Thursday, April 12, 2007

So long, Drew, and thanks for the memories

After 14 seasons and over 44,000 passing yards quarterback Drew Bledsoe decides to call it a career.

The Numbers:
-6, 717 pass attempts (5th all time)
-3,839 completions (5th)
-44, 611 pass yards (7th)
251 TDs (13th)

The Records:
-Passing attempts in a game (70, 1994)
-Pass attempts, season (641, 1994)
-Completions in a game (45, 1994)

Bledsoe was your prototypical NFL gunslinger: big, strong-armed and immobile

Ironically if you take a look at Drew Bledsoe's long and prolific NFL career you can trace the beginning and the end of it to one man...
...and they call him Tuna.

It was Bill Parcells who brought Bledsoe into the NFL in 1993 (not that he wasn't going to get in anyway, he was the No. 1 pick) and it was Parcells who helped show him the way out; as Cowboys coach his benching of Drew during a game in October was the last time Bledsoe would see action on an NFL field.

In between Bledsoe piled up numbers that are comparable with some of the all time-greats to ever play the position. He may not have won a championship while on the field (he did receive a ring for being a member of the Pats' 2001 championship team), but he went to two Super Bowls, 4 Pro Bowls and threw for more yards than all but 7 other quarterbacks in NFL history.

He was a gangly-but athletic kid coming out of Walla Walla, Washington when he enrolled at nearby Washington State, but by the time he ended his career at WSU he had set a number of school and Pac-10 records and was good enough to be taken number one overall in the draft. Parcells and the Pats chose Bledsoe over Notre Dame prospect Rick Mirer, a move that will go down as one of the greatest draft day decisions of all time.

After a couple of seasons in New England Drew had shown a propensity to be able to get the ball downfield and had taken the Pats from the laughingstock of the league (2-14) in 1992 to 10-6 and the playoffs two years later. By his fourth year in Foxboro he had the Pats back in the Super Bowl for the first time in a decade, although they would lose Super Bowl XXXI to Brett Favre and the Packers, 35-21.

It didn't matter; Drew was the king in Boston, like another Bird or Clemens, a sports icon that crossed all cultural lines who was genuinely liked by players, coaches and fans alike. He was on top of the world, and it looked certain that multiple championships and a Hall of Fame career was in the cards for the affable big guy.

Unfortunately a career that began with so much promise took a near-tragic turn that ultimately altered its course forever. In the second game of the 2001 season, Bledsoe was hit with a devastating tackle by the New York Jets' Mo Lewis after completing a pass, knocking him out of the game with an unknown injury. It was later discovered that the hit had sheared an artery in his stomach, which led to some serious internal bleeding, and if he hadn't received swift & proper medical treatment, he could have died that day.

But instead of Bledsoe the man suffering the ultimate loss it was merely Bledsoe the football player that lost everything he had worked so hard for. Stepping in to replace the Pats' field general was a little-known 6th round draft pick out of Michigan named Tom Brady. Faster than you could say Wally Pipp, Bledsoe would never see the field as a starter for New England again, and we all know what Brady has done with the chance he was given.

The rest of Bledsoe's career had some high points, but it was mostly filled with low expectations and disappointment over what might have been. He spent 3 seasons in Buffalo and another two with Dallas before he lost his starting role to Tony Romo last October. After the season the Cowboys cut the 35-year-old vet, and rather than try and pick up the pieces again and attempt to earn a Super Bowl ring on the field he decided the time was right to step down. The league is full of young, strong, fast and mobile QBs and Bledsoe is none of those things, so he wisely opted to get out of the way and let the new breed take over.

I will always have fond memories of Bledsoe from his days in New England. He was fun to watch, a class guy, and a true role model for kids and other athletes as well. Some people (a.k.a. my wife) have hinted that I had such a man-crush on him that I named my son after him, to which I say absolutely untrue.

Just because my son's name is Drew, and he was born in 1997, and I'm from Boston, and I own one of these...
... doesn't mean I'd name my child after him!

Thanks for the memories, Drew. See you at the Hall of Fame ceremonies in five years.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Random Blogging: Birkhead, Pacman and "nappy-headed hos"

That may seem like an odd assortment of tags, but consider these stories making news right now:

New NFL commish Roger Goodell has reacted swiftly and mercilessly to the trouble- making riff-raff infecting his league; talk radio kingpin/mumbling fossil Don Imus is embroiled in another controversy thanks to his severe, incurable case of diarrhea of the mouth; and Anna Nicole's babydaddy has finally been revealed, and boy is it going to take a long time to wipe the smile of that guy's face!

Let's recap a wild and weird few days in the on the pop culture grid.

-Goodell rains punishment down on NFL troublemakers
There's a new sheriff in the League, and his name is not Reggie Hammond, it's Roger Goodell. In a few short months the man who replaced Paul Tagliabue has come down hard on a couple of oft-troubled players, quickly making the previous regime look like the Wonder Years.

The new head honcho of the NFL hasn't enacted a complete new disciplinary program yet, but he still found it within his power to suspend the Titans trouble making DB/return specialist Adam "Pacman" Jones and his oft-arrested former West Virginia teammate Chris Henry of the Bengals for a total of 24 games next season under terms of the existing conduct policy.

Jones received one of the harshest, and most expensive suspensions in league history as he was banned for the entire 2007 season following his embarrassing strip club shooting incident in Vegas this February. That fiasco, in which he allegedly "rained" $81 Gs down on a bunch of strippers, resulting in a melee where 3 people were shot and a bouncer was paralyzed, was the final straw, and he now stands to lose $1.3 million in salary.

It was Jones' 10th run-in with law enforcement in the last few years, and he fast becoming just as well-known for hanging around with "the wrong crowd", League-speak for gang bangers and dope slangers, as he is for his spectacular interception & kickoff returns.

Another trouble-magnet from the world wide leader in that department is wide receiver Chris Henry. The second-year player out of WVU has been arrested more times in the past two years than Robert Downey Jr was during the '80s, and for that he will serve an 8-game suspension next season. His hi jinks, which range from DUI to possession of a firearm, will cost him roughly $200,000; lucky he isn't a big star or it would have cost him Pacman money.

But Sheriff Goodell isn't playing games with the image of the league anymore. With so many transgressions running the gamut from possession of a small armory (Tank Johnson) to the Viking's Booze Cruise he realized he had to act swiftly to curtail this kind of counter-productive (to profits) behavior. With the Players Association's blessing and at the urging of fans & media, Goodell has hit the players where he knows it hurts the most

In the wallet.

-Don Imus latest member of the Hollywood's Bigoted & Intolerant Club
When the talk radio veteran (and his sidekick/producer) yukked it up at the expense of the players from the Rutgers women's basketball team last Wednesday, he couldn't have realized the severity of the repercussions that would follow.

Trouble was he didn't seem to care, either.

Now Imus is facing a shitstorm of epic proportions; advertisers have pulled out of his radio show & its TV simulcast on MSNBC; he has been suspended from the show for two weeks beginning next Monday; and a slew of public figures, from Al Sharpton to Barack Obama, are calling for his outright ouster from the airwaves.

The reason for all the hoopla ocurred last Wednesday when Imus was on the air talking about the young ladies from the Rutgers team which had just lost in the Women's National Championship game, but you would have thought he was referring to some crack whores living in a van down by the river. He made comments about their tattoos, producer Bernard McGuirk classified the game vs. Tennessee as the "jigaboos versus the wannabes" and then Imus infamously uttered the most unoriginal description of a black women to come around in decades, "that's some nappy headed hos."

For some reason what was merely the latest in a long line of bigoted, insensitive and just downright unfunny quotes might be the one that gets this leatherfaced windbag off the air for good. He is currently in full-fledged Mel/Kramer mode, going on a nationwide apology tour and uttering the stock phrase rolled out by all celebs with good publicists in these situations: "I'm not that kind of person."

Look, dickhead, you've made a career of making stupid comments and putting your foot in your huge mouth, but this time you didn't mean it? Then how about when you called journalist Gwen Ifill a "cleaning lady", a Washington Post reporter a "beanie wearing Jewboy" or respected African American writer Bill Rhoden a "quota hire"? Did you mean those comments or not? I'm confused.

You see there's a difference between making jokes about people who do foolish things while in the public eye and just slamming innocent people because they are of a different color, religion or ethnicity.

But you're beginning to see that difference now, aren't you Don?
(sorry Mom, but I never liked this guy)

- Birkhead, not Howard K. Stern, father of Anna Nicole's daughter
After months of nauseating media coverage, innumerable potential candidates and one fucked up judge, the paternity of Anna Nicole Smith's daughter Dannielynn has finally been revealed:

Larry Birkhead, come on down, you're the proud possessor of a potential billion dollar lottery ticket!

When news broke that Birkhead was indeed the true father of Dannielynn, not Smith's lawyer/ lover/lackey Stern, I'm sure the first thing on his mind was the health and well-being of his little girl.

And his second though immediately after was "I'm rich, bitch!"


Monday, April 09, 2007

HBO Sunday Night review

The return of HBO's mob drama The Sopranos and Hollywood buddy comedy Entourage elevates television viewing to a whole 'notha level.

At around 9:03 PM on Easter night, as that blinding HBO screenshot turned my Samsung HD into a prop from Poltergeist and the thumping baseline of the Sopranos theme "Woke Up this Morning" by A3 started shaking my surround sound, a chill ran down my neck, goosebumps rose on my arms, and I thought... cool is it that creator David Chase decided to keep that obscure-but-totally-perfect song after all these years, preserving the best intro to one of the best television shows ever made?

Before long I was totally re-immersed in the life Soprano, hanging on every morsel of Jersey dialog, dissecting every scene in search of possible clues as to how the show will end, and mostly just smiling a wan smile knowing that this was the beginning of the end of my time with one of the best television families ever created.

And so began a terrific night of non-reality, non-celeb dog & pony show, non-broadcast network entertainment, an hour of the intense Sopranos along with 30 jam-packed minutes of Entourage to form a full 90 minutes of great, character-driven television. Since these two gems in the cable network's crown had so many similarities between them in their openers I decided I would do a tandem review, sorta like an intertwined pile of hairy mobsters & horny starlets.

Season 6 part II, Episode #78: "Soprano Home Movies"

The show begins with a flashback from a 2004 episode. Tony and Johnny Sack are talking shop in Johnny's backyard when seconds later the Feds invade the area, forcing Tony to flee on foot through the snow. What we didn't see then is that Tony dropped his gun as he stumbled in the drifts, a mistake that will come back to haunt him after a teenage neighbor retrieves the piece and takes it home.

Flash forward to 2007 and Tony & Carm are asleep in bed. Suddenly, loud pounding is heard throughout the house, prompting Carm to nervously ask "is this it?" As Tony peers through the blinds and sees cops swarming his yard we are led to believe the answer is "yes". But Carm was referring to the big Federal bust every mobster always fears, and this is just a bunch of local cops out to harass Tony by hauling him in on the 2-year old weapons charge.

Nevertheless the sight of the head of the family in the back of a squad car with cuffs on proved that this final mini-season of the Sopranos was underway with a bang, teasing us by showing what could possibly become of the man everyone wants to either emulate or emasculate.

What follows for the next 45 minutes is a lesson in Sopranos family values, where the only thing that's more whacked than their enemies are the familial ties that bind.

We learn that Tony & Carm had been planning to head upstate to celebrate Tony's 47th birthday at a lake house with Janice & Bobby, but the whole arrest thing kinda put a damper on Tony's spirits. Meadow is at home and (still) in school, but apparently her dentist husband/ Vitophobe Finn is out of the picture now; and trouble-making son AJ has "settled down" with his older Puerto Rican girlfriend Blanca and her young son. After Tony is bailed out and returns home, he takes one look at his son cuddling with the toddler and his girlfriend and decides that it might be a good idea to head upstate after all.

On the ride up Tony learns from his lawyer that the cops have dropped the charge, and once the couple hits the cabin the direction of these final 9 episodes starts to take shape. When Tony arrives at the house, which was inherited by Bobby from his father, he takes in the breathtaking view and says "you know I gotta admit it, every time, once you're up here, it's pretty great." Cue foreshadowing music, please.

A classic David Chase juxtaposition scene follows, as Bobby and Tony head into the woods and Bobby gives Tony his birthday present: an automatic, 800-rounds/clip AR-10 assault rifle. "Don't say anything to Carmela" Tony says like a schoolkid, as he then violently unloads a slew of rounds directly into the heart of the pristine New York wilderness. Pretty great, indeed.

Things appear to be going well for the family when Tony tosses Bobby an important job that had been promised to the now-incarcerated Johnny Sack. This could finally be the sign that Tony is willing to let his brother-in-law move up the corporate ladder. But after the sun goes down the booze starts flowing, and hours of Bombay Sapphire-fueled Monopoly paves the way for some hot-tempered family feuding.

The madness starts when Janice tells a story about how their dad shot their mom through her beehive hairdo when Tony & Janice were kids. Tony is enraged that Janice revealed the secret, and when Carm asks why he never told her the story he replies "because it makes us look like a fucking dysfunctional family." Absolutely classic line!

Anyway, things get intense when Tony starts flinging drunken slurs at his sister, at which point mild-mannered Bobby decides to stick up for his spouse and tells Tony to lay off. Tony appears to agree with the assertion that he crossed the line, until he mutters an even filthier crack, which sets Bobby off; he belts the don in the face and the two become embroiled in a full-blown grizzly-like brawl, complete with sucker punches, crotch shots, and enough blubber to supply an Alaskan fishing village for a month. When the dust settles Tony has been beaten pretty bad, and we realize that the lives of the men have been altered forever.

In the morning a nervous (for her wealth) Janice and (for his health) Bobby attempt to brush aside the incident, imploring Tony & Carm to stay the rest of the weekend. Bobby reminds Tony that they have a "business" meeting with some Canadians set up later, and they reluctantly agree to stay. Little did we know that Tony would come out of that meeting with a way to exact a little revenge on his sucker-punching brother-in-law.

The Canadians present a nice deal to Tony, providing valuable-but-expired osteo-perosis pills at a significantly reduced rate. In an effort to sweeten his end of the deal, Tony offers to help the 'canuck' get rid of his sister's pesky ex-husband, who is threatening to take her kid from her. As the Canadians leave to contemplate this, Tony casually turns to Bobby and asks him "you'll take care of this, right?" Bobby visibly gulps and slowly responds "sure", but learned earlier that despite his old man being known as the Terminator, Bobby is a virgin when it comes to a mobster's favorite pastime, killing.

Thus the complex wheels oiled by family loyalty, broken vows and regrettable decisions are set in motion on that perfect spring day in the New York wilderness. Bobby immediately heads out to fulfill his assignment, knowing there is no possible way for him to back down after what he did to Tony. He tracks the kid to a Montreal laundromat and blasts him with two shots, but leans too close and gets a piece of his shirt ripped off before fleeing the scene (note: earlier Bobby referred to not wanting to be a killer especially with the way DNA evidence is today, so I think it's safe to cue that foreshadowing music here, too.)

The ep ends with a somber Bobby returning to the lake, where he clutches his young daughter tightly as he ruefully stares at the placid scene. And with that the return of our favorite family drama had a little bit of everything: snappy one-liners, family issues, scenes both boring and plot-forming and, blessedly, a killing. Some things not included were a notably absent Christopher (save for a cameo in which Tony hangs up on him), Dr. Melfi (we see her in the previews for next week), Sil & Paulie (cameos) and no possible goomah for Tony-yet.

But don't worry, I'm sure a lot of things are going to change over the next 8 weeks.


Entourage: Season 3, Episode # 35 "Less Than 30"

We start out a few months down the road from where season 2 left off, and while some things have remained the same, others have changed dramatically. As Vince gets ready to celebrate his 30th birthday, E. is the voice of reason while Turtle frivolously spends their money, and Drama has finally landed a solid gig in Ed Burns' NBC pilot. Meanwhile Ari is still agenta-non-grata with Vince, who has a new agent and career direction following the disappointment of losing both "Medellin" and the Ramones pic.

The season kicks off with Drama in front of a gigantic billboard on a remote section of Sunset Blvd. promoting his new NBC series "Five Towns", a blatant rip-off of the failed NBC family crime drama The Black Donnellys. As Turtle snaps picture after picture ("it's digital, there is no waste" Drama assures him) Vince and E. pull up and immediately begin ragging Drama about taking a photo in front of his own billboard.

And just like that I was as easily sucked back into the lives of the four swinging Hollywood bachelor buddies as I was the brutal & bloody circle of friends of the previous show. There's just something about seeing these good-natured, fun-loving, BFFs do what they do, namely razz each other mercilessly, party like rock stars and spend money like it's made out of mere paper.

We are immediately introduced to Vince's new agent, who is unlike Ari in many ways. For one it's a she, as in Amanda, played by yummy Spy Kids mommy Carla Gugino. Amanda has taken her new client in a different direction, steering Vince clear of indie projects and high-profile box office fluff in favor of more 'serious actor'-esque work. When she proposes an adaptation of an Edith Wharton period romance called The Glimpses of the Moon to be directed by Sam American Beauty Mendes, Vince & E eagerly agree to read it over and get back to her immediately.

But first things first: they must celebrate Vinnie's impending B-day. Amanda gets the boys courtside seats to the Lakers game, and who do you figure is there but TV land's own version of Jack Nicholson, Ari Gold. Thus begins a hilarious homage to high school-era crushes, with Ari obviously jealous of the new girl in Vince's life, and, still pining for the one client he truly cared for, he vows to get Vince back by using any means necessary.

As the boys give Vince's their opinions as to whether Ari should be invited to the party (no exes at a birthday party, never, never, never" says Drama) Vinnie & E agree to give Ari a sitdown- over coffee- to feel out the situation. Awkward as the meeting may be (kind of feels like I'm trying to fuck you guys" Ari says. "Are you?" E responds), they soon realize what Ari's intentions are, and it involves some pretty heavy courting.

That includes giving Vince a copy of the script for the supposedly out of circulation Medellin as a birthday present while deriding Amanda's paltry offerings: "the Lakers game, the fucking Lakers game?! I put him on the court on fucking Arbor Day and that's her present? God, she's so fucking wrong for him." And this gem to E: "do you know Edith Wharton? It's always the same story "guy can't fuck the girl, cause those were the times; can Vince really relate to that?" Cue the John Hughes theme music.

By now Turtle's plans for Vince's bash have gone way "overboard', as in an 800-person guest list, and E orders him to come up with a way to fund the party because he is cutting off his share at $30 grand. When Drama suggests switching to generic alcohol, Turtle comes up with a brainstorm that will allow the gang to have its Kobe beef and eat it, too.

The bash turns out to be a narcissistic extravaganza on board the Queen Mary, which Turtle had sponsored by materialistic icons like Red Bull, Carvel, Victoria's Secret and Skyy Vodka. But the real fireworks do not involve the pyrotechnics display but the head-butting between Amanda and Ari over his offering her client an unavailable script. Ari insists the role is coming open and begs Vince to meet with him for one minute, where he proceeds to confess that he still wants Vince (presumably as a client), telling him "I know you better than she does, and I can get you anything you need." Vince responds by saying "I thought you just wanted to be friends?", to which Ari replies "I can't, I care about you too much." Fucking priceless!

In the end Vince rebuffs Ari's advances, telling him he "needs to move on" because he has (oh, burnt!) just as Amanda & E come out and beckon Vince to come cut his cake. As Ari passes Amanda he whispers "he'll be back" in her ear, to which the she responds with the line of the night:

"Do you want me to walk you to your car? This town isn't safe for bitches." Double burn!

Yet in the end Vince pulls a Vince Being Vince moment when he tells E and Amanda to put the Wharton project on hold just in case Ari's right about Medellin becoming available. As another awesome outro, the chunky & funky hip hop clubber Lapdance by N.E.R.D. plays I was left thinking what a great way to break in a new season. Or is it a new half of an old season?

Either way my epic opus is complete, just in time for the next installment to roll around. I tried to keep it short, but with so much content crammed into a mere 90 minutes, it's hard to decide what to leave out.

I'd better get an editor as these seasons progress.


Sunday, April 08, 2007

An easter feast even a Jew can love

First I want to wish a Happy Easter to all my Catholic family & friends. If you're like me your day has consisted of morning mass, Easter dinner, an egg hunt followed by "watching" the Masters while dozing on the couch.

On the other hand my family members of the Jewish faith probably spent the day shopping at Lord & Taylor.

If that sounds familiar to anyone raise your hand and say "praise the lord."

Now that the business end of Resurrection Sunday is out of the way we can get down to consuming some serious leftovers tonight. There is a feast of epic proportions on tap on the tube this Easter eve, and I plan on doing some damage to my DVR's in order to keep up with all the offerings.

Let's all join hands, bow our heads and look at the healthy plate that has been so generously placed before us...

Red Sox at Rangers 8:00 PM ESPN & ESPN HD
The first regular edition of SNB of the season, not counting that "we gotta be first" opener last week, just happens to feature everyone's favorite team, the Sox, playing in Texas against Sammy Sosa and the Rangers.

Curt Schilling will take the mound for the first time since he got clubbed by Kansas City on Opening Day last Monday, and knowing him he will be hell-bent to atone for that performance (how'd you like that timely phraseology?)

Schill will be opposed by Vincente Padilla, but it won't matter if the Ranger's starter was Vincente Fox if the Boston bats don't begin producing some runs; in 5 games the team is batting .244 with 1 homerun and averaging just over 3 runs/game.

This game will keep everyone occupied for an hour until the return of you know who at dusk...

...that's right, Tony Soprano is back just in time to carve up your Easter bunny and shove Easter eggs down your everlovin' gullet...

The Sopranos, 9:00PM, HBO & HBO HD
That's right everyone's favorite sinners force their way back into our lives for a limited run before retiring to that great syndication haven in the sky. Tonight's show marks the beginning of the end of the mob saga that not only redefined how we look at La Costra Nostra like nothing has since the Godfather, but the groundbreaking show also helped to reshape television.

Without the Sopranos there is no Rescue Me, The Shield, Nip/Tuck or even Boston Legal. The drama created by David Chase began with little fanfare in 1997 but soon blossomed into a full-blown Pop Culture Phenomenon, breaking all kinds of records for cable viewers gained and cast members slain.

Now that Chase has decided the show has run its course (last year's ridiculous Vito/Johnnycakes plot ensured he was right) we will only get see "family" members like Tony & Carmela, Bobby & Janice, Christopher, Sil, Paulie, A.J. and let's not forget about Meadow for another 9 hours. After that it's off into the sunset, or more likely for these guys, down to the bottom of the Atlantic like Big Pussy.

Whatever happens and no matter how silly or far fetched the threads may be in this abbreviated swan song season, I know I will be watching intently. A show like this only comes around once in a generation, and the worst episodes of the Sopranos make the best eps of other shows seem like dog shit.

Besides, if I could make it through this past season of Prison Break, I can handle anything Chase throws my way.

Entourage 10PM, HBO & HBO HD
On the heels of that somber & severe hour of mob drama is HBO's latest P.C.P., the show that tracks the hilariously hip life of Mark Wahlberg's funky bunch of Hollywood cling-ons: pretty-boy actor Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) his manager Eric (Kevin Connolly), his wannabe actor brother Johnny (Kevin Dillon) and their ultra-dependant party-loving homeboy Turtle (Jerry Ferrara.)

Back for a third season after the first two took the nation by storm (and the creators by surprise- sound familiar?), the show will pick up where season 2 left off, namely with Vinnie separated from former agent and close firend Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven.) After going behind Vince's back and blowing a couple of roles for Vince (namely Pablo Escobar in Medellin and Joey Ramone in a Ramones biopic), Eric ended last season by going Donald Trump on Ari; "you're fired" is where we left off, and you can be sure it won't take long to pick right back up there, becasue we all know the Vince/Ari/Eric dynamic is what makes the show work.

Expect plenty of good-natured banter & ribbing between Vinne and the members of his posse, brother Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) and Turtle in the first couple of episodes until whatever storyline producer Doug Ellin and the writers decide to take.

Whatever happens this season, be it another Vegas trip, Playboy mansion party or comic book convention, you can be sure to count on three things:

1.) Vinnie & Ari will hug it out and make up- the show is nothing without the egomaniacal Ari.

2.) there will be plenty of big-name cameos (past guest lists included James Cameron, Ed Burns, Mandy Moore and Martin Landeau)

3.) the chicks will be hot, the music will be cutting edge, the booze will be flowing and the grass will be smokin' as we hop back on board that inside-Hollywood tour bus and go along for a fun, frantic ride

If those choices don't float your boat there is also the next two episodes of Discovery Channel Planet Earth, Deal or No deal, Amazing Race and Desperate Housewives.

But for me it will be a night spent with Big Papi, Tony, Vince and the rest of the paisans.

Hey, it is Easter, right?