Tuesday, November 12, 2013


There was a day last week where woke up yesterday morning at like 5am, for which I’d like to thank Daylight’s Savings. Blech. But since I couldn't get back to sleep, I decided to start watching Moneyball. It’s one of those movies that I can always watch. I’m happy watching just 15 minutes or watching the entire film. After texting a friend that enjoys Moneyball as much as myself, I realized what Hollywood needs to do. I am even more convinced today, after hearing about a “Full House” spin-off.

What I want, what’s important to me, is Aaron Sorkin and Peter Berg join forces, and give us “Moneyball” the television series. Knowing they couldn't have the cast from the movie, I’ve been thinking over the best casting options. My first instinct was for Kyle Chandler (aka Coach Taylor) to take on the role of Billy Beane. And I think he’d be fantastic, but it would be so hard to see him as anyone other than Coach Taylor. So when I sit down with Berg and Sorkin (what do you mean, “never gonna happen?”) I’m suggesting they cast John Cusak.

Cusak’s cadence speaking Sorkin’s words, yeah, sign me up. Sorkin could recruit Josh- er, Bradley Whitford to play A’s manager Bob Melvin. The way I see it, you take 6 parts of Moneyball, 3 parts of “Friday Night Lights” and one part of “Entourage” (coming from the first two seasons). I want to see Beane deal with free agents and working the phone to make a trade. I want to hear his reaction to the contracts the Angels hand out like prizes at a county fair.

There’s simply no way that this wouldn't be the best show on television. All that’s left is for Berg and Sorkin to sign on. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Greatest Common Factor

I’m not sure when it happened, but it was sometime soon after getting married. I used to be a night owl. Up till 1 or 2 every night, and up by 6 during the week and 9 on the weekends. Now, during the week, I’m usually in bed by 10:30. Occasionally it’s earlier, and rarely it’s much earlier. The joke is, that I am turning into my mother because I’m also now an earlier riser, no matter if I want to be or not. Part of me can’t stand this new schedule, but then I sort of like being up early. I get to work by 7, but I’m usually 10-15 minutes early. Best of all, I’m off at 4. While most of the world still has another hour or two of work, I’m already heading home. That’s when it feels like I’m stealing time. To be honest, I’m not sure who I’m stealing it from. Now the idea of working till 5, actually gives me some anxiety. Although for me, anxiety comes with breathing.

So last night I stayed up to watch some of the Colts and Broncos, and once the game looked pretty much locked up, I turned in for the night. Meanwhile, the Kyd was up late doing some homework that she had forgotten about. I was equally annoyed that she waited till 11 on Sunday night to magically remember, and proud that she actually remembered. She had math homework, and she’s really come a long way. English was always her strong suit, she’s an amazing reader (both in quantity consumed and retention) and a very good writer. Math used to give her fits, but now she really enjoys it. Great news for me, since I was always a big fan of math, plus I’m actually good at the math she’s doing. But once she gets to high school, I may have to get a tutor of my own, just in case she asks for help.

A little before midnight, I heard my wife ask “are you awake?” I wanted to answer in the negative, but she’s too smart for that. Turns out, the Kyd was stumped by Greatest Common Factors. And I still like Greatest Common Factors, which I think is probably some sort of evidence of OCD. I’ll often see a license plate on the car in front of me, and stay behind that car until I’m sure I’ve figured out the Greatest Common Factor. But times sure have changed, now they teach kids to find the Greatest Common Factor using some cake method. Sure, every kid needs to start craving sweets while doing their homework.

Truth be told, I was thrilled to be up late. I loved that I could help, and while she usually can’t stand for me to help with homework, she was completely receptive, appreciative, and patient. This all reminded me why I became a night owl to begin with. When my parents always kept me on a strict bedtime, I was sure I was missing something. So as soon as “bed-time” was removed from my life, I made sure to stay up as late as I possibly could. I wasn’t going to miss anything. I hope I haven’t missed too many nights like last night, and that I’ll never miss another. But if 5 Hour Energy drinks cause cancer, please, don’t tell me just yet. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Blurred Lines

Like so many others, I am a creature of habit. My wife may think it occasionally borders on OCD, and she’s not wrong. Recently, I tweaked (I might have to retire the use of “tweak” as it’s just way too close to “twerk” but I digress) my bedtime routine. I used to just put on the television, and find something that was just interesting enough that I didn't want to flip the channel, but lacked action and humor. Usually it ended up with me watching an episode of “Lockup” or “Drugs Inc.” Then, in an effort to make it easier for my wife to fall asleep, I swapped an iPad in place of the television.

Now I look for documentaries that fit the bill; interesting enough that it holds my attention for 20 minutes, but not so interesting that it gives me a second wind. Last night I found Miss Representation.  Miss Representation is a documentary that delves into how the media portrays women, and how that impacts young girls to teens, to women and even men. See, it doesn't even sound all that enthralling, right? Sure, I've noticed how almost every commercial includes a beautiful woman and her beauty is the focus of the spot, no matter if the ad itself is selling perfume or a hamburger.

But what really hooked me, was listening to a group of high school girls talk about their stories. Hearing tales of how they worried about their weight in 5th grade. As well as the stories about how harsh women are to each other. It really struck a chord with me, as a father, husband, uncle, son, brother and as a compassionate human-being. I couldn't help but think about how we could diminish the impact of the onslaught of images and influences the Kyd sees on a daily basis. Unfortunately, and predictably, I haven’t been able to come up with a silver bullet. Instead, I've decided that I’ll sit and watch Miss Representation with down with my wife and daughter. I’ll do my best to not say anything. I’m sure the Kyd will be plenty embarrassed by all the shots of cleavage and skimpy outfits. It’ll be hard for me to keep my lips sealed, but I’m hoping she takes away two thoughts.

One, it’s all crap. Her worth isn't derived from her body. Winning the adoration of a boy isn't the end game, and she should never sell herself short for any reason.

Secondly, I want her to know that I’m aware of the burden society puts on her and her friends. Then maybe one day down the road when I make a crack about how she’ll never be allowed to wear the house in a skirt as short as the one that girl over there is wearing, isn’t about me wanting to prevent her from attracting boys or because I want her to be afraid of sex. I just want her to be seen for the smart, funny, talented, beautiful, compassionate, and creative young woman she is. And more than wanting her to be seen that way, I want her to see herself as smart, funny, talented, beautiful, compassionate and creative young woman she is.

Maybe she’ll start to understand why I refuse to listen to Miley Cyrus’ latest song, when it comes on the radio when we’re on our way to volleyball practice. And maybe I need to turn the channel the next time a Victoria’s Secret commercial comes on during the basketball game we’re watching. Or maybe I just need to be sure she hears me compliment her, as well as her mother’s sense of humor, intelligence and kind heart.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Breaking Wish

Like most of the country, I am obsessed with “Breaking Bad”. No, that’s not even accurate. I am addicted.  I’ll skip all of the obvious metaphors, but I can’t get enough of the show or the cast. I want to have surgery so that I sound like Aaron Paul. I hate myself for being a couple of years late to the party, but I’ll be first in line for Vince Gilligan’s next project. He could write a note on the wall of a bathroom stall in whatever they now call the Oakland Coliseum, and you’ll find me literally knee deep in it.

I think the writers are nothing short of brilliant, and for me to place this show above “The Sopranos” on my Mount Rushmore of television dramas is the highest compliment I can give.  There hasn't been a wasted episode, pointless character or a single line that wasn't meticulously thought out. The premise itself doesn't sound incredibly interesting.  And a show about a middle class and middle aged white person becoming a drug dealer, just three years after “Weeds” premiered, smells of a copycat. Yet they made the most interesting and most original series, the best ever.

That all said, I think they’re making a mistake. Not with the direction of the show, but with the Saul Goodman spin-off. For me, Saul has always been a great character, who has given the show great comedy relief at the exact right time. Before I stopped biting my fingernails, and began devouring entire fingers. But he isn’t the character to carry an entire series. He’s like Jack Black. Fantastic in a supporting role, but should only be the lead in the perfect situation. Think: High Fidelity, School of Rock, King Kong, and Shallow Hal.

No, the character that would make for the most interesting spin-off is the last character they introduced us to. The man with no name, played by the brilliant Robert Forster. (Thanks to the Podcast, I actually do know his name)

What television doesn't need is another show about a lawyer. Not even a corrupt, glorified ambulance chaser who offices out of a strip mall. But a show about someone who owns a vacuum store and on the side helps recreate identities and relocate all sorts of characters? That’s an idea worth exploring.  He’s someone I want to know more about. How did he get into that line of work? Why? What’s his end game? What are his methods?  And can you imagine all the different characters they could introduce?

Not just the criminal masterminds like Mr. White, yo. There’s the abused spouse wanting to start fresh. Maybe a disgraced politician that had to withdraw from a race because of some indiscretions. Or the front man of a band like The Cruisers. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Breaking Theory

After last night’s “Breaking Bad” I have, like the rest of the world, had to re-evaluate my prediction for how the show ends. Not that I had really committed a single theory, but based on what we knew, Walt was alive in the somewhat near future. Based on the, for lack of a better word, flash-forward, we knew that Walt had left the Albuquerque area and assumed a new identity. Most of the theories revolved around him calling Saul’s vacuum repair guy.

Stop reading now, if you haven’t seen last night’s episode. Also, get your priorities in line.

They left us believing that Hank and Gomez were dead, or that death was imminent. Not since Trayvon Martin, has someone been at such a disadvantage as a couple of DEA agents were against some ultra-militant Neo-Nazi psychopaths. But let’s be honest, they had pretty horrible aim. They had the better angle, more firepower, and shot first. Yet, somehow we never see Hank or Gomez wounded. Or I missed it. This is completely possible, as I can neither confirm nor deny that I had to pause the show, just to change my shorts. I was sure they were going to snipe Hank like Tom Berenger would have.  

Based on the assumption that Hank and Gomez lose the firefight, here is what I think is going to happen:

Walt will be wounded. There’s just no way that none of the bullets strike him. There hasn’t been a sitting duck like that since Tupac on the Vegas strip. Which, by the way, happened 17 years ago Saturday. RIP, Pac. And now, back to our regularly scheduled program. The skinheads aren’t going to kill Jesse. Maybe they think Walt is dead, but Jesse survived the shootout. So Landr-, er, Matt Dam-, I mean Todd’s crazy uncle is going to snatch Jesse. Our beloved Jesse is their best bet at increasing the purity of Todd’s cook as well as adding that blue persuasion.

But we know that Walt did indeed survive. I think he ends up turning State’s evidence, and testifying against the Skinheads. He could just as easily spin a tale about how they got their hooks into him, just like the story he spun about Hank in “Confessions.” And the Government will be more concerned with getting the guys who gunned down two of their own. Also, since the DEA has no knowledge of Hank investigating Walt.

So Mr. White testifies, but something goes wrong. The skinheads have Jesse cooking for them, but Todd finally perfects the cook, and Jesse becomes disposable. We see Walt coming back, not to go after Jesse. Not to face off with Walt Jr. Mr. White, who actually got away with being a drug kingpin for a year, can’t help but come back to avenge his top pupil. The cancer is back, and he doesn't have much time left. Sadly, neither does the greatest show ever.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


I've been playing fantasy sports since, well, since before I actually even started playing fantasy sports. In 3rd grade, a friend and I would draft teams. There was never any tracking of stats, so no winner or loser. You won, or lost, just from looking at the rosters. I finally went “professional” in 6th grade, and I've had either a football, baseball or basketball team every year since. 

 But the newest idea for a league that I see in my minds’ eye is a throwback to 3rd grade. Simply because it is pure fantasy. No, I don’t mean that kind of fantasy. It can never be tracked. If you have ever watched a football game, you may have noticed that there were 11 guys from each team on the field. In baseball, there’s nine and in basketball you have five players. My idea is to draft a team of 11 guys, from all three sports. The catch: everyone has to play a position in every sport. Tom Brady can be your quarterback, but you also have to find a position for him on the diamond and a spot for him on the hardwood, as well as a defensive position for him to play in football. 

 If, for example, you do draft Tom Brady, he has to be your QB. But then you can pick what positions he’ll play in the other sports. For the baseball team, you draft two starting pitchers and one relief pitcher to go along with your eight position players. For the basketball roster, there’s your starting five made up of a point guard, shooting guard, small forward and a center. The bench should have a back-up for every position plus one extra player, and the team owner can select what position they play. As for your football team, you have a little more flexibility. The owner can decide if they have three wide receivers or two. A two back set or a single back. There has to be a quarterback, at least one running back and two wide receivers, but the other three offensive positions are flexible, but every player has to have their position determined upon drafting. 

 Below are examples using current players, and an all-time team:

Monday, August 12, 2013

Fall & Winter Flicks

After summer filled with meh-vies more than movies, here are the trailers of the movies I am most looking forward to seeing in the fall and winter:

American Hustle, December 25th

The Monuments Men, December 18th

The Counselor, October 25th

Inside Llewyn Davis, December 6th

Runner Runner, October 4th

The Wolf of Wall Street, November 15th

Don Jon, September 27th

Thor: The Dark World, November 8th

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, December 20th

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

50 Years

I knew when we took on the challenge, of organizing a weekend to honor my parents for their 50 years of marriage that the payoff would be well worth it. But I never really spent much time thinking about how much it could mean. Because you know, arranging for temperatures under 100 degrees in August in Kansas City, is really pretty time consuming. But my wise uncle put it all in perspective for me, in a single sentence. “You've given them, what might be, the greatest memory of their lives.”

A great weekend was the original goal, but now I would have to consider anything short of their greatest memory ever to be a failure. And with as much confidence as I can muster, mission complete. But giving them a great weekend, or the greatest weekend, wouldn't come close to evening things out.

I’m pretty hard on myself in most areas of my life, but I know this much: I’m a damn good husband with a fantastic marriage. Both facts being a result of the parents I have and the examples they set for me. In 50 years, no matter what life threw at them, they faced it all as a team.  What they say is true, “imitation is the highest form of flattery,” and I can’t think of any better way to compliment my parents, than to imitate them. Minus dad’s walk. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Too: To a Higher Degree than is Desirable, Permissible, or Possible

He was too young. It happened too soon. It’s all too sad. This is just too close for comfort. He meant too much to too many. Too many are hurting.  

Over the weekend, a friend very suddenly and completely unexpectedly, passed away. He was only 46. We weren’t close friends, but I had known him for a little more than 10 years. He was, however, very close friends to a good friend of ours. And that relationship, amplified the magnitude of this earthquake by a 100 times. Maybe even a thousand. I really can’t do math right now.

I’m not sure why I’m even writing about it, or what I’m trying to say. It’s not as if I can make sense out of this. It makes no sense. He was in great shape. I heard some of the details, rather, I was told some of the details. But, similar to a scene from the movie Spanglish, there was a crack in the world. I vividly remember being told what happened, but none of the details stuck. My brain couldn’t manage hearing while trying to comprehend what had happened.

Now, my heart breaks for his wife. My heart breaks for his son and daughter. My heart breaks for his twin brother. There was so much to admire and respect. He had a close knit group of friends, dating back to high school and college. I saw the kind of relationship every brother hopes to have. They lived within five miles of each other, and spent summer vacations together in Destin, Florida.

Toughest of all, was seeing the relationship he had with his children. When I was in my teens to early 20’s, I couldn’t imagine being so close with my father. Now that I am a parent, I can only hope to immolate what he had. How many 20 year old daughters would post so many photos with their father on Facebook? It sounds like such an insignificant fact, but I was always really impressed. He wasn’t someone I’d text, I’d just see him around from time to time. And while his poker playing style could drive me nuts, I always hoped to learn more about his parenting style.

Life is too short, and too precious. A late night movie with friends is too easily taken for granted. Too many words go unsaid. It’s all just too sad. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Cheating II: The Wait for III

I was hoping that I would never write about Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) again. I really was. But every time it hits the headlines, and the media subsequently pushes the buttons of the fans until they’re foaming at the collective mouth, I can’t help but get fired up. I think I’ve figured out how to best explain why taking PEDs isn’t actually cheating. Now, I understand that it’s technically cheating, because it’s against the rules.

You know what else is cheating in baseball? Anytime a batter kicks away the chalk outline of the batter’s box, so he can stand further back. Watch a game, and you’ll notice that chalk outline is gone by the end of the first inning. Yet no one is accused of cheating, and there’s no talk of lifetime bans or suspensions. It is still cheating.

This is how I see it is: Cheating happens on the field. While PEDs are part of preparation. There haven’t been any links made between taking HGH, or any other substance, to better hand-eye coordination, athletic ability or any specific skill. Using sandpaper to doctor a baseball directly affects how that ball rotates. HGH increases bone density; muscle mass, decreases body fat and increases exercise capacity. But the player still has to work out, HGH just maximizes those workouts. There are numerous supplements that baseball hasn’t banned, that have many of the same benefits, but perhaps aren’t as effective.

Taking PEDs is like a high school kid, who hasn’t been diagnosed with ADD, who takes Adderall, so they can stay up late and study more. Yes, I’m totally thinking of Jessie in “Saved by the Bell” taking caffeine pills. The result may be better grades. It’s illegal, since they don’t have a prescription, but no one would call it cheating.  Now a student who gets a copy of the test beforehand, we’d all call that cheating. But we wouldn’t say it’s cheating, if a student decided to read ahead in their textbook. Wait, do they still have textbooks? But really, who called Jessie a cheater in 1990?

Now I need to understand why these stories set me off like this. A follower on twitter recently told me, “if you don’t care, then don’t care.” But I do care. I care about truth and honesty. So I despise Ryan Braun, not so much for lying, but for throwing others under the bus. But I’m also super angry that the media and fans only seem to care about PEDs in baseball. They want to take Braun’s MVP award away. But when Brian Cushing was caught using steroids in the NFL, they did strip his award. Then the writers voted again, and he won again. Two seasons later, he put up identical stats, and no one batted an eye. When Kobe Bryant went to Germany for a treatment program that isn’t legal in the United States, it drew some attention, but no one has called him a cheater. In fact, a number of players from different sports, saw that Kobe came back with more bounce in his step, so they also went to Germany to have the same treatment. These inconsistencies from those who are so adamant about keeping sports clean drive me as crazy as a politician who bends the laws they were elected to enforce.

There’s often talk about protecting the integrity of the game, and the legitimacy of the records. But there’s no talk about the legitimacy of those records. Amphetamines (greenies) weren’t tested for until 2006. The likes of Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle all used amphetamines when they played. This is a drug that’s now banned by Major League Baseball, and wasn’t tested for until they started testing for steroids. Yet any records set by someone who was alleged to have taken steroids should be overlooked, in favor of records which were set by players on amphetamines? It’s all a joke, only it’s the opposite of funny.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Dire: Jason Whitlock

In the spirit of full-disclosure, I feel the need to tell you the following: When I was a member of my high school newspaper, the two most influential sports writers for me, were Mike Lupica and Jason Whitlock. Both were smart, witty and highly entertaining to read. Between them, they represented so much of what I identified with; the little Jewish guy from New York and the angry, hip-hop loving outsider in Kansas City. Both have gone to disappoint me, in their opinions and attitudes towards the athletes they've spent careers covering.

I’ve also been a big fan of Jay-Z since his first album came out in 1996. Now you’re probably asking, where could this all be leading to? Well, Whitlock has really pissed me off. Two days ago, Whitlock published a column taking Jay-Z to task for entering the world of sports, as he has recently been certified as a sports agent and started signing some very prominent stars.

I have no idea if Jay will be a decent agent, a great agent or a horrible agent, all of that remains to be seen. What’s obvious right now, and painfully so, is how wrong Whitlock is. Whitlock isn't saying that Jay will fail, but that he has no business attempting a new business venture. And, ironically, Whitlock’s reasoning has a race as the foundation.

I’m not going to go through Whitlock’s column, point by point and argue each of his ridiculous claims. No, that’s too easy. When I read it, using that approach was my inclination. Then it dawned on me, and I saw what Whitlock was really doing. Once a year or so, Whitlock’s name would find its way into the larger sports conversation. There was an idiotic joke about Jeremy Lin followed up, 10 months later, by a thoughtful column about guns after Jovan Belcher’s murder/suicide.

Mostly, however, Whitlock was an after-thought. Going after Jay-Z was a calculated move. Jay-Z is a lightning rod for publicity. And right now, he’s selling a new album and promoting a summer tour with the biggest pop-star in the world, Justin Timberlake.  So Whitlock is calling him out, and comparing him to the house slave from “Django Unchained” is all about getting himself some publicity.

Whitlock calls Jay a “n*gga rapper” for the frequent use of the word in Jay’s songs. His opinion might be eye opening, if Whitlock wasn't always tweeting about his love of the show “The Wire.” “The Wire” is basically, a television version of many Jay-Z songs.  Whitlock’s Twitter-bio says, “The Wire explains my life perspective.” But this week, Jay-Z is a sellout for “willing to entertain the masses with n*gga tales.”

I tried, but I can’t just leave so many of Whitlock’s points un-checked. First of all, Jay-Z entrance in to the sports world isn’t new. He purchased a stake of the Nets (previously of New Jersey) and helped move them to Brooklyn.  His reported investment, netted him a 135% gain. Whitlock points out that, Jay didn't ask LeBron James to rap on his album. Right, well, this venture doesn't end with Jay playing shortstop for the Yankees. It’s the business side of sports. And Jay isn't doing this by himself. He didn't open up some office on 5th Ave, hire a secretary and start calling on his pals. He has a partner with more than a little experience in this world, Creative Artists Agency. They represent the likes of Timberlake, Hanks, Aniston, Springsteen, Kanye, Beckham, Manning, Jeter and Cruise.

This also isn’t Jay’s first foray into the business world.  There was his clothing line, Roc-A-Wear, which he sold for $204 million. He opened a few successful night clubs, 40/40. He has a partnership with Budweiser Select and was credited as the executive producer of NBA2K13.  As President of Def Jam Recordings, he helped launch the careers of Rihanna and Ne-Yo.  He has a partnership with a former music executive, Steve Stoute, in Translation Advertising, which had resulted in award winning advertising.

I’m not sure how Whitlock is able to talk out of both sides of his mouth, or type out both sides of his keyboard, and continue to be so well compensated.  In early July, Whitlock blamed our countries love of violence for Aaron Hernandez. He stated that modern athletes mimic rappers, carry guns and do drugs.  But just yesterday he tweeted about how great “The Wire” was. Calling some of the characters CEOs, debating who the smartest drug dealer was and justifying (fictional) murders.

Long ago, Jason Whitlock stopped being a journalist and started thinking of himself as a brand, a brand only concerned with selling itself. Much like the Kardashian’s he (rightfully) pokes fun at.  20 years ago, he defended hip-hop, now he rails against it. A week ago he called out a country for its love affair with gangsters, and yesterday he celebrated them.

Jason, go back to blocking for Jeff George. Because you know what I see?

I see a man without a country. Not hard enough for this right here and maybe, just maybe, not smart enough for them out there.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


As sport fans, we’re a bit obsessed with labeling which athletes should be called “The Greatest.” I assume it’s an obsession that goes back to the beginning of time. It’s not a singular activity for sport fans, but we’re probably the most passionate debaters. It often bothers me, and this probably says more about me than anything else, that there’s never been an agreed upon criteria. Not that there is in most other avenues of life, but we have so many statistics and recorded historical events to reference. It’s pretty easy to find out how many rebounds player X had, but not so easy to find out how many objections your favorite lawyer had sustained.

When it comes to the most popular three American sports, Michael Jordan is the most widely accepted answer for the Greatest of All-Time, or the G.O.A.T. And I don’t think that’s an untrue statement. It took me longer to get there than most people I knew growing up. Like most fans, the years I cared the most came during junior high and high school. For most of those years, I was a devoted member in the Church of Magic Johnson. I first realized the err of my ways during Jordan’s first retirement. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all. So I’m not here to say that Jordan is overrated. But I do believe his six titles are over-weighted.

Six Championships is an amazingly impressive accomplishment, no matter the sport. There’s no debate here. A good or very good player can get lucky and win one, see: Orel Hershiser. Some great ones have played illustrious careers, and never even really sniff one, see: Barry Sanders. Being the main or one of the main, contributors to six titles is remarkable. The guys deserve to be in these kinds of conversations. Sorry, Steve Kerr.

But you also won’t win that many without some level of luck. There are all kinds of different situations, beyond a single player’s control, that have to break just right for a player to be a part of dynasty. For starters, you need the right coach, the right teammates, and the right opponents. Michael Jordan hit the jackpot with his coach, Phil Jackson. Jackson, who for so long was viewed as the lucky one, the coach who just happens to only coach great players, and there’s some truth to that. He needed a little bit of luck too, but eleven rings aren’t an accident.  Having Scottie Pippen play Robin to Jordan’s Bat-Man was another stroke of luck. Pippen, the 5th pick in the 1987 draft by the Seattle Supersonics, out of the tiny University of Central Arkansas. Seattle had established players in the same positions that Pippen could play (Dale Ellis, Tom Chambers and Xavier McDaniel) so they worked out a trade with Chicago for a center they could have drafted, Olden Polynice and some other draft picks were swapped. Just your standard draft day deal.

So that was a little bit of luck and some smart’s on the part of the Bulls. I happen to think, that Jordan was luckiest when it came to his opponents. Jordan’s Bulls had some legendary battles with the Isaiah Thomas’s Detroit Pistons in the late 80’s. Three years in a row, the Piston’s knocked the Bulls out of the playoffs. They went on to win the NBA title the last two years. Then what happened? Thomas began to breakdown, playing in only 48 of 82 games that year. From winning his last title at 29 years of age, he was out of the league at 32.

Jordan gets his first title in 1991. Defeating the previously mentioned, one time G.O.A.T, Magic Johnson. No luck there, right? Defeating a 5-Time champion, who had one two of the last four titles? Well, not exactly. The Lakers were lead by first year coach, Mike Dunleavy, who replaced Hall of Famer Pat Riley who had stepped down after winning Coach of the Year in 1990 amid rumors of anger issues. Dunleavy is still a household name, who went on to coach 17 seasons. But he’s never been a very successful coach, and after all of those years, he is more than a 100 games under .500. And Dunleavy only won three more playoff series after 1991. The Lakers also suffered significant injuries to James Worthy and Byron Scott. That’s not to say, had they stayed healthy, that the Lakers would have beaten the Bulls. The finals appeared to be the first of possibly multiple NBA Final match-ups, between two goliaths, ended up as a one-time event. Magic Johnson, tragically, retired after the ’91 season after being diagnosed with HIV.

Then in 1992, the Bulls met up with the Portland Trailblazers in the Finals. Portland was a formidable foe, with playoff experience, and the second best shooting guard in the game in Clyde Drexler. However, it again appeared that the foundation was in place for the Bulls to perhaps have a rival in the Western Conference. But Drexler got hurt, and they soon broke up the team. So instead, the Bulls met up with the Phoenix Suns, led by MVP Charles Barkley. The Bulls won their third straight title.

And then…and then Michael Jordan retired. By this time, there’s not much question as to who the G.O.A.T is. Jordan retired with three titles, the NBA record career scoring average of 32 points per game, three MVP awards, and seven scoring titles. He was also just 29 years old.

Jordan only missed a year and a half before his famous return. Still not yet back in basketball shape, the Bulls were knocked out of the playoffs by the Orlando Magic. And everything seemed to point to a budding dynasty for the Magic. They had an unstoppable force in Shaquille O’Neal, who was only 22, and a guard being compared to both Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, in Anfernee Hardaway, who was just 23. Orlando lost to the Rockets in the Finals, their second consecutive title.

1995-96 was Jordan’s first full year back, and the Bulls were historically great. Winning a record 72 games, and only losing one game on their way to the title. But the budding dynasty in Orlando wasn’t to be. Shaq left for LA after the ’96 season.

The Bulls went on to win the next two titles as well, before Jordan walked away again. In both of those series, they defeated the Utah Jazz. The league had suddenly aged. The mid early to mid-90’s marked an era of young, uber-talented players who never figured it out.  Hardaway, Shaq, Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury, Antoine Walker, Rasheed Wallace, Jerry Stackhouse, Glenn Robinson, Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, JR Rider, Jamal Mashburn, Nick Van Exel, Kenny Anderson and Derrick Coleman were the post children for careers that could have been so much better. Egos blew up multiple nucleuses’, like the Mavericks and Magic. What does that have to do with Michael Jordan? Maybe nothing. Maybe more. Maybe the style of play from this new generation was so influenced by Jordan, that they all tried so hard to score 30 points a game and get their shoe deals, and so the game suffered. So instead of a decade of great teams, only three different franchises won titles between 1989 and 1998. While five franchises won titles in the next 10 years.

But part of being great, is taking advantage of the breaks you get. Maybe Jordan was so great, that he couldn’t have a single nemesis during his prime. Not the way Magic had Bird, or Russell had Wilt, or Wilt and Kareem.  Perhaps his rival natural rival, turned out to be the saddest turn of luck in all of Jordan’s career. A contemporary, drafted by an iconic franchise who tragically died after a drug overdose. Did Jordan miss out on his greatest challenge, the night Len Bias died? Of course, this has nothing to do with Jordan’s place in history. Before Bias, and since, there have been plenty of highly regarded college players who never realized their supposed potential.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Star Trek Into Greatness

I grew up loyal to the Star Wars franchise. Somehow, I also determined that was pretty much all the Sci-fi wasn’t for me. And Star Trek? It just looked weird. What was up with those ridiculous shirts everyone wore? Hans Solo didn’t wear some weird uniform.

In fact, and this is embarrassing, I was so anti-Trek that it has, potentially, had a negative impact on my bank account. A few years ago, a couple friends and I went to Austin to audition for a VH1 show, “The World Series of Pop Culture.” The three of us are all pretty well versed in movies, television and music. We, also, each have our areas of strength and some weaknesses. Turns out, Star Trek was my Achilles. The first question was: “Who played Khan?”

Now, somehow, I know ridiculous amounts (sometimes embarrassing) of useless movie trivia. Often about movies I haven’t seen.  But I had refused entry, to any Trek knowledge, into my brain. So I missed that question. Did it cost us a chance at making it to the next round, and ultimately from appearing (and winning) the $250,000? Well, it just may have. Based on how often I hear about it, my illogical gap in knowledge probably cost us each $83,333.33 (before taxes).

For a midget with glasses who collected baseball cards, Star Wars, GI Joe and Transformers figures, somehow I never found my way to comic books. I watched , and loved Superman in the 80’s. Soaked up Batman in the 90’s, but that was pretty much it. In 2005, I was sure this new Batman was going to be silly. I was annoyed that Hollywood was just rehashing old movies, and by old I mean, not very old at all. But I learned that this was the right time. The story telling was darker, more serious and very light on the cheese. The same cheese I loved as a kid, but I no longer wanted it draped all over my movies. The character development was fantastic, and the bad guy was more in the grey. Since being a kid, I learned that there wasn't as much good and evil, that life wasn’t that black and white. It’s mostly shades of grey. Batman Begins was all about the grey. My hopes and expectations for these reboots completely changed. Then in 2008, Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr gave the world Iron Man, and my eyes were wide open. Although it was so different from Batman, what it lacked in darkness, it made up with charm.

So when 2009 came around, and JJ Abrams gave us Star Trek, I was ready. I saw the movie and loved the movie. I was, and continue to be, completely oblivious to every reference to the originals. And that’s fine with me. Although, I do plan to someday go back and watch the previous 10 movies. I was eagerly awaiting Star Trek Into Darkness. I was ready for it as soon as I finished the 2009 incarnation.

This morning I heard a local morning DJ say that he considered staying and watching the movie again, after he saw it last night. He was absolutely right. I’m ready to watch it again. I’m looking forward to the day I buy the Blu-ray, and I’m already excited to see the third installment, which is scheduled for a 2016 release.

Star Trek Into Darkness is the perfect summer blockbuster and JJ Abrams is, without question, this generations Steven Speilberg. It’s big and bold. The sound engulfs you, the visuals are stunning. And the special effects are so perfect, and so realistic, that you only notice the effects because you know there’s no aircraft like that. Well, not on this planet. Yet. Chris Pine has every ounce of charisma that Harrison Ford’s Hans Solo had. Abrams was recently given the keys to reboot Star Wars, which I rolled my eyes at to begin with. Now I’m just annoyed that he can’t use Pine. Every role is so well casted, I really hope they put together a run of four or five. I completely trust that Abrams could make each subsequent movie the highlight of each summer.

But, I don’t want to raise anyone’s expectations too high. See it. See it soon. 

Give Ya Some Mo

I don’t know that it’s a topic that been debated often. I think, if you ask a group of sport fans, most will vote for Michael Jordan.  But somehow, while mowing last night, it occurred to me that Jordan isn’t the correct answer. Alright, the question is this: when considering dominance, durability and duration; who has had the best career in team sports. Sounds pretty specific, right? But the question came as I was thinking about this one players’ career. It’s been so great, for so long and without no drop in production.

Enough beating around the bush; Mariano Rivera has had the most impressive career in the history of team sports. Yes, I am completely serious. He’s had one bad year, and that was his rookie season when he was primarily a starting pitcher. In the 17 seasons since, he has an era of a miniscule 2.02. He’s completed 10 seasons with an era under 2. That’s not counting this year, where his era is once again under 2. And he’s 43 years old.

In his worst season, he had an era of 3.15. That bloated era can all be traced to a four game stretch in April where he gave up 9 runs in 2 and 2/3 innings. Take that stretch out, and his era for the rest of the season was 2.10. And that’s what makes his career so great. He had one rough stretch, that lasted just four games.

Mo’s post season performance is further evidence of his greatness. In most cases, the public makes assumptions about an athlete’s clutchness, or lack thereof, based on their first few post season appearances.  Derek Jeter, for example, has always been known as a “clutch” performer. Due in large part to his first post season appearance, where he hit .361. But his career post season average is .308 while his regular season career average sits at .313. My point is, the sample size is so small when we make these declarations about who is clutch and who isn’t. And when given a larger sample size, most players perform like they usually do.

There are always outliers, and Mariano Rivera is almost always an outlier to every rule. Rivera has appeared in 96 post season games and pitched 141 innings, which is roughly two regular seasons worth. His post season era is a RIDONCULOUS 0.70. Your friends wouldn’t believe you if you said you put up numbers like that in ’87 while playing RBI Baseball.

Rivera holds the record for most career saves, with 623, 22 more than Trevor Hoffman. Hoffman was a dominant closer in the National League for most of Mo’s career. Hoffman had five seasons with an ERA over 3.00.

So why do I say that Rivera has had the most impressive career in the history of sports? It’s the overall consistency. Michael Jordan, was obviously amazing from the first time he stepped on an NBA court. He was also remarkably durable, with only one major injury in his second season. While Rivera had one in 2012. But, for me, the difference is that Jordan stepped away from the game twice. And while he was a great 39 year old in 2003, he wasn’t one of the best in the game.  Jordan’s three point percentage fluctuated from sub 20% to 50% and back to the low 20s. Maybe that’s being picky, but Rivera has been amazingly consistent across the board. Since turning 35, Rivera has a 1.88 era and a 92% save rate. There simply hasn’t been a drop off of any kind.

In his role, he has been the best in the game for 18 years.

Peyton Manning was the only other player, aside from Jordan, that I considered.

Some Mo Did You Know facts:
He has more career strikeouts than: Carl Pavano, Orlando Hernandez, Gil Meche, and Joaquin Andujar.
He has more career wins than: Len Barker, Mark Clark, Roger Craig, and Mike Bielecki.
Only four players have hit more than one home run off of him (no one has hit more than two) they are: Evan Longoria, Edgar Martinez, Rafael Palmeiro and Aubrey Huff.
Of the 66 career home runs he has given up, only 11 came when the Yankees had the lead.
Manny Ramirez has the most career at bats against Mo. He hit .234.
Goose Gossage and Rollie Fingers have 651 career saves, combined. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013


For the most part, Facebook and Twitter have pretty much killed my blog. Topics that used to turn into 1,000 words are now covered in less than 140 characters.  But yesterday I made a comment on a friends’ post, a one liner that I now feel deserves a little more attention. Deserves is a little heavy, but hey, I just wanted to ramble on, and thought I’d do it here, rather than a few dozen comments on his wall.

You better sit down for this. Oh, you are? Well, I hope no one knocks on your stall door. I’ve been listening to the radio a little bit more, mostly sports talk, but when the Kyd is in the car, we have to tune into the local top 40 station. And I am dying to know: why do people still call in to request a song?

Seriously, it makes zero sense to me. It’s 2013. There’s no logical reason for this behavior. Latest reports say that over 160 million American’s have internet access, a third of the population. I’m not sure if that includes toddlers and babies, so we’ll assume it does.  I’m also willing to bet that the percentage is higher in homes with a radio and a telephone. If you have the internet, you can listen to any song you have ever heard in just a matter of seconds. So why take the time to call in to some radio show, be put on hold (if you even get through) then request a song that they play every 12 minutes anyway?

Based on my research, which consists of being in the car with my daughter when these people call in, I feel it’s safe to say that the average requester is a 14.32 year old girl from a middle class family. So not only is she likely to have internet access, she also has an iPod and there’s a very good chance she also has a smart phone of some kind. She’s not at work, unless she’s babysitting. In which case, she may not have permission to use the computer, but she probably doesn’t have permission to ignore the kids for 12 minutes while she attempts to call in and request a song.

The only conclusion I can draw is, the 14 year old girl is calling to request a song just to hear her voice on the radio for 22 seconds. The good: they should only have 14 minutes and 38 seconds left of “fame.” The bad: she still has 14 minutes and 38 seconds left of “fame.” The real truth here: teenage girls talk too much. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Pay That Man His Money

There’s a line from Rounders that I love to quote, “I feel like Buckner walking back into Shea.” Mike drops this gem as he returns to the scene of his greatest defeat, and he’s playing for his life as he’s $25k in debt and owes most of it to the wrong kind of people. Including his nemesis, who took Mike’s bankroll a few months back and killed his dream of entering the World Series of Poker.

It’s a killer line, and life (luckily) doesn’t present too many opportunities for me to properly use it. Headed to the dentist, or the DMV, are the most likely scenarios for me. And then yesterday, the Kyd and I were invited to join some friends for a trip to the local mall, Oak Park Mall, where I worked at Lenscrafters for seven years. Since leaving in 2005, I’ve been back twice. Once, just a few weeks later, I went to say hi to some friends that still worked there, and then a year later to run an errand. So I haven’t been back in over five years.

“Just walking in here makes me queasy. The Brick walls. The ----ing mopes at the tables. The musty smell. I feel like Buckner walking back into Shea/”

All true. It looks almost the exact same, even some familiar faces at the pizza joint. It’s not all bad memories. In those seven years, I made some great friends. But we always joked that leaving the mall felt a lot like being paroled. So while I love the Rounders’ line, it’s not completely accurate. I felt more like Lohan walking into a parole hearing.

The trip down memory lane ended pretty fast. It was quickly replaced by a feeling that’s becoming more common these days. I felt old. It’s not uncommon for me to be around the Kyd and her friends at either a volleyball game or a school event, and I never really feel old there. In fact, it usually feels like it wasn’t that long ago that I was her age. It’s a totally different vibe at the mall. It looks like a scene out of “The Walking Dead” with texting teens coming from every direction. The groans even made them sound like zombies, and they shuffle their feet in the same manor. That’s when it hit me. I’m old. Even though I remember being that age, and spending way too much time at the mall, I felt more like the guy shouting “get off my lawn!” than I felt like one of them.

The feeling was compounded by the fact that it wasn’t so long ago that I spend the majority of my week among them. So much had remained the same, but the changes are pretty noticeable. Mainly, and sadly, it’s fashion. Girls always look older.  A fact that used to make me a little nervous when I was younger, but now that there’s a girl that I’m responsible for, it’s both terrifying and I suddenly want to go all Michonne on every teenage boy. When I was there, everyone wore jeans. Now the girls are wearing the same tights and boots that their mothers wear, while the doofi (I think that’s the plural for doofus) have jeans hanging off their backside (I may have been somewhat guilty of that many moons ago, get it?), ridiculous haircuts with as much hairspray as my sister used in the 80’s complete with a smug look that really needs to be slapped off of them. I guess that urge isn’t all that new either, as I was an uncle before I could drive, and as a result I’ve always had an overly portative streak in me. But there’s something different about the latest iteration of teens. And they make me feel old, which brings up the first line from Rounders:

“Listen, here’s the thing. If you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker.”

I looked, and I didn’t see the old guy in the mall. So I was the old guy. Blech. 

Friday, January 18, 2013


This is going to be a long post. You’ve been warned.

I’ve long had a beef with Lance Armstrong, but it had nothing to do with what he did or didn’t do to prepare for competition. I dislike bullies, he happens to have a black belt in bullying. This isn’t about Lance. It isn’t about Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire and it isn’t about records or any Hall of Fame. This is about cheating. Or what we call cheating. Personally, and this is weird, what these guys have done, I don’t really consider it to be cheating. Technically, sure, they cheated. So first, let’s look at the definition. Pardon me for going all Bill Clinton here.

Cheat:  Verb- Act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage.

Yes, athletes taking steroids are doing so to gain an advantage. But every athlete is looking for an advantage. Somehow we’ve arbitrarily drawn a line so certain drugs or treatments are considered an unfair advantage.  I don’t know all the rules, in all the sports, about which medications or treatments are allowed and which aren’t, but I know some. I know that a baseball player with a sore shoulder can get cortisone shot for the pain. I’m also not a chemist, but I can Google with the best of ‘em. Cortisone is a steroid hormone. The common use of cortisone is to provide short-term pain relief. So you know, it allows a player to feel better, so they can perform better. That’s okay. There are side-effects, as with any medication, and none of them are all that appealing; anxiety, depression, cataracts, and glaucoma. Those are only some of the side-effects. Just those that I don’t need a medical dictionary to talk about.

A pitcher can have his elbow blow up (not the correct medical term) and have surgery to repair the damage. He can then come back with a stronger elbow than he had before. Some have even come back with a more effective arsenal. No one considers any of this cheating, but the result gives the athlete an advantage. Why, because it’s not against the rules? Well if an NFL player gets called for holding, he broke a rule, but no one will call that guy a cheater. If we’re going to say that, technically, Armstrong is a cheater, isn’t every offensive lineman also a cheater?

Gaining an advantage over the competition is what separates athletes. The best athletes are the ones who push themselves the hardest. They’re the ones that practice with the most intensity. They find a way to gain an advantage over the competition. The “level playing field,” is always brought up in these conversations about cheating. I call BS. The level playing field is the field of play for each sport, and the equipment the competitors are allowed to use. As long as none of that is tampered with, you have a level playing field.

As someone who strongly believes that individuals should have equal rights, I don’t, for a second, believe we’re all equal or created equal. Some of us are born shorter (ahem) some of us stronger. Some of us are born smarter; some of us are born with challenges. We’re not really “equal” in the truest sense of the word. And neither are athletes. What an athlete does in order to prepare for competition shouldn’t be our concern.

Fans love to discuss where a great player ranks among the all-time greats. When we have those debates, the ones that our wives roll their eyes at, we totally ignore the fact that there’s no “even playing field” between eras. Adrian Peterson just had one of the best statistical seasons of any running back in NFL history. He did this, not even a year after tearing his ACL and MCL. 20 years ago, an injury that like would have likely ended his career. Yet, thanks to medical advances, he came back and performed better than he ever has. So we marvel at this, as we should, but had he used certain drugs, we’d call him a cheater and discard his entire season, and probably his entire career. It just makes no sense.
What they put in their bodies can absolutely be a detriment to their long-term health. And that’s worth discussing, both for their benefit and to educate anyone else considering using the same tactics. But the general public really doesn’t care about their health. We love the violence of football. We want these people to play through pain that we’d never consider. And we want them to be stronger,  run faster, jump higher, hit a ball further, play through pain we can’t imagine and believe it all happened because ate their Wheaties.

I was telling my wife about my idea for this post last night, and she asked if I have a problem with authority. I do, I absolutely do. Not that I’m some rebel, but hypocrisy drives me batty. It doesn’t mean that I think Bonds and Armstrong are righteous, heroic guys. They’re both jerks. But they’re both, in my opinion, the best to ever play their sports. They broke rules, even some laws. Rules and laws that I feel are completely ridiculous. I’m much more upset by the athletes who are arrested for assaulting their significant others or driving while intoxicated. Basically, doing anything that harms someone else or puts the lives of others at risk is worth our attention.

The line that we’ve drawn in the sand is more of a wall, and it’s time to tear down that wall.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Hall of Flame

Today’s the big day, where the Baseball Writers of America get their moment to grandstand and play morality police, as they've promised us they would for the past 10 years. Today their Hall of Fame votes are made public, and we’ll see them keep Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, the PED poster boys, out of the Hall of Fame. Sure, they’ll also continue to keep Rafael Palmeiro, Jeff Bagwell, and Mark McGwire out, as they have the past couple of years.  And Mike Piazza is a coin flip at this point, but Bonds and Clemens are the biggest fish in this pond. Perhaps the greatest hitter and greatest pitcher of all-time, who both also happen to be all-time jerks.

The voters, and many fans, will hide behind a joke called the “character clause.” A clause which allows voters to take someone’s character into account when deciding if their career warrants enshrinement in a museum that was designed to celebrate the best in the history of the game. But these players, “allegedly” used some drugs that the powers that be deemed illegal. Even though a doctor could prescribe them to a patient, if they so choose. Both Bonds and Clemens had their day in court, and neither was convicted of perjury, nor where they caught by Major League Baseball using anything illegal (at a time when baseball actually had rules stating it was illegal).

The truth is, this isn't about keeping the sport clean. Baseball has a long history of players taking amphetamines or caffeine pills, for a competitive edge. Cheating has long been celebrated in baseball, and made some players endearing to fans. Gaylord Perry, a Hall of Famer, even wrote a book entitled “Me and the Spitter.” So the writers are actually telling us that they’ll accept cheating, just degrees of cheating. I wonder if their wives know that.

What bothers me most isn't even the idea of voting for guys who put up legitimate number. Although there’s actually no way of knowing who did and didn't  if Ben Johnson was taking steroids in 1984, why is it safe to assume that no one in baseball was? No, what aggravates me the most is the public and media singling out baseball and, oddly enough, cycling. If a NFL player gets caught, sure they get suspended for four games. That’s a healthy punishment, as its 25% of the season, but that’s the end of it. There’s no backlash. No one is asking for their awards to be stripped or their numbers to be marked with a Scarlet asterisk. Oh sure, after Shawne Merriman was caught, the NFL ended up passing a rule that prevents a player who fails a test, from making the Pro-Bowl in THAT SEASON. Meanwhile, since the “Steroid Era” began in baseball we've seen the following:

·         Five running backs have topped 2,000 yards in a single season, only two before.
·         Five quarterbacks have thrown for more than 5,000 yards in a single season, and it only happened once before.
·         13 receivers have tallied more than 1,600 yards in a season, only two did it before.
·         Nine defenders have recorded 18.5 or more sacks in a season, and only seven did so before the mid 90’s.

Then there’s the fact that no one seems to even consider that NBA players may also take these drugs, but most will agree that the game is played by bigger, stronger and faster players. In a league where there are far fewer roster spots and the average NBA player earns over $5 million a season, compared to $3.4 in baseball and $1.9 in the NFL.

But no one cares about the other sports, simply because the individual statistics aren’t as valued as they are in baseball. The average fan might know who holds the record for most rushing yards in a season or assists in a career, but they don’t know what those numbers are. Whereas, even casual fans know what 61 represents in baseball. Baseball fans know who the last player to hit .400 was, or how many no hitters Nolan Ryan threw, or how many hits Pete Rose racked up.

It all drives me nuts, but nothing more than the “character clause.” Babe Ruth was known to be a womanizer and heavy drinker. Ty Cobb was a world renowned racist. Countless baseball players cheated on their wives. Eddie Murray was charged by the SEC with insider trading. “Character clause,” are you kidding me? If we’re going to consider character, then shut the door to the Hall of Fame and open up a Character Hall of Fame. I can promise you this much, if you selected from the general population, the Character Hall of Fame would have less members than Skull and Bones.

Lastly, those writers who want to ignore the accomplishments of the players they believe cheated, I wonder if they discount the income they received in covering those same accomplishments. Mike Lupica wrote a best-selling book, celebrating the home run chase between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. I haven’t yet received an offer to refund my $20, since his book was aided by steroids. Now he gets to double dip, and earn a nice check while he vilifies the same players that he made money celebrating. All under the umbrella of a “character clause,” this has to be a joke, right?