Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Oh, Irony...

It was announced this morning that Chris Brown will be performing at the Grammys this year. Obviously, this is an undeserved reward for a highly unstable and abusive human being. I'm pretty sure everyone agrees he's not a good guy, or someone we'd ever want to serve as a role model.
However, the real story here is that whoever wrote the story for the AP either has a sick sense of humor, or no self awareness whatsoever. What do I mean? Check out this passage from the AP story:

Brown admitted to assaulting then-girlfriend Rihanna at a pre-Grammy party in 2009 and is serving five years of probation for the felony attack. A source told The Associated Press on Monday that Brown will hit the stage at Sunday's show.

Well, at least he won't be hitting Rihanna again! Right? Right? Anyone?

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Tao of Rube

For many New Englanders, today is a tough day. The events of Super Bowl XLVI will not soon fade from minds; the miscues, near-misses, and defeated imagery have cast a shadow over this otherwise spectacular February day. There are a number of coping strategies that would be perfectly fair to implement in this situation: denial (pretending nothing happened and everything is still OK), rage (preferably at anything related to the Giants, although several Patriots are fair game as well), or the "blackout" (completely ignoring anything and everything that could bring you into contact with a story about the game) are some popular choices. I, however, have chosen a different tack. I am going with what I like to call "the Rube Baker."
Who the hell is Rube Baker, you ask? Well, as the above clip will show you, he's a man who lacks basic intelligence (and the ability to throw the ball back to the pitcher), but also utilizes his simple mind to shed light on the most complicated of problems. He also happens to be a character in the movie "Major League II" played by legendary actor Eric Bruskotter, whose other credits include "Starship Troopers" and one episode of "Franklin & Bash."
Without ruining the pitch-perfect delivery of the story, the gist of the clip above is that when something bad happens to you, it is important to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Sure, it may feel catastrophic at the time, but in the grand scheme of things there are worse things that could happen than losing a football game.
Bringing a game that happened less than 24 hours ago into perspective is, obviously, easier said than done. But let's take a quick stab at it anyway. Here are the facts:
-The Patriots lost the turnover battle
-They did the one thing they said they could not, which was commit dumb mistakes that led to either points for the Giants or points off the board for the Patriots
-They uncharacteristically managed the clock poorly on the final Giants drive, costing themselves two timeouts and about a minute of game clock
-They were out-gained in both passing and rushing yards
-This was by far their weakest of the five Super Bowl teams they've had since 2001
Now, in spite of all this, the Patriots still had the ball with a minute to go, one timeout, and the greatest quarterback in NFL history leading them, needing only a touchdown to win the game. Considering the sloppy game they played (particularly on offense), this was not a bad place to be. If you were offered this scenario in the preseason, wouldn't you take it every time? Obviously the drive did not turn out as desired, but the fact is that the Patriots just didn't quite peak at the right time (unlike the Giants), and more than anything else that is what cost them. Sometimes you eat the bar, and sometimes the bar eats you.

Yes, the season is over. Yes, it is probably the last way most fans would have chosen for the season to end. Yes, it hurts. But the reality is that this team is far from done. They have two picks in both the first and second rounds next year, potential assets they could use to trade up and take a stud WR like Justin Blackmon. They still have Tom Brady, who will be back with a vengeance next year. As cool as he plays it, there is no way that being denied at least a tie with his idol Joe Montana for Super Bowl titles by a QB doesn't eat at him. The defense is young, and when healthy, proved that they can occasionally not suck. Gronk and Hernandez are redefining the tight end position. They've got most of the pieces already in place for another Super Bowl run, which is better than most teams can say.
As hard as it is to do, we need to back up and avoid the typical panic that sets in when a team's season comes to an end. We need to resist doling blame and trying to find scapegoats for the ultimate failure of the 2011-12 Patriots. This isn't like the Red Sox collapse; Vince Wilfork and Logan Mankins weren't sitting in the locker room eating Popeye's and slamming Buds at halftime. Hopefully. And even if they were, I'd be way too scared to tell them to stop.
Sometimes, you just lose. It's the inherent cruelty of sports, but it's also the reason why we watch. If the result were always certain and your team always won, what fun would it be?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tebowner Alert!

At long last, it has happened. After all the buildup, the doubt, and the anticipation, our moment of truth will arrive one week from Sunday in Miami. Timothy Richard Tebow, the Heisman Trophy and National Championship winning, God-fearing quarterback of the Denver Broncos, will make his first start of the 2011-12 season. We are about to see the ultimate litmus test for people who believe in “the end justifies the means.”
Never in the history of the league has so much time been devoted to discussing a backup quarterback. So much has been made of Tebow’s abysmal footwork and loopy, slow throwing motion that you’d think the guy had never been successful on any level. I can see why commentators of all types want him to fail, though; the generally held belief is that a quarterback’s technique must be flawless in order for him to succeed on the field. If Tebow- who last Sunday ran around the pocket with all the order and precision of a Roadhouse fight scene- is somehow able to succeed, then we will have to reconsider everything we thought we knew about quarterbacking.
After all, Tebow is one of the greatest winners in the history of college football. He won two national championships, a Heisman Trophy, and holds pretty much every record Florida has. Plus, this speech of his was emblazoned on the side of the athletic center while he was still on the team. He is a winner, a leader, and someone who by all accounts never gets into trouble*. He is a deity in the state of Florida. He has been the subject of two ESPN documentaries. When he wore the bible verse “John 3:16” on his eye black in the 2009 BCS championship game, 92 million people Googled it immediately after.
*Plus, he steadfastly maintains that he is a virgin. Considering the ample options I’m sure were thrown at him at Florida, that is probably the most impressive thing about him.
Tebow captivates an audience in a way we almost never see from athletes. And, when someone does grab our attention, it is usually driven by exploits on the field. Tebow has played in exactly four NFL games, and his stats aren’t exactly eye-popping (a sub-50 completion percentage doesn’t inspire much confidence), so clearly that isn’t the sole reason for his mass appeal. Throughout his career he has granted fans an accessibility rarely seen; he genuinely understands the importance of being such a revered figure, and he embraces it wholeheartedly. He is vocal about his religious convictions, but is not pushy or judgmental. He is omnipresent, but never in your face. He does so little to offend, that I am not sure how you could watch an extended interview with him and not come away impressed.
The split between fans and analysts on Tebow, though, is almost comical. Most football fans familiar with Tebow’s story want him to succeed; most analysts want him to fail. While these talking heads have a lot more at stake**, they also should want to see Tebow do well. He represents a new, potentially franchise player who can revitalize a Denver team that has badly needed a star since John Elway retired almost fifteen years ago. He can be a face of the next generation of NFL stars, since (sadly) Brady, Manning, et al. won’t be around forever.
**I’m not really sure these guys have much credibility to start, given how far off most of their predictions end up being, but oh well.
While Tebow likely will fall somewhere between Hall-of-Famer and complete bust, this author is hoping for a long and successful career for him.
It would be refreshing to have a vocal, principled person as the face of the NFL, which generally keeps its superstars as faceless as possible. Plus, I am dying to see all the naysayers explain how a guy who throws like a windmill on a mini golf course has suddenly become a superstar. If you’re looking for me next Sunday, I’ll be right where countless others are stationed: in front of my TV, watching Tim Tebow lead the Broncos to a much-needed win over the truly horrendous Miami Dolphins. I think I’m going to need a cold shower immediately afterwards.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

When is 2011 Like 2004?

As we now sift through the myriad postmortems on the Red Sox season, I find myself feeling especially grateful this morning. I am grateful not just for the two World Series titles in the last eight seasons, but also for the way in which we got to watch the Red Sox lose this year. The whole model for the season was bound to fail from the start; team-owned NESN’s website went on the record comparing them to the 1927 Yankees before the season has even started!
Rather than bemoan the fate of a team that spent an average of $1.78 million per win this season, we should instead be celebrating the historically spectacular failure we just witnessed.
It is one thing to see a team of beloved players who seem like “good” guys come up short; in those circumstances, we would deeply sympathize with the team and their fans. However, this Red Sox incarnation was a team built with a slew of unlikable players: the petulant and horrendous John Lackey, the oft-injured and volatile Kevin Youkilis, and (of course!) the silent and apathetic JD Drew. And that is only just a small portion of the roster; there were plenty of guys that every other fan base simply hated. Over the course of the season, even Sox fans themselves grew irritated with the antics/poor performances of some of these same players (see: Crawford, Carl). This team lacked any fire, and seemed to take pretty much any loss lying down; I can’t recall a single player seeming angry or fired up after a tough loss. Even last night, in a pregame interview, David Ortiz looked half asleep and suggested that this was “just another game.”
The incompetence required to outspend your rival by 382.2% and still manage to lose is truly impressive. It requires a perfect storm of ineptitude: wild overspending on underachievers (Crawford, Drew, Lackey), terrible trades (Eric Bedard? Really?), paying for players who are no longer on the team (remember Mike Cameron?), and a barren farm system (Who the hell is Kyle Weiland, and why is he starting critical games in September?). I won’t pretend to have any financial knowledge, but it is truly baffling to me that with all that money, the Sox couldn’t manage to spend even a quarter of it on good value. It always seems it’s a team like Tampa who finds the scrapheap reliever or utility infielder who makes the critical plays at the right times. Instead, we get the opposite. The Sox spend big money and expect that results will naturally follow. The flashy signing- and subsequent media fawning over- of Crawford and the extension for Adrian Gonzalez echoed, although certainly not as strongly, the way the Miami Heat were treated last offseason. Before they took the field, it seemed, a championship was theirs.
And now we arrive at the collapse itself. The Sox went 7-20 in September. That is, quite simply, historically bad. Like “worst in franchise history” bad. Like “even the worst teams in baseball win more than a quarter of their games” bad. It’s the type of once in a generation- or even a lifetime- events that we have to cherish when we see it. Face it, how boring would it have been if instead of going 7-20, the Sox had simply played mediocre baseball in September and gone 13-14, easily made the playoffs, then lost to Texas in the ALDS? Where’s the fun in that? With the state of their pitching staff, this team wasn't going to get past the first round of the playoffs, anyway. At least we Sox fans can say we got to witness something the likes of which has never been seen before.
While this is obviously not as emotionally rewarding an event as the 2004 comeback against the Yankees, it is almost equally monumental. Just as a team had never come back from a 3-0 deficit, so too had a team never blown a 9 game lead with 25 games left to play. While it is the wrong side of history, it is history nevertheless! The pain that accompanies watching this collapse should be fleeting; these players never looked like they cared anyway. I grant you that a couple of them (Pedroia, Ellsbury, Papelbon) probably did want to win, but that was not enough to overcome the apathy of their teammates. Rather than lament the 100+ wins and championship parade that could have been, we should instead fondly remember (and indeed celebrate) this team for what they were: historically great losers.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My Breaking Point

So yesterday, a loyal reader/friend of the program informed me of a story here informing the world that there will soon be a remake of the cinematic classic “Point Break.” For those not in the know, the movie can be summed up thusly: Swayze, Reeves, FBI agent infiltrates operation of bank robbing surfers. In a very weird twist, it is directed by Kathryn Bigelow, the former Mrs. James Cameron who won a Best Director Oscar in 2008 for “The Hurt Locker.”
To remake a work as complete and flawless as “Point Break” is a truly blunderous and tragic error. Have any painters tried to “re-envision” Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel? Have any poets tried to “improve” Shakespeare’s sonnets? Of course not! These are all magnificent works of art that withstand the fickle nature of popular culture, and society as a whole. To try to change them in any way, to reshape them to appease a “modern” audience, betrays the artistic integrity with which they were created. They represent the nature of true art: timeless and powerful throughout the ages, transcending the vacillations of a world where trends and flash and rule over substance. Instead, through their beauty and elegance, these works connect generations.
And so we arrive back at “Point Break.” This film* has everything one could ever ask for. It has action, romance, intrigue, and classic one-liners (see examples here, here, and here). You have Swayze and Reeves at the height of their powers: Swayze with his unparalleled coolness, and Reeves with his unparalleled vacantness. There’s Gary Busey in an Oscar-worthy turn as the prototypical grizzled veteran cop, Angelo Pappas. There is, too, the obligatory, comically terrible romantic subplot that exists in nearly every action movie. It has it all.

*I refuse to call it a movie. My favorite trope of the stereotypical cinematic snob is to refer to anything remotely decent as a “film.” This device can be used seriously (e.g., “'Avatar' was truly the most important film of our generation.”) or ironically (e.g., “It’s a real film, Jack.” [from Boogie Nights, obviously]). Either way, as long as you say it while closing your eyes, you will have created the perfect caricature.

So why, then, must we attempt to tweak what is already so well done? This type of nitpicking is how legacies are sullied and careers destroyed. While the laziness that comes with simply rebooting a long-dormant franchise has become a vital part of moviemaking these days (Smurfs? Tron? Land of the Lost? Who is asking for these movies?), usually the movies that get remade are eminently improvable. Between Point Break and the forthcoming “Footloose” remake**, things have now gone too far.

**I talk about this video far too often, but please do yourself a favor and watch the Footloose warehouse dance solo. You can’t possibly see this and think it can be improved upon. Kevin Bacon, crushing beer and cigarettes, dancing his emotions out. Gold.

I also want to deliver a special message to Keanu Reeves: don’t do it! I know making a cameo seems like a good idea, but it isn’t. Instead, you should protest this film’s creation. Take legal action if you must. Anything to protect the good name of Special Agent/Ohio State Quarterback Johnny Utah. Raising Swayze rise from the grave, “Ghost”-style, would likewise help create the grassroots movement needed to keep the original Point Break as the only Point Break.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Strike a Pose

Some of you may recall earlier in this space an exposé on my distaste for sidewalk meanderers. These feelings haven’t changed; if anything, a year living in a big city only further accentuated just how much these people need to be stopped. However, I recently departed my former palace in Boston’s North End in favor of the delightfully pretentious city of Cambridge in an attempt to restore a modicum of sanity to my everyday life.
Perhaps, I thought, my days of despising pedestrians were behind me. I was, after all, joining my kind of people: self-important, poorly dressed, and enamored of smug cultural buzzwords (e.g., “sustainable”). However, while I have only been in the neighborhood for just over a week, I have discovered that an equally dislikable monster roams the Cambridge streets: the crosswalk stiff armer.
Cambridge is, as anyone who lives there will constantly remind you, a very people-friendly city. Ample trees, bike lanes, and crosswalks are interspersed within the city’s many busy roads, which makes it a place best navigated on foot. While this is great for the Earth, it also cultivates a sickening sense of entitlement in all pedestrians as they dart in and out of traffic with impunity. They want all drivers to know that they, in fact, own the road.
The stiff-armer is the worst of these offenders. Not content with simply crossing and assuming an oncoming driver will quickly stop to avoid hitting them and doing jail time, the stiff-armer actually takes things a step further. She* will actually slow down in the crosswalk, throw up her hand as if she were striking a Heisman pose, and try to stare you down. Oftentimes, she has wandered out into the crosswalk before you have showed any intention of stopping. She simply doesn’t care.
*I’m not in any way attempting to be progressive here by eschewing the typical “he” pronoun. Call me sexist, but this person is usually a woman. Sorry ladies.
The concept of pedestrians having the right of way doesn’t bother me. What bothers me about these people is their attitude. They need to learn a little respect for the 2000+ pound piece of metal that is hurtling towards them. If they miscalculate their move into the sidewalk, they’re dead. That’s a fact.
This lack of appreciation for the power of cars is deeply disturbing, but it is ultimately the fault of we drivers who have tacitly allowed it to develop. Like a group of enabling friends, we have stood idly be as these people’s behavior has spiraled out of control, slowly losing our grip on the rules that brought peace and order to our roads. The time has come for an intervention.
While I would never advocate committing a crime, it’s time for the drivers to fight back. Next time you are driving, if someone tries to throw up the stiff arm, give them a little nudge, show them who’s boss. A stiff arm barely works against Ray Lewis; I’m going to guess that it is not going to work too well against a moving vehicle. I was always taught in school that when trying to explain something one should “show, don’t tell.” Is there any better way to “show” someone who is in charge than via a lovetap from your front bumper?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


On days like today, when the humidity of summer is gone and that little twinge of coldness once again returns to the air, I am reminded that it is time for schools everywhere to resume. This point was driven home by my almost running over several small children on my way to work this morning. If I remember correctly from my own days in school, sharing hilarious jokes and expressions you learned over the summer is a vital part of this “welcome back” ritual.
Unfortunately, some of these zingers can be mean-spirited or, even worse, stupid. They are often pulled from popular culture with little thought to whether they actual have any comedic merit. My least favorite of these popular expressions is the somehow still-popular “no homo.”
According to all-powerful Wikipedia, “the term originated in East Harlem slang of the early 1990s,” but yet also was uttered in Caddyshack when “Ty Webb (Chevy Chase) uses the line in response to a question from the young lady he is entertaining.”* One of my role models, Lil’ Wayne, uses it liberally in many of his songs.

*While searching for “Caddyshack no homo” brings up some interesting results, I did also find the quote at the bottom of this page.

Regardless of its genesis, I don’t really understand the point of this phrase. I’m not sure how it helps one’s point in any way; if a male says to one of his male friends, “I love the way you’re wearing your hair, no homo,” I’m pretty certain I know what part of the message is going to be remembered.
In any case, I am here to suggest an alternative to this played-out figure of speech. Sure, you might get some strange looks at first, but if you start using these I guarantee you will be a trailblazer in the creation of popular phrases. Or, at the very least, get some credit as an innovator. With practical examples for use in everyday life, I give you, the (very few) readers, No Hobo:

“That abandoned boxcar looks really comfortable, let’s go camp out in it…no hobo”

“I’m really cold, let’s go warm our hands over that barrel of burning trash…no hobo”

“There’s something really satisfying in putting all of your possessions in a bandana, tying them to stick, and going for a really long walk…no hobo”

“Sometimes it just tastes better to eat baked beans straight from the can…no hobo”

“I’m totally going to steal that shopping cart and use it to store my stuff in…no hobo”

“We should go grab all the cans out of the trash so we can get 5 cents for them…no hobo”

There are many other variations and possibilities to this punchline, but I wouldn’t want to ruin all the fun for you. I encourage everyone to take this into their workplaces and social lives. Try it out, just not on any hobos. They might be offended at your making light of their very real problems. You wouldn’t want to get punched out, although sleeping on the sidewalk is surprisingly comfortable…no hobo.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Listen my children and you shall hear...

Sometimes, you have to pick apart and analyze video footage to make a point. You have to explore, synthesize, and refine your argument until it is ready to be presented. However, sometimes a piece of footage will speak for itself. And here we get an enduring lesson about how our forefathers loved and protected the 2nd amendment from those horrible British overlords with their words and their bells. Your move, gun control lobby!