March 31, 2006

Bret's Back

Wrestlemania is this Sunday, and while it looks like the least inspiring lineup in WM history, longtime fans can be gladdened that Bret Hart will finally return to WWE events, in order to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

One of the bigger stars in wrestling in the '80s and '90s, Hart has not appeared in the organization since the famous "Montreal Screwjob" of 1997, when he was (legitimately) conned out of the world championship in his final match with the company. The induction will take place Saturday and will be broadcast that night on USA; also entering the Hall this year are the late Eddie Guerrero, and "Mean Gene" Okerlund.

After many years of all but ignoring both history and other companies, Vince McMahon in recent years has finally wised up to the fact that a large percentage of wrestling's appeal comes from nostalgia. Myself, and probably about 95% of the people watching, are much more excited about Hart's appearance than any of the actual matches.

And speaking of wrestling... I never thought I'd see Andrew Sullivan link to anything involving the Iron Sheik, but here he has. I never could've guessed what the Sheik wanted to do to B. Brian Blair...

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:17 AM | Comments (0)

Try To Imagine "The Squid and the Whale" With Them In It

News Item: Kris Benson, Anna Benson To Divorce

I hear the Mets have made emergency plans to stay in Florida an extra week.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:02 AM | Comments (1)

March 30, 2006

Three Phillies Notes

1. PAT THE BAT STRIKES BACK: Phillies leftfielder Pat Burrell, who finished last year tied for second in the NL with 117 RBIs, caused quite a stir earlier this week when he told Inquirer columnist Jim Salisbury that

"I'm never going to be good enough here," he said of Philadelphia. "It doesn't bother me. That's just the way it is. It's the nature of the city. They obviously want the best out of everybody."
Burrell came to Philly with super-high expectations, as the #1 overall pick the year he was drafted. He struggled mightily in 2003, but has produced big-time in each of the last two seasons. Including last year, when he had the same amount of RBIs as the consensus Best Player in Baseball, Albert Pujols.

But why hasn't he caught on with Philly fans? One, as an easy-going California surfer type, he's not a "Philly guy," and some in this town would rather lose with a team full of "Philly guys" than win with outsiders. Some still haven't lived down his atrocious '03 season, and others argue that he strikes out too much and isn't "clutch." He gets booed pretty regularly, and I heard at least 5 talk show callers over the offseason offer to "drive Burrell to the airport" were to get traded.

I'm with Pat on this one. He's a player who produces, and deserves more respect than he's gotten. And in a town where fans take undeserved shots at athletes every single day, why the hell shouldn't an athlete turn it around on them once in a while?

2. ANOTHER ONE IN THE WIN COLUMN FOR THE COCKFIGHTIN' PHILS: My favorite story of the whole spring: a promotional highlight video sent out by the Phillies organization to 4,000 season ticket holders- but some fans mistakenly received not a Phils DVD, but rather a Spanish-language video featuring cockfighting. Unfortunately for the Phils fans, Ed Wade did not appear in the highlights.

Inquirer reporter Todd Zolecki: "There have been no reported complaints from cockfighting fans who have been sent Phillies highlights by mistake."

3. OPENING DAY: I'll be at the Saturday afternoon exhibition game between the Phils and Red Sox at Citizen's Bank Park (a preview of the same matchup that I'm seeing at Fenway June 25). But unfortunately, forecasts call for rain, which brings to mind the old Bob Uecker joke:

Q: What do Philly fans do when the game's rained out?
A: Go to the airport and boo the landings.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 11:58 PM | Comments (0)

Baseball: The Year in Preview

I got my favorite magazine of this and every year today- the Sports Illustrated baseball preview. But an even better preview of the season than that comes from this blog, which previews each major league team by comparing them to people we knew in high school. My favorites are the depictions of the Yankees and Red Sox as dueling, bitchy teen princesses, and the White Sox as "last year's undeserving prom queen."

Posted by Stephen Silver at 11:44 PM | Comments (1)

TV Critic Quote of the Week

The Keystone Kops antics of Silvio and company also neatly illustrated how much smarter Tony is than the rest of his army combined. These are dumb, dumb people, and a world without Tony telling them what to do would be a grim future indeed.
-John Sepinwall of the Newark Star Ledger, in his weekly "Sopranos" column, making a trenchant observation about last week's episode.

Sepinwall is also pleased that his paper made its annual appearance on the show. Usually Tony walks out to the driveway to pick it up in the first episode of each season, but this year we see Silvio reading it on the john.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 08:20 PM | Comments (0)

Jill Is Free

American journalist Jill Carroll has been freed in Iraq after being held by kidnappers for nearly three months. She says she was "treated well," although that doesn't include the kidnapping and multiple, internationally broadcast death threats. But regardless, wonderful to see that she made it out alive.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 08:15 PM | Comments (0)

March 29, 2006

Quote of the Day

"When I think of Minneapolis, I think of Prince."
-Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson III, on the city where his team played its Sweet 16 game. If there's any truth to Chris Rock's old observation that "there ain't no black people in Minnesota except for Prince and Kirby Puckett," then I guess now we're down to just Prince.
Posted by Stephen Silver at 03:58 PM | Comments (0)

And Again, Not a Word About Him in the Brandeis Alumni Magazine

News Item: Jack Abramoff Sentenced to Nearly Six Years in Prison

And this is only the Florida fraud charge; he'll get more time for all the other charges.

And in other Abramoff news, check out this outstanding Weekly Standard cover story in which a young writer talks about the dinner he shared with the disgraced lobbyist at Signatures. Abramoff actually pitched the idea of a "making of" book about the Dolph Lundgren movie "Red Scorpion," which he produced.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 02:03 PM | Comments (1)

"Sopranos" Thoughts

Another very good episode, I thought. And while the Tony-in-a-coma thing served its purpose, I'm about ready for the show to get "back to normal." And may I venture a prediction? The final scene of the final episode of the series will have Tony walking into that house.

A few other observations:

- Was Tony's vision of Los Angeles as purgatory/hell part of his fear about Christopher someday betraying him and going into the movie business? Someone pointed out that "Crystal Monostery" sounds a lot like "Christopher Moltisanti."

- Speaking of which, there's no way this movie-pitch idea could possibly end well. No one who willingly brings in Little Carmine as a partner deserves to succeed as an investor.

- Lots of wonderful little moments, my favorite being an angry Vito binge-eating carrots. He's all-but-certain to be whacked, whether it's for being gay, or just because he's generally an asshole, one who's almost comically un-self aware. Who else would describe themself as a "healthy man," after going from 350 pounds to 300? I bet he gets clipped by Phil after he finds out about Vito cheating on his cousin.

- Paulie's "conversation" with Tony was priceless as well. We know Paulie's not too bright, but did he really not notice the rising heartrate, and the beeping?

- I'm very, very glad we were spared the scenes of Janice nagging Bobby over the money he lost (after Silvio's ruling, RE: Vito). I guess the writers realized Janice couldn't possibly be more loathsome than she already is, and left it at that.

More to come next week; those upset with the lack of bloodshed the past two weeks should be gladdened by the image in the preview of Paulie whacking someone with a pipe.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 01:15 AM | Comments (1)

Quote of the Day

From an excellent New Republic editorial on the false conflation between "angry" and "liberal":

To be fair, not all Democrats are as affectless and disciplined as [Hillary] Clinton. [Howard] Dean really is angry, as are demagogues like Michael Moore and Cindy Sheehan. But the problem with the Moores and the Sheehans is not that they're angry; it's that they're wrong. The Republicans have substituted a temperamental category for an ideological one. When they fail to demonstrate a philosophical failing, they try to demonstrate a human failing.

That's the true damage extracted by this Republican attack. They have defined anger down. A good, honest emotion has been trashed in pursuit of cheap political points...

There are also obvious commercial reasons for conservative commentators to expend so much energy denouncing anger. Rage, after all, is an essential part of the Fox News ethos, where Bill O'Reilly makes Howard Beale look like Dag Hammarskjöld. Pretty clearly, these conservative commentators will denounce Democrats as angry, because that will make their audiences angry, generating even larger angry audiences. And you know what that makes us.

Coming up next on Fox... angry Democrats! You'll be outraged!

Posted by Stephen Silver at 01:04 AM | Comments (0)

March 28, 2006


The centrist party appears to have won the Israeli elections. It's apparently a narrow victory that will probably lead to a fragmented coalition government and thus more elections in a year or two, but still- the right guys won. I just wish a centrist party, made up of reasonable people sick of the extremes of the two major parties, would rise up in our country, too.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 09:11 PM | Comments (1)

Media Critic Quote of the Week

Debra LaFave, the Florida high school teacher who recently pled guilty to charges that she had sex with a 14-year-old student, reportedly wants to go into journalism. Daniel Ruth of the Tampa Tribune likes the idea:

There might be some suggestion that a woman with a checkered past, a host of legal problems, struggles with mental illness and a sexual history of Mata Hari-esque ill repute is disqualified from daring to enter the hallowed inner sanctum of a news organization.

To which it might be suggested - come on in, Deb, the water's fine. You'll feel right at home.

Indeed, the Fourth Estate historically has been populated by so many drunks, nut cases, egotists, eccentrics, manic-depressives and preening poltroons, that if Lafave is looking for an environment that will allow her to fade into the woodwork, she'll find no better respite from infamy than journalism.

To those who might get all huffy that Lafave is too morally challenged to flash a press pass, two words: Marv Albert.

I think what Daniel is really saying is "they're aren't enough hotties in my newsroom."

Posted by Stephen Silver at 09:07 PM | Comments (1)

Who Will Be the First to Joke That He's Now a "Friendly Ghost"?

News Item: Caspar Weinberger Dies at 88

UPDATE: It's you, DeadPool.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 05:00 PM | Comments (1)

Stop That Man Before He Dances Again!

Think twice before you dance in South Beach:

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. - Dancing in the street got Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Dhani Jones arrested.

Jones was charged with the misdemeanor of failure to obey a lawful command after he allegedly refused to stop dancing outside a South Beach club early Sunday, according to Miami Beach police.

"He refused several orders to get out of the street, and he was arrested," said police spokesman Bobby Hernandez on Monday.

If only he moved his feet better on the field.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 02:16 PM | Comments (1)

Press Release of the Year

Got this in the work inbox today:

THINKFilm Acquires Worldwide Rights to FUCK

New York, March 23 - THINKFilm has acquired all worldwide rights to FUCK, an amusing and provocative documentary by Steve Anderson about everyone's favorite four-letter word. The film, which was recently screened to great acclaim at SXSW, features interviews with (in alphabetical order): Pat Boone, Drew Carey, Billy Connolly, Sam Donaldson, Janeane Garofolo, Ice-T, Ron Jeremy, Bill Maher, Michael Medved, Alanis Morrisette, Kevin Smith and the late Hunter S. Thompson, among others.
Sounds like "The Aristocrats," only not quite as funny. How long before they make a movie version of this book?

Posted by Stephen Silver at 02:13 PM | Comments (0)

Good Riddance to Disgusting Rubbish

News Item: Newark Mayor Sharpe James Drops Bid For Re-Election.

This is wonderful news, because now that the corrupt, racist, Jew-baiting, Tweed-like political boss is finally out of the picture, Newark may finally get out of the doldrums.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:57 AM | Comments (1)

March 27, 2006

Sopranos, Episode III

I had a whole list of thoughts on last year's "Sopranos," before it disappeared into the ether a few minutes ago. More later, but in the meantime, check out this list of best "Sopranos" musical moments. That "Tiny Tears" episode from Season 1 is the only logical choice for #1.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 04:43 PM | Comments (1)

Who Are the Ad Wizards...?

My favorite commercial currently on the air: the Arby's spot with the old, skinny guy dressed as Hulk Hogan. Great stuff- I laugh out loud every time.

And my least favorite? No question, the one for Old Spice with the guy in the shower, and his wife/girlfriend asking him which of her friends he thinks is the hottest. Therefore, every single guy watching the commercial gets asked the same question by his wife/girlfriend. They expect guys to buy their product, after going through that ordeal?

Posted by Stephen Silver at 03:37 PM | Comments (1)

He's Back!

From Peter Gammons' Sunday column, we get word of an old friend we'd almost forgotten about:

If Armando Benitez does break down, don't be surprised if the Giants turn to Merkin Valdez -- who's had a great spring -- and Brian Wilson, who shot through the organization last season with his power stuff.
Go Merkin! He could emerge as the post-Bonds face of the Giants organization, but be careful: no team has ever won a World Series with a player named for a pubic wig on the active roster.

Then again, I wasn't so happy to read in that column about Roger Clemens and his new pregame ritual involving Icy Hot. Yuk. Between that and Peter King's colonoscopy report, way too much information from our favorite middle-aged sports columnists this week.

Deadspin noticed the same thing, after I typed this.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 03:32 PM | Comments (0)

The Tournament

Is there anyone in the entire country who had that Final Four in their pre-tournament bracket? I highly doubt that anyone picked George Mason who didn't go there, so I suppose there must be some very happy Mason alum who correctly guessed them, Florida, UCLA, and LSU.

My bracket is in tatters, of course, but I'm especially laughing at the guys on "Best Damn Sports Show," three of whom picked all four #1 seeds in the Final Four.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 03:26 PM | Comments (1)

The Wrathful, Vengeful Seahawks

Was it vengeance like this that got the Seahawks into the Super Bowl? I'm not sure. After the Vikings stole away Seattle's star offensive lineman Steve Hutchinson with a 7-year, $49 million offer sheet with numerous "poison pills" to keep the 'Hawks from matching, Seattle last week came back and signed Vikings restricted free agent wideout Nate Burleson to an offer sheet of their own- also for 7 years, also for $49 million, and also with strategically written "poison pills" to keep Minnesota from matching.

The winner of the exchange, I say, is the Vikings, hands down. Burleson's really not that good- he was horrid last year, maybe the Vikes' third-best receiver- ask anyone who had him on their fantasy team last year if you don't believe me. Besides, he's not nearly worth the money that Hutchinson is. Giving him the exact money Hutchinson got was petty, the sort of childish, na-na-na-na-na stuff not typically associated with winning organizations. Expect Seattle to take the NFL's traditional year-after-losing-the-Super-Bowl plunge.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 03:24 PM | Comments (1)

Five Questions About "Inside Man"

It's a movie I quite enjoyed, actually, but left me scratching my head on a few things (some spoilers):

1. Why did the mayor of New York have an English accent?

2. When did Jodie Foster suddenly become hot? She hasn't looked that good since at least the late '70s. It's almost enough to inspire a presidential assassination attempt, or something.

3. Ebert pointed this out, but how could the Christopher Plummer character possibly be old enough to have assisted the Nazis as a banker, during World War II? Wouldn't he be about 90 or older? And why would he keep the incriminating evidence hidden in a safety deposit box? Why not just destroy it?

4. At one point, after everyone leaves the police trailer, we see the Willem Dafoe character pick up the phone and tell whoever is on the other end, "we've got a problem." As we've learned from "24," when an ancillary good guy makes that sort of call it tends to mean he's up to no good. But it's never mentioned or referred to again. Is this a subtle hint that he was either in on the robbery, or in cahoots with the evil bank boss?

5. Isn't it strange that what essentially amounts to a tale of Jewish revenge was directed by Spike Lee, of all people?

Posted by Stephen Silver at 03:17 PM | Comments (3)

Heil Tice

Peter King's column gives us another reason to be glad Mike Tice is no longer the Vikings' coach: apparently, he's a Nazi.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 11:36 AM | Comments (1)

March 26, 2006

Well, He Did Go to High School Across the Street From My Synagogue...

News Item: Kobe Bryant May Convert to Judaism.

Kobe may instead have chosen to convert to Islam, but then again, he never did go to prison.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 03:58 PM | Comments (0)

March 25, 2006

In a World of Pain

The Early Word (on catches radio's Howard Eskin channeling "The Big Lebowski'"s Walter, on T.O.:

"I just want him to feel the pain, the pain of what he inflicted on everybody in Philadelphia. ... I'm not encouraging a cheap shot, I'm encouraging pain. And if it so happens that that player gets fined, I want to make sure that we can help. ... I don't want him to see him hurt, I just want to see him squirm on the ground in pain. Squirm! Squirm! Like you made us squirm last year! Squirm!
I'm as in favor of T.O. suffering as the next guy. But this is crossing the line, just yelling "Squirm!" again and again.

I'm with the commenter who says "Can't Eskin take a swing at a coworker so they can fire him too?"

Posted by Stephen Silver at 02:21 AM | Comments (1)

RIP, My Bracket

Well, I correctly guessed a whopping two of the Elite Eight (with one Final Four team remaining). Feel free to disregard my college basketball prognostications in the future.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 02:17 AM | Comments (0)

March 24, 2006

Blame Ralphie Cifaretto

News Item: New Jersey Stable Fire Kills 24 Horses

Posted by Stephen Silver at 05:16 PM | Comments (1)

Told You So

ABC News:

"A newly released prewar Iraqi document indicates that an official representative of Saddam Hussein's government met with Osama bin Laden in Sudan on February 19, 1995, after receiving approval from Saddam Hussein. Bin Laden asked that Iraq broadcast the lectures of Suleiman al Ouda, a radical Saudi preacher, and suggested "carrying out joint operations against foreign forces" in Saudi Arabia.
Yes, things are screwed up beyond belief in Iraq and the Bushies have a hell of a lot to answer for. But no, the war was not a mistake.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 01:52 AM | Comments (0)

The Tangled Web of Sports

Sports Illustrated this week ran a major package on the influence of web on sports, featuring a photo and interview with Bill Simmons, as well as a sidebar on my pal Aaron Gleeman. Overall it's a decent roundup, and fairly accurate summation of web sports aimed at the typical SI reader (i.e., 50-year-old white male who has never heard of Simmons, Gleeman, or Deadspin). There is a bit, though, of what the latter blog described as a "Andy Rooney-talking-about-grunge feel."

(The SI piece is behind the subscription wall, but see Gleeman for highlights).

And speaking of long-form, Simmons-related stuff, check out both his marathon 2-hour chat on, and an in-depth interview with Chris Ballard (author of the SI piece) on In the latter we get to see the rarely-glimpsed dark side of Sports Guy, as he vows to quit in "18 to 20 months" to write screenplays, and says he's his "own worst critic." Yea, that's every writer, but I'm not used to hearing that stuff from Bill.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 01:37 AM | Comments (0)

Burn Your Siddur Award Nominee

Sarunas Jasikevicius, the Lithuanian gentile basketball player who moved from Israel to the NBA this year, may be the closest we'll get to a Jew in professional basketball anytime soon. But some aren't quite so happy:

Baruch Marzel, chairman of Israel's United Jewish Front party, published an open letter calling on Israeli model and former Miss World Linor Abargil to turn down a marriage proposal from her boyfriend, Lithuanian basketball player Sarunas Jasikevicius, who led Maccabi Tel Aviv to the Israeli league championship two years in a row and now comes off the bench for the Indiana Pacers.

Instead of embracing Israel's version of the Beckhams, Marzel declared that by marrying Jasikevicius, Abargil would be "divorcing the people of Israel as well as her family." Marzel ended his letter with what must be considered one of the weakest pick-up-lines of all time: "If you wish to be informed of the dangers associated with marrying gentiles," Marzel wrote, "I am leaving my cell phone number. Please call me any time and I shall help you."

If it doesn't work out, perhaps Sarunas should make a run at Andrei Kirilenko's wife.

The United Jewish Front, as I've never heard of it, appears to be neither united, nor Jewish, nor a front. Sarunas and Linor would be wise to instead listen to the Judean People's Front.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 01:20 AM | Comments (0)

Chutzpah Award Nominee

Barry Bonds, who has sued the authors of "Game of Shadows"- not for libel, defamation, slander, or anything else of the kind- but rather under California's Unfair Competition Law.

You know what it means that Bonds hasn't sued for libel? It means the book is true.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 01:12 AM | Comments (2)

More Kirby

My obit of Kirby Puckett has been re-published on Associated Content. Check it out.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:39 AM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2006

No, Brad, No!

News Item: Vikings Negotiating With Free Agent QB Mike McMahon

How anyone who saw McMahon completely blow the second half of the season last year for the Eagles- as Brad Childress did- would want him anywhere near their team is beyond me. Even Joey Harrington would be preferable.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:30 PM | Comments (0)

Goodbye, Mikey Miss

On Monday came the news that Philadelphia radio station WIP has fired midday co-host Mike Missanelli from his latest stint with the station, after less than a year on the job. Missanelli reportedly scuffled with a station producer last Friday, just a few months after a reported fight with morning man Angelo Cataldi.

Reports also suggested that Missanelli had gotten into an altercation with a fan at February's Wing Bowl, but I was there, I saw Mike in the press section, and later heard him on his radio show just minutes later, and noticed no fight.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 02:01 AM | Comments (1)

Film Critic Quote of the Week

"Seriously, if you can accept the rock-dumb politics, the movie has a certain flair, and it zips by faster than, say, a thumbsucking snooze like Good Night and Good Luck... If you ignore the fact that the dystopia it warns against with breathless hysteria and utter historical ignorance bears absolutely no relationship to contemporary trends, it's reasonably entertaining. The difficulty is that as with The Handmaid's Tale, there are not-unintelligent people out there who actually take this kind of thing seriously, and think that taking a bold stand against gay-murdering, Islam-banning Christian-conservative totalitarianism counts as trenchant political commentary."
-Ross Douthat, on "V For Vendetta." I had about the same take: very exciting, and very well-made, except that I had a bit of trouble both a) rooting for a terrorist, and b) accepting that the depiction of a 100% fascist England is "timely," in relation to modern-day politics.

If "Crash" was, as Scott Foundas said, "the best movie of the year for people who like to say 'a lot of my best friends are black,'" then "V" is the best movie of the year for people who like to say "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter."

Posted by Stephen Silver at 01:52 AM | Comments (1)

Well, That Depends On What the Meaning of "Lapdance" Is

Yes, a part of the Vikings sex cruise case, according to today's court proceedings, is now hinging on a debate over what meets the legal definition of "lap dance." Grabbing a stripper's ass while she writhes on you? Yes. Rejecting the dance and going to shoot dice instead (as Daunte Culpepper says he did)? No.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 01:47 AM | Comments (1)

March 22, 2006

Quote of the Day

"Attention, Michael Lewis—your whole Moneyball theory may be in jeopardy. Lewis wrote a best seller about the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, Billy Beane, who believes statistics like on-base percentage are the key to a small-market team's success. So far, the A's haven't made it past the playoffs on that theory. Now Fidel Castro [was] on the brink of a world championship with players who earn 20 pesos a month. Apparently, the key for small-market teams like Oakland and Pittsburgh is to find an aging totalitarian owner who'll fill players' heads with Marxist-Leninist nonsense."
-Bruce Reed, in Slate, on Cuba's surprising performance in the World Baseball Classic.
Posted by Stephen Silver at 01:21 AM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2006

Thoughts on Last Night's "24"

Three things: since she acted in the passing of classified NSA information to a foreign government (albeit an ally), shouldn't Chloe be prosecuted for treason and get life-imprisonment? Especially since it was a list of foreign agents (like the one Tom Cruise tried to steal in "Mission: Impossible.") True, Jack later used the "Inspector Gadget"-like device to make the list explode, but Chloe doesn't know that. Isn't it the same thing as the Jonathan Pollard case?

And we see Jack and Curtis working together. Have they not spoken to each other since a few episodes ago when Jack choked him and stole his car? Wouldn't it be kind of awkward afterwards?

And I highly doubt Audrey is actually a terrorist. I'm guessing someone else in DoD predicted to be Audrey just to fool Jack.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 08:07 PM | Comments (0)

Silver in the Media

My dad is quoted in this MSNBC story (originally published in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal) about lawsuits involving inheritance feuds. Likely the first and last time that Alan Silver and Anna Nicole Smith will be mentioned in the same news story.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 07:58 PM | Comments (1)

March 20, 2006

Trouble At Kildare's

My day-job paper's main competitor, the Daily Local, had quite a scoop this morning on recent happens out in West Chester, PA:

An adult entertainment center in the borough’s downtown?

A night of Fat Tuesday partying resulted in the borough’s Department of Building, Zoning and Codes Enforcement issuing a zoning violation letter to Kildare’s Irish Pub.

"This office has received documentation that you are operating an adult entertainment center at 18-22 W. Gay St.," Director Michael Perrone wrote in the letter dated March 8.

The documentation to which he’s referring is a series of digital photographs posted by an anonymous user on an adult Web site that markets itself as the "most frequented erotic amateur photo site in the world."

The pictures depict several young woman standing on the bar and exposing their bare breasts and buttocks, while a crowd of mostly men cheer and snap photos on their cell phones.

Kildare’s owner David Magrogan is clearly visible in the middle of the action, microphone in hand and sporting several necklaces of colorful Mardi Gras beads.

For my paper's follow-up, I have volunteered to lead a thorough investigation, which will last several weeks and require lengthy interviews with all of the key participants. I'm sure my bosses will understand.

It's my second-favorite drunken-lunacy story of the week, after the one about that guy in Chicago who cut off his own genitals and threw them at the cops.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 10:22 PM | Comments (2)

TV Critic Quote of the Week

If what you know about “The O’Reilly Factor” comes mainly from its opponents on the left—from movies like “Outfoxed” and Web sites like Media Matters—and you watch it regularly for a while, you’ll be surprised by how little of the content these days is political. “The O’Reilly Factor” is, increasingly, not a conservative show but a cop show—“O’Reilly: Special Victims Unit,” perhaps—devoted particularly to sex offenders... Once, when Howard Stern was asked to explain his success, he said that he owed it to lesbians. O’Reilly owes his to child molesters.
- Nicholas Lemann, in a standout New Yorker profile of Mr. O. The man really does seem obsessed with pedophiles.
Posted by Stephen Silver at 10:18 PM | Comments (1)

Conservative Wet Dream Story of the Week

News Item: Homeless Man Arrested For Stalking Monica Crowley

The homeless are out of control! They're even going after marginal right-wing radio personalities!

Posted by Stephen Silver at 08:39 PM | Comments (0)

Alternate-Universe Tony

Extremely weird "Sopranos" tonight, but I think I liked it (SPOILERS!)

It's yet another dream-sequence episode, which certainly will be too weird for some, but I think I liked it. While Tony lies in a coma clinging to life, with his family and friends surrounding him, we see a slightly different version of "Tony" on a business trip to California, having lost his wallet and unable to leave. This "Tony" appears to have a normal job and no mob connections at all, a different wife and different kids and- perhaps most strangely of all- less of a Jersey accent.

What's this supposed to symbolize? My stab at analysis is that it's an episode-length version of that moment last season where Christopher is about to surrender to the FBI, sees the loser getting in the car with his family at the gas station, and decides he doesn't want to "live the rest of [his] life like a schnook" (to quote "Goodfellas") and rats out Adriana to Tony instead. We get to see what life is like for Tony as a regular guy and... bad things happen, continually. The occasional presence of helicopters during the dream add to the "Goodfellas" motif.

Anyway, I'm interested to see where all this leads, especially since doctors keep repeating that Tony's not likely to live. And where'd A.J.'s vow to kill Uncle Junior come from? Is he destined for mob life after all?

A few other observations:

- More great, great acting by Edie Falco, the best I've seen from her since that season finale where she and Tony yelled at each other for 90 minutes.

- Tony getting into a fight with the two Buddhist monks was priceless.

- Does Meadow look terrible, or what? I guess that's just normal wear-and-tear that comes with getting married and divorced by the time you're 24.

- Vito's suddenly becoming a major character, though the writers don't seem to have much for him, besides the weight loss, the ambition, and the latent homosexuality. The fart was funny, though. And nice to see, in the coming attractions, that and Finn meet again.

- The season is shaping up well, I think. I still say the way Tony deals with the Junior situation will be the most fascinating arc of the year.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:22 AM | Comments (2)

March 19, 2006

Life Imitates Austin Powers

From a piece in the April Atlantic Monthly on NSA wiretapping:

Tapping into the fiber-optic network that carries the nation’s Internet communications is even easier, as much of the information transits through just a few “switches” (similar to the satellite downlinks). Among the busiest are MAE East (Metropolitan Area Ethernet), in Vienna, Virginia, and MAE West, in San Jose, California, both owned by Verizon.
Yes, that's right, Mae West. Sort of like when Dr. Evil named his two moon bases "Moon Unit Alpha" and "Moon Unit Zappa."

Posted by Stephen Silver at 11:53 PM | Comments (0)

For Pete's Sake

Pete Rose was on Bill Maher's HBO show last week and all he did in his five minutes was prove what a joke he has become. First of all, for a guy who is trying to show that he's no longer associated with gambling so that he can get back into baseball, Rose appeared via a satellite feed from... Vegas. Then he made a joke about how Bush is dumb because as owner of the Texas Rangers he traded Sammy Sosa, one I've heard about 650,000 times in the past seven years. Rose was so proud of himself for pointing this out that he couldn't stop laughing for almost a full minute.

Deadspin saw it too.

It was the second-dumbest moment of the season for Maher's show, coming in behind the time Maher said it was "racist" for the U.S. not to want Iran to get nuclear weapons.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 01:58 PM | Comments (1)

Grow Some (Salty) Balls

Andrew Sullivan remains the go-to place for news on the Tom Cruise/"South Park" War. Stand up for comedy, against censorship, and (most of all) against Scientology.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 01:35 PM | Comments (0)

Goodbye Olav

Longtime Congressman Martin Olav Sabo, who has represented Minnesota for 28 years, announced yesterday that he is retiring. Sabo was my congressman for many years, and on my first-ever visit to Washington back in '92, I visited Sabo's office and put my feet up on his desk. I wish I still had that picture somewhere.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 01:03 PM | Comments (0)

Tarnished Star

You know it was inevitable, especially since he already had the jersey. The Dallas Cowboys on Saturday committed organizational suicide, signing Terrell Owens to a 3-year, $25 million contract.

We're already hearing what a "war" it will be the two times next year that Cowboys and Eagles play each other. And it will, but can you imagine how tiresome the story will get, even by Tuesday of that week? It'll make Jerome-Bettis-in-Detroit look positively underplayed by comparison.

In the meantime, how long before TO has a falling out with Drew Bledsoe? Week 5? Will he call Drew gay, or make it some sort of racial thing?

We've all heard how strange it is for Owens to sign with the Cowboys six years after dancing on their star after scoring for the 49ers. But TO has done more to defile the reputation of the Cowboys by signing with them than he ever did by merely dancing on their star.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:41 PM | Comments (0)

Jersey Love

Steve Rushin reveals in this week's column that he was wearing a Kirby Puckett Twins throwback jersey when he asked his wife, former WNBA star Rebecca Lobo, to marry him. Now I'm proud, like Rushin, to be a sportswriter and Twins fan from Minnesota named Steve who settled on the East Coast with a woman named Rebecca who's just as into sports as he is. But proposing in a Kirby jersey is where I draw the line.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:37 PM | Comments (2)

Recipe For Disaster of the Week

In case the NCAA tournament wasn't enough of a disaster for degenerate gamblings, the Las Vegas casino The Palms has introduced a new concept called "Rapid Bet Live," which will allow bettors to gamble on individual plays in the NCAA tournament. The scheme is now in place for the NCAAs and will likely be expanded to other sports as time goes on.

Because until now, real-time sports betting was exclusively the province of drunken idiots at baseball games gambling on balls and strikes.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:17 PM | Comments (0)

Another Awful Headline Once Colon Leaves, Cuba Puts Pieces Together

You wouldn't think a Communist-based medical system would be able to come up with such a surgical miracle, but then I didn't expect Team Fidel to last this long in the WBC, either. What happens if they all defect in the middle of a game?

Also, nice to see Byung-Hyun Kim giving up embarrassing, crunch-time gopher balls in international play, as well. It's just like October.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:15 AM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2006

My NCAA Picks

Sweet 16: Duke, LSU, West Virginia, Texas, Memphis, Pitt, Gonzaga, Marquette, UConn, Illinois, North Carolina, Tennessee, Villanova, BC, Oklahoma, Ohio State

Elite Eight: Duke, West Virginia, Pitt, Gonzaga, UConn, UNC, Nova, Ohio State

Final Four: Duke, Gonzaga, UConn, Ohio State

Championship Game: Duke, UConn

National Champion: UConn

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:07 PM | Comments (2)

March 15, 2006

Finally, Some Recognition

My day-job paper, The Trend Leader, was actually mentioned in its mother-ship counterpart, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the other day. I guess it took the whole company getting sold- and then put on the market all over again- for such a thing to happen.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 01:06 AM | Comments (1)

March 14, 2006

So Long, Daunte

Daunte Culpepper was traded today by the Vikings to the Miami Dolphins for a second-round pick. I'm sorry to see him go, but his relationship with the organization was so irreperably damaged that his departure was probably inevitable. I thank him for his service and wish him luck.

And in much happier NFL transaction news, the Eagles finally released Terrell Owens today. I can't wait to see which team commits organizational suicide by signing him.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 04:12 PM | Comments (1)

Whereever He Is, Frank Zappa Is a Happy Man

News Item: Yellow Snow Falls in South Korea.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 04:04 PM | Comments (2)

I Always Knew the Village Voice Was Amateurish, But...

What's this about?

Posted by Stephen Silver at 10:56 AM | Comments (0)

The Sopranos Premiere

A standout start to the sixth season. A few observations: Uncle Junior looks more and more like the Six Flags Old Guy with every passing season, as he gets older and skinnier and loses more hair... As soon as the episode was all-Eugene, all-the-time, I knew he was gone... I loved Bobby's train set. How long before we get our once-every-two-years glimpse of him actually being a mobster?... Would Johnny really wait through two years of incarceration before selling his Maserati? You'd think it would be the first to go, what with the creditors hounding Ginny... I'd love to know who in wardrobe gave the go-ahead to lengthen Silvio's hairpiece, like that was an actual decision that required action... Vito Spatafore may be the fattest man who's ever lost more than 100 pounds. I think he just did it so people have something to talk to him about other than, uh, that other thing... Where'd the weekly Monday "Sopranos" roundup on Slate go?... That was a highlight of last season! And no, there's absolutely no way in hell Tony's dead. But it will be VERY interesting to see whether mob honor requires him to kill Uncle Junior. That's twice now he's almost died by Junior's hand...

And yes, the Uncle Junior/Dick Cheney jokes have already begun.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:42 AM | Comments (1)

March 13, 2006

Quote of the Day

During the siege of Sarajevo or the mass deportations from Kosovo, the news of a sudden stoppage of the heart of Slobodan Milosevic would have occasioned a joyous holiday in many other hearts. And the idea that he might one day die in prison would have been excellent tidings for a future generation and was the intended effect of his long and convoluted trial. But the news that he has succumbed randomly is bad news, as was the illness that overtook one of his original judges and helped protract the process in the first place. One can see, forming in the swamps of nationalism and superstition, a myth of martyrdom dimly taking shape.

This would be the worst outcome, since Milosevic began and ended, as all such dictators do, by ruining his own people and degrading his own country.

-Christopher Hitchens, on the passing of Slobodan Milosevic, unquestionably the most welcome celebrity death thus far in 2006.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 06:31 PM | Comments (1)

The End of DLR

The end of the road appears near for David Lee Roth's radio show, with ratings in the toilet and the host openly feuding with his bosses, who want Roth to do more to copy Howard Stern. The smart thing would be for CBS Radio to simply fire Roth and put able local people on his place in each market, but what I'd imagine is more likely is that one he's gone they'll junk the whole Free FM concept altogether.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 06:28 PM | Comments (2)

Everybody's Favorite Holiday

Steak and Blowjob Day is tomorrow. Happy Steak and Blowjob Day.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 06:25 PM | Comments (1)

So Long, Chef

News Item: Isaac Hayes leaves "South Park" after anti-Scientology episode.

And I wouldn't bet on Tom Cruise guest-starring anytime soon either.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 06:23 PM | Comments (2)

March 12, 2006

Meet the New Boss

My employer, Knight Ridder, has been purchased by McClatchy for $4.5 billion. More when I know more, but they're a respected newspaper company, and what I've heard so far sounds good.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 11:29 PM | Comments (1)

March 10, 2006

Sopranos Countdown

We're just 48 hours away from the sixth "Sopranos" season, and expect in-depth analysis in this space on Monday. Meanwhile, the Washington Post ran a piece the other day on the ritual that happens when an actor on the show gets whacked. But there was a quote from Dominic Chianese that intrigued me:

But you sense that even in the best of times [Chianese] serious to the point of morose. He laughs just once in the next 40 minutes, recalling one of the more profane mutterings of Junior Soprano, Tony's curmudgeonly uncle.

"I think that was the first time that word was used on American television," he says, referring to a phrase that can't even be hinted at here. "We were kind of proud of that."

What could he be talking about? "Motherless fuck"? "Anthony is a cunt hair away from owning all Northern Jersey – and I am that cunt hair"? I'm guessing that's the one.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 06:54 PM | Comments (1)

Excusing Barry?

A lot of strange things have been written this week about the Barry Bonds/steroid revelations, but certainly nothing stranger than Stephen A. Smith's Philadelphia Inquirer column yesterday, with the bizarre headline "Bonds a Victim of Hypocrisy, Ego."

In the piece Smith, oddly enough, channels what is currently a common Republican method of argumentation: that media coverage of an event is always more important than the event itself. His initial reaction to the latest revelations isn't to vilify Bonds for his exposure as a cheater and a liar- it's to bash the media and baseball establishment for somehow treating Bonds unfairly, and for purely racial reasons. Smith's nut graph:

The fact remains that while no one can prove what is inside someone's soul, a large segment of the black population feels exactly the way Bonds feels:

It believes that McGwire was cheating the whole time. That it was evident he was on something more than andro, likely even Deca-Durabolin and Winstrol - steroids Bonds has been accused of using.

It believes that many in the baseball community knew this much, and still covered their eyes and ears because they didn't want to taint baseball's once-pristine image, already sullied because of innumerable boneheaded decisions (such as the cancellation of the World Series in 1994) that the sport had yet to recover from in 1998.

Many black folks believe what Bonds believes: that if he wasn't on the brink of eclipsing the great Babe Ruth's No. 2 spot among all-time home-run leaders, there may not have been a Balco investigation, constant leaking of grand jury testimony, or something tantamount to a witch hunt against a guy who continues to play baseball with impunity everywhere but in the court of public opinion.

Leave aside the absurdity of somehow making an asshole like Bonds the standard-bearer of Black America. Let's get one thing straight: Bonds is a victim of nothing. He knowingly used steroids, knowingly cheated, and has knowingly lied about it for the past seven years, including under oath. Yes, other people did it too, and yes, baseball itself (the owners, union, and everyone else) benefited from it. But acknowledgement of this in no way absolves Bonds and the other players of responsibility.

And yes, McGwire most likely did the same thing Bonds did. But guess what: his reputation is now in tatters as well. Smith's argument, that Bonds used steroids after McGwire did, and therefore deserves absolution, is an extreme of moral vapidity. And I love the insinuation that the BALCO investigation was somehow a racist plot against Bonds, when in fact all of the accused and convicted BALCO defendents were white, Bonds was never charged with any crime in connection with it, and the athlete whose reputation suffered the largest hit as a result of the case, Jason Giambi, is white as well.

The reason Bonds is hated by reporters, and by the general population, isn't that he's black- it's that he's an asshole to them, and (seemingly) to everyone else. And a cheater, and a liar, and many other things. I always thought the book on Stephen A. Smith was that he was a good writer, but terrible on TV. But this column is more absurd than anything he's ever said on "Quite Frankly."

Posted by Stephen Silver at 06:48 PM | Comments (2)

No More Keyshawning

Yes, "Keyshawning"- the practice of an NFL team de-activating a player midway through a season- is no more, as the move is banned under the new collective bargaining agreement. Whichever team ends up signing TO ought to take that under advisement.

Meanwhile, my Vikings are reportedly ready to dump Daunte Culpepper. I'll miss him, as I always enjoyed and respected him as a player, but in reality they don't know if he'll ever be the same again, and after a year like last year's, I'd want to get out of town too. And besides, I'm not so keen on checking every 10 minutes to see where Daunte's going, since four days ago I was checking every 10 minutes to see if Kirby Puckett was still alive.

And speaking of Kirby, his public memorial service is scheduled for this Sunday night. Let's hope it goes better than the Wellstone memorial.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 06:05 PM | Comments (0)

Two Funny Things About the World Baseball Classic

On Korea's team, all three starting outfielders, as well as two infielders, have the last name "Lee." Must be difficult for the broadcasters, sort of like the old Bud Bowl, in which every one of the players was named "Bud" ("and Bud passes to Bud- touchdown!") Thankfully, Derrek Lee is playing for the U.S. and Carlos Lee for Panama (and getting no-hit today), or else things would really be confusing.

Also in the WBC, someone at a game yesterday unfurled an anti-Castro banner while the Cuban team was playing against the Netherlands- leading the Cuban players, of course, to ask the stadium to ban it. Just like the Muslim cartoon rioters, people from totalitarian states always think anything they don't like can just be banned. Fuck Fidel. I hope if Cuba ends up playing in the finals in the U.S., the crowds substitute the "D-Fence" chant with one of "D-Fect."

Posted by Stephen Silver at 05:59 PM | Comments (0)

Quote of the Day

Bill Simmons:

"For the most part, it sucks to be a sports fan. It's a one-way street. Tickets cost too much. Jerseys cost too much. Executives and owners screw up our teams. Players let us down again and again. Just this week, the top sports stories were the shocking revelations from the Bonds/steroids scandal, the NFL labor agreement, and Kirby Puckett's untimely death (as well as the obligatory number of "Just remember, he was a bad guy after he played!" stories). It's a culture where bottomfeeders like Jose Canseco never seem to go away, where entire TV shows are built around sportswriters screaming at one another, where an abject failure of a human being like Bill Romanowski can crack the New York Times Bestseller list. Everything is out of whack. Even in the NBA, an egocentric gunner like Kobe Bryant receives 10 times as much attention as the great Tim Duncan, who's currently limping around on one leg because that's what champions do. I don't know what's happened to sports. I really don't."
But we love 'em anyway, don't we?

Posted by Stephen Silver at 05:46 PM | Comments (1)

March 09, 2006

If I Cared About Soccer, I'm Sure I'd Be Outraged

News Item: Red Bull Buys MetroStars, renames them Red Bull: New York.

Maybe the new Houston franchise can solve their name crisis by becoming Mountain Dew of Texas.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 04:09 PM | Comments (3)

Call Him a "New Age" Wife Beater

News Item: Yanni Arrested For Domestic Battery

I'd had no idea he wasn't still married to Linda Evans.

UPDATE: And Hasselhoff, too! Who's the next celebrity wifebeater, Scott Baio?

Posted by Stephen Silver at 01:05 AM | Comments (2)

We Have a Deal

The NFL owners have agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement with the players' association, ensuring six more years of labor peace. I suppose that's good news, for the league and for the Vikings. And with Daunte Culpepper almost certainly out of there, it only means more cap space for us.

More once I know more details of the deal.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 01:01 AM | Comments (0)

Film Critic Quote of the Week

"In the future, we may look back on 2006 as the year the Oscars officially went from irritating to depressing. The year the crudely manipulative and politically anachronistic racial melodrama Crash won Best Picture is also the year American commercial cinema settled into its nursing home bed, stuck the morphine drip in its arm and began the long, slow journey toward the sweet hereafter.

Over the past couple of decades, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has had a hit-and-miss record with Best Picture winners, usually preferring to avoid giving the top prize to thematically or artistically daring movies. We’ve seen the prize go to handsome, safe movies (Out of Africa) or slick, safe movies (American Beauty) or earnest, safe movies (Driving Miss Daisy).

Once in a while the award goes to a movie with no sell-by date, a film like Amadeus or The Silence of the Lambs that’s so superlative in every respect that if you made a list titled, “Reason To Watch this Movie,” the phrase, “positive message” would be Number 9 or 10, if it was on there at all."

-Matt Zoller Seitz, on the Oscars.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:46 AM | Comments (2)

No Apologies

Barry Bonds' lawyer has issued a statement on behalf of his client (PDF link)- and while he rips the reporting of the Chronicle and calls it "unoriginal" (as though that makes it untrue), and criticizes their reliance on one source who is presumably Bonds' former mistress, the statement includes no denials whatsoever. He's guilty, folks.

My SI didn't come today as expected, so I'll read it and comment tomorrow.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:39 AM | Comments (0)

Quote of the Day

"As a Knicks fan, I'm dying here. The best parallel I can make with Isiah Thomas' tenure as GM is with Michael Jackson's nose. The more they try to correct the previous mistake, the worse it keeps getting."
-Kevin, a Bill Simmons reader, in yesterday's mailbag.
Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:30 AM | Comments (0)

Close the 'Gate'

Pat Craig of the Contra Costa Times makes a point I've agreed with for awhile: it's time to get rid of the annoying "-gate" suffix for every single scandal. It's old, it's lame, and Watergate was 30 years ago. It's time to let it go.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:22 AM | Comments (2)

March 07, 2006

The End of Barry Bonds

Major news broke today that a new book is coming out which will enumerate the various drug usage by Barry Bonds, right down to names, dates, and details. It appears as though they have him completely nailed, which I'm sure Selig is thrilled about right in the middle of the World Baseball Classic.

Perhaps my favorite part of the story: ESPN, which which not only fashions itself the "worldwide leader in sports" but is in business with Bonds on an upcoming reality show, was scooped on this relatively major story by both Sports Illustrated and the San Francisco Chronicle. The Chronicle has owned the steroids story pretty much all along, as has Tom Verducci, and the two have collaborated on an excerpt to be published in this week's SI.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 10:12 PM | Comments (2)

More Kirby

The sports blog/wiki, recently launched, has a ton of different posts on Puckett's death. All worth reading.

And my friend Dan Israel has an excellent post as well. My favorite part: "Kirby "won it all" for Minnesota two times - something the Vikings, North Stars, Timberwolves, Hubert Humphrey, and Walter Mondale couldn't pull off even once."

Posted by Stephen Silver at 10:06 PM | Comments (0)


We got the incredibly sad news today that Kirby Puckett has died, of the massive stroke that he suffered yesterday, at the age of 45. As I've been aware of Puckett for as long as I've been a sports fan, and he was my favorite athlete for much of my childhood, I feel as though I've lost someone I've known for my entire life.

Puckett was not only the greatest Twin of all time but, by a significant margin, the best and most important athlete in the history of Minnesota sports. A genuine sports hero in a town that had had few before him, who played his entire career with one team, Puckett was beloved by his town the way few athletes ever have before- as perfect a match of player and city as any in memory.

He was a short, stocky, funny-looking guy, who looked more like the average guy in the bleachers than anyone's idea of a baseball player. His flabby physique likely innoculated him against the charges of steroid use that would plague many of his contemporaries. But most of all, Minnesota fans fell in love with Kirby's personality. Not only was he a hilarious and entertaining interview, but Puckett was loved throughout his career both for his works in the community and for the friendships he cultivated in the game.

Here in Philadelphia, I hear every day about how this city, one with a rich sports tradition, has gone title-less for 23 years. Until Puckett led the Twins to their first world championship in 1987, the Twin Cities had gone 31 years without a title, going back to the win by the old Minneapolis Lakers in 1956.

I first became aware of Puckett probably sometime during his rookie year in 1984, as I believe that was the year my parents got me a life-sized poster that I hung in my bedroom where I could measure my height against that of "Herbie and Kirby" (Kent Hrbek and Puckett- the latter was much closer to my height than the former). As I learned all about the game in 1985, when I was 7, it was by watching those two, along with Gary Gaetti and Tom Brunansky.

I could tell early on that Kirby was a special player. I remember a specific game in Milwaukee, I believe in '86 (edit- it was '87), in which he went 6-for-6 and also made a grand-slam saving catch in center field (one of dozens, literally, throughout his career). And I can still hear the voice of the late Metrodome PA announcer Bob Casey, introducing "#34, KIRBEEEEEEEEEEE PUCKETT!"

Then came that magical season of 1987, when my love of baseball finally manifested itself in winning, instead of just watching. That year, for the only time in my life, I went to spring training, and saw the Twins beat the defending champion New York Mets at Tinker Field in Orlando. They won that game, and every other game that I went to that year, just as they did in '91 as well.

I never forgot seeing Puckett and infielder Al Newman- the superstar and the 25th man on the roster- embracing on the Metrodome field after the Game 7 victory. I was happy to see that video replayed on ESPN today as part of its Kirby remembrance reel.

Between the two title wins, the team was all but torn down and built up again, keeping just five players (and no pitchers) in the four-year period. Kirby even became a free agent after the 1989 season, visiting both the Red Sox and Phillies before agreeing to return to the Twins. Becca and I mused tonight about how different both of our lives would've been had Kirby signed with the Phillies that year. (No '91 World Series for the Twins, but also no need for another centerfielder, and thus no Lenny Dykstra on the Phillies).

After another last-place finish in 1990, lightening improbably struck again the following year. Energized by pitching from youngster Scott Erickson and newcomer Jack Morris, the Twins returned to first place, knocking off Toronto in the ALCS and advancing to the World Series against another worst-to-first team, the Braves.

It was, I maintain, the greatest World Series in history, and just as in 1987 the home team won all seven games. I was there for 2, 6, and 7, and during Game 6 I sat in the upper deck, in front of some very loud and very angry Braves fans, and witnessed the most famous swing of Puck's career: his Game 6 home run off Charlie Liebrandt in the 11th inning on October 26, 1991. I had slightly better seats, thankfully, the following night, when the Twins won their second title by beating the Braves 1-0 in 10 innings.

Puckett was MVP of the 1993 All-Star Game (one of ten All-Star appearances), and continued to be a top player right up until the end. But it ended sadly, in more ways than one.

Kirby woke up one morning during spring training in 1996, unable to see out of his right eye. The day before, he had had two hits off of Greg Maddux in a spring game. Doctors conducted tests throughout the next few months, before determining that there was nothing they could do, and Puckett announced his retirement that June. I remember driving around that night, after leaving a summer camp picnic, unable to imagine a Twins team without Kirby, something I'd never before known.

(An alternate theory was that Puckett's eye injury was not the result of glaucoma but rather a beaning the previous fall at the hands of his good friend, Cleveland pitcher Dennis Martinez, and that Puckett had made up the glaucoma thing in order to protect his friend. Keith Olbermann, in particular, has always pushed this theory.)

In his retirement speech, Kirby pointed out that we shouldn't feel sorry for him, because we should be thinking about Rod Carew, another Twins' legend, whose daughter Michelle had recently died of leukemia.

Puckett periodically resurfaced through the years: the Twins retired his number in 1997, and also retired the seat in left field that the Game 6 home run landed on. He became a team vice president and point man in their new stadium effort. And in 2001, he was elected on the first ballot to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and my dad and I made the trek up to Cooperstown for the ceremony. I couldn't be happier that Kirby, despite what some called deficient stats due to his early retirement, made it into the Hall, and not posthumously.

But then, the following year, Kirby resurfaced in a much more unfortunate way. Reports surfaced that he had been abusive and threatening, as well as unfaithful, to his wife Tonya. A Twins employee accused him of sexual harassment, and he was later indicted (but acquitted) on charges that he groped a woman in the bathroom of a Minnesota restaurant.

It soon became clear both that Puckett wasn't quite the idealized Mr. Perfect we'd always imagined, and that he was one of those athletes who simply was unable to function in retirement. Tonya Puckett divorced him, he gained a shocking amount of weight, he parted ways with the Twins organization and then, in 2005, Minnesota's favorite athlete left town altogether, moving to Arizona.

I'd often said that had Kirby's scandals happened when I was 12 years old, it might have scarred me for life. I've long since shed any illusions about athletes and what they're really about, but Kirby's misdeeds (coupled with those of Mark McGwire and Co.) were still pretty jarring. Bat-girl, in her must-read eulogy, eloquently stated that she has now mourned Kirby three times: after his retirement, after his public fall from grace, and then on Monday. I think we all have.

On top of the dozens of times I saw him play, I met Kirby Puckett twice. When, in the early '90s, my grandfather's car dealership donated a car for a postgame promotion in which fans could win a pickup truck by throwing paper airplanes into the beds of the trucks (don't ask), I was invited onto the field during batting practice to get autographs. The second time came in 1997, when I attended a press conference to announce one of the Twins' many ill-fated stadium plans.

I don't remember what I said to him either time, probably because it hadn't yet sunk in that I was actually across from him. That "not sinking in yet" feeling certainly came to me again, many times, on Monday.

Other Twins and Minnesota bloggers have tributes too, including Gleeman, TwinsGeek, Seth, Powerline, Mitch, and of course Batgirl. I confess, with all the ESPN segments and news articles I've read about Kirby tonight, the tears didn't come until I read the last paragraph of Batgirl's eulogy:

Kirby is still with me, and always will be. Somewhere in the back of my mind he is still jumping up and grabbing homeruns, still circling the bases pumping his fist, still smiling his Kirby-smile. Jack Buck says, "We'll see you tomorrow night," and we ride on Kirby Puckett's back all the way to glory. He is there with us, reminding us why we love baseball, reminding us to love life. And still, a hero.
Farewell, Puck. You've moved on to the big Metrodome in the sky, and Bob Casey is getting ready to announce your name.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 01:27 AM | Comments (6)

March 06, 2006

Oscar Critic Quote of the Day

Ross Douthat, a rare conservative who both appreciates Hollywood and isn't afraid to admit that he loves the Oscars:

"I was even expecting to be irritated by Brokeback's inevitable victory - not because Ang Lee, Heath Ledger and Co. didn't deserve it, but because a win for the gay sheepherders promised to usher in weeks, or months, or even years of blather about how Brokeback's Oscar win was a watershed moment on par with the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin, or the bombing of Pearl Harbor, or maybe the night when Edward R. Murrow beat Joe McCarthy to a bloody pulp on national television, before signing off: "Good night and good luck, suckah!" (Clooney cut that scene to get a PG-13 rating, I assume.)

"Except that Brokeback didn't win - and here's the really bad news: Not only is Crash's win an awful vindication for hackery, it means that Paul Haggis will be allowed to make just about any movie he wants for the next five to ten years. And if they're all as "great" as Crash and Million Dollar Baby . . . well, then it's going to be a long, long five to ten years for the moviegoing public."

Posted by Stephen Silver at 01:59 PM | Comments (0)

Oscar Notes

I'll have more tomorrow, but a few introductory comments:

- Don't you hate when the Best Picture isn't one of the 50 best movies of the year? It happened this year with "Crash." We knew it would be that or "Brokeback," but the latter was significantly better, so the result is a bit disappointing. I can't wait for the first op-ed blaming Brokeback's loss on homophobia.

- Other than that, no real surprises at all. Unless you count the Will Ferrell/Steve Carell makeup bit. Great stuff.

- Jon Stewart did an above-average job, I thought. His style is much better-suited to awards shows than Chris Rock's, and he's a natural. Loved the opening too, as well as the montages.

- Only two fashion comments: Loved Larry McMurtry's jeans- if you write as many classic Western novels as he has, you can wear what you want. Also, anyone have a good explanation of why Charlize Theron was wearing a bow the size of her head? I kept expecting her to tip over.

- It was apropos that "Crash" director Paul Haggis quoted Bertolt Brecht as saying that "art is not a mirror to hold up to society but a hammer with which to shape it." Because Haggis' film was about as subtle as a hammer blow to the head.

- With Clooney winning and defending the Hollywood elite from the podium, as well as Ludacris presenting, (and two movies he was in winning), it was likely Bill O'Reilly's least favorite Oscars of all time. But at least it gives him material for the entire next week.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 01:02 AM | Comments (4)

More Sad Kirby News

I really wasn't prepared for this today:

Puckett fighting for his life
The former Twins superstar outfielder underwent surgery after he suffered a stroke in his Arizona home.

FORT MYERS, FLA. - Kirby Puckett, a Baseball Hall of Famer and the driving force behind the Twins' two World Series titles, was fighting for his life after suffering a stroke Sunday morning at his home in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Puckett was first rushed to Scottsdale Memorial Hospital, then airlifted to Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn where he underwent surgery for most of the afternoon, according to Twins President Dave St. Peter. Puckett was transferred after the surgery to St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, St. Peter said.

Even leaving aside what's transpired in Kirby's life since he retired from baseball, I couldn't be more upset about this. Let's hope Kirby can recover, and soon.

Sunday afternoon Becca and I were at her parents' house going through old boxes, and we found the roster for a Jewish convention we'd both gone to back in college, before we knew each other. Next to my name on the roster was my e-mail address at the time:

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:45 AM | Comments (1)

My Sports Talk Radio Debut

On Saturday I briefly appeared on the SportsTalk 950 AM show hosted by Philadelphia City Councilman Frank Rizzo, Jr., son of the former mayor of the same name.

Rizzo was hosting his weekly show at Lara's Cafe, a fine Mediterrean restaurant in Royersford. I came to write about the appearance for my day-job paper and was invited on the air to talk about the paper. Rizzo also talked a bit about the governors' race, expressing disappointment in Swann's campaign so far.

I was told I used the word "um" a bit too much on the air, though I was just trying not to talk too fast, and to avoid cursing.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:33 AM | Comments (1)

Finally, A Deal

No, not in the NFL labor dispute (which remains unresolved at this hour). Major League Baseball has finally agreed with the Washington Nationals on a stadium lease, paving the way for groundbreaking, as well as the team's eventual sale. Wonderful news. I just hope the Minnesota battle- which has been going on even longer- is the next one solved.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:21 AM | Comments (0)

March 03, 2006

Quote of the Day

"I think that you flatter Isiah Thomas far too much by suggesting that he is merely one of a number of atrocious GMs. The truth is that Rob Babcock and Billy King are Einstein next to him. The mess he is creating right now in New York will be studied by business school students 50 years from now alongside Enron and"
-Malcolm Gladwell, in his two-day summit with Bill Simmons.

My favorite Isiah theory is that he's "stockpiling assets" in order to try to get Garnett, Iverson, or Jermaine O'Neal. Like the Wolves would ever trade KG for Jerome James, Steve Francis, Quentin Richardson, and Nate Robinson.

They wouldn't, would they?

Posted by Stephen Silver at 06:21 PM | Comments (0)

Official 2006 Oscar Predictions

Here we go, for each award, four things: What Will Win (WWW), What Should Win (WSW), What Should Have Been Nominated (WSHBN), and What Should Not Have Been Nominated (WSNHBN). Here we go:

Best Picture:
WWW: "Brokeback Mountain"
WSW: "Munich"
WSHBN: "Chronicles of Narnia"
WSNHBN: "Crash"

Best Director:
WWW: Ang Lee ("Brokeback Mountain")
WSW: Steven Spielberg ("Munich")
WSHBN: Andrew Adamson ("Chronicles of Narnia")
WSNHBN: Paul Haggis ("Crash")

Best Actor:
WWW: Philip Seymour Hoffman ("Capote")
WSW: Heath Ledger ("Brokeback Mountain")
WSHBN: Eric Bana ("Munich")
WSNHBN: Joaquin Phoenix ("Walk the Line")

Best Actress:
WWW: Reese Witherspoon ("Walk the Line")
WSW: Witherspoon
WSHBN: Joan Allen ("Upside of Anger")
WSNHBN: Pass (I didn't see four of the five films)

Best Supporting Actor:
WWW: Matt Dillon ("Crash")
WSW: Jake Gyllenhaal ("Brokeback Mountain")
WSHBN: Jesse L. Martin ("Rent")
WSNHBN: George Clooney ("Syriana")

Best Supporting Actress:
WWW: Rachel Weisz ("The Constant Gardener")
WSW: Michelle Williams ("Brokeback Mountain")
WSHBN: Tilda Swinton ("Chronicles of Narnia")

Best Original Screenplay:
WWW: "Crash"
WSW: "Good Night, and Good Luck"
WSHBN: "The 40 Year-Old Virgin"
WSNHBN: "Syriana" (worst screenplay of the year, not best).

Best Adapted Screenplay:
WWW: "Brokeback Mountain"
WSW: "Munich"
WSHBN: "Sin City"
WSNHBN: "The Constant Gardener"

Best Documentary Feature:
WWW: "March of the Penguins"
WSW: "Murderball"
WSHBN: "The Aristocrats"
WSNHBN: "March of the Penguins"

Posted by Stephen Silver at 06:00 PM | Comments (3)

Not Funny?

There's an op-ed in the Boston Globe today by someone named Michael Kalin, titled "Why Jon Stewart Isn't Funny." Why isn't he? It's hard to navigate through the argument, but it seems to have something to do with the way he makes a mockery of politics, and thus is in some way responsible for "the decline of progressive thought in America."

As an example, Kalin tells us about "Joshua Goldberg," a fictional college achiever who gets good grades, becomes a political activist, and through it all gets the majority of his political news from Stewart. And as a result Goldberg... goes to work on Wall Street. Kalin blames this (fictional) situation on Stewart, for so mocking politics that Kalin's student feels he'd be better off working for The Man than going into politics himself.

The most wrongheaded part of Kalin's argument is that he blames the mockery of politics on Stewart. Wrong. Politicians mock politics themselves, before "The Daily Show" even gets to it. What Stewart and his writers have done is provide a commentary on this mockery, in a hilarious and entertaining way, that is loved by millions of fans. I'm sure Michael Kalin would prefer Stewart anchor a half-hour of rote, straight-faced Bush-bashing. But I wouldn't watch that, and I can't imagine most "Daily Show" fans would either.

No, I don't get it either. This shoddy piece seems to take the generally discredited position that the role of pop culture is not to entertain but rather to push "social justice." Stewart, Kalin says, "undermines any remaining earnestness that liberals in America might still possess." Please. I'll take Stewart's snark over the snore-enducing earnestness of The Nation any day of the week.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 05:40 PM | Comments (5)

Head In the Clouds

Get your own Blog Cloud here.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 05:26 PM | Comments (0)

If I Had a Hammer, I'd Hammer This Idea

News Item: Bruce Springsteen to Record Album of Pete Seeger Covers

I mean, for all I know, it could work. But when I first heard about this I got the same feeling I did when I heard Michael Jordan was playing minor-league baseball.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 10:09 AM | Comments (0)

Smootgate and the Race Card

The latest news in the Minnesota Vikings sex cruise scandal is that two of the accused Vikings players, Daunte Culpepper and Moe Williams, are alleging racial bias, in that they were charged with crimes for their conduct aboard the boat while two whites on the boat, including the captain, were not charged.

Here's an argument I'd love to hear the lawyers make instead: rather than racial bias, the Smootgate Four are victims of the clear anti-Vikings bias long held by Minnesota law enforcement. As evidence, they could introduce the decades-long history of Vikings arrests, from the Keith Millard/Tommy Kramer DUI era, to Warren and Felicia Moon, to the "Arctic Blast" snowmobile rally, to Randy Moss and his Lexus, to the Whizzinator, to Smootgate, all the way down to Carl Eller's DUI bust last week. It's airtight, I tell ya!


Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:58 AM | Comments (2)

Chaos and Creation in the NFL

The deadline was pushed back tonight, but the NFL seems on the brink of its first full-on labor calamity in nearly 20 years. And I, for one, love it.

Player movement is exciting. And unnatural player movement caused by anomalous labor-related events is doubly so. Last year's post-lockout NHL free-agent frenzy was only the latest example, with the period in '95 after the baseball strike and '99 after the NBA lockout being other such occasions. And don't forget- the 1991 collusion settlement that declared 12 players "new look" free agents just days before spring training that year got Jack Morris and Chili Davis to the Twins- and, you could say, won them the World Series nine months later.

How thrilling would it be to have a third of the players in the NFL become free agents? I know I'd be checking every 15 minutes to see the latest signings. And my favorite part is the idea I read, I believe in Len Pasquerelli's column, that due to accumulated signing bonuses it is mathematically impossible for the Redskins to get under the salary cap. Well, at least they'll finally be able to get rid of Patrick Ramsey.

All in all, I just hope this doesn't all end in a work stoppage- much less another bad Keanu Reeves movie.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:41 AM | Comments (2)

First Reaction: Ew!!! Second Reaction: How?

New York Post: Woman, 37, Rapes Boy, 4.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:18 AM | Comments (0)

March 02, 2006

Film Critic Quote of the Day

"There are whispers that Paul Haggis’ “Crash” might take Best Picture from Ang Lee's gentle-spirited presumptive frontrunner “Brokeback Mountain.” I really hope it doesn’t, because if it does, I'll be so angry that I’ll have to retire my long-term posture of benign condescension towards the Oscars and start hating them on general principle...

"Crash" is set in Archie Bunker World, a nostalgic land where race is at the forefront of every consciousness during every minute of every day, where elaborately worded slurs are loaded into everyone's speech centers like bullets in a gun, ready to be fired at the instant that disrespect is given. The characters are anachronistic cartoons posing as symbols of contemporary distress. They seem to have time-warped in from the Nixon era, when the country’s pop culture purveyors decided to roll up their sleeves and get all this race stuff out in the open and show we were all secure enough to call each other bad names and then laugh about it and move on. That was a nervous, belligerent response, an overcompensation that came from sitting on this stuff for hundreds of years and seeing it explode into riots and shootouts. But the contrived frankness served a valuable function at the time; it was a little taste of the poisons lurking beneath the American façade, a rhetorical inoculation designed to toughen up the body politic. And it's over now. We're still a racist country, but we're a hell of a lot more sophisticated about it, and the inability or unwillingess of "Crash" to admit this makes it both stupid and pernicious.

-Matt Zoller Seitz, on his excellent new blog.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 09:10 AM | Comments (0)

Go Foer It

Franklin Foer has been named the new editor of The New Republic, replacing Peter Beinart, who will remain at the magazine as a writer. Beinart is also the author of the upcoming "The Good Fight : Why Liberals---and Only Liberals---Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again," which is the 2006 book which I am most looking forward to.

I'm sure Foer will do an excellent job running my favorite political magazine, and if things go really well, no movie will ever be made about his tenure.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:45 AM | Comments (0)

'Smoking' Man

I had the chance today to interview Jason Reitman, the director of the upcoming movie "Thank You For Smoking." He's an interesting and engaging young man (who it's hard to believe is about my age), who has made a wonderful film that everyone should check out. Here's Jason's blog from the road, here's his entry about his Philly visit, and here's a picture of the coffee tray that I ate from this afternoon.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:27 AM | Comments (2)

Most Frightening Headline in Memory

Paris Hilton May Play Mother Teresa in Movie.

Well, at least we know Christopher Hitchens will eventually turn his guns on her.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:20 AM | Comments (0)

The "24" Backlash?

Has this "24" season been underwhelming? A lot of people, including Simmons and Scott Keith, seem to think so. I disagree- every episode is still exciting, even if we've already had two different occasions when new villains kill the old villains for not being villainous enough. And I can't wait for the two-hour extravaganza next week either. Since it features Elisha Cuthbert's return after two years, Gleeman might want to tune in.

A prediction: after President Logan allowed the assassination attempt on the Russian president (and Mrs. Logan) to go through, Mrs. Logan will end up shooting him (a la Janice Soprano shooting Richie Aprile). Taking into account her history of mental illness, the fact that that sort of thing is hard to forgive, the fact that we know a new vice president character (Ray Wise) is coming in, and the general tiresomeness of both characters, I say that scenario is the best bet.

Also, I loved Logan asking Mike Novick to "pray with me," a direct homage to pre-resignation Nixon/Kissinger moment. Henry may have been a bad man, but at least he (unlike Novick) never masterminded a coup against President Palmer.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:18 AM | Comments (1)

Sounds Like a Pretty Short Article

NYTimes: What The PLO Has To Offer

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:04 AM | Comments (0)

March 01, 2006

Tabloid Front Page of the Year Nominee

Philadelphia Daily News: Second-Graders With Crack

'Cause that's the sort of thing that really has to make the front page, doesn't it?

Posted by Stephen Silver at 04:02 PM | Comments (1)

The "Real World: Key West" Premiere

It was interesting, I suppose, though these shows always seem that way in the first episode, before they devolve into an endless series of brawling, carousing, and hot-tub threesomes. At least this year we've got some interesting characters. There's Pamela, Paula, who apparently thought the best possible way to deal with her body-image issues was to appear on a highly-rated national TV show; the gay guy, who is I believe the first Minneapolis native ever on "Real World," and best of all, the buxom 19-year-old Svetlana.

Just as the Chicago season's Cara Nussbaum Kahn was the first-ever reality television representation of the Indigo Girls-loving, Jewish-camp, hippie-chick archetype that we all know and love, Svetlana is the first-ever representation of the Russian-American, teenage Jewish princess who may or may not have Russian mob connections. That one bears watching, for sure.

UPDATE: Welcome, Philadelphia Will Do readers. I also neglected to mention that Svetlana is in fact from Philly. And no, I don't know for a fact that she has mob ties, though it was brought up on the show itself.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:09 PM | Comments (5)

One Laughably Overrated Hack Praises Another

Scoop Jackson: "I believe... that Rick Reilly is the best sports columnist in the business."

Yea, if all you're interested in is schmaltzy human-interest stories. I'm just glad the autistic-three-pointer kid story exploded in the general consciousness before Reilly got ahold of it.

But it's still not as bad as Jackson's previous column, the one where he suggested that if Wizards benchwarmer/political activist Etan Thomas scored 30 points per game, he "might be dead." Huh?

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:04 PM | Comments (0)