The Lakers: Two easy choices, after that…

Magic Johnson is aware that his reputation as a franchise savior — regardless of whether it’s deserved or fair — depends on the Lakers qualifying for the playoffs next year. 

True, under his stewardship the Dodgers are compelling viewing — if anyone in Los Angeles has Spectrum SportsNet to view them in the first place. But even the prior ownership group knew the Dodgers owned a stocked minor-league system. The franchise was set to consistently win regardless of who cut the checks.

On the other hand, the Lakers have a random collection of lottery-pick level players and no specific sense of direction. In the NBA, that is a recipe for long-term irrelevance. Trust me, I now live in Orlando. The Magic are the definition of a team with a bevy of lottery players and no idea how to make them a winning team.

Simply put, Lakers fans think far too highly of D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson. Maybe Brandon Ingram is worth the hype, but putting the weight of this marquee franchise on those skinny shoulders might be a bit much to bear.

Moreover, coach Luke Walton did not answer the fundamental question — what direction is this team going? In other words, whose team is it? What does the method by which this team will learn to win. What type of team is it?

You watch the Golden State Warriors and you know how they approach the game. Same for the San Antonio Spurs. Heck, even the Atlanta Hawks, Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards have more of a defined approach to the game.

For the Lakers, this is their biggest problem heading into the upcoming season. If Walton can’t give ownership and players a vision, or if Johnson has a vision that Walton cannot produce, then I’m going to be the first to assert that everybody’s beloved former sixth man will have to go. I like him as a guy, but dem’s the breaks, dude.

How do the Lakers get from 26 wins to 40-plus wins? (Portland qualified for the playoffs with 41 wins this season.) I don’t have all the answers, but after careful consideration I know of only two easy decisions for the Lakers:

1) Russell has to go if they draft Lonzo Ball. The idea that Russell can function as a shooting guard seems pie-in-the-sky. He never played off the ball before. Moreover, Russell was given a poor role model when he broke into the league. What the hell was Jim Buss thinking by having a space case like Nick Young mentor Russell?

Russell developed bad habits. I don’t think of him as a bust, but drafting Ball gives the Lakers two of the same player. Moreover, drafting Ball sends a clear signal. The Lakers would indeed be his team. A big part of me thinks that’s why so many stories linking the Lakers and Ball exist. Taking Ball automatically removes the decision from Walton.

2) Pursue no top free agents other than power forward. Like the draft, this class is loaded with small forwards and point guards. The best option at power forward is likely Atlanta’s Paul Millsap, because I can’t see Blake Griffin leaving the Clippers. Free agent centers start with other team’s reserves. No thanks.

Signing Millsap, which I don’t particularly envision, likely sends Randle to the bench.

Everything else is up in the air. Everything. Because the Lakers have a glut of otherwise undistinguished lottery players. They’ve been inconsistent at best. The question for each player becomes: Is that from growing pains or are they just simply unreliable?

Trades for Paul George? Sure, I’ve read the rumors. Doing so would create a forward glut unless you send Ingram and/or Randle and/or Russell to Indiana. And George doesn’t fare well at power forward. So does that make Ingram the target to go? And by me saying that, is your immediate reaction But wait! Ingram’s got real potential here!

As you can see, that discussion alone leads to a headache.

So yeah, two answers are simple. Trade Russell if they take Ball. Save free agent money for the better group of players available next year.

But add at least 15 wins next season.

This is the job, Magic. I don’t have to tell you that.

One arrogant PS opinion: Being realistic here, the best starting five the Lakers can accomplish next year is Ball at the point, Dion Waiters as a shooting guard free agent signing if not one gained from a Russell trade, Ingram, George, Ivica Zubac. I can see that team push for 40 wins next year.

Expect more layoffs at ESPN soon

If I didn’t know at least two of the journalists that ESPN laid off this week — the top cable sports network clipped about 100 people this week — I’d have said the downsizing was just.

Only it wasn’t. The network cut the wrong people.

Which means ESPN hasn’t learned its lesson. Which means they’re going to cut many more people sooner than you think.

This is not to beg ESPN to rehire the two dudes I know. I’m not going to name them. I’m not particularly close to them. They’re grown men. They can land on their feet.

No, this is to take ESPN to task for what led to the layoffs. What led to their falling ratings. It’s not about live-streaming sports on your smartphone. Despite what Breitbart News will have you believe, it’s not about an embrace of left-wing politics. It’s not a conspiracy theory at all. It’s not even style over substance.

It’s even worse. It’s style without substance. 

When layoffs were imminent, ESPN said it would downsize on-air talent because its news division had been cut to the bone. The two guys I knew were actual reporters. They broke stories. One broke national stories.

ESPN did trim on-air talent. It also hacked a lot of reporters this week. ESPN chiseled into the bone.

What made ESPN the place to be for that coveted male demographic was not the catchphrases or the hyperventilating sports columnist debate shows. We went to ESPN because its reporters had the inside dope. ESPN was the place to tune in for the NFL Draft, the MLB trade deadline, free agency, coaching changes.

In other words: Catchphrases and jokes are cute, but people will go out of their way to be informed. If it’s excellent information, they’ll become return customers for your information. They’ll be like the people who camp out in front of an Apple Store for an upgraded iPhone.

Jokes and opinions about sports? Hell, anyone can have that. I can do that. The guy with three DUIs at the end of the bar can do that. What makes his opinion any different than Woody Paige or Stephen A. Smith? Those hypespewers don’t break stories. They never did.

Oh, but at least we can still watch Jamele Hill and Michael Smith bump butts and dance at the start of the new slick version of “SportsCenter” — “SC6.” Yeah, that’s what we need. More unsubstantiated opinions, but this time it’s to the beat of a dope-ass mix tape. (To be honest, I only saw the butt-bumping on a commercial for the rebooted “SportsCenter.” I haven’t watched “SC6.” When I want to watch girls dance on TV, I go to Univision or BET.)

“SC6” is part of a misguided strategy that an executive outlined recently. He said he envisioned “SportsCenter” to be more of an entertainment show like “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central, whatever the hell that means.

ESPN fell into the same trap that MTV did in the 1990s. MTV was a ratings juggernaut until it strayed from its core, music. MTV embraced personality over art and it never recovered. ESPN embraced personality over its core mission and people turned away.

Its core is sports fact, not opinion. As a result, the content simply isn’t good enough.

Therefore, ESPN simply isn’t good enough, either.

Expect more downsizing.

An epiphany about sports and politics

I despise everything about the Boston Celtics. I have for decades. It’s an almost unreasonable level of loathing, devoid of intellect.

I never had a problem with Kevin Garnett until I saw him win the NBA title against the Lakers. He seemed like a decent guy and a ferocious competitor. I respected him until I saw him kiss that evil, godforsaken leprechaun logo at center court. Speaking of that logo, I hate Boston for perpetuating the Irish stereotype that my family is comprised of tubby, dim-witted elves with a pipe, shamrock and a shillelagh.

Aside from the Lakers beating the Celtics for the title, I take great joy knowing that when Boston was at its nadir, Celtics fans chanted “MVP” for Kobe Bryant.

But it stops with what happened to Isaiah Thomas’ family in the last week. For those who don’t follow the NBA, he’s the Celtics’ best player. Just prior to the start of the NBA playoffs, his sister died. He’s grieving. It’s an awful situation and I feel horrible for him.

Which brings me to the epiphany.

I know far too many people who I believe would take a perverse pleasure if, say, Melania Trump died or faced a deadly ailment. To be honest, I’m confident many would have felt the same way of something horrible happened to Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama.

Which means — brace yourselves for this simple doozy — it can be argued that sports fans are better people than the faux intellectualism of political followers.

Yep. I’m saying the blowhard on MSNBC or Fox News isn’t as good a person as the drunk fat guy with the face paint and the foam finger. Oh, the guy might be delusional about the Cleveland Browns, but at the core of his being he knows he has flaws and will be more likely to help his fellow human change a flat tire.

Political junkies are worse because a) they think their societal beliefs are without flaw, and b) if you don’t believe as they do, they wouldn’t dump a bucket of urine on you if you were on fire.

Sure, sports fans can be obnoxious, but at worst, they live their lives through their teams. Political junkies live your lives through their worldview.

Put it this way: at the end of the work shift, who would you want tending bar? Ann Coulter would be too busy inspecting the immigration status of her coworkers. Keith Olbermann would be spelling out his own name in beer bottle caps glued to the wall. Bill Maher and Bill O’Reilly would push for “waitress spank Wednesday” and Glenn Beck would tell you to stop drinking because the end times are nigh.

Or would you rather raise a toast to Larry Bird or Joe Montana and say “man, I hated your guts back in the day, but you seem like a good dude”?

If so, you’re a far better person than you’ve gotten credit for. Now go watch the “NBA on TNT” with a clear conscience.

How Fox News factors life after O’Reilly

I know this is a minority opinion, but I kind of wish Fox News didn’t have to cut ties with its most-popular host, Bill O’Reilly.

Don’t get me wrong. If he did what people claim he did, he had to go. I get that. My problem is what the alleged “Fair and Balanced” news outlet will do in the aftermath. FNC has a history of lurching even further to the right when it makes personnel changes.

Consider:

  • When Alan Colmes left debate show “Hannity & Colmes,” the network didn’t even attempt to fill the opening and let Sean Hannity have the entire hour.
  • John Kasich was at least a moderate Republican, by all accounts. When he left, he was replaced by that insufferable and insincere hack Glenn Beck.
  • Greta Van Susteren seemed to have a level head on her shoulders. She left last year and was replaced by Tucker Carlson — once referred to as a “dick” by Jon Stewart for extreme right-wing punditry.
  • When Megyn Kelly left the network last year, presumably one of the victims in the sexual harrassment problems that bedeviled the network, Carlson was promoted to that spot. Carlson’s former slot went to an hourly nightcap that celebrated all things Donald Trump — a show called “The First 100 Days.”

While Fox News will take a ratings dent without “The O’Reilly Factor,” it will still pull better numbers than MSNBC and CNN.

I’m not going to argue that O’Reilly was 100 percent fair. That would be spin and I’d like this post to be a no-spin zone. His level of fairness is more for you to decide. What I do know from the times that I did catch a glimpse is that he at least made the attempt to get the other side of the story. Do you even get that attempt from Hannity? Did you get it from Beck? From anyone on MSNBC? Of course not.

So what’s FNC going to do? I would expect to see Carlson get O’Reilly’s spot. It also wouldn’t surprise me at all to see popular — and frankly, extremely hot — Internet conservative Tomi Lahren slide into the 9 p.m. slot that Carlson would vacate. (And yes, she is hot. So are Kimberly Guilfoyle, Ainsley Earhardt, Julie Banderas, Jenna Lee, Andrea Tantaros, Shannon Bream, etc. It’s not like they are coworkers.)

But I digress. In other words, Fox News will push further and further to the right.

This is not what people need when there’s a new president who has challenging decisions to make ahead with regards to Syria and North Korea, for instance. All political leaders need to be challenged on major decisions, but those counterpoints must be based on fact. Unfortunately, virtually everything you read about Trump is opinion. Emotion without the benefit of intellect, pro and con.

And I’ve been exhausted of slanted news in either direction for many years. You know one of the primary reasons that “fake news” has overwhelmed social media? It’s because traditional news outlets haven’t leveled with the audience. We don’t need another viewpoint. We need raw data.

We need people at least making the old-school journalistic attempt to get all sides of the story.

So yeah, if O’Reilly is a creepo, I kind of wish he kept that part of his personality to himself until he got home and looked at inappropriate websites like the rest of us.

LA Kings palace coup mostly makes sense

General manager Dean Lombardi and coach Darryl Sutter were fired after the Los Angeles Kings failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs on Monday afternoon. The moves from parent company AEG startled the teams’ fans who hadn’t had the chance to finish grieving over the retirement of broadcaster Bob Miller one day earlier.

By the way, that’s not meant as an insult on Kings fans. Miller’s words-eye view introduced millions on the west coast to the NHL for 44 years. And he was a good man, to boot. He should be missed.

Having said that, replacing Miller now becomes an afterthought instead of a priority for the team.

I mostly agree with the decision from AEG on Lombardi and Sutter, despite the two Stanley Cup titles won on their watch. Particularly with Sutter, it was time to go. Very few coaches and managers have lengthy runs with their respective teams for a reason, even with winning championships. No, Sutter didn’t forget how to coach. I would even argue he didn’t do anything particularly wrong, other than not give playing time to Kings prospects.

Over time, players tune out the message. Don’t be too hard on the players. That’s human nature. Fans claim to love coaches who are taskmasters, screaming and throwing tantrums. Players can live with it, but after a while the messsge becomes stale. Hell, in the 1980s, the Lakers won four titles with Pat Riley as the coach. At the very end, even Riley could tell Magic and the rest were tuning him out.

They didn’t hate him. They didn’t even disagree with him. They’ve just heard it all before.

When the Kings play a primal, physical game for six seasons under Sutter, how long before the players subconsciously think “OK, hit the other guy harder. I got it” before stifling a yawn?

Lombardi was a tougher call to me. I think he should have had the chance to find that new coach. Having said that, it’s possible he stood by Sutter. If that happened, you have no choice but to fire them both.

There is a case to be made against Lombardi. The Kings are in a financial mess — not in terms of profitability, but the salary cap. Marian Gaborik is still owed $15.9 million. Dustin Brown is still owed $25.5 million. Jonathan Quick is still owed $27 million. Anne Kopitar has 7 more years on his contract at an average of $10 million per year.

Even worse, Lombardi erred by keeping the floundering Mike Richards on the payroll when he could have cut him and saved money before a salary cap deadline. He didn’t, and Richards — who is no longer with the Kings, anyway — will get paid until 2032.

Former defenseman Rob Blake takes over as GM. I have no idea what his plan for the future is. I’m not going to fool myself and claim he can solve these problems.

But for the Kings to have reached the pinnacle of hockey twice, they simultaneously dug themselves a massive crater.

It only makes sense that the people responsible for the benefits be held accountable for the aftermath.

The Lakers are winning and I’m overjoyed

Let’s take a moment to make sure I understand the point of the Lakers losing at this time of year.

It’s to make sure they keep a draft pick in the top three. If they fall out of the top three, the pick goes to Philadelphia — as if the Sixers could do any better with it.

Keeping that top three pick by continuing to lose means, according to most mock drafts, the Lakers will get to choose an elite point guard in UCLA’s Lonzo Ball or a small forward in Josh Jackson of Kansas.

Didn’t the Lakers already draft to fill those needs? Didn’t the guard they drafted hit a three-point field goal as time expired to lift LA to a victory over Minnesota on Sunday? Wasn’t small forward addressed in the last draft with Brandon Ingram? Or Julius Randle three years prior?

Keeping a top three pick is no panacea for the Lakers. What fans haven’t noticed is this so-called disastrous four-game winning streak indicates the team — indeed, the franchise — is trying to cure itself. You should applaud that.

The Lakers are perilously close to becoming what the Sixers have been for far too long — a storied franchise obsessed with “the process” of getting better instead of simply getting better. The Sixers stocked up on picks for years and are still nose deep in the swamp.

Instead, Jeanie Buss — bless our little purple-and-gold nudist — willingly asserted herself in a family dispute when it became apparent the franchise with 16 NBA titles was nowhere near catching the Celtics. The franchise has clearly been scrubbing off the stench of ineptitude left by her brother, Jim. Remember, the only reason the Lakers are forced to tank to keep a draft pick was because of his foolhardy trade that brought a broken-down Steve Nash in the first place.

Under Jim Buss, the Lakers reputation had been so sullied they couldn’t even get a meeting with Kevin Durant when he was a free agent last year.

Not that I’m convinced everything new grand poobah Magic Johnson will find a miracle cure (please insert your own HIV joke here). Put it this way: The Sixers motto for years was “trust the process.” It seems that Magic’s motto to this roster is “trust in yourselves.”

What would happen should the Lakers keep the pick? You really want them to take Ball with his megalomaniac/racial provocateur father? How does that play in the locker room of a young team still finding an identity? How long before there’s infighting between Ball and D’Angelo Russell? How long before that idiot father of his claims Luke Walton can’t coach because he’s white?

If the Lakers keep the pick, great. If not, they either have a foundation with the three lottery picks they’ve already utilized or the Lakers need to look to free agency and trades.

Each win thus far suggests there might be hope with Russell, Randle and Ingram. Putting wins together makes a streak that is more than a sign of hope.

Winning streaks are a sign of what made the Lakers the franchise that it was.

Rapid reactions from the Lakers front office upheaval

About an hour ago, the Lakers announced that general manager Mitch Kupchak and executive Vice President Jim Buss were both relieved of their duties. They were replaced, at least in the interim, by franchise legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson. I could repeat gripes that I’ve had about the team under Buss’ stewardship. Instead, I’d like to focus on what this means for one of the most recognizable brand names in sports.

All of what follows is filtered through the following prism: The good news for Lakers fans is not that Johnson is in, but that Buss is out. Why?

1) Magic would likely make a horrible GM, so the future of the franchise rests on his pick to run player personnel decisions.

It is an educated guess that Johnson would not be ideal to build a Lakers roster for two reasons. One, often in the NBA, successful coaches have significant say in building good rosters. Johnson served rather poorly as an interim coach.

Two, the greatest players in the game are often lacking in scouting talent. For every Larry Bird success story in Indiana, there is Michael Jordan’s mismanagement of the Charlotte Bobcats, and pretty much everything Isaiah Thomas has run in retirement.

Magic has a hit-and-miss record in his post-playing career. His hits have been incredible, such as owning the Dodgers. How terrifying are his mistakes? Aw, man. You really wanna know?

2) Please, Magic, do not make your first phone call to Kobe Bryant, which was suggested in news reports. See above. Because Bryant has been known to miss the mark badly, too. How terrifying? Aw, man. You really wanna know?

3) It does not matter that this move came two days before the NBA trading deadline. The NBA trading deadline features very few blockbusters. Baseball’s deadline does. Besides, unless the Lakers want to break up their alleged “future talent,” they have scant pieces to trade away. Reserve guard Lou Williams is pretty much it.

So what could Magic Johnson do to restore the Lakers?

1) Remind the players and management of their identity. No, I don’t mean wave a purple and gold flag around like a male cheerleader. The Lakers had a formula that worked for decades, only it was abandoned because Jim Buss made a series of impulsive, foolhardy decisions. First, they were going to be a defensive power under coach Mike Brown. Then they were going to return to the 1980s Showtime era with Mike D’Antoni. Now, they want to be a version of the Golden State Warriors and none of it worked because they simply can’t shoot.

This is a team without an identity. Fortunately, it had one for decades — the inside/out game. In the 1960s, inside to Wilt Chamberlain, out to Jerry West. In the 1980s, inside to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, out to Johnson. In the 2000s, in to Shaquille O’Neal, out to Bryant.

Maybe the team has the “out” in D’Angelo Russell. The Lakers need to do whatever it takes to find the inside game.

2) If that means trading Julius Randle or Brandon Ingram, so be it.

3) Support coach Luke Walton publicly, but privately inform him that this roster needs to follow a specific growth plan. For far too often this season, Walton has believed that in order for the Lakers to grow somebody in the younger core needs to step up. Be the leader. Demand the ball. That sort of thing.

At this point, Russell, Randle or Ingram have not answered that call.

That leaves it up to you, coach. You have to pick. Pick wisely. Pick now.

The Dodgers hopes rest on Joc Pederson

The reviews from computer simulators matched the forecast from the number crunchers in the Dodgers front office. Both think the Dodgers are the best team in baseball. Why, our algorithms match your algorithms! Let’s watch “Big Bang Theory” and imagine Mayim Bialik in a purple teddy!

They’re not the best team in baseball. Oh, the Dodgers are a pretty darn good baseball team, but they’re not the best.

The defending champion Chicago Cubs are better. They didn’t lose talent during the offseason with a young roster that only figures to improve. The Cubs knocked out the Dodgers 4-2 in the National League Championship Series and that divide was larger than two baseball games if you watched it. The Cubs exposed the holes in the Dodgers roster, so it was incumbent on LA to upgrade.

Which the Dodgers did — albeit incrementally by improving their infield. The Dodgers traded for second baseman Logan Forsythe in what could be a genius move. LA has an elite infield to go along with the best starting pitcher in the game, possibly its best closer and depth that is the envy of virtually every front office in baseball.

But its outfield is suspect at best, which is why the Dodgers hopes for ending a World Series drought at 29 years fall on center fielder Joc Pederson.

The Dodgers relied on the depth of their roster to plug outfield holes throughout 2016. Andre Ethier was injured at the start of that season. Ethier was by no means a superior talent but the drop off in performance — from Andrew Toles, Trayce Thompson, Will Venable, Enrique Hernandez and Scott Van Slyke — was stark. A midseason trade for Josh Reddick wasn’t fruitful, and he’s gone.

It’s also time for even the most ardent Yasiel Puig supporter to admit he’s not the Cuban Mike Trout. Relying on Puig to figure out breaking pitches, baserunning and throwing to the right cutoff man is not a reliable wager.

Pederson improving is a bet with the odds more in your favor. Here’s why:

“Young Joc” arrived in Los Angeles two seasons ago with the fanfare befitting a can’t-miss prospect. Only after the All-Star Break of his rookie season, he missed a lot. He struck out 170 times in his rookie year and he average plummeted to a cringe-worthy .210.

Under the radar last season, Pederson’s performance spiked. Believe me, I recognize a .246 average with 130 strikeouts is no reason to crack open a bottle of champagne, but that’s 40 fewer strikeouts and an uptick of about 40 points in batting average. Anything approaching that level of improvement this year will put the 24-year-old on the fringes of being an All-Star because he slugged 51 home runs in his first two seasons. Consistent contact plus power is a frightening combination.

Simply put, Pederson is the only Dodgers outfielder with the potential to help close the gap on the Chicago Cubs. Ethier can’t do it. Puig won’t do it.

And that matters, because winning the National League West again simply won’t cut it.

Belichick’s best attribute: Making you think twice

I want to make this brief for all who claim the NFL is a pass-until-you-shred-your-rotator-cuff game.

Much like Super Bowl XLIX two years ago, when the Patriots edged Seattle 28-24, yesterday’s New England title came about because an offensive coordinator goofed and tried to outfox Bill Belichick instead of simply running the ball.

You might recall the Seahawks were about a yard away from victory on the final play of the game that year and instead of having an angry and lethal Marshawn Lynch seal the win by smashing into the end zone, Seattle elected to pass. Russell Wilson’s ill-advised lob was intercepted in the end zone and millions of people were in shock.

The Atlanta Falcons stormed out to their massive lead in Super Bowl LI yesterday due to the running game and damn sure lost it with the pass. How do I know? Davonta Freeman averaged more than six yards per carry, primarily with runs off-tackle to lessen the burden on center Alex Mack, who was playing the game with a broken fibula. Moreover, the team averaged 5.8 yards per carry. 

This, in turn, forced the Patriots to respect the run and opened up the passing game. In other words, a traditional football game plan instead of this stupid Madden video game throw-deep every play mindset.

The Falcons wound up losing that 25-point advantage, in part, with a fourth-quarter fumble by quarterback Matt Ryan who had no business passing in the first place. It’s the fourth quarter and they still led by 16 points. That turnover in Falcons territory led to a swift New England TD. Had the Falcons ran and failed to pick up the first down, the clock would have kept ticking and the resulting punt would have forced the Patriots to mount a much longer scoring drive.

Later, with the Falcons still clinging to an eight-point lead, Julio Jones nabbed an iconic reception that — had Atlanta held on — would have replaced Dwight Clark’s touchdown decades ago as “The Catch.” That play set up the Falcons at the New England 22. Run the ball three times. Kick a field goal for an 11-point lead. Game over.

Only the Falcons channeled their inner Seahawk. Somewhere Pete Carroll was grimacing at what he watched.

This is not to suggest that Ryan or Jones should be jettisoned and outgoing offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan should be replaced with a high-school coach who loves the double-wing.

This is to insist that the reputation of Mssrs. Belichick and Brady — their aura — makes people forget their damn common sense when you need it the most.

Common sense dictates you run the ball. It worked in the first half because it kept the Patriots on their toes. It would have worked in the second because it would have killed off most of the clock.

Run to set up the pass. Run to protect your quarterback. Run to protect the guy playing with a broken leg and for the love of the Lombardi Trophy, run to protect the lead.

Here ends the lesson. You should have learned it back in 2015.

61 but still counting

There used to be a commercial where a cartoon owl answered how many slurps it took to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop sucker. The answer was three because the owl got bored and bit through the thing. Can’t say I blame him. When you get asked a stupid question, you pretty much want to brush off the curious guttersnipe.

Millions of us have this annual resolution to lose weight, add muscle, whatever. Many of us chronicle that on social media with before/after pics, photos of us drenched in sweat, or video clips executing reps. I don’t have a problem with people who do. If getting random “likes” is encouragement you need to reach your goals, then have at it. As a side note, I want to encourage girls posting clips of squats, leg curls on your stomach and deadlifts. Yum.

But it begged the question: If somebody didn’t post to social media, how long before anyone noticed? If you keep at it, your body will surely change. If you are driven and go to the gym every single day, it would theoretically change faster. So how many days before somebody who doesn’t know you’ve made the decision to improve your health will ask if you’ve changed for the better?

It sure isn’t three.

It’s 61.

I hit the gym every single day — including Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Day — for 61 days before somebody asked if I’ve lost weight. I did, in fact, lose more than 25 pounds, add muscle and have to buy new clothes.

I don’t say any of that to impress you.

I say it because that’s a lot of f-cking work and you better have a maniacal resolve if you don’t post to social media for instant approval.

I began in early December because I’m not much of a New Year’s resolution guy. I have hit the weights often in the past. I have always been able to run for distance. A doctor didn’t order me to change. I simply didn’t like the way I felt. I also know your odds improve with women if you’re in better condition.

The regimen was somewhat strict: Shoulders and triceps on Sunday and Wednesday; biceps and chest on Monday; chest and back on Thursday; cardio Tuesday and Friday; legs and core on Saturday. Every session included a warmup run of a mile and a cool down of a half-mile. Every four weeks, I changed the workout for something called muscle confusion.

My goal wasn’t necessarily to burst out of my shirt. Monthly muscle magazines show a shirtless spray-tanned Steroid Lad wearing a banana hammock downstairs flaunting arms that have a bigger circumference than his head. These periodicals all claim to make your arms two inches bigger in about a month. I avoided those tips, because what’s the point of having massive arms if your face looks like Joe Piscopo?

I took my smartphone with me for that first session. Somewhere during the lateral dumbbell raise, I noticed it looked like I took a swim in my T-shirt. This made me happy. Progress, I figured. Then I reached for the phone, but it hit me: I was surrounded by dudes screaming bloody murder with every rep, tossing weights around, flexing in the mirrors. In other words, desperately needing the approval of the people — hopefully, the women — around them.

I’ve often believed you should be the type of man that impresses people simply by existing. Sure, you should constantly improve yourself, but it helps to limit the number of times you scream “be impressed!” If I can’t impress you by having performed as a comic, authored novels, written for newspapers, volunteering and helping the sick, why would it impress you if I screamed during a workout?

So I put the phone away, a conscious attempt to break the cycle of begging for attention.

Only after three weeks of going every day, I was hoping for attention that never came — not from friends, neighbors or coworkers. So I kept going back to the gym. And nobody noticed. So I kept going back. And nobody n… you get the idea.

This cycle — which was rather painful on a spiritual level as much as physical — ended last Thursday night at a coffee shop near an Orlando college. I was waiting for an open mic to begin and to my surprise, a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time showed up.

“You look great. Have you lost weight?”

Mentally, the bell went off. Stop the clock! Somebody noticed!

Only it was a dude.

So technically the clock stopped, but the regimen continues. I’m guessing it won’t stop until I do look like Joe Piscopo. For all I know, muscle-bound senior citizen guidos are what women want in the first place.