In this Motley Fool Money podcast, we're taking a break from investing and stock talk to discuss:

  • Santa's actual weight.
  • Murder's surprising popularity as an entertainment topic.
  • The best movie Santas.
  • Alcoholic holiday drinks.
  • "Cereal Derangement Syndrome"
  • Fascination with the New York Post's front page.
  • Rule changes we would make in the NBA, NHL, and MLB.
  • Who should narrate a classic McSweeney's essay.

We've got Motley Fool senior analyst Bill Mann and Motley Fool Asset Management portfolio manager Bill Barker. To catch full episodes of all The Motley Fool's free podcasts, check out our podcast center. To get started investing, check out our quick-start guide to investing in stocks. A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on Dec. 24, 2022. 

Chris Hill: If you need a break from the holiday weekend, you're in the right place. Apropos of Nothing starts now. I'm Chris Hill and once again, we're taking a small break from investing and stock talk. If that's what you're looking for, we will be back with that on Tuesday. But if you're stressed out right now from the holidays or travel, or you're missing someone, whatever's going on in your world, if you just need a distraction, hang out with me, Bill Barker, and Bill Mann as we talk about alcoholic holiday drinks, rule changes we would use to make sports more interesting to watch, and, since it's Christmas, we start with a question about the big man himself.

A listener sent in a question that I had not thought about before and it's simply: How much does Santa weigh?

Bill Mann: There are practical questions.

Chris Hill: That's a direct question that I've never truly thought about before.

Bill Barker: It depends on the Santa, obviously.

Chris Hill: Well, I think he's referring to the actual Santa.

Bill Mann: Come on.

Chris Hill: Not a fake Santa, not a movie Santa. The actual Santa, and I'm thinking it's close to 300 pounds.

Bill Mann: How's he getting into most houses?

Chris Hill: Magic. Christmas magic? But the question remains the threshold question. Is he an elf?

Bill Barker: He is by some famous accounts, "a right Jolly old elf."

Chris Hill: He is?

Bill Barker: I say that's canon.

Bill Mann: I describe him as elf-curious, for sure.

Bill Barker: Elf adjacent?

Bill Mann: Elf adjacent.

Chris Hill: I think Elf adjacent. Because he certainly is depicted in popular culture as being different from the elves themselves.

Bill Barker: He's obviously not like one of the Lord of the Rings elves, because they were more into the killing. 

Chris Hill: There's a new movie where Santa's doing some killing.

Bill Mann: Yes, it would be pretty awesome if you take like the Lord of the Rings, like Legolas the elf, that origin story is actually, he becomes Santa.

Bill Barker: Well, they could be like a mismatched buddy-cop thing. Like, they're both elves, but one is facing Sauron and one is delivering toys, and they have to make it work.

Bill Mann: They have to make it work.

Bill Barker: Solve crimes together.

Bill Mann: You and your crime-solving. I always did wonder why it was that Jessica Fletcher wasn't implicated in more of the thousands of murders she was around.

Chris Hill: Even if just once in the third or fourth season, it's a side plot, where it's just like...

Bill Mann: I think she did it.

Chris Hill: We sure we don't want to accuse her? 

Bill Mann: That's right. And she just kept such a great disposition around all the murder.

Chris Hill: Yeah. Well, look, I think that works. There are actual murderers of whom it was said, like, "Such a nice neighbor. I never would've suspected."

Bill Mann: If you're the Cabot Cove mayor, you're getting her to move.

Chris Hill: Yeah. Probably.

Bill Barker: I don't know, you've got a lot of murders going on. Despite the size of your town, your odds of being murdered in that town are about one in three.

Chris Hill: I was going to say, my memory of that show is it's not a particularly big town.

Bill Mann: No.

Chris Hill: Like most places in Maine, not a big town.

Bill Barker: "How's old man Johnson?" "Oh, he was murdered." And this brings up a point which I was asking you about. The most popular topics for entertainment -- love, romances, No. 1.  Topic A whether it's song, movie, TV series -- and No. 2 is murder. "You know what? I had a long day at the office. I'm just going to relax and watch a bunch of murder shows. I'm just going to watch Law & Order for several hours."

Chris Hill: Or CSI or NCIS.

Bill Barker: What about Steve Martin and Martin Short? They're pretty funny. What are they working on? [Only] Murders in the Building.

Chris Hill: It does get glossed over in most shows. It's just like, well, let's move on to the solving of the crime.

Bill Barker: Yeah. Any damage? Apparently, there is not any long-lasting damage to being around a murder.

Bill Mann: They are psychological tanks. Could you imagine being around...?

Chris Hill: What, being a homicide detective?

Bill Mann: No, being a muggle pulled into ... with a murder that happens right by you, and you're like, "Oh, let's solve it." I'm like, "I am moving to Maui."

Chris Hill: You're talking about Only Murders in the Building.

Bill Mann: Any of those.

Chris Hill: Yeah, where the civilians jump in.

Bill Mann: Yeah, the civilians jump in. There's absolutely no psychological damage -- like, "Let's just solve it." No, let's not solve it.

Bill Mann: Because it's entertaining. It's fun. I was watching Murderville last night on Netflix, Will Arnett and Conan O'Brien in this particular episode, and it does start off with a murder by a magician.

Chris Hill: Yeah. That episode.

Bill Barker: So it's a topic. You are being presented with apparent murders all the time. People being sawed in half and generally going up in flames and things like that. Because it's fun, because it's entertaining. That's why because we've already been programmed through experience in society to recognize the entertainment value of apparent death.

Chris Hill: I think that many people in the entertainment industry would simply point to the scoreboard. They would just say, "Here's this list of wildly popular shows that print money for our networks season after season," and I think No. 1 on that list of people who'd be happy to point that out is Dick Wolf. The man behind Law and Order.

Bill Barker: Yeah. I don't think Dick Wolf is still alive.

Chris Hill: Is he still alive?

Bill Mann: Who can tell? He still makes like $70 million.

Chris Hill: Every year. He's on the Top 10 list of who made the most money in Hollywood this year. It's like, at No. 8, Dick Wolf.

Bill Barker: We're going to get back to how much does Santa weigh, because I feel like we've gone off on a tangent. Unpredictably, the three of us have gone off on a tangent, but here to continue with the "wolf" theme. Based on the last show we did, where we talked about character arcs that we would like to see explored more, somebody wrote in...

Chris Hill: A listener wrote in and suggested from the Quentin Tarantino universe, Winston Wolf from Pulp Fiction, and really any of the origin stories for any of the color guys in Reservoir Dogs. Although I feel like ... I think Tim Roth is Mr. Orange and I think we kind of get his origin story because he's a cop. We get the lead-up to there.

Bill Mann: We do. Gotta know about Mr. Pink though. "Why am I Pink?"

Bill Barker: The Wolf, you've got a lot to play with. In just a couple of minutes of screen time, you've got a lot to work with.

Chris Hill: Yes. And it helps that it's played by Harvey Keitel.

Bill Barker: Is he a superhero? Can he actually drive that fast? Is he the Flash? We don't know. Probably not. He just drives unbelievably fast. 

Chris Hill: He drives unbelievably fast. He introduces himself by saying, I'm Winston Wolf. I solve problems, and he proceeds to solve, in Pulp Fiction, a huge problem for a couple of the characters there.

Bill Barker: By the way, the solution didn't seem all that complex. Looking back on it, shouldn't they have been able to figure that part out themselves? You need to clean the blood out of the car.

Chris Hill: And dispose of it somewhere.

Bill Barker: That was the entire issue.

Chris Hill: And yet it takes Winston Wolf, who is the person in charge, tells everyone what to do. They do it, for the most part without complaining. He's got the connection at the junkyard. He knows this is the junkyard where the car is going to go and this car and this body will disappear, and no one will be the wiser. He has God knows how much cash in his pocket to buy Quentin Tarantino's character...

Chris Hill: Jimmy, a brand new bedroom set.

Bill Barker: And he gets a good cup of coffee in while doing all that.

Chris Hill: He likes a lot of sugar. By the way, that might be the only surprising thing about Winston Wolf, that he takes his coffee with a lot of cream and a lot of sugar. He seems like a black coffee kind of guy.

Chris Hill: It's like going to Dunkin' Donuts.

Bill Barker: Yeah.

Chris Hill: Maybe that's part of the origin story. You grew up in Boston but somehow lost the accent for the movie.

Bill Mann: He grew up in Woonsocket.

Chris Hill: Shout out to Woonsocket -- nice!

Bill Mann: It's getting back to Santa. What do you think he weighs? You brought this up. You must have a hot take.

Chris Hill: I think he's somewhere in the range of 275. I don't think it's quite 300 pounds, because I don't think he's 6'5".

Bill Mann: You don't think he's a mountain man. You think he's pudgy.

Bill Barker: I don't think he's pudgy. I think he's probably somewhere in the range of 6 feet, 6'2", and goes 275, and a lot of it is in his gut.

Chris Hill: I think he's 5'10", max.

Bill Barker: Really? Why?

Bill Mann: He's half elf, and he's old.

Bill Barker: There's that. He's started shrinking a little bit.

Chris Hill: You're saying his weight is what?

Bill Barker: He's like Ed Asner. One of the best movie Santas -- Ed Asner.

Chris Hill: Is it the best, though?

Bill Barker: Is Ed Asner the best?

Chris Hill: Is Ed Asner in Elf the best movie Santa?

Bill Barker: He's on the short list.

Chris Hill: I think he's on the short list too. I think Paul Giamatti in Fred Claus is on the short list, and I think Sir Richard Attenborough doesn't get it, but he's on the short list because he's Sir Richard Attenborough.

Bill Mann: So, in the bizarro category, what about Dan Aykroyd from Trading Places? Was that a good Santa? Eating the salmon.

Chris Hill: He was not actually Santa. That's a separate category.

Bill Barker: People wearing a Santa costume, and we'll get to that, but, in Rudolph, that Santa, was a pretty good Santa.

Chris Hill: He's a pretty good Santa.

Bill Barker: He's not 300, he's not 275, not at the beginning. He puts about 100 pounds on the week before Christmas.

Chris Hill: He's probably -- because he's not tall, because you put him next to Yukon Cornelius...

Bill Mann: That's a man.

Chris Hill: Mrs. Claus is towering over him.

Bill Barker: Is she?

Chris Hill: I think so.

Bill Barker: I don't think, but isn't part of that her hair? She's got that serious beehive thing going on.

Chris Hill: So we've solved what Santa weighs?

Bill Barker: I think we're somewhere in the ballpark of between 200 and 300 pounds. I think that's fair, depending on his height. I'm going to say 240 to 280.

Bill Barker: Yeah, 205 and 295 are very different.

Chris Hill: Let's go 240 to 280.

Bill Barker: Yeah, he's more than 240 unless he's like 5'4".

Bill Mann: He could be built like a speed bump. Might need more reindeer.

Chris Hill: Follow-up question from the same listener: Is Santa diabetic? Lots of cookies and milk to consume on Christmas.

Bill Mann: I think he absolutely has to go into detox after that.

Chris Hill: But that's probably why he loses the weight.

Bill Barker: He's just, really, we just know about him eating all those cookies at Christmas. Now, again, given the partial elf nature of him, and the elf diet, which is candy, candy corn, candy canes, and syrup -- yeah.

Chris Hill: You're saying that the glucose levels might be different for elves than humans?

Bill Barker: He's partially made of sugar.

Chris Hill: Yeah, that's probably true. Mount Rushmore of holiday drinks? Alcoholic holiday drinks? Are there other holiday drinks that are alcoholic besides eggnog?

Bill Mann: Sure. There's mulled wine, like gluehwein which is absolutely No. 1.

Chris Hill: Is that mulled wine, or did you just make up a word that I've never heard in my life?

Bill Mann: You've never heard that word?

Chris Hill: What is it gluehwein?

Bill Mann: Gluehwein -- all of the Germans are nodding along right now, saying "Yeah."

Chris Hill: The three Germans who are listening right now.

Bill Mann: Yes, correct.

Bill Barker: You sent out some data recently about where the listeners are in the world, and as we've discussed, there are dozens, but No. 4, I think on the list, surprised me. Maybe it was four or five.

Chris Hill: Was it Singapore?

Bill Barker: Yeah. Like No. 4.

Chris Hill: On a percentage or not on a percentage basis, but on an absolute basis, Singapore I think is fifth.

Bill Barker: Pretty much everybody there.

Chris Hill: Yeah because Singapore is 5.5 million people, I think.

Bill Mann: We've got seven listeners, so that's great.

Bill Barker: All the dozens, there are at least five people in this country, one in Canada, one in England, Australia, and then...

Chris Hill: One in Ireland. Yeah, there's only a few.

OK, so, mulled wine? Yes, I've heard of mulled wine. That's an alcoholic holiday drink. Are there others? I'm genuinely asking you because I can't off the top of my head think of any. And by the way, I don't know how old I was when I learned that eggnog has alcohol in it, because dairies would sell in the grocery store, non-alcoholic eggnog, which when I was 7 years old tasted amazing. It was sweet, creamy, it was fantastic. And then later, it was like, "Wait, what? People put what in this? What are the grownups drinking? What I'm drinking is so much better."

Bill Mann: Going back to the pre-dude times, I would think that white Russians, kind of a winter drink.

Chris Hill: Do you think The Big Lebowski popularized white Russians?

Bill Mann: I think The Big Lebowski spread it across the year. What time of year do you suppose The Big Lebowski...? It's in Southern California, so it's seasonless.

Chris Hill: It is seasonless. The only thing we know is it's early in the month because the guy...

Bill Mann: It's early in whatever month it is.

Chris Hill: Whatever month it is, the guy comes, it's like, "Tomorrow is the 10th. I just want to remind you, as your landlord, tomorrow is the 10th."

Bill Barker: I'm not sure that Mount Rushmore gets four all-star drinks for holiday spirits.

Chris Hill: Was there anything else related to Christmas you wanted to touch on, or did you want to go to the thing?

Bill Mann: Where we're going to go?

Chris Hill: Yeah, where we're going to go.

Bill Barker: I don't know. At one point, you had said somebody wanted us to revisit the concept of Cringle, PI.

Chris Hill: A couple of people have just mentioned that on social media.

Bill Mann: I think we'd beat that one into the ground.

Bill Barker: A grand total of two.

Chris Hill: Yeah. A grand total of two people.

Bill Mann: We have had people say that is a treatment that you should absolutely write up and shop around.

Chris Hill: I think there's a limited series there.

Bill Mann: This is America -- there's no such thing as a limited series.

Bill Barker: Yeah. We're already onto season two. 

Chris Hill: But as long as season two is on a streaming service where it's like, I just want to do eight episodes. Don't make me do network television where it's like 22 episodes.

Bill Barker: I wrote a treatment of you in a hallmark of Christmas movie, which is ready if anybody out there is looking for a four-page treatment of, really, an instant classic.

Chris Hill: Sure. Drop an email to [email protected] and we'll forward that on.

Bill Barker: It's done, and it's right up there.

Chris Hill: Based on the article I read from, I think it was Forbes last year, breaking down the economics of Christmas movies, there's a decent chance that thing will get made, because the economics of Christmas movies on The Hallmark Channel are phenomenal.

Bill Barker: I'll let Hallmark have this one for free because I just want...

Chris Hill: You just want the writing credit.

Bill Barker: I just want to be able to say Hallmark gave me a call. That's all.

Bill Mann: Can we get them to say "inspired by a true story"?

Bill Barker: I have to go and get a get-well card for somebody.

Bill Mann: You don't make?

Bill Barker: I'm not making it.

Chris Hill: What about a tasteful handwritten note? Have you thought about that?

Bill Barker: The handwritten note is going to be on the card. Like a bunch of people...

Bill Mann: Barker's handwriting is legitimately terrible.

Bill Barker: Yeah.

Chris Hill: I can throw no stones at this glass house as someone with the objective, really terrible handwriting.

Bill Barker: Is this a thing that still exists? Like, a store that sells only greeting cards?

Chris Hill: Well, not only greeting cards, but there are certainly, like Paper Source -- that's a store.

Bill Barker: So I could go there?

Chris Hill: Yeah, you can go there.

Bill Barker: I can no longer go across the street to the bizarre place across the street.

Bill Mann: Get you a bagel and a greeting card.

Bill Barker: Sold, like, gummy bears and bulk candy...

Chris Hill: Greeting cards, and Einstein's bagels.

Bill Barker: Quiznos.

Chris Hill: It was the most bizarre mash-up of businesses. But, so, you have to get a get-well card for someone, and by all means, complain about it to us because nobody's listening.

Bill Mann: Because you're the victim here.

Chris Hill: You are the victim. It's not whoever is sick. And what is it? That you need to get a card, or you've started shopping for cards and realized they all cost $9 apiece?

Bill Barker: Oh, is that what's going to happen?

Chris Hill: Yeah.

Bill Barker: See, the last time I ...

Chris Hill: He didn't even get to complain about that part yet.

Bill Barker: ... bought a card, I'm not entirely sure it was this millennium.

Chris Hill: You haven't sent a greeting card in 22 years?

Bill Mann: He is thoughtless.

Bill Barker: There's email. 

Chris Hill: That's right, l know. 

Bill Barker: Well, l haven't known anybody who's gotten sick in the last 22 years. I've been very lucky.

Chris Hill: Seriously, 22 years, you haven't...?

Bill Barker: I don't know. It's been a long time.

Bill Mann: What is wrong with you?

Chris Hill: The person in your home to whom you're related by marriage hasn't ...?

Bill Barker: Requested a greeting card? There have been requests.

Chris Hill: Hasn't gotten a card, and said here I've bought this?

Bill Barker: "Could you put this in the dishwasher?" There are many requests.

Chris Hill: Could you sign this?

Bill Barker: Yes. I've signed cards that other, more considerate people, have gotten for somebody -- like, "Oh, this person's leaving, and let's wish them well as they leave this office," and we'll sign this card.

Chris Hill: My God, nothing like getting caught up in the spirit of the season. It's December and Barker is like, "no, I don't see the need to..."

Bill Barker: Well, now that I've got you agitated, let's talk about your -- and I'm pointing right now to Bill Mann -- idea that you were pitching. I don't even know how to summarize this one.

Chris Hill: Let me just set this up by saying that sometimes we will email each other, we'll forward things over email, and sometimes we will just, in a little Slack group chat, the three of us, just post things.

Bill Mann: And then sometimes it happens in real life.

Chris Hill: Sometimes it's things related to work and other times it's, "Hey, what about this topic for Apropos of Nothing?" And this happened recently. I think you had just gone on your trip, your most recent trip, so I don't think you were in the United States of America.

Bill Barker: You may have been very jet-lagged. 

Chris Hill: You may have been very jet-lagged. What was the exact wording?

Bill Barker: The question was, "Hey, I got a great idea. 'Is cereal soup?'" This is not me saying this. This is me reading Bill Mann's words with incredulity. Picture incredulity in my eyes, reading these words. Here's a good topic. Is cereal soup?

Chris Hill: Here's something we could debate.

Bill Barker: People will love listening to all the interesting points that we have to bounce off of each other in analyzing this.

Bill Mann: The problem here though was that there was no analyzing at all. You just went, "No, that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard."

Bill Barker: Are bees rocks?

Chris Hill: It's like, let's think about that: Are bumble bees rocks? It's like, let's kick this around. What are you talking about?

Bill Barker: If you squint your eyes hard enough and you twist your head a little bit.

Bill Mann: "Is fish Cleveland?" Yes, that's exactly what I got back from you.

Chris Hill: You hate cereal.

Bill Mann: l do hate cereal.

Chris Hill: You have a cereal derangement syndrome.

Bill Mann: I don't want cereal at all.

Chris Hill: This is what causes you to consider something as absurd as what you've brought up.

Bill Mann: Possibly. I don't eat cereal, I don't chew gum, I don't like ketchup. But I am a non-picky eater.

Bill Barker: And your gripe against cereal?

Bill Mann: It's a soup. It's the world's worst soup.

Bill Barker: But you like soup.

Bill Mann: I do like soup.

Bill Barker: So your logic is already failing. A, it's not soup and, B, you like soup, so that's not it. Isn't it that you have this deep-seated fear of things which get soggy or something?

Bill Mann: That is very true.

Chris Hill: Was there ever a point when you actually did, as a child, you did like cereal? Because we grew up in a golden age of breakfast cereal.

Bill Mann: With Kaboom. Quisp.

Chris Hill: Also just that ...

Bill Barker: Quisp was pretty good.

Chris Hill: We lived at a time when we were kids cereals had names that were so straightforward and fun that when we were no longer children, people decided, we can't say this out loud.

Bill Mann: We can't offer Sugar Smacks.

Chris Hill: That's exactly the one I was thinking. Sugar is bad. Honey Smacks, we're going Honey Smacks here.

Bill Mann: It's crap.

Chris Hill: So when you were a kid, did you like cereal at all?

Bill Mann: It really actually it's the function of cereal that I don't like. Because, particularly, the greatest...

Bill Barker: What do you mean, the function of cereal?

Bill Mann: I'm going to get there.

Bill Barker: Can I just interrupt?

Bill Mann: Would you let me finish?

Bill Mann: No.

Bill Barker: You pulled the bottle away from the microphone in order to open it so that people wouldn't hear, which runs counter to the way we usually do things here, which is to make a big production out of the fact that we are now having a little bit more to drink.

Bill Mann: Yes. My favorite cereal -- and it's not even close from a flavor perspective -- is Cap'n Crunch. But the problem with Cap'n Crunch is the moment it comes in contact with milk, it immediately starts to degrade into a paste.

Chris Hill: Or as you would claim, a soup.

Bill Mann: Well, more of a mush.

Chris Hill: I haven't had Cap'n Crunch in a while.

Bill Mann: Cap'n Crunch.

Chris Hill: It's so good.

Bill Mann: It's so good, but it loses its structure almost instantly once it comes in contact with milk, so the only solution is to have it in the spoon, put a little bit of milk in it, and eat it immediately.

Chris Hill: Do you ever eat dry cereal? Because you could just pop out to have a little bowl and just pop those in.

Bill Mann: One could. I could. I don't, but I could.

Chris Hill: Did you actually want to make the case that cereal is soup, or was it -- as both Barker and I suspected -- you were jet-lagged from your trip and punchy as hell?

Bill Mann: I was punchy as hell.

Chris Hill: That makes a lot more sense.

Bill Mann: Structurally, it is soup-like though.

Bill Barker: In what sense?

Bill Mann: It is some sort of solids in a bowl with liquid.

Bill Barker: Much like ice water is a soup.

Chris Hill: Is ice water soup?

Bill Barker: I never thought of it that way.

Bill Mann: Hot chocolate's a soup.

Bill Barker: I'll get a spoon and I'll see how it goes. 

Chris Hill: That was my point because you tried to push back. I was like, there's not a place in the world including and especially Panera, which sells lots of soup, that has cereal on the menu in their soup section.

Bill Mann: I'm going to start a restaurant called Cereal Is A Soup, and I'm going to kill it.

Bill Barker: Something I'd raised right before we came here based on something you were circulating today, is guilty pleasures. My claim is that you like a New York Post headline, but I think you feel a little bad about the degree in which a media establishment that you might have some issues with in general -- I don't know -- you don't partake of anything but the headlines of the front page of that particular newspaper, do you? But you love those.

Chris Hill: We've talked before about The Onion, and how so much of the humor from The Onion is wrapped up in the headline and the photo, and yes, there are often, but not always, accompanying stories. And I've heard people who have worked at The Onion talk about if you nail the headline, that's 90% of it, and then it just writes itself. And I think that friends of mine who live in New York City have talked about the appeal of the New York Post is the front page and the back page. The front page, whatever the news is, and the back page, whatever is the sports. I don't know if there exists within the organization itself something that the three of us have talked about for years, which is almost like a trophy that travels from desk to desk.

Like, if you come up with the headline of either the sports section on the back or the news section on the front of the newspaper -- it's like, "Jim got the headline today. He gets the trophy and he gets to keep it on his desk for 24 hours," or whatever. But it's like, it's got to be such great bragging rights. It's got to be amazing. I do wonder. I would love to see that behind-the-scenes coming up with that, juxtaposed with The New York Times, where it's like, here's a very important consequential newspaper. And that's one of the Chuck Klosterman hypertheticals.

Bill Barker: We'll get to those.

Chris Hill: But just like one of them is: Here are three, in some ways, fantastical news -- I think... The hyperthetical from Chuck Klosterman, for those unfamiliar: It's a series of 50 cards that you can buy, and it's Chuck Klosterman putting together this list of questions, because by his own admission, he hates small talk. He is not interested in small talk. He would much rather talk about fantastical hypothetical situations, and one of them is three scenarios happen on the same day: Bigfoot is captured. I think, like, a live Bigfoot is captured in the Pacific Northwest.

Bill Barker: Shot in the leg.

Chris Hill: But captured alive. Definitive proof of the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland, and the president of the United States announces that he has...

Bill Barker: It's like a growth, and it might be cancer. He is getting tested.

Chris Hill: Getting tested. The president of the United States may have thyroid cancer, something like that. The hypothetical question is: You are the executive editor of The New York Times. What is your lead headline?

Bill Barker: Are you asking me now?

Chris Hill: l am.

Bill Mann: Wait, the Times or the Post?

Chris Hill: Well, that's the thing. At the Times it's almost certainly the president of the United States.

Bill Mann: Damn it.

Chris Hill: At the New York Post, it's like, the Loch Ness Monster, that's amazing, but this is America and we have a live Bigfoot, and that's what we're going with.

Bill Mann: And we've had these headlines ready for years. That was pre-written.

Bill Barker: I'm going with Loch Ness Monster.

Chris Hill: Are you really?

Bill Barker: Yeah.

Chris Hill: Why?

Bill Barker: Just because the president thing, is like, presidents get thyroid cancer all the time.

Bill Mann: You're never making it as a New York Times editor. 

Chris Hill: Can I have the court reporter read back what you just said out loud -- presidents have thyroid cancer all the time?

Bill Barker: It's just in the category of things which happen to people that are like the president or the president, him or herself. Here's the weird thing -- that none of the presidents have had thyroid cancer, as far as we know.

Chris Hill: As far as we know.

Bill Barker: As far as we know. It's like, actually like most of them had it, it just never got out. They used to bury that kind of thing. Now it all makes sense. Whereas the Loch Ness Monster's like: What?!?

Bill Mann: Wait, that was real? 

Bill Barker: I'm buying this newspaper and I'm reading and they're breaking the story also, apparently. They have broken all three of these stories. They're not even putting it on the website first. They're putting it in the papers. Today, we're breaking records. We're selling more papers than ever before.

Bill Barker: Because people are going to want to keep a physical copy.

Chris Hill: It's like, "Have you seen The New York Times today?" "I'll go check it out." "No, it's not on the website. You have to go out and buy it."

Bill Mann: The headlines got to be something like "Sasquatch! You Owe Your Uncle an Apology."

Bill Barker: It's just occurring to me that the New York Post actually has an advantage over The New York Times because they have what amounts to two front pages. The back page is just as, and often more, compelling than the front page.

Bill Mann: That's legit real estate for them.

Bill Barker: Yeah. Whereas The New York Times, it's just like you got the front page. Nobody cares what's on the back page, and by the way, nobody really cares what's on the front page of the sports section.

Chris Hill: There is no sports section now.

Bill Barker: In The New York Times?

Chris Hill: I don't think so. I think they've folded it in.

Bill Mann: They banned sports.

Bill Barker: I think during ... I can't remember exactly when, but they folded it into the business section or something.

Chris Hill: They understand this is America though?

Bill Mann: Kind of on the nose for New York though.

Bill Barker: The New York Times. They write their own America, in a good way.

Bill Mann: It's an island off the coast of America. Give them a break.

Chris Hill: That's fair. I think I have this right. If you could change anything in the major professional sports...

Bill Barker: You can set up the way you structure the hypothetical. You're given permission to change -- one rule change.

Chris Hill: One rule change in a major professional U.S. sport, and the goal has to be...

Bill Barker: To entertain yourself.

Chris Hill: No, no, no -- this is going to make the fans love this sport more. This is going to be a change that will increase excitement among the fans.

Bill Mann: So we know that it's not related to baseball, because there's nothing that existing baseball fans like.

Bill Barker: Here's my rule. You get one free throw at somebody. It can't be at the head. You can't go headhunting, but one time, you just get to go like...

Bill Mann: Johnny Damon, get up here. 

Chris Hill: Wait, so pitcher gets to bean a guy?

Bill Barker: Pitcher gets to, not bean, but plunk.

Chris Hill: What are you talking about?

Bill Barker: "Bean" is like going after the head.

Chris Hill: I'm sorry. I'm being dead serious. I just thought beaning a player meant hitting the player with the ball, you're saying beaning is specific to the head?

Bill Mann: Means hitting them in the bean.

Chris Hill: Oh, OK.

Bill Barker: Pay attention.

Chris Hill: This is why we have these conversations.

Bill Barker: You get to go for the bicep or the chest down.

Chris Hill: Anything below the neck.

Bill Mann: That could be bad too though.

Bill Barker: We're keeping it just as safe as it's been.

Bill Mann: Got to hit them somewhere in the meat.

Bill Barker: You can just go for whoever it is you most dislike, and it's just a ball. That's what it is. It's a ball.

Bill Mann: Do they know it's coming?

Bill Barker: No. At some point, if one gets away from you, you didn't mean to, you can always just invoke -- like "Ah sorry. That was my one freebie." You only get one.

Bill Mann: You gotta tip the hat.

Bill Barker: So the guys come up and they're a little bit more on edge. Like, it's already scary to go up and face a Major League pitcher. I once read somebody wrote a pretty good thing, I think it was George Will, maybe. "All baseball begins with fear." That's part of what's happening when you walk up to the plate, is like somebody is throwing a 95-mile-an-hour projectile which may hit me, and you have to be on alert for that at all times. So now you magnify that by a lot.

Chris Hill: So just so I'm clear, the change you're making is the pitcher gets essentially one freebie.

Bill Barker: Let's say the pitcher is me and you're the hitter.

Chris Hill: Go ahead.

Bill Barker: Just so we make this a little more concrete.

Chris Hill: So you get to hit me.

Bill Barker: Yes. I get to throw at you.

Chris Hill: You get to throw at me.

Bill Barker: I don't get to keep throwing at you until I hit you.

Chris Hill: You don't?

Bill Barker: No.

Chris Hill: I thought you got to hit me.

Bill Barker: If I hit you, it's just a ball. But if I throw one behind your back because I'm wild and the ump is like "Dude, that was your one throw," I can't just do it six more times until I hit you.

Chris Hill: That was my question. My question was going to be at what point does it become determined like, "Hey, that was my one," because the way the rules are right now as I understand them is if you hit me, I get to take first base, and what you're saying is, I step up to play, you hit me, and then I start going to first base and you signal the ump like no, no, no, that was my one, and it's like, great, that's a ball.

Bill Barker: That's a ball. Now, if I hit you again.

Chris Hill: Now I get to take first base.

Bill Barker: Now, you get to take first base.

Chris Hill: If I can walk. 

Bill Barker: I probably get a warning at that point.

Bill Mann: I do like that you have to go back into the box and face another pitch [laughs] right away. I think it's got to be a four-point shot in basketball.

Chris Hill: What's the distance?

Bill Mann: Anything past mid-court.

Chris Hill: Four-point short.

Bill Mann: Four points.

Chris Hill: It wouldn't go five?

Bill Mann: You can go wherever you want.

Chris Hill: You're the one making them change. I'm asking questions here.

Bill Mann: I'm just saying that, especially now that we see Steph Curry range, where he is routinely hitting threes from the ribbons, a four-point shot anything past mid-court. Who is not playing that late in the game?

Bill Barker: Who is not playing it? If you need four...?

Chris Hill: I think that's his point.

Bill Mann: We're down seven with 17 seconds left. Why aren't you shooting it from the lozenge for four?

Chris Hill: Or it's, we're down 20 and there's four minutes left it's like, "I know how we're going to come back. Hit a few of these four-pointers."

Bill Barker: You're not increasing your odds.

Bill Mann: Screw the odds! We're trying to make it more fun.

Chris Hill: It's analytics people like you who are just killing sports. 

Bill Mann: I'm about to take my one baseball throw at you.

Bill Barker: I think it's only if you're down four and the clock's running out that you use that. You're much better off down five going for a three at normal three range and then getting the ball back and fouling.

Bill Mann: But see, here's where you're wrong, Bill Barker, because for years after they put the three-point shot in, they didn't figure out the analytics of how valuable it was, and it really changed the game. And so now, you see much more three-point shooting because of the odds. Make it a five-point shot, whatever the odds, whatever gets it so that it becomes a reasonable part of the game at some point. I think that it changes defenses and it opens up around, because you've got to start guarding people three-quarters court, and you're not just trying to go in for a steal, you're actually guarding against a shot.

Bill Barker: OK, If we're really taking this seriously... are we taking anything seriously here? Are we changing the show?

Bill Mann: Like what is this?

Bill Barker: I don't think it's half-court. I think there's a place where you start making things very interesting, making it a four-point shot. It's not half-court.

Chris Hill: It's beyond the three-point line.

Bill Barker: Yeah. It's like another eight feet beyond the three-point line.

Chris Hill: I can see that.

Bill Mann: Thanks for jumping back onto my side.

Bill Barker: I'm helping you rescue this damaged idea unlike my perfected one. You can see like, I'm watching a little bit more baseball up until the guy gets plunked and then I'm switching over to the basketball game, but I want to see that.

Bill Barker: Because I want to see some fours.

Chris Hill: Here's mine. I realize now that when I propose this question well over a month ago, I had a different idea in mind and I don't now remember what that idea was. I'm pretty sure it was tied to baseball, but here's my idea, and I've had this before: It's hockey.

Bill Barker: I'm lost already. Are you just saying you had a better idea?

Chris Hill: No, I had a different idea.

Bill Barker: Different idea, but now this is your No. 2 idea.

Chris Hill: No, this is No. 1 with a bullet.

Bill Mann: You're going to shoot people in hockey?

Chris Hill: Yes. It's going to make people like you and me who don't really watch hockey all that much say, "I think I'm watching this now. I think I'm going to watch this."

Bill Barker: This is an NHL.

Chris Hill: NHL. Every game in the NHL has a minimum goal requirement. Every game has a minimum of nine goals to be scored. And there are targets throughout the game where if goals aren't scored, people come off the ice.

Bill Mann: But by the end it's like two on two?

Chris Hill: So it's six on six?

Bill Mann: Should we count the goalies?

Chris Hill: Yeah, I'm counting the goalies. It's six on six and my team is playing your team, six on six and we're 10 minutes into the 1st period and no goals have been scored. Guess what? Each of our teams, someone's coming off the ice. Now it's five on five.

Bill Barker: So when you started out with this idea of an NHL, which was going to get me to watch, I thought I saw where you were going. 

Chris Hill: Where did you think I was going?

Bill Mann: Now I realize just how wrong I was.

Bill Barker: One of the skaters must be a mascot. It's like Gritty. Or you come up with the design whatever. 

Bill Mann: There's one person on the ice who does not have skates. 

Bill Barker: No, no, no. They're a skating mascot. It's Gritty, it's whoever, it's the big Canadian guy, whoever that is. It's like an abominable snowman. It is like Sasquatch.

Bill Mann: Yukon Cornelius?

Bill Barker: Yukon Cornelius. In fact, you could change your mascot every day. One day, it could be Yukon Cornelius, and then the next day it can be like Santa or whatever. The design structure of the costume is mandated so that it's playable, but somewhat unhelpful.

Bill Mann: It's zany.

Bill Barker: One of your six non-goalie skaters, is that right, six? Five?

Chris Hill: I'm telling you, 10 minutes in, no goals? By the way, we get into the end of the first period, if it's still miraculously 0-0, guess what? We're starting the second period three on three. Three on three -- who's not watching that?

Bill Barker: Just write in to Chris with which one of these ideas you like better.

Chris Hill: [email protected]. I thought, no, among the three.

Bill Mann: All of the hockey purists...

Bill Barker: Well, my new idea is better. My "mascot must be one of the skaters."

Chris Hill: So you lead with your second-best idea?

Bill Barker: Well, you inspired me. I thought I saw where you were going with this. How could you make the NHL better? Well, with Gritty on the ice.

Bill Mann: The hockey purists who are listening right now are seething at you, by the way.

Chris Hill: They should write in.

Bill Mann: Yeah, they should write in.

Chris Hill: Are there hockey purists listening right now?

Bill Mann: Not anymore. There were a minute ago.

Bill Barker: I guess we'll find out after.

Chris Hill: This is absolute nonsense.

Bill Barker: You latched onto something that I threw out yesterday, which was the classic McSweeney's decorative gourd. "It's Decorative Gourd Season," and I'm editing to keep it clean. But if you don't know that, McSweeney's, gourds, google it.

Bill Mann: It'll get you there.

Chris Hill: It's possible there'll be a link in the show notes for those who may not know McSweeney's and the classic essay "It's Decorative Gourd Season."

Bill Barker: Who would you have do a dramatic reading of that? Did you have an idea? You liked some part of it, I think.

Chris Hill: Yeah. I think Samuel L. Jackson is a great choice. I think you could also go in a different direction if you wanted to.

Bill Barker: Some of the names thrown out -- Christopher Walken.

Chris Hill: Christopher Walken would be great.

Bill Barker: Sure. Dennis Leary.

Chris Hill: Dennis Leary would be great.

Bill Barker: Let me throw in and add another one -- Will Arnett.

Chris Hill: Will Arnett, Lego Batman himself? Yeah, that would be great.

Bill Mann: Melissa McCarthy reading it, I think it would be fantastic.

Chris Hill: Yeah. I think that would.

Bill Mann: She could read out of a phone book, if such a thing existed anymore, and it would be funny.

Chris Hill: Also just to go in a slightly different direction -- Helen Mirren.

Bill Barker: That's a very different direction. 

Chris Hill: I know.

Bill Mann: Sir Laurence Olivier.

Bill Barker: We have Queen Elizabeth II reading this for some reason. No one knew she recorded this, but here we are.

Chris Hill: So every Christmas, I take a moment to either read on my own or listen to the classic Dylan Thomas, A Child's Christmas in Wales. And Dylan Thomas is long gone, but a voice like that, reading that essay, would be pretty amazing.

Bill Mann: Soup. Cereal.

Chris Hill: Cheers. Merry Christmas.

Bill Mann: Same to you guys.