Friday, May 27, 2005

Cuervo fans rejoice

Yes boys and, uh, boys, in exactly one week the 2005 Cuervo Open will be teeing off. It is, without question, the highlight of my life. The trophies have arrived (even if they did mess up the order), the cuervo is warming, and the nipples are hard. However, the tee times have yet to be made. Yes, I'm lazy. Despite my best efforts we will have an odd number of attendents on day 1, but an even number on day 2 as Ryan will join us for the remainder of the weekend. With the two new recruits added by nips, our daily attendence SHOULD be 11-12-16. I'm pleased with those numbers. To be fair, I can hardly contain my enraged boner. It's times like these when I think of cuervo's short but rich heritage.


I'm making a conscience effort to get more pictures this year. Hopefully everyone does the same. Because if I know one thing, it's that I can NEVER get enough of this...

Whatever, link it.
Opening ceremonies in 6 days.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

So now it's 1-1

I'm having a hard time getting worried about this series, and that in itself is troubling. I should be terrified of Shaq and Wade, and I'm just not. Hopefully on Sunday (SUNDAY!?! Why the fuck do we have to wait until Sunday?!?) the Pistons won't play their second consecutive game like THEY'RE not worried about Shaq and Wade either. But like I said, I'm having a hard time getting nervous about this series. I mean, the Heat won 60 games, so why don't I give a shit?

Well, mainly because:

A.) The Pistons played like ass last night (they shot 37%; Chauncey had 8 turnovers in the first half alone; Chauncey and Rip - two guys who both hover around 90% at the stripe - missed 4 consecutive free throws at one point; 'Sheed, as I should have predicted yesterday, fell in love with his jumper after Monday night's game, where he went 4-5 on 3s, and ended up being a total non-factor last night; and the team just looked lethargic and content, like "we won Game 1, we got a split, and that's what we came here for").

B.) We had to expect the Heat to come out with everything they had last night, as they were about as close to having their backs against the wall as you can be without the contest being an actual elimination game.

C.) Wade went off for 40 (thanks, Nips).

D.) In spite of A., B., and C., the game still came down to the end, as the Pistons had a shot to tie it with under 30 seconds left.

Quite plainly, if that's the best the Heat have got, they're in SERIOUS trouble. Shaq is clearly not going to be able to give them more than what he gave them in these first two games. Wade scored 40, and they still had to win it in the final minute. It sure seems like the Pistons' strategy that I touched on last time (play everyone honest, no double-teams) is the right way to go here. Wade is going to get some, but if they can consistently hold him to 20-25, and make the Eddie Joneses and Olandis Haslems beat them, the Pistons should be able to win this series.

That being said, something needs to be done about Wade. I saw his shot chart from last night, and the dude attempted 4 jumpers the entire night. His game is to careen toward the basket and 1.) dunk, 2.) dish, 3.) throw up a twisting, off-balance semi-layup (which he does, and which actually go in, an astonishing amount of the time), or 4.) go to the line. His jumper is incredibly unreliable - if Holy Cross could shut Wade down simply be sagging way the hell off of him and forcing him to shoot Js, then surely the WORLD FRIGGIN' CHAMPIONS should be able to do it. I'm pretty sure the Heat ran a high pick-and-roll for Wade on 14 consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter last night (always with Complete Asshole Alonzo Mourning [has he always been this big of a dickhead, flexing and pointing and taunting nearly non-stop? Or is this a new, post-dialysis thing?], and always a screen of the moving variety). One of these times, one of the Wallaces has to knock his ass to the ground, and send the message that that kind of shit may be cute and get you in "People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People," but it doesn't fucking happen in the playoffs. Just one or two Dikembe's to the head, just to get the message across. That oughta do it.

All right, I'm out.


I may have just soiled myself.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Non-in-depth analysis

Okay, I'm pressed for time here, so here's what we saw in Pistons/Heat Game 1, and we'll see tonight how Monday's events affect the game later on tonight. Everyone here knows how superstitious I am, so no predictions will be given. This should be a shock to exactly 0 people.

Things Miami liked/Things the Pistons need to be worried about

1. Shaq, while not 100%, is still very productive. He's the single most dominant force in basketball, even at 70% or whatever he is.

2. Dwyane Wade usually follows up bad performances with much better ones. It remains to be seen whether he can do this against the Pistons.

3. The Heat outscored the Pistons in the paint 52-30. If that happens again tonight, the Pistons have about a 7% chance of winning.

4. The injury gets literally no pub compared to the Shaq soap opera, but Rip Hamilton still looks hurt. He put up 16, but he was visibly limping at times. He's the team's #2 crunch-time option, and the Pistons may be able to squeak by Miami with Rip playing at about 80%, but they don't have a shot in hell against the Spurs (if the Pistons get there).

Things the Pistons liked/Things Miami needs to be worried about

1. Miami was obviously rattled in the last 5 minutes the other night. If the Pistons' experience on the big stage (in relation to Miami's lack of that experience) continues to be that big of a factor, this series could be over quickly.

2. Miami outscored the Pistons 52-30 in the paint, shot a better % than the Pistons, won the rebounding battle, got about the best game out of Eddie Jones that they're likely to get in this series, and got a productive game out of Shaq on both ends of the floor ... and still lost. The Pistons' defensive strategy against the Lakers last year -- play everyone straight-up and honest, let Shaq get what he gets, and don't let the other guys beat you -- appears (through one game) to be doing the trick again this year.

3. The Pistons have matchup advantages at almost every position. Dwyane Wade has to guard either Rip (who will run him ragged around picks so that Wade is exhausted by the 4th quarter) or Tayshaun (who has 5"-6" on Wade, and took The Big Typo into the post often and effectively on Monday, to the point that Wade actually looked over at Stan Van RonJeremy with a huge pout, as if to say "I just can't stop him"). Rasheed Wallace is eating Udonis Haslem alive, inside and out. And when Chauncey Billups decides that he wants to score, Damon Jones doesn't have a prayer in hell of stopping him. Detroit's advantage at PG is almost laughable, to the point where Miami may actually need to turn to Keyon Dooling to stop the bleeding. Yeah, I said it.

Okay, gotta go. GO PISTONS!

Monday, May 23, 2005

Things that drive me crazy

Anyone who reads this blog (yes, that means both of you) is probably well aware of the MWB’s collective hatred of Dan LeBastard, one of the ringleaders of the "devil’s advocate" school of journalism, which I’ve surmised is basically the print version of shockjock radio. LeBastard’s apparent constant desire to be abrasive and take positions that defy common sense, and, often, common human decency, have been documented on here before. Well now LeBastard has jumped up into the select class of people that I like to label...

People I Would Murder With My Bare Hands if I Were Ever Given the Chance

Why wasn’t he there before? Well, I have no idea. Why is he definitely there now? Because of this. I hate this man so much that it quite literally becomes difficult for me to see or even think whenever I even hear his name mentioned. He is one of the few people about whom honestly believe the world would be a better place for all if he were to just disappear, and would definitely be a better place for me if I were able to strangle him with a phone cord, or bludgeon him with some sort of blunt instrument. Seriously. I would have a big, dumb grin on my face as they walked me (entirely willingly) to the electric chair. And people would be cheering for me. I’d be a national hero to droves of ESPN viewers, and ... all right, I should stop, before I actually talk myself into driving to Miami and murdering someone. If I take a vacation to Florida, it should be a little better than that. Although killing him would be an immense amount of fun ... no, no. Stop it.

And hey, I’m already angry, so why not: we have an update on Clemson twelfth-year senior quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, from CFN’s column on "10 senior QBs who may have huge seasons": "If Whitehurst was listed on the NASDAQ, he’d be a strong buy this summer. Coming off the worst season of his football life, he’s just too talented not to rebound in 2005." Wait, I think ... my head is going to ... YYYAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGHHHHH.

And it wouldn’t be a fantasy baseball league if several people weren’t pissing me off simultaneously, but right now, it’s Barry F. Zito. He is killing tens of thousands of fantasy teams around the country, and hey, guess what. Mine is one of them. Mr. Zito has a paltry 1 win on the season, and is sporting an ERA over 5.00. And I can’t drop him, because as soon as I do, someone else will pick him up and he’ll go on an 8-game winning streak or something. I am sick and goddamned tired of Barry Zito. He is PISSING me OFF.

Friday, May 20, 2005


Well, a movie came out yesterday. A pretty big one. I’m not sure if you’ve heard about it or not, but since it’s such a big friggin’ deal, I figured that maybe Dids and I could both review said ubiquitous summer blockbuster on here.

The thing about it is, I haven’t seen a Star Wars movie since I saw Episode I back toward the end of freshman year, an experience that basically soured me on George Lucas and the Star Wars saga in general. Hence, I have yet to even see Episode II, and I haven’t watched any of the three originals since their theatrical re-release in 1997. So, I figured that I’d give them all another whirl, or, in the case of Attack of the Clones (what an awful title!), I’d bother to watch for the first time. What’s my point? I’m revisiting the three original Star Wars movies, as well as Episodes I and II, and writing my opinions on each one. Then, I’m going to go see Revenge of the Sith, and I’ll do a little review-dee-doo-dad on that, too. First, in this post, I’m gonna get through the first three.

Before I begin, I think a few sidenotes are in order. First of all, in the interest of full disclosure, it warrants mentioning that I used to be something of a Star Wars geek back in junior high and high school. Before you come hurling nerdist epithets at me, allow me to explain. I was NOT a Star Wars geek in the sense that I’d dress up like the characters or go to conventions or speak some made-up language and say I was from "The Ice Planet Hoth" or something. I did used to force my mother to have wifflebat lightsaber battles with me on our front porch (even making her say "I’ve been waiting for you, Obi-Wan"!), but, I mean, come on. I was like 4 - didn’t we all do goofy shit like that? No, the geekiness I’m speaking of stemmed simply from the fact that I was one of the few people in my grade or the surrounding grades who would openly admit to really liking the movies. You see, for some reason, in the mid-to-late 80s, after nearly a decade of immense media saturation, Star Wars just seemed to drop from the national consciousness. No one talked about it. I think that everyone in our generation actually still enjoyed the movies, but no one would acknowledge that fact, save a small subset of loyal nerds. I was certainly one of those nerds, as Aaron Czapski and I used to have relatively in-depth Star Wars discussions, or, at the very least, quoted lines or talked about awesome scenes we liked. Then, all of a sudden, when the whirlwind of promotion started up in late ‘96, as news got around that Lucas was touching up the films and re-releasing them in theaters the following year, people started acknowledging how much they loved the Star Wars movies again. It made it more acceptable for nerds like Break of Dawn/Hollywood_East and myself to speak freely about the "Holy Trilogy," as Kevin Smith has called it. See, that’s what I mean by "geeky." So back off.

Aside the Second: I’m watching the first three movies in their remastered 1997 versions. Now, this is not exactly by my choice. In general, I think it’s fine that Lucas decided to go back and spruce up some technical things (although I am somewhat less taken with his decisions to add some substantive elements, which, by and large, are superfluous at best and distracting at worst. But I’ll touch on all that in my reviews), but what I am NOT fine with is his apparent desire to will the original versions of the three movies out of existence. Ever since he re-released the films in 1997, the only VHS copies available for purchase are those 1997 editions. And when the trilogy was finally released on DVD late last year, purchasers were not given the option of choosing which version of the movies to buy - the special editions were the only ones available. Hence, the originals are all-but extinct, with eBay and other online resources being the only places to look for them. Some people are okay with this, and that’s fine. I, however, feel that these are NOT the movies I grew up with, at least not exactly, and I resent the fact that we are not given the choice of which version to watch. *Off of soapbox* As I said earlier, where I feel it is pertinent, I will talk about particular additions to the films, and how I feel about them. So, on to the show, I guess.

-Star Wars-

Where it all began. The birth of the phenomenon. I, like any other child of the 70s and 80s, was completely taken in by the experience of Star Wars (none of this "A New Hope" bullshit - it's called friggin' Star Wars. We're knee-deep in geekjuice in this post as it is, so there's no need to add any more than is necessary), and I will always fondly remember the original for introducing me not only to Luke, Leia, Han, and Obi-Wan, but to the richly-textured imagination of George Lucas, and his vision of what it was like long ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Now, the thing is, when Star Wars was re-released in theaters in 1997, I was thoroughly giddy, I mean ridiculously giddy. And the movie completely and utterly failed to live up to my expectations. I sat there in the fifth row at the Star Taylor, neck craned up toward the screen, fantastically bored. I hated it. It was slow-moving, talky, and kind of clunky in its editing. It was just an all-around disappointing experience. Because of the memory of this, I was somewhat apprehensive about revisiting the original epic.

Thankfully, this time I was pleasantly surprised (I guess this is a helluvan example about how expectations color your view of entertainment). Yes, the first hour is pretty slow, mainly because it's a bunch of scenes where we're given brief introductions to the characters, all while following C-3PO and R2-D2 around the whole time. But things take a rollicking fun turn as soon as Luke and Obi-Wan hit Mos Eisley and meet Han and Chewie, and the rest of the film pretty much flies by. No, it isn't as compelling as Empire or as relentlessly fun and action-packed as Jedi, but you're certainly swept away by Lucas's vision.

Also, the presence of Genuine Class (think about it) throughout a significant portion of the film helps immensely. His scenes, especially when 1.) he's reminiscing about his days as a Jedi, and 2.) he battles Vader, take on an added resonance when we have the benefit of the information provided by the prequels. Plus, I mean, he's Alec Fucking Guiness. The guy could probably take a dump on a soundstage for an hour and a half and completely enthrall viewers.

Also, Part II: You can NOT overestimate the importance of John Williams's score to the overall feel of the picture. It has quite simply become an iconic piece of music, as easily-recognized as any film score out there. Astoundingly, I actually think the score for Empire is better (I'll get to that later), but then again, Empire is one of my 5 or 10 favorite movies of all time, and I think it's superior to every other film in the series in basically all respects. So, yeah.

On to the additions in the re-tooled version: I think this one had the most dressing-up done to it, as Lucas was unsatisfied with numerous special effects and a few entire sequences. The revamping of the picture quality and sound are fantastic, but the substantive additions are mostly pointless, as they are in the rest of the trilogy. They largely consist of animals thrown into the background of shots - which, I mean, let's face it: who gives a shit? I don't watch Star Wars for the fucking dewbacks on Tatooine. And then you are given two thoroughly annoying Han Solo scenes: the meeting with Jabba the Hutt, where Jabba is so obviously computer generated that it's almost embarrassing (not to mention the fact that he seems real buddy-buddy with Han, which doesn't make a lick of sense when you've seen Jedi), and the idiotic altering of the scene where Han shoots the bounty hunter under the table. Lucas apparently didn't like that Han shoots the guy without being shot at first, so he has changed the shot so that the bounty hunter, from point-blank range about three feet away, shoots and completely misses Han, so that Han is forced to "retaliate" and shoot the guy in "self-defense." It looks stupid and it's annoying. You can tell that the guy is either going to shoot Han or take him back to Jabba (who is apparently totally okay with Han anyway, judging by the added scene, so I guess that makes it even more obvious that the guy is going to shoot him), so why the fuck do we need him to actually, physically shoot first? It's not like people were appalled by Han shooting the guy under the table... Ugh, okay, let's finish up.

Favorite line: Delivered in stately, inimitable Genuine Class baritone: "The Force will be with you. Always."

Favorite moment: Most people go for when Han comes back at the end and clears the way for Luke to blow the Death Star the fuck up, but I prefer the scene where Luke looks out at the Binary Sunset on Tatooine, in no small part due to the fact that I find the score for that scene to be the single best piece of music in the entire series.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 (Docked 1/2 for being a little clunkier than the others, and another 1/2 because it basically single-handedly killed the greatest era of American filmmaking, ushering in a cinematic climate of summer blockbusters that we're still mired in to this day. Still, great flick.)

- The Empire Strikes Back -

When considering this movie, I am often reminded of a line from another classic of American cinema: Wayne's World. Haha. Well, the line I think of, uttered by Wayne for absolutely no reason at all, is "Ah, yes. It's a lot like 'Star Trek: The Next Generation.' In many ways, it's superior, but will never be as recognized as the original." Yes, that's Empire. Although it will likely never be as popular as Star Wars -- mostly because people kind of knew what to expect from it, visually speaking, and weren't quite as blown away by it as they were by the original -- it pretty easily outstrips its predecessor in virtually all areas: writing, special effects, and, most importantly, emotional immediacy.

This is the heart of the Star Wars series, as the events and information revealed in it deepen and complicate the overall story, and are largely responsible for the epic stature that the saga has taken on. Despite the undoubtedly-extensive creative input that Lucas had on the film, one can't help but feel that his delegation of the writing duties to a tandem of Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan was the key to the film's snappiness and tone. I mean, Brackett wrote the screenplays for The Big Sleep, Rio Bravo, and The Long Goodbye, for Christ's sake! And Kasdan has been an extremely prolific writer/director for the past 25 years. While admittedly not Shakespeare, looking objectively, comparing the dialogue of Empire to that of the other 4 films leading up to Sith is a bit like seeing A-Rod on the Devil Rays. Or the 2002 Rangers, since that actually happened.

Plus, obviously, you have The Big Reveal. Vader begat Luke. And the Lord of movies looked upon it, and saw that it was good.

Plus, this revelation came at the tail end of what is almost undoubtedly the most compelling, rewatchable 45 minutes of the entire series. From the moment Lando says "I've just made a deal that will keep the Empire out of here forever," and then opens the door to the banquet room to reveal Vader sitting there, we're treated to equal parts action and drama straight up until the movie ends.

It's also notable that this is pretty easily the most relentlessly depressing 45 minutes of the entire series. It's pretty amazing that a sci-fi blockbuster like this -- an entry in a chain of films that are largely viewed as kids movies -- could get away with being so dark in tone. When you think about it, Star Wars ended in pretty standard fashion, with the forces of good decidedly defeating the forces of evil. Empire's resolution is almost the exact opposite, as the Rebels basically get cornholed for 2 hours and 15 minutes. I mean, over that final 45 minutes, we get treated to: the realization that Lando sold out his "buddy" Han; the sight of Han getting frozen and kidnapped by Boba Fett; and Luke suffering the 1-2 punch of A.) getting his friggin' hand chopped off by Vader, only to B.) find out moments later that the evil badass who just hacked off his paw is, in actuality, his father. That's pretty damn dark for a sci-fi fantasy ... but it also makes for fantastically good watching.

Sweet merciful Jeebus, I almost forgot about Yoda. Just kidding, no I didn't. We're introduced to the pint-size Jedi master in this film, and the sight of a 50-foot Yoda on the big screen in 1997 was as close to a religious experience as I think I've ever had. I can't say anything about Yoda that hasn't already been said, except maybe to point out that puppet Yoda is ten times better than CGI Yoda every day of the week and twice on Sunday. There's just something more substantial about him, probably because he's ... substantial, and actually taking up physical space, instead of being a fancy illustration drawn by a computer. Let the record show that puppet Yoda is also a fantastic actor - some of his facial expressions look so damn lifelike that you honestly, truly forget that he's just a puppet and not a ... little ... green dude. I think that's the best compliment I can give Frank Oz and anyone else who worked on creating Yoda: I don't see a puppet there in The Empire Strikes Back. I see Yoda.

And then there's the score. Frankly, it's basically a bunch of variations on the themes from the first movie, with a more romantic number here or there, plus the key addition of the ultra-cool-sounding, Miami marching band favorite "Imperial March." Most people don't realize that the "Imperial March" wasn't in the first film at all, and that it debuted in this movie. So, basic Star Wars theme music + "Imperial March" = one of the greatest scores of all-time. It's right up there with Vertigo, Chinatown, and Double Indemnity for me.

As for the "special edition," very little was added to the re-release of Empire, which makes you think that it turned out pretty goddamn good the first time. Yeah, there's a little more of the snow monster at the beginning, and some of the Cloud City's exteriors have been tweaked. But by and large, very little was adjusted for this film, aside from it getting a clearer picture and more amped-up sound. Oh wait. There's also the single change in the trilogy that actually angers me. Even when I saw it in the theater in '97 I was quad-furious when I noticed this: when Luke jumps to escape Vader after finding out that Big Black is actually his daddy, Lucas somehow decided that it was a good idea to add screaming to the shot of Luke falling. Now, this makes me angry for two reasons: first, the voice that is screaming sounds nothing, nothing like Mark Hamill. Second, and more importantly, that addition has emasculated the power of Luke's gesture there. Let me explain. Luke, in jumping off the little perch at the end of that catwalk, is giving a big "Fuck you" to Vader. It's a total act of defiance: he's saying "I would rather fall to my death than join you and live as Darth Vader Jr." You can even see it in the look he gives Vader just before he lets go of the pole. He's strong and defiant, and he's decided to die rather than turn to the Dark Side. Adding in the scream as he's falling just takes away from the power of that decision. There, I said my piece.

Favorite line: There are countless Yoda-isms I could go with here, but it's hard to beat Han's pimptacular response to Leia's "I love you": "I know."

Favorite moment: Obviously, Luke's plunge, although it's tough to single that moment out above the rest of their epic lightsaber duel. But BAM, watch how I did it.

Final rating: 5 out of 5

-Return of the Jedi-

Alas, the trilogy does not end with a bang. Granted, it doesn’t really end with a whimper either - it’s more of a "Hey, look at this!" It’s the most action-packed of the three original films, the special effects are more polished than in the previous two, and the trilogy’s key conflicts are resolved in a satisfactory manner. But there’s just something missing, some kind of spark or something. I don’t know, exactly. All I know is that, upon rewatching the three films 20-to-25 years after their theatrical runs, Jedi just struck me as the least compelling.

That’s not to say that it isn’t a good time. It’s fun to watch Luke as a thoroughly bad-ass Jedi, I like to see Billy Dee Williams contribute to the cause (I ask you, where would the Rebel Alliance be without the aid of former smugglers and space pirates?), and Carrie Fisher’s metallic slave outfit undoubtedly played a role in the, uh ... "coming of age" ... of countless little budding nerds in the 80s. The film certainly keeps your attention, but there’s nothing particularly compelling about the goings on, except for the desire in every fan of the movies to see the story play out to its conclusion.

Well, I guess I shouldn’t say there’s nothing compelling – the Luke/Vader/Emperor scenes have a tone that is nicely tense and exciting, and the final attack on the Death Star 2.0 is suitably awe-inspiring, even 20 years later. But the film lacks the influence and "shock of the new" of Star Wars and the sharp-edged drama of Empire. Plus, it has Ewoks.

Ah, those cuddly little bastards that inhabit the forest moon of Endor. These things are so unbearably cute and cuddly that I just want to ram a Paddington Bear spoon into my eyeballs. And they’re such an obvious merchandising opportunity, I’m mildly shocked that they don’t have those little tags on their asses like you see on teddy bears. Yes, that’s exactly who I want to see save the galaxy: Han Solo and Teddy Ruxpin. A match made in Toys ‘R’ Us heaven. Fuck.

The other thing that kind of nags at me, though not nearly as much as the Ewoks, is that the Emperor’s presence kind of diffuses some of the imposing aura of Vader. When people think "Star Wars villain," they don’t think of the Emperor, they think of Vader, and seeing him as a glorified lapdog to the Emperor in Jedi just takes away some of his power as an all-time movie villain. I want to see him crushing people's tracheas with his fucking mind, not calling someone else "Master." Maybe that’s just me (but I doubt it). Another minor thing is that the scene where Luke and Leia talk about how they're siblings and Luke decides to hand himself over to Vader ... I mean, that scene is awkward. Like, painfully awkward. Like, "foreshadowing episodes I and II" awkward. But I guess that's a relatively minor quibble. This is still Star Wars, we’re still spending time with characters we’ve come to know and love, and I’m still having fun while watching it.

The '97 additions, as with the other films, are largely a mixed bag. Of course, the cleaned-up picture and remastered sound are incredible. But, again, any actual, physical changes to the film are largely annoying and/or superfluous. First of all, there's another annoying music number thrown into the Jabba's Lair scenes. I say "whatever." And then, inexplicably, Lucas decided to add a bizarrely out-of-place-looking CGI head to the sand-pit-monster that will "slowly digest you over a thousand years." It doesn’t add anything in the way of our being scared of the creature, and, let’s face it, it looks really bad. What was wrong with the pit with teeth around its edges? Like the other changes, it doesn’t really detract from the picture, it’s just annoying. The other big modification is the newer, more serene ending, as Lucas very smartly jettisoned that Ewok abortion "Yub Yub" or "Nub Nub" or whatever the fuck that song was called. The new ending isn’t exactly a rousing way to end the series, but, I mean, it’s a shitload better than "Jub Jub." It’s not quite like going from Jacque Vaughn to Jason Kidd, but I’d say it’s an improvement along the lines of going from Vaughn to Damon Jones. Now the end is at least adequate. But it was a helluva ride, there’s no question about that.

Favorite line: Ugh, this is slim pickins. I guess I’ll go with a Yoda classic: "When nine hundred years old YOU reach, look as good YOU will not, hmm?"

Favorite moment: Probably Lando and Wedge’s final attack on the Death Star. Or maybe the part where one of the Ewoks dies. It’s a toss-up.

Final rating: 3 1/2 out of 5

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Of non-bellyitchers

Since Diddy Mao is apparently at a stage of his blogging career where he will only respond to direct prompts, and since it’s been a while since we’ve gone ahead with a debate-oriented topic, I am going to ask him to answer a little baseball question for me. Any other readers are welcome and encouraged to follow suit, and give me their answers to the query. Said query is this:

It is fairly well established that, despite this being the Age of the Juice in baseball, we are witnessing four unequivocal masters at work on the pitching mound, in Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, and Pedro Martinez. So, I want Dids and anyone else to give me their opinions on the following two questions: Which of the four do you think had the best career, and, alternatively, which of the four, at the absolute zenith of their respective powers, was the best? In your answers, please give rationales, and for the second question, please tell me how you’re defining what a player’s "peak" actually is (like "1 year" or "3-year stretch" or whatever).

Let’s hear what you ‘mos have to say.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Like a Piston, rising from the ashes

I’m going to delve into something that I mentioned last post: the curious groundswell of people unabashedly rooting for the Phoenix Suns to win the NBA title this year, a faction of "fans" who are even going so far as to say that a Suns title run would send the league into "a new direction, a better direction."

So ... apparently, when everyone said last summer that the Pistons were saving the NBA, with their team-oriented, sacrifice-the-one-for-the-good-of-the-whole approach throttling the Lakers’ "throw 4 hall-of-famers in a room and let Phil Jackson coast to another title" philosophy, everyone was lying."Team-oriented" isn’t enough. It’s gotta be FAST! It’s gotta be glitzy! Defense is POINTLESS and ANNOYING TO WATCH! Um, where the hell am I? Last summer, didn’t Larry Brown’s "play the right way" mantra penetrate the consciousness of the average basketball fan? Why is everyone so anti-Pistons and so pro-Suns?

Is it because people always root against the current champion? No, this is the media we’re talking about - Mr. Casual Fan most certainly hates to see one team dominate for any appreciable stretch of time, but sports journalists absolutely love "dynasties," a classic case of laziness hidden under the guise of "wanting to see greatness."

Is it because the Pistons’ style, though a celebration of the team over individual success, is brutally thuggish and ugly, akin to that of Pat Riley’s early-90s Knicks teams? No: the Pistons don’t flagrantly foul people, they move the ball on offense, and they’re averaging 99 points per game thus far in the playoffs (and 94 in the regular season). So what the hell is going on here?

Why are Suns apparently a paragon of everything that is true and beautiful about basketball, while the Pistons are a representation of a "style of basketball that was threatening to destroy the league"? Did I miss something? Do the Pistons stand around on offense and resort to isolation plays and 1-on-1s? Wasn’t "unselfishness" the very reason people celebrated the Pistons’ vanquishing of L.A. last year? What the hell is going on here? Why is the Suns’ style more "fan-friendly"? Just because they score more points? Are people really that shallow?

Well, after careful consideration of the question, I have come to the conclusion that yes, people are precisely that shallow. These are probably the same people who said "Yeah, Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, and the rest of them are all on steroids, but so what? I just want to see ‘em hit the ball a long ways." These people, the ones who perpetuate the "defense is boring" and "steroids saved baseball" philosophies, in the simplest terms possible, just have no soul, no backbone.

People who love the Suns talk about how Phoenix reminds them of the "glory days" of the NBA, when Magic and Larry and the Doctor were flying around, running up and down the court, passing the ball all over the place, and scoring 115 points a game. Well, let me tell you something: I’ve seen those games. I have ESPN Classic. Those teams played NO defense. Sure, on any given offensive possession there’d be five guys all standing directly between the basket and the five offensive guys, ostensibly "guarding" them. But there always seemed to be a tacit understanding that "If you bother to put forth the effort to drive by me, I mean, I ain’t gonna stop you." Teams simply couldn’t be bothered to play defense; games back then became score-a-thons because absolutely no one took any pride whatsoever in that facet of the game. I ask you: Does that really comport with the essence of competition? You’re priding yourself on the most glamorous portion of your task, and ignoring the grit. You’re essentially putting forth no effort and exhibiting no pride in half of the job you do. That is what I mean by shallow. That is what I mean by no backbone. That is what I mean by no soul.

But hey, that kind of style and attitude really seems to do the trick with a lot of people. With our core of loyal readers being Big Ten and Ohio State fans, we should all be familiar with the tendency of people around this nation to prefer glitz over guts, and glamour over gumption. We saw that preference exhibited weekly in the fall of 2002. And, like the 2002 Buckeyes and the 2004 Pistons, I expect the 2005 Pistons to keep on rolling. Because, no matter how much the media wants to deny it, defense does win championships. Toughness beats out glamour. The soul triumphs over all. Bring it, fuckers.

Monday, May 09, 2005


So, my exam period has finally come to a merciful end, and I am now off of - as Jeff so eloquently put it - the "15-day DL." I missed you, baby. We've had some good times in the past, and I'm sorry I had to treat you so bad. But I's takes care of my bitches; you had to know I'd be back soon, back and, uh, about as good as ever.

So ... things have happened since last we spoke and shared and slapped and stooled. The NBA playoffs started. There was apparently a pretty lively Kentucky Derby, but I wouldn't know because who the fuck cares about horseracing. (Note: NASCAR sucks too. In fact, in my book, the only kinds of races that are worth paying attention to are in MarioKart and midget racing. But that's just me. Those are just things I like.) Hockey's still dead. The Miz got voted into the Inferno for about the eleventy-billionth time. Everyone's starting to get scared about the summer doldrums, when the only sports going on are boring-ass baseball games. And CFN released their preview on the Buckeyes ... in friggin' April, much earlier than usual, causing the likelihood of my head actually exploding from anticipation of college football to rise from 2% to about 35%.

Also, Steve Nash won the MVP award for the NBA. Now, Nash is a nice player. I've personally been a big fan of his work ever since his freshman year of college, when he and Pete Eisenrich led Santa Clara to a 64-61 win over 2-seed Arizona in the 1993 NCAA tournament. A classic game, to be sure.

Now, watching Phoenix, it's clear that Nash is the engine that makes that team go. He's unquestionably the impetus behind the resurgence of the Suns this year (which is why I don't understand why Mike D'Antoni is apparently about to win Coach of the Year: Phoenix had a fantastic turnaround this year, but if it was because of Nash - as seems to be implied if he is going to receive the MVP award - then how can you say that the coaching was so great that it warranted the coach being named the best in the league? I don't get it), and he's playing for the team that everyone wants to see win the title this season (more on that at a later time). But, of course, there is controversy around the award.

The thing is, you could make a helluvan argument that Shaq O'Neal should have been the MVP instead of Nash. Fine. And yes, I have a hard time giving a "Most Valuable" anything award to a guy who is such an obvious defensive liability. But I think that arguing about who is more deserving in this case is ultimately just going to lead to irksome nitpicking of two guys who had fantastic seasons. The argument for Shaq is that he is ALWAYS the game's more dominant player, along with the fact that the Lakers fell apart without him this season while the Mavs actually improved after getting rid of Nash. The argument for Nash is that he improved the team by 30+ games this season, and that, when he was injured for a 5-game stretch in January, the Suns lost all five games.* It's extraordinarily tough to pick one guy over the other, so I think that this would have been a perfect year in which to split the baby and give out a co-MVP, like the League did when it gave Grant Hill and Jason Kidd the co-rookies of the year back in '95.

Two other things are notable about Nash getting this award. Firstly, it prompted Miami Herald lead bonehead Dan LeBastard to write a column claiming that at least some of the reason "the little white guy beat the big black guy" had to do with race. This is so absurd that it should probably have no attention paid to it whatsoever, but it's always fun whenever the uber-annoying LeBastard makes an ass out of himself ... which is frequently. It's a blatant cry for attention from a guy who has made a living out of doing exactly that, and he's also one of the leaders of a group of columnists who make the MWB's blood boil: the jackasses who feel the need to constantly take the "devil's advocate" position, and make arguments that run contrary to all human decency and common sense, just so they can seem "edgy" and get more airtime on ESPN. Fuck that.

The other thing: P.J. Brown apparently garnered one 5th-place vote in the MVP balloting. This is idiotic to the point that I almost had a conniption when I heard it on the radio. P.J. Brown? What the fuck? This is just one more reason to make the voting for these things public, so people who do stupid shit like this have to answer to the public for their moronic decisions.

Ooh, also, it seems that in this day and age, we are defining "most valuable" less as "best plasyer," and more as "biggest difference-maker." A classic case is obviously Steve Nash, as the Suns improved by 30 games from one season to the next simply because of his acquisition. And I guess I'm okay with that. But it bears mentioning that, going by that definition of "MVP," there is a clear-cut NBA Anti-MVP, and his name is Stephon Marbury. He's the prototypical "shoot first" point guard that came around in the 90s (and was just as big a reason for the decline in level of play as things like "physical defense" were), a guy who doesn't make anyone better and needs the ball in his hands at all times. And every time he leaves a team, that team almost immediately gets better. He was teamed with KG in Minnesota, but couldn't get along with the Big Ticket, so they shipped him out of town and replaced him with Terrell Brandon. Bingo, the teams sets a franchise record by winning 50 games. Marbury ends up in New Jersey, and the team languishes in less-than-mediocrity for several years, until the Nets' management gets fed up with him and trades him to Phoenix for Jason Kidd (surely the anti-Marbury, if one exists). Guess what? The team sets a franchise record by getting 50 wins, and goes to the NBA finals in each of the first two years after the trade. Is this sounding familiar? And then, of course, Marbury left Phoenix halfway through last season, and Steve Nash came in this year and the Suns non-coincidentally turned around and won more games than any other team in the league. The lesson? If Team Stern really wants the Knicks to turn it around and be a true marquee franchise for the league, the key step in that process is NOT acquiring LeBron James. It's forcing the Knicks to trade Stephon Marbury.

* - Another big point in Nash's favor: some of you may remember that ol' Stevie Boy dated Elizabeth Hurley for a while a few years ago. This little fact was very memorably dissected by Chuck Klosterman thusly:

"You gotta give Steve Nash this: on December 11, 2001, Nash scored 39 points against the Portland Trail Blazers on 12 of 16 shooting. He scored 17 points over the final 6:23 of regulation, including two free throws with 3.9 seconds remaining that gave Dallas the win. And then he went back to his hotel room AND PROBABLY HAD SEX WITH ELIZABETH HURLEY. Nice night, dude."

Nice night, indeed. Pretty good resume for an MVP. Model-hot.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

I want you and your beautiful soul

Hey, I'm totally still here. I've been far too distracted lately thinking about Jesse McCartney and Evan's new favorite song, "Beautiful Soul". I highly recommend it. Even more than the song is the adorable 16-year-old artist(?), Jesse McCartney.

Above: Jesse lookin' tough

He's just too cute!! He used to be in a band called Sugar Beats. However, that's when he was much younger and not into love yet. teehee!!

Above: Guns Blazin'!!!

However, I have to figure that other teenie-popstars like Aaron Carter can be happy about Jesse getting in on the action. I mean, Jesse is so much cuter!!!

Above: Aaron it out

After reading that picture of the younger carter, I learned two things: Nick Carter is hard up for work and I'm not sure that Jesse and Aaron Carter are different people.

Okay, let's talk about sports now. I was watching sportscenter the other night and found out that Jeff Gordon is now (since he won today) within 4 victories of catching Dead Dale Sr. for the all-time win total in NASCAR history. During that same segment Steve Levy also said, "Restrictor plates get me sooooo hot." Which was hilarious, but anyway...I have to think that the passing of Dead Dale Sr (extra joke there, think about it) by Jeff Gordon and his rainbow warriors has to be the most annoying thing to NASCAR fans since the premier of Queer Eye or losing the Civil War. I mean, Gordon actually graduated high school!!! There's a good chance he's gonna be chased by crazed fans like Hank Aaron was when he was trying to pass Ruth. Should be interesting to see how it goes down. And yes, I know it's nascar. SHUTUP!!!

I'm furious with baseball. There, I said it.

After watching the spring game and then reading the cfn preview of the bucks, I'm way too geared up for college football to start. I had a bit of an insight while reading through some of the articles on cfn. Everyone, including myself, is high on iowa this year. There's good reason for that, they're good. However, they are gonna have a major problem: replacing the d-line. I remember last year when everyone thought our LBs would be good enough to overcome the fact we lost our great d-line. I didn't quite work that way. We got zero qb pressure and it really hurt the D. It's a problem that's generally ignored, line strength, but there's a good chance it's going to hurt iowa this coming year like it hurt us last season. Therefore, after realizing that fact and looking at the schedule, I think there's a good chance we'll be 10-0 heading into Ann Arbor. However, I'm not saying it's a lock, you'll know that once I bust out my way to early game by game predictions. Who called the NW game last year?? And ND over Mich?? You know who silly. This guy.