Friday, February 02, 2007

How low can C's go?How 'bout 14 "L"s in a row.

Get rid of that look, guys, 'cause Larry Bird isn't coming through that door anytime soon. Neither is Kevin McHale or The Chief, either.

Please don't look, Red. Put down the cigar and get back to the conversation you are probably having with Wilt, Albert Einstein and Dr. James Naismith. And whatever you do DON'T pay any attention to the team you helped nurture from an NBA infant into a Green-clad dynasty.

The Boston Celtics lost its franchise-record 14th con-secutive game tonight, 100-89, to the Los Angeles Clippers (24-22) at TD FleetNorth Bank Garden Center. Think about how sad this is: not only are the C's (12-34) far, far below the level of the Lakers (28-19), the team that trounced them Wednesday night, but now Boston is failing at just being on a level with the friggin' Clippers.

How bad is this injury-riddled installment of the Green Machine? On top of the barrel-scraping record, which is currently slightly (1 loss) better than Memphis', they have now lost 11 in a row at the TDFNBGC to run their home record to 4-19 and have a horrendous 2-20 record since star Paul Pierce went down with a foot injury in December.

The only good news for Celtic Nation? Kevin Durant had a No.1 draft pick-like 37-point, 23-rebound performance against Texas Tech the other night.

So we got that going for us.

BTW, good related piece here by the Sports Guy, who says it's okay to wish for your team to tank it in order to get the number 1 pick. I disagree. Remember what happened to Pitino in 1997?


Concussions causing serious problems for many players

Ted Johnson was a hero with New England but is now a shell of a man due to the effects of concussions

An invisible ailment has been plaguing many of our sports stars for years and although the condition is difficult to pin down the results can be devastating and even fatal.

Concussions have been a part of contact sports since the dawn of competition, they just weren't diagnosed as such back in the "old days." Back then players just got "knocked silly" or had the wind knocked out of them and then went right back out on the field. A study by the Poynter Center states that around 10% of all athletes involved in contact sports suffer a concussion each year.

Now we know that concussions and their debilitating effects can cause long-term damage to the sufferers, especially when multiple or severe such injuries occur. Some players who have retired prematurely due to concussions include Ney York Islanders Hall of Fame center Pat La-Fontaine, Pittsburgh Steelers receiver and current ESPN analyst Merrill Hodge, and just yesterday San Francisco Giants catcher Mike Matheney was forced to hang up his gear due to the effects of multiple concussions.

Two recent stories have really brought the issue of concussions among athletes to light. Back in November right here in Tampa former Philadelphia Eagles great Andre Waters killed himself with a shotgun. His death was puzzling at first, but it was later discovered that the former safety, known for his bone-crushing, borderline illegal style of playing, was left severely depressed and debilitated by brain damage due to the effects of too many concussions. That state of mind most likely led to his untimely suicide at the age of 44.

Now comes this sad story from the Globe's Jackie McMullen about former Patriot linebacker Ted Johnson. Johnson was a stalwart on defense for all three Pats' Super Bowl-winning squads and helped form a devastating linebacking corps with Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel.

Johnson suffered multiple concussions during his 11-year career, at least 30 by his estimation, but it was a pair of back-to-back bell ringers that he endured in the 2002 pre-season that has left him depressed, confused and on the brink of destruction. The first was inflicted by a Giants running back in an exhibition game and the second just 4 days later in practice. Johnson claims he did not want to participate in contact drills so quickly after the concussion from the game, which left him feeling "out of it", but that head coach Bill Belichick had left the blue "contact" jersey for Johnson to wear that day.

Immediately after entering the practice Johnson suffered another concussion after a routine, non-violent tackle. Johnson was furious with New England trainer Jim Whalen for making him wear the blue jersey, but Whalen informed him that it was Belichick's decision.

Now Johnson is so f'd up that he suffers from symptoms that are more befitting of an Iraq war vet than a vet of 11 seasons on the gridiron: depression, dizziness, excessive drowsiness, fatigue, irritability, memory loss, poor concentration, ringing in the ears, and acute sensitivity to noise.

And the fact that he directly blames the Hooded Genius and the Patriots training staff for allowing him to get to this state makes the story all the more stunning.

Not only is this a staggering indictment of Belichick, providing a disturbing inside look at how a team urges its players to play through certain situations while sacrificing the player's health, but it is an extremely sad situation for Johnson, a gregarious, fun-loving fan favorite during his career with the Pats.

To hear what he is like now makes me sick to my stomach. To think that men like Johnson and Waters and all the others would give so much of themselves just to entertain us armchair critics says all you need to know about the importance of sports in today's society.

Unfortunately they are important enough to risk your life for.


Thursday, February 01, 2007

Random blogging...

First and foremost I would like to wish a Happy Birthday to my better half, my wonderful wife T., who turns 29 today. Again.

Hope you had a great birthday honey, and I'm sorry that inflatable Brad Pitt doll never arrived.

In other news I had my first article published on Associated Content. For those of you unfamiliar with AC it is a site that publishes articles from amateur writers like myself as well as from freelancers and professionals. Basically they pay people like me to do what I have been doing for free all this time. Pretty cool.

Anyway, since I have only 1 piece published to date I will give you the link to that and when I build up my home page I will supply that connection.

Some other things that have caught my attention lately....

4 I couldn't care less about the Super Bowl. I am so sick of hearing the same old stories ("will Payton finally win the big one?"; "will Rex Grossman implode like a supernova?"; "how long have Lovie and Tony been black coaches?") that I am completely abstaining from sports talk radio, selectively perusing and have cut Sportscenter completely out of my diet. (Speaking of that Lovie/Tony comment, I read an interesting article by the Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi about the original version of that question, infamously uttered by a reporter to Redskins quarterback Doug Williams before Super Bowl XXII. Only it never happened.)

4The Boston Celtics are a complete disgrace. The once proud team lost its franchise record-tying 13 straight game, 10th in a row at home, to the Lakers the other night as Kobe Bryant blitzkrieged the C's for 43 points, including 7 3-pointers, 8 rebounds and 8 assists. The Shamrocks can set the Green record for futility tonight when the other L.A. team, the Clippers, roll into the TD FleetNorthBank Garden Center.

Long gone are the days of 40-1 home records and towel-waving jubilation. This pitiful edition of the lean, Green sputtering Machine possesses a putrid 4-18 mark at their home arena and the fans have sunk so low as to cheer for members of the other team. Not just any other player & team, but for Kobe the (alleged) Rapist Bryant and the Lakers. That's right as Bryant was nailing threes from improbable angles and generally making the entire Celtics roster look like AAU players the fans at the Whatever They're Calling It Now Arena started to cheer for Bryant and chanted "M-V-P."

Wow. I never thought I'd live to see the day. This behavior coming from fans who not only invented the "Beat L.A." chant but did so to serenade the Philadelphia 76ers after they knocked Boston out of the playoffs and were going on to play the Lakers in the 1982 Finals. The same fans who forced Jack Nicholson to shoot the Garden crowd the moon during the 1984 Finals after his choke sign aimed towards the home team backfired. That's how bad Celtics fans hated the Lakers.

Now they cheer for alleged rapists and, as a bewildered Doug Gottlieb reported on ESPN Radio (I can only listen at night- it's not as bad) that night after the game, were high-fiving Bryant as he left the court at the end of the game.

Thankfully Red was not around to witness this blasphemy.

4It looks like Lane Garrison is going to have a serious case of deja vu pretty soon. According to TMZ it seems as if the artist formerly known as Tweener was high on coke and blasted on Grey Goose when he crashed his SUV and killed a teenage boy a couple of months ago in L.A. It's just another example of how fame can go to a guy's head, even if that guy is a C-lister just coasting on his 15 minutes of TV fame by using it to get into Hyde and charm 17-year-olds with his line-snorting and Goose-chugging abilities.
How sweet would it be to be the judge that brings the hammer down on this guy? I can see it now: "Mr Garrison, you will hereby officially be known as Tweener, and you are sentenced to 10 years at Fox River Penitentiary, where you will share a bunk with the real T-Bag."

Talk about life freakin' imitating art. BTW, what's with the rash of celeb accidents lately? Garrison might want to angle for a coed cell with pop singer/actress Brandy (Moesha), who not only faces vehicular manslaughter charges for an accident that killed a driver back in December, but she is also being sued for $50 million by the victim's family. Yikes.

At least she wasn't snorting blow with the guy beforehand.

4Great installment of the NBC Comedy Block tonight. All-new eps of all four shows including a hilarious edition of The Office, complete with lap dances, Michael unhooking Dwight's bra, and more Jim/Pam intrigue. Sadly my new favorite character Andy was noticeably absent after his meltdown last week, but thankfully there was a great cameo from David Champ Kind Koechner as Michael's buddy Todd Packer.
If Andy's off the show for good I'm putting in my vote for Packer to become a regular. Oh yeah, great subliminal shoutout by Jim to Tampa-based search engine Wikipedia.

Also, the more I watch Alec Baldwin on 30 Rock the more I am thinking that he might be the funniest man on TV, slightly ahead of Steve Carell. The way Baldwin delivers Jack Donaghy's snappy lines, with a hushed confidence and biting wit, the more I am convinced he deserved to win both the Globe and SAG Awards for his portrayal. When Jack clips off lines like "I slay polar bears and bed supermodels" or "I've showered with Greta Van Susteren" you can't help but think "how many takes does these guys have to go through to nail the scene?"

Lastly for all those Duke Haters out there I'm sure last night's last-second overtime loss will warm the cockles of your black hearts. Enjoy!

Starting tomorrow I will do my best OJ imitation, meaning I am going to start my "if I cared about the Big Game, here's what I believe would happen" posts.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Stop the madness! DirecTv continues soul-stealing ways

That was my reaction when I heard the startling news that the evil powers in control at Major League Baseball have joined forces with the heathens at satellite giant DirecTv and, like their NFL brethren, decided to take the money and run thus screwing over their loyal fanbase for the sake of a few million bucks.

With all the things going on lately (holidays, NFL playoffs, the Barbaro saga) I somehow missed the initial announcement that MLB was selling its Extra Innings package to DirecTv for a staggering $700 million dollars over the next 7 years. What that means for transplanted fans like me is that I have to pony up for a satellite dish (and all the heartache that comes with it) if I want to watch the Sawx this year, other than the 19 times they play the Rays and the 20 times they should be on national TV now that they've got international sensation Dice-K.

So instead of watching about 145 Bosox games (including nearly every game of the magical '04 campaign) like I have for the past 4 years I will now be forced to watch an entire season of Devil Rays baseball.

There oughtta be a law...

It seems that In Demand, a service carried by cable providers all over the country, only offered MLB a mere $70 mil/year to renew their contract with MLB. The $30 mil/year difference was the deal breaker for commissioner Darth Selig & his minions who decided that they would take the upfront money and hope it will defer the certain loss of revenue they will have when they lose a good chunk of the currently 750,000 subscribers to Extra Innings.

Now baseball fans are up shit's creek just like NFL fans. And if you happen to be a major fan of both sports like myself, well then you are feeling like poor Ned Beatty after those inbred rednecks got a hold of him.
I am seriously in a state of depression over this turn of events and I am not sure how I am going to react once Opening Day rolls around and I am stuck with the 3 crummy ESPN offerings plus the D-Rays. I was already marking the calendar according to my "must-see" games:
- Mon, Apr 2nd- season opener @ KC
-Thu, Apr 5/Fri, Apr 6- probable debut of Matsuzaka
-Tues, Apr 10- Fenway opener vs. SEA
-Fri, Apr 20/Sat, Apr 21- First Stanks series @ Fenway(Sunday game will be on ESPN)
-Tues, May 28- Trot returns to Fenway w/ CLE
-Fri, Jun 8- Sox' annual Interleague ass-kicking begins @ ARI
-Fri, Jun 22- Sox East @ Sox West II (aka San Diego; LAD is Sox West I)
-Thu, Jul 12- second half starts/Beckett shuts down

The list goes on and on but you get the point. This is devastating news, the type of news that can cause a grown man to weep, or at least blog uncontrollable about the evils of modern capitalism, for my only other options are:

1.) Buy a satellite
A thought I have pondered for years now so I can sit in my house and watch the Pats instead of travelling to the local watering hole to get berated by irate FILL IN THE BLANK fans, yet one that makes no sense when you consider the fact that MY WIFE WORKS FOR BRIGHTHOUSE NETWORKS!

2.)Watch the games on
As enticing as paying to watch a small window on my computer try to keep up with the real time action of the game sounds I just haven't been able to embrace this concept yet. Unfortunately I may have to because...

3.)Living at the sports bar is out of the question
Unless I am willing to get a divorce and go into debt over the love of my Sox this option is really not an option. I might be able to sneak a game or 2 every month in at the local watering hole, but compared to 20+/month it'll feel more like a slow torture than a savory treat.

I am now officially in depression. It's going to take a lot of squinting at my computer screen and a decent season by the Rays to get me out of this.

On second thought a satellite doesn't sound like such a bad idea.


Sunday, January 28, 2007

Oscar Nominee Review: Little Miss Sunshine

Little Miss Sunshine
: R
Starring: Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Abigail Breslin,
Steve Carell, Alan Arkin, Paul Dano
Directed By: Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris
Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes

Nominated for:
-Best Picture
-Best Supporting Actor (Arkin)
-Best Supporting Actress (Breslin)
-Best Original Screenplay

What do you get when you cross a heroin-addicted grandfather, an angst-riddled teenage son, a perpetually peppy father, an emotionally burdened mother, a suicidal gay uncle and a precocious & preternaturally mature daughter and throw them in a dilapidated old VW Microbus?

The Magical Misery Tour that is Little Miss Sunshine.

The reviews on IMDb for this charming little indie fave run the gamut from "a pathetically boring and unimaginative film" to "simply perfect." Too many of the reviews, however, are along the lines of "how can a simple little film like that be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar?"
What those myopic morons don't realize is that the beauty & genius of this film is its simplicity as the members of the Hoover family take the viewers on a non-stop emotional roller coaster ride that leaves you feeling happy, sad, satisfied and wanting more all at the same time. Last time I checked those were all qualities of an Oscar-caliber film.

The story centers around young Olive (Breslin, at 10 the 4th youngest nominee ever), an 11-year old "normal" kid living in Albuquerque with her decidedly abnormal family. Olive entered a local beauty pageant and finished second, but when the winner was disqualified due to a diet drug scandal, Olive becomes the region's representative to the annual Little Miss Sunshine Pageant in Redondo Beach, CA. Olive's high-pitched reaction to learning that she has been selected is one of the film's best early moments and immediately endears lovable little Olive to the viewer.

In order to get to the pageant, the entire clan has to pile into the run-down old yellow bus and travel 800 miles in two days to reach the pageant on time. Sounds simple enough, right? It would be if the family wasn't comprised of enough social misfits and psychological basket cases to fill a month's worth of Dr. Phil episodes.

Mom Sheryl (Collette), the counterweight to the emotional pitfalls of each of her family mem-bers, is fearful that her husband Richard (Kinnear) has blown all of their savings on his cock-amamie "9 Steps" motivational program. Richard is an obnoxious preacher of over-achievement who is prone to spout pearls of wisdom like "sarcasm is for losers trying to bring winners down to their level," among other gems, yet he cannot get one person to believe in his nine step plan for a better life, including most of his family.

Sheryl's parenting skills are really put to the test when she is forced to take in her disturbed brother, Frank. Frank has got a couple of issues he's dealing with. He was fired from his prestigious teaching job (he was the No. 1 Proust scholar in the country) after his boyfriend left him for the one man in their field above Frank so he subsequently tried to kill himself. Now, he has become a card-carrying member of the Hoover brood where he must share a bedroom with 17-year-old Dwayne (Dano, The King) lest he try to 'off' himself again.

Dwayne is a typical teenager who mopes around the house looking like the world's about to end while trying to cope with the insanity that permeates his daily life. There's really only one strange thing about Dwayne--he has taken a vow of silence in honor of Friedrich Nietzsche until he achieves his ultimate dream of being accepted into the Air Force Academy to become a fighter pilot. We learn that Dwayne has been faithful to his vow for 9 months now, a feat that Richard truly respects for the monumental commitment Dwayne is making for something he believes in. In lieu of speaking, Dwayne writes all of his thoughts down on a notepad, a prop that provides a couple of classic tag lines for the movie.

Rounding out the crazy crew is Richard's irascible father, Edwin Hoover, better known as Grandpa (Arkin.) Grandpa has a few reprehensible tendencies, like the fact he loves to snort heroin, talk like a foul-mouthed sailor, and chase tail whenever possible ("f**k a lot of women" he tells Dwayne, "not just one, a lot"), but he loves Olive and has dedicated his days and nights to teaching her a routine for her pageant career.

Due to the lack of family funds (thanks to Richard) and Olive's usual pageant ride falling through, the entire family must travel to Redondo in order for Olive to be able to fulfill her dream of being crowned Little Miss Sunshine. The idea initially goes over like a lead balloon, especially with Dwayne who needs to be bribed by Sheryl with a paid trip to flight school in order to be persuaded, but quickly everyone agrees if for no other reason than their love of Olive. As soon as they climb into that little yellow bus, an adventure of Oscar-worthy pro-portions begins. One filled with plenty of side-splitting humor, tear-inducing pain, and real family bonding which is absent in so many of today's films and TV programs.

Needless to say, the road to Albuquerque is paved with many potholes; the first of which they encounter after stopping for breakfast. In the diner, we witness Richard's obsessive personality damaging Olive's psyche when he attempts to persuade her to forgo sweets like chocolate ice cream because "Miss America's aren't fat, are they?" Upon leaving, the bus suffers the first of many maladies--a stripped clutch. The garage worker tells them it will be five days until he can get a replacement part for the old vehicle because "it's the weekend" but also enlightens them to the fact that they can start it in 3rd gear if they can get a rolling start.

Thus, one of the most memorable and amusing "running" gags in all of cinema is born; the entire family push-starting the bus every time they need to get it started. The sight of 70-something Grandpa, lazy Dwayne, tiny Olive, weak Mom, and the "No. 1 Proust scholar in the country" running, pushing, and then hopping into the moving vehicle brought tears to my eyes. It is a sight that never gets tired, despite the numerous times we see it throughout the course of the film. It's no coincidence that the scene was chosen as the backdrop for the awesome theatrical poster depicted above.

Without giving too much away (you know I'm not into *spoilers*), other events transpire along the route; some tragic and others hilarious but often tied together with commingling tears of laughter & sadness. At some points, you will literally find yourself ready to cry one moment and then laugh hysterically the next. It takes a very special film to be able to authentically elicit those emotions as this film does, one of the many reasons why I am convinced it is undoubtedly Best Picture material.

By the time the family arrives in Redondo, I remarkably found myself not caring about the outcome of the trip. It was yet another surefire sign of a great film--I cared so much about the characters and the life journey they were on that I didn't care if the end result was a pageant crown or bitter disappointment. The only thing I cared about was seeing if this lovable collection of middle class losers could hold on to whatever sense of twisted family unity they had.

Obviously, I stayed with it until the conclusion and was very glad I did because I would have missed one of the best movie endings in recent memory. Olive and family make it to the pageant 5 minutes late and must plead with a bitchy official who is reluctant to let them enter. A sympathetic employee (terrific cameo by Wallace Langham ) allows Olive to enter but it doesn't take long for the family to discover what a freak show the pageant world really is.

As Richard and Dwayne try to convince Sheryl that allowing Olive to participate would only serve to embarrass & humiliate the chubby, bespectacled Olive, who they now realize is obviously not beauty queen material, Olive insists on following through on her dream. What ensues is a finale reminiscent of Napoleon Dynamite, only much more rewarding. Like that film's lead character's surprising expression of repressed talent, this is one that will stay with the viewer for a long time to come.

In summary, this is one of the best films I have seen in a long time, depicting fragments of a broken family unit held together by a spunky 11-year-old girl and her rose-colored view of the world. The actors involved all give superb performances. It is as easy to understand how Breslin & Arkin were nominated as it is confusing to understand why Carell and Kinnear were not.

The only thing left to say is that it is a shame that the Academy did not nominate the directing duo Dayton & Faris for their work because it took special guidance to guide this spunky little film down the road to success.

Anyone who believes Little Miss Sunshine doesn't belong with the Hollywood heavyweights has never laughed at the sight of a VW MicroBus beeping down the highway with a rag-tag family inside holding onto each other for dear life.