WWW

Dirty John and Rowdy Ronda: While We’re Waiting

Breaking news, you guys. The longest month in the history of the universe is finally over. It’s February!

OK, so technically the shift from January to February doesn’t mean much in Northeast Ohio. Yes, it’s still freezing and gross out. Yes, the wind coming off Lake Erie will still make your face hurt. And yes, it still gets dark at like 5:30 pm. But hey, we’re one month closer to spring, baseball and sunshine—so who can complain?

Though I have my regular rotation of podcasts (ours, of course, as well as Road Trippin’, My Favorite Murder and Pod Save America), it’s been a long time since I’ve been really crazy-into a series. In fact, not since S-Town and my much-loved Season 1 of Serial have I been so wrapped up in a storytelling podcast that I couldn’t put it down, so to speak.

And then, a few weeks ago, a friend pointed me toward Dirty John.

Image via LA Times

Written and produced by Christopher Goffard for the LA Times, Dirty John follows the tale of 59-year-old Debra Newell, a mother of four and successful small business owner from Newport Beach, California. In the fall of 2014, Debra met a man on an over-50 dating site. The two quickly fell in love and got married within two months of meeting.

The man, Debra’s fifth husband, was John Meehan. Handsome and charming, John was an Iraq war veteran and successful anesthesiologist. He was perfect… until things started to unravel.

I won’t say much more, because I don’t want to take away from anyone’s experience of listening to it, but I’ll say this: the entirety of the pod is only six episodes (plus a bonus, “live” recording released a few months later) that aren’t terribly long. I drive about 40 minutes each way on my daily commute, and I finished Dirty John in three and a half days. You can fly through it—and you’ll want to.

Beyond the mystery and intrigue of the story (as well as the numerous “gasp-out-loud-in-traffic” revelations it uncovers), I found the way the Times published the podcast and corresponding story was completely fascinating. As a podcast episode was released (one every two days in October of 2017), a corresponding chunk of article was added to a long-form written piece published online. And as far as I can tell, the podcast and article match each other almost perfectly.

What’s amazing is that the article doesn’t read like a transcribed podcast, and the podcast doesn’t sound like someone reading an article. It’s so well done that it translates, seamlessly, across platforms. Dirty John is not only a great story—it’s storytelling at its finest.

If you choose to listen to the podcast, you hear sound clips from Debra and her family members, and live recordings taken from answering machines and California courtrooms. If you choose to read the article instead, you see photos of the couple—and their family members—throughout their lives and love affair. Where the podcast offers up sound effects to set scenes, like the background din of a bustling restaurant and a breeze coming off the ocean, the article serves everything from mug shots to wedding videos.

You, as a member of the audience, can decide exactly how you want to take in the story of Dirty John. And I recommend you do, as soon as you can.

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A while back, I told you guys how I had unexpectedly become a huge fan of the WWE. Over the last year or so, the franchises two weekly live broadcasts have become regulars on my DVR, and my boyfriend and I sit down every week to take them in.

On Sunday evening, WWE hosted one of its hallmark pay-per-view events, the Royal Rumble. For those who don’t follow WWE, a Royal Rumble match begins with two competitors in the ring. Every two minutes, a new, randomly drawn competitor enters. Eventually, the ring is full of wrestlers and pandemonium. The only way to be eliminated from the match is to go over the top rope, and have both feet hit the floor.

This year, the WWE made history by also including the first-ever women’s Royal Rumble match. And, more surprisingly, the women’s match was the last of the evening—making it the “main event,” so to speak.

Twenty-nine competitors came and went over the course of the hour-long Rumble, including several former stars who returned to the ring for one last shot. When the dust settled, 36-year-old Asuka had won it all. She was joined shortly after in the ring by the two current women’s champions, as she’ll next have a chance to fight one of them for a belt at Wrestlemania in April. And then, there was an unexpected blast of music, and a large graphic on the main boards said it all.

Image via WWE

After a few confusing seconds in which nothing happened, mixed martial artist Ronda Rousey emerged from backstage. Over the sounds of Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” and tens of thousands of fans losing their minds, Rousey slowly made her way to the ring.

Once there, she awkwardly stared at the three wrestlers, not speaking, and then pointed to an oversized Wrestlemania logo hanging from the ceiling of the Wells Fargo Center. She eventually outstretched a hand to Asuka, which was promptly slapped away. Rousey made her way down to ringside to shake hands with a grinning Stephanie McMahon, the commissioner of Monday Night Raw, and then retreated backstage, not before stopping a few more times to silently point at the Wrestlemania sign again.

The whole thing was… weird. And ill-timed. And unnecessary. The women of WWE had just completed a historic match. It should have been something to celebrate, and Asuka should have had a chance to bask in it all. We should have been talking about what it meant for women in sports entertainment—and what it means for the woman who won—for awhile.

Instead, what should have been a huge moment gave way to a woman who didn’t even take part in it. Up until that very moment, Rousey had little more to do with the franchise than the occasional rumor she’d be joining it.

As a fan, the whole thing was disappointing. WWE’s Nia Jax, who competed in the Rumble,  seemed to agree.

I’m interested to see how and where within the WWE Rousey lands, but I’m not considering myself a fan just yet. Happy Thursday, you guys. Make it a great one.