Monthly Archives: October 2007

Live in ’95

I just watched an NBA playoff game from the 1995 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals on ESPN Classic. It was the Orlando Magic at the Chicago Bulls, with Orlando having a 3-2 lead in the best of 7 series. This might be best known as the year Jordan returned in the middle of the season from baseball. Bulls lead by 9 late in the 4th quarter and ended up falling apart, including Jordan who had an airball and turnover in the last minute of play. Oh, and Luc Longley, the 7’2″ Australian center of the Bulls, basically airballed a dunk which would have given them the lead with less than 30 seconds to go. I didnt see this game when it originally aired back then, due to either not having cable yet (it was on TBS), or possibly was watching the Suns/Rockets game that was on at the same time on TNT (the kept showing score updates for that game, and I seem to somewhat remember that game).

Anyways, there were quite a few hilarious things occuring in and around this contest and here are some of them: Washington Bullets’ rookie Juwan Howard was in the crowd, wearing a cosby sweater; the commentators talked about how the league was in good shape for whenever the post-Jordan era would start with Grant Hill, Jason Kidd, and Juwan Howard, I guess they were kind of right about Kidd; Penny Hardaway played in the game, and was fully healthy, seriously; Shaq was sporting a fade haircut and weighed about 100 pounds less than he currently does; Horace Grant, who was a Bull during their titles years had defected to the Magic, was wearing perhaps the largest goggles in sports history, and that is in no way hyperbole; Shaq chased a ball into the stands and almost killed a fan who he ran into at full speed; this graphic – baseball next Rockies vs Braves, which would feature the Braves team that actually won the world series later that year, and the only Rockies team that made the playoffs until this year’s team; Chicago Bear’s coach Dave Wannstedt was in the crowd, that worked out well for the Bears, right?; Magic coach Brian Hill’s wife being shown in the crowd, sporting an even better Cosby sweater than Juwon Howard, featuring the following colors – red, purple, and grey pupon gold; the now late film critic Gene Siskel was in the crowd and was really into the game, I mean really into the game; and of course, Luc Longley, who I will always remember as the guy from NBA Live ’95 for Sega Genesis that despite his 7’2″ uncoordinated whiteness was able to nail 3 pointer after 3 pointer, which caused me to lose numerous games against my brother despite the fact that I outplayed him with Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson and the Milwaukee Bucks but still lost because he could just chuck up 3’s with Longley and he would nail them, with a guy in his face.

As always, comments encouraged

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At the movies

Time for some brief film reviews:

For those unfamiliar, rather than a rating system based on stars or thumbs, I have devised my own. Here is an overview:

Go see this movie right now, no matter the cost – I find the movie worth full first run theatre price. (If it is a movie that is already out of theatres, it means I suggest it is rented and viewed immediately by those who have yet to see it). The only thing that is better than this rating is if I call a film an absolute classic.

Worth viewing as a matinee – the movie is worth shelling out a couple of dollars for but not worth paying the absurd full price.

Wait til it hits the cheap theatre – this type of movie is worth a viewing but not worth more than a dollar or two of your money.

Wait for the DVD release – the movie is worth a viewing, but not worth any of your money as I assume you would be renting it via netflix and so viewing it wont cost you anything over what you already pay for netflix. Or you could just borrow from a friend who buys it, as we all know people who buy almost every new release.

Avoid at all costs – reserved for the worst of the worst, its not even worth your time to watch the movie. You should only be caught viewing this type of movie if you are a) drunk and it happens to be on TV and you are struggling with the remote; or b) are paid handsomely to view it.

Hot Rod– the Andy Samberg vehicle that from the trailers seemed like it might end up being a very long SNL sketch that would drag on and on. I was pleasantly surprised, as it featured some very funny moments; specifically everything involving Bill Hader. He completely stole the movie. At times it does lack direction and the plot is obviously ridiculous. It felt like Napolean Dynamite and Talladega Nights mixed into one movie, so it features some legitimately hilarious moments and some stuff that misses entirely. This would have been rated as a wait til it hits the cheap theatre movie, but it is already out of theatres; so I would now rate it as worth a look on DVD but I wouldn’t put it up too high in your netflix queue.

Superbad – I think everything that could have been said about this Judd Apatow production has already been said. I thought it was hilarious. It did drag at times and could have been shorter, but it was still better than most comedies that come out. The reason to really dig Apatow/Rogan’s work is that their characters are far more grounded in reality than most characters in anything else Hollywood released and they manage to feature hilarious comedy along with enough heart to make the story hold itself together. It’s to the point where the name Apatow or Rogan being on anything will instantly get me to watch it. Definitely worth a viewing at matinee prices,  boarding on full price worthy.

Balls of Fury – the movie about ping pong. Not very good. In fact, it featured very few laughs. The only real laugh is from frequent Reno911! guest Toby Huss as the groundskeeper of a cemetery. He is great and should be featured in more stuff. Almost everything else about this movie bombed. I don’t want to do it, but I have to rate it as avoid at all costs.

3:10 to Yuma– I thought this had potential to be the film that brought westerns back into style, ala Unforgiven in the early 90s. It wasnt quite that good, but was a very solid effort. For quite sometime I didnt like Christian Bale as an actor, mostly due to Reign of Fire, but in the last couple years he has really turned it up a notch (Batman Begins, The New World, and The Prestige) and my opinion has completely turned. He is good, I give in. He was what you thought he was. I have long been a fan of Russell Crowe. I think he brings great screen presence to a film. Also, be on the lookout for the great Luke Wilson cameo. If you like westerns, you will like this movie. Recommended for matinee viewing, possibly full price viewing depending on how into westerns you are.

Shoot Em Up – I thought this tongue in cheek action film starring Paul Giamatti and Clive Owen had some real potential. The action is way over the top on purpose, or at least that’s what it seemed they were going for. So, it is entertaining and doesnt feel like you run of the mill pointless action fare. Also, it is rather short, clocking in at under an hour and a half, so it never drags. It just felt like it was lacking something, and the crazy action gets less funny as the film goes on. Definitely worth a look in the cheap theatres, or a rental if it happens to already be out of the cheap theatres.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf  – this Elizabeth Taylor film from 1966 is an absolute classic. I am really glad it made it onto the new AFI top 100 list because it deserves that acclaim. This is a must see film. I cant say enough good things about it. Also, it is quite racy in terms of language and implied acts for its time period. It holds up amazingly well for being 41 years old.

Until next time, as always comments encouraged.

A breakdown of the current tv climate

There is a certain kind of person I hate, well maybe not hate but severly dislike, the kind of person who claims ‘they never watch tv’. Yes you do, everyone does. I share the same dislike for people who claim ‘there is nothing good on tv’. Yes there is, you just need to know where to find it.

My first rule of thumb, generally avoid network shows. By my count there are 112 primetime shows on network channels (CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX, and CW, aka the ‘free’ over the air channels). There are only 6 shows out of those 112 that I go out of my way to watch (My Name is Earl, The Office, Scrubs, 30Rock, Lost, and How I Met Your Mother), and by ‘out of my way’ I mean have the Tivo record them and then watch them sans commercials. There are also 4 other shows I will watch if nothing is on and I have nothing backlogged on the Tivo (Two and a Half Men, Cops, Law & Order, and Law & Order:SVU). There is 1 show I will watch under other circumstances; that being Dateline NBC when it is a To Catch a Predator episode. Plus, there are 4 shows I have heard are good but just havent given a chance yet (Friday Night Lights, 24, Heroes, and Prison Break). That’s a total of 15 shows on network TV that in my opinion are possibly worth watching, or 15 out of 112, or 13.4%. Not a great ratio.

My second rule of thumb, when in doubt watch whatever is on FX, HBO, or Showtime. What I like to call ‘the big three’ of channels you have to pay for. They have a total of 34 original shows that are still being produced, or at least I thought they were still being produced. They have a combined 10 shows I go out of my way to watch (The Shield, Rescue Me, Nip/Tuck, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Dexter, Weeds, The Tudors, Entourage, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and The Wire). There are two other shows I have heard are good but havent gotten around to watching (Big Love, and The Riches). So, that is 12 out of 34 shows that are possibly worth watching, or 35.3%. I know these three channels have an advantage over network channels as they have almost no limits to their content, whilst network channels have quite a lot of content limitations. However, all networks have cable channels that they own or are affiliated with, as well as websites that are or could be capable of airing their programs. I would allow people making the shows free reign on whatever content they want to put into them, with the understanding that they would be editing for broadcast on the network but would be reaired in their original form on one of the network’s cable affiliates or put up for viewing in unedited format on the web.

My third rule of thumb, cable offers some excellent stuff, if you know what to look for. I don’t feel like counting up the total number of original series that all cable stations are currently airing. Instead I will go thru the shows I feel are worth your time to watch. Discovery Channel offers Mythbusters, Man vs Wild, Survivorman, and Deadliest Catch. Comedy Central offers The Colbert Report (my one and only source for world news), Reno911!, and South Park. I gave up on the Daily Show due to not being able to handle Jon Stewart anymore. Scifi has Ghost Hunters. Cartoon Network has Robot Chicken and Aqua Teen Hunger Force. That’s 10 more shows I find to be worth watching.

Adding up all the shows I follow, that’s a total of 31 shows. Granted not all of them are airing new episode during the same time period; it’s still quite a few shows, especially given how particular I am with the shows I watch. Being that I am far more selective than most on what shows I follow, everyone should be able to find at least that many shows on the hundreds of channels that are now available that they enjoy. Is television in trouble in terms of how many unwatchable shows there are compared to quality entertainment? Definately. Is there still some really high quality stuff to watch? No doubt about it. 

I am guessing I probably forgot a quality show or two, so let me know if I did.

As always, comments encouraged.

He was what we thought he was, Annual October Swoon Edition

I cant say I’m shocked by the Yankees replicating last year’s first round failure. I am slightly upset about the bug infestation incident that may or maynot have cost them game 2 in Cleveland. (Seriously, is that stadium built on an old landfill?!?)  However, ALL the Yanks critical flaws were exposed – starting pitching that ranges from slightly effective to very very shaky, a bullpen with only two reliable pitchers (Rivera and Joba), an offense that runs either extremely hot or extremely cold, a manager who is afraid to send runners early in a game, and a lineup that can struggle against any left handed pitcher. They didnt deserve to win the series, and I am slightly relieved to avoid going to ALCS-war with the Sox for the third time in five years. Also, I took some of my frustrations out by shouting such things at the TV during game 4 as, “Paul o’Neill’s not walking thru that door! Scott Brouis is not walking thru that door!” and in reference to Cleveland’s shaky closer who would have blown the series if only he had been given a chance to blow the series as demonstrated by the monster homerun he gave up to Abreu and nearly gave up to Posada, “He was what we thought he was! He was what we thought he was, and we left him off the hook!” That said, I will not stand for the Red Sox or Indians winning the World Series, and am really not a fan of the Dbacks either, so lets go Rockies. They should have no problem taking the series, especially if that Holliday guy is allowed to continue not having to touch bases to be called safe.

Moving on to the offseason, here is what I would do if I was Brian Cashman, assuming he is not fired by an old, grumpy and enraged Steinbrenner.

1) Reach a contract extension with ARod. Currently Arod’s contract has 3 years at $27M per season left, but it has an opt out clause which can be exercized within 10 days of the end of the world series AND if he were to not opt out this season, it contains another opt out clause for after next season if his annual salary is not bumped up by $5M. Texas is still paying $27M of the remaining $81M on his current contract, which disappears if ARod opts out, but remains if he instead reachs a deal on an extension. Basically, they will have to agree to bump his salary by $5M over the last three years, to avoid the opt out, and tack on a sizeable extension. I would throw out an offer to bump the current salary by the required $5M and tack another 4 years at $32M per season to the end of the deal. It makes it a 7 year $224M contract, by far the biggest in baseball, and tied for the longest with Soriano’s deal which has 7 years left after this season. Texas is still covering $27M, so the Yanks are still getting a discount. If Scott Boras, ARod’s agent, believes he can get a better deal on the open market, with the Yankees not involved in the bidding (they have said all along that if ARod opts out, they are not getting in a bidding war because they lose the Texas money and have been offering to agree on an extension most of the season, which is something they never do), then opt out and say goodbye. I believe an extension can and will be reached, even if it means throwing another year on the deal or a couple million on per season.

2) Offer arbitration to Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada, before arbitration takes place reach a deal for new three year contracts for each of them. If the last year can be a club option year, then great; if not, that’s not a deal breaker on my end.

3) Pick up the option on Bobby Abreu. It’s either give him $2M and tell him to leave, or give him $16M and get him for one more season while avoiding the necessity to sign Andruw Jones/Torii Hunter/Fukodome/Mike Cameron/Aaron Rowand to an all new bad contract that will be killing the team in 2 or 3 years. Its not the dollar amount that destroys the Yanks on these contracts, its the length. Eventually you end up with an overpriced player, who is a poor defender, and is unmoveable due to his contract (see: Giambi, Jason).

4) Convince Pettitte to accept his player option for next season.

5) Shop Kyle Farnsworth and Johnny Damon, if anything of value can be had for them and you dont have to pickup a large portion of their salary then make the trade, if not they remain on the team.

6) Offer arbitration to Luis Vizcaino, if he accepts then you get a solid veteran who should contribute to the bullpen assuming Torre isnt around to use him every day for three months straight. If he declines and signs elsewhere, you get a draft pick out of the deal.

7) Move Joba back to the rotation. He can either be a potential ace, who pitchs upwards of 200 innings, or you can leave him as a setup man for three seasons where he would contribute 75 innings or so. I think I’ll take the potential 200 innings of #1 starter. This assumes Rivera is back as the closer next season, if Rivera is somehow not resigned then you can make the case for Joba as the closer, but if his role in the bullpen is just setup man, then he has to be a starter.

8 ) Resign Jose Molina. He brings quality defense and there are no real catching prospects near the majors in the farm system.

9) Turn all open bullpen spots over to youngsters from the farm system. Basically, this is the bullpen headed into next season: Rivera (assuming he is resigned), Farnsworth (if he isnt traded), Vizcaino (if he is brought back), and that’s it. So, there are between 4 and 6 spots open in the pen. I propose a spring training battle between any pitcher on the roster who has pitched in the majors, is ready for the majors, or is near ready for the majors.

10) Hope for this rotation – Wang, Pettitte, Hughes, Mussina, Kennedy, Joba. You need 6 planned starters because Hughes has yet to pitch a full major league season, Joba and Kennedy will probably have innings limits placed upon them, and as we saw this season Mussina cant start for a full season any more, he can be effective over a few starts but not over the course of the entire season. Also, Alan Horne is ready in AAA should another starter be needed at some point in the season. You’d probably have to start Joba in the minors at the beginning of the season due to lack of roster spots, but that would work out fine as he would need to get back into the routine of starting and its better he work on that in the minors.

11) Fire Torre and bring in Joe Girardi, with the following stipulations – Bowa remains as 3B coach, Pena remains as 1B coach, Long remains as hitting coach, and AAA coach Eiland becomes the new pitching coach. Girardi is allowed to pick his bench coach and his bullpen coach. I think he’d jump at that chance as he turned down the Orioles job this season in hopes at a chance at the Yankees job this offseason.

12) Have a spring training battle for 1B between Andy Phillips and Juan Miranda. They really only need to find a 1B for one more season, then Mark Teixeira is a free agent after next season and with Giambi’s large contract (along with the contracts of Pavano, Farnsworth, Mussina, Pettitte) off the books, there is no reason they wont win a bidding war for a switching hitter 1B with power and gold glove caliber defense.

13) Construct the following bench – Molina as backup catcher, Betemit as utility player, Duncan as righty power/backup 1B/5th OFer. Only 3 “bench” players because Giambi is locked in as a permanent DH and there are 4 starting OFer who will split time in the OF and pick up some at bats at DH when Giambi inevitably makes his annual trip to the disabled list (Matsui, Damon, Melky, Abreu).

All of this hinges on retaining ARod. If he opts out, rather than go into panic mode and overpay Hunter or Jones, I would see what it would take to get Sexson from the Mariners. He has one year left on his contract, which works out perfectly with the plans to sign Teixeira next offseason. Sexson replaces some of the right handed power lost by losing ARod, and solidifies 1B for next season. I’d hand 3B over to Betemit and give Alberto Gonzalez (one of the players acquired in the Randy Johnson trade, not the disgraced former attorney general) a chance at the utility role.

In conclusion, let’s fight the urge of signing other team’s players to large contracts right as they enter the downside of their career’s, I’m looking at you Torii Hunter and Andruw Jones, and LET’S GO ROCKIES!

A Season in Review

With the playoffs less than 24 hours away, its time to recap the bizarre season of the New York Yankees. Now before anyone jumps down my throat about being a ‘bandwagon’ fan or ‘frontrunner’, I have been a fan for 24 years now and am a legacy fan. Also, the two years I lost off my live after the 2004 ALCS collapse more than covered me for the appropriate amount of fan suffrage. On with the review:

The Good – Chien Ming Wang with yet another season as the best starter on the team, Phil Hughes shows glipses of brilliance, Ian Kennedy showing promise in his limited number of starts, Clemens being around to teach the youngsters, Andy Pettitte in August, Matsui in August, Robinson Cano in the 2nd half, Shelley Duncan for the week he was allowed to hit and just for his dougout presence, Melky Cabrera’s arm, the highly choreographed celebrations between Cano and Melky, Derek Jeter somewhat for his play and mostly for his facial expressions, Rivera except for the very start and very end of the season, Joe Torre’s calming influence, Posada and whatever age regression therapy he has going on, that one relief appearance Kei Igawa made against the Red Sox back in April, pretty much everything ARod did, and of course Joba.

The bad – Joe Torre’s questionable bullpen management (what I like to call the Quantril effect, named for former Yankee reliever Pual Quantril who Torre abused so much that I believe he died on the mound), Abreu in the first half, Cano in the first half, Clemens and his 45 year old body literally breaking down before our eyes, Johnny Damon when in CF, almost every pitcher in april and may, fans and analysts who were outraged the Yankees didnt trade Melky Cabrera or Ian Kennedy for Eric Gagne, and the entire team thru may 29th.

The ugly – most starts made by Mike Mussina and his little league-esque velocity, all the appearances made by Kei Igawa other than the one mentioned above, my level of trust in anyone in the bullpen not named Mo or Joba, my prediction of 95 losses for the team after one particularly devastating losing streak, and the fact Carl Pavano made $11M for four starts.

A look ahead – I cant say the Indians and their 0-6 record against the Yankees scares me. I know the Yanks only faced Carmona once and CC Sabathia nonce, but they beat Carmona and have a tremendous history against CC. This does have striking parallels to last season, when the Tigers and their 2-5 record against the Yanks didnt scare me. The Yanks also had an insanely good history against one of their starters (Kenny Rogers) and had shelled their best pitcher earlier in the season (Verlander). So, you could say I am worried about my lack of worry going into this series. I am however seriously worried about going into another game 4 down 2-1 with a very suspect starter on the mound (Mussina this year, Jaret Wright last year). Whatever happens, let’s just hope it doesn’t end with ANOTHER Yankees-Red Sox epic ALCS, while it would be a fitting third part to their epic ALCS trilogy (2003 – Boone’s walkoff in extra innings of game 7, 2004 – the collapse best summed up with a mental image of Kevin Brown); I just dont think I can mentally and physically survive the anguish of a possible seven 4.5 hour long games against the Red Sox over the course of less than two weeks.

Until next time, comments highly encouraged…

I – Origins

Just a small introduction to this blogolumn (which is a word coined by me and is obviously the offspring of a weblog and a column). Here is what this blogolumn will feature almost exclusively: my random musings about sports, tv, movies, and music. That’s it, that’s the list.