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Thursday, February 28, 2008

An Open Letter

Dear Cleveland Mom:

Please clean up your young son's mohawk haircut, not because his school is demanding it, but because it's a mohawk haircut. Even Parma is embarrassed.

Country Music,
Old Milwaukee Light


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Help Me Buy A Book

I just got a $25 gift certificate to use at Barnes & Noble. Help me decide which book to buy (give me your top three, please):

  • Smells Like Dead Elephants

  • Unforgettable Journeys

  • Failed States

  • Geography Of Bliss

  • Blackwater

  • Total Access

  • The Republican Playbook

  • 1,000 Places To See Before You Die

  • Labels:

    Tuesday, February 19, 2008

    Quick Question

    Does it sound to you like Bill Belichick misremembers what Matt Walsh looks like?


    Recent Rental Reviews

    The Kingdom -- I wanted to see this when it was in the theaters last year, but was surprised when it kind of disappeared without any real buzz. Watched it Friday night and it was excellent.

    Punch-Drunk Love -- I've never enjoyed and Adam Sandler movie, but several friends assured me this wasn't typical Adam Sandler. They were right; it wasn't. But I didn't like this one much better.

    Tsotsi -- Very good movie.

    Smokin' Aces -- Decent movie. Lots of bloodshed, which I'm fine with. Just wasn't a great movie.

    Half Nelson -- Prior to last year, I'd never seen any movies with Ryan Gosling, Ryan Philippe and Ryan Reynolds. But I became a fan of all three in 2007, and Gosling gives a nice effort in this good movie.

    Factory Girl -- I'm not well-informed on the Andy Warhol era, so it was nice to get mildly indoctrinated. Good movie here.

    The Great Happiness Space -- Bizarre. Young Japanese men make tons of cash partying with desperate women who are willing to fork over the big bucks. Odd documentary, but definitely worth watching.

    A Crude Awakening -- You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to appreciate this documentary. Definitely worth watching.


    Thursday, February 14, 2008

    Clemens Fallout

    From my boy Dave in Cincinnati: "I disremember the last time I've been this entertained by Congressional testimony."

    I've got a few, random takes on things here, and I'm all over the place, so please forgive.

    On McNamee: Our society wants people to do the right thing. We also believe in second chances, being able to turn a wrong into a right. So when he finally comes forward to right his wrong, we throw our arms up and say he must have some personal vendetta against Clemens. That's weak of us.

    On Clemens: When this fat hillbilly wasn't making up words, he was throwing everyone close to him not under the bus, but directly in front of it. In the fast lane.

    When you're a great athlete, as Clemens is, you're used to a different set of rules. Sure he's famous for his offseason workouts, but at age 46, he's had things easier for him for more than 30 years now. He was probably the best pitcher in his little league, then again in high school and college and was a dominant MLB pitcher for two decades. As a result, he's out of touch with what reality must be like for ordinary people, so he probably has no idea how bad he looks by throwing these people in front of the bus and continuing the pampered star's habit of not taking any accountability. Up to this point, his life has been such that there's been no reason to take accountability.

    From Wall: "I thought he was going to trot out, 'I thought it was the ball,'" a reference to Clemens' jackass move of throwing a broken bat on the ground toward Mike Piazza in the 2000 World Series when the well-like Piazza broke his bat on a foul ball.

    On the media: Those who work in the 24-hour media cycle are people who, unlike Clemens and others they cover, aren't under the microscope and therefore have the benefit of being able to spend the rest of their lives formulating opinions about things they'll likely never fully understand. I wish these TV people got that.

    Old dude Barry made a good point yesterday when he said he really doesn't care about the Clemens story. Nowadays, everybody cheats, so why is this such a big deal? A baseball player might have broken the rules to get an advantage, and it goes before Congress? Shoot, politicians cheat, spouses cheat, universities cheat, corporate execs cheat; it's just the norm for many people.

    From Miles: "Fix the economy, education system, welfare, health care, jobs, blah, blah, blah ... Then worry about baseball. A-holes."

    We want to romanticize this and say, "Oh, but it's the national pastime," but judging by some of the top stories in sports these days, the national pastime has shifted dramatically. The new gig is being a scumbag. Just hours after the Clemens/McNamee hearing started in Washington Wednesday, the NCAA announced that Indiana University -- one of the most respected athletic departments in all of college sports -- will have some serious questions to answer regarding men's basketball coach Kelvin Sampson.

    And what have we been hearing about for six months? Bill Belichick and Spygate, that's what.

    (Again, I'm all over the place. Hope you're still with me.)

    Remember when we thought we'd be cool and be all rebellious and not go to baseball games after the last strike? Do you know what has happened? Not only do we keep going back, but we do so despite the ongoing steroids scandal, not to mention rising ticket prices, our favorite teams' poor play, poor managing, poor general managing and perhaps the off-field arrest or nine.

    These 30-year-old children are getting paid obscene amounts of money to play a sport, objectify our women and drive fast cars with guns and weed inside them. But what we hear most from these people is, "Not guilty, your honor."

    And boy do we allow for some audacity. That old, angry congressman from Indiana sure did let McNamee have it, yelling at him about trust and lies and believability. I'm sorry, but did this hearing not take place in the birthplace of lies? Isn't there a fairly heavy bullshit quotient in Washington, D.C?

    And other politicians told Clemens he was going to heaven, thanked him for his service to the Yankees and asked which team's jersey he'll wear when being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Good Lord, I was waiting for someoene to ask, "Would you like me to wrap my mouth around all of you, or just take half of you in?"

    And another suit saying "This is really about the children." We have such a boner for things like "what kind of message we're sending" and so forth. Sheesh, can we just call something as it is? It's a controversy, sure, but don't make it bigger than it is. Kids are cute and all, but screw them for just one minute; this has nothing to do with children or messages. It's about one fat hillbilly lying about how he was able to stay competitive late in his career.

    But it's great for the eternal news cycle because, I mean, we don't really think there will come a day when we say, "Hooray! The steroids era is over!" Do we?

    That's almost like expecting one day to hear, "I'm so glad there's no more racism" or "I'm just glad that time period when good-looking women got a lot of TV sports jobs was short lived."

    On arrogance: And lastly, we'll still hand out the WORLD CHAMPIONS tag to those who win titles in our major sports, arrogantly ignoring that they play some pretty good baseball in Japan and other countries, and basketball all over Europe.

    Hockey got it right, but that's because it's not an American sport. The last team skating every June calls itself Stanley Cup Champions, not world champions.

    GOOD NEWS: At least there is something to be happy about in the world of sports, and that is that Duke is still Duke. Coach K once again has his kids ready for a nice postseason run. Sometimes they fall flat in March, but when expectations are to get to the Final Four every year, you're obviously going to have some disappointments.

    But nothing can be too disappointing when you have the perspective that freshman Kyle Singler has. He's one of many top-level freshmen who are playing lights out this year, but he doesn't get the hype that Michael Beasley (Kansas State), O.J. Mayo (Southern Cal) and Derrick Rose (Memphis) get. But I doubt any of those cats have said anything like this this season: "It's great to be able to play the game I love and share it with my best friends here at Duke," as he said after Duke's defeat of Maryland Wednesday night. And in this week's Sports Illustrated, when asked what Valentine's Day makes him think of, he replied, "buying my mom some flowers."

    Say what you will about Duke, but then ask yourself why you say that. Why do you hate Duke? All we do is complain about the never-ending thuggery in sports, but when you're given an alternative, you're critical of that? At Duke, you have good, suburban kids from solid families, kids who are good in the classroom and maybe active in the community, kids who inspire teammates by pounding the floor before a defensive possession or who make the extra pass on offense, finding the open man, practicing that team-above-self approach. Why is that so difficult to appreciate?

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    Wednesday, February 13, 2008

    Clemens Takes The Hill

    You may have missed it, but shortly after Roger Clemens introduced the word "misremembers" to the English language, a Government Reform committee member asked the star pitcher's former trainer, Brian McNamee, a fairly irrelevant question:

    Committee: "Mr. McNamee, did you pay for that haircut?"
    McNamee: "I'm sorry, sir?"
    Committee: "Did you pay for that haircut, and may I remind you, Mr. McNamee, that you're under oath?"

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    Monday, February 11, 2008

    College Basketball Update

    Now that basketball owns the sports world's center stage, it's time to talk a little college basketball.

    First of all, check out this week's edition of Sports Illustrated, where you'll find several excellent articles. After you get through the outstanding Super Bowl coverage, check out this story on Kansas' Darnell Jackson and try to do so without a Kleenex handy. I read it on the train back from New Jersey Saturday morning, and had a lump in my throat the whole time.

    Speaking of Kansas, I just watched the No. 4 Jayhawks lose a tough one at Big 12 rival and No. 11 Texas. That was a pretty good game. A.J. Abrams and D.J. Augustin get all the hype for the Longhorns, but look out for Damion James. He could turn things on late in the season the way Jeff Green did for Georgetown in helping the Hoyas to the Final Four last year.

    ON TV: Rutgers' highly ranked women's team sported pink uniforms in honor of February being Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Very cool. Not cool was the way the Scarlet Knights lost. They held a one-point lead at No. 2 Tennessee when a Lady Vol grabbed an offensive rebound with .2 seconds left. The gal was fouled going up for the shot, but the clock had stopped and showed that .2 still remaining. Had the home team's clock operator not effed up, the clock would have run out before the foul and Rutgers, which defeated No. 1 UConn last week, would have picked up another huge win.

    Shortly before that, Georgetown benefited from some of its own home-cooking in a men's basketball game. Visiting Villanova had an upset on its mind, and after star Scottie Reynolds missed a go-ahead layup in the final seconds, the scramble for the loose ball ended when Georgetown's Jonathan Wallace picked it up and hustled to the outside to try to run the other way with it. Keep in mind that Reynolds got banged a little bit on the way to the hoop, but a bump far less criminal by Villanova's Corey Stokes with .1 seconds left led to a whistle 70 feet away from Wallace's basket, giving him two tries to break a 53-53 tie. He made them both and the Hoyas escaped with the win.

    WEEKEND RECAP: Georgetown got exposed a little bit on Saturday night, when Louisville handed them a pretty solid defeat. The Hoyas played an impressive first half, but Louisville had an even better second half and appears to now be playing the way many thought it would all season. If the now-healthy Cardinals can stay away from further injuries, they could make a nice run much like they did in the second half of the 2005 season, when they advanced all the way to the Final Four.

    And North Carolina barely recovered from its loss to archrival Duke last week to beat Clemson in two overtimes Sunday night. Clemson seems to play basketball like it does football -- often close to being in the mix, but the Tigers never really have that dominant, breakout season. Sunday's game, in which they led by double figures with less than 10 minutes left, would have been Clemson's first win in Chapel Hill in nearly 80 years. EIGHTY YEARS, MAN!

    Fox Sports Net had a great doubleheader Sunday evening. Before that Clemson-UNC thriller, Washington knocked off Pac-10 heavyweight and national title contender UCLA. The Huskies had the Bruins on the ropes in Seattle last year before UCLA won, and on Sunday, it looked like Washington might repeat the feat. But Justin Dentmon, Quincy Pondexter and Jon Brockman kept it together and led the Huskies to the upset for one of my favorite college coaches, Lorenzo Romar.


    Friday, February 08, 2008

    Old-Time Hockey

    My dude Troy had some freebies for the Rangers game last night. Excellent seats, section 106 at Madison Square Garden, for my first NHL game since I was a kid.

    As usual, the company was delightful and the conversation was engaging. That's how it is with smart friends like Troy. But then the best part of the evening unfolded in the third period, after two previous bouts resulted in major penalties. The third fight was the best fight of the three, and even though the home team got smoked by defending Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim, Ranger Ryan Hollweg got the best of Anaheim's Ryan Carter with about 10 minutes to go. Here it is:

    Rangers-Ducks fight

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    Tuesday, February 05, 2008

    Team Of Destiny?

    You see how much I rip ESPN and the media in general, so you know I'm not a big fan of hyperbole and cliche.

    But after Sunday's Super Bowl, I can't help but think of the New York Giants as one of those -- gulp -- teams of destiny.

    Even after allowing 80 points in opening the season 0-2, even when trailing after three quarters of the third game, even with a befuddled-looking quarterback through much of the first 10 or 12 games of the season, you seldom heard about any finger pointing or interdepartmental friction among the New York Giants.

    In this city, if there's a whiff of something similar to something that's synonymous with a word that might somehow resemble dissent, everybody knows about it. You have the controversy-seeking sports media to thank for that. It's not just your local Tasti D-Lite where you can find ice cream up here; scribes turn over garbage cans in back alleys looking for a scoop.

    Teams of destiny are often surprises, and the Giants were one of them this year. The Yankees aren't often teams of destiny because every year they don't win a championship is considered a failure here. The Red Sox were one in 2004. North Carolina State and Villanova were in the 1980s. No matter how much bigger and better their next opponent seemed to be on paper, the game was still played and the team that maybe had more heart or focus won. Keeping things east coast, you might say the Rangers were a team of destiny when they won the Stanley Cup in 1994. And keeping things on ice, perhaps the biggest example of divine intervention in sports was Team USA in 1980.

    I even think my hometown Cleveland Indians were a team of destiny in 1995. Though they didn't win the World Series, they reached that coveted final round for the first time in forever, giving still title-starved sports fans in that great city something to cheer about all summer long. When they weren't putting up double figures on the scoreboard, they were mounting ninth-inning comebacks. There really was some divine intervention on the lake that year.

    Eli Manning certainly deserves to hoist that trophy all week long, but what often happens to hot goalies who lead their overachieving NHL teams to a deep postseason run will likely befall him and his loveable Giants. Reality will set in the following season, and suddenly that laser focus that earned them 11 straight road wins isn't nearly sharp enough to mount another championship season.

    ESPN KUDOS: I watched the Ohio State-Michigan basketball game Tuesday night, and here's where ESPN's sports machine makes a difference: Its sideline photographer at Columbus' Value City Arena saw some geeky student flash an impromptu 8x11 piece of paper with "TERRELLE PRYOR, PLEASE COME TO OHIO STATE," a message to the highly coveted next Vince Young iteration, a high school star who's narrowed his choices to Ohio State and Michigan, a senior quarterback who might announce Wednesday where he'll play his college ball next fall. It's not the job of that photographer to know who Pryor is, but regardless of the position you're applying for, you'd better know your sports if you want a job at ESPN. He said something to a producer, who told announcers Brent Musberger and Steve Lavin they were going to show that sign, and the duo spent a minute or two talking about Pryor, adding to a stellar broadcast. That's one of the things for which I'll give ESPN credit.

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    Monday, February 04, 2008


    Enough with the Super Bowl hyperbole. Sunday's game was not the best game in NFL history, nor was it the biggest upset in all of sports.

    But because of our short memories and closed-minded need to categorize everyone and everything, I heard such claims from the media today.

    Now I'm not quite the historian for Super Bowls as I think I am with NCAA basketball tournaments the last 25 years or so, but off the top of my head, even the exciting finish might not have been the most thrilling in Super Bowl history. Right now I'm thinking about Joe Montana's late drive against the Bengals in 1989, and more recently, New England's Adam Vinatieri won Super Bowls with field goals, one a game-ender (2002) and the other with nine seconds left (2004).

    And now that the season is over, here is my NFL offseason wish list:

    + Chris Berman and Stu Scott are on the next plane that crashes.
    + Emmitt Smith works on his English, starting with "Hand Hand Finger Thumb."
    + New York fans at work shut up about Brady, Belichick and 18-1. Just one day of it has made me nearly suicidal.
    + The Browns keep Derek Anderson, and if they have to deal somebody, make it unproven Brady Quinn, perhaps in exchange for a first-rounder on defense. As it stands now, Cleveland does not have a first-round pick.
    + ESPN gets over itself and the New York-Boston angle from yesterday's Super Bowl. Had the exact same game taken place between, say, Detroit and Houston, folks would not be dropping the Best-Super Bowl-Ever tag.
    + Fans and media alike realize that Tony Romo is merely a good quarterback, but not the next Brett Favre.
    + Favre comes back and takes the Packers to the Super Bowl, where he hoists the Lombardi Trophy and then retires the next day.

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    Sunday, February 03, 2008


    Everyone has an opinion on Brady's ankle, but how come no one's talking about that obscene growth on Belichick's lip?

    MORE SUPER NOTES: On ESPN Game Day, I was pleasantly surprised to hear some refreshing honesty from analyst Ron Jaworksi. The fellas were talking about the controversy surrounding the Patriots' videotaping habits.

    Jaworski said, basically, anything you can do to get an edge, do it. Kind of like counting cards, his backup quarterback with the Rams in the 1970s studied the opponents' play-calling in one particular game. Midway through the second quarter, the backup finally figured out a call or a formation, and knew a blitz was coming, so he threw a red towel on the ground and Jaworski picked up on it as the Rams' offense broke the huddle. Sure enough, Jaws audibled at the line, found a wide open receiver over the middle of the field and the play went for a touchdown.

    Stealing signs like that seems low-budget compared to today's thievery possibilities, but for 30+ years ago, that was probably as high-tech for its time as videotaping other teams' tendencies seems today.

    And after Jaws told that story, Steve Young, another former quarterback and probably the smartest and most articulate of all NFL analysts right now, disagreed but the pair had to cut to a commercial. Would have been nice to see that argument play out.

    KRAUDED HOUSE: ESPN's little kid reporter, Jason Krause, usually annoys with that worthless "Takin' It To The House" segment, but his Super Bowl Media Day piece was excellent. He asked one player for some tips with the ladies, mistook Giants' backup QB Jared Lorenzen, aka The Hefty Lefty, for an offensive lineman and got kudos on his jacket from Tom Brady. Well done, kid. Now just fix that lisp in the offseason and perhaps you'll be able to turn those tips into real romance one day.

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    Friday, February 01, 2008

    Chris Berman Is An A-Hole

    Thanks to wall and leegero, who sent this in within an hour of each other Friday morning.

    This looks like it's old video, but if two of my senior correspondents who are also considered media insiders just saw it this morning, it must have just been released.

    Anyway, please raise your hand if you also dislike Chris Berman. And please keep track of how many times he says, "GEEEEEE men" in Super Bowl previews this weekend. And also be aware of his bad ties and tiresome Classic Rock music references, and other weak gags. All around he sucks, and has sucked for a long time, and yet he's the face of ESPN's NFL coverage and probably will be for the next 20 years. He can board the Celebrity Death Plane (with colleague Stuart Scott) any time he likes. Here's the video:

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