Monthly Archives: May 2002

HECKLER’S VETO: As the world

HECKLER’S VETO: As the world now knows, New Jersey Nets star Jason Kidd was taunted with chants of “wife beater” by fans at FleetCenter in Boston during Tuesday’s Game 4 of the Nets-Celtics series. Kidd, of course, was arrested last year for assaulting his wife Joumana, and as a result was shipped out by his former team the Phoenix Suns. While I know the chants didn’t come from any sense of moral indignation by the Celtics’ fans (after all, they were merely trying to get under Kidd’s skin), if the player had to face “wife beater” taunts at every arena in every city for the remainder of his career, I can’t say I’d be too upset. But even more disturbing are the comments by Kidd’s teammates (and coach Byron Scott) decrying the fans and more or less excusing Kidd’s behavior. Teammate Kenyon Martin, himself a notorious thug, even went so far as to say that the arrest was a part of Kidd’s “personal life” and thus “none of anyone’s business”- a very ’50s-like analysis that certainly doesn’t deserve to go unchallenged. But even more ludicrous is that some (such as ESPN) have compared the Kidd hecklers with the fan at last night’s Game 5 who heckled Paul Pierce about Pierce’s summer 2000 stabbing in a nightclub. Clearly beating one’s wife is not nearly on the same moral plane as getting stabbed- though I wouldn’t expect Nets fans to know the difference.

WHY I REFUSE TO SEE

WHY I REFUSE TO SEE “THE SUM OF ALL FEARS”: No, it’s not the casting of Ben Affleck as Jack Ryan (though I concede Ben is a bit of a step down from Harrison Ford in the gravitas department). It’s not because I don’t like the action genre, it’s not because I’m uncomfortable seeing a movie about terrorism post-9/11, and it’s not even because I don’t think it’ll be a good movie. I will not be seeing “The Sum of All Fears” because, in the process of its adaptation from the Tom Clancy novel, the gutless decision was made to replace the book’s fundamentalist Muslim terrorists with right-wing, neo-Nazi militia types. This shameless sacrifice to the false god of political correctness is so contemptuous towards the truth that such a film that grows out of it does not deserve our support.
As chronicled on the indispensable movie website Coming Attractions, “The Sum of All Fears” has been in the works as the next Jack Ryan movie almost since the release of “Clear and Present Danger” in 1994, so the producers’ decision to change the ethnicity of the villains was not as a result of 9/11. Rather, it came partly as an attempt to appease Ford (who they were still hoping to woo at the time) and partly because the Arab-American lobby made it clear that they would protest long and loud should the project go forward in the novel’s form. And for some reason Clancy, who no one ever mistook for a bleeding-heart liberal, never even lifted a finger in protest.
The event that likely caused the “Sum of All Fears” producers to blink was the release in 1999 of “The Seige,” a relatively innocuous message movie starring Denzel Washington which dared to depict Islamic terrorists striking a wave of targets in New York. And even though the film was clearly more about intolerance than terrorism, and in fact contained a clear message against stereotyping and totalitarianism (and even included an Arab-American good guy!), the Arab activists missed the point, launched a highly visable boycott, and thus significantly hurt “The Seige” at the box office. These activists, of course, had their point significantly undercut when the exact events of the movie happened in real life on September 11and I find it deeply unsettling that those activists (including the openly terror-supporting Council on American-Islamic Relations) were so much more publicly critical of the terrorism in “The Seige”‘s New York than they were of the terrorism in real-life New York.
Now more than ever we must be aware of the scourge of Islamo-fascism and the threat it poses to our world, and Hollywood can and should be encouraging this awareness. But unfortunately, political correctness must always intervene. Of course it’s wrong to assume that all Arabs and all Muslims are terrorists- but anyone who isn’t an idiot knows that, just as all non-idiots know that terrorists killing innocent people based on their perverted interpretation of the Koran is a major problem in this world, before 9/11 and afterand as Bill Maher said, “next time there’s a major terrorist attack, it’s probably not gonna be the Swedes.” The producers of “The Sum of All Fears” had a chance to take such a stand, but since they didn’t have the guts, I will not be seeing their movie.

PETER THE GREAT: While I

PETER THE GREAT: While I still can’t justify his replacement of Prince Andrew as author of the TRB column, Peter Beinart checks in this week with another highly impressive New Republic piece, this one related to the recent re-election of Newark Mayor Sharpe James. Beinart’s politics correspond very much with mine- he’s a committed Democrat who’s nonetheless unafraid to criticize his party or follow ideologues when they deserve it, which is often. Especially this week, as Beinart indicts the Democrats for caring less about racial equality than about winning elections in predominantly black areas, as evidenced by the New Jersey Democratic party support of incumbent James against reform-minded Councilman Cory Booker (also black and also a Democrat), which included a promise by Governor Jim McGreevey to build a new basketball/hockey arena in downtown Newark should James be re-elected a proposal quickly pulled off the table days after the election. (Full disclosure: I worked for McGreevey’s campaign last year, though not in Newark).
BARAK SHOW: A must-read interview with Ehud Barak in the New York Review of Books, conducted by popular Israeli historian Benny Morris. Barak comes off as quite a sympathetic figure, and has certainly handled himself better publicly in recent months than Sharon or Netanyahu has. If you want to know all you need to know about what happened at Camp David to lead to the current violence, look no further than this interview.
ANOTHER TWINS UPDATE: According to a faithful reader (my dad, actually), the Twins stadium package passed last week isn’t nearly as airtight as it appears- and in fact, there’s less than a 50/50 shot that anything will come of it at all. Better get crackin’, guys- it may require a new owner, and even more creative financing, but please- make this thing happen!
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Memo to Jose Canseco: Before you write a book, you have to have read one.” Providence Journalist sportswriter Bill Reynolds.
AND SPEAKING OF BASEBALL AND STEROIDS…: Ken Caminiti, the San Diego Padres third baseman who won the National League MVP Award in 1998 and later fell out of baseball in a cocaine- and alcohol-induced stupor, has admitted in this week’s Sports Illustrated that he was in fact on steroids throughout his MVP season, and that use of the drugs is prevalent throughout major league baseball. If nothing else, this news takes away much of the luster from one of the great baseball anecdotes of recent years: when Caminiti, prior to a game in early ’98, was in the locker room with an IV in his arm, he found out the game was about to start, pulled out the IV, wolfed down a Snickers bar, and then went out and hit two home runs. Caminiti subsequently got a Snickers endorsement deal out of it, but I guess it wasn’t the Snickers after all.
BLUEPRINT PIECE: My article on the “Wizards of Wit” event is online here, in pdf format, in The Blueprint. It’s a Manhattan Jewish monthly, not to be confused with the Democratic Leadership Council magazine (or Jay-Z album) of the same name.

MULTIPLE CHOICE: The Bush Administration’s

MULTIPLE CHOICE: The Bush Administration’s near-nonstop pronouncements that “there will be another attack, and it’s only a matter of time” are: A) a transparent attempt to deflect attention from last week’s “What Bush Knew” stories; B) a transparent attempt to cover their asses if there is in fact another attack; C) a defeatist, Bud Selig-like act of self-sabotage aimed at minimizing their own successes in order to make the enemy look even worse; D) hypocritical, in saying that “there will be an attack, possibly nuclear” out of one side of the mouth while saying “we must not live in fear” out of the other; or E) all of the above.
I had nary a negative word to say about Bush, Dick and Rummy between 9/11 and May 1, but my how things change.
“CRAZIES FROM BROOKLYN”: After years of PLO-sympathizing rants from awful Israel correspondent Alisa Solomon, The Village Voice has made a rare honorable editorial decision in turning the Israel beat over to Sylvana Foa, who now writes the much more balanced “Letter From Israel” column. Foa this week observes that a large segment of the West Bank settlement population (which she sees as a key impediment to the peace process) consists of Brooklyn natives, some of whom are the most militant Jews on Earth. In addition to so many of the modern-day settlers, she writes, historical figures such as Jewish Defense League founder Meir Kahane and Hebron mosque gunman Baruch Goldstein were also born and educated in the Borough of Churches, as it’s ironically called. But Foa is even more critical of the Palestinian side, writing of their propensity to “add zeroes to their casuality totals.”
“YOU’RE THE BITCH, BITCH!” Nope, it’s not Jerry Springer, it’s MediaBistro. The indispensible journalism job-search website runs a regular feature called the “Bitch Box,” in which employees of big media companies are invited to share complaints about their employers, the NYC media culture, etc. One particularly angry Hearst Magazines staffer posted a 15-point memo berating her unbearable bosses. While the memo has been taken down from MB, it was tracked down by the Hearst bigs, and the beleaguered Editorial Assistant was summarily fired.
WIN TWINS!: I know my coverage has been a bit Twins-heavy in recent days, and for that I apologize- but first the stadium bill passes and now this: On Saturday, the first-place Twins defeated the Anaheim Angels 4-1, for their 26th victory of the season, and their first against a team with a winning record. Let me repeat that: the Twins, who are a first-place club, beat a team with a winning record for the first time this year on May 25, in the ninth week of the season. This truly says something about the unbalanced schedule, and about how much the American League Central Division sucks- and it’s also gotta be some sort of record.
WALLACE GETS SHOT: This “Mike Piazza Is(n’t) Gay” story is bound to be remembered as one of the most entertaining news events of the year- one of those happenings that should be a one-day story but instead continues for days and weeks. The latest drama: New York Post sports columnist Wallace Matthews tried to write a column critical of gossip colleague Neal Travis for breaking the “Mike is gay” story, had the column killed by his superiors, and thus quit/was fired. Matthews, who will continue to be employed by the MSG network and ESPN Radio, will certainly be missed in the pages of the Post, especially compared to such other section columnists as TV critic/sanctimonious blowhard Phil Mushnick and NBA beat writer Peter Vecsey, whose writing style can only be compared unfavorably to that of a bad Catskills comic. Matthews, who wrote mostly about basketball and boxing, must be admired for taking a stand, even if it’s against a publication not exactly known for its journalistic integrity.
AND NOW THE MOMENT YOU’VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR…: Live, in ASCII: The Death of Jar-Jar Binks!

BALLPARK FIGURES: The day I’ve

BALLPARK FIGURES: The day I’ve been waiting for since 1996 has finally arrived- Gov. Jesse Ventura today signed a bill for a $330 million, outdoor ballpark for the Minnesota Twins. The battle has been underway for five years, with literally dozens of failed legislative efforts and numerous financial schemes that all failed- a whole book was even written two years ago about the effort (that blamed the entire debacle on a botched press conference held by the Twins in January of 1997 which, as an intern for my state representative, I attended). Now the question is whether the park will be built in Minneapolis or St. Paul, and whether or not the team will be sold. Memo to Minnesota lawmakers- don’t mess it up! I’ve considered moving back to the Twin Cities when I have kids, but I can’t see myself living in the area if I can’t take my son to a ballgame.
IRON McCAIN: Every time I hear President Bush talk about the war, I can’t help but wish John McCain was president. But alas, now that the senator has finally managed to pass his long-gestating Campaign Finance Reform bill, he’s going after another special interest menace- the boxing industry. In a welcome move, McCain has introduced legislation to impose federal control over the sport, which for years has been dominated by WBC, WBA, and IBF bureaucrats, the cable networks, and Don King, the notorious crook who has bilked countless fighters out of countless fortunes. Were I a senator I would try to attach a rider to the bill stipulating that McCain gets winner of next month’s Tyson-Lewis fight. We already know that the senator could kill BinLaden or Saddam with his bare hands; do you think he’d be afraid of a sociopathic man-child like Tyson?
BUT ON THE OTHER HAND…: Participating in McCain’s press conference was The Greatest of All Time, Muhammad Ali. While Ali is the sport’s greatest ambassador and still commands a gravitas unlike any other athlete in history, it’s clear that at this point the Champ is so ravaged by Parkinson’s that he has no idea where he is, and I have a big problem with his constantly being trotted out in support of political causes which he obviously knows nothing about. I’ve seen this happen a half-dozen times, and every time his much-younger wife “translates” for him; it’s obvious that she’s the one with the agenda and she’s just dragging the Greatest along for the ride. (And it’s his fifth wife! Did you know Ali and George Foreman have had ten wives between them? That’s more wives than Holyfield has illegitimate children…)
ACHAD, SCHTYIM, SHALOSH, ARBAH!: Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Shawn Green today hit four home runs in a 16-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. Hank Greenberg never did it, Rod Carew never did it, and Sandy Koufax was a pitcher, so unless “Hard Hittin'” Mark Whiten had some kind of conversion that I don’t know about, Green is the first Jewish player ever to go yard four times in a game. I unfortunately was unable to draft Green to my fantasy baseball team, just as I failed to land Mike Lieberthal or Gabe Kapler (whose name appears to be a combination of “Gabe Kaplan” and “Gabe Kotter”). Though I was able to pick up Brewers pitcher and Brandeis alum Nelson Figueroa (who did not surrender any of Green’s homers today).
ANOTHER EXCELLENT BLOG: If you like mine, you’ll love Asparagirl. Another twenty-something New Yorker who loves Israel, check her out, and tell her I sent ya.
ON A PATH TO GREATNESS: I’ve been trying to think of nicknames for the PATH, the train I take to work every day (connecting New York and New Jersey, it’s an acronym for Port Authority Trans-Hudson). There’s “The PATH of Least Resistance,” “The Shining PATH,” “HaDerech” (Hebrew for “The PATH”), “Off The Beaten PATH,” and of course “The PATH of the Righteous Man.” I personally prefer the last one, because it’s “beset on all sides by the tyranny of evil men” The PATH was certainly beset on one side as it had a whole terminal destroyed in the World Trade Center attack. Contact me with any other ideas…

SYMPATHY FOR THE SPORTS GUY:

SYMPATHY FOR THE SPORTS GUY: I’ve never kept my admiration for ESPN.com columnist Bill “The Sports Guy” Simmons a secret. But now, it seems Simmons’ influence is spreading even further than he ever could’ve possibly imagined. In a mailbag column last week, Simmons was asked if he had any ideas for how to incorporate the best of pro wrestling into mainstream sports. Sports Guy replied that he thinks it would be cool if one hockey player would “turn” on his team, hitting one of his teammates with his stick and thus joining the other team, as announcer Jim Ross screamed “By Gawd, that’s [the other team]’s music!” Tonight on SportsCenter, anchor Rece Davis (not to be confused with John Rhys-Davis) referred to a collision between two Detroit players in the Red Wings-Avalanche game as “like a heel turn in wrestling.” And upon watching “Attack of the Clones” last week, in the scene where Anakin confesses to Amidala after killing the Tusken Raiders, all I could think was “By Gawd, that’s Darth Vader’s music!”

“LAW & ORDER” AT ITS

“LAW & ORDER” AT ITS BEST: I just finished watching what may be the finest hour of series television from the entire, just-concluded TV season. The season finale of “Law & Order” told the story of a terrorist “sleeper” who is murdered, it turns out, by a McVeigh-like Gulf War vet who had reason to believe that the terrorist was on the verge of planning a major attack. In the trial scenes, interrogation scenes, and especially in those lawyers-conferring-in-chambers moments, the episode debated the issues of the threats of terrorism, as well as racial profiling, with a poignancy and evenhandedness unapproached by any dramatic or news program since 9/11. While L&O has too often lately fallen victim to lazy re-writings of real-life cases (the Robert Blake episode was only the most laughable), this installment truly showed what excellent television series creator Dick Wolf is capable of.