Winning & Musing…Volume 4.18

So after taking the entire month of June off from publishing anything here (an unplanned hiatus but refreshing nonetheless) I’m back…locked, loaded, & ready to rock n’ roll. The truth is that I have still been writing, but it has mostly been prep work for a project soon to be unleashed upon the masses…stay tuned. In addition to doing the necessary homework for that task, working for Da Man, & living my normal mundane yet blessed life I have…as always…been keeping up with all the sports news, and now I have a few thoughts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My man Phil Mickelson recently found himself in a bit of hot water after losing his cool during the third round of golf’s U.S. Open. A clearly frustrated Mickelson incurred a two stroke penalty on the 13th hole after hitting a ball that was still moving. If Mickelson hadn’t ran to catch up with the ball and hit it back toward the hole it was going to roll off the green and possibly add several more shots to his already dismal score. He made things worse afterward, declaring that he took the peculiar course of action on purpose figuring that the penalty would be better than what was going to occur otherwise. The talking heads & sports media made a big deal out of the situation, as if Phil had committed a grievous sin. A few of his fellow players even suggested that he should have been disqualified from the tournament. First of all, I don’t buy for a second that what he did was a calculated risk. I don’t think there was any thought put into it at all. He was having a bad tournament and went nuts for a minute, then tried to cover by saying it was a conscious decision. In my mind that weak attempt at revisionist history is worse than the act itself. It made Phil Mickelson look like an idiot. Secondly, to those that said that he should have been disqualified, all I can do is shake my head in bemused derision. I realize that golf is a “gentlemen’s game” with a strict & quirky code of ethics, but the man was so far down the leaderboard that nothing he did was going to make any kind of significant difference. The two stroke penalty was an appropriate penance…anything else would have been egregious. There seemed to be some hand wringing about the possibility that this single error in judgment could somehow tarnish Mickelson’s legacy, which I think would be a real shame. The man has won five Majors, including three Masters. He has been one of the best golfers in the world for over two decades and by most accounts is a decent guy. He had a dreadful tournament and a brief moment of madness. Haven’t we all suffered the occasional bad day??

 

 

 

Former ESPN and current FS1 talking head Skip Bayless tends to talk out of both sides of his mouth and says a lot of wacky things with which I disagree. However, Skip has always referred to former All-Pro wide receiver Terrell “TO” Owens as Team Obliterator, and I wholeheartedly occur. Sure TO never ended up in jail, used drugs, or smacked his woman around, but he was a cancer that sowed seeds of discord everywhere he went in the NFL. And now his diva attitude & behavior is following him all the way to Canton, OH. Well…kind of. After the Pro Football Hall of Fame made Owens wait a few years before finally voting him into their exclusive club a few months ago the perpetually disgruntled malcontent found a way to ruin what should have been his shining moment by announcing that he will not attend the ceremony in Canton this August but will instead hold his own ceremony at UT-Chattanooga, his alma mater. No one knows exactly why Owens has made this asinine decision, one that he’ll inevitably regret someday. I realize that it is thought to be cool & hip to march to the beat of a different drum, be rebellious, fight the system, blaze a unique trail, & be a non-conformist, and I agree that there is a time in one’s life when that is a neat option if it can be pulled off. However, Terrell Owens is a 44 year old man that, despite all the upheaval & controversy he was in the midst of during 16 seasons in the NFL, has achieved the highest honor reserved for a football player, one that only the best of the best get to enjoy. It is beyond pathetic that instead of finally acting like an adult and humbly accepting the accolade the right way Terrell Owens is taking one last opportunity to be a self-absorbed, petulant, childish, disrespectful, defiant assclown.

 

 

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t give kudos to trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Mike Smith for leading Justify to The Triple Crown. Justify is the 13th Triple Crown winner in history. Baffert has won fifteen Triple Crown races (5 Kentucky Derbies, 7 Preakness Stakes, & 3 Belmont Stakes) and previously led American Pharoah to the Triple Crown just three years ago. Smith has won two Kentucky Derbies, two Preaknesses, & three Belmonts. A Triple Crown is a rare & exceptional achievement in sports, but sadly I feel like what used to be “the sport of kings” nowadays gets lost in the shuffle while we indulge arrogant punks whose athletic prowess earns them hundreds of millions of dollars playing football, basketball, & baseball. I’m sure there are a lot of reasons why horse racing isn’t as popular now as it was a century ago, but it’s nice to see it back in the spotlight occasionally.

 

 

 

A few NBA thoughts:

  • I didn’t watch hardly any of the NBA or NHL Finals. Neither series turned out the way I’d hoped, so I really have nothing to add to the discourse.
  • A few years ago when Lebron James was preparing to jump ship from the aging Miami Heat I became convinced that he’d be joining the Los Angeles Lakers. Instead he pleasantly surprised me and many others by returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He led Cleveland to multiple appearances in the Finals and won a championship, but eventually it became obvious that the Cavs weren’t on the same level as the Golden St. Warriors and had no opportunity to change that. And so now…better late than never…LBJ is finally a Laker. But, while it is undoubtedly a positive development for Los Angeles, I feel like it is a lateral move for James. Perhaps his relationship with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert was so bad that he just wanted out. I don’t know. Maybe he is looking beyond basketball and feels like L.A. is a better environment for his future plans. That makes a lot of sense. However, from a pure basketball perspective it doesn’t seem to put him in any better position than he has been in, and it’s probably worse. I just don’t see his new teammates as being an improvement over his old ones, and now he’ll have to contend with the Houston Rockets and the Warriors just to make it out of the Western Conference.
  • Lebron may have been expecting Paul George to join him in Los Angeles, but that’s not going to happen. George stunned just about everyone by re-signing with the Oklahoma City Thunder. I suppose a four year contract worth $137 million is difficult to turn down, but I really don’t understand why he would pass up an opportunity to go to the Lakers and almost certainly win a title with James.
  • The lone remaining wildcard in the NBA is disgruntled Spurs star Kawhi Leonard. I’m not a fan of San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, a self-righteous blowhard who really should focus on his job instead of pontificating on issues way above his pay grade. However, I don’t think Leonard has handled his situation all that well either. No one in this little drama comes off looking particularly good. Maybe Leonard will end up helping Lebron James win a championship with the Lakers. He could possibly play a significant part of an 18th title reign for the Boston Celtics. The Thunder might figure out a way to bring him aboard and make Oklahoma City a legit powerhouse. Perhaps Leonard could be the final piece of The Process for the Philadelphia 76ers. Who knows??
  • Speaking of the Celtics, a few years ago I offered some thoughts on the hiring of head coach Brad Stevens, opining that there was a “possibility that Stevens will fail spectacularly and end up back in college”, but predicting that “it is just as possible that Stevens will be a solid NBA head coach that leads the Celtics back to the top of the ladder someday”. I also opined that Boston “ended up with the better end of the bargain in the trade that sent Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, & Jason Terry (all 35 years of age or older) to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for three 1st round draft picks in the next five years”. Those three first round picks have turned into up n’ comers Jaylen Brown & Jayson Tatum, and helped Boston trade for Kyrie Irving. Now that Cleveland will be an afterthought again the Eastern Conference looks like it could come down to the Sixers & Celtics for the next few seasons, so the possibility of Stephens leading his team to a championship looks good…if they can figure out a way to beat Golden State.

 

 

 

Not only is pro wrestling promoter Vince McMahon bringing back the XFL (which flamed out after one tumultuous season in 2001) in a couple of years, but next spring will see the launch of the Alliance of American Football. I am a huge football fan, and really believe that now more than ever, with so many media outlets available to air the product, spring football is a viable idea. However, something struck me one night as I was channel surfing. I ran across a Canadian Football League game on ESPN and began to ponder. I’ve always rather enjoyed the CFL. There are some differences in the rules between Canadian football and the NFL, but nothing too crazy. Several successful NFL players have started out in the CFL in the past, including Warren Moon, Joe Theismann, Doug Flutie, Rocket Ismail, & Jeff Garcia. The CFL has been around for about sixty years, but their league consists of only nine teams that play 18 regular season games. There were nine other teams that are now defunct, with the majority of those being United States based franchises that only played for a season or two in a mid-1990’s attempt at expansion. So my question is this…why are two other spring football leagues on the horizon?? Wouldn’t it be smarter for McMahon and whoever the powers-that-be are behind the AAF to invest in the CFL and help turn it into the powerhouse league that it could be?? That mid-90’s expansion failed partly because the American teams were located in places like Baltimore, Vegas, Birmingham, & San Antonio. Wouldn’t it be smarter for the CFL to target northern U.S. cities like Portland OR, Boise ID, Rochester NY, Providence RI, & Tacoma WA?? Even Anchorage, AK could be considered. A CFL with 16 teams that plays 14 regular season games and has the power, influence, & financial backing of Vince McMahon makes infinitely more sense than three separate spring football leagues.

Hall of Influence – Class 4

It’s been four years since we enshrined anyone into our exclusive little club. For those that need a quick refresher the Hall of Influence was created in 2009 to honor those entities that have had a positive impact on me and my life. Excluded from this élite society are my personal friends & family because I can’t imagine that citizens of The Manoverse have much interest in me gushing about a bunch of people you’ve never heard of. In the past five years we have inducted the following individuals: Jesus Christ, The Rooney Family (owners of the Pittsburgh Steelers), author Mark Twain, entertainers Frank Sinatra & Dean Martin, author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle & his most famous creation Sherlock Holmes, and talk radio icon Rush Limbaugh. Today we welcome five new members from the worlds of entertainment, music, & literature.

 

First up is a writer, producer, & director of some of my favorite films. In doing 80’s Movie Mania I have been reminded of the hughesprolific genius of John Hughes. He was the driving force behind some of the most beloved movies we fondly recall from the early 1980’s on into the infancy of the 21st century: Mr. Mom, The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, the Vacation series, Weird Science, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Uncle Buck, Some Kind of Wonderful, Planes Trains & Automobiles, the Home Alone series, Only the Lonely, Dutch, a charming Miracle on 34th Street remake, The Great Outdoors…just to name a few. A plethora of actors owe their success to Hughes, and an entire generation of moviegoers are thankful that he made their teens & 20’s so enjoyable. John Hughes made what I call comfort food films. He wasn’t into violence or sex or special effects. His stories are little pieces of slightly exaggerated Americana. He didn’t utilize “gross-out” visuals or profanity to satiate tawdry & immature humor palates. His comedy was more subtle and character based. You can (and should) watch the works of John Hughes with your children. He was a genius that we lost way too soon, yet I am so grateful that we have such an abundant filmography to always appreciate. There are lots of folks out there who have important jobs…doctors, teachers, law enforcement, scientists, firefighters, engineers…and we value them all. However, having a legacy like that of John Hughes, wherein he helped to create a wealth of entertainment that has provided countless hours of delight to millions of people and will continue to do so for many years to come, is an accomplishment also worthy of praise.

 

vkmOur next honoree is a controversial figure and seems to enjoy every second of it. I first became a pro wrestling fan as a child in the early 1980’s, and the man most responsible for growing the business into the pop culture juggernaut that it became is the owner of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Vincent Kennedy McMahon Jr. VKM purchased the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) from his father in the early 80’s. Up until that point pro wrestling had been a business made up of a bunch of cooperative regional territories. VKM took pro wrestling national, eventually running all of his competitors out of business. He created characters like Hulk Hogan, Randy “Macho Man” Savage, The Ultimate Warrior, & “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. He engaged the MTV Generation and made wrestling cool. For about a decade from the mid-80’s thru the early 90’s professional wrestling was an unabashed water cooler sensation, and while several people can take partial credit for the success there is no doubt that Vince McMahon was the lead dog. Everyone knows by now that wrestling is predetermined, choreographed entertainment and not an actual sport, but I don’t see that as an excuse for disparagement of its fans. The zombies on The Walking Dead aren’t real. Iron Man is fictional…not an actual superhero. Game of Thrones is pure fantasy. So why is it okay for people to go bonkers for those movies, books, & TV shows yet pro wrestling is belittled & disrespected?? Why is my chosen form or entertainment somehow less valid than yours?? At any rate, Vince McMahon and his creation have given me hours upon hours of guilty pleasure over the past few decades. He’s a little older and seemingly out of touch with what fans want these days, but I appreciate his past efforts and what he has built. Kudos.

 

dickens-at-deskOur third inductee today is one of the greatest authors in the history of literature. Charles Dickens was a towering figure of The Victorian Era, having risen from an impoverished son of less-than-supportive parents to the preeminent author of his generation. He produced a plethora of classic stories, including A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, & David Copperfield. He revived the celebration of Christmas with his novella A Christmas Carol. His works have been adapted into films hundreds of times. On the Mount Rushmore of Literature Shakespeare would have to be given the first spot, but I think Dickens would unanimously be awarded the next. His novels aren’t necessarily light & easy reading, as they are rife with social commentary, but neither are they difficult or oppressive. I am fortunate to have attended academic institutions in my youth that introduced to me to worlds that I otherwise may not have independently come to know & enjoy. Dickens deserves acclaim not because he produced one book or created a couple of characters that the masses loved. He had a long & distinguished career in which he achieved a consistent level of creativity and generated a long list of great books & memorable characters that people are still reading and learning about two centuries later. In a modern climate of short attention spans & disposable entertainment it is nice to know that once upon a time there were people so talented and mindful of the meaning of quality that they generated art that has stood the test of time. If you haven’t read Dickens since your high school English teacher forced you to decades ago I encourage you to give him another whirl. You just might be pleasantly surprised.

 

The next person to enter the hallowed Hall of Influence is the man that I consider to be the greatest actor of all time. James jimmysStewart was a mainstay of mid-20th century cinema from the 1930’s thru the 70’s. He starred in everything from goofy comedies to westerns to dramatic thrillers. He was as equally talented under the direction of John Ford as he was with filmmaker Frank Capra or the “Master of Suspense” Alfred Hitchcock. Citizens of The Manoverse are well acquainted with my love of Christmas films and specifically my admiration for Stewart’s 1946 classic It’s A Wonderful Life. I am also very fond of Stewart classics like Harvey, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Vertigo, The Glenn Miller Story, & Rear Window. I have read a couple of Jimmy Stewart biographies, and there is every indication that he was a genuinely decent man with solid small town values and a quietly generous spirit. That gracious personality shines thru in his movie roles, even when the subject matter is a little heavy. There is a Jimmy Stewart Museum in Indiana, PA about three hours up the road from me and I hope to make it there to visit someday.

 

The final inductee for this fourth class of the Hall of Influence is 70’s rock supergroup The Eagles. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I became a fan or what was the first song that caught my attention. It seems like The Eagles have always been a part of my life. An educated guess would probably zero in on their 1976 album Hotel California, with its titular hit single as well as songs like New Kid in Town and Life in the Fast Lane. That album was released when I was just four years old, but that is exactly when children soak things up like a sponge. I can envision 4 year old Me hearing those songs on the radio and deciding “Yeah…that’s cool. I like that.” The ensuing years saw the band take a lengthy hiatus beginning in 1980, but whereas most bands would just kind of fade away into the ether The Eagles actually became more popular after their demise. Demand for their music almost singlehandedly created the classic rock movement that is still a thing today. The Eagles reunited in the early 90’s, just in time for me to see them live in concert in Columbus, OH with some college friends. They came to Huntington, WV just a few miles from my college apartment a couple of years later, but the ticket prices were beyond my reach. At any rate, The Eagles are a difficult band to pigeonhole. They certainly aren’t hard rock and don’t appeal to headbangers, but neither are they really a country act. They are a singular hybrid, the product of a generation and the sum of various parts. The artists that have comprised the band over the years…Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner, Timothy B. Schmit, Don Felder, Joe Walsh…all brought unique gifts and personalities to the table, and thankfully were able to meld together their talent to produce some of the greatest music ever written. If I were to create a soundtrack for my life there undoubtedly would be several Eagles songs on it.