Colin & Christie” bandwagon as the Race’s editors wanted us to. Heck, even the icons and names were pretty good – “Where Are We, What Are We Doing, and Why Are All These Cameras Filming Us?” was one of the best-named icons we came up with. We finally even dropped the Alison/Spawn Of Satan bit at the end. Little did we know that the biggest battle yet between management and us was just coming over the horizon. Perhaps we should have suspected it when we got notes from both miri and Daria calling this leg’s column, “…a piece of crap…” “…unfit to be read by anyone…”, and “…worse than the movie Punch Drunk Love….”

Steve: Something was bothering my partner. The several dozen near mid-airs was a little hint. Leftover pizza was another clue. But when his wife called me to complain that he was actually “talking” to her and “appearing to pay attention,” it convinced me he was troubled. And being one of his best friends for nearly 20 years, I did what any other guy would do - I ignored it. Whatever he got himself into, it was probably his fault. I did, however, call him to point out to him that his part of the column was narrative and boring. I think I might have called it “a piece of crap.” He called me what sounded like “a meeree and a dareea” and started crying. I then did what any other good guy friend would have done. I hung up.

STEVE & DAVE’S RATING:
starstarstarstar
3 1/2 STARS

“IN CONTROL, LEG 9”

Steve: I received an odd phone call from Race 1 winner Brennan. Apparently he had figured out the 555-WANK number I had given him in Vegas was bogus and got the real number from the urinals at Caesars. Anyway, Brennan said he representing us in negotiations with TARflies and asked if TWO bags of Nacho Cheese Doritos would be enough to stop me from going to free agency. I had no idea what he was talking about and told him so. He mumbled something like, “scam…mumble…Dave…screwing his partner…mumble…Doritos hog…miri was right…rub right there Reichen…mumble.” I told him that ZACH RULED and hung up on him. The column was pretty good this week if only because we used our pictures for the icons.
See? It pays to have good representation. Someday, we hope to test that theory.
Dave: What most of you don’t know is that this was the column that almost wasn’t. For the previous three weeks we had been attempting to negotiate next year’s contract with miri and Daria but they had been stonewalling us at every turn. Finally our agent (Brennan from TAR1, in case you were wondering) found a loophole in this year’s contract that allowed us to refuse to write until next year’s deal was signed. (It seems that as long as they hadn’t paid us anything for the articles this year, we were under no obligation to continue to write. Since our contract hadn’t actually called for a salary, they hadn’t paid us one. That was the opening we needed…) Once they learned of our loophole, the TARflies negotiating team grudgingly agreed to open discussions. Initial talks went nowhere, as we were miles apart (they offered no raise, we demanded 30%). With the deadline fast approaching, it looked as though we would actually have to follow through on our threat. We finally hit on a plan that got the negotiations into high gear when I suggested we reveal one paragraph of the opening to miri and Daria, and then threaten to take it to Survivor Sucks. They read the paragraph (the one about the spoiler) and caved. With minutes to go until the deadline we signed on for next year, with a 25% raise over this year’s salary. Brennan initially wanted to go for the whole 30%, but decided that we showed better faith by cutting our demand to only 25%. See? It pays to have good representation. Someday, we hope to test that theory.

STEVE & DAVE’S RATING:
starstarstarstar
3 1/2 STARS

“IN CONTROL, LEG 10”

Dave: Just by chance, we happened to show the contract we had signed to a real lawyer during this week. Once he stopped laughing, he pointed out the obvious flaws in what we had agreed to. That’s when Steve and I decided that our only option left was to unionize. We opened discussions with the Teamsters but found out that they deal mostly with trucking and interstate commerce. We like the Grateful Dead’s song, “Trucking” but have no other real link to anything remotely associated with the Teamsters. We next talked to the UAW, but quickly left when they told us that “UAW” did not stand for “Union, All Welcome.” After our experience misidentifying the UAW we decided to give the AFL/CIO a miss, figuring that it probably didn’t stand for “Always Friendly and Loving/Cannot Injure Others.” While we continued the search for a union, we decided to put out our best column of the year so as not to arouse suspicions. It must have worked, because we got a call from miri asking us if we would like another 25% raise (and she was laughing the whole time she was talking to us).

Steve: Dave said that I would now owe him $35 dollars a week in addition to the $40 Icon search fee and the $25 typing fee. He said that we were going to be unionized and the extra charges would pay for themselves in less than 10 years. He then sold me a $45 logo shirt and hat. I am glad to have such a good friend looking out for my best interests. So I wrote extra really good this week.

STEVE & DAVE’S RATING:
starstarstarstar
4 STARS

“IN CONTROL, LEG 11”

Steve: Dave was starting to ramble now. His portion of the columns gave hints to behavior I’d seen before. My guess was Dave was in love again and was looking for lucky number 5. He had apparently found another woman that verbally abused him and did not give him much money. I wondered where he’d met her. I did my best to edit his parts to include some form of humor so management would not question their choice of former racers that have no life.
miri demanded total editorial control over our column, and Daria decided to arbitrarily eliminate every instance of the word “XXXXX” from our columns.
Dave: While we waited for the results of our union vote to be counted, we came under increasing pressure from site management. miri demanded total editorial control over our column, and Daria decided to arbitrarily eliminate every instance of the word “XXXXX” from our columns. She claimed that XXXXX was offensive to the residents of Boise, and also to Chihuahuas. We decided not to argue with her, since we had previously never used XXXXX in a column, and couldn’t foresee a time when we would. We felt quite differently about miri’s demands and filed a charge against her with the DCFS. (Just a word of warning to all of you out there, DCFS doesn’t stand for Discriminatory Conduct by a Friggin’ Supervisor.) The DCFS agreed to accept our case, as (in their words) “…these two gentlemen are obviously closer in age mentally to children than they are to adults.” After a visit from our caseworker, miri agreed to back off of her former stance. In exchange, we agreed to submit our column. Unbeknownst to miri, the column we submitted was full of subliminal hints and relied heavily on “backwards masking.” Now you know why you all felt like eating some popcorn while worshipping Satan after reading that column. Once again, let me point out that we called the order of finish exactly correct. Perhaps you will pay a little more attention to our “predictions” in TAR6…

STEVE & DAVE’S RATING:
starstarstar
3 STARS

“IN CONTROL, TAR 5 – THE FINALE” (that’s right – THIS column)

Dave: OK, time to stop the jokes. This is the spot where Steve and I say thank you to all of you for reading. We would especially like to thank miri for putting up with us this year, and let you all know that we think “the world” of her. That goes double for Daria, who actually saved us from making several mistakes in our “facts” this season – Daria: you’re tops with us. To the rest of the TARflies staff we extend a tip ‘o’ the hat, and a big “thanks” for letting us join your team this season. We look forward to next year with all of you. And finally, we would like to thank our wives, our kids, and our parents because without them, this Emmy would never have been possible.

Steve: What jokes? You’ll notice Dave always puts words that have “special meaning” in quotes. Anyway, what I thought would feel like a homework assignment actually brought me a lot of enjoyment. I thank everyone for the opportunity to use my new spellchecker and a special thanks to everyone that inquired about my health. I’m looking forward to meeting all of you at TARfliescon this winter. Lunch is on Dave.

Steve & Dave: Finally, congratulations to Chip & Kim – winners of TAR5. You did so with dignity and class, unless you aren’t reading this, in which case you were friggin’ lucky as hell, and we want our cut for keeping C/C and B/N off that United flight. Bastards. To all of the racers from TAR5, thanks for a great season.

STEVE & DAVE’S RATING:
starstarstarstar star
4 STARS FOR TARFLIES, 1/2 STAR FOR STEVE & DAVE




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