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.