June 13, 2002

SHAQ-FU III: Congratulations are in

SHAQ-FU III: Congratulations are in order to the 2002 NBA Champion L.A. Lakers and especially Mitch Richmond, winning his first championship after a distinguished 14-year career. I'm no big Laker fan but I certainly supported them over the Nets. So now that Wife Beater Jason Kidd has been swept out of the Finals, I promise no more posts about him for the entire off-season— unless, of course, he gets arrested again.

BYE BYE, 'BC Tonight's game marks the end of the NBA's 12-year run on NBC, as the league will shift to ABC/ESPN starting next season. While not as significant to the history of the league as the Lakers-Celtics clashes of the '80s (which aired on CBS), the run encompassed both championship cycles by the Chicago Bulls, as well as the Lakers' recent three-peat, not to mention numerous memorable playoff moments (Reggie Miller's sustained heroics and the Knicks-Heat wars come to mind). The network drew much ire for recycling the same four or five teams for all of their regular-season games, as well as for starting the games too late, but the excellent commentary and analysis (by Bob Costas, Marv Albert, and the surprisingly improved Bill Walton) more than make up for it. And finally, the only listenable piece of music John Tesh has written in his career is that catchy NBA-on-NBC theme (now, sadly, never to be heard again outside of ESPN Classic).

FORCES RE-ALIGNING: Now that the season is over, it's off-season time— and I've been one who at times has enjoyed the Hot Stove League as much as (if not more than) the season itself. While tight salary cap/luxury tax rules have all but killed the NBA's free agent market, there's another big issue up for consideration this off-season: realignment. Since the Vancouver Grizzlies relocated eastward and the Charlotte Hornets moved westward in the last two years, there's talk that perhaps the two teams should swap conferences— and my Minnesota Timberwolves have been mentioned as switching conferences as well. The nominal thinking goes that the Twin Cities has natural geographical rivalries with the Chicago, Detroit, and Wisconsin franchises in other sports, so it's only right to create an NBA "Norris Division" by putting the T-Wolves in the Central Division and Eastern Conference. Makes sense, although of course the real reason for the proposed switch is the obvious one: the Wolves want to have a chance in hell of advancing past the first round for the first time, which isn't something they can do in the West. After all, the fifth-seeded Wolves last year had the exact same record as the Detroit Pistons, who won the Central Division and were the second seed in the East. Expect the league to go along, since it's good for their ratings to have Kevin Garnett advancing further in the playoffs.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T P-T-I: After eight months in the air, it can be safely said that ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption" is now the most entertaining talk show on cable television. The daily broadcast, hosted by veteran Washington Post writers Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon, is both informative and hilarious, as the hosts are perfectly comfortable with both silly banter and in-depth sports analysis. While the show is clearly based on such argumentative news talk shows as "Crossfire," a real reason for PTI's success is that it's clearly personality-driven, which is of course the trend in cable news right now, with Fox News leading the way and CNN and MSNBC struggling to copy them. A big problem for ESPN in recent years has been it's lack of strong personalities: since the Olbermann/Patrick era on SportsCenter, the network has been strikingly lacking in that department (Chris Berman is an exception, though he's been known to disappear completely when it's not football season). PTI applies the "Crossfire"/"Hannity & Colmes" formula to sports, only doing it better since the two hots aren't locked into pre-conceived ideological opinions. And who could forget the talking "Mail Time!" mailbox? Let's just hope the show eventually gets shifted to a later timeslot; I'm sick of rushing home to catch it at 5:30.

TAK MAGAZINE: Unbelievable news today (courtesy of the Post's Keith Kelly) that a new conservative magazine is on the horizon— to be backed by none other than Pat Buchanan and right-wing socialite Taki Theodorocopolos. To be called "American Conservative," the new magazine (according to Buchanan) is aimed at those who think National Review and the Weekly Standard are "not conservative enough," and Taki (apparently smarting from his failed attempt last year to buy New York Press from Russ Smith) will provide a majority of the funding. "We won't be taking many ads from the Gay Pride Parade," Pat told Kelly. No, I'd imagine not.

RUDY! RUDY!: It was reported today that James Woods will be portraying former Mayor Rudy Giuliani in the made-for-TV adaptation of Wayne Barrett's biography "Rudy!" I'm looking forward to seeing the film, partially because I'm curious to see if Woods can play Rudy as well as he played H.R. Haldeman in "Nixon," and also because I read the Barrett book, which portrayed Rudy as a racist, mob-connected, womanizing snake, and I'd love to see how the network handles that post-9/11 (I'm guessing Barrett won't be happy). Also, will the script make room for that story about Woods being on the plane with the terrorists on their "dry run"? Probably not.

Posted by Stephen Silver at June 13, 2002 01:24 AM
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