Looks like I'll be making to the Karol-hosted Supreme Blogger Party in Manhattan tonight. Look forward to seeing many of you there.
Simmons, making an argument I have myself, numerous times:
Well, you ask, isn't that what following sports is about, arguing about dumb things? Absolutely. But you have to admit, with each passing year these subjective arguments become a little more uninteresting. Baseball player gets "snubbed" by All-Star voters, we go crazy ... and never mention it again. Same for the Heisman and any Coach of the Year, or for Sportsman of the Year and the Best Team ESPY, for that matter. This year some of us have reached a curious low, hotly debating the AL Comeback Player award, with Bob Wickman backers claiming Jason Giambi isn't worthy because his past struggles were related to steroids. Wait, now we're assigning moral significance to our awards? By the way, can you remember anyone who has ever been Comeback Player of the Year?Then again, I remember Bill writing multiple columns about the Steve Nash/Shaq MVP "controversy."
"Politics is a team sport. Nobody can get anything done alone. But in today's Washington, loyalty to the team displaces loyalty to the truth. Loyalty to the team explains why President Bush doesn't fire people who serve him poorly, and why, as a result, his policies are often not well executed.-David Brooks, as quoted by Ross Douthat, in the New York Times.
Loyalty to the team is why I often leave meals with politicians thinking "reasonable in private," but then I see them ranting like cartoon characters on TV. Loyalty to the team is why someone like Chuck Hagel is despised in Republican ranks even though, whether you agree or not, he is courageously speaking his mind.
Will we learn from DeLay's fall about the self-destructive nature of the team mentality? Of course not. The Democrats have drawn the 10-years-out-of-date conclusion that in order to win, they need to be just like Tom DeLay. They need to rigidly hew to orthodoxy. They need Deaniac hyperpartisanship. They need to organize their hatreds around Bush the way the Republicans did around Clinton."
Author Ben Mezrich must subscribe to the twin theories of "write what you know," and "stick with what works." Exhibit A: His first non-fiction book, "Bringing Down the House," was subtitled "The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions." A true story, it followed a nerd from MIT who, along with a team of friends, used a sophisticated gambling system to win millions of dollars from casinos in Vegas and elsewhere, thus drawing the ire of casino execs.
What's the premise of Mezrich's new book? It's called "Busting Vegas," its subtitle is "The MIT Whiz Kid Who Brought the Casinos to Their Knees," and it's a true story about... a nerd from MIT who, along with a team of friends, used a sophisticated gambling system to win millions of dollars from casinos in Vegas and elsewhere, thus drawing the ire of casino execs.
But don't think Mezrich has merely written the exact same book again- "Busting Vegas" is about an entirely separate group of characters, and their system "has nothing to do with card-counting." Good to know.
"Certainly, music is WAY more subjective. These two subjects are not even comparable. For example, I could insist that the greatest band in the world is actually four unsigned guys from Oregon who have never made a record and are just bouncing around the Portland club scene, and that this band is like what would have happened if Lennon & McCartney had formed a quartet with Keith Richards and Charlie Watts, and that these people write the best songs since The Smiths and they play louder than Blue Cheer. I could argue that this group is cooler than The Arcade Fire or the White Stripes, because I could insist they are more "authentic" or "incendiary" or "visceral." I could create reasons that explain this hypothetical band's greatness, and a few crazy people would find my theory interesting and potentially valid. However, I could never claim that the best quarterback in the country is actually some 28-year-old dude working in a car wash in downtown Detroit, and that this person is substantially better than Peyton Manning. That would immediately seem idiotic to everyone. This is why the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is such a failure; there are no quantifiable qualities for the inductees. There is no way to *prove* that a musician is good. And this is not an issue in sports. There's no risk that Greg Maddux won't make the Baseball Hall of Fame simply because certain sportswriters don't think he's hip enough, or because they feel his pitching style is derivative."-Chuck Klosterman, from his latest chat with fellow bestselling author Bill Simmons. Chuck is also right about "Vitalogy" being the best Pearl Jam album, even though "(a) it had an oversized, environmentally conscious jewel case, which makes it impossible to file, and (b) that it was titled "Vitalogy," which sounds like the name of a riboflavin supplement."
Remember- last time they got together, Chuck supplied this blog's 2004 quote of the year.
The International Freedom Center, the controversial "museum" planned to be built as part of the post-World Trade Center site, will not be built, it was announced yesterday. Thanks to Jeff Jarvis and others who campaigned against this travesty. Now if only we could do something about that "crescent" memorial to Flight 93.
As anyone else been getting those fake "your account has been breached"/"please confirm your password" e-mails from "Paypal" and "Ebay," oh, every day? Stupid phishers, you're not fooling anyone.
With a two-and-a-half game lead, the Houston Astros appear likely to overtake the Phillies and win the NL Wild Card. And- surprise!- the Phillies fan base isn't seeing any silver lining in the excitement of the race, Jimmy Rollins' active 33-game hitting streak, last night's 16-6 victory over the Mets, or the presence of three 100-RBI men in the Phils' lineup for the first time since 1932. In fact, judging by talk radio, the fans continue to treat their team like a 20-games-below-.500 squad, and are demanding to turn Citizens' Bank Park into a "ghost town" next year, if Ed Wade and/or Charlie Manuel and/or significant numbers of players aren't sent out the door.
I'm not arguing that Wade deserves to keep his job, and if the overmatched but still not as bad everyone says Manuel were to follow him into retirement, I wouldn't object to that either. The team also clearly needs upgrades at catcher and third base. But local radio bloviator Howard Eskin has practically created an alternate reality, in which the team needs to "rebuild," and Lou Piniella is about to walk in the door as manager. Nevermind that one of Eskin's picks to replace Wade, former Mets GM Jim Duquette, made the Scott Kazmir-for-Victor Zambrano deal, which was likely more of a blunder than any move Wade has ever made. And I also don't see how a man with 120 RBIs (Pat Burrell) could possibly be "unclutch," as Eskin and his followers proclaim nearly every day.
No, I haven't been in Philly very long, and I wasn't around for all the years and years of losing. But I've become emotionally invested in this team and see a hell of a future in them. Though, that might just be because I have the fortune of being able to watch them without having "they're gonna blow it!" in the back of my mind at all times. As Rick Pitino would say, "all the negativity in this town sucks!"
Look who threw out the first pitch at Fenway tonight. Whatta Wookiee.
UPDATE: Despite Chewy's support, the Red Sox lost 7-2 last night, dropping a game behind the Yankees in the AL East race. The loss also drops Boston's record to 0-1 in games in which a Wookiee throws out the first pitch- then again, Chewy's side didn't win in "Revenge of the Sith," either.
UPDATE II: SportsCenter's Neil Everett's call of the first-inning homer off Arroyo: "That was a great pitch- for me to poop on." At least it's still funny when Triumph says it...
The verdict: eh. Good acting and interesting subject matter, but my lord what an unwieldy and implausible premise. All in all, way too reminiscient of the awful 2000 movie "The Contender"- directed by series creator Rod Lurie- about a female vice president under seige from an EVIL Republican male congressional leader, a premise that purposely excludes the sympathies of any non-liberal. And I like the idea of the generally liberal VP having a conservative daughter- but why must that daughter be 13 years old?
I'll try watching it again, but I'm not optimistic- after all, as Ross Douthat pointed out, everything Lurie has ever produced in his career has been crap, with the exception of the short-lived cop show "Line of Fire."
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has been indicted on criminal conspiracy charges. Between this and Jack Abramoff, if the Democrats can't make gains from this next year, they're idiots.
UPDATE: Reports are David Dreier will step in as the new majority leader. Interesting, especially considering long-held rumors about the Congressman. I'm watching "Connected Coast to Coast" on MSNBC, and Ron Reagan is practically biting his lip to avoid mentioning it.
UPDATE II: Melissa Stark works for MSNBC now? She wasn't good enough to remain a sideline reporter on "Monday Night Football," but now she's a news anchor? How long before Fox News hires Lisa Guerrero?
From a Washington Post story about a pair of longtime Republican activists being named to top posts at the Corporation For Public Broadcasting:
Cheryl F. Halpern, a New Jersey lawyer and real estate developer, won approval from the CPB's board... The board also elected another conservative, Gay Hart Gaines, as its vice chairman. Gaines, an interior decorator by training, was a charter member and a chairman of GOPAC, a Republican fundraising group that then-Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) used to engineer the GOP takeover of the House in 1994.Gaines, the article tells us, is a woman. But how someone with the name "Gay Hart"- who is an interior decorator- managed to rise high in the realm of Republican politics is among the great ironies of our age.
The Philadelphia Daily News editorial page, telling it like it is:
"Certain joy is watching superb shortstop Jimmy "J-roll" Rollins' assaulting an ancient consecutive-game hitting streak while vacuuming up every line drive or grounder within 10 yards of him. It's watching Ryan Howard become a shoo-in for rookie of the year while Bobby Abreu (97) and Chase Utley (96) try to join Pat Burrell in the 100-rbi club, becoming the first Phillies threesome to do so in 73 years.Amen. The editorial, of course, caused OUTRAGE today on WIP.
Certain joy is watching the late-inning heroics and come-from-behind wins that have allowed the team to overcome season-ending injuries to its top slugger and to the ace of its pitching staff and still find themselves only aa game out in the wild-card race with six to go.
Just the chance to cheer your team to victory ought to be enough to fill the stadium for each remaining game. Win or lose, they have earned our support in this important stretch run.
Let's stop worrying about where this thing will end and enjoy the ride while we can."
Ever wonder if there's any rhyme or reason to how often your iPod plays songs when you have it on shuffle? This page answers the question. Right now I'm in the middle of listening to my entire library in alphabetical order; I'm almost done with the D's.
St. Louis Park, MN, the suburb where I grew up, has been named one of the 100 best cities in the U.S. for young people. And my grandparents still live there- it's great for old people too!
Finally- the Vikes are no longer the worst team in the league. They managed a convincing home victory on Sunday, with Daunte Culpepper actually playing like himself for once, and Mewelde Moore rushing for over 100 yards and making us all forget The Whizzinator. Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, Randy Moss was utterly humiliated in his "showdown" with Terrell Owens, catching five passes for 86 yards and no touchdowns, as Oakland lost to the Eagles and fell to 0-3. No, we don't miss him, and yes, we are still glad to be rid of him.
But just when you thought the McCombs/Moss era was over, two Vikings last night were arrested at a gas station at 3 AM for disorderly conduct.
Chant it along with me: Donna Martin Separates!
- Peter King, writing in SI, says that one reason Mike Tice hasn't yet been fired by the Vikings is that the assistant coaches are just as clueless as he is. "There's not a logical person on his coaching staff -- not even the once highly regarded Ted Cottrell, presiding over a badly underachieving defense -- to serve as interim coach," said King, who in May predicted that the Vikings would win the NFC title (Full disclosure- so did I).
- The latest rumor about a Tice successor- Pete Carroll. Intriguing... he's a former Vikings assistant, was the runner-up in '92 when the team hired Dennis Green, and I always felt he got a bum rap during his three years in New England (when he went 10-6, 9-7, and 8-8, and his biggest crime was that his name wasn't Bill Parcells). And Carroll, of course, is now headed towards his third straight college national championship. I'm all for it- though I somehow doubt Pete is clamering to leave USC for the NFL and the frigid winters of "Minny."
- I'm sticking with Culpepper as my fantasy QB for one more week, until he's benched in favor of Carson Palmer.
- And finally, Simmons:
"They're finished. They stink. Like many others, I underestimated the effect of Moss' departure on this team -- he stretched the field, made mediocre running backs look good, saved Culpepper's hide 3-4 times a game on those downfield heaves and always got the home crowd going. Now? It's a poorly-coached team with no running game, no playmakers, a mediocre defense and an erratic QB who obviously can't handle the increased burden of being The Guy. Those first two games were not a fluke. I'm writing them off. I implore you to do the same"Saints on Sunday- can it get any worse?
I've got a big new update up over at SportsByBrooks.com. As always scroll past all the purdy girls until you see my name.
|You are a |
You are best described as a:
Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
The plot of Sunday's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" season premiere, according to the New York Times:
"In Sunday's episode, Jeff encourages Larry to seek out a scalper to obtain tickets for a sold-out Rosh Hashana service."Brilliant. Wish I'd thought of that.
Bill Simmons' first book, "Now I Can Die in Peace," isn't supposed to come out until October 1, but Amazon is doing early shipping. The book arrived Wednesday and I finished it in about two days. The verdict? Great stuff, especially since I've already read most of it.
A collection of Simmons' Red Sox columns from over the years, the book also includes over 400 footnotes- some illuminating, some self-critical, and and some hilarious- especially a joke about Johnny Pesky that had me laughing for minutes. And even though there have already been all sorts of Red Sox books, reading the ruminations of the team's #1 fan is sort of fun- as is looking back on all the heartache, knowing how it all turned out. In fact, it's eerie how similar Simmons' '98-'99 columns about Sox sound to complaints of Phillies fans today.
So read the book- and even meet Simmons, on tour! LilB moved his flight up two hours just to make the Boston signing.
Not only did the Atlanta Braves' fans show more empty than full seats in the outfield for their game against the Phillies last night, but they're also sports' most unhygienic fans, according to a new study.
Researchers monitored persons at several bathroom locations, and the Turner Field men's room had the lowest rate of hand-washing in the study where, like Poppy, 37% of men failed to wash. And you thought they couldn't come up with anything more disgusting than the Tomahawk Chop.
And speaking of unworthy fans... the Chicago White Sox just played a cruical three-game series against Central division rival Cleveland- and hundreds of empty seats were visible at U.S. Cellular Field. I'm rooting for the Cleveland "Baseball Team" Indians to catch and overtake Chicago- and for both the White Sox and Braves to crash down in flames in the first round.
Moss Goes From Supermodel to Pariah. Randy Moss was already a pariah.
The Vikings need to hire a new football man to act as a consultant to Zygi Wilf, says Chris Mortensen. I agree, under one condition: he's able to get along with whoever the new coach is.
He's only got one thing on this mind...
A blog called Never Pay Retail is posting free versions of NYT op-ed columns, usually those posted in other newspapers days later. Why anyone would pay $50 a year when this service remains available is beyond me.
I mean, even "Mind of the Married Man" lasted two years- and "Arli$$" went seven. But 'Comeback' truly was a special kind of bad- a show that was absolutely cringe-inducing to watch, and never even remotely close to funny. It won't be missed.
With the Twins just about eliminated, Aaron Gleeman suggests that they address their offensive shortcomings by trying to acquire Ryan Howard from the Phillies, possibly in a deal for Torii Hunter. Sid Hartman had previously suggested that the Twins try to pry away the Phils' other first baseman, Jim Thome, but I like Aaron's idea better.
This may be because at this point it's quite clear that the 23-year-old Aaron Gleeman knows quite a bit more about sports than the 86-year-old Sid Hartman. I mean, I heard Sid on the radio the other week and he mistakenly referred to Brett Favre as "Bart Starr."
News item: Wilf Says Tice's Job is Secure
Damn, and here I was about ready to root for another blowout loss to New Orleans on Sunday, as such a thing would likely necessitate Tice's firing the following day.
This week's SI cover:
No, it's not a double jinx... yet even on the cover of SI, the Phillies just have to take a back seat to the Iggles.
If Roberts is confirmed, the Brandeis/Roberts station will be named after two Supreme Court justices.Try and guess which one is better liked by people who get on the train there.
The Vikings have a deal with Anoka County to build a new stadium, and the project will only require legislative approval in order to move forward (no problem- the Twins have been trying to get that same approval for only 9 years!)
One problem though- the proposed stadium will have a retractable roof. What kind of counter-productive horseshit is that? Isn't the idea of building a new stadium to return Minnesota to the days of cold Sundays at Met Stadium, and give them the sort of late-season, cold-weather advantage now enjoyed by the Patriots, Eagles, Steelers, and other dominant teams? They say the roof is included so that the stadium can host "other events," such as concerts and Final Fours. I'm okay with that, so long as they promise it always stays open for football.
At any rate, we're already counting the days 'til the end of the Zygi Wilf honeymoon...
I sure do love Google... I was thinking last night about something that happened on my second date with my girlfriend, almost a year ago. We passed a jewelry store called Keswick Jewelers, but certain letters in the name just happened to be out. I remember wishing I had a camera- but thankfully, someone else did. Let's hope they've fixed it by now.
Only one comment about the Emmys, which I didn't watch: Jeremy Piven's loss of the Best Supporting Actor in a comedy- when he delivered one of the great season-long performances in TV comedy history- is an absolute travesty. Good thing awards shows don't matter, at all.
"Daunte Culpepper looks like me as a quarterback, and that ain't good."-Sean Salisbury, in a rare moment of wit and honesty, on ESPN. But if Sean was that bad, what's he doing with 25 minutes of airtime per "SportsCenter"?
Another week, another ugly, catastrophic loss by my Vikings, as they fell 37-8 to the longtime losers known as the Cincinnati Bengals, who are now 2-0. Once again the team failed in all facets of the game on offense, unable to pass, run, catch, or block- and this time the defense went belly-up as well. Saddest of all was that the Bengals committed 17 penalties- and still managed to beat Minnesota by 29 points.
Only two silver linings- one, despite no touchdowns and FIVE interceptions, Daunte Culpepper managed to climb out of negative fantasy points, scoring 3 (as opposed to negative-six last week). And two, with owner Zygi Wilf said to be taking on a more active role in football matters, perhaps one or two more performances like this one will lead to the long-overdue midseason firing of coach Mike Tice. Were he coaching in Philly, Tice would probably be dead by now.
"Here's an interesting bit of trivia. What do Zygi Wilf, Glen Taylor, Tom Clancy and Reggie Fowler have in common?
The answer is that they all have zero victories as owner of the Minnesota Vikings.")
And now for a not-so-brief sports rant on my adopted hometown:
Going into Sunday's action, the Phillies were a half-game out of the NL wild card lead, after winning the first two games of their series against rival Florida- the second of which came after they scored 10 runs in the top of the ninth to beat Cy Young candidate Dontrelle Willis 10-2. The Phils have remained at or near the top of the wild card race for virtually the entire second half of the season, and with two weeks to go appear in strong position to reach the playoffs for the first time since 1993.
The Phils are a winning team that plays in a beautiful new stadium, has two of the hottest young stars in the game (Ryan Howard and Chase Utley), and has played engaging, exciting baseball all season, including the Willis game Saturday and a game in June that had one of the more exciting finishes I've ever seen in person.
So are fans in Philly excited about this? No, of course not. To the extent that fans can ignore McNabb/TO for two minutes to even address baseball, virtually all discourse on the Phils (whether among fans in bars or callers to the local sports talk station) is dominated by demands to fire the owner, manager, and GM, "blow up the team," start over, and/or simply ignore the team in favor of football. Or there's the "E-A-G-L-E-S" chants at Phils games- even when the Phillies are ahead late in games. Essentially, fans are treating the Phils as though they were 20 games out of a playoff spot, rather than right in the race.
Perhaps it's a preference for the Eagles now that football is underway, and perhaps it's the frustration over no championships since Pete Rose played for them in 1980. But the only conclusion I can draw from my brief experience in this town is that Philly fans have a good team that they should appreciate.
I've heard every argument, which I'll address one by one:
"The ownership doesn't care!" (Unlike most teams, they do indeed care enough to spend top dollar on free agents- Jim Thome, Billy Wagner, and Jon Lieber in the last two years. I'm a Twins fan who's dealt with Carl Pohlad's tight pursestrings for years, and I'd trade Carl for David Montgomery in a heartbeat; I'd imagine most small/mid-market fans would too.)
"They've gotta fire Charlie Manuel and Ed Wade!" (I'm not here, certainly, to defend Manuel or Wade, as the team can certainly do better than both. Charlie's made his share of miscues in games, sure- but how much of the derision of him has to do with that, and how much is his age, and his folksy, not-so-Philly demeanor? And besides, we have no idea what sort of manager Manuel is behind the scenes- and you don't fire a manager after one year if it's a winning, possibly playoff-bound season.)
"Shut up about baseball! Don't you know it's football season?" (Certain WIP radio hosts have gone so far as to yell at callers for even addressing the Phillies now that football season is underway. And yes, the Eagles have certainly been much more of a contender in recent years. But as nightman Paul Jolovitz, probably the station's sharpest host, pointed out the other night, the Iggles last won a league championship in 1960- or, 20 years prior to the start of the current Phillies drought.)
"They're just gonna blow it- they always do!" (Another team used to blow it all the time too- they're called the Boston Red Sox. But their fans continued to believe through decades of losing, and now they're also called World Champions. And another team with a franchise-long history of doing little else but "blowing it"- the Houston Astros- are Philly's primary competition for the wild card spot.)
"They've got so many lineup holes!" (Actually, they have two- third base and catcher- and that's about par for the course in the league- the Royals, for instance, have 6 or 7. And don't forget, the Phils lead the NL in on-base percentage, are third in runs, and they've managed to do both with their most accomplished offensive player, Jim Thome, missing the majority of the season.)
"They're so unlikable!" (I really don't get this one- the players don't make diva-like comments, they don't get in trouble with the law- outside of Jason Michaels' unintentionally hilarious Live 8 arrest- and no single Phillie is even one one-thousandth as loathsome as Mr. #81 of the Eagles.)
"This isn't even really a pennant race!" (This is one that WIP's Howard Eskin has favored lately, as though winning the wild card somehow doesn't count as a real playoff spot. Tell that to the Red Sox, Marlins, and Angels- the last three World Series champs, all of which qualified for the playoffs as wild cards).
So relax, Phils fans- you've got an exciting, up-and-coming team, playing in a gorgeous ballpark, that has managed to stay in a competitive playoff race despite a below-average manager, shaky starting pitching, a road-heavy September schedule, the loss of their best offensive player for most of the season, and hostile fans who have nothing but hatred, derision, and apathy for their own team. Go Phillies- I'll be rooting for you.
Now for a computer/tech support nightmare on par with Jeff Jarvis vs. Dell:
I was having Spyware problems last week, and after wrestling with that for a few days and downloading a couple of anti-spyware tools, I thought I had the problem licked. But the only remaining bug was that every time I opened my iTunes, it would quit without warning 30 seconds later. No error message, no explanation of what might be wrong. I called Apple tech support, and they told me to upgrade the software and to install Windows Service Pack 2. I did both but still, the problem persisted.
So Saturday afternoon I called up Best Buy's Geek Squad, thinking they might be able to solve the pesky problem. Over the course of the next three hours, the technician had me go through all sorts of "solutions," all of which were sure to work but none of which actually did, until finally she told me to run a "system restore" to a few days before. The restore stalled halfway through, after which I was told to restart the computer- which, over and over, produced an error message that crashed it. And now I can't even turn it on.
Two subsequent representatives failed to solve the problem, until they warned that I "may lose data" if I proceeded further. So essentially, I paid $25 for them to waste four hours of my time and make my computer worse- when all I'd wanted them to do in the first place was fix my iTunes. Sort of like going in for a nose job and ending up in a coma. I'll update later on whether or not it feels like waking up.
News Item: Jets’ Coles Reveals He Was Sexually Abused
The Minneapolis mayoral race is in full swing, and one of the upstart candidates challenging Democratic incumbant R.T. Rybak has the delightful name Marcus Harcus. And it doesn't stop there- at a recent debate, Harcus (not thought of as a major candidate) was not allowed to participate- so he showed up, started heckling the debaters, and was then allowed to join the debaters on stage- after which he refused to honor the rules of the debate until a heckling audience demanded it. So the hecklers' veto rules in Minneapolis politics- no wonder they can't police the city. James Lileks, meanwhile, shares some other insanity from an earlier debate.
Alas, Marcus Harcus' debate gambit failed to pay off- he lost the September 13 run-off to Rybak and Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin. Harcus' website, however, neglects to include the pertinent information that their candidate is no longer in the race.
Tomorrow marks the last day before the New York Times places a large percentage of its highest-demand content (the entire op-ed page, most columnists, etc.) behind a subscription wall, called TimesSelect. The service will cost $50 a year.
The move strikes me as rather stupid, as it will do nothing but reduce the influence of Times writers by disallowing links from bloggers, as well as pageviews by casual readers. They'll make a boatload of money, sure, but they'll be exchanging just as much influence, which I don't think is a fair trade.
Will I sign up? I'll wait a couple of weeks, and if I really miss it, perhaps I will. But probably not. So in the meantime, enjoy Maureen Dowd's last free column, in which she compares Bush to Humpty-Dumpty and references the "Oedipal loop-de-loop" of Bush and his father. I'm going to miss this stuff so, so much.
Deadspin has an early review of the Bill Simmons book, which I ordered this morning. What have we learned? He curses- and makes fun of Joe Buck!
Just about all I've been doing in the past couple months is reading books, and here's a roundup of a few of them:
“Killing Yourself to Live,” by Chuck Klosterman. Klosterman’s new book, the follow-up to 2003’s “Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs,” uses the hook of the author road-tripping around the country to visit the sites of various rock-star deaths. But that’s merely a clothesline on which he hangs stories about his love life, as well as numerous theories about pop music- the best of which is his belief that Radiohead’s “Kid A” album predicted the September 11 attacks a year before the fact. A smart and entertaining book that’s sure to delight anyone who loves useless knowledge.
“Everything Bad is Good For You,” by Steven Johnson. Johnson’s polemic takes a counterintuitive position that I’ve long held myself- that popular culture, rather than being “sick,” is actually both better than ever before, and actually makes you smarter. How he gets there, however, is less than convincing- the analysis is a bit too academic for my tastes, and there’s way too much focus on videogames. And besides- the premise could easily have been successfully argued in 40 pages, and Johnson uses 200.
“Juicing the Game,” by Howard Bryant. Probably the best and most important baseball book since “Moneyball,” Bryant’s book covers the development and consequences of the steroid problem in the majors. But the book also looks at the past 15 years of baseball from other angles, with long sections on the 1994 strike and the 1998 home run chase. A lot of it is stories every baseball fan already knows, but Bryant brings a fresh perspective, and tells all of the stories very well.
“Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Summer,” by Tom Shone. Purportedly a “rebuttal” of Peter Biskind’s 1999 film-of-the-‘70s classic “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls,” Shone’s book traces the “blockbuster” era in Hollywood, measured roughly as the introduction of “Jaws” and “Star Wars” in the mid-‘70s up until the present day. “Blockbuster” shares one strength with Biskind’s book- it tells fascinating in-depth stories about the making of individual movies- but it’s a mystery why some 1990s blockbusters are dealt with in passing while others get their own chapter. In addition, it’s sometimes hard to grasp what argument Shone is making- that blockbuster movies are by their very nature good? That Biskind is wrong that the films of the ‘70s are better than those of subsequent decades? In all, Shone’s book is entertaining, if somewhat incoherent.
“Bringing Down the House” by Ben Mezrich. Just about everyone I know has read this book, so I figured I should too- and I’m glad I did. A fascinating story about a group of MIT undergraduates who used a card-counting scheme to win millions from casinos in Vegas and elsewhere. A taut and engaging thriller sure to be enjoyed by any gambling, Vegas, or math fan, it’s a surprise it hasn’t made it to the big screen- probably because (one) the title is already taken by the mediocre Steve Martin/Queen Latifah comedy, and (two) Hollywood hasn’t established enough young Asian males to fill a whole cast- I’m guessing they’ll use the whole lineup of “Better Luck Tomorrow,” along with Harold and Kumar. (UPDATE: a movie version, called “21,” is indeed planned for 2007).
“Black Mass” by Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill. This is the fascinating and often infuriating story of Boston mobster Whitey Bulger and his long-running, corrupt association with the Beantown office of the FBI. Bulger began acting as an informer for the Feds in 1975, and over the next 20 years worked to put the city’s Italian mob out of business- while the FBI looked the other way when Bulger committed countless crimes, including numerous murders. This is true-crime reporting at its finest, by two capable Boston Globe reporters.
Norman Chad, in the Houston Chronicle: "Under-.500 Team in Playoffs; Bob Costas Found Dead." I love Costas (and can't stand Chad), but I've gotta say that's funny.
it's Mike Bloomberg vs. Freddy Ferrer for New York mayor, clearly the most uninspiring choice imaginable in what has clearly been the most boring New York mayoral primary in memory (following 2001, which I maintain is one of the most fascinating elections in history). It's the embarrasing mayor against the two-time loser and lifelong political hack. And with Sharpton endorsing Ferrer again, we've got a whole nauseating racial component as well. Ugh. I'm glad I don't have to choose.
Eric Deamer with a great post on the hurricane as it relates to the 9/11 anniversary. Matt Labash delivers another dynamite piece on his visit to New Orleans, and Newsweek has the chronology of presidential moves, not-so-subtly titled “How Bush Blew It.” And yes, he did. He’s now even admitted it. I’m not saying that because I’m part of “anti-Bush left” (I wouldn’t say I am). I’m saying it because it’s true.
And yes, Bush deserves credit for finally, five years into his presidency, admitting to a mistake. Too bad some people think CNN’s headline about it is a bigger story.
It was probably inevitable, but we’ve now got a Gawker Media-backed sports blog. Called Deadspin, it’s by Will Leitch (of The Black Table and New York Press), and looks good so far- here’s a bit on the Pitt football team’s early struggles, and why Dave Wannstedt’s mustache may be to blame.
Q: Now I know that even as you read this, your editors are electro-shocking you, but I don't think I'm alone in my request for ESPN to advise those of us who watch "PTI" on a daily basis when Wilbon and Kornheiser won't be on the show. All they would have to do is put some sort of a disclaimer on the screen before the show starts. Seeing [some of the replacement hosts] start off the show is like seeing your starting fantasy QB go down with a broken leg in Week 1. I'd rather watch the WNBA.Nothing worse than coming home to watch the show and seeing Skip Bayless or Norman Chad sitting in Mike and Tony's chairs.
-- Victor W, Bethlehem, Pa.
SG: Couldn't agree more -- reminds me of growing up with the Boston Globe when someone else wrote Gammons' Sunday notes column -- it was like finding out that Eddie Murphy had been replaced on SNL for the week with Nipsey Russell.
My friend Michael Totten announced today that he's moving to Beirut for six months, in order to cover the Middle East for various publications. It's certainly a gutsy move, and one that sure puts a lie to that whole "bloggers as armchair warriors" stereotype.
How this once-respectable publication would let the vile Ms. Hilton- possibly the most inconsequential and undeserving "celebrity" of all time- grace their cover is the last straw. If it's Nicole Richie next month, I'll just have to shoot Graydon Carter.
"Those of us who revere the vagina are committed to defend it against the very idea that it is a mouth or has teeth. Study the photographs of [George] Galloway from Syrian state television, however, and you will see how unwise and incautious it is for such a hideous person to resort to personal remarks. Unkind nature, which could have made a perfectly good butt out of his face, has spoiled the whole effect by taking an asshole and studding it with ill-brushed fangs."- Christopher Hitchens (who else?), teeing off on George Galloway, who he's debating tomorrow night in New York. Check out HitchensWeb for the audio.
Twins pitcher Kyle Lohse made news last week when he took a bat to the office door of manager Ron Gardenhire, out of frustration that he had been removed from that night's game. Not having been suspended or released as a result, Lohse will start tonight's game against Detroit.
So the lesson is, next time you're mad at your boss, take a bat to his door, and you won't be penalized in any way. Then again, with super youngsters Francisco Liriano and Scott Baker probably starting next year in "Minny"'s rotation, Lohse may find himself out of a job yet.
Michael Brown has resigned as head of FEMA.
That whole Super Bowl prediction I made? Yea, I foresee a problem...
The Vikings couldn't possibly have looked worse in their season opener, as they lost to Tampa Bay 24-13 at the Metrodome. The Vikes were unable to establish anything offensively at all- and adding insult to injury, Daunte Culpepper is also my fantasy team's quarterback- he somehow managed to score negative-6 fantasy points.
I was actually at the Metrodome on Saturday for the Minnesota Golden Gophers' 56-24 victory over Colorado State. The Gophers, however, were unable to outscore conference rival Wisconsin, who beat Temple 65-0 on Saturday- in a game the Badgers led 51-0 at the half.
But the best football story of the weekend was the Saints' last-second victory over Carolina, which I know will be remembered years from now, much like Mike Piazza's game-winning home run in the first game back at Shea after September 11.
And finally, in addition to all the other anniversaries, Sunday marked 20 years since Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb's all-time hit record on September 11, 1985. I only remembered this because Sunday was my grandfather's 80th birthday, and I knew Pete broke the record on his 60th birthday.
Steve the Mildly Unwell Bastard has returned from his two-month hiatus, putting to rest all sorts of ridiculous rumors that he's dead, or that his ex-girlfriend made him quit.
"The religious horror picture 'The Exorcism of Emily Rose' (Screen Gems) is the latest and tackiest assault on the reality-based secular community—just the kind of propaganda that's not supposed to be coming from ultraliberalcommiejewfag Hollywood. It goes even further than the religious horror picture Signs, which suggests that if you don't believe in God you can't possibly protect your kids from demonic aliens. This one says that if you believe in medical science over prayer, you not only can't protect your kids, you suppress the spiritual antibodies they need to fight the devil. Take a pill and you're all Satan's.David Edelstein, in Slate (via The American Scene). I think "Ultraliberalcommiejewfag" would be an awesome name for a blog.
I'm off to Minnesota for the weekend to the celebrate the birthdays of my girlfriend (28th) and grandfather (80th). Sunday also marks the fourth anniversary of September 11; may those who met their ends on that day to continue to rest in peace.
Back on Monday.
Yes, I still object to the idea of the annual "kickoff" game- since it's played on a Thursday following the pre-season, it still feels like a pre-season game- no matter how many glitzy rock acts perform beforehand. But at any rate, I congratulate Randy Moss and the Raiders on having the worst record in the league so far, and I sincerely hope they keep it.
On to predictions:
Playoff teams in the NFC will be: Eagles, Vikings, Panthers, Cardinals, Falcons, and Cowboys.
Playoff teams in the AFC will be: Patriots, Colts, Steelers, Chiefs, Bills, and Jets.
The Pats will once again get by the Colts in the playoffs- this time at Indy after Peyton and Co. gain homefield- and I'll somehow survive numerous death threats from my Philly colleagues after the Vikings play -and beat- the Eagles at the Linc in the NFC championship game.
But alas, "Minny"'s luck will run out in Detroit, as the Patriots win Super Bowl XL and the three-peat. And I'll once again place a congratulatory call to my friend Brian Lowe, which I do on the once rare but increasingly common occasion of a Boston sports championship.
I've been listening to a bit of conservative talk radio this week and of course job #1 on all of the shows has been defending President Bush from any and all culpability in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. (The local sports station, oddly enough, has ended up picking up the slack on the liberal side, managing to ignore TO for a few days to delve into politics).
The strategy by Hannity, Limbaugh and Co. appears to be two-pronged: on the one hand, they bash the Democrats for their OUTRAGEOUS Bush-bashing, and politicization of the tragedy, and on the other hand, they bash the Democratic officials in Louisiana (Roy Nagin, Kathleen Blanco, Mary Landreau) for their mishandling and culpability in the disaster.
I'm not saying that the Bush-bashers or right or that they're wrong, and there's clearly more than enough blame to go around. But I don't see how these talkers can cry "politicization!" one minute, and then the next minute turn around and blame everything on their political opponents. Is their position that the president is above criticism, a courtesy granted to no one else in government?
New York Times:
Amtrak Is Said to Be Planning a Big Fare RiseBoy, I am sure glad to have a car now. Oh, wait...
By PATRICK McGEEHAN
Published: September 9, 2005
Amtrak is preparing to announce a significant increase in fares that will push up the monthly cost of commuting for thousands of train riders in the Northeast by as much as 50 percent, according to railroad industry officials, commuter advocates and Congressional staff members.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has- quite rightly, in my view- taken the brunt of criticism stemming from the catastrophic government failure in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. But it wasn't until today that I remembered the first time I'd heard of FEMA- in the 1998 "X-Files" movie.
As revealed in the movie, FEMA had a central role to play in the show's conspiracy mythology, because in the event of an alien invasion, FEMA would be granted emergency powers to suspend the constitution and Bill of Rights, declare martial law, and ultimately assume total control of the federal government itself. This meme has also crept up repeatedly in real-life (if you can call it that) conspiracy literature.
So I suppose if there's any silver lining of what's happening in New Orleans, it's that we now know we have nothing to fear from FEMA- because if they're not able to deal with a hurricane, they sure as hell aren't up to the task of conspiring with space aliens in the subjugation of the human race.
An e-mailer to Sports Guy pointed out something that I can't believe I missed: the shocked, wordless reaction by Mike Myers to the Kanye West outburst at last Friday's telethon was eerily similar to a "Saturday Night Live" sketch from the early '90s.
In the sketch, an informercial parody, Myers appeared opposite guest host Heather Locklear. Playing the host of the infomercial, Locklear blurts out outrageously racist and offensive comments in the guise of selling pasta makers ("Usually, this "easy direction" stuff is a big lie.. like the Holocaust!"), while Myers stands there looking shocked and uncomfortable. I'm a big fan of the sketch, and I couldn't believe I didn't think of the connection.
"It became clear that, among other attributes, Brown's interviewing skills far outstripped those of so-called anchors like MSNBC's Rita Cosby. Why in the world is this woman fronting a news program? From her horrible voice to her inability to report or interview, her pathetic performance covering the Katrina fallout should result in the firing of one or more people at MSNBC who believed it was a good idea to pluck her from Fox. Send her back to Aruba."-Tim Goodman, in the San Francisco Chronicle. Yea, I really don't see how Cosby's series of hard-hitting interviews with Gary Condit's other ex-mistress qualified her for her own show on a news channel.
It may not be up there with their legendary post-9/11 issue, but The Onion has made comedy out of supposedly laugh-proof tragedy with its hurricane coverage. Especially impressive, considering the Onion hasn't been all that funny lately (aside from the editors' appearance in "The Aristocrats.")
You all know I love "Entourage," but a big thumbs-down to the season finale, which I just watched tonight. Bad, unoriginal writing, conflicts created from out of left field and solved with unexplained ease, and no humor whatsoever.
(SPOILERS!): The episode merely repeated the first season finale's premise: Vince and E have a brief spat, which is suddenly resolved 10 minutes later. And while I understand the need to have a penultimate episode/finale cliffhanger ("will Vince quit 'Aquaman'?"), the final scene just felt unfinished- Vince changed his mind? Why? What convinced him? His character's always been a bit of an empty vessel- a weakness of the show from the start. Why do you think Piven steals every scene?
And one more thing- how can you have James Cameron in for a season-long cameo, as director of a movie which doubles as a romantic entanglement for the series' star, and not delve into Cameron's own well-publicized history of on-set romances? Had Cameron ended the episode by explaining how he managed to make "Titanic" while in the middle of a divorce, so working with Mandy Moore should be a breeze, I'd have found the finale quite a bit more convincing.
Thomas Friedman, in a rare moment of rage:
An administration whose tax policy has been dominated by the toweringly selfish Grover Norquist... doesn't have the instincts for this moment. Mr. Norquist is the only person about whom I would say this: I hope he owns property around the New Orleans levee that was never properly finished because of a lack of tax dollars. I hope his basement got flooded. And I hope that he was busy drowning government in his bathtub when the levee broke and that he had to wait for a U.S. Army helicopter to get out of town.Ouch. When did Friedman turn into Matt Taibbi?
This week's Time magazine cover:
Sure to be more apt- and much less controversial- than the last time the magazine used that same cover line:
With Barry Bonds supposedly returning to action this week, I noticed an interesting juxtaposition in two baseball stories of recent days.
From Gordon Edes' notes column in Sunday's Boston Globe:
[Pitcher Jason] Christiansen, after being traded to the Angels: ''It's good to get out of a situation where if you pitch a good game, guys ask, 'Did you miss Barry [Bonds] today?' Life goes on without that guy coming to the park. The last five months, we saw him about 20 days. It's tough to answer questions about someone you don't know anything about unless you go on to his website."And ESPN.com today:
Also Tuesday, a Giants player told The Associated Press that Bonds tussled with pitcher Jason Christiansen in the clubhouse lunchroom at SBC Park earlier this season in a dispute about one of Bonds' trainers.I'm guessing either Christiansen told Edes to keep the fight off the record, or he simply neglected to mention, in his interview about Bonds, the pertinent info that "Barry beat my ass, and then I got traded."
The player, who witnessed the June altercation but spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not want to talk publicly about an incident between other players, said Christiansen was frustrated with Harvey Shields, Bonds' personal stretch man now employed by the team.
"I don't think punches were thrown," the player said. "It was more grabbing. It was regarding one of Bonds' trainers, Harvey."
ESPN's Pedro Gomez reported on Monday that shortly after the unnamed Giants player and Shields exchanged words, Bonds sought out the player inside the clubhouse and had words.
A scuffle ensued in which Bonds punched the player in the jaw, whereupon the player put Bonds in a headlock and retaliated.
After being carless for over nine years, I'm happy to report that I have purchased a 2005 Honda Civic LX. Because my iCar iPod adapter wasn't really working so well without a car to attach it to.
A horse by the name of Mass Media won the Forego Stakes on Saturday at Saratoga Springs, in order to earn a $250,000 purse.
The race was not broadcast by any major media outlet.
This weekend was the first time I ever really sat down and watched large amounts of the televised hurricane coverage. Just unbelievable devastation, and it's beyond terrible that such a thing could be happening in our country. A few observations:
- I was out to dinner Friday night when a friend called to alert me about the Kanye West telethon outburst. Now yes, Kanye has the right to be critical, and I am a big fan of his music. But the meme that "Bush delayed action because he hates black people"? Come on. And while there's nothing wrong with someone chosing to be critical of the commander-in-chief, a televised charity event is not the time or place- how many people who were ready to open their checkbooks and donate put them down after hearing what West said?
Still, it was quite funny throughout the weekend to see news anchors and graphic-writers mis-spell and mispronounce "Kanye," as they had clearly never heard of the rapper before Friday.
- The other talked-about hurricane event of the weekend was the outbursts by Shepard Smith and Geraldo Rivera, reporting live from New Orleans, with Rivera crying on the air and Smith getting into an argument with Sean Hannity about the need for "perspective." Now some called this a watershed moment, as two reporters stood up to cable news' biggest partisan hack, but really the arguments had nothing to do with Bush. And while Smith's outburst was a truly great TV moment, Geraldo's was nothing but the shallow grandstanding that he's been known for throughout his career. I mean, he grabbed the nearest baby and asked for a close-up!
- Saturday night, when Chief Justice Rehnquist's death was announced, Fox News stuck with the story for hours and completely ignored any and all New Orleans news. MSNBC and CNN stuck with Katrina continuously throughout the night.
- And finally, the most surreal moment of all occured Saturday afternoon, when MSNBC suddenly featured a satellite interview with... Richard Simmons, who apparently has family in the New Orleans area. And weirdest of all, Simmons conducted the interview wearing his usual sparkling-tank top uniform. Does Richard even own a suit? When he showed up at his agent's office to negotiate his "Sweatin' to the Oldies" deal, did he wear the tank top and shorts too?
Stuart Scott has won the Road From Bristol tournament, defeating Skip Bayless in the final. I must say I disagree- I've never had that much of a problem with Stu himself, as much as the influence he's had on all the other "SportsCenter" anchors. When some white guy whose name you don't know screams some hip-hop catchphrase over the basketball highlights, or blurts out "winner winner chicken dinner" after a home run, that's Stu's doing. However, I'd have preferred that Bayless, Sean Salisbury, or Screamin' A had won the tourney.
The creators aren't resting, however- they've convened an "NIT," aimed at crowning the world's most annoying non-ESPN sports personality. I vote for Joe Buck, no question.
After the NIT, I recommend they do a similar tournament of cable news personalities, with #1 seeds Bill O'Reilly, Larry King, Robert Novak, and Sean Hannity.
Now yes, everywhere I went this weekend people blamed the hurricane squarely on the shoulders of Bush, showing once again that people will always blame anything and everything on their political opponents- I saw Republicans do the same to the governor and mayor of Louisiana and New Orleans. I had never heard of Michael Brown until last week, but I can say based on his performance that he's gotta go. Especially since he only got his job 'cause a Bush crony was his college roommate.
Because it's always a good idea to sign a guy just a few months after he showed up drunk for his one-day prison sentence after he was convicted of drunken driving.
It'll be a long, long time before any classic rock station ever again plays Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks."
Our old friend Mr. Snitch is back. The former commenter here, who saw it fit to follow my friends to their sites and insult them, has for some reason posted an exegesis of my seven-month-old "In Defense of MSM" piece. And I'm still stratching my head as to what his point was...
Like many bloggers who specialize in "fiskings" Snitch, then as now, replies to the piece he wishes he'd read, rather than the one he actually did. Rather than viewing my piece as a plea for greater coexistence and less sniping between the blog and mainstream media worlds- both of which I'm a part of- he sees it as an anti-blog smackdown by a "mainstream media" figure eager to reduce and/or eliminate the influence of blogs.
Then again, it's hard to take the post seriously, since Snitch calls me "a journalistic insider," a "poster boy for the belief system [of the press], and also "fairly well-known, young New York Times stringer." I'm as far as possible from any kind of insider, I'm certainly not the "poster boy" for anything, and I do not write for the New York Times and never have. In fact, as the piece that Snitch has already "fisked" twice makes perfectly clear, I have never at any time been employed by any major "MSM" organization. And while I'd certainly dispute the notion that I am in any way "fairly well-known," I suppose any notoriety I have achieved has much more to do with my blogging than any of my non-blog writing work.
His most wrongheaded paragraph of all?
Silver never wrote anything in his blog that could not have been published, space and interest permitting, by one of his clients.Yes, I'd have really loved it if my former bosses at Royal Media Group (a business publisher) or Argus Media (an energy industry news service) had published some of my film criticism or allowed a weekly column about the Eckstein Award. But no, in my paid writings I have generally stuck to stuff on subjects that would never in a million years be published on this blog, and vice versa. Unless Snitch is prepared to call out SportsByBrooks.com as a clandestine wing of the powerful, leftist, mainstream media, he's going to have to admit defeat on this particular point.
And on top of that, there's that annoying righty-blog tendency to take one article published by one author in one publication and treat that as the institutional, 100%-approved opinion of the MSM hive mind. "MSM said this. MSM reported that." Does he really think that what Wired magazine said in 2001 about the future of online media was shared at the time by everyone who worked at the New York Times and all the other MSM organizations? Is Wired even part of MSM, any more than the average blog is?
Additionally, Snitch pretends that the commenters who criticized my MSM piece were all my own regular readers, who had viciously turned against me when I revealed my pro-MSM true colors. Actually, no- since that piece was linked by dozens of other blogs, including many high-traffic conservative sites, the majority of the commenters were no doubt first-timers.
And finally, Snitch shares that the "MSM" has in recent months brought blogs into the fold, and chosen to work with them rather than against them. Wasn't that my point, that they have been all along?
Or maybe it's playing in a dome...
The Minnesota Vikings are the NFL's lowest-valued team, at $638 million, according to Forbes. But that figure would still put them in the upper half of baseball teams.
We're apparently on the verge of a "Hogan's Heroes"-like TV sitcom about a bumbling terrorist cell. It actually sounds like it could work- especially since Ali G creator Sacha Baron Cohen is part of the creative team- but it's sure to cause controversy as well- I can already see the “O’Reilly Factor” segment, featuring Michelle Malkin, in which the word “outrage” is repeated at least 15 times.