Friday, June 15, 2007

Who's your daddy? Spurs sweep Cavs

LeBron became a father (again) early Thursday morning, then he & his team got bitchslapped like newborns by the Spurs en route to their 4th title
The giddy yet reserved Spurs raise another championship trophy

Thank you, Cleveland.

Thanks for not dragging this lopsided series out any longer than absolutely necessary, because if these teams had to play any more games over this weekend, the television ratings would have given new meaning to the phrase "friends & family only."

Instead of making the American public go through that kind of misery, Cleveland did the right thing and succumbed to the inevitable eventuality of San Antonio achieving its fourth title in the last nine years (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007), putting up a fight till the end but ultimately coming up just short, losing 83-82.

Tony Parker, a.k.a. the Luckiest Man on the Face of the Planet, was named the Finals MVP
after he averaged nearly 24 points/game and was a major offensive catalyst in three of the four Spurs wins.

3-time champion, Finals MVP, and engaged to one of the hottest women on the planet-dontcha just fucking hate this guy!

LeBron scored 24 points after his girlfriend gave birth to their second child at around 1:oo am, but he was 10-30 from the field and did not shoot the ball well all series (36%)

Tim Duncan racked up his fourth title while Parker notched his third and first MVP trophy just a few weeks before his Paris wedding to Eva Longoria, who wept court side when her man's name was announced as the MVP.

Everybody now- awwwwwwwwwww! (Lucky bastard!)

Anyway, so now that's over and everyone can get around to doing whatever it is they do when the NBA isn't on. And judging by the abysmal ratings for this series, that would be exactly the same thing they do when the NBA is on.

King James and his paupers surprised everyone and had a nice run, but unfortunately it all came to a crashing halt. Now all they need to do is find a coach with balls, a guard who can distribute the rock so James doesn't always have to, and a big man who doesn't have lead feet (Ilgauskas), hands of stone (Varejao) or a stupid tuft of hair on the back oif his neck (Gooden.)

Until then, here's some more pictures from the last NBA game of the 2006-07 season.


Move over Ashley; we have a new "Hottest Sports Fan"

Do you think she was taking a picture of me?!


Spurs: 2007 NBA Champions


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

NBA Finals: Thanks for coming, Cleveland

The Spurs are one win away from title #4 after an ugly win in C-Town
Spurs 75, Cavs 72
High score: James, 25
High rebound: Ilgauskas, 18
High Assist: James 7

This non-call on Bowen did not decide GM3- the Cavs inability to seize the game did

The game started with an incredible, Hendrix-esque rendition of the National Anthem by slide guitar magician Ben Harper (wikitrivia: he's married to Laura Dern-yowza!) that brought the already overly-enthused crowd to it's feet and had the players ready to rock & roll.

In fact the whole opening scene for the first NBA finals game in the city's history was befitting a summer Hollywood blockbuster, from the introduction of Tim Duncan first to Lord Vader's theme, to the ear-splitting roar that rose through the crowd when the PA announcer finally introduced King James last amid a cornea-searing display of pyrotechnics.

Unfortunately, then the game began.

The Spurs and Cavs combined to set basketball back 50 years as the two teams managed to score the second-fewest points in a Finals game since dawn of the shot clock era in 1954-55.

They were on pace to shatter the record of 145, held by Ft Wayne & Syracuse in 1955, when the teams had tallied just 130 points (67-63) with 4 1/2 minutes to play, but a late flurry fueled by back-to-back threes and a bunch of frees kept them from the ignominious achievement.

As poorly as both teams shot (Spurs- 41%, Cavs 37%) and as ugly as a game that's 40-38 at halftime and 55-50 after three quarters can be, the thing actually came down to a thrilling conclusion, which is more than can be said for the first two games of the series.

That's because San Antonio, which turned a five-point deficit near halftime into a five-point lead going into the fourth quarter, tried every way humanly possible to give this game to the Cavs.

Want proof? Tim Duncan shot 6-17 (14 points) and grabbed only nine rebounds (the Spurs were out-boarded by Cleveland 48-41); Tony Parker was 7-17 for 17 points, but he did hit one of the clutch treys at the end that may have sealed the MVP for him; and sixth man extraordinaire Manu Ginobili (0-7) nearly dropped a goose egg, netting just three points, all on free throws in the final minute.

The only way the Spurs held the lead was the disparity from the 3-point arc; San Antonio shot a blistering 10-19 (53%), while Cleveland was an atrocious 3-19 (16%), including misses on its 14 of its first 15 attempts-yikes!

Even still the Cavs had plenty of opportunities to take this one back and salvage this series in the final minutes. After taking a 10-point lead at 67-57 with 6 1/2 to play, San Antonio went on a five-minute drought where it missed three shots and turned the ball over three times.

But after Cleveland cut the lead to two, 67-65, on two James (25 points, 8 rebs, 7 ass) free throws, the moment was ripe for the Cavs to snatch the lead, the game, and bring some respect to the city and these woefully rated Finals.

Alas Cleveland could not get over the hump, thanks to some questionable decison making by James (passing it to Varejao down low-why?) and the foul shots by Ginobili, and the Cavs chance to knock some of the bite out of the Spurs and extending this series past four games was lost.

That's why the "controversial" play on James at the end was really more like a minor inconvenience rather than an outrageous oversight that could have changed the game.

LeBron was trying to get free for the game-tying trey with five seconds left, and as he came around the top of the circle, Bowen flailed at him and brushed his shoulders & back, but James still got off a good, unadulterated shot that hit the the rim and came tantalizingly close to going in.

Was Bowen trying to foul James on the final possession with the Spurs up by two and just five seconds to play? Of course, he and his coach admitted as much after the game, but James wasn't in the act of shooting anyway, so it's uncertain if he would have been awarded three frees.

No matter; after initially expressing outrage at the non-call, James backed off in the media room, saying the brush did not affect his shot and he simply missed the 28-footer that could have miraculously tied the game.

Classy move, Bron Bron.

Because he knows the series is all over but the crying.

You know things are bad when the anthem performance is the best part of the game

And there could be a lot of tears flowing into Lake Erie by Thursday night.


Monday, June 11, 2007

The Sopranos finale: It's all over but the bitching

Episode 86: "Made in America"

"And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, Ill say it clear,
I'll state my case, of which I'm certain."

"I've lived a life that's full.
I've traveled each and every highway;
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way."

--Frank Sinatra

With a heavy emphasis on music in the final episode of this thing we loved called The Sopranos, I'm surprised creator David Chase didn't use those fitting lyrics from one of the greatest entertainment/mob connectors in American history, for the words could have been spoken by Chase himself.

Because if there's one thing you can say following the ultimate episode of the series, it's that he certainly went out on his own terms.

In the hours since the Sopranos signed off last night, a tidal wave of heated opinions has flooded the airwaves & fiber optic cables, crashing websites and rippling office water coolers from Parsippany to Palo Alto. And the range of responses has run the gamut from the ridiculous ("I'm cancelling my subscription to HBO") to the sublime ("that was the greatest ending in television history").

But whether you loved the ending or hated it (much like with Jar Jar Binks, there is no in between) Chase found a way to get the entire nation talking about a show that may never grace our presence again.

At least without being chopped up worse than Ralphie Cifaretto by those friggin' bastards at A&E.

The finale, much like the previous 85 episodes before it, was a polarizing entity, galvanizing armies on both sides of the fence. There are both the staunch supporters of Chase's decision to use an open-ended 'conclusion', and a legion of livid longtime watchers who are disgusted with the great 'cop-out' move to end the show without significant closure.

I, for one, am on the "loved it" side of the fight.

Before I go into detail why, let me try to recap what happened and explain how we got to the point where people are ready to send a lynch mob to Chase's Malibu manse and string him up by his Lincoln Log.


The episode begins the morning after last week's left off, as Tony wakes up in the bed in the safe house with the assault rifle next to him. (note: one of these days I'm going to re-watch this entire season and count how many scenes showed Tony in bed. Plenty of fodder for the "dream" theorists.)

Immediately we cut to Paulie & T. waiting in a van at the edge of an airport runway on a snowy winter night. Turns out Tony has arranged a meeting with Agent Harris, and when he runs to Harris' car through the flurries, Chase had everyone in the "he's gonna flip" camp thinking they had won the office pool.

The snitch that came in out of the cold, if you will.

Well, they were wrong. Yes Tony arranged the confab to exchange information, but not to turn in evidence; he tells Harris that he remembered where the Arabs who frequented the Bing had an offshore bank account, and in exchange for that tidbit he wants Harris to use his Brooklyn FBI connection to help him locate Phil, to "prevent any more members of his family from getting hurt."

When Harris, grumpy from arguing with his wife and exhausted from chasing a terrorist cell lead, balks, Tony suggests the bank account could be used for funding terrorist activities. Unimpressed, Harris responds with a curt "you're reaching", and Tony hastily exits the car, but the agent may have appreciated the info a little more than he let on, as we'll see later.

T. drives to the estate house by the beach that Carm bought where the family is hiding out at, and a soulful rendition of the tune "Keep Me Hanging On" by Vanilla Fudge blares from the van radio, another masterful use of mood-setting music by Chase. There he tries to comfort Carm, who is trying to hold it all together as she pines to return home. "I'm working on it" Tony tells her, and the notion is hatched that they might just live through this mob war.

The Feds watch closely as Bobby's funeral is attended by various members of the families, and at the wake afterwards they do what us Italians do best- eat and bullshit. Paulie, who was fucking priceless in this episode, goes so far as to unzip his pants at the table in front of everyone, including Bobby's pretty young niece, while AJ goes off because everybody is talking about meaningless bullshit like American Idol and the Oscars when their friend had just been killed and our country is at war.

"You people are fucked" he angrily tells them before going on another anti-Bush tirade, but when he's done spilling his guts to the stunned table, the niece replies "you're all over the place, I don't know what you're trying to say." Well put.

At the safe house Tony's captains keep coming back with light envelopes, due to the power struggle, and while watching an episode of the Twilight Zone (another Chase riff-read the episode guide) a mysterious cat appears and takes a shine to the crew, although Paulie is freaked out by it. "Snakes with fur," he calls them. Classic.

The significance of the cat-- was it Christopher or Adrianna re in-cat-nated, or did it constantly stare at Chrissy's picture because it was so adept at spotting rats?-- has been the subject of much heated debate as well, but whatever it represented, it was one freaky feline.

Meanwhile Phil places a call to his man Butch and tells him he's irked that Tony has escaped their assassin's wrath. "He shoulda been hit first" is Phil's response to Butch's excuses, and when the little bug eyed dude has the nerve to suggest that they might should reach out to make a truce, Phil barks "we can't go back now, are you fucking crazy?", and in his smug & heartless way, hangs up on him.

Okay, I'm starting to ramble, so I'll speed this up a bit.

While visiting his sister Janice, who's in semi-mourning ("Gotta watch my weight if I'm gonna snag me a new husband"), Tony gets the call from Harris that Phil is using a pay phone in the seaside town of Oyster Bay. Ironically, Harris had to sleep with his "source" to get the info, and as he secretly called Tony after the tryst, Chase continued to show that everyone in this show, even the FBI agents, aren't beyond resorting to illicit or immoral acts to get what they want.

As all this is happening, everybody's least favorite depressed teenager is about to consummate his relationship with the teenage 'sorta model' Rhiannon, parked in his SUV and listening to Bob Dylan's "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)". Except he parked his X-Terra in some dry leaves, and the catalytic converter caused a fire which resulted in the truck being blown sky high.

The near-catastrophic event conveniently shocked the perpetually depressed teen out of his funk and back to "reality", and when a brief flirtation with enlisting in the Army is met with furious disapproval from the parentals, Tony gets him a job as a development executive on a Daniel Baldwin slasher flick, buys him a new Beamer M3 and promises to fund his future nightclub venture, and suddenly the kid is riding high in the saddle with a hot car, a hot (underage) girlfriend, and not a care in the world.

See, Chase knows how to wrap things up neatly.

By now Tony has decided to reach out to George, boss of one of the NY families, to broker a deal with Phil's boys. He agrees to end everything, blaming Johnny Sack for turning Phil into the prick that he is, and when Little Carmine and Butchie both sign off on the truce, all that's left is to whack Phil.

After Paulie's nephew Little Paulie (a.k.a the one who Christopher threw out the window---boy did I miss Chris these past few weeks...) gets a bead on Phil, the Jersey boys conduct the hit in broad daylight as he's leaving his wife & grand kids to make his calls. One shot to the back of the skull, then another in the heart for good measure, and Tony's last obstacle is eliminated.

As they say, he never saw it coming.

The next part everyone saw coming, because Chase set it up for all the carnage-thirsty viewers who were tuning in tonight hoping to see an all-out bloodbath.

As the car rolls out of control with Phil's head lined up with the tire, a crowd of onlookers curiously gathers to watch the inevitable act painfully unfold as if in slow motion. When the wheel rolls over Phil's silver-cropped skull, the sickening noise and (implied) violence causes some of the gawkers to ohh & oahh with approval and others to get sick on the spot.

The implication is Chase saying, "okay, you all wanted blood & guts, well look closely cause here it is", except he didn't even give it to us then, it was off screen, a clear sign of the giant tease that was yet to come.

Now I really gotta wrap this up.

The Sopranos return home and all is right with the world again. Meadow is going to marry Pat and might already have a high-paying job at a prestigious law firm waiting for her, AJ is miraculously healed, with help from a Melfi-esque shrink, right down to the gams, and even Paulie is seeing his life improve when Tony offers him the job of running the Cifaretto crew.

Sure there are a couple of nagging issues for the boss, like the fact that his boy Carlo probably flipped on him; his lawyer Mink informs him he's probably going to be indicted on the old weapons charge, but, after all, "trials are there to be won"; and his Uncle Junior, whom he wants to hate but can't when after a visit to the hospital Tony realizes that he's just a demented old man.

But all in all life is good for the formerly fractured family, and when they all agree to meet for dinner at local hangout Holsten's , it seems, incredibly, as if a happy ending is possible after all...

...or is it?


The final five minutes of the show is the part that has caused the most ruckus among irate & elated viewers, and the scene will be replayed, dissected and discussed for years to come. It is a tense, gut-wrenching and brilliant exercise in what it must be like to walk in Tony's shoes, to live with the constant fear that it could all end at any time, with no warning, without a chance to say goodbye.

Tony arrives first and he surveys the joint, locates a center booth and takes his seat, facing the door of course. Soon various people walk through the door, and the jingling bell and causes Tony to look up nervously each time.

As faces both familiar (Carm & AJ ) and foreboding (a shady looking Italian guy, a couple of black youths, a scruffy-looking trucker) enter the diner, the viewer is slowly filled with a sense of dread, that feeling of, as Carm so aptly described it, waiting for the piano to drop on Tony's head. I for one was ready to get sick just from the swelling of emotions, and the heart rate was in overdrive.

So when Tony peruses the jukebox and looks through the selections ("This Magic Moment", "Magic Man", "Only the Strong Survive" and "I've Gotta Be Me" are just a few of the titles high on the irony meter) and he chooses Journey's sappy feel-good anthem "Don't Stop Believein'", the whole things starts to take on the feeling of a surreal dream.

"...for a smile they can share the night, it goes on and on and on and on..."

As the Italian gets up to use the john (yet another Godfather reference), the three Sopranos eat onion rings (representing the family has come full circle anyone?), and wait for Meadow to arrive.

...don't stop, believin', hold on to that feeellllling.."

As Meadow tries three times to parallel park her Lexus it's like a moment in suspended forever in time, and when she finally gets it parked she runs across the street, and heads into the restaurant to find...

"...don't stop."


As you know by now, the cable did not cut out and the final shoe did not drop. The open ending was at once confusing, irritating, shocking and aggravating, and left millions of viewers around the country either cursing, scratching their heads, checking their cable connection, or, like me, sitting back smiling and thinking:

"Chase you're a fucking genius. An asshole to millions, but a genius to be sure."

Because the ending is never spelled out, it leaves the whole thing open to interpretation.

Was Tony capped by the Italian dude, as many have argued, because of the conversation with Bobby about how it all goes black when you get whacked?

Was the whole thing a dream, as the many bed sequences, dream-related music and surreal quality would suggest?

Or was the family actually dead, and just floating through some netherworld never land, resigned to a life of dining out and going through the motions as a family, a theory that has been making the rounds on the message boards?

That's where the brilliance comes in. Chase was once quoted as saying "I don't think art should give answers. I think art should only pose questions....that create tension inside of you."

He even left a final clue as to how we should think it should end, on the "B" side of the Journey song Tony played:

Mission accomplished, David.
Thanks for the memories.


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sopranos: The end

The show, and series, just ended, and to steal from the late, great Jack Buck "I don't believe what I just saw!"

What'd you expect, it was going to be wrapped up in a tidy little hangman's knot?

Fahgeddaboutit! says David Chase

Lights out, roll credits, and let the onslaught of debate begin.

For the record, I loved it. The wife--"HATED IT!"

There is no in-between with the biggest mindfuck of a twist since Pam Ewing saw Bobby in the shower.

I've got to sleep on it, watch it again tomorrow, and then figure out how to describe what just happened.

"Don't stop, believing, hold on to that feeellliiiing..."


Sopranos Finale: T., minused in three hours

Three hours to go until one of the most anticipated series finales in television history.

Woke up this morning, realized one of my favorite shows of all time was coming to an end.

Not catchy, I know, but it sums up the situation as the Sopranos is set to sign off tonight after eight seasons, 86 episodes, 1,358,632 cuss words and about 4,289 killings.

Being a cable show, and a provocative, profane and un-PC one at that, will prevent the eight-year-old 'family' drama from pulling in mega closing numbers along the lines of All in the Family, M*A*S*H, Cheers or even that silly piece of claptrap Friends, but as for pop culture impact and sheer influence on how television was transformed, not many shows compare to David Chase's mob masterpiece.

One barometer of how popular a show is and how big a finale this one promises to be is the amount of media attention being given the event. Magazine articles, TV entertainment show stories, and endless amounts of Internet postings and radio chatter has elevated this thing to one of the biggest TV events since the Seinfeld gang said its farewells in 1998.

The only question remaining isn't how Tony will meet his ultimate demise, either by the Feds, Phil, one of his own men, or a fed-up family member, but will Chase give everyone the closure the American public seems to crave from this show?

Or will he just leave us with some open-ended, David Lynch-esque dream sequence, where Tony resides in a sunny, peaceful world, dropping buttons, drinking scotch, and fishing at the lake while Carm becomes a real estate mogul, Meadow a high-powered attorney, and AJ a well-paid substance abuse therapist?

And as the ducks lazily swim by Tony's boat in the lake, the crippled, gnarled hand of Livia reaches up through the placid surface and drags Tony to the depths below, where he can rest with the rest of the fishes.

At least that's one theory.

Tick tick tick........