Winning & Musing…Volume 2.19

Hold on Lil Troopers…spring isn’t too far away!! Oh I suppose we may get hammered with snow a few more times because March is always a wildcard, but when McDonald’s is already serving shamrock shakes, NASCAR is back on the track, and baseball is part of the sports discussion we know the light at the end of the tunnel will be shining soon. Thankfully there is always more than enough sports news to discuss, although I’m not sure how much of it is all that pleasant at the moment.

 

 

 

 

 

Spring training is in full swing, but let’s not overlook what MLB has done off the field. It was recently announced that they will no longer use the term “disabled list” in regard to injured players. The change was made at the suggestion of advocacy groups for the disabled “out of concern that the term disabled for injured players falsely conflates disabilities with injuries and an inability to participate in sports”. As a disabled (handicapped, crippled, differently abled, handicapable…choose whatever buzzword you believe won’t offend anyone) individual who has spent my entire 46 years on this planet using a wheelchair allow me to opine that this is absolutely one of the dumbest instances of idiotic virtue signaling I have ever seen. No one with an ounce of common sense or capable of critical thought has ever confused baseball’s disabled list with those of us living our lives with a disability, and anyone offended by the term “disabled list” is a complete moron that should never be allowed to breed or even interact with the public. Also, as a person with a disability, it ticks me off that this is the sort of thing that “advocacy groups” are spending their resources on. Any such organization should be defunded immediately.

 

 

I come not to praise New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, but neither do I seek to bury him. If you’ve been paying any attention at all the past few days you know that Kraft is in some hot water for getting his jollies at a “massage parlor” in Florida, an establishment that got caught up in a big prostitution ring. I am not condoning the activity or Kraft’s involvement in it, and y’all know that I’ve despised the Patriots for the past two decades. Having said that, it must be noted that 77 year old Kraft lost his wife of almost fifty years awhile back. Myrna Kraft died of ovarian cancer at the age of 68 in 2011. Certainly that is no excuse to engage in illegal activity, but it does suggest a man that is lost & lonely despite his immense wealth & success, and I am willing to have some measure of sympathy in that regard. Loneliness & grief are awful things and can steer people in directions they wouldn’t otherwise go. What I cannot understand is why a billionaire with some level of prominence would decide to…seek pleasure…at what the media is describing as a rather trashy & foul (not to mention public) establishment. One would assume that Kraft has the means to obtain anything he’d want in complete privacy, so it is a bit perplexing to think that he would unnecessarily put himself in harm’s way (on multiple levels). Obviously the NFL will get their pound of flesh (pun unavoidable). The league’s personal conduct policy applies to owners & coaches as much as it does players, and about five years ago Indianapolis Colts’ owner Jim Irsay was fined $500k and suspended from running the team for six games after being arrested for DUI & drug possession. I’m not sure what exactly a typical owner of a professional sports franchise does on a daily basis that effects operations, and a half million dollars is pocket change to them, so that “punishment” seems rather hollow, but I assume Kraft will receive a similar penalty. I’m sure the legal consequences won’t amount to much either, but the damage to his reputation is immeasurable and probably irreparable.

 

 

I am at a loss to explain just what has happened to the West Virginia Mountaineers basketball team. After making it to the Sweet Sixteen during March Madness three out of the past four years the ‘Eers won’t be making the NCAA, NIT, CBI, or any other post season tournaments in 2019. Injuries, dismissals, and just about every other calamity one might conjure has imploded their season to the point that a winning record is mathematically impossible unless they go on an incredible run in the Big 12 conference tournament. WVU has been the runner-up in that tournament the past three years and needs another similar finish to keep on playing. I normally try to remain optimistic, but will confidently predict right now that that isn’t going to happen. Head coach Bob Huggins has built up a lot of goodwill over the years as a hometown guy, alumnus, successful coach, and leader of winning teams in Morgantown, but trust me…he needs to figure out what went wrong and fix it, because all the benevolence shown him will turn sour real quick if next season is another disaster.

 

 

Have y’all checked out the Alliance of American Football?? I have to be honest…I watched part of one of the first games a few weeks ago, and haven’t given the league a second thought since. Part of the issue is completely mine…I work on weekends so I’m gone all day and in bed pretty early at night. However, I think there’s a bigger obstacle than just me for The Alliance. The AAF has eight teams… Atlanta Legends, Birmingham Iron, Memphis Express, & Orlando Apollos in the East, and Arizona Hotshots, Salt Lake Stallions, San Antonio Commanders, & San Diego Fleet in the West. Known entities like Steve Spurrier, Mike Singletary, & Mike Martz are head coaches. The initial games I watched were on CBS, but after that the NFL Network & CBS Sports Network took over, and that’s a bit of a problem since those are channels that I don’t typically “surf”…I have to specifically be seeking something out, and I’m just not there yet with The Alliance. On the field the games themselves aren’t anything too wacky. Unlike some other fringe football leagues that have come & gone in the past the AAF isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel or compete with the NFL, but there are a few differences. There are no kickoffs, which I don’t like but realize that it’s a concept that’ll be embraced by college football & the NFL sooner or later. Neither are there extra points. Somewhere Skip Bayless is squealing with glee about the new league’s marginalization of kickers. Defenses are somewhat limited as far as what they can do, so if you like swarming defense with a lot if blitzes the AAF might not be your cup of tea. Overtime has each team start on their opponent’s 10 yard line, which is even goofier that the college OT rules. There is only one overtime, so the game can end in a tie (no field goals!!). The revelation that has hit me about the AAF is that…atleast for me…as The Bible says, “to everything there is a season”, and as big of a football fan as I am I’m ready to move on after the Super Bowl. It’s February, which means that emotionally & psychologically football is in hibernation for me and I’m ready to move on to golf, NASCAR, basketball, & baseball. This realization surprised me a little bit, because I had thought it’d be great to have more football, but I just can’t become invested. I’m guessing that my perspective isn’t unique, which probably spells doom for The Alliance after another season or two, but hey…they tried.

 

 

If you think MLB is silly…well, one minor league team has surpassed that stupidity. The Hartford Yard Goats, a Double A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies in the Eastern League, recently made the decision to ban peanuts & Cracker Jacks altogether in deference to those with a nut allergy. But wait…there’s more!! Not only is their stadium now peanut free, but management has decided to change the lyrics to Take Me Out to the Ballgame, which of course contains the line “buy me some peanuts & Cracker Jacks”. Oh my…where to begin. These kinds of people absolutely exhaust every ounce of patience I possess and are a contributing factor to me adopting a reclusive lifestyle. First of all, about 2% of the population has a peanut allergy. The Yard Goats play their home games at Dunkin’ Donuts Park, which has a capacity of about 6200. So at a home game there MIGHT be about 125 people in attendance with a nut allergy. But instead of simply designating a section of the ballpark for those fans the geniuses that run the team instead chose to deprive over 6000 others of the opportunity to buy a snack that has been closely associated with baseball for decades. This is what is wrong with society. It used to be that the majority ruled, but nowadays we go out of our way to kowtow to the vocal minority & every fringe group that decides to whine about something. Look, I am not unsympathetic to folks with a nut allergy. No one is suggesting that they shouldn’t attend games, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with reasonable accommodations to make their experience as pleasant as it should be.  However, I just do not understand why a nut free section wasn’t enough of a compromise. This whole thing reeks of virtue signaling & grandstanding at its worst. And I haven’t even gotten to the song!! Take Me Out to the Ballgame was written in 1908 and has been a standard at ballparks for decades, oftentimes sung by the crowd during the “seventh inning stretch” (most famously at Wrigley Field during Chicago Cubs games). So because the food mentioned in the song has been banned at this particular ballpark they feel it is necessary to alter the lyrics too?? ASININE!!!! Every executive employed by the team should be fired immediately and NEVER be allowed to work in sports management EVER again. I’d be embarrassed to be a fan of the team, play for the team, or even live in freakin’ Hartford, CT. Hell, if I lived in Hartford I might sell my house and move, citing the stupid Hartford Yard Goats as the reason for my departure. I hope they lose every single game until the business implodes & the team folds. Perhaps a competing club will be created and they can call them the New Haven Nut Lovers or the Fairfield Cracker Jacks.

90’s Film Frenzy: A Fatal Four Way Finale

Seven months ago we started our journey with 100 movies that defined the decade of the 1990’s. And while trilogies (Toy Story, Austin Powers, Scream) & Christmas films (Home Alone, The Santa Clause, The Ref) weren’t included, we still ended up with a rather eclectic & competitive field representing a decade that is difficult to pigeonhole.

It is tempting to define the 90’s with grunge, flannel, boy bands, hacky sack, baggy jeans, gangsta rap, & the rise of The Internet, which wouldn’t necessarily be inaccurate. However, when it comes to movies I don’t think any of that translated well…atleast to anything noteworthy. When thinking about the 1990’s on film it seems as though there were solid contributions across all genres, with the defining characteristic being a general lack of defining characteristics. Whereas 80’s kids look back with fondness at some of the flicks we enjoyed growing up partly because of their singular music, kitschy style, & overall cheesiness, I don’t feel like 90’s films have that kind of unique vibe. Society seemingly turned down a dark & more violent path in the 90’s, which is certainly reflected in movies as much as anything else, but since I don’t tend to gravitate toward such morose entertainment it isn’t a big thing for me. I suppose it is fair to say technology played an increased role in 90’s movies, especially with improvements in special effects & animation. It is kind of fun & interesting to watch some 90’s films and chuckle at their depiction of The Internet, marvel at the size of cell phones, & realize how much social media would have altered the plot, but it’s not really a dominating theme.

The good thing about this lack distinction is that, instead of stories defined by their style, we were offered plenty of enjoyable movies with enough substance to give them staying power, and y’all know that’s a big deal to me. Do you realize that films made in the 90’s are now as old as films produced in the 1960’s would have been in the 90’s?? When considered thru that prism the sheer number of impactful movies made in the 1990’s that are still being viewed with some regularity three decades later is quite remarkable. Whether you prefer comedy or drama, are into horror or action, hold a special place in your heart for animation or holiday classics…the 1990’s had plenty of solid choices.

As far as this competition goes, just like 80’s Movie Mania I have tried to be fair in my analysis & conclusions, but obviously personal bias can’t be completely eliminated. I’m fine with that though, because at the end of the day favorite movies are always a matter of individual taste. We can cite box office numbers, award nominations & victories, and critical reviews ‘til the cows come home. All of those things are valid criteria for scrutiny, but the truth is that sometimes they matter and sometimes they don’t. Having said all that, my hope is that most won’t have too much of an issue with my conclusions. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

The Contenders

 

Mrs. Doubtfire             

Of the Final Four contestants Mrs. Doubtfire is probably the one that most represents a 90’s vibe, with a story centered around divorce & child custody. It’s a tough gig to turn such topics into comedy, but with Robin Williams anything was possible. He stars as Daniel Hillard, a fun-loving voice actor whose charm has worn thin with his career-driven wife Miranda, played by Sally Field. When the final straw breaks the camel’s back of their marriage Daniel is inspired to interview for the nanny position that Miranda has advertised, but obviously can’t do it as himself. The solution?? Don heavy make-up, a wig, panty hose, & a dress and transform into Euphegenia Doubtfire, an elderly British lady any mother would want to babysit their children. Adding to the hijinks is Miranda’s flirtation with a former beau, fueling Daniel’s envy. It’s not so much that he wants to rekindle the marital flame as much as he doesn’t like another man so smoothly stepping into a paternal role. At any rate, the premise allows Williams to dip into his arsenal of comedic tricks, and the result is a super family friendly dramedy that doesn’t sidestep real life issues or give into the temptation for an idealistic & sentimental ending, but mostly focuses on humor.

 

 

Groundhog Day

A good friend opined a long time ago that time travel is cool, which is why almost any book, movie, or TV show containing it is enjoyable. But what about a time warp in which a man lives the same day over & over & over & over…(well, you get the point)?? Bill Murray stars as Phil Connors, a grumpy Pittsburgh meteorologist who makes the 90 minute trek up to Punxsutawney on February 2 to cover the annual festivities. Travelling with him are smartass cameraman Larry (portrayed by 80’s funnyman Chris Elliott) & lovely producer Rita (Andi MacDowell, at the apex of her career…a few years after Sex, Lies, & Videotape and a year before Four Weddings & A Funeral). Phil is a malcontent who hates reporting on Groundhog Day and doesn’t seem too happy about anything else. When a snowstorm forces Phil, Rita, & Larry to spend the night in Punxsutawney the weatherman isn’t pleased, and that mood doesn’t improve when he wakes up the next morning to find its Groundhog Day again!! You may recall learning about the five stages of grief at some point in school…denial, anger, bargaining, depression, & acceptance. Phil goes thru similar stages while stuck in the endless loop. At first he is confused. Then he uses his circumstance (and the idea that there are no consequences for his actions) to engage in drunken debauchery. He then becomes depressed and commits suicide multiple times to no avail. After killing himself and the infamous groundhog but still waking up in the time loop Phil decides to use his situation to better himself, learning things like ice sculpting, piano, & French poetry. He then begins being generous & helpful to others and also falls in love with Rita, utilizing the time loop to learn everything about her and become the kind of man she wants in her life. It is her love that ultimately seems to end Phil’s nightmare, although it is never explained what caused the time loop in the first place, how long it lasts, or exactly why it stops. The entire film is an existential enigma disguised as an ordinary comedy.

 

Forrest Gump

Accepted at face value Forrest Gump is simply the life story of “a local idiot” who has some improbable adventures and always gravitates back toward the girl he’s loved since childhood…but is that all it is?? Tom Hanks won his second consecutive Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Gump, a low IQ child in 1950’s Alabama who grows up to win the Medal of Honor for heroism in Vietnam, become an All-American football player for Bear Bryant’s Crimson Tide, & make millions of dollars as a  shrimping magnate. His childhood friend Jenny takes a different path. Abused as a young girl by her father, she becomes a promiscuous hippie, does drugs, & ends up as a single mother ill with “some kind of virus” (likely AIDS or hepatitis). Along the way Forrest & Jenny drift in & out of each other’s lives, ultimately ending up married & raising their young son together before Jenny dies. Forrest Gump is mostly a drama, but I love the fact that there are moments of levity. And what a soundtrack!! You’ve got music from Elvis Presley, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Aretha Franklin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Three Dog Night, The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Mamas & the Papas, The Doobie Brothers, Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Seger…anyone who enjoys classic rock will dig the tunes in Forrest Gump. As far as deep analysis goes, there are some that look at the film as an allegory of two Americas, with Forrest representing small town conservatism and Jenny embodying the anti-war, free love, drug-induced counterculture that rose to prominence in the 60’s. There is plenty of symbolism, philosophical ponderings about fate & destiny, and maybe even some religious or atleast spiritual subtext. If one would rather just enjoy the pleasure of Forrest Gump as a great story, that’ll work and you won’t be disappointed, but the underlying themes are there and serve as food for thought.

 

Titanic                          

I don’t remember exactly when I became fascinated by the infamous Titanic disaster, but I know it was long before 1997.  There had been other books, movies, & documentaries about the tragedy, but this film took the public’s level of interest to a whole new stratosphere and created an entire cottage industry out of a voyage that lasted less than a week a century ago. Kate Winslet & Leonardo DiCaprio earned lifelong fame portraying Rose & Jack, a pair of star crossed lovers whose brief romance is cut short by an iceberg. Rose Dewitt Bewkater is a high society debutante being forced into marriage with arrogant steel tycoon Cal Hockley, while Jack Dawson is third class steerage passenger who won his ticket in a poker game. Think of it as a slightly modernized twist on Romeo & Juliet. The first part of the movie introduces us to the pair, whose initial encounter takes place when Jack talks Rose out of jumping into the ocean…ironic when one considers what is to come. Of course we know that Titanic was a real ship that actually sank, so eventually those events take center stage, the situation having been personalized by our affection for Jack & Rose. There is also a framing device, as the beginning of the film presents a modern day expedition to the bottom of the sea, with a treasure hunter seeking The Heart of the Ocean, a huge heart-shaped diamond given to Rose by Cal. The treasure hunter is contacted by a still living Rose, who is over 100 years old, and she relays the events of her memory to him & his team. Real life Titanic passengers & crew  like “Unsinkable” Molly Brown, ship builder Thomas Andrews, White Star managing director J. Bruce Ismay, Captain Edward Smith, business moguls John Jacob Astor IV & Benjamin Guggenheim, and elderly couple Isidor & Ida Strauss, are depicted, and one of the few complaints that I’ve heard about Titanic over the years is the fact that the stories of such historical figures take a back seat to the fictional love story of Jack & Rose, but personally I don’t have an issue with the creative choices of the filmmakers…it is a movie, not a documentary, and since it set records at the box office & during awards season I assume very few others saw a problem.

 

 

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Elimination 1

Mrs. Doubtfire

Robin Williams was a legend, and Mrs. Doubtfire is undoubtedly one of his best movies, but at the end of the day it is just a solid comedy elevated by the performance of its star. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but at this point I have to pick nits and I cannot in good conscience promote it as an elite film.

 

 

Elimination 2

Titanic

Surprise!! You assumed it was going to win, didn’t you?? To be honest I might have had the same notion not that long ago. Critically acclaimed, record setting, award winning…Titanic is the total package. However, as I was pondering these final four films something hit me like a ton of bricks. Historical dramas, as these kinds of movies are known, are a double-edged sword. The notoriety of the event itself is obviously what leads to a film being made, and certainly it helps get curious moviegoers into the theater. But on the flip side the movie will always be compared to the actual situation, and in this case I think the tragic sinking of the RMS Titanic is such a fascinating story that Titanic feels merely satisfactory, perhaps even unnecessary. In retrospect the significance of the movie is that it renewed interest in the historic event.

 

 

The Runner Up

Groundhog Day

This breaks my heart. I adore Groundhog Day. Like a fine wine it has grown more deliciously elegant with age. To be honest I didn’t even watch it until years after its initial release. In February 1993 I was in the second semester of my junior year of college, spending most of my time drinking beer, hanging out with my fraternity brothers, and occasionally studying. I am actually glad that I didn’t see Groundhog Day back then, as I undoubtedly would have shrugged it off as the average comedy film that so many believe it to be instead of the metaphysical mediation of life that it actually is. Thru the prism of adulthood I am able to truly appreciate all that the movie has to offer. Though it isn’t winning this competition Groundhog Day is like the 12th seed during March Madness that goes on a run and finds itself head-to-head with the bluebloods, or an NFL team that has finished 8-8 for so many years that no one has any expectations then suddenly becomes a Super Bowl contender.

 

 

and finally…….

 

 

 

90’s Film Frenzy Champion

 

Forrest Gump

Tom Hanks starred in about a dozen significant films during the 1990’s, so I suppose it comes as no surprise that one of his works would win this competition. Something that I have consistently stated in our many discussions about movies in this space over the years is that a key benchmark for me is repeat viewings, and the idea of whether or not I am happy/excited when channel surfing and see that a particular movie is on TV. It is one thing to head to the local cineplex and be entertained for a couple of hours by the latest action flick, rom-com, slasher film, Christmas movie, sports drama, murder mystery, biopic, superhero adventure, sci-fi fantasy, or gross-out comedy, but it is entirely different when you are glad to watch the same story for the hundredth time decades later while vegging out at home. Not only does Forrest Gump check all the requisite boxes…made a ton of money, won a bunch of awards, killer soundtrack, received great reviews, eminently quotable…but I am still delighted to watch it whenever it is on, which is surprisingly often for a movie that hit theaters 25 years ago.  My father shares my love of Forrest Gump, which is a source of amusement for me since Dad & I rarely have a similar pop culture palate. I understand that there are a fair number of cynics who despise the movie for one reason or another, but I believe those folks are either overanalyzing or simply disagree with its perspective. To each their own.  My adoration has endured for over two decades and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

90’s Film Frenzy: The Elite Eight

It was at this point just over a year ago, as Merry Movie Mayhem was drawing to a conclusion, that I took the easy path and  let the final eight combatants bow out with what was essentially a collective tie. I don’t feel bad about that because Christmas movies are just so special that I am fine with not following thru with a fight to the death. I don’t have the same kind of sentimental attachment to the 1990’s, so today we move forward with the division finals, aka The Elite 8. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

Titanic                vs.              Sleepless in Seattle

After receiving a first round bye Titanic has gotten past Saving Private Ryan, Father of the Bride II, & The Birdcage. Sleepless in Seattle also received a first round bye then overcame challenges from Galaxy Quest, Dumb & Dumber, and My Cousin Vinny. I knew this moment would eventually come, and sadly it has arrived. During 80’s Movie Mania I eliminated National Lampoon’s Vacation in The Final Four because the ending makes it feel outdated. As I mentioned back then, the debate is whether that should be a mark against the film or celebrated as something that marks the era we are commemorating. Obviously I decided the former rather than the latter, and we are faced with a similar situation now. I adore Sleepless in Seattle, but the fact is that it feels dated because the invention of The Internet has made much of the premise irrelevant. The same story simply couldn’t be told nowadays. Conversely, Titanic has the advantage of being an historical drama. The story is what it is and it is…with all due respect to the unfortunate victims of the tragedy…frozen in time. The movie doesn’t feel outdated two decades later, and it won’t be two decades from now. One also cannot overlook the fact that it remains the second highest grossing film of all time and is one of only three films (the others being Ben-Hur and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) to win eleven Academy Awards. It has pretty good scores on Rotten Tomatoes too…89% from critics & 69% from the public, meaning that it is the rare movie that is actually good and popular. Though a film about a disaster that occurred in 1912 can’t really represent the decade of the 90’s I do feel like it is a signature piece of the cinematic experience of the 90’s.

 

      The Verdict:       

 

 

 

 

You’ve Got Mail                    vs.              Groundhog Day

You’ve Got Mail received a first round bye then defeated The Firm, Aladdin, & Good Will Hunting to make it to this point. After a first round bye Groundhog Day has gotten this far by overcoming Clueless, American Pie, & Apollo 13. The bottom line for me is originality. I have said for many years that I am secure enough in my smoldering machismo to admit that I enjoy a good rom-com, and You’ve Got Mail is a good rom-com. However, having said that, the thing about rom-coms is that they all share similar structural DNA. And why not?? The blueprint works, right?? But also, of the three films that Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan did together I think You’ve Got Mail might be the weakest…or atleast the most formulaic. Both Sleepless in Seattle and Joe Versus the Volcano feel more innovative, which makes a lot of sense since You’ve Got Mail is a loose remake of the 1940 James Stewart classic The Shop Around the Corner. Conversely, Groundhog Day is an inspired meditation on life, philosophy, love, & spirituality hiding in plain sight as an ordinary comedy. No one can argue with a straight face that Bill Murray & Andie MacDowell are as cute, perky, & charming as Hanks & Ryan, but his beleaguered cynicism and her enthusiastic naiveté work perfectly in Groundhog Day. It’s the kind of film one can watch over & over and discover something new each time, which seems rather appropriate.

 

      The Verdict:       

 

 

 

 

Forrest Gump             vs.              The Fugitive

After a first round bye Forrest Gump defeated Presumed Innocent, Die Hard: With A Vengeance, & Office Space to land in the Elite 8. The Fugitive received a first round bye then got past Joe Versus the Volcano, The Wedding Singer, & Father of the Bride. If you watch The Fugitive with absolutely no prior knowledge of the 60’s TV hit your enjoyment of the movie won’t suffer at all. Two powerhouse performances by Harrison Ford & Tommy Lee Jones (who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor) combined with great writing & edge-of-your seat drama make for a terrific cinematic experience. Forrest Gump is based on a novel that had gone virtually unnoticed, and the movie makes changes so significant that it feels completely original. Forrest Gump has a great cast (Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Sally Field, Gary Sinise), a fantastic soundtrack, and was both critically acclaimed & popular with the masses. I do know people that hate it, but I just don’t understand those folks at all. This is a tough one, but repeat viewings give Gump the nod in a photo finish.

    The Verdict:       

 

 

 

 

Mrs. Doubtfire             vs.              The Big Lebowski

After a first round bye Mrs. Doubtfire has beaten That Thing You Do, Tommy Boy, & Scent of a Woman.  The Big Lebowski is the lone film in The Elite 8 that did not receive a first round bye, and thus far has overcome Ten Things I Hate About You, Wayne’s World, Deep Impact, & The Shawshank Redemption. My vibe is that, in a poll of many, those that were teens or in their early 20’s back in the late 1990s would lean toward Lebowski, while older folks might favor Doubtfire. It is probably an unfair comparison, but much like the early comedies of Adam Sandler (most notably Happy Gilmore & Billy Madison), if one happened to be at the exact right age and/or maturity when The Big Lebowski was released then it is likely an essential movie for that person. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be enjoyed by others, just that its humor is quite specific & unique. Jeff Bridges is one of the most underrated thespians of his generation, and his role as The Dude (or His Dudeness, Duder, or El Duderino, if, you know, you’re not into the whole brevity thing) might be his crowning achievement, even if it’s not the kind of character or film that the awards shows fawn all over. John Goodman is another undervalued actor, and his performance as somewhat aggressive & slightly off kilter Vietnam vet Walter Sobchak is a hidden gem. Conversely, it is likely that slightly older folks…those that came of age in the 80’s as Robin Williams rose to fame…would have a greater appreciation of Mrs. Doubtfire. Williams had a rather eclectic career and was capable of playing a whole range of parts, but his wheelhouse was funny comedies in which he could put his full arsenal of comedic genius on display, and Doubtfire fit his skills like a glove. The supporting cast…including Sally Field & Pierce Brosnan…have their moments, but it’s Williams’ show and he carries it well. I suppose that I must reluctantly admit to being part of the older crowd, because, though I appreciate Lebowski for what it is, there are moments of weirdness that don’t resonate with my particular comedy palate, while Doubtfire is the kind of gentle, easygoing, family friendly humor that I tend to gravitate toward.

 

    The Verdict:       

Winning & Musing…Farewell Football

You might think it is a bit weird that we are wrapping up the football season before The Super Bowl even kicks off, and perhaps it is, but that’s one of the things we’ll talk about, as well as tying up a few other loose ends in the inaugural 2019 edition of W&M. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

As a lifelong Pittsburgh Steelers fan I feel obligated to chime in on this Antonio Brown brouhaha. A couple of years ago Brown went on Facebook live from the locker room during a playoff postgame speech by head coach Mike Tomlin, and that was the first indicator to me that there might be an issue with his ego & attitude. Then, several months ago, a friend of mine suggested I check out a show on Animal Planet called Tanked, on which AB was a guest who was having a custom fish tank made for him. During that program I got a little more exposure to his arrogance. No one seems to be talking about the details of Brown’s falling out with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and I was always taught that there are three sides to every story…one side, the other side, & somewhere in the middle is the truth. Big Ben probably isn’t blameless. He has his faults, as do we all. However, given the preponderance of the evidence and the fact that Brown essentially quit on his team in the midst of a must-win scenario before the final game of the season I will not be heartbroken if the Steelers pull the trigger on a trade. Having said that, I hope that they are smart enough not to give the guy away for anything less than a first round pick, and it would be smart to send him to an NFC team. The vindictive side of me would like to see him go to a terrible team like Arizona, Tampa Bay, or Detroit, but that might be asking for too much. I’d be remiss to ignore Tomlin’s part in all of this drama. It is my personal belief that the Steelers have severely underachieved with him at the helm. That may seem a bit harsh since he has led the team to two Super Bowls and one championship, but most Steelers fans agree that the team should have won two or three additional Lombardi Trophies in the past several years. The Antonio Brown controversy has reinforced the general impression that the team lacks discipline and that Tomlin doesn’t run a tight ship. However, those calling for him to be fired are wasting their energy because that’s just not how the Steelers do things. They haven’t fired a head coach in a half century.

 

 

Zach edged me out in our college football Bowl-a-Palooza picks. He went 25-13, while I was 22-13.  I limped to the finish in our Pigskin Picks of Profundity, going 1-4 in the final week to finish the season 51-56. Conversely, Zach ended on a strong note, going 4-1 in the final week to end the season 47-61.

 

 

Congratulations to the Clemson Tigers for winning their second national championship in three years. I must confess that I watched very little of the title game because the Alabama Crimson Tide began to bore me to tears quite awhile ago, so I’m not sad at all that Clemson beat the snot out of ‘Bama by four touchdowns.

 

 

I am cautiously optimistic about new West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Neal Brown. After a few successful seasons at Troy (a 1-AA school that plays in the Sun Belt Conference) Brown comes to Morgantown after the sudden departure of former coach Dana Holgorsen. I can’t blame Holgorsen for bolting. Sure, Houston isn’t in a “Power 5” conference…but they will be, and probably sooner rather than later. Since the school is situated in the fourth largest city in America and the state of Texas is one of the top recruiting areas for elite athletes one must assume that the Cougars are a sleeping giant. There is also the fact that Holgorsen never seemed to feel totally comfortable in the Mountain State. He just never really fit in here, unlike beloved former coach Don Nehlen, who came to West Virginia in 1980 from Ohio and never left, even after he retired in 2000. Holgorsen will undoubtedly be happier in Houston and likely lead his team to great success. Meanwhile, Brown has made a good first impression and seems to quickly be fitting in just fine. Will that translate to winning on the field?? Who knows?? The truth is that no matter who the coach is the Mountaineers can probably expect to average 7 or 8 wins per season and play in a run-of-the-mill bowl game each December, but perhaps every once in awhile the stars will align, the dominos will all fall just right, and they could sneak into a Big 12 title game & maybe even the playoff. They’ve been that good maybe about a half dozen times in my 40+ years on the planet, so there’s always hope.

 

 

I’m not going to analyze my NFL Preview in detail. By now we all know I said a lot of crazy things that turned out to be completely wrong. In the NFC I only predicted 2 of the 6 playoff teams correctly, while I did a little better in the AFC, getting 4 out of 6 right. I placed way too much faith in my Steelers. Not only did they not get to The Super Bowl…they didn’t even make it to the playoffs. I nailed two of the Top 5 picks in this spring’s NFL Draft (Tampa & Arizona), and the 6-10 Denver Broncos & Cincinnati Bengals fell to 10th & 11th in the draft order only because so many other teams were even more inept, so I’m at peace with those choices. I had the Seattle Seahawks in that bottom five, but they actually went 10-6 and made the playoffs. I assume most pundits thought the San Francisco 49ers would be much better than 4-12 with the 2nd overall draft pick, but injuries destroyed their season. I really thought the Oakland Raiders & NY Jets would be rather decent this season, but they landed high draft choices as well.

 

 

As far as The Super Bowl goes, I just can’t get excited about it at all. I make no secret of my longstanding hatred of the New England Patriots, so cheering on the Los Angeles Rams would seem like a no-brainer. However, I’m not all that enthusiastic about the Rams because let’s be honest…they really shouldn’t be in the game. I don’t want to go off on a loquacious rant about officiating, but the blown call that cost the New Orleans Saints a trip to The Super Bowl was quite possibly one of the most egregious mistakes I’ve ever seen in any sport. It is inexcusable incompetence and the entire crew should be fired. The NFL needs to have some sort of mechanism in place to prevent or atleast correct such critical errors, even if it means almost total eradication of human judgment. Having said that, I suppose I will watch atleast some of “The Big Game” and pull for the Rams.