The Night The 80’s Died

People can be divided along many different lines. Black & white. Male & female. Catholic & protestant. Left brain & right brain. Morning people & night owls.

 

I’ve always been a night owl, hence an affection for late night television, my admiration for which I have written about a few times here over the years.

 

letterman2Less than 24 hours ago David Letterman aired his final episode of The Late Show on CBS. Now I have been hard on ol’ Dave the past several years, but there comes a time when one needs to lay down the sword and express respect. That time is now.

 

I was never an outdoorsy kid. Due to my disability my hobbies were always more sedentary, which means I became a bookworm and watched too much TV until The Internet came along. Now I read books, spend far too many hours online, & still watch too much TV. I used to feel guilty about that, like maybe I should be spending my time more wisely. That’s probably true, but as my father is fond of saying, if I haven’t made my first million by now it is unlikely that it’s going to happen, so I offer no apologies for the choices I make, including my preferences in entertainment. I am a flawed human being just like everyone else. If you are willing to overlook my imperfection and still want to be my friend then you are more than welcome.

 

My parents always made me go to bed at a reasonable hour on school nights, which is good because otherwise I have a feeling my academic success would have been…well…nonexistent. But I got to stay up later on the weekends, and watching Johnny Carson on Friday night was always a treat. His monologue was funny, and oftentimes he carsonwould do a comedy sketch with The Mighty Carson Art Players. Then he would interview guests, usually celebrities promoting a book or movie. A lot of standup comics appeared on The Tonight Show, and an “okay” sign or an invitation over to the couch from Carson had the power to launch a comedian’s career into the stratosphere. It was an entertaining show that did its job…it put a smile on peoples’ face as they ended a long day and prepared to go to sleep. However, Carson’s show was somewhat methodic. Don’t misunderstand…it was great…but it was kind of like going to a restaurant whose menu rarely changes. Satisfying, comfortable, and safe.

 

And then in 1982 NBC decided to add another hour of late night television. David Letterman came along and not only challenged the status quo, he pretty much tossed the rulebook into the garbage.

 

daveSome of that “rebellion” was dictated by others, including Carson. He didn’t want Late Night with David Letterman to just be a copy of The Tonight Show. For example, Letterman was not permitted to have a sidekick like Ed McMahon. The band couldn’t have a horn section similar to that of Doc Severinsen’s Tonight Show Orchestra. The monologue had to be shorter & less “newsy” so as to not mirror Carson’s staple opening. There were restrictions on guests…basically Carson had dibs on old school Hollywood types. Both NBC & Carson Productions wanted Letterman to focus on tickling the notoriously sophomoric funny bones of younger guys since The Tonight Show had the older demographic locked in. It seems as if Dave was perfectly fine with all of this, and the result was a fresh, funny, irreverent twist on the established late night television blueprint. It delivered the 20something male demo but also appealed to a wider audience.

 

msjLetterman, in comparison to what had preceded him, came budacross as kind of nutty…in a good way. Sure he interviewed big stars about their movies, TV shows, books, & albums (that’s what we used to call CDs & digital downloads kids), but he also traveled way outside the box. He included his staff in his skits and involved people in the neighborhood. He made minor celebrities out of folks like Meg at Simon & Schuster, a young publicist that Dave would call on the phone for a chat occasionally, and who he would have do silly things like drop water balloons from her office window. After he moved to CBS he found Mujibur & Sirajul, two immigrants from Bangaladesh who worked at a small knick-knack store near the Ed Sullivan Theater. Dave once sent them trekking across the USA doing various goofy things with random citizens. And of course there is Dorothy Megering, aka Dave’s mother, who made annual appearances via satellite from her Indiana home so biffthat her son could guess what kind of pie she was dotbaking for Thanksgiving. He also sent Mom to the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, as a special correspondent, which is absolutely hilarious. There were so many other “real” people that Letterman utilized in great comedy bits. Rupert Jee of the nearby Hello Deli. Stage manager Biff Henderson. Announcer Alan Kalter. Calvert DeForest, aka Larry “Bud” Melman. Intern Stephanie Birkitt.

 

suitUnlike most talk shows where we watch for the guests, people watched Late Night and its successor The Late Show for the host. Personally I would have been fine with him never interviewing any celebrities. The stuff that Dave did himself was way better. He did crazy stunts like drop objects off the roof of the building or run over something in the street with a steamroller. He would have a bunch of people dress in costume as Santa Claus or Batman and one by one send them into a coffee shop to see how long it would take for folks to notice. He would work the drive-thru at a fast food joint and mess with customers. One of my all-time favorite moments came in the mid-90’s when Letterman spent pettricksa day in Los Angeles driving around in a convertible filled with tacos. There were absurd audience participation games like “Know Your Cuts of Meat” & “Will It Float??”. And of course there were trademarks of the show like Viewer Mail, Stupid Pet Tricks, & the nightly Top Ten List.

 

paulI would be remiss if I didn’t give a tip of the cap to Paul Shaffer as well. He had spent the late 70’s as part of Saturday Night Live’s band and was a member of the original Blues Brothers band that grew from an SNL skit to a feature film but also did actual concerts as well. He was with Letterman every step of the way the past three decades as bandleader of The World’s Most Dangerous Band and its successor The CBS Orchestra. Dave’s original blueprint may not have included a traditional sidekick, but as fate would have it Shaffer became just that. His role as a musical virtuoso certainly helped the energy of the show and undoubtedly helped attract many of the fantastic bands that made appearances. However his participation as “Ed McMahon 2.0″ should not be overlooked.

 

After the tragic events of 9/11/2001 and Dave’s own health crisis a couple of years later things dave2changed. Letterman changed. He not only transformed into the status quo of which he’d always been the antithesis, his humor became more topical…more political. The young, hip, irreverent man became a rancorous, disdainful, disenchanted curmudgeon. Oh there were still some highlights, but most of the time it felt like when a pro athlete finally gets the BIG payday and then never quite performs as well as he used to. To be honest David Letterman probably should have walked away 8 or 10 years ago. However, even though I hadn’t watched him regularly for the past few years, now that he is gone I am kind of sad.

 

I remember when Johnny Carson retired. His penultimate show featured Bette Midler & Robin Williams, and the finale was just Johnny sitting on a stool, center stage, reminiscing. I hated to see him go, but I was 20 years old. I didn’t understand loss. I didn’t appreciate the passage of time. I liked Jay Leno, and we still had Letterman. I was in college. All was right with the world despite Carson’s retirement.

 

dave3Two decades have passed. I am in my 40’s. I am all too familiar with loss and the rapid passage of time. It’s only a TV show, and one that I haven’t even been all that fond of in recent years, but it was a small reminder of an era. It was a last remaining link to the 1980’s. My childhood. My boyhood home. My hometown. My family. I likely would have waxed nostalgic about Carson upon his departure had I access to this forum back then, but it still would have been different. Johnny Carson had been around for years before I was even born. He had grey hair by the time I started watching him. But I grew up with David Letterman. I was there at the birth of his late night television fiefdom. I witnessed him evolve into an entertainment icon. I laughed at his jokes & stupidity. And now it’s over. 33 years gone like a puff of smoke. Fallon, Kimmel, Conan, & others will continue to try to make us laugh late at night before we go to bed. And maybe someday, in 2 or 3 decades when those guys retire, I’ll feel just as wistful as I do now…but I doubt it. It is just as likely that, at long last, I will begin my own transformation into a cantankerous old geezer and be in bed way before 11:30pm. more & more often.

Sports Films: The 25 Best (IMHO) – The Top Ten

film-crewOne thing that almost all great sports films have in common is an intense final act. The concluding installment of this venture might not be all that dramatic, but hopefully it’s a good read. If you haven’t done so already please catch up by checking out Part 1 and Part 2. After all, a good ending is meaningless without the enjoyment of the preceding crescendo.

 

 

 

 

10 We Are Marshall
I fully admit my extreme prejudice in overrating this film. I am a proud alumnus of Marshall muUniversity, and the 1970 plane crash that killed the entire football team is a deeply emotional event for anyone who has ever attended Marshall and lived in Huntington, WV. There is a wonderful 2000 documentary called Ashes to Glory that tells the story of the plane crash & its aftermath best, but We Are Marshall is a pretty good fictional account that has grown on me thru repeat viewings. Matthew McConaughey’s performance as head coach Jack Lengyel is somewhat quirky, but not too distracting. Englishman Ian McShane is grossly miscast as a West Virginia steel worker, but again it’s no big deal. Matthew Fox’s heartbreaking portrayal of assistant coach Red Dawson is superb and perhaps should have received an Oscar nomination. It is difficult for me to gauge how this movie is viewed by the general public because of my personal connection, but I think it is deserving of a spot in this particular cinematic potpourri.

 

 

9 Happy Gilmore
For many people of a certain generation it is Happy Gilmore, not Caddyshack, that is the golf happycomedy of record. This is Adam Sandler in his goofy mid-90’s prime. It isn’t going to win any awards or garner critical acclaim, but it’s a really fun way to spend a couple of hours vegging on the couch. Happy is a hockey player wannabe with anger issues who must find a way to raise money to pay his grandmother’s back taxes so she won’t lose her house. Enter Carl Weathers as the clichéd mentor/guru, a golf pro with a hilarious wooden hand after an unfortunate run-in with an alligator. Happy ends up on the pro tour challenging top dog Shooter McGavin (a fantastic name), with the two ending up in a climactic battle on the course. Along the way Happy romances a pretty girl, gets into a hysterical fistfight with Bob Barker, & becomes the talk of the golf world due to his unconventional style. If you’ve seen Happy Gilmore once I’m willing to bet you’ve watched it dozens of times.

 

 

8 Major League
What would happen if the Bad News Bears were adults and played on a MLB team?? That’s Major-Leaguepretty much the idea of this movie. The Cleveland Indians haven’t won a World Series since Harry Truman was President, and at the time Major League was in theaters in 1989 hadn’t even won a league pennant since the 1950’s. They are perfect fodder for a loveable loser story. The setup here is that the owner has died and his bimbo widow has inherited the club. She devises a scheme to sabotage attendance so the team can be relocated to sunny Miami. The devious plot involves putting together a hilariously ragtag motley crew, including a pitcher who just got out of prison and is as likely to reach the bleachers as the strike zone with his fastball, an outfielder who practices voodoo, a speedy center fielder that couldn’t hit water with a baseball bat if he was sitting in a boat, & a bunch of old, washed up veterans with personality conflicts. Of course we know how it ends, but the journey is engaging and the characters are unique & funny, so the sports movie clichés aren’t at all bothersome. It is interesting to note that the film climaxes (spoiler alert) with the Indians winning a one game tiebreaker to capture the division and get into the playoffs. We learn in 1994’s Major League II that they lost the ALCS. In that inferior sequel Cleveland wins the ALCS but we still never see them in the World Series.

 

 

7 The Karate Kid
I’ve written on previous occasions about time capsules. If one were to open an 80’s time kkcapsule full of movies I suspect that The Karate Kid would be among the treasured loot, alongside The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the Back to the Future trilogy, & two of the first three Star Wars films (the original came out in 1977). Kid stars Ralph Macchio as a high school student (Macchio was 47 years old at the time) who has relocated from New Jersey to Los Angeles and is being bullied in his new school. He turns to martial arts for assistance, with guidance from a sagacious old Japanese building super. Kid paints inside the lines of the sports movie blueprint, but the characters are so interesting and the martial arts setting is different enough from the usual football/baseball/basketball scenario that this film has become an indisputable modern classic. There were a few tepid sequels, but none can hold a candle to the original. Oh, by the way, I was just kidding…Macchio was only 23 when he played Daniel Laruso. He is now 53 years old.

 

 

6 All the Right Moves
Am I crazy or does this movie fly way under the radar?? Tom Cruise is a megastar who has made a plethora of notable films, some that are popular with the masses and others that are critical darlings. One must give Cruise credit for being a versatile performer even if it seems like he might be kind of an out-of-touch crackpot diva in real life. ATRM was one of Cruise’s earliest efforts, released in 1983 (the same year as Risky Business). It is the quintessential high school football movie. Cruise is a talented player whose goal is to use his skills to score a movescollege scholarship and escape his dreary Pennsylvania hometown, rising above a dead end life in the steel mills. Being trapped in a small town and yearning for something more is hardly an original plot, but it works really well in a sports movie because it rings so true. Many athletes that fans watch on TV almost daily come from working class families in economically challenged neighborhoods. What we view as a fun way to relax on the weekend is, for a lot of young men, their ticket to a better life. ATRM captures the essence of that struggle really well, and portrays just how important a game can be to a town that has nothing else to look forward to. Craig T. Nelson is well known for his role in the 90’s sitcom Coach, but here he plays an entirely different kind of coach, the type of guy who is way too intense and has just a bit too much power. ATRM holds up really well after three decades and provides much food for thought while also being quite entertaining.

 

 

5 Tin Cup
My father loved to play golf until he got older and his knees went bad. Once he gets them replaced I am hopeful he can get back out on the course and knock a few balls around with my eldest nephew, who has inherited Dad’s fondness for the game. At any rate, even though I am physically unable to play I too love golf. Many people find it kind of boring on TV, but I have spent many a Sunday afternoon watching the entertaining final round of a tournament. There aren’t a lot of golf-centric movies, but a couple stand out amongst the crowd, including this 1996 Kevin Costner rom-com in which he simultaneously romances a shrink while also trying to qualify for the U.S. Open. He’s a failed professional golfer who now owns a rundown tin-cup-560driving range, lives in a camper, & drinks a lot. He’s kind of given up and just doesn’t give a damn. What motivates him to get his act together?? A woman of course. Don Johnson is great as a smooth talking pro golfer. I mean he’s no Shooter McGavin, but there’s got to be a bad guy, right?? And of course there is a faithful sidekick played by one half of Cheech & Chong. I believe it is Cheech. Anyway, like a few other flicks you’ve read about here the plot leans a lot more toward romantic comedy than sports, but there is an appropriate amount of golf action, including the requisite climactic showdown. This one has a fantastic twist. Anyone who’s ever watched Tin Cup knows what I mean and I won’t spoil it. The combination of Costner’s charm, a solid supporting cast, a well written script, & the always reliable sports movie playbook make this one that is likely to stand the test of time.

 

 

4 Hoosiers
Youngsters in The Manoverse may not be familiar with Gene Hackman, an award winning actor whose career peaked in the 70’s with classics like The French Connection, The Conversation, The Poseidon Adventure, & Superman. However, since then he has had a few notable crusty old man roles in films like Mississippi Burning, Unforgiven, The Firm, & Hoosiers…one of the greatest sports movies of all time. Here Hackman is a disgraced former college basketball coach who lost his job after hitting a player. He’s given a second chance by an old friend, a high school principal in Indiana. Most sports fans know how significant basketball is there, and the small town of Hickory is no exception. It’s the kind of dead end hoosierstown where folks toil too hard for too little and don’t have much hope for a better future. You know…like we’ve seen in a hundred other sports films. But my philosophy has always been that things become formulaic because the formula seems to work. The townsfolk don’t understand the new coach’s ways and aren’t shy about offering input. The team…like all great underdogs…is outmatched & undermanned, but somehow they pull together and win. The wildcard is an enigmatic lad named Jimmy Chitwood, a basketball prodigy who doesn’t know whether he wants to play basketball. Of course he does play, and he hits the last second winning shot that we all know is coming. Sports films are usually David vs. Goliath. David almost always wins. That is the accepted norm. What separates the wheat from the chaff is the quality of the writing and the performances. Hackman adds necessary gravitas to Hoosiers. The 1950’s setting is quaint & nostalgic. A solid supporting cast doesn’t hurt. It’s the total package, and that’s why we love it.

 

 

3 Bull Durham
Stop…collaborate & listen…Costner is back with another edition. Okay okay…I’m sorry…I just couldn’t resist. Anyway, as Forrest Gump might say, Kevin Costner and sports films go together like peas & carrots. Here he plays a veteran catcher who has spent most of his time in baseball meandering in the minor leagues. His career is nearing its conclusion, but instead of getting one last cup of coffee in The Show he’s sent down a couple of rungs on the ladder to the lowest of the minors to mentor a young pitcher whose arm is superb but isn’t mentally or emotionally mature enough to be taken seriously. Hilarity ensues. And yes, there is a bdrom-com element, with Susan Sarandon as a philosophical baseball groupie who tries to have her cake & eat it too with the older catcher & the younger pitcher. Bull Durham is a really fun look inside the world of minor league baseball, where the players aren’t making a bazillion dollars, there’s very little if any TV coverage, and there aren’t any perks like first class flights or luxury hotel rooms. The script is sharply written and Tim Robbins, in one of his earliest roles, is hysterical as the goofy pitcher. I had an opportunity a few years ago, while hanging out with my friend The Owl in Columbus, OH, to see a game involving the real Durham Bulls, and scenes from this movie kept flashing thru my mind. It holds up really well after nearly three decades, and I suspect that’ll continue to be the case for many years.

 

 

2 Field of Dreams
Back to back Costner!! The dude has three films in the Top 5. That’s amazing!! And it’s not like I’m a hardcore Kevin Costner fan. Outside of the plethora of sports films he’s starred in there are a lot of snoozers like Waterworld and The Postman. But sometimes one finds their niche and it’s just a perfect fit. I heaped about as much praise as possible on Field of Dreams a few years ago when I named it 3rd amongst my 100 Favorite Movies, and one of the things I said was that calling it a sports film is an “epic oversimplification”. It is much more than that. I even stated that Field of Dreams “is not about baseball”. I stand by that declaration. However, FieldofDreams_1636642cin hindsight I realize that most sports films aren’t only about whatever sport they feature. Sports themselves are about more than winning or losing a game. Due to my disability I was never able to play competitive sports which is unfortunate because I believe that many valuable lessons can be learned thru involvement with such activities. Teamwork. Responsibility. The importance of following rules. Dedication. Focus. Work ethic. Respect. Honor. Tact. Diplomacy. The value of fitness & physical well-being. Integrity. Leadership. How to win & lose graciously. Overcoming obstacles & failure. I could go on, but you get the point. Field of Dreams is about things even more metaphysical than any of that, and it uses the backdrop of baseball to perfection. It’s a beautiful story that I’ve probably watched a hundred times over the years, and I’ll probably watch it a hundred more. It just never gets old.

 

1 Rocky
This list could reach its epic conclusion no other way. There were sports films produced before 1976, but Rocky re-wrote the rulebook and redefined the genre. It is THE classic David vs. Goliath story. Everything else that has come afterward is a derivative variation on the theme. But have you watched it recently?? Everyone remembers the big picture…the broad strokes. Characters like Rocky, Adrian, Mickey, & Apollo Creed. Rocky pounding on raw meat or running up the steps of a Philadelphia museum. That theme song!! Yet Rocky has been copied & parodied so much that people forget that it is a REALLY great movie. Stallone was a 29 year old struggling actor when he wrote the screenplay. Yes that’s right…Sylvester Stallone created Rocky!! He had to fight the suits to star in the film though. They wanted a big name like Burt Reynolds, James Caan, or Robert Redford to play the titular role. What would that rockyBhave been like?? Obviously we’ll never know, but, though now the masses couldn’t imagine anyone else as Rocky Balboa, the truth is that the script is so good that it likely would have worked anyway. Were there too many sequels made?? Probably, although I think the only one that was really terrible was Rocky V (the one with the late Tommy Morrison as a bitter former Balboa protégé). The rest were sufficiently entertaining popcorn cinema…they just lacked the heart & depth of the original. Rocky won the Academy Award for Best Picture, overcoming competition from Network, Taxi Driver, & All the President’s Men, and is a rare film that is beloved by both critics and normal people. Stallone became only the third person to ever be nominated for Best Actor & Best Original Screenplay in the same year. The other two were Charlie Chaplin & Orson Welles (since 1976 Woody Allen, Warren Beatty, Billy Bob Thornton, Roberto Benigni, & Matt Damon have all had similar double nominations). As much as I love sports movies I must admit that they rarely have this kind of elite pedigree. Not even Raging Bull or Field of Dreams, though nominated, won Best Picture. That’s not what this is about though. Awards are merely icing on the cake and just mean that a bunch of other people agree with my assessment. Good for them. The world would be a better place if more people acknowledged my wisdom.

Sports Films: The 25 Best (IMHO) Part 2

watchingAnd we’re back!! I hope you enjoyed Part 1, which I assume you did or you wouldn’t be back. Logic rules. Anyway, the middle part of our batting order contains a wide variety, including more hilarious Saturday Night Live alumni, some movies older than my Dad, & one or two entries that you won’t be startled to see but may be somewhat surprised to see so soon. Remember, these are my own opinions and I am fully aware that others might view things differently. Please leave me some comments about what sports movies you like or don’t like, and if you haven’t yet been Manotized and become a citizen of The Manoverse you’re just a click away from one of the best decisions you’ll make all day.

 

 

 

 

20 Slapshot / Rocky II
Slap+Shot+hansonbrosLet me say two things. First, hockey is probably my least favorite of the major sports (which, since I live in America, doesn’t include soccer). Secondly, I’m just a skosh too young to see what the big deal is about Paul Newman. Several of his most notable films were made either before I was born or when I was an infant, and a lot of them seem to be westerns, which just aren’t my thing. That being said, I have enjoyed a few Newman performances, chief among them this outing as a veteran player-coach for a minor league hockey team on the verge of going belly-up. The team’s braintrust decides to focus on keeping the club financially viable by making it an entertaining sideshow rather than a competitive entity. Hilarity ensues, including the three Hanson Brothers, man-children with a hysterical penchant for thuggery & rulebreaking. Rocky II is the inevitable sequel to the r2original. Hindsight proves that this is a series that peaked in its initial outing and had, for the most part, diminishing returns thereafter. However, II isn’t too far gone from the quality if its predecessor, and (spoiler alert) it’s the one where The Italian Stallion finally wins the title so I cannot exclude it from this particular honor roll.

19 Raging Bull / Caddyshack
bullOne normally wouldn’t think of this pair of films together, but I do for a simple reason. Both films would likely be rated far higher on most any other list they’d be on. Caddyshack…the classic 1980 story of The Haves vs. The Have Nots at a snooty country club…is consistently ranked as one of the funniest movies of all time. Raging Bull…a biopic of 1940’s pugilist Jake LaMotta that was also in theaters in 1980…is generally considered not only one of the greatest sports films but among the finest movies of any genre. The pedigrees for both are impressive. Caddyshack was directed by Harold Ramis and stars Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Rodney Dangerfield, & Ted Knight. Raging Bull was directed by Martin Scorsese and stars Robert DeNiro (who won the Academy Award for Best Actor) and Joe Pesci in one of his earliest roles. DeNiro, much like Pacino, makes anything he is in awesome. I think the timing caddyshackwas just a bit off in relation to my enjoyment of these particular movies. They aren’t the kind of stories that an 8 year old kid is going to watch on the big screen, and by the time I saw them and began to understand their greatness I had developed my own tastes and had a bunch of other films that I preferred. Caddyshack is more in my wheelhouse since I like comedy, while Raging Bull just can’t compare, in my humble opinion, to another boxing film that we’ll discuss eventually.

 

 

18 The Waterboy / Talladega Nights
waterboyIt will probably surprise many that Adam Sandler has a couple of entries in this little countdown. When one thinks about sport movies it is unlikely that Sandler would automatically come to mind. However, a sub-genre that I am especially fond of is the sports comedy. I like comedy and I love sports so I suppose it makes sense. The Waterboy is vintage Sandler back when he was at the pinnacle of his career nearly two decades ago. It tells the story of a dimwitted country bumpkin from Louisiana’s bayou who goes from abused waterboy to college football star thanks to classic Sandler rage. The supporting cast is terrific, with Henry Winkler (aka Fonzie) as a mild mannered coach and Academy Award winner Kathy Bates as an overprotective mother standing out above the rest. As with many of Sandler’s popular films critics hated The Waterboy while real people continue to gleefully watch it over & over again. Much like Sandler, fellow SNL alum Will Ferrell is a love him or hate him kind of actor. His films aren’t tnartistic masterpieces that get four stars from stuffed shirts, but Joe Sixpack tends to enjoy them. In Talladega Nights he teams with the vastly underrated John C. Reilly to form an odd NASCAR racing duo. Ricky Bobby is the kind of smug simpleton role that Ferrell has perfected, and the writing is pretty sharp for an alleged “dumb” comedy. There’s plenty of on track action and a clichéd climactic race. Both of these films are just a lot of silly fun, and I see nothing wrong with that.

 

 

17 Fever Pitch / Dodgeball
Speaking of silly fun & SNL alums…
Fever Pitch is actually based on a novel written by Nick Hornby, the same British author who fppenned High Fidelity and About a Boy, both of which were adapted into films as well. This particular story was originally about soccer and I believe a more faithful movie was made in 1997. However, this is America and we couldn’t care less about soccer, so the script was reworked into a tale about baseball for this 2005 effort starring Jimmy Fallon & Drew Barrymore. There are a few interesting things about Fever Pitch. First of all, it leans heavily toward rom-com territory so some may not really consider it a sports film. In my humble opinion though there’s enough sports involved for it to make the cut. Secondly, the filming happened to take place during the miraculous season when the Boston Red Sox broke the infamous Curse of the Bambino, which necessitated a change to the movie’s intended ending. And finally, this is a story (aside from the romantic stuff) about a fan. A hardcore fan. An obsessed fan. A fan who eats, drinks, sleeps, & breathes baseball and lives & dies with his team’s every win or loss. We can all see just a little bit of ourselves in him. Fallon & Barrymore are a charming duo and it’s a shame they never made any more movies together. Dodgeball is kind of unusual in that it doesn’t feature an actual sport but instead focuses on a game most of us played as children. However, it utilizes the sports movie playbook all the way. I’m a Vince Vaughn fan even though he pretty much plays the same kind of affable slacker in every movie he makes. I suppose if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right?? This is another silly comedy that’s not going to change lives or add anything meaningful to intelligent conversation, but if you’re chillin’ out and looking for a delightful way to waste a couple of hours it’ll do the trick just fine.

 

 

16 Pride of the Yankees / Knute Rockne: All-American
louAnother true story: When I was in college I saw these two entries during a class I took about sports films. Yes that was actually a thing. I can’t remember if I got an A, but one would hope so because if a person can’t score an easy A in that class what hope do they have dealing with legitimate scholastic material?? At any rate, these movies were both released in the early 1940’s within a couple years of one another. Pride is the story of New York Yankees legend Lou Gehrig and chronicles his rise from a baseball player at Columbia University all the way thru his legendary Iron Man streak with the Bronx Bombers, culminating in his untimely demise from the illness that now bears his name. We also get a glimpse at Gehrig’s family life, especially the dynamic between his overprotective mother and the lovely young lady that becomes his bride. It is kind of an outdated, corny movie and prime material for a remake…if anyone under the age of 40 knew who Lou Gehrig was, Cal Ripken, Jr. hadn’t broken Gehrig’s Iron Man record a couple of decades ago, & there was an actor on the planet who could portray Gehrig as impressively as Gary Cooper. Rockne rocknewas the football coach for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish from 1918 to 1930, winning four national championships in five undefeated seasons (I know that makes no sense but if you are curious feel free to do some research) before being tragically killed in a plane crash. To this day he still has the highest winning percentage of any Division 1A football coach in history. All-American tells Rockne’s story, although these days it is probably more notable for the appearance of future President Ronald Reagan as The Gipper, complete with a legendary speech that atleast 75% of hardcore football fans can recite from memory.

 

 

15 Rudy
I really try not to let my utter contempt for Notre Dame bias any opinions about ancillary matters and rudythis certainly would qualify, but, objectively speaking, Rudy is a really solid movie. Based on the true story of Daniel Ruettiger, a young Illinois man who grew up in the 1950’s dreaming of playing football for the Fighting Irish, Rudy is a classic underdog story…the foundation of sports cinema. You see, Daniel had everything going against him. His family was poor. He was dyslexic & had below average grades. And…oh, by the way…he was 5ft.6 and 170lbs. soaking wet. That’s hardly the kind of “athlete” one of the nation’s elite football programs typically recruits. But Ruettiger was persistent, and after a couple of years in the Navy, a couple of years working at the local power plant with his father & brother, and then getting his academics up to par at a less stringent institution of higher learning, he finally enrolled at Notre Dame at the age of 26 and walked on to the football team. Now does that mean that he became a superstar athlete?? Of course not. That’s not what Rudy is about. Vince Lombardi may have said that “winning is the only thing”, but different people define victory in a variety of ways. This film is notable as well for being amongst the earliest work of both Vince Vaughn & Jon Favreau.

14 Eight Men Out
Baseball fans of all ages should be atleast somewhat familiar with the 1919 Black Sox scandal. This8men movie is based on a 1963 book written about that situation. Both the book & the film are quite good. The cast isn’t all that memorable with the exception of John Cusack & Charlie Sheen, who were both up & coming performers when the movie was made in the late 80’s, but the performances are all solid. The players who were eventually banned forever from baseball aren’t given a free pass for their errors in judgment, but the prevailing viewpoint is that they were far from villains, that there were understandable circumstances that led to poor decisions. I first saw Eight Men Out many years ago and came away believing that maybe…just maybe…the punishment was a bit too harsh, but then again I’m compassionate like that. Your mileage may vary.

 

 

13 61
This project is mostly about feature films, but I do feel compelled to include an exception. 61 is a 2001 61HBO movie about the competition to best Babe Ruth’s single season home run record, one that had been setting the pace since 1927. The number 61 has a double meaning. First, Ruth’s record was 60 homers in a season so 61 would break the record. Also, the action in this film takes place during the 1961 MLB season. The focus is on two men…New York Yankees outfielders Mickey Mantle & Roger Maris, and their contrasting lifestyles & demeanors. By 1961 Mantle was a living legend, another in a long line of Yankee icons, whose drinking & hard partying ways were well documented. Conversely, Maris was a quiet & old-fashioned guy from North Dakota who felt and was often treated like an outsider in The Bronx. Even though we know how this home run race turned out the story is still compelling and the examination of the personalities & relationships is fascinating. It is a well-written script and the performances are terrific. The film was directed by lifelong Yankees fan Billy Crystal, who really should direct more often. In my heart & mind Maris, an honest & humble man, is still baseball’s single season home run king.

12 Seabiscuit
Hard tack is a type of long lasting cracker often consumed by sailors & soldiers. Hard Tack was the biscuit-spanname of a race horse in the 1930’s. Hard Tack fathered a race horse named Seabiscuit. Sea biscuit is an alternative term for the aforementioned cracker. Interesting. Seabiscuit (the movie) is based on a really good book about that young racehorse, who won a lot of races in the late 30’s. Like so many great sports films it’s an underdog story. In this case the horse was an underdog, but so was its owner, trainer, & jockey. There’s a lot of inspirational relationship stuff here, but oddly enough there’s no romance, atleast not the kind we usually see. It’s a well-written story with many of the characteristic sports movie brush strokes, but Seabiscuit is better than average. We don’t pay as much attention to horse racing in America as we once did, for various reasons, but it is still the sport of kings and this movie will remind you of that.

 

 

11 Jerry Maguire
It had me at hello. It completes me. But is it a sports film?? Ehhh…I suppose, although it’s really more of jm2a romantic dramedy, which is why I am putting it this far down in the countdown. It does tell a story from the perspective of an agent, which is unique. We get an interesting peek inside the cutthroat business side of sports, including some fun cameos from former Eagles frontman Glenn Frey as a team owner, real life agent Leigh Steinberg, ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr., and a plethora of former NFL players and other athletes. And we even see some on-the-field drama courtesy of Rod “Show Me the Money” Tidwell, a role that won Cuba Gooding Jr. an Academy Award.

 

 

That’s it for now. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion…coming soon!!

Sports Films: The 25 Best (IMHO) Part 1

sports2Sportswriter, fellow pro wrestling fan, & former ESPN talking head Bill Simmons wrote a delightful column last summer about films that may or may not be considered a true sports movie. Some of his conclusions I agree with, others I do not. I march to the beat of my own drummer so I don’t really care about others’ opinions, but Simmons’ basic premise is spot on. There is a lot of crossover when it comes to sports movies, especially with rom-coms.


So what exactly defines a sports movie?? In pondering that question I have come to a few conclusions:

• A sports movie usually features a loveable underdog trying to overcome impossible odds. Sports is all about cheering for one team and/or against another. Fans tend to like sports packaged like old westerns…the good guys wear white hats, the bad guys wear black hats. The dividing line between heroes & villains is clear and everyone loves a good David vs. Goliath story.
• A sports movie should concentrate, if not exclusively then atleast mostly, on the sports. We need to see game action, usually involving a climactic contest where our underdog shocks the world with a last second victory. This is where the line gets blurred most often, with more rom-com-ish films focusing heavily on relationships, usually between a star player or coach and a beautiful young lady that is way too good for him. In that type of story sports takes a backseat, which can be problematic in defining it as a sports film.
• Sports movies will oftentimes have two specific characters: an aging veteran who just can’t walk away, and/or a young buck that is talented but has a lot to learn. One or both characters may be present. If both are in the film then the old guy is probably a mentor/guru for the youngster.
• Sports movies almost always have an inspirational speech. This speech theoretically is about sports, but really it is a philosophical & spiritual illumination of life and the universe.

That’s pretty much it. There are other clichés that we could dive into, but I think I’ve covered the biggies.

The process of compiling this list, narrowing things down, & getting the right order was more difficult than expected. There are films that I love from a big picture perspective, but kind of fall short within the specific confines of being a sports movie. There are other films that really aren’t great films, but inside the narrow boundaries of the genre are quite entertaining. As with my 100 Favorite Films I cannot escape the limits of my own life experiences and personal taste. Someone my father’s age or a 20-something like my eldest nephew might cinemahave a completely different compilation. So be it. I appreciate quality, but I’m not a movie critic. Just because something is good doesn’t mean I like it, and just because the masses on Rotten Tomatoes may eviscerate a film doesn’t mean I haven’t watched it a hundred times on cold, lonely, dreary Saturday nights. You’ll see a good cross section of sports represented here…football (high school, college, & pro), baseball (Little League, the minor leagues, & MLB), basketball, hockey, horse racing, amateur wrestling, martial arts, golf, auto racing, boxing, and even a certain unusual “sport” that we all played in grade school. There are a few old black & white films from the 30’s as well as stuff from the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, & the 21st century. There are comedies, dramas, & biopics. Yet this eclectic mix of movies has one common thread…sports. I love them. You probably love them. And hopefully you’ll enjoy this fun little effort.

 

 
25 Miracle
Miracle is interesting from this standpoint: how come it took nearly 25 years for a major miracle2motion picture to be made about one of the greatest real sports stories of all time?? The film tells the tale of the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team that stunned the world by upsetting the Russians and going on to win the gold medal. Kurt Russell carries the movie portraying head coach Herb Brooks, who died in a tragic car accident just before Miracle hit theaters in 2004. I would have liked to have seen a bit more character development to differentiate the players, but Russell is solid as usual and the hockey scenes are compelling. This is a story that needed to be told, and I suppose it is done about as well as possible.

 

24 Everybody’s All-American
Everybody’s All-American is based on a novel that I’ve never read but is on my bookshelf so I’ll eaaget around to it eventually. It’s a really good story that explores what happens to a big man on campus whose pro football career isn’t nearly as glamorous as his collegiate glory days, and chronicles the challenges he faces when even that pro career begins to fade. Dennis Quaid is a grossly underrated actor and I’m a sucker for tales set in a different era (this one takes place in the 1950’s). Everybody’s All-American kind of gets lost in the shuffle sometimes. It was in theaters in 1988, with stiff competition from Big, Rain Man, Coming to America, Cocktail, The Naked Gun, A Fish Called Wanda, Beetlejuice, Bull Durham, Die Hard, & Who Framed Roger Rabbit. If you’ve never seen it check it out on Netflix. You won’t regret it.

 

23 North Dallas Forty / Any Given Sunday
ndfFilms about professional football seem hellbent & determined to focus on the sport’s seedy underbelly…violence, drugs, sex, partying. While baseball is often romanticized in cinema football is shown no mercy. North Dallas Forty is a 1979 movie (also based on a book I’ve not read but would like to) starring Nick Nolte and country singer turned actor Mac Davis. They play for a fictionalized facsimile of the Dallas Cowboys. True story: I watched this movie on our illegal HBO when I was probably 10 or 11 years old. I lied to my mother and told her it was rated PG. When she found out that it was rated R and that I had lied to her she grounded me for about a month. Any Given Sunday is an updated version of “look how vicious football is and what jerks these agsguys are” theme, but it stars Al Pacino as the head coach and Pacino makes anything awesome. The aforementioned Dennis Quaid is along for the ride as an aging QB who loses his starting job to a young & cocky Jamie Foxx. Oliver Stone directed and I’ve never been a big fan of Stone’s style, so this isn’t really a film I’ve watched as much as others you’ll see here.

 

22 A League of Their Own / The Bad News Bears
LeagueOfTheirOwnThere really was an All-American Girls Professional Baseball League that existed for about a decade during and after World War II. There were 15 teams, mostly located in the Midwest (Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota). The league was created by Phillip Wrigley, the heir to his father’s chewing gum empire. A League of Their Own is a dramedy centering on the four time league champion Rockford Peaches. The only negative issue with the film is the questionable casting of Madonna and the repugnant Rosie O’Donnell, but fortunately it is saved by outstanding performances by Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Garry Marshall, and especially Tom Hanks in a rare supporting role. I like movies based on true stories and this one works really well. The Bad News Bears is such an iconic movie that the premise has passed into the general lexicon as a way of describing a ragtag bunch of irreverent The-Bad-News-Bearsscrew-ups. The reference is a bit dated now, and I bet there are people who use it that have never even seen the original film made in 1975. There was a remake in 2005, but this is just one of those stories that shouldn’t be redone. Honestly, how could anyone really replace the late Walter Matthau (except for Jack Klugman in The Odd Couple…but Klugman is dead too)??

 

21 Vision Quest
Vision Quest is a romantic drama set against the backdrop of high school wrestling. It was vqreleased in 1985, the same year as more beloved classics like Back to the Future, Fletch, The Goonies, The Breakfast Club, National Lampoon’s European Vacation, Teen Wolf, Nightmare on Elm Street 2, Cocoon, & St. Elmo’s Fire…so it is easy to understand why it is largely forgotten. However, it really works as a sports film, especially if you have had any exposure to amateur wrestling. Both of my nephews wrestled from the time they were 4 years old thru high school, and the youngest won a state title during his junior season a few months ago. If you aren’t a fan of the sport you may not like Vision Quest as much, but with a solid cast, fantastic soundtrack, & a good story it’s well worth the time.

 

 

 

That’s all you get for now. Join us again soon for Part 2!!

Superfluous 7 Favorite Stand-Up Comedians

My man Michael Wilbon recently posted a video commentary…for no apparent reason…on comedythe PTI Facebook page about his Top 10 stand-up comics. Because Wilbon, as erudite as he seems on TV, is subconsciously a militant black man and a throwback 60’s radical his list was, shall we say, just a little bit prejudiced. It wasn’t too terrible I suppose, but it had Wanda Sykes for God’s sake, a woman who is only mildly amusing at her best, while leaving off 2 or 3 certified comedy legends. My dismay with this absurd display of racially biased poppycock has inspired me to create my own ranking. I have made a concerted effort to eschew the kind of poor taste & obvious sociopolitical slant shown by Wilbon, but to be fair we are all a product of our background, bound to be influenced by the time & place in which we were raised and the things to which we were or were not exposed. I’m about 15 years younger than Wilbon, was raised in small town WV as opposed to Chicago, and watched way too much TV as a kid. I am a child of the 80’s (with fond memories of the late 70’s) and became an adult in the 90’s. I do think my rankings are better & more reasonable than the list that motivated this effort, but others may disagree. So be it.


comedy2In pondering this idea I had a lot of names pop into my head. It became necessary to create parameters. The focus here is on stand-up comedy…just a guy (or lady) on stage with a microphone in front of a live audience. Many of the best comedians have gone on to star in TV series or become movie stars. That’s fine, but that’s not what this is about. Jimmy Fallon may have once done stand-up comedy, but in my mind he is an SNL alum who went on to do a few forgettable films and now hosts the Tonight Show. Same deal with David Letterman. To me he is a talk show host that has been a centerpiece of late night television for ¾ of my life. At any rate, even with those self-imposed boundaries the list was overflowing, so we will begin with some Honorable Mentions that didn’t quite make the cut for one reason or another.

 

Honorable Mention

Tim Allen
His stand-up routines landed him a successful sitcom which he parlayed into a mediocre film career, so I think of him primarily as a comedic actor.

Billy Crystal
I LOVE Crystal, but to me he is an actor & awards show host.

Bob Newhart
His standup career was before my time. I remember him as the star of two of TV’s more underappreciated sitcoms.

Don Rickles
He’s funny, but his career trajectory plateaued before I was born.

Johnny Carson & Jay Leno
I know them primarily as two long time hosts of the Tonight Show.

Bob Hope
An undisputed legend, but one whose career peaked long before I was born and who I fondly recall as hosting the occasional variety show special on TV.

Steve Martin
I realize he was a revolutionary stand-up comic in the 70’s, but I know him mainly as a film actor and for his numerous appearances on SNL.

Garry Shandling
Funny, but not quite elite. I recall him as a frequent guest host on the Tonight Show and remember his first sitcom on Showtime in the late 80’s.

Buddy Hackett
He was before my time. I remember him mostly for his guest appearances on Carson’s Tonight Show in the 1980’s.

Sam Kinison
Sadly Kinison was gone far too soon, killed by a teenage drunk driver at the age of 38. Kinison was obnoxious, controversial, & often blasphemous, but he was funny. It would have been really interesting to see how he might have evolved. Would he have softened with age?? Would he have become a caricature of himself, still trying to be the loud, abrasive rebel even as an elder statesman of comedy?? Or would he have just flamed out & faded away once his shtick started to grow old?? We’ll never know, and that’s too bad.

Steven Wright
Wright’s deadpan delivery is unmistakable yet kind defines him as a one trick pony. Amusing in small doses, but there is a reason he never became a huge star.

Ron White
I gave this spot to White over Jeff Foxworthy because I think he is funnier. His humor seems kind of restricted to a specific southern demographic, which is fine by me but limits his star power and accessibility to the masses.

Gallagher
You know & love him as the prop comedian who busts watermelons with a sledgehammer. It’s a gimmick that has narrowly defined his career for four decades.

Andrew Dice Clay
He’s funny & memorable enough to get a mention, but just too vulgar to be ranked amongst the best.

Andy Kaufman
It is difficult to describe exactly what Andy Kaufman did on stage. He was more of a performance artist than a traditional standup comedian. It seemed as if he was trying to entertain himself more than anyone else, and if that meant offending, annoying, & confusing the audience then that was just dandy. Kaufman is another artist that we lost far too early, as he succumbed to lung cancer at age 35. I remember him mostly as Latka Gravis on the sitcom Taxi, a role that he allegedly despised.

Redd Foxx
To me he is iconic junk king Fred G. Sanford from the 70’s sitcom Sanford & Son. However, before that role he had a long & successful career as a crude & profane stand-up comic. That was in the 50’s & 60’s though…way way way before my time, and in an era when profanity was actually shocking instead of the accepted norm.

 

Okay, so now that the honorable mentions are out of the way it’s time to move to the main attraction. To be honest I wish more of these guys worked “clean”, but it’s rare to find a comedian who does that nowadays. We live in an era in which F Bombs and sexual humor sells, so that’s what many do. It’s not my preference, but for the most part I think my choices would still be funny if they took the road less traveled instead of conforming to low worldly standards. At any rate, sit down, enjoy a cold beverage, and maybe chuckle, chortle, guffaw, & giggle as I present…..

 

 

 

 
From the home office in Happy, TX…..

 

 

 

 
My Superfluous 7 Favorite Stand-Up Comedians:

 

 

 

7 Eddie Murphy / Richard Pryor
murphyY’all should know by now, there will be ties. These guys are legends, with Pryor being the trailblazer who heavily influenced Murphy. Pryor’s stand-up career was en fuego in the 1970’s when I was just a baby. By the time I got to the age where I was consciously making entertainment choices and discovering what I enjoy Pryor, like so many others, had segued into acting. It is really interesting that a vast majority of comedians cite Richard Pryor as a huge influence. He really did make it look easy. His comedy was edgy & vulgar, yet accessible to the masses. Perhaps one of the most regrettable byproducts of Pryor’s legacy is that so many comics believe that peppering their act with a plethora of F-Bombs & other profanities is hysterically funny. I suppose it was humorous in a shocking kind of way when he did it, but now it’s just derivative & tedious. Murphy’s career has been all over the place, with a prominent chunk of the early 80’s spent as a cast member on SNL followed by a three pryordecade movie career with some hits (48 Hrs., Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop, Coming to America) and a lot of misses (The Golden Child, Vampire in Brooklyn, Pluto Nash, Norbitt). In between those gigs, for a brief time in the mid-80’s, he was a comedy rock star that did a few really good HBO specials that became big sellers on home video. Unfortunately Eddie Murphy seemed to buy into the whole movie star fantasy and has become more aloof & pretentious over the years.

 

6 Chris Rock / Dennis Miller
rockI don’t often agree with Rock’s politics, but there is no denying that he is an intelligent, thoughtful guy whose observational comedy is a cut above. Much of his humor has racial overtones, but I’ve rarely found it racist. It is more like a brutally honest, undeniably subjective worldview to which I can’t relate. In contrast, Miller’s philosophies & attitudes are much more in line with my own. He also is a smart & solicitous dude whose comedy was tinged with insightful commentary about life even before he became a regular guest on political talk shows. Miller doesn’t dumb down his comedy for the masses. You either get the odd analogies & obscure references he makes or you don’t, and he’s not going to slow down and draw a picture for you. Both Rock & Miller had notable runs on Saturday Night Live. Rock has gone on to be a run-of-the-mill movie star in mostly pedestrian films, millerwhile Miller has dabbled in the whole talk show host thing (I really wanted him to be the guy to replace Letterman), did a season in the booth on Monday Night Football (not a good fit), & in recent years has become bogged down as a political pundit. I’d love to see him get back into doing stand-up.

 

5 Jim Gaffigan / Bill Cosby
gaffiganOkay…let’s first address the elephant in the room. I am not here to judge what Cosby may or may not have done in his personal life. That’s not my place, and I think the damage that has been done to his legacy speaks for itself. Both of these men do basically work “clean”, which is good. The foundation of their humor is family, marriage, children, & relationships. They tell stories that many folks recognize from their own lives. It’s easygoing & affable. Their comedy isn’t meanspirited, edgy, or brash. Cosby, of course is…or was…a living legend that has done movies & TV shows and has generally been a part of the entertainment landscape for a half century. Gaffigan has been around for about a cosbydecade. He’s a soft-spoken, self-deprecating guy who likes to joke about being fat & lazy, comedy to which I can relate. Young comedians need to study these guys and understand that intelligent, relevant, witty comedy doesn’t need to be vulgar, obnoxious, or malevolent.

 

4 Frank Caliendo / Denis Leary
caliendoBy far my favorite kind of comedian is one who can do spot-on impressions. If I could ask God for any fun & frivolous talent I’d probably choose being able to do impressions over singing, dancing, or playing an instrument. Older generations might prefer Rich Little, but to be honest I was never that enamored with Little. Caliendo hasn’t become the sort of superstar that landed his own sitcom, but he’s done a wide variety of media appearances…MadTV, Fox NFL Sunday, & a ton of radio shows…and is a regular in Vegas. He does awesome impressions of folks like Al Pacino, Morgan Freeman, President George W. Bush, & Robin Williams, as well as a ton of sportscentric impersonations such as ESPN personalities Mel Kiper Jr., Adam Shefter, & Stephen A. Smith, former coaches John learyMadden & Jon Gruden, Charles Barkley, Jim Rome, and Bill Walton. I think Caliendo is brilliant. Leary has segued into acting now, but at one time in the early 90’s he was a chain smoking, fast talking, “angry” comedian…kind of a toned down Sam Kinison…and he was hilarious. His comedy album No Cure for Cancer is classic and helped make dreary days at a tedious job more tolerable for me in the mid-1990’s. Leary was a much better stand-up comic than he is an actor, and I hope he goes back to what he does best someday.

 

3 Jerry Seinfeld
Yes I am aware that Mr. Seinfeld starred in a highly rated sitcom. As a matter of fact I chose Seinfeld as my favorite TV show of all time just a few years ago. However, that show was based, atleast partly, on the observational comedy of its star. Seinfeld was a celebrated comedian throughout the 1980’s, with his casual, conversational style playing really well on television in appearances with Johnny Carson and David Letterman. Seinfeld comes across as a kind of everyman, a guy it’d be fun to have lunch with or go on a road trip. Much like the beloved television show his standup comedy is about the trivialities, conundrums, seinfeldfrustrations, & contradictions of daily life. In contrast to guys like Kinison or Leary he isn’t particularly angry, and unlike Pryor, Murphy, or Dice he is far from profane. I would describe Seinfeld as perpetually bemused by the fickle nature of humanity. People like him just have a whole different way of looking at the world. They see things that most people overlook…and then they tell funny stories & jokes about what they perceive. Thankfully that perception is often quite entertaining. I always thought Seinfeld would end up hosting a late night show, but the stardom he achieved with his sitcom skyrocketed him past that. He doesn’t have to work that hard or often now. He hosts an amusing talk show called Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, which you can find online, and thankfully he has gone back to doing standup. Maybe one day I’ll get the opportunity to see him perform live.

 

2 Robin Williams
Robin Williams was like Jerry Seinfeld on cocaine. Literally. Sadly we lost Williams last year, but his legacy is rock solid. He, of course, became well-known in the early 80’s on the sitcom Mork & Mindy, and after that starred in a plethora of mostly good films. But Williams began as a standup comedian and never completely left it behind. On stage he did it all…jokes, stories, improv, pratfalls, impressions, observation. It is hard to put him in a box and categorize his williamscomedy. Robin Williams was manic, silly, intelligent, & creative, He was brilliant. His energy was unmatched. He always made me laugh. And not just a light snicker. I’m talking about wall shaking, tears in my eyes laughter that made others think I’d lost my mind. Hindsight informs us that the energy level was often drug induced, and sadly we also know that the comedy that made us laugh hid pain & depression that would ultimately lead to suicide. I don’t really know what to say about all of that. Unfortunately the tragic ending will likely forever alter the opinions of many about Robin Williams. I understand that, but for the purposes of this exercise choose to remember the good times.

 

1 George Carlin
George Carlin had a career unlike any other. He began doing standup in the 60’s and was still working nearly 50 years later. He dabbled a little bit in television & movies, but pretty much stuck to being a standup comedian. His observational comedy was a bit more acerbic, and many might say that in later years he bordered on meanspirited & angry. Carlin was a product of the counterculture 60’s and always had a bit of that “I’m smarter than you” attitude. In the 70’s he came up with his well-known routine The 7 Words You Can Never Say on Television, which seems a bit quaint now. I won’t repeat any of the words, but I will say that, as carlinopposed to four decades ago, I think I’ve heard atleast 3 or 4 of the forbidden words on network TV just this week. I didn’t really discover Carlin until the 80’s when he had several specials on HBO. By then he’d started doing a lot more sociopolitical commentary, much of it the complete opposite of my own worldview. However, I can usually overlook such disagreements and still find someone funny. While Jerry Seinfeld seems amused by humanity’s shortcomings they seemed to really tick George Carlin off. Sometimes this was hilarious, sometimes it wasn’t. The stuff I preferred from Carlin were his observations about language. He would talk about how language had evolved, mostly due to political correctness. Battle fatigue has become PTSD. Used cars are now pre-owned. Stewardesses are now flight attendants. Deaf people are hearing impaired & a person isn’t blind but has a visual impairment. I could go on but you get the point. Carlin was at his best when he was dissecting the idiocy of political correctness, something it seems like he hated as much as I do. That alone vaults him to the top of this list, despite everything he believed in that I disagree with.

2015 NFL Mock Draft

nfl-footballI’ve been debating on whether or not to even bother with a mock draft this year, but with just over 24 hours to go until the real deal I just can’t resist. I’m just doing a two round mock because after that we’d get into players I’ve never heard of and I really wouldn’t have any idea what I was talking about. The picks you’ll see here are based on a hybrid approach of what I would do, what I think teams need to do, & what I think is most likely to actually occur. I have no inside knowledge about salary cap issues, contract negotiations, or what players may or may not do or where they may go in the future. The truth is that the NFL Draft is somewhat of a crapshoot. Tim Tebow was a first round draft choice, while Tom Brady lasted until the sixth round. In the same year that Kurt Warner went undrafted Heath Shuler was selected 3rd overall. It may be random, but it’s fun randomness. I’ll watch. You’ll watch. It’ll be a good weekend. Enjoy.

 

 

 

Round 1

1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
QB Jameis Winston (Florida St.)
If it were me I’d trade out of this spot for a boatload of picks. I’m just not a Jameis Winston Tampa_Bay_Buccaneers_Helmetfan. While I think it is too harsh to compare him to Jamarcus Russell, I do believe that Winston is more trouble than he is worth. Guys like him always have a posse, and I think it’d be beneficial for him to get as far away from his posse as possible. He’s too much of a celebrity in Florida and needs distance from any environment that may feed into his sense of entitlement. Unfortunately for all involved that’s not going to happen. No one is going to offer the Bucs enough for this pick, and the suits there will roll the dice. Hopefully the 275 miles between Tampa & Tallahassee will be enough for Winston to stay out of trouble.

 

 

2 Washington Redskins (via trade w/ Tennessee Titans)
LB/DE Dante Fowler (Florida)
It’s way too soon for the Titans to give up on 2014 sixth round pick Zach Mettenberger, who I Washington_Redskins_logothink can be a solid NFL quarterback. I’d trade this pick, and I think Tennessee will. The question is to who?? Philly is probably too far down at #20 to jump into this spot. Cleveland has the ammo to make the swap, but I think they are likely to play it safe this year after the botched pick of Johnny Football in 2014. The Jets?? Maybe. St. Louis?? It’s unlikely. There’s been a lot of talk about San Diego swapping Philip Rivers for this pick, but I’d be surprised if they actually pulled the trigger. At the end of the day I think it is extremely possible that a team jumps into this spot…but NOT for a quarterback.

 

 

3 Jacksonville Jaguars
LB/DE Vic Beasley (Clemson)
The Jags reportedly were set to take Fowler, but the trade messes up the detail. No worries Jacksonville_Jaguarsthough. Beasley is just as good…maybe better.

 

 

4 New York Giants (via trade w/ Oakland Raiders)
DT Leonard Williams (USC)
The Raiders are said to be willing to trade out of this spot, and so they shall. The GiantsGiants Logo braintrust will sprint to the podium to choose Williams.

 

 

5 Tennessee Titans (via trade w/ Washington Redskins)
DE Bud Dupree (Kentucky)
So the Titans traded down and Marcus Mariota is still on the board. What to do?? They could Tennessee_Titans_Helmettrade down again and amass even more draft picks, but let’s not get crazy. They’ve had their fun and now it’s time to get down to business. Dupree might be just a bit of a reach here, but I think the gamble just might pay off.

 

 

6 New York Jets
RB Todd Gurley (Georgia)
I predicted before he was even drafted that Geno Smith would be a bust and thus far that Jets-Pin-Prohas been the case. However, I think it is way too early to give up on him, especially when Mariota is far from a slam dunk choice. And while the receiving tandem of Brandon Marshall & Eric Decker hardly strikes fear in opposing defensive backs they are good enough that the Jets don’t have to spend a 1st round pick on a wideout. Conversely, a backfield of Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell, & Stevan Ridley just ain’t gonna cut it, though they do provide quality depth that will enable the Jets to ease Gurley into action coming off an ACL tear during his junior season at Georgia.

 

 

7 Chicago Bears
WR Kevin White (West Virginia)
Jay Cutler is the most overrated quarterback in the NFL, and folks are starting to figure that chicago-bears-logo13out. Does that mean the Bears jump on Mariota here?? I don’t think so. The insufferable Cutler would be even more gloomy than usual if he had to train his replacement, and that wouldn’t be good for anybody. So I think the Bears make the safe choice and bolster their receiving corps.

 

 

8 Philadelphia Eagles (via trade w/ Atlanta Falcons)
QB Marcus Mariota (Oregon)
A few things are in play here. Both pass rushers that the Falcons coveted…Fowler & philadelphia_eagles-3715Beasley…are off the board. Eagles’ coach Chip Kelly is foaming at the mouth while simultaneously dancing a jig because Mariota is still on the board. #2 was too high for Philly to leap to, but #8 is more palatable. And the Browns are just a few picks away. So at this point Kelly practically has an orgasm as he lands the player he wanted all along.

 

 

9 Oakland Raiders (via trade w/ NY Giants)
WR Amari Cooper (Alabama)
The Bears made this an easy choice for Oakland.raiders

 

 

10 St. Louis Rams
OT Brandon Scherff (Iowa)
The best player available also happens to be a position of need for the Rams. You gotta love St_Louis_Ramsit when things work out like that.

 

 

11 Minnesota Vikings
OT Andrus Peat (USC)
The Vikings have a plethora of needs, so they can go in a lot of different directions. There’s vikingshelmet1probably no one worth a team trading up for, so it is unlikely that Minnesota can trade out and stockpile extra picks. My philosophy is, when in doubt take a lineman.

 

 

12 Cleveland Browns
NT Danny Shelton (Washington)
As mentioned, I believe it is likely that the Browns will take the low key, safe approach this Cleveland_Browns_Helmetyear. Football teams are built in the trenches, and Shelton address a need.

 

 

13 New Orleans Saints
WR Devante Parker (Louisville)
Yes quarterback Drew Brees is 36 years old, but I don’t think the Saints are going to find his New-Orleans-Saints-Logo-244x300successor this year, especially in the first round. The best thing New Orleans can do is give Brees another weapon. They traded away tight end Jimmie Graham. Marques Colston is a solid receiver but has lost a step or two. Brandin Cooks…all 5ft.10, 189 lbs. of him…is a good slot receiver, but not really a true top tier guy. I think the powers-that-be in The Big Easy would be thrilled to see Parker slide this far.

 

 

14 Miami Dolphins
CB Kevin Johnson (Wake Forest)
Word on the street was that the Dolphins really like Gurley, but he is off the board. So now Miami_Dolphins_Helmetwhat?? The top three receivers are gone as well, and there isn’t another one worthy of this choice. Johnson has been steadily climbing draft boards across the land, and he would certainly upgrade Miami’s defensive backfield.

 

 

15 San Francisco 49ers
CB Trae Waynes (Michigan St.)
It seems like ‘Frisco lost half their defense in the past several months. They have been to 3 49ersout of the last 4 NFC title games and narrowly lost the Super Bowl just three years ago, but the 49ers are now in rebuilding mode. This pick has to be defense, and the best player available is Waynes.

 

 

16 Houston Texans
LB Eli Harold (Virginia)
This is a little bit of a reach, but needs are needs. The Texans’ defensive success revolves houston texans logo2heavily around whether or not Ja’daveon Clowney lives up to the hype. Why not make his task a bit easier??

 

 

17 San Diego Chargers
RB Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin)
The Chargers’ suits will look like Usain Bolt taking this card to the podium.San_Diego_Chargers_Helmet3

 

 

18 Kansas City Chiefs
OT Ereck Flowers (Miami, FL)
It’s not a sexy pick, but anytime a team can upgrade their offensive line I think it is a good kc-chiefs-logochoice.

 

 

19 Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo)
TE Maxx Williams (Minnesota)
The Browns addressed the defensive line with their first choice. Now I think they need to Cleveland_Browns_Helmetreplace Jordan Cameron, who they lost in free agency. Whomever ends up at quarterback for Cleveland is going to need weapons. The top tier receivers are gone, but we know how valuable a solid pass catching tight end can be in the NFL. This is a pick that the Browns received from the Bills last year so Buffalo could move up and select receiver Sammy Watkins.

 

 

20 Atlanta Falcons (via trade w/ Philadelphia Eagles)
LB/DE Shane Ray (Missouri)
The Falcons land in this position after trading with the Eagles so Chip Kelly could go get falconsMarcus Mariota. I assume any such deal would include several other draft choices as well. At any rate, it works out great for Atlanta in this scenario, as Ray, a player once thought to be a potential Top 10 pick, tumbles a bit due to a foot injury, an unimpressive pro day, & an arrest for marijuana possession.

 

 

21 Cincinnati Bengals
OT La’el Collins (LSU)
The Bengals would have loved Shelton, but their in-state division rivals stole him away. Plan Cincinnati_Bengals_HelmetB…as always…is to add the best offensive lineman available.

 

 

22 Tennessee Titans (via trade w/ Pittsburgh Steelers)
OT TJ Clemmings (Pitt)
The Steelers could go in one of two directions…linebacker or defensive back. I like a third Tennessee_Titans_Helmetoption…trading down to stockpile an additional pick or two. The Titans should have some extra ammo after trading out of the #2 position, and they use it here to trade back into the first round. With that pick they solidify their offensive line. Not bad for a day’s work.

 

 

23 Detroit Lions
DT Malcolm Brown (Texas)
The Lions lost both Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh in free agency. They also signed Hali Detroit_Lions_HelmetNgota away from Baltimore, but he’s a bit long in the tooth. More help is necessary, and this is it.

 

 

24 Arizona Cardinals
LB Eric Kendricks (UCLA)
The Cards would have loved to snag a running back, but with Gurley & Gordon both off the cardinals-helmetboard there isn’t another tailback worth a first round pick. Kendricks fills a need and adds some youth to a defense that is getting a bit creaky.

 

 

25 Carolina Panthers
OT DJ Humphries (Florida)
The top priority in Carolina is keeping quarterback Cam Newton healthy so he can do that CarolinaPanthersthing that he does. To that end it is necessary for the Panthers to upgrade their offensive line.

 

 

26 Baltimore Ravens
WR Breshad Perriman (UCF)
The Ravens lost receiver Torrey Smith in free agency and Steve Smith is practically collectingravens_preview_flat social security. Perriman will benefit from the leadership of a veteran team as he transitions into the NFL.

 

 

27 Dallas Cowboys
DT Eddie Goldman (Florida St.)
Quarterback Tony Romo seems convinced that the Cowboys have a legitimate shot to win the dallas-cowboys-dallas-cowboys-15496395-1280-1024Super Bowl. I personally don’t see it. Replacing running back Demarco Murray with Darren McFadden is like trading in a 2015 Audi for a 2010 Kia, but I don’t think there is a running back on the board that has value at this spot. It seems likely that Dallas will look at beefing up the defense here, and Goldman has been the subject of much positive chatter lately.

 

 

28 Denver Broncos
OT Eric Fisher (Oregon)
Much like the situation in Carolina, the Broncos need to focus on keeping their quarterback broncos-4759upright. This is probably Peyton Manning’s last chance to win another Super Bowl, and he’s got plenty of weapons. The defense was addressed last year, so now it’s time to add some youth to the offensive line.

 

 

29 Indianapolis Colts
S Landon Collins (Alabama)
All the talking heads seem to agree that the Colts’ biggest need is at safety. Who am I to Indianapolis_Colts_Helmetdisagree??

 

 

30 Green Bay Packers
CB Marcus Peters (Washington)
Linebacker Julius Peppers is 35 years old, but it would be a reach to choose his successor Green_Bay_Packers_Helmetwith this pick. Instead I think the Packers upgrade their defensive backfield. Peters has had some off the field issues, but I don’t think it’ll be a big deal in the long run, especially if he ends up with the right organization.

 

 

31 New Orleans Saints (from Seattle)
G Laken Tomlinson (Duke)
The Saints have this pick after trading All-Pro tight end Jimmie Graham to the Seahawks. With new_orleans_saints-logo-in-gold-background24their first choice I gave them a receiver to soften the blow of Graham’s departure. In this spot I think they need to upgrade the interior of their offensive line. It’s not the kind of choice that excites fans, but it is a solid building block essential to championship teams.

 

 

32 New England Patriots
WR Nelson Agholor (USC)
What do you get the team that has everything?? Well, the truth is that the Patriots have rarely New_England_Patriots_Helmethad top notch talent, especially at the skill positions. It is head coach Bill Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady, & tight end Rob Gronkowski that makes this engine purr like a well fed cat. Is there a receiver or running back with good value in this spot?? Maybe. Rumors are that Belichick is enamored with Agholor. I think it is a little bit of a reach, but if anyone can afford to roll the dice it’s the Pats.

 

 

 

Round 2

33 Pittsburgh Steelers (via trade w/ Tennessee Titans)
CB Byron Jones (Connecticut)
The Steelers find themselves in a very interesting situation. This pick almost certainly needs to be a cornerback, and there are 3 or 4 still available that seem like a good fit. My preference is for Jones because of his size & versatility. He can play at corner or fill in at safety, and may even be a good candidate to eventually move to safety full time.

 
34 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
DE Randy Gregory (Nebraska)
The Bucs have their franchise quarterback, even if I’m not a huge proponent of the choice. Now they have other needs to address. Gregory was once touted as a Top 5 pick until it was discovered that he enjoys puffing the magic dragon a bit too much. In reality he probably won’t slide this far, but how ironic would it be if Tampa ended up with two problem children?? I’m not a militant anti-marijuana guy, but I believe it is an indicator of an attitude, the kind of person who doesn’t like rules and doesn’t believe they apply to him. Maybe it’s no big deal. Maybe Gregory ends up being a solid Pro Bowl player for a decade. But it’s also possible that his rebellious arrogance makes his stay in the NFL very short. Either way his talent makes him a steal in this round.

 

35 Oakland Raiders
S Damarious Randall (Arizona St.)
The Raiders added a top flight receiver in Round 1. I may be in the minority, but I am comfortable with Latavius Murray & Trent Richardson toting the rock, and I don’t think there is an offensive lineman with good value here. Randall has been the subject of increasing buzz, and the safety position is thin in this draft. Former Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson currently mans the position in Oakland, but he’s older than dirt.

 

36 Jacksonville Jaguars
RB Tevin Coleman (Indiana)
The Jags got a great pass rusher in the first round, so now they need to focus on the offense. Absolutely no one is sold on last year’s top pick, quarterback Blake Bortles, but he’s not going anywhere for now. Tight end is a position of strength, with both veteran Marcedes Lewis and newly signed free agent Julius Thomas in the fold. The receiving corps is young & talented. And then there is a ragtag group of running backs…Toby Gerhart, Denard Robinson, Storm Johnson, Bernard Pierce. Yikes. Both of this year’s elite tailbacks are off the board, but the second tier might produce a star or two. Coleman has been compared to Demarco Murray, and if that is true he’ll be another steal.

 

37 New York Jets
DT Arik Armstead (Oregon)
With Todd Gurley as the new feature back I assume new head coach Todd Bowles, a former defensive coordinator, will shift his concentration to the defense.

 

38 Washington Redskins
OT Cedric Ogbuehi (Texas A&M)
The Redskins traded up in the first round to get a talented pass rusher. Now they upgrade on the other side of the ball.

 

 

39 Chicago Bears
DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (UCLA)
The Bears have a new head coach in John Fox, and he’s a defensive guy. After getting a new elite receiver in Round 1 I think the focus will be on defense. Good luck pronouncing the name lol.

 

 

40 New York Giants
LB Shaq Thompson (Washington)
I love the Giants. They’re so damn unpredictable. One never knows whether they’ll finish bellow .500 or win the Super Bowl. That kind of randomness extends to the draft as well. They moved up in the first round for an elite defensive tackle, but I don’t think they’re done upgrading that side of the ball.

 

41 St. Louis Rams
C Cameron Erving (Florida St.)
The Rams have a variety needs and could go in a number of directions. Erving is a center but can also slide over to guard if needed. That kind of flexibility is quite valuable in the NFL. He’s the best player on the board at this point, and a tremendous value for St. Louis.

 

42 Atlanta Falcons
G AJ Cann (South Carolina)
The Falcons gambled in Round 1 and won big, getting a Top 5 player with the 20th pick. The pick here is a lot less stimulating, but it’s a necessary building block that’ll pay dividends for many years to come.

 

43 Cleveland Browns
QB Brett Hundley (UCLA)
The Browns played it safe with their two first round picks, helping the defense with a massive nose tackle and providing the offense with a talented tight end that’ll be valuable to whomever the quarterback may be. Now the question must be asked…who will that be?? I’m not a fan of Johnny Rehab as an NFL quarterback regardless of whether he’s able to become a better person off the field. He’s just too small and his style doesn’t fit the pro game. I don’t believe that there are any can’t miss signal callers in this draft…not even Winston or Mariota. Having said that, I think Cleveland has to venture out on a limb here. Hundley is intelligent, articulate, & mature. He probably won’t start as a rookie, but with some good coaching he could become the guy in a year or two.

 

44 New Orleans Saints
CB Jalen Collins (LSU)
The Saints had two first round picks and added a top flight receiver as well as depth to the offensive line. Now what?? Well, for a team that appears to be solid across the board despite a 7-9 record in 2014, I think the “best player available” approach is probably apropos. In this case that’s Collins, another guy who apparently likes the ganja. That issue knocks him into the second round, but at this point the value is undeniable.

 

45 Minnesota Vikings
CB Ronald Darby (Florida St.)
The Vikes have a decent defensive backfield, but cornerback Terence Newman is 36 years old. An opportunity to groom a successor cannot be passed up.

 

 

46 San Francisco 49ers
LB Benardrick McKinney (Mississippi St.)
The surprising retirements of both Patrick Willis & Chris Borland (after his rookie year!!) has depleted the 49ers linebacking corps. They need to replenish.

 

47 Miami Dolphins
WR Phillip Dorsett (Miami, FL)
Current Dolphins’ receivers include Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings, & free agent signing Jordan Cameron at tight end. Not bad, but it wouldn’t hurt to add another guy to the mix, especially since the 31 year old Jennings is probably a short term solution at best.

 

 

48 San Diego Chargers
OT Donovan Smith (Penn St.)
The Chargers got their new franchise running back in Round 1, so now they can address other needs. There seems to be some questions regarding the offensive line. That new tailback will need some holes to run thru, right??

 

49 Kansas City Chiefs
WR Dorial Beckham (Oklahoma)
The Chiefs added Jeremy Maclin in free agency, but the rest of the receiving group consists of De’Anthony Thomas, Jason Avant, & Junior Hemingway. In 2014 Kansas City had zero…yes zero…touchdowns to wide receivers. Maclin helps, but it couldn’t hurt to add another weapon.

 

50 Buffalo Bills
LB Kwon Alexander (LSU)
Buffalo didn’t have a first round pick because of the 2014 trade with Cleveland that enabled them to move up for wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Rex Ryan is the new sheriff in town and he’s a defensive guy but there are a lot of holes to fill on this team before they can even dream of challenging the despicable Patriots for the division title. LeSean McCoy was an outstanding get in a trade with Philadelphia, and I really like newly signed tight end Charles Clay. Watkins & the enigmatic Percy Harvin are an interesting pair of receivers, but who will throw them the ball?? I think it is way too early to give up on quarterback EJ Manuel, but it might be beneficial for him to ride the pine for a year behind Matt Cassel. I’d be surprised if Ryan didn’t try to upgrade the defense with this pick, and pairing Alexander with defensive tackles Mario Williams & Marcell Dareus could be interesting.

 

51 Houston Texans
WR Jaelen Strong (Arizona St.)
Receiver Andre Johnson departed Houston in free agency. I have every confidence that DeAndre Hopkins can fill the void and become a great target, but there’s still a deficiency at the position. Strong is the best wideout on the board and fits the Texans’ needs just fine.

 

 

52 Philadelphia Eagles
CB Eric Rowe (Utah)
The Eagles signed cornerback Byron Maxwell, formerly of Seattle’s Legion of Boom, in free agency. They also have former Boomer Walter Thurmond, who spent the past couple of seasons with the NY Giants (although I’m not sure anyone really noticed). Despite all of that I still think Rowe is a good fit. He can move over to safety either situationally or in the long term, and that kind of versatility is more than beneficial in today’s NFL.

 

53 Cincinnati Bengals
NT Jordan Phillips (Oklahoma)
The Bengals grab an upgrade to eat space in the middle of their defense.

 

54 Detroit Lions
RB TJ Yeldon (Alabama)
I don’t believe for a second that Joique Bell & Theo Riddick are a good enough running back tandem. Yeldon would have a legit opportunity to step into the starting lineup from Day 1.

 

 

55 Arizona Cardinals
RB Jay Ajayi (Boise St.)
The Cardinals keep missing out on running backs!! They couldn’t get either Gurley or Gordon in the first round, and Yeldon would have been the perfect battering ram compliment to the smallish & oft injured Andre Ellington. That leaves Arizona in a tough position. But I just don’t think they can go thru another season with only the unreliable Ellington in the backfield.

 

56 Pittsburgh Steelers
CB Alex Carter (Stanford)
My Steelers traded out of the first round but were still able to address a tremendous need at cornerback with the initial pick of this second round. They are on the clock again and the temptation to add even more depth to a depleted secondary is strong. However, they also need to upgrade their pass rush. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them trade down again, but I’ll be conservative here. A lot depends on if the team’s braintrust have confidence that defensive linemen like Cameron Heyward, Daniel McCullers, & Stephon Tuitt are capable of stepping up and fulfilling their potential. There are several possible replacements with good value in this spot. I’m going to have faith that those young guys will come thru and reach just a little bit to fill a need. Would the Steelers actually go back-to-back corners?? It’s possible. Carter is another guy with the size & skills to fill in at safety, and that could be quite an asset to this particular team.

 

 

57 Carolina Panthers
RB Duke Johnson (Miami, FL)
Running back DeAngelo Williams departed in free agency, leaving Jonathan Stewart as the primary runner. I have no doubt he can fulfill that role just fine, but Johnson would be a nice complement and make this new tandem an significant upgrade over the old one.

 

58 Baltimore Ravens
DE Preston Smith (Mississippi)
The once mighty Ravens defense has looked human the past couple of years. They don’t yet require a total rehaul, but they need to start getting some younger guys into the mix.

 

59 Denver Broncos
DT Michael Bennett (Ohio St.)
I really like the Broncos defense, but I think they’ll still try to add some youth.

 

60 Dallas Cowboys
RB Jeremy Langford (Michigan St.)
Now might be the spot to get a running mate for Darren McFadden.

 

 

61 Indianapolis Colts
DE Mario Edwards Jr. (Florida St.)
Colts’ defensive ends Robert Mathis & Trent Cole are both way past 30. It’s time to get younger on the defensive line.

 

62 Green Bay Packers
LB Denzel Perryman (Miami, FL)
The Packers have to get younger at linebacker.

 

 

63 Seattle Seahawks
WR Sammie Coates (Auburn)
Hey look…the Seahawks are finally on the clock. What they really need is a head coach & offensive coordinator who won’t make boneheaded goal line play calls that cost the team the Super Bowl. Unfortunately a team can’t draft that. Anyway, despite the addition of tight end Jimmie Graham this team still has an unimpressive, non-descript group of wide receivers. That can change right now.

 

 

64 New England Patriots
RB Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska)
LeGarrette Blount, Jonas Gray, & James White are the current running backs for New England. I think they can do better.

Winning & Musing…..Volume 3.15

Don’t you just love the ebb & flow of sports?? It’s almost magical how the baseball season opened on the same day that the championship game wrapped up college basketball. Or how Nascar pops back into our lives just as we are starting to miss football. The Nascar folks are even nice enough to take the day off when they know that between The Final Four and Easter Sunday our weekend is jam packed. Okay okay…I am smart enough to realize that there are people who make lots of money to carefully coordinate the well-timed ebb & flow, but in my heart I still believe in magic. Anyway, today we have a good mix of things to contemplate, so let’s do that.

 

 

 

 

Congratulations to the 2015 NCAA basketball national champion Duke Blue Devils. I Duke_Blue_Devilshave no issue with them winning even though they certainly aren’t the kind of underdog that I typically cheer for. I thought the game itself as well as the tournament in general was poorly officiated, but that can’t be held up as the single reason Duke prevailed. Coach K seems like a genuinely decent dude, although I can’t go so far as to say he has eclipsed legendary UCLA coach John Wooden.

 

 

 

Baseball season is underway and I am mildly excited about that. It’s a long season so ppiratesone has to modulate enthusiasm throughout the next few months so that interest doesn’t wane during the dog days of summer. I expect my Pittsburgh Pirates to be in the midst of the pennant race again, although I do have some misgivings about their bullpen and whether or not that weakness will cost them a division title.

 

 

 

There’s been a lot of discussion during March Madness about what’s wrong with college basketball and what should be done to fix it. Most agree that the tournament is just dandy, but it’s the 3 or 4 months that precede it that has issues. One thing that is constantly mentioned is the 35 second shot clock and how it should be lowered to 24 seconds “just like the NBA”. Decreasing the shot clock is a valid debate, but what is with this compulsion to copy the NBA?? College & pro basketball are two similar yet basketballdifferent games and I think I prefer it that way. Contrary to popular opinion I find the collegiate game much more entertaining. It’s raw. It’s genuine. And yes, it’s got lumps, just like tasty homemade gravy, which has so much more flavor than the mass produced stuff one finds in a jar at the grocery store. College athletes are extremely talented, but there’s a wide range of skill and, at the end of the day, they are still a bunch of somewhat capricious & undeveloped 18-22 year old youngsters. There are highs. There are lows. There are flashes of dramatic, heroic triumph, and moments of inexplicable disappointment. Yes the NBA has that stuff too because the players are still human beings, but the game is undeniably more refined, less dramatic, more predictable, and too often as bland as store bought gravy. So revise & improve college basketball. Go for it. Nothing is perfect and tinkering can be fun. But be innovative. Be practical. Don’t focus on replicating the NBA. It’s lazy, redundant, & lacks imagination.

 

 

 

$100 for the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight?? I don’t think so. I’m not really a boxing fan and won’t be brokenhearted if I miss it altogether, although I may look around and see boxing_2_lgif I can catch it for free. There are ways. I’m a huge pro wrestling fan and haven’t paid for a PPV in a few years. Technology is a good thing…most of the time.

 

 

 

wrestling-clip-art-PSS0166Speaking of pro wrestling, it has caused a rift in my relationship with ESPN talking head Colin Cowherd. I had been a fan of Cowherd’s daily radio show that is simulcast on ESPNU…until a few weeks ago. Colin’s buddy and fellow ESPN personality Bill Simmons is a fellow wrestling fan and had appeared on WWE Raw. Cowherd was reviewing Simmons’ performance on the show and had some rather demeaning & unprofessional comments about wrestling fans, saying that we all live in our parents’ basements and everyone who had attended that particular event outside of Simmons had probably been driven there and dropped off by their mother. And his comments weren’t said in a good-natured, joking manner. He was intentionally being an insulting jackass. I happened to have some free time that day so I tweeted #boycottCowherd and got much more of a response than expected. It was the most interaction I’ve ever had on Twitter. Some folks were supportive while some tried to match their hero Colin in the abuse department. Cowherd himself replied to me stating that his show had the best ratings on ESPNU, as if that is a noteworthy accomplishment when the truth is that better & more popular shows like Mike & Mike, Pardon the Interruption, & First Take air on ESPN or ESPN2. My God, even Dan Lebatard & his Papi are shown on ESPN2. Cowherd apparently doesn’t understand that his show airing on ESPNU indicates just how insignificant it is in the eyes of his bosses. At any rate, I’m not crazy enough to think that one man can take down an entire TV show or colincowherdthat my feelings matter to a self-important blowhard like Colin Cowherd, but I’ll damn sure never watch him again. I realize that professional wrestling isn’t everyone’s cup o’ tea. That’s fine. But to those of us who enjoy that sort of thing it is as valid a form of entertainment as anything else. There are any number of television shows…Game of Thrones, Scandal, The Walking Dead, Downton Abbey…that the masses love but I’m not interested in, yet I don’t go around bullying & verbally assaulting fans of those shows. The idea that all wrestling fans are a bunch of toothless hillbillies or socially inept psychos who are unemployed and live with their parents is a tired cliché that is no longer funny. Wrestling fans are male & female, black, white, & Hispanic, affluent & poor, young & old, urban & rural…just like the fan bases of any other kind of entertainment. Does Cowherd really think the backward recluses he trumpets as the typical wrestling fan could even afford to go to the shows, purchase the merchandise, or buy the pay-per-views?? Maybe someone should call EMS to bring the jaws of life to ESPN and extricated Colin Cowherd’s pea brain from his anal cavity before he suffocates and becomes an even bigger moron than he has already proven himself to be.

 

 

 

It’s still a little bit surprising to me that the Kentucky Wildcats didn’t make it to the national title game. I know I’m not the only one who felt like them winning it all was a foregone conclusion. But it seems like in the process of obliterating my WV Kentucky-BasketballMountaineers in the Sweet 16 the ‘Cats fired all their bullets and didn’t have much left in the tank. They barely got by Notre Dame in the Elite 8, and then finally were beaten in the Final Four by Wisconsin. Now I will grant you that the Badgers are an extremely talented team and had the added revenge factor (after UK beat them in last year’s Final Four) as motivation, but I sincerely believe that Kentucky would defeat Wisconsin in 9 out of 10 games. In a single elimination tournament though anything can happen (and no…I don’t think that format should change…for now).

 

 

 

The argument over trying to get NCAA basketball to mirror the NBA made me think of baseball’s designated hitter rule. Upon further ponderation I think I like things the way they are, with the American League having the DH and the National League not utilizing it. It makes each league unique, which is something we’ve begun to lose in the United States. We’re all about homogenization. I’m not as well traveled as I’d prefer, baseball drawingbut I know that every city & town in this country has a lot of the same stuff. The same restaurants. The same retail outlets. The same radio & TV stations that play the same music & shows day after day, week after week, year after year. Every mall has the same stores. Every movie theater is essentially the same. Every automaker makes the same kinds of vehicles that aren’t nearly as singular & cool as cars back in the 40’s & 50’s. This uniformity is comforting on some level, but it is also bland & uninspiring. Just like college basketball shouldn’t try so hard to emulate the NBA I hope the American & National Leagues will always remain similar yet distinctive.

Points of Ponderation…..Episode 1.15

A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..

Have you checked out CBS’s latest incarnation of The Late Late Show with new host James Corden?? I’ve been watching, but I’m not ready to render a final verdict just yet. Corden, a 36 year old Tony Award winning actor who bears a striking resemblance to Conan O’Brien’s sidekick Andy Richter, seems like a genuinely decent fellow with a terrific level of enthusiasm. One can tell he’s new at this and still trying to find his cordenstyle, but he’s gaining confidence with each show and has the kind of genial charm one would expect from an Englishman. I like the fact that he brings all 2 or 3 of his guests out at the same time and has a little group chat versus the normal one on one interview. I also like the fact that Corden doesn’t sit behind a desk during the interview, although it begs the question as to why the desk is really there in the first place if he’s not really using it. I’m not sure what to think about bandleader Reggie Watts. He’s got a unique look but doesn’t yet add as much value to the show as well-known late night musical directors like Doc Severinsen, Paul Shaffer, or Max Weinberg have provided to their respective programs in the past. It’s way way way too early to come to any concrete conclusions about Corden or the show, but my early impression is that I don’t hate it and see lots of growth potential. If you happen to be awake at 12:30am sometime you might want to give it a whirl.

 

 

questionWhat’s the difference between a babysitter and a nanny?? Inquiring minds want to know.

 

 

I’ve been seeing a lot lately about transgenderism. News stories. Stuff on my Facebook feed. Former Olympian and honorary Kardashian Bruce Jenner is reportedly “transitioning” into a woman. There’s even a soap opera (one that I don’t watch) that has begun a transgender story involving a longtime major female (or so they thought) trannycharacter. It seems like people are getting bored with homosexuality as a sociopolitical cause and are moving on to the next frontier. I feel the same way about both issues. Live & let live. Do your thing. But don’t try to convince me that you are simply seeking tolerance, acceptance, & equality. There is nothing brave, heroic, or inspirational about your choice. And make no mistake…that’s what it is, a choice. Wear whatever clothes you wish. Wear make-up. Have whatever hairstyle you want. But facts are facts. Biology is what it is. A person is either male or female and that can’t be changed without major elective surgery, and even then the truth is the truth. Like I said, do what you want. It’s a free country. Just stop expecting to be celebrated or treated as if your choice is perfectly normal & acceptable.

 

 

 

This is the funniest commercial I’ve seen this year:

 

 

 

 
Speaking of “alternative” lifestyles…..
I read somewhere that Disney’s Girl Meets World, the follow-up series to 90’s sitcom Boy Meets World, is kicking around the idea of adding a gay character. Now I am not going to dive into an angry, sanctimonious rant against homosexuality. Anyone who has been visiting The Manoverse for any length of time probably knows my stance on the andygriffithsubject. You may disagree and that’s okay. But let’s ponder something. Why do TV shows feel the need to “keep up with the times”, “reflect society”, or have “ripped from the headlines” stories?? I’ve been binge watching The Andy Griffith Show on Netflix and one of the greatest things about it is that, though it was produced in the midst of the turbulent & radical 60’s, none of that craziness is reflected in the show itself. There’s not a trace of any of the tumultuous issues that essentially divided the nation during that time. No discourse on racism. No contemplation of Vietnam. No counterculture meditation on sex, drugs, & rock n’ roll. It’s pure escapism, albeit with a value based moral compass. And a half century later TAGS is almost unanimously considered to be one of the greatest programs in the history of television. I would humbly suggest that modern TV shows should follow that example rather than trying so hard to be hip, cool, & edgy.

 

 

More Pickup Lines:
You can call me fireman cause I turn the hoes on.
Are you into conspiracy theories?? I wanna get illuminaughty with you.
My doctor says I’m lacking Vitamin U.
I’m no organ donor but I’d be happy to give you my heart.
Did you read Dr. Seuss as a kid because green eggs and damn!!
You must’ve had Lucky Charms for breakfast, because you look magically delicious.
If you were a vegetable you’d be a cutecumber.
Let’s be nothing because nothing lasts forever.

Trivia Tuesday…..Chapter 11.15

We’re baaaaaacccckkkkk. I took a day off last Tuesday. Sue me. I suppose I’ve still been in a knowledgebit of a funk, but with the sun shining a little more each day and new possibilities on the horizon in other aspects of my life the fog may be lifting just a bit. I hope everyone has a great Easter weekend filled with lots of great food, chocolate bunnies, Cadbury eggs, & family. But most of all let us not forget the real meaning of Easter, the fact that there was a man named Jesus, He is the Son of God, He was crucified to pay for OUR sins, and that He rose again to prepare us a place in Heaven if only we are smart enough to accept that free gift. Please give that some prayerful ponderation this week. And also enjoy some trivia!!

food&drinkAstronaut John Glenn ate the first meal in space when he ate pureed applesauce squeezed from a tube aboard Friendship 7 in 1962.


potpourri

“The quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog” is a sentence that utilizes every letter in the alphabet.


movies&TVThe Top 10 highest grossing films of all time in the United States:
Avatar – Titanic – The Avengers – The Dark Knight
Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace –                                           Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope – The Dark Knight Rises
Shrek 2 – ET: The Extra-TerrestrialThe Hunger Games: Catching Fire


The same list adjusted for inflation:
Gone With the Wind
Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope
The Sound of Music
ET: The Extra-Terrestrial
Titanic
The Ten Commandments
Jaws
Dr. Zhivago
The Exorcist
Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs


history&geographyMore than 65 million men from 30 countries fought in WWI. Nearly 10 million died. The Allies (aka Entente Powers – France, Britain, Russia, Italy, Japan, Belgium, Serbia, Greece, Montenegro, & Romania) lost about 6 million soldiers. The Central Powers (Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, & Turkey) lost about 4 million.


potpourri

Easter Sunday is always the first Sunday after the first full moon after March 21.

The Madness of March

1 basketballIt’s time!! One of the best long weekends of the year tips off tomorrow, and I’m ready. My two nephews are actually going to watch the first couple of rounds in Columbus, OH. Good for them. Anyway, y’all know I can’t resist doing a bit of prognosticating, although it’s not quite as much fun this season since we all know how this thing is going to end…with the Kentucky Wildcats cutting down the nets on April 6th. But, in the words of one of cinema’s most entertaining philosophers Clark W. Griswold, “getting there is half the fun”. So I suppose we shall enjoy the ride even if the finale will likely be anti-climactic.

As usual, let me take a moment to unlock the secret doors of my mind and explain my process:
• I’m not a college basketball expert. I’m a fan that only pays attention to a handful of teams and knows virtually nothing about 75% of the tournament field.
• My picks are based solely on my vibes and the small amount of basic basketball knowledge I possess.
• I do listen to some of the talking heads, but rarely make choices based on their opinions. As a matter of fact, I think several of them (especially Doug Gottlieb…a complete tool) are arrogant windbags that don’t have much more of a clue than I do.
• I do not pick play-in games. They are an inconsequential money-making scheme by the NCAA.
• I pick a few upsets, but I’ve learned over the years that, for the most part, the selection committee knows their stuff and is usually pretty spot on in their seeding. There might be a few upsets in the first couple of rounds, but the chaos rarely gets too…well…chaotic. The cream almost always rises to the top.
• A 10 over a 7 or a 9 over an 8 isn’t really that much of an upset.
• I fill out one bracket and one bracket only. It is done pretty quickly after the selection show airs. I am far too lazy to do research.

So with those things in mind let us take a brief glimpse at each region, talk about upsets, and see who I think will make it to The Final Four.

 

 

 

East
1 Villanova              16 Lafayette
2 Virginia                 15 Belmont
3 Oklahoma           14 Albany
4 Louisville              13 UC Irvine
5 Northern Iowa   12 Wyoming
6 Providence           11 Dayton
7 Michigan St.         10 Georgia
8 NC St.                      9 LSU
I am predicting a lot of chalk in this region, with a few notable exceptions. I have Albany over Michigan_State_SpartansOklahoma in the 1st round. I’ve watched the Sooners play a few times this season and believe they are way overseeded. And I’m picking Wyoming over Northern Iowa in one of the infamous 5/12 upsets. After that I have Michigan St. upending Virginia in the 2nd round and ultimately winning the region by defeating Villanova.

West
1 Wisconsin            16 Coastal Carolina
2 Arizona                 15 Texas Southern
3 Baylor                   14 Georgia St.
4 North Carolina    13 Harvard
5 Arkansas             12 Wofford
6 Xavier                   11 Ole Miss
7 VCU                       10 Ohio St.
8 Oregon                  9 Oklahoma St.
The big shocker I’ve predicted in this region is Wofford (hailing from Spartanburg, SC) WisconsinBadgersdefeating Arkansas. I also have Ohio St. over Virginia Commonwealth, a team that gets a little too much love just because they made it to one Final Four four years ago. After that I have Baylor pulling off a mild upset over Arizona in the Sweet 16 before falling to Wisconsin in the regional final.

 

South
1 Duke                 16 Robert Morris
2 Gonzaga           15 North Dakota St.
3 Iowa St.            14 UAB
4 Georgetown   13 Eastern Washington
5 Utah                 12 Stephen F. Austin
6 SMU                  11 UCLA
7 Iowa                 10 Davidson
8 San Diego St.   9 St. John’s
Mostly 1st round chalk here except for a couple of interesting exceptions. I’m picking Eastern Iowa_State_CyclonesWashington over Georgetown and Stephen F. Austin over Utah. I just don’t buy Georgetown. This isn’t the mid-1980’s. Patrick Ewing, Allen Iverson, & Alonzo Mourning are distant memories. The Big East isn’t the same conference it used to be. Stephen F. Austin is a small school in Nacogdoches, TX (about 100 miles southwest of Shreveport, LA) that is named for one of the founding fathers of the state. I have a vague recollection of catching one of their games on TV awhile back and thinking they were pretty good and could pull off a first round upset if they weren’t up against a top flight team. Utah is good but far from elite. After that I have picked San Diego St. to surprise Duke in Round 2 and Iowa St. over Gonzaga in the Sweet 16. I’ve seen the Cyclones play a few times and they are very talented. They play in the best basketball conference in America (The Big 12…which has ten teams) and won its conference tournament, defeating the vaunted Kansas Jayhawks. Gonzaga’s road hasn’t been nearly as arduous. Ultimately I have Iowa St. beating San Diego St. in the regional final.

 

Midwest
1 Kentucky          16 Hampton
2 Kansas               15 New Mexico St.
3 Notre Dame     14 Northeastern
4 Maryland          13 Valparaiso
5 West Virginia   12 Buffalo
6 Butler                11Texas
7 Wichita St.       10 Indiana
8 Cincinnati         9 Purdue
I think Kentucky would have won this region no matter what, but the committee made it Kentucky-Basketballpretty easy for them. I have Valparaiso (from northern Indiana) upsetting Maryland and Texas getting by Butler in the 1st round. Butler, like VCU, is given too much credit for past successes in the tournament. The “experts” are almost unanimously picking Buffalo to beat my WV Mountaineers, but I just don’t think that’s going to happen. I have Wichita St. defeating in-state rival Kansas in Round 2, but at the end of the day no one will be surprised when Kentucky easily downs Notre Dame to win the region.

 

 

So, my Final Four consists of Kentucky vs. Wisconsin and Iowa St. vs. Michigan St. That’s two #1 seeds, a #3, and a #7, although one can hardly think of Michigan St. as an underdog.

1I foresee the title game being Kentucky against Michigan St., with the Wildcats winning pretty comfortably. It lacks drama, but it is what it is. I suppose it’d be kind of cool to see a team finish 40-0, but honestly I’m looking forward to a little more unpredictability next year.