DIVEST THIS!: Readers of this blog know that I don't tend to be too supportive of campus activism- I have enough bad memories of those self-righteous doofuses from my high school and college. But at least this cockamamie "divest from Israel" movement never gained much ground during my college years. It sounds to me like nothing but nostalgia for the Reagan-era "divest from South Africa" movement, which was itself of course nostalgia for the '60s. The equivilance between Israel and South Africa is offensive enough (funny, I don't remember Nelson Mandela supporting suicide bombers), but even worse, as Thomas Friedman and others have written, is that compared to all of the awful regimes in the world (indeed, in that part of the world) it is Israel and Israel alone that is singled out. And whether that's anti-Semitism or just plain idiocy is open to debate, but either way it's wrong.
So here's a better idea- since the European Union and its member states have shown so much compassion for the PLO and their cause, it's time to divest from the EU!
HAPPY HALLOWEEN: And remember what Larry David said- just because it's Halloween, it doesn't give you the right to go to people's houses and bilk them out of candy.
AND SPEAKING OF 'CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM...': Watching the Wellstone funeral/rally reminded me of the 'Curb' episode two weeks ago when Larry's mother dies, and Larry subsequently uses the "my mother died" card to get everything he wants from everyone he knows, up to and including sex with his wife. Starting with that rally and continuing until election day, the Democrats (in Minnesota and elsewhere) are apparently playing the "Wellstone died" card in a similar way. It may even turn out to be the "otherwise the terrorists win" of 2002.
AND ANOTHER ANALOGY ABOUT ANOTHER LARRY DAVID SHOW...: Just as Cosmo Kramer got to "do nothing, fall ass-backwards into money, and have sex without dating," Walter Mondale since 1984 has gotten to "do nothing, make lots of money, and become a Senator without running."
THE 'CLUB' IS CLOSED: It was announced today that the new FOX lawyer show "girls club" has been canceled after only two episodes. The story of three young, attractive, female lawyers and their adventures after joining a conservative, white-shoe San Francisco firm, the show marks a rare failure for writer-producer David E. Kelley, whose success ("Ally McBeal," "The Practice," "Picket Fences") has always outpaced his talent, if you ask me. The thing I'll remember most about this show from the one time I watched it? It's likely the first network television drama in history to feature an autoerotic asphyxiation subplot in its first episode. Hell, even "Six Feet Under" waited until Season 2 to broach that topic.
HONOR THY MEMORY; VOTE FOR THY DEMOCRAT: I caught the tail end of the memorial service last night for Senator Wellstone and I must say I have mixed feelings- several of those present spoke very eloquently about an honorable and respectable man, yet I couldn't help find it a little embarrassing that the whole "memorial service" eventually devolved into nothing more than a run-of-the-mill political rally. It was one thing to extoll the virtues of the deceased, and to even admire his political views- but another entirely to somehow turn the election into a referendum on whether or not Wellstone deserves to be mourned. The absolute low point was when Rick Kahn, a former student of Wellstone's, demanded that Minnesota's Republican Congressional delegation, led by Jim Ramsted, "put partisan differences aside" and help win the election for Wellstone's replacement, and for the Democrats nationwide as well. It should be our lesson by now that every time someone suggests that we "put partisan differences aside," what they really mean is "put them aside and line up behind me." Would everyone in the room at last night's funeral/rally have suddenly turned Republican if Jesse Helms or Strom Thurmond had died? Slate's Will Saletan has a top-shelf piece on this topic.
And what do you know- I'm right now watching a new episode of "The West Wing," featuring a subplot about the continuing campaign of a deceased member of Congress. Ha, I take back everything I ever said about the show being irrelevant...
In the meantime (I should've known) that lunatic Ted Rall suggests that, you guessed it, Wellstone was murdered by a sinister, Bush-led government conspiracy.
'CAUSE YOU CAN'T INDUCT FIVE PLAYERS AND SEVEN DRAFT CHOICES AT THE SAME TIME: Among the nominees for induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame is (gulp) Herschel Walker. In the same week that one of those draft choices (Emmitt Smith) breaks the NFL career rushing record...
LOSING OUR GRIPPE: Sad news to report today of the passing at age 90 of Peter Grippe, a noted professor of Fine Arts for several decades at Brandeis, and also perhaps the most unfortunately named professor in the history of academia. Also in this week's Justice, one of my favorite headlines ever: "Jewish Influence, From Ellis Island to Ron Jeremy," not to mention a response to last week's anti-fun letter.
BIG GAY RUDY'S BIG GAY SENATE DEBATE: In a recent debate between South Carolina Senate candidates Alex Sanders (Democrat) and Lindsay Graham (Republican), Sanders took Graham to task for running ads that featured an endorsement by America's Mayor, Rudy Giuliani. Here's Sanders: "[Giuiliani] is an ultra-liberal- His wife kicked him out and he moved in with two gay men and a Shih Tzu... Is that South Carolina values? I don't think so."
Let's try find all the things we can that are wrong about that statement:
- Considering the Democrats are by far the more pro-gay of the two parties, isn't Sanders a hypocrite for assigning Graham guilt by association?
- The statement was likely an indirect allusion to long-simmering (but always denied) rumors that Graham is himself gay, though Sanders obviously didn't have the guts to say so directly. So therefore Alex Sanders is gay-baiting two different people (Rudy Giuliani and Lindsay Graham) who are not in fact gay. He doesn't even bother accusing Lindsay Graham of "having a girl's name."
- So Rudy Guiliani is an "ultra-liberal" all of a sudden? That's an interesting theory... I'm sure all the people Rudy threw off welfare and the propriators of those porn shops he closed (not to mention NYC's entire African-American population) wholeheartedly agree. New York is a city with quite a large population of "ultra-liberals," but rather than recognize Rudy as one of their own, most of them despise him with the fire of a thousand suns.
- If you must insinuate that Rudy is gay/gay friendly, why not refer to all those times he dressed in drag for the Inner Circle Revue and "Saturday Night Live"?
- Since Graham is running for Strom Thurmond's seat, couldn't he have scored political points by pointing out that Rudy was the guy in office for the Diallo, Louima, and Dorismond incidents?
- Did Sanders forget that Rudy is by far America's most popular political figure and is almost universally seen as a hero post-9/11, isn't it stupid to rip him in such a conservative state? I'd think Rudy's 9/11 heroism would perfectly exemplify "South Carolina values." And I guess only in South Carolina can a Democrat score political points by attempting to run to the right of a conservative icon like Rudy.
- And finally, as Andrew and Mickey have pointed out, why is it okay for Democrats to gay-bait their opponents with impunity (i.e. the now-famous Mike Taylor ad)? When Republicans do it, they're labeled hatemongers.
THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS BAD (FREE?) PUBLICITY: In scanning newspapers for the energy-industry news service that I as of last week work for, I came across a a particularly cockamamie story from the LA Times, a paper that on the PC scale makes the New York Times look like a bastion of reactionary conservatism. Anyway, as we all know, the Anaheim Angels just won the World Series, and as those of us who watched Games 1, 2, 6, and 7 know, the Angels play their home games in a stadium called Edison International Field, which was called Anaheim Stadium until they sold their naming rights to the energy giant Edison in 1997.
Apparently, a Nader-like consumer advocate named Doug Heller is upset that, in the aftermath of last year's energy crisis, one of the involved utilities (Edison) has the gall to have their name on the stadium of the World Champions- especially during a World Series that was watched by tens of millions of people worldwide. And the LA Times of course goes along with this nonsense, going so far as to refer, in headline, to televised references to Edison International as "free publicity-" seemingly forgetting that they're NOT free because, as the article says, the corporation paid "between $30 and $50 million" for the rights. Regardless of Edison's role in the energy crisis, they paid for the naming rights fair and square, and I don't think any of the fans in Southern California who are celebrating the first-ever Angels championship give a shit about the name of the stadium, with the exception of Doug Heller. Why can't he just stick to bitching about the officiating the way Nader does?
Hell, the article even quotes a sports marketing expert who estimates a value, on top of that deal, of $1 million in the event of a World Series run- so that's $1 million against the original $30-50 million- where's the story here again? And that's not even to mention that when 95% of Americans hear the name "Edison," they don't think first of the electrical utility that's active in New York, California, and elsewhere. They think first of Thomas Alva- THE GUY WHO INVENTED THE LIGHTBULB.
SHOW SHOW SHOW, WHERE'D YOU GO?: As weeks of commercials trumpeted, last night at 5 PM EST was supposed to be the debut of "Around the Horn," a new talk show on ESPN to be hosted by veteran (albeit 28-year-old) fight analyst Max Kellerman. But contrary to Monday's TV listings, as well as weeks of commercials, the show did not air last night, and a re-run of Sunday's "NFL Primetime" ran in its place- and the post-"Primetime" "SportsCenter" preview bumper even ran at the wrong time, saying "SportsCenter is Next" when in fact "Pardon the Interruption" was next. And, during "Primetime," the ubiquitous ad with Kellerman ran once again, this time touting the debut as next Monday, November 4.
The question is, why the sudden switcheroo? Why was there no announcement, and why does no major newspaper have a story about it this morning? Sounds mighty fishy to me; though I'll be working on finding the answer throughout the day. But in the meantime, it sounds like somebody made like an idiot rookie third baseman (Drew Henson?) and dropped the ball on "Around the Horn."
MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY: "It's sad to lose a good man. Good for America for raising him; good for Minnesota for raising him to the Senate; good for Wellstone for being motivated by belief and the desire to make our country better." -Peggy Noonan, of all people, on the deceased senior senator from Minnesota. Just as good are the long-awaited thoughts on the tragedy from James Lileks.
ANSWER TO THE SECOND WELLSTONE QUESTION: A caller to a talk show on the Minneapolis talk-radio station KSTP is the first I know of to put forth the notion that if Paul Wellstone had kept his promise to not run for re-election he'd still be alive. The host, to his credit, responded that Wellstone was en route to the funeral of the father of a state legislator, and thus would've still been on the plane regardless of whether he was running for the Senate. I would've fingered local radio host Jason Lewis as a top contender to make such a statement, but it wasn't him.
ANSWER TO THE FIRST WELLSTONE QUESTION: Just as I predicted, we have our first conspiracy theory alleging that Wellstone was assassinated- this one says Bush I did it!
"WHY SHOULD I CHANGE MY NAME? HE'S THE ONE WHO SUCKS!": The DC sniper has finally been caught, his name was John Muhammad- I've got a feeling he'll amend that to John "Not Al-Qaida" Muhammad as soon as he gets to jail. Or perhaps he'll go back to his original name, John Williams. But that would be bad news to the tens of thousands of Americans with the name John Williams, most of whom will likely feel a lot like the "Michael Bolton" character from the movie "Office Space." There's the Spielberg composer, of course, and the former Seahawks running back John L. Williams, on top of two early-'90s NBA players, one known as John "Hot Rod" Williams and the other, because of his girth and inferiority to the other, became John "Hot Plate" Williams. I have a great deal of sympathy for them and every other John Williams, except of course for Ted's son John Henry Williams. He can get mistaken for the sniper and get beaten to death by a horde of angry Virginians for all I care.
At any rate, it must really suck having the same name as a serial killer, as evidenced by the "Seinfeld" episode in which Elaine dates a man named Joel Rifkin, or the "Cheers" in which Carla is forced by family custom to re-name her son Benito Mussolini. I myself have an acquaintance named David Berkowitz, whose parents were living in New York in 1977 (when he was born) yet for some reason still gave him the same name as the Son of Sam. There must be thousands of Americans named Richard Ramirez and Susan Smith, and if you've read this blog before you've probably heard all about the 43-year-old computer programmer and klezmer bandleader from Pennsylvania named Ben Laden. I guess the lesson to be learned from this is that if you're going to go and kill people, you're best off making up a name for yourself that nobody else has. Either that, or don't kill anyone.
PRET A MANAGER: Gammons has a very good column this week on the NFL-like "managing carousel" going on in baseball right now, as several different managers have already or will be jumping straight from one team to another (something generally rare in baseball these days). The New York Mets wanted Lou Piniella but got Oakland's Art Howe, much to the consternation of Mets fans, who are seriously now starting to rival Red Sox fans when it comes to pessimism, Yankee-inferiority, and self-loathing. Much like every single Jets loss in the two years after Bill Parcells retired, Art Howe (a fine manager who took a horrible, low-budget Oakland team and made it into a perennial contender) won't be able to lose any games in 2003 without the Shea fans pining for Sweet Lou. 'Cause after all, a manager can't be good enough for the Mets unless he's been fired (twice) by the Yankees.
Piniella, meanwhile, opted to go back to his hometown of Tampa and take over as skipper of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, a bad team that has a bad name, bad uniforms, a bad stadium, bad fans, bad management, bad ownership and bad players, and in five years of existance has had five losing seasons and has sniffed no glory whatsoever other than Wade Boggs' 3000th hit and the major league debut of former science teacher Jim Morris (as dramatized in the movie "The Rookie"). Piniella will have his work cut out for him, but if the 2002 season taught us anything it''s that baseball teams can come out of nowhere to win it all. Kind of like the Rams, Ravens, and Patriots.
CITY OF ANGELS: Congratulations to the 2002 World Champion Anaheim Angels (that's gonna take some getting used to; I'm still not quite comfortable with "2001 World Champion Arizona Diamondbacks"). But they're a group of deserving players, they did us all a favor by eliminating the insidious Yankees, and I get the satisfaction of knowing my Twins lost to the eventual World Champions. And just as I said last year, if there's a kid out there (or more likely, hundreds or thousands of kids) who have been following the Angels their whole life and prayed for a championship for all these years, and they get to feel the way I did when the Twins went all the way in '87, then that's a wonderful thing that they finally got their wish. Then again, the Giants had a lot of kids like that too (all the way down to Darren Baker); guess they'll have to wait 'til next year like the rest of us.
Wanna know another reason why the Angels' fans deserve the championship? During the trophy ceremony, minutes after the greatest moment (by far) in the history of the franchise, they still found it in their hearts to boo Bud Selig. A moment like that just warms the heart, and reminds us again of the true magic of our national pastime.
ECKSTEIN AWARD NOMINEE: In honor of the Angels' world championship, I am pleased to present the inaugural David Eckstein Award, going to a famous person who, like David Eckstein and Avril Lavigne, has a Jewish-sounding name yet is not actually a member of the The Tribe. This week's award goes to Beanie Sigel, the Philadelphia-based gangsta rapper who, despite having a name that makes him sound like an 80-year-old Jewish gangster, is in fact a gentile (his real name is Dewight Grant). However Sigel, who is affiliated with Jay-Z's "Roc-A-Fella" posse, did once rap the phrase "flow tight like I was born Jewish" on the Jay-Z rap "This Can't Be Life."
HOW LONG BEFORE...: some crazy left-wing pundit suggests that Paul Wellstone was really assassinated? (I'm guessing it'll be Alexander Cockburn). And how long before some crazy right-wing pundit suggests that if Wellstone had declined to run for a third term like he originally said, then he'd still be alive? (I'm guessing it'll be Ann Coulter).
NBA LIVE: The starting lineup for my fantasy basketball team, The Jewish Jordans, is PG Mike Bibby, SG Kobe Bryant, SF Predrag Stojakovic, PF Shareef Abdur-Rahim, C Jermaine O'Neal. Reserves include Shane Battier, Emanuel Ginobili, Bonzi Wells, and Michael Olowokandi. Hopefully they can match the success of my NFL league, The Sack Kings.
SEN. PAUL WELLSTONE, 1944-2002: Very sad news today that Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-MN) was killed in a plane crash this morning along with his wife Sheila, his daughter, and three staff members. Elected to the Senate in '90 (in the famous "who's a better Jew" election over Rudy Boschwitz), re-elected in 1996 and in the midst of a tough re-election fight against Norm Coleman, Wellstone will be remembered as both one of the most outspoken liberals in Washington, as well as one of its most honest men.
I met the senator on a couple of occasions (his speaking engagements at my synagogue and high school, a chance meeting when I was interning for my state representative in college), and it always struck me how "real" he was, as he was always sure to address me by my first name. On one occasion he walked by, I said "hi," and he said "hi Steve"- I wondered how he'd remembered my name after two years when I realized that I had the word "Steve" embroidered on my jacket. I also visited Wellstone's offce on a trip to DC in 1992, and was watching CNN in his lobby the first time I ever saw a poll which showed Bill Clinton leading.
I'm not about to speculate on who's going to replace Wellstone on the ballot or in the Senate, except to say that state Supreme Court Justice Alan Page would be my first choice were it up to me. What I can say is that just as Kirby Puckett was my first hero from my early days as a baseball fan, Paul Wellstone was my first hero from my early days as a political junkie. And while my political views drifted considerably from his over the years, my admiration for the senator's honesty, integrity, and passion remained 'til the end. Paul Wellstone will greatly be missed by all who knew him or knew of him.
WEASEL! WEASEL!: Dilbert Online comes up with the first annual Weasel Poll. Bobby "The Brain" Heenan is conspicuous by his absence.
BOBO THE RALLY MONKEY: David Brooks, author of the great book "Bobos in Paradise" and chief chronicler of the world of "bobos" (bourgious bohemians), has a look at the differences between Bay Area and Orange County bobos, now at battle in the World Series. It's in the Weekly Standard online.
TO PARAPHRASE AUSTIN POWERS: "And I can't believe Esera Tuaolo was gay! All the women loved him, I never saw THAT one coming..."
A MOMENT LIKE THIS?: I remember that day in September of 1995 when Cal Ripken appeared in his 2,131st consecutive game to break Lou Gehrig's longstanding record. It was a remarkable achievement and a great moment. But the greatest in baseball history? HELL no. The poll was conducted among fans, so I suppose it's fair to say it was biased towards events that occurred in recent years (Mark McGwire's 62nd homer also made the top 5). I don't know how the #1 wasn't Jackie Robinson's rookie year, as it was clearly the most historically significant event in baseball history; if not that, the 1951 "Shot Heard Round the World" or Gehrig's farewell would've sufficed. I also don't see how Game 6 of '86 didn't make the top ten; I guess a disproportionate amount of Red Sox fans voted. Though not enough to put the other Game 6 (the one with Carlton Fisk) on the final list.
MY OLD SCHOOL: For the second or third week in a row, something published in my old college newspaper, The Justice, has led some friends of mine and I to closely examine what exactly our college experience meant to us, and just how far removed it was from the Real World (the place, as well as the TV show. No Brynns or Trishelles at my old school). College, we all pretty much agree, is supposed to be different from the rest of your life in a good way- that is, it's supposed to be the absolute peak of your lifetime in terms of having fun, getting drunk, and getting laid. Just like with the academic side of things, the idea is to gain as much experience with those things during university life (when consequences are limited) so that you know what to do once you reach the real, post-collegiate world. As the wise old sage Chef once said on "South Park," "there's a time and a place for everything, and it's called 'college.'" Granted, some people aren't interested in having fun, getting drunk, or getting laid, and while they're certainly entitled to those views, I've long wished they'd stay out of the business of those who do.
Two such people, Brandeis juniors Tamara Shore and Amy McCarthy, wrote to the Justice this week complaining about a series of events that they feel has indicated an epidemic of "indecency" at Brandeis (yes, you read that right), from the display of a giant condom in a cafeteria, to the annual "Screw Your Roommate" and "The Less You Wear, the Less You Pay" dances, to a new entry called the "Pimps and Ho's Dance" to a recent "masturbation workshop." These are things that greatly embarrass and offend Ms. Shore and Ms. McCarthy (ooh, what an ironic last name!), because apparently, they indicate that people are having too good a time and they're just jealous. I don't want to know what the authors would've done had they gone to a real party school, the kind of place where the weekend starts on Wednesday and drunken orgies happen more or less spontaneously.
We wanted "Animal House," but we got "PCU." In my four years at Brandeis one thing I took note of all along was that it seemed the forces (whether students or administration) were aligned at all times against people having fun- whether it was the lack of an organized Greek system or the lack of a football team, the never-absent political correctness and "social justice" police, the uptight religious people of all denominations, and (more than anything else) the altogether laughable rule that students had to "register" if they wanted to have a party that served alcohol. As though the administration didn't already do enough to discourage fun, they were so fearful of being sued that the Brandeis Nanny State had to swoop in and prevent people from creating fun of their own.
The "Screw Your Roommate" dance was always the social event of the year, yet every year drew rabid complaints (for various reasons) from militant feminists, militant gays, and militant people who couldn't get dates, always with the implicit addendum that "if I'm not having a good time, you don't get to either!" The first "Less You Wear, Less You Pay" dance took place my junior year and (you guessed it) drew myriad complaints from the usual suspects, including fat people who felt discriminated against. The most successful fundraiser of my four years, a bachelor auction my senior year that raised a large sum of money for breast cancer research, was also marred by the crying-all-the-time brigade. And perhaps worst of all, just last year a politically incorrect skit on a campus radio show called "The Men's Room" made fun of Asians and people were still upset about it six months later- even though those were the same six months that immediately followed 9/11. (When I first heard that the biggest uproar of the Brandeis year was over something called "The Men's Room Incident," I just assumed that someone had been raped and/or beaten in a men's room, not that a few guys had made some ill-advised ethnic jokes on WBRS.)
So, as we learn from Shore and McCarthy's letter, there was a "masturbation workshop" earlier this year? GOOD! If these legions of uptight people can somehow relax by finally releasing some of their long-simmering sexual tension, that can only be a good thing for all parties involved. Though of course, I'm sure people were "offended" by the existence of that too. The authors of the letter conclude by stating that "there's really nothing that can justify a 'Less You Wear, Less You Pay' dance." Yes there is actually- people enjoy it! That's all the justification they need for it to exist- and if you don't feel like going, you can just stay home and do your own dance of self-loathing. I'm sure you won't be the only one.
Don't get me wrong; I loved my college experience, the education I got, and the friends I made, and I wouldn't trade them for anything. But since then I've noticed that just about everyone I've met had a more consistently fun time in college than I did. This is especially evident living in Hoboken, when I'm around people all the time who are used to rock 'n' rolling all night and partying every day, and clearly have been since their freshman years at Rutgers, Ithaca, or wherever. The joke, after all, is that Hoboken is like a college where the fraternities are Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, etc. When they had their keg parties in college, I think it's safe to say no one complained about the beer or scantilly clad women. Certainly no one does now. And to this day, as big a sports fan as I am, I can't ever watch college football on television because all I notice is that students at colleges across the country are enjoying a saturday of getting up early to drink, tailgating, spending three hours at the game, and then partying all night, none of which I ever experienced because my alma mater's leadership woke up one day in 1957 and decided it was "socially unjust" to continue to field a football team.
The ultimate folly of the now-thankfully-undermined political correctness movement is that, as the movie "PCU" pointed out brilliantly, it sucks the fun out of the college, and tries to impose guilt on people who, almost universally, have done nothing wrong. And just like in "PCU," we even had a concert by George Clinton (in November of 1999) that for one night only made everyone forget about their petty bullshit and united the entire university in the spirit of having a good time. The night didn't last long, but hey, at least it proved it was possible- the only question is, will it ever happen again?
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Of course [Donald Trump] won't apologize, because he's a rich white colorist male who is wallowing in the unearned privilege of his white skin color." -"Activist" Carol Taylor, whining about a decade-old letter written by Trump in relation to the Central Park Jogger case, in the New York Times. Now Lord knows Trump has had his finger in all sorts of business ventures over the years, but who knew he was a "colorist"? Does he do highlights too? What about waxing? Guess this means Trump's future political ambitions can't include a run for the Senate from Montana.
LIVE FROM KITCHEN STADIUM... It's Iron Blogger! Morimoto would be proud.
DROPPING THE HARDBALL: Big a fan as I am of Chris Matthews, I don't think he should ever make fun of George W. Bush for malapropisms again. Matthews has had the strange habit lately of mistaking his guests for others with similar names- the most embarassing gaffe of the kind was probably when he addressed well-known Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page as "Clarence Thomas." Then, well discussing the sniper investigation last night with ex-NYPD cop Bo Dietl, he mistakenly called his guest "Bo Derek." Now maybe that was just wishful thinking, but never mind. I look forward to the day when a guest accidentally calls the host "Dave Matthews."
SNIPEHUNT: I only have one thing to say about the continuing sniper attacks, and their 24/7 media coverage: how funny is is that the local police chief's name is "Moose"? Whenever there's about to be a press conference I keep expecting to see Bullwinkle, sporting a sheriff's hat, strolling up to the cameras.
CHUTZPAH AWARD NOMINEE: Today's award goes to '70s NBA star Kermit Washington. In this week's Sports Illustrated there is an excerpt from a new book by John Feinstein on "The Punch" which was thrown by Washington at Rudy Tomjanovich in a 1977 game, nearly killing Tomjanovich and leading to permanent changes in the lives of both men. The story follows Washington's gradual descent and blackballing from the game following the fight, and then shares that Washington's attorneys once wrote a letter to NBA commissioner David Stern accusing the league of "manipulating the situation... for public relations purposes and worked against Kermit," and thus the former star was threatening to sue- for $5 million. Somewhat surprisingly, the NBA was not to keen to offer a settlement to a man who had ruined his own career by punching another player during a game, and the suit was never filed. Shocking, I know.
THE 'SOPRANOS' BACKLASH BEGINS: Every week the whispers get louder and louder. "They're losing their focus!" "It's not as good as before!" "WHEN'S SOMEONE GONNA GET WHACKED?" Yes, ever since the fourth season of "The Sopranos" got underway fans just seem to get more and more disapointed with each passing week. The New York Post's vacuous TV critic Adam Buckman added fuel to the flames, saying that he's "bored" with the season in a column last Tuesday, leading to an embarassing "how to fix 'The Sopranos'" feature in that paper on Thursday, with such cringe-inducing suggestions as "kill all the women" and "whack AJ and Meadow."
Now, I wouldn't say that this year's episodes have been the best of the series (with the exception of the second one, featuring Meadow's confrontation with therapist Linda Lavin). But at the same time, I haven't noticed an appreciable dropoff in quality. If there's anything I've learned from watching "The Sopranos" in the past three years, it's that a) it's the greatest show of its era, and b) the way the show flows, it's next to impossible to judge individual episodes until well after the fact, since minor plot points are often paid off four or five episodes later. Watching and appreciating "The Sopranos" requires more patience, more attention, and (dare I say) more intelligence than most other dramas on TV; Armond White has accused the show of elitism but as is often the case, he's full of shit.
The other problem, as I've mentioned before in this space, is that an uncomfortably large segment of the "Sopranos" audience doesn't care one iota about any of the show's true strengths (its depth of character, the great acting, the juxtaposition between family and "family," etc.) and tune in for no reason other to see "who's gonna get whacked!" And since no major characters have yet been whacked in the season's first five episodes, they somehow feel cheated because the show has left their bloodlust unquenched. Please. If you want to watch a TV show where someone gets eliminated every week, may I suggest "Survivor" or "The Bachelor." If mutilated corpses are what you crave, that's what "CSI" is for. "The Sopranos," from the beginning, has been about much more than just violence; indeed, last season all the complaints were about too much violence-make up your mind, people.
If you're bored with "The Sopranos" this year, I advise you to remain patient because it should all pay off eventually- the series is batting a thousand so far in that regard. But if your beef with the show is that not enough women have been beaten to death this season, I may suggest that you turn off the TV and find a Dr. Melfi of your own.
SAY IT AIN'T SO, KIRBY: It's a bad day when your team gets eliminated from the playoffs, but it's much, much worse when your childhood hero and favorite athlete of all time gets arrested for sexual assault. But that's what happened to Kirby Puckett on Friday, after a woman accused the Hall of Famer of groping her in the mens' room of a Minneapolis-area eatery. My allusions about Kirby, the man I spent the first 23 years of my life believing was different from all the other athletes, were shattered last year when his wife, Tanya, filed for divorce after Kirby allegedly threatened over the phone to kill her when she complained about his serial infidelites. Then he was accused earlier this year of harassing another woman, and now the new charges.
There once was a time when I would've defended Kirby to the death, just being unable to believe that he could be capable of violence, or adultry, or betrayal- he was Kirby Puckett! He's the man who won two World Series, played his whole career in Minnesota when more money beckoned elsewhere, always gave generously to charity, went a whole playing career without any off-field trouble at all and was one of baseball's genuinely great characters. He was the man who had to retire abruptly when he woke up one day in spring training unable to see out of his right eye. I attended both World Series wins and his Hall of Fame induction to boot, even met Kirby two or three times- and there's no way I ever could've imagined what was going on under the surface of that big and lovable guy. The only silver lining I can find in the recent news is that I'm glad Puckett's troubles are happening now, and not while he was still playing. Because if I had found out when I was 12 years old that my favorite athlete was a serial abuser of women, it just may have scarred me for life.
SOUTHERN EXPOSURE: My latest contribution to Blogcritics is a look at the politics of the Reese Witherspoon comedy "Sweet Home Alabama"; you can find that here. And speaking of "Sweet Home Alabama," Entertainment Weekly recently reported that in Eminem's upcoming movie "8 Mile," he will perform a rap version of the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic. Now, I know that Slim Shady has spent his entire career confounding people's expectations and proving his detractors wrong, but I don't see how his "Sweet Home Alabama" cover could possibly surpass the Geto Boys' "Gangster of Love (Gangsta Boogie)", which also sampled 'Alabama' and is generally considered the most offensive rap song of all time. Though considering Shady's the guy who rapped about raping and killing his mother, and also rhymed "Anthrax" with "Tampax," I certainly wouldn't put it past him.
NORTH KOREA, SOUTH KOREA, MARILYN MONROE: Over the weekend former President Jimmy Carter, who did more negotiating with terrorists than any other U.S. president, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, in a move that was seen both as a rebuke to President Bush and his plans for a pre-emptive war against Iraq and as a reward for Carter's various acts of "freelance diplomacy" since leaving office. One such act was the 1994 agreement, brokered by Carter, between the U.S. and North Korea in which the U.S. agreed to concessions that amounted to bribery if the North Koreans agreed to suspend its nuclear weapons program. But, as totalitarian and/or Communist dictatorships are wont to do, Pyongyang failed to live up to their end of the deal, and admitted today that they now have nuclear capability. This news comes as a rebuke to both the Nobel Committee and to opponents of Bush's Iraq war; it just proves once again that if appeasement didn't work in '94 (or in '38, or any other time in history) why on Earth would it work for Saddam now? I'm not sure how this crisis will be solved, but let's agree to not let Jimmy Carter anywhere near it. Nor near that other Axis of Evil country, Iran.
(And yes, since the upcoming World Series is indeed "California Baseball," this has been a very topical week for "We Didn't Start the Fire." My pick? Angels in six.)
DRUNKEN DUNLEAVY QUOTE OF THE DAY: "If, when the [sniper] is caught, if he is not a foreigner, I will bare my derriere in Macy's window." -The New York Post's Steve Dunleavy, who really, really hopes the shooter turns out to be a brown person of some sort. Though just so I don't have to see Dunleavy's ass on the way to the PATH, I just may hope so too. What the columnist is doing is calling what the sniper is doing terrorism, and in that he's right- whether he's al-Qaida or not, of course he's a terrorist, regardless of his nationality. Though come to think of it, isn't the very Australian Dunleavy a "foreigner" himself?
SUCK MY KNICKS: It was fun to see the Yankees go down to defeat in the first round of the playoffs, but in some ways I derive just as much enjoyment day-by-day from following the greatly diminished New York Knicks. First they waited too long to trade Patrick Ewing and got nothing of value in return, then incompetent GM Scott Layden acquired a parade of highly paid and highly ineffective players who had nothing going for them other than that they had played for Layden in Utah. Their two best players are lazy thug Latrell Sprewell and Allan Houston, who has a $100 million contract despite not being among the top 50 players in the league- not to mention, both of them play the same position. They've got bad ownership (the bumbling head of Cablevision, Chuck Dolan, and his son James) and a coach (Don Chaney) who's in way over his head, and they even had to suffer they indignity of watching their long-dormant cross-river rival, the New Jersey Nets, advance to last year's NBA Finals while the Knicks failed to make the playoffs at all.
Then, last month, Sprewell hosted a party on his yacht in the waters off Milwaukee and allegedly got into a scuffle with the boyfriend of a woman who had had too much to drink, throwing a punch and missing, thus punching a wall and hurting his wrist. Sprewell not only failed to take heed of the "Friends" episode from that week (when the same thing happened in a Ross-Joey fight), but he also ignored the clause in the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement which requires players to notify their teams of off-court injuries (of course Sprewell also ignored the clause that forbids trying to kill your coach, but that's neither here nor there). So now he's been fined $250,000, been asked to stay away from the team "until he can be a positive contributor," and is out for the first month of the season with said wrist injury.
Sprewell strongly denied that the fight took place, since the man he tried to hit was named "Mark," and he said "I don't even know anyone named Mark," apparently forgetting that two of his teammates for the past two years were Marcus Camby and Mark Jackson.
Speaking of Camby and Jackson, they were both traded in the offseason, along with the 7th pick in the draft, to Denver for forward Antonio McDyess, looked at as a player with potential to finally turn the Knicks around and provide the under-the-basket muscle they've been sorely lacking for the last several years. But then- surprise!- McDyess hurt his knee earlier this week, and is out of the season. And adding to the Knicks' wonderful offseason, starting center (and alleged born-again Christian) Kurt Thomas was arrested for assaulting his wife and was ordered to stay away from her, though unfortunately for the Knicks, Thomas is no Jason Kidd on the court.
It was fun enough last year reading watching Knicks fans turn into Red Sox fans, but it's looking like last year was nothing- how much you wanna bet they pick higher than 7th in next year's draft? They're already talking about LeBron James at the Garden...
SO I'M A HAIRDRESSER- BUT NOT A GAY HAIRDRESSER: We now have the most amusing story of the 2002 midterm election season. Mike Taylor, a Republican state senator in Montana who was challenging incumbant Senator Max Baucus, dropped out of the race last week after the Democrats ran an ad featuring embarrassing video of the candidate from the '70s. How embarrassing? Well, Taylor had apparently once run a beauty school, and his opponents dredged up footage from when Taylor hosted a local news segment called "Beauty Corner." In the ad, Taylor is seen giving a male customer a facial, which includes applying makeup and rubbing the man's head; this is juxtaposed with audio accusing the candidate of impropriety in a student loan scandal and ends with the phrase "this isn't how we do business in Montana." You can view the ad here.
What's funny, as Andrew and others have pointed out, is that Taylor (who is married) was "offended" by the "implication" that he might be homosexual; it would've been even more difficult if it happened to a Democratic candidate in a liberal state, who likely would've had to pull the "not that there's anything wrong with that" line. And this whole thing reminds me of Monte Moreno, a small town hairdresser and ultra-conservative candidate for the Minnesota Republican senatorial nomination in 1994 who ran under the slogan "I'm a hairdresser- but I'm not a GAY hairdresser!," but lost the GOP primary to the more conservative (but less stylish) Rod Grams.
Nonetheless, I look forward to the day when hairdressers, Democratic and Republican, gay and straight, can run for the Senate with impunity.
TAKE THAT, CARL!: Twins owner Carl Pohlad, the evil banker who wouldn't have been out of place as one of the villains in "It's a Wonderful Life," gets a thorough skewering from Jack Curry in the New York Times. Great as this season was, all it would take to complete my Twins fantasy would be a new stadium and a new owner, hopefully in the near future.
CLASSIC SILVER RE-ISSUES: Several of my movie reviews from the spring and summer have been reposted on Josh Glassman's revamped Hot Movie Ticket site. It's got my take on "Minority Report," "Attack of the Clones," "Full Frontal," and many more.
WHEN IDENTITY POLITICS COLLIDE!: A Village Voice classic this week- fascinating yet infuriating at the same time. The weekly's latest piece of unintentional comedy (probably the best since the famous "'A.I.'-is-really-about-lesbianism" article) is by Rivka Gewirtz Little and concerns the case of the Central Park Jogger, the woman who was raped in Central Park by several young black men in 1989, and later testified in the trial of the four accused perpetrators, all of whom were convicted. More recently, however, new DNA evidence and confessions by others have cast doubt on those convictions.
Little's piece takes feminists to task for "backing the wrong horse" in the original trial, by choosing their feminist principles over racial consciousness, as it was apparently unprogressive of them to take the side of the white woman in her accusations against black men, and unfair for them to see that taking the defendents' cause would've been an ideal "leftist cause." The author takes it more or less for granted that any viewpoint that anyone takes about facts (say, whether or not someone is guilty of a crime) should be based entirely on identity politics, and nothing else. A similar political correctness Catch-22 occurred, of course, in the O.J. Simpson trial, when many blacks of course rallied to Simpson's side, but not so many feminists, seeing as how he beat (and killed) a woman. Allegedly.
Shouldn't the most important thing in a legal proceeding be the truth, as opposed to flogging of political agendas? That is, if a rape or murder takes place, shouldn't everybody on all sides be in favor of finding the right perpetrators and bringing them to justice? In the heirarchy of tragedies in the Central Park Jogger case (from the rape itself to the false imprisonment for a decade of four apparently innocent men) I'd say the fact that the feminists took the wrong side ranks pretty low on the list.
SHOW ME THE (FICTIONAL) MONEY: Forbes Magazine presents its first annual "Fictional 15": a comprehensive list of the fifteen richest fictional characters. Santa Claus comes in first with an estimated net worth equal to J.C. Romero's ALCS Game 5 ERA (infinity), while Scrooge McDuck beats Ebenezer Scrooge, coming in fourth with $8.2 billion. I've always said that when I become a billionaire I want to build my own money bin like Scrooge had, complete with diving board so I could play in it.
Also, according the survey, Bill Gates is richer than every fictional character with the exception of Santa- so Microsoft doesn't exactly have a monopoly; if it did Gates would likely be worth infinity-plus one. And I've always wondered how Santa made all his money, considering he gives away presents to every kid in the world yet nobody ever pays him- not much of a business model if you ask me.
DON'T MIS-GOOGLE ME: I didn't write this; some other Steve Silver did. But I wish I had- it's a profile of the "62 Group," a band of WWII veterans and Holocaust survivors who fought fascism in Europe in the years after the war. Makes me remember my instructor from my Israel trip, who used to tell stories about spending time in South America in the '70s "hunting Nazis," though he never made clear whether "hunting" meant "tracking them down and bringing them to Israel for trial" or "shooting them"
Anyway, I include this article as public service, as it is likely to show up higher on Google searches than this blog does.
BACK TO THE OUTHOUSE: Jerry Falwell may have done quite a few things over the years to make a total ass of himself, but since at least the '80s we've been able to look at him and think, "oh well, at least no one takes him seriously anymore." Well, that may be true in the U.S., but not India- according to Reuters, nine people were killed in Muslim-Hindu clashes in Western India, which came about directly as a result of Falwell's comments last week on "60 Minutes" that the prophet Muhammad "was a terrorist."
Let me try to wrap my head around this one- no one in America does anything other than snicker at Falwell's incoherent ramblings, but now, in 2002, nine people, in India, are dead, just because of something Jerry Falwell said? Why was a battle fought halfway across the world over a stupid comment a marginal American figure made on a talk show? Makes you wish this had happened 25 years ago, just so Larry Flynt could've prematurely ended their libel litigation by saying "no one in India has ever killed anyone else 'cause of anything I've said!"
PHILADELPHIA FREEDOM: I spent this past weekend in Philadelphia with family and friends, and in the process acquired the ultimate all-American tsotchke- a mini-football emblazoned with the signatures of all the men who signed the Declaration of Independence- anachronistic yes, but how great is it to bring together the two great traditions of American independence from the tyranny of the British (the Revolutionary War and the triumph of American football over soccer), from over 200 years apart?
The other highlight of the trip was dinner at the eponymous restaurant of Morimoto, better known to fans of the Food Network as Iron Chef Japanese. Not only did we enjoy an amazing meal (as Morimoto is no longer restricted by that whole-meal-from-one-ingredient rule), but we even got to meet the famous Morimoto, as he came around to the different tables- and upon hearing that we were from Minnesota, he shouted out "Go Twins!" Unfortunately the Iron Chef isn't as good a baseball prognosticator as he is a cook; the Twins lost three games in the three days I was in Philly.
Oh, and one more thing about that football- it was signed by Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, John Hancock, etc.- but not, strangely, by Terrell Owens.
ANGEL, DEVIL, THORN IN MY PRIDE: Well, it was a good run for the 2002 Twins who, rather than get eliminated in November of 2001 like Generalissimo Selig wanted, lasted until October 14, 2002, when they lost Game 5 of the ALCS to the Anaheim Angels. While it was sad that the season had to end the way it did, I've said all along that just a playoff appearance would've sufficed, and we can all look forward to 2003, when most of the young team will be back, a year older and a year wiser. And maybe they'll even have a new stadium to look forward to.
I'm not mad at the Angels for beating the Twins; clearly, they were the better team. I'm not even mad at the Rally Monkey, though I really do think it's time they got an actual live monkey for the stadium to replace the one that's just on the scoreboard. What I am mad at is that damn kid who was dressed as a monkey for Games 4 and 5 ("julian monkey boy," I call him), and I'm even more mad at Fox Sports, for their horrible coverage of the series and of baseball in general. I'm sick of their stupid poll questions, those creepy and disturbing Halloween-based promos, and their constant, repetitive references to David Eckstein as "scrappy," "a sparkplug," and "a pest." And I'm sick most of all of those horrible announcers, Thom Brennaman and Steve Lyons, who at least once in each game called Anaheim a "small market." While we were blessed with the best commentary team in baseball, ESPN's Jon Miller and Joe Morgan, for the ALDS; Fox's coverage was about as effective as the Twins' bullpen in the 7th inning of Game 5.
POLLACK BRIGADE: I'm a huge fan of the journalistic satirist Neal Pollack, though I must say I've had mixed feelings about his new blog since he started it last month. I've found much of his material hilarious, yet it has such an inside-baseball quality to it that I feel like his target audience must be those who hate Andrew Sullivan, yet have still read him every day for the last two years- otherwise, they wouldn't understand any of Pollack's references. Pollack also switches in and out of his "Greatest American Writer" persona at will, often leading to nothing but confusion.
Today, however, Pollack reprints his classic poem "I Wipe My Ass With Your Novel," which I saw him deliver at a Lower East Side reading two years ago (also attended by Sarah Vowell and Andy Richter). That alone is worth a visit, and if you'll be in Philadelphia next weekend (I'm there THIS weekend) check out The 215 Festival, featuring Pollack, Vowell, Zadie Smith, and an historic jam between Dave Eggers and They Might Be Giants. McSweeney's roadtrips from Williamsburg to Philly... don't miss it.
FROM NRG TO ENERGY: I am happy to report that today I accepted a position as a reporter with Energy Argus, a company dedicated to covering the energy industry- I'll be writing for a new wire service that they're launching. It's located right in Hoboken, a five-minute commute (on foot) from my apartment, and I'll be starting a week from next Tuesday. I'm very excited at the opportunity as it is my first pure writing job in quite some time; I also find it ironic that I'll be working for Energy Argus after six months with Anchor Network, whose most prominent client was the National Research Group (NRG). Expect this blog to continue publishing just as often, albeit at very different hours of the day.
THE BODY VS. THE BUDDY: Even more galling than the Minnesota Twins 6-3 loss to the Anaheim Angels in Game 2 of the ALCS was the decision by Commissioner Bud Selig (the man who attempted to murder the Twins 10 months ago) to appear at the Metrodome for the games. Bud sat in a luxury box high, high up from the field alongside his contraction co-conspirator, Twins owner and evil banker Carl Pohlad. How dare Bud even show his face in the Dome? He's lucky it was the home of Minnesota Nice, or else his life may have been in danger. At least he was sitting high up though- as anyone who has ever sat in the upper deck of the Metrodome could tell you, it is next to impossible to see anything from up there, especially the ball. From my first-base upper deck seat I never actually saw Kirby Puckett's home run to win Game 6 of the 1991 World Series leave the park; I've just been taking peoples' word for it ever since.
Even worse than Selig's gall in appearing to watch the team he tried to eliminate was Gov. Jesse Ventura's appearance during the Seventh-Inning Stretch of Game 2 when, in a highly cynical attempt to avoid being booed, the unpopular soon-to-be-ex-governor insulted Selig, drawing cheers from the sellout crowd. Ventura clearly learned a lot from his wrestling days (cheap pop); he used to play the same trick on Selig's WWE alter ego, Vince McMahon. So if Selig ends up presenting the World Series trophy to the Twins on the Metrodome turf, what will he do in order to not draw boos? Insult Osama BinLaden?
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Fun doesn't even begin to describe it. As someone who routinely attended dozens of games every year throughout the Twins long post-'91 slide--as a paying customer, mind you--this whole experience has been tremendous and gratifying on more levels than I could begin to describe in my current paralyzed, brain-static euphoria. You tend to forget that it's actually more exhausting to root for a winning team than a losing team. When the Twins sucked so bad in the mid- to late-nineties going to games was more or less like watching TV; it was something to do, but you no longer had any real investment of hope or enthusiasm in the experience. This sort of thing--playoff baseball--this is something entirely different. It might kill me." -Steve Perry, editor of the Twin Cities alt-weekly City Pages (not the Journey frontman), articulating my feelings exactly.
THOSE CRAZY BRANDEISIANS DEPT.: My old college newspaper, The Justice, ran a photo poll last week (not online) asking the provocative question "Who do you hate more- George W. Bush or Saddam Hussein?" As though it's actually a debatable question whether the homicidal dictator of an anti-American rogue nation is more deserving of hatred than the President of the United States- as Uncle Junior would say, where do they get the effrontery?
But even stranger was a letter to the editor this week chastising the Justice editors for asking such a question- not because of the Bush/Saddam moral equivilance, but because they dared suggest that anyone "hate" anyone else. Wake up people- hate is a naturally occuring human emotion (as Andrew articulates better than I ever could), and there's nothing wrong with hating what is evil and loving what is good.
Sophomore Jonathan Lerner, however, has the right idea- writing exactly the kind of stuff I would've been writing had I been around 'deis in the post-9/11 days. It's great to see someone at Brandeis has the guts to stand up to the neo-Stalinist "activist" crowd- God knows not enough people did in my day.
The problem with college students and others who have never lived in "the real world" is that everything political or geopolitical is an abstraction to them. From tax policy to terrorism, if you haven't lived it it's just something your professor talks about and nothing more. That's why students at Brandeis and other places place Bush and BinLaden on roughly even terms- since they didn't experience 9/11 personally, the perpetrators of that are roughly equal with the guy who's against the Kyoto Treaty. Unfortunately, this isn't a problem that can be solved by the world's smartest professors nor by $30,000 a year.
BY GAWD, THAT'S FURIO'S MUSIC!: Excellent "Sopranos" episode on Sunday night, making up for the previous week's middling Christopher Columbus-based effort. I believe the central plotline (New York underboss Johnny Sac's attempts to whack Ralphie over a comment the latter had made about the former's overweight wife) was a satire by creator David Chase meant to direct at the casual "Sopranos" fan who doesn't follow the nuances of the show and only tunes in to see "who's gonna get whacked." We're led to believe that Ralphie (always #1 in every "who's getting whacked" poll) and Johnny are about to both be killed, until of course neither one is. Good stuff.
And after last week's sicksicksick Ralphie-Janice romp, we were treated to a very different kind of disturbing sex scene as Tony attempted to seduce Carmella, who (having a not-quite-hidden crush on younger henchman Furio) was clearly not into it- especially with Furio's favorite Italian dance music blaring from Meadow's room down the hall. The scene, as so many great "Sopranos" scenes are, was at once brilliant and awkward, echoing the earlier thread involving Johnny Sac and his wife's weight problem. A half hour after Tony mentions that he's overweight but Johnny tells him that "it's different with women, they've got that body image thing," Carmella realizes that she'd probably rather be sleeping with the younger (and yes, thinner) Furio than with her husband. She even questions whether the nightgown Tony bought her would fit, though it does. This was all done in a VERY subtle way, mind you, but don't think it won't come up again in the season's remaining nine episodes.
And how about that Rhode Island-based family of hitmen? It's been floated by some friends of ours that they're associates of Buddy Cianci, but I think it's more likely they're in with the Banjo Boy from "Deliverance."
BROKEN TOMAHAWK: And just like that, the Atlanta Braves followed the New York Yankees into history's unmarked grave of '90s baseball dynasties. This means we'll all be spared from that horrible Tomahawk Chop theme song, and I personally won't have to suffer my little personal nightmare of the Braves avenging their '91 World Series loss to the Twins. And this also means that home-field advantage held in not one of the Division Series, and that the four remaining teams vying for the championship haven't won the Series since 1991 (Twins), 1982 (Cardinals), 1954 (Giants), and EVER (Angels). Bud Selig, let's see you TRY and mess this one up...
HA HA HA: The new WWE DVD "Triple-H: The Game" is now available on Amazon.com. Check out some other items that readers suggested- this had me howling.
THE GOOD GUYS WIN: This weekend of baseball playoff action may very well go down as a watershed in the evolution of major league baseball this decade. Not only did the previous two world champions go down to decisive defeat, but (barring a Braves victory in Game 5 Monday night) in all four series the feel-good team won. The Angels won their first-ever playoff series, and for the first time since before the 1994 strike the American League will be represented in the World Series by a team other than the New York Yankees or Cleveland Indians. The Yankees were the first team eliminated, and now their fans get to experience how every other team's fans feel every year. I'm not ready to say the dynasty is over; it's just a major, major, setback (and all you Red Sox fans out there, I'm laughing along with you).Over in the National League, while I have nothing against the Arizona Diamondbacks, I was glad to St. Louis pull out the victory, since they've faced so much adversity this season and come from arguably America's best baseball town. And while I'm no big fan of Barry Bonds, he is the best player of his generation and it would only be right for him to play in at least one World Series- especially since his first-round opponent is the most repugnant franchise in all of sports, the Atlanta Braves.
And then there are my Twins. Oh, those Twins. I even said before the playoffs that merely a trip to the postseason would've been enough. It didn't look good when they fell behind 2 games to 1- but then they won Game 4 at the Dome to force Game 5 in Oakland- and what a nailbiter it was. It stays 2-1 until the ninth- Twins score four runs in the top, then the A's score three in the bottom on a homer by Mark "Lemke" Ellis, get another baserunner after that, until finally the longest-serving Twin, Denny Hocking, catches Ray Durham's foul ball to send them to the ALCS and prevent me from having a heart attack.
So can the Twins get to the World Series? I don't see why not- they have homefield advantage and besides, Homer Hankies trump the Rally Monkey every time. Anaheim finished behind Oakland in the regular season, and they don't have anyone in their rotation who's Zito-scary. And oh yea- the Twins haven't lost a playoff series since 1970. I feel a whole lot better going into this series than I did before round 1. It's October, the Twins are still alive, and the Yankees are not. Except for all that terrorism stuff, all really is right with the world.
BLOG AWAY: If my Twins recaps aren't enough, my friend and fellow Minnesotan Jeremy Wahlman has a new blog; check it out.
IF TORII MUST GO, SO MUST TORRE: All I can say about today's playoff action is this: if the Twins are eliminated today, I'll feel a hell of a lot better if the Yankees (and Braves) are too. And besides, at least they'll only be eliminated from the playoffs- a year ago, they were in danger of being eliminated, period.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I freely admit to preferring Star Trek to the “West Wing,” and if you think that makes me a dork, well, it is entirely possible that one day Mankind will develop some sort of interstellar drive, but there isn’t a chance in hell Martin Sheen will ever become President." -the great James Lileks. It pains me to say it but as long as Lileks is around, I'll never be the best blogger from Minnesota.
NEW HIPSTER VOCUBULARY OF THE DAY: "The swarthy, mean-looking cuss downing a can of Pabst at the bar in a rawhide vest and cowboy hat? Earlier today, he was drafting expense reports in a suit and tie." -William S. Repsher, on the new phenomenom of "wackers" (urban white people pretending to be crackers) on the New York Press Daily Billboard.
SIGNS, SIGNS, EVERYWHERE SIGNS: This morning, mere hours after a New Jersey court ruled that Frank Lautenberg can replace Robert Torricelli as the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, I saw the first "Lautenberg for Senate" signs near the PATH terminal in Hoboken. This was a bit curious, since I had not seen a single Torricelli sign, poster, or flier anywhere before he dropped out, even though the area had been totally blanketed with McGreevey fliers last year, to the point where Hoboken and Jersey City hosted more leftover McGreevey posters and bumper stickers from last year than Torricelli signs for this year. Tells you something about how much the local political bosses cared for the Torch...
When I worked on McGreevey's Hudson County field staff last year I was the only Jewish staffer among a group of hard-boiled working-class Irish guys who had been working for the local Democratic machine their entire lives and worked hard (successfully) to get a fellow Irishman into the governor's mansion. It'll be interested to see how differently those same guys approach an election where their nominee is a 78-year-old Jewish guy.
THE MUPPETS AND PORNOGRAPHY, CONT.: I already commented on the slow slouch toward Gomorrah suffered by the Muppets in the years since the death of Jim Henson- and it seems like they've taken notice of the problem. Rapper Snoop Dogg was scheduled to appear in a new Muppets television movie, "A Very Merry Muppet Christmas," which was to feature Snoop rapping a duet with Dr. Dre stand-in Kermit the Frog. But now the Snoop scene has been cut from the film, and rumblings are that the deletion came as a result of shareholder pressure after the partnership was announced in the Wall Street Journal- after all, Snoop (in addition to his years of highly ribald lyrics) has recently been co-producing porn films with the Hustler empire. The filmmakers deny that the cuts had anything to do with this and maintain that Snoop's scenes were "unnecessary to the storyline." I'm not buying that though- how could any scene in this movie (or any other recent Muppets movie, for that matter) possibly be more entertaining than Snoop and Kermit, rapping?
WHAT THE ECK?: Anaheim Angels shortstop David Eckstein may have been the sparkplug that drove the team for the entire season, he may be the reason they're in the playoffs for the first time since 1986, and he may be a big reason why the Angels defeated the Yankees in Game 2 of their Division Series tonight. But, contrary to all kinds of reports, Eckstein is not a Jew. The Boston Globe reports that Eckstein was recently erroneously listed in a book about Jewish athletes- and ESPN's Dan Patrick covered the same issue in a column last month. Of course, Eckstein never said he was Jewish (just as Piazza never said he was gay), and I'm certainly not about to hold his gentile-ness against him. He's playing the Yankees, for goodness sakes!
WILL THE TORCH BE PASSED?: The New Jersey Democratic party is in a quandary, as Bob Torricelli has decided to drop out of the Senate race, and they are now suing to replace him on the ballot with former Senator Frank Lautenberg. If the state Supreme Court doesn't go for it, the Dems are in trouble- they'll be left with no candidate a month from the election.
I haven't heard anyone make the comparison yet, but this situation reminds me a lot of the 1990 Minnesota governors' race, in which Democratic Gov. Rudy Perpich was challenged by conservative Republican Jon Grunseth, until Grunseth was implicated in a sex scandal with two weeks to go before election day, dropped out, and was replaced on the ballot by moderate Arne Carlson- who won the election (a turn of events only topped eight years later when Carlson was replaced as governor by a boa-wearing former professional wrestler).
The difference, though, was that Carlson was allowed on the ballot because he had finished second in that year's Republican primary, whereas Torricelli ran unopposed this year, and Lautenberg was of course not on the ballot.
I'm hoping the NJ Democrats can salvage this race; if not, they'll be the only of the four states I've lived in to currently have a Republican senator. That's also the case in Minnesota, where Paul Wellstone is running neck-and-neck against former St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman. Wellstone was elected the same year as Carlson, 1990, and was my favorite politician of my formative political-junkie years. I've met him several times and he was always a friendly, affable guy who was sure to remember my name. And while my politics have drifted considerably from his over the years, I still admire Wellstone as one of the most passionate, charismatic and honest men in Washington- so it pains me to see that he may very well lose the election.
Wellstone is being squeezed big time over the Iraq situation- as a relatively dovish paleo-liberal, Paul is clearly anti-war, but if he votes against the use of force he risks turning off the state's moderates and hawks and helping his opponent with fundraising, while if he votes yes he'll antagonize the state's considerable hippie population, who have been picketing his office and have a Naderite Green Party candidate intent on electing the Republican. I don't generally have any quarrel with Norm Coleman, except for the time (after passing for years as a Jew from Brooklyn) that he was photographed in the Star Tribune in his living room in front of a large Christmas tree.
So it's not looking so great for the Senate staying Democratic this week, but that could change quickly. If a dead guy could win a Senate election in 2000, just about anything is possible in 2002.
GAME WON: The Minnesota Twins today won their first postseason game since 1991, defeating the Oakland Athletics 7-5 in Oakland and thus claiming home-field advantage for the five-game series. The Twins played a horrible first two innings (making numerous defensive mistakes) but eventually turned their 5-1 deficet into a 7-5 lead after four hits by catcher A.J. Pierzynski and a solo homer by Your Olympic Hero, first baseman Doug Mientkiewcz. Game 2 is tomorrow (Mark Mulder vs. Joe Mays), then the series comes to the Homer-dome Friday. I'm guessing the Twins drop Game 2 and then win both games in Minneapolis.
Since I can never follow a game in which I care about the outcome with one where I don't, I'm not watching tonight's Yankees-Angels game, though the ticker says it's 4-4 in the top of the 7th. Believe it or not I'm rooting for the Yankees, since I'm hoping for a Twins-Yanks series. And the next time someone refers to the Angels (or the A's, for that matter) as "small market," I'm going to slap them. Since when are LA and the Bay Area "small"?
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Years ago some liberals might have claimed that Moss came from a troubled background and his teammates and coaches (white) couldn't possibly understand the problems troubling a young black man in a racist society. Fortunately, those days are over. Moss came into the NFL with a black head coach, Dennis Green, and li'l Randy was instrumental in drumming Green out of town. That mean old man actually demanded that Randy play football and play it hard. Moss also has a great black quarterback, Daunte Culpepper, throwing him strikes. It’s no secret that Culpepper hates Moss. You can't blame Culpepper. Moss is evidently a hateful little brat." -CJ Sullivan, on NYPress' Daily Billboard.
"LIKE 'HEATHERS,' ONLY WITH MORE SPENDING MONEY:" Asparagirl has a great, great, post about her hometown of Scarsdale and how she's not the least bit surprised at the recent news about drunk kids at a school dance. Just marvelous stuff- every word rang true for me and reminded me of those suburban Minnesota days.