My New York Press column for the week is right here.
“Nobody is asking for or expects blind faith. But if the only alternative is bitterness and outright anger because the team fell short of winning the Super Bowl, then frankly I have no idea why people bother following sports… My position is that no reasonable, thinking human being can make a defensible argument that firing Reid or changing quarterbacks would improve the Eagles’ chances next year. I do think Reid has lost some of the benefit of the doubt he’d earned and that his moves warrant more scrutiny, but calling him a failure is just plain immature.”
–Phil Sheridan, in the Inquirer, making a rare argument for sanity and perspective in the Philadelphia sports market.
News Item: Police Bust “Strip Club on Wheels” Outside Bucs Game
Yes, they were operating a strip club inside a mobile home. Only in Tampa.
There’s a long, fascinating piece about Roger Ebert in the current Chicago magazine that’s highly illuminating about the critic and what makes him tick.
Did you know Ebert used to be an alcoholic before quitting 25 years ago? That he’s survived cancer three different times? That he wrote several films for Russ Meyer, other than “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls,” that were never made? That the “Ebert & Roeper” hasn’t made money in years? (I blame Roeper). All that and more- the piece is long, but worth your time.
Geoffrey Norman of the Weekly Standard writes that the loss of the Terrell Owens appeal means trouble for American unions (which, since it’s the Standard, is in Norman’s eyes a good thing).
Not sure I buy that- the millionaire vs. billionaire conflicts inherent in sports labor disputes tend to have little to no resemblance whatsoever to their real-life counterparts, and I don’t remember any solidarity between, say the AFL-CIO and the MLB Players’ Association. Besides, there’s no way any other union, private-sector or public, could ever dream of the success these days that the MLBPA has enjoyed for decades. Interesting analysis, nonetheless.
TO was actually on my friend LilB’s plane heading down to Atlanta over Thanksgiving, though he reports that Owens did not rush the cockpit mid-flight and demand a renegotiation of his ticket fare.
Bill Simmons will be doing a book signing at the Borders on Broad St. at 5:30 next Wednesday (December 5). Can’t wait, especially because of Bill’s especially contentious relationship with the Philly fans over the years.
News Item: Wrestling’s Ric Flair Arrested in Road-Rage Incident.
Flair reportedly grabbed another man by the throat and later kicked his car, though there’s no indication he placed the man in the figure-four. The mug shot is a beaut, although they didn’t let him put his robe on for it.
And yes, I realize this is the first wrestling post I’ve done in the last year that didn’t involve somebody dying.
Oh yes it does! Galley Slaves (of all blogs) also linked to this list of wrestling obituaries, and I was sorry to hear of the passing, just last month, of The Crusher, the legendary AWA/Minnesota competitor from the ’60s who was unquestionably my dad’s favorite wrestler of all time. The Crusher, real name Reggie Lisowski, was crushing beer cans against his head when Stone Cold Steve Austin was in preschool.
Star Tribune, tomorrow: “Down-and-up Vikings Make Streaking Fashionable”
And you thought “Burning Issues” was bad.
Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving. We had a fun trip to Minnesota, filled with family, friends, and turkey. A few notes from while I was away:
Minnesota: After no snow yet in Philly, we got three inches my first day in “Minny.” Good to be back home. But luckily, thanks to skyways and downtown parking garages, I didn’t spend more than 20 minutes outside during the whole five days. And no, I got nowhere near Lake Minnetonka.
As I’ve said before, every time I come home there’s always a big local crime story going on that has everyone talking (the Sara Jane Olsen/SLA case, the Audrey Seiler fake kidnapping, the Dru Sjodin murder, the Wisconsin hunting massacre, etc.) This time, it’s the recent trial of Gordon Weaver, a White Bear Lake businessman who allegedly killed his wife in a domestic dispute, burned the couple’s house down to cover his tracks, and then lammed it for five years before a tip from “America’s Most Wanted” led to his capture in Oregon. Weaver was convicted of second-degree murder- and my aunt was on the jury.
A Turkey of a Choice: A big thumbs-down to Patrick Reusse’s choice of this year’s Turkey of the Year: Minnesota Wild owner Robert Naegele, chosen because he participated in the hockey lockout, and once it ended he neither spent to the salary cap nor lowered ticket prices. All well and good, sure, but hockey wasn’t exactly at the forefront of the state’s sports culture this year- and why was obvious winner Mike Tice not even nominated? Though I give credit to Reusse for using a version of my “Turkey Banquet held on Lake Minnetonka” joke, and setting the mythical feast not at Al and Alma’s but rather across the lake at “Bert and Bertha’s.”
At the Movies: I thought the film version of “Rent” was absolutely amazing- a totally faithful, fully realized re-creation that went above and beyond the stage show. I still have all the songs in my head five days later. Best movie of the year so far, though that means very little before December.
Also saw “Shopgirl,” which is also a likely top-tenner for the year. Very remiscient of “Lost in Translation”- indeed, it probably owes its existence to that film’s success- but I loved the mood of it, and I don’t even like Claire Danes.
Rough Weekend For Sports Guy: First Pat Morita dies, then Doug Christie is reported to be near retirement, and then the Patriots lose to Kansas City. If Manny Ramirez gets traded, we might have to put him on suicide watch.
Nick and Jessica Finally Split: Their announcing the separation on Thanksgiving morning is akin to Boris Yeltsin resigning on Millennium eve, though I sure hope Jessica doesn’t end up running off with a Putin-type. Now can I stop reading about their relationship on five different magazine covers each week?
At the Dome: I was on hand Sunday for the Vikings victory over Cleveland, their fourth in a row, which put them at 6-5. The defense is jelling to the point of being scary-good, Marcus Robinson caught THREE touchdown passes (when’s the last time Moss did that?), and Brad Johnson, while unspectacular, can at least be counted on to play mistake-free. The only explanation I can think of the Vikes’ success is that that sideline hit on Mike Tice in the Giants game had a “Phenomenon”-like effect and suddenly turned the erstwhile Meathead into a coaching genius. Because they haven’t lost since.
The strangest thing of all? The Minnesota/Cleveland game was a matchup (Brad Johnson vs. Trent Dilfer) of journeyman quarterbacks, on the wrong side of 35, who have both won Super Bowls in the last five years. Try to wrap your head around that one.
This was my first Vikings game since Zygi Wilf bought the team, and the atmosphere at the Dome is noticably different. For example: no more “we need a new stadium” propaganda on the seats, no more of that inexplicable signage for obscure singer Michael Paloma, and a clear emphasis on the good works the team has done in the community. I trust the Wilf ownership group, and truly believe that they’re well on their way to changing the tone after the neglect of the McCombs years- Smootgate notwithstanding.
Perhaps a cynic would say the Vikings are merely inverting their penchant from recent years of winning early and losing late. But make no mistake about it: this team is a playoff contender. Especially considering their cupcake schedule, starting with Detroit next week. Speaking of which,
Lions Fire Mariucci: An excellent football coach, Steve Mariucci, has now been fired by two extremely dysfunctional NFL organizations that have had no idea what to do with his talents. The Detroit Lions, who for some reason fail to see that their team’s utter failure over the last five years should rest at the feet of incompetent team president Matt Millen, gave Mooch his walking papers today. I’d expect Mariucci to surface as a candidate for the Packers job, as he was an assistant there under Mike Holmgren
I’m not sure there’s a more unqualified team exec than Millen in any sport, though I’d sort of like the Lions to not fire him for two reasons- one, as long as he’s around, the Lions will keep losing, which is good for the Vikes, and two, if that happened he’d probably go back to broadcasting, and to compared to his announcing skills, he’s executive of the year.
Eagles Win Too: Good thing too, because if they hadn’t beaten the Packers Sunday, Philly would have gone through November with more NFLPA grievance wins (1) than game wins (0).
Billy Wagner Signs With Mets: Look at it from his point of view: if you were him, would you take less money, by a factor of several million, to play in a city in which you’re frequently booed despite being one of the best in the game at your position? No, I wouldn’t either.
Michael Irvin Arrested on Drug Charges: I am shocked- shocked! Perhaps this will lead ESPN to fire Irvin, and we’ll no longer be subjected to his unique mixture of narcissistic preening and athlete ass-kicking.
If New York Sports Express still existed and was still publishing its “This Week in SportsCrime” column, the Irvin arrest would’ve fallen under the category “Those Drugs Belonged To My Brother/Cousin/Some Guy.” (Others included “Hummer/Cadillac Escalade”; “Incident Involving ‘the Mother of His Child'”; “Cloying, Agent-Drafted Public Apology,” and “Sebastian Janikowski.”)
Run With the Wolves: I also caught a Wolves game while home, and going into Friday’s home game against Milwaukee all I’d heard about them was: they’re disappointing, Marko Jaric is an awful point guard, and Michael Olowokandi is playing the best ball of his career. So I went to the game and… the Wolves pulled off a convincing victory, Jaric scored 24 points (to go with Wally Szczerbiak’s 30), and Olowokandi was not a factor at either end of the floor. And they beat a good Milwaukee team too- they’ve got quite a bit of talent, and T.J. Ford is for real.
Then the next night, the Wolves went into Cleveland and beat LeBron and the Cavs. Hmm.
All Nude/Tastefully Done Again?: With the Knicks souring on Stephon Marbury and Steph himself recently admitting that he’d like to play with Kevin Garnett again, the hot rumor in the Twin Cities is that Starbury will be brought back to the team he forced a trade from seven years ago. No idea how the deal would happen or whether it’s possible cap-wise, and I am mindful that, just like with A-Rod, teams always improve dramatically shortly after getting rid of Marbury. But it would truly to be great to see these two reunited to take another shot at building a championship team- and perhaps we’ll see the return of their plea for ESPN the Magazine to put out an “a tastefully done, but all nude” swimsuit issue.
Pete Rose Off Hall of Fame Ballot in Last Year of Eligibility: Good. For all the hand-wringing that has gone on on this subject over the past two decades, Pete Rose is the one who chose to bet on baseball, and then to lie about it for 15 years. That he will never be a baseball Hall of Famer is no one’s fault but his own, and I have no sympathy for him whatsoever.
Reform Against the War: And last but not least, the American reform Jewish movement, of which I am nominally a member, recently approved resolutions opposing the Iraq war, calling for a “clear exit strategy,” and also opposing the nomination to the Supreme Court of Judge Sam Alito. Rabbi Eric Yoffie, head of the Union of Reform Judiasm, also compared the anti-gay bigotry exhibited by the religious right to that of Nazi Germany in a speech at the URJ’s annual convention.
I applaud the URJ for including in the resolution a call for condemnation of the anti-Israel tilt of the anti-war movement. But this sort of thing makes me uneasy for several reasons. One, I believe their opposition to the war is short-sighted, especially while victory is still possible- a victory that would certainly be good for America, good for Israel, and good for the Jews. Two, I don’t see how the reform movement can be critical of conservative Christians for attempting to base public policy on their religious beliefs, and then turn around and do the same things themselves. Three, I don’t see why entire religious denominations need to take positions on individual judicial nominees, especially before their confirmation hearings have even begun. And four, to compare anyone in current politics to the Nazis is abominable. I yield to no one in my contempt for the gay-bashing of the religious right, but they’re not killing people, they’re not talking about killing people, and they’re not going to do so in the foreseeable future. They’re not Nazis. As Dean Barnett of SoxBlog pointed out last week, there are people in the world right now who are murdering homosexuals just for being homosexuals- and we’re fighting those people in Iraq and Afghanistan right now.
Yoffie, additionally, is a Brandeis alum and as I discovered to my everlasting amusement during a visit to Brandeis, he is a dead ringer for Ken Starr.
I’m off to Minneapolis tonight; have a wonderful holiday everyone. I’ll be there ’til Monday, and I’ll be at the Wolves game Friday and the Vikings Sunday. I’m also working on that long piece about Donovan McNabb that will probably be posted Monday. In the meantime, here’s my New York Press column for the week.
Have a good one…