Thursday, March 31, 2005

Rantings, the Thursday Edition

"Call this an unfair generalization if you must, but old people are no good at anything."
-- Moe Szyzlak

Especially reading.

I'm not here to debate the worthiness of private accounts for Social Security. Personally, I think it's a great idea, but that's not the point. The point is that old people are leading the charge against them. Fine. Many of these people lived through the Depression and are deathly afraid of market forces. You can understand their collective concern. There's just one problem:

PRIVATE ACCOUNTS WILL NOT AFFECT THEM.

These accounts will only be set up for people under a certain age. If I recall, that age is 45. People currently receiving benefits will not have their benefits touched in any way. Bush has made this a centerpiece of every single proposal. If they'd just read the...hell, it's not even fine print. It's giant bold 36 point font. It's right there, in black and white: YOUR BENEFITS WILL NOT CHANGE. And yet they're still raising hell. Amazing.

I guess "reading" wasn't one of the three Rs back in their day.

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"What are you so surprised about?"
"You just admitted you were wrong."
"I'm wrong lots of times. It's how I get to right."

Suffice to say, I was wrong about the Chris Webber deal. My God, could this have been any more of a disaster for the Sixers? If Webber, a player of good (if overrated) low-post skills and excellent passing ability for a big man, can't succeed as Allen Iverson's second banana, no one can. Rather than acknowledge his supremely talented teammate, AI's shots per game have actually gone UP.

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Did you ever get the feeling that, if not for ESPN.com, Jim Caple would be one of those aggravating local news guys that goes undercover and tells you stuff you already know? "Are plumbers overcharging their customers? KIDO-TV's Jim Caple gives you the inside scoop, next!"

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I'll note, yet again, that this whole mess probably would have been avoided had the federal government not been raiding Social Security for decades on end, on the grounds that it was one of the few government programs that ran a surplus. Of course it was running a surplus; people were putting in money without anyone taking it out. It was supposed to stay there for them to take out later.

Realistically, there's got to be a lot of concessions on all sides to make this work. The cap on payroll taxes needs to increase, for starters. $90,000 was a tremendous amount of money when they came up with this system. Now, it's a lot, but an annual income of $90,000 puts you around the 75th percentile in this country (I'm guessing), as opposed to the 99th back when it was instituted. Second, why aren't benefits scaled down after a certain income level? Why does a 75 year old man worth millions of dollars require Social Security? I'm not thrilled about this, as I'm violently opposed to anything that remotely resembles a tax increase or a departure from the "pay your fair share" way of thinking, but given what we've invested in this system, it seems necessary. Also, there has to be at least some allowance for private accounts. After decades of raiding Social Security, isn't it pretty damn obvious that we can only trust the government so far with this task?

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Our long national nightmare is over. Rest in Peace, Terri. Hopefully your parents will cease their lemming-like march to the courts.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Scenes From the Carrier Dome

It is possible that there is not a more poorly marked city in America than Syracuse. It's almost like they're afraid of exceeding their budget for road signs, so they put up as few as possible. Suffice to say, exits were missed and mistakes were made. Not that it all mattered, of course. Our parking lot was somewhere a little east of Albany. Still, a good time was had by all.

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The Villanova band earns my prize for Pep Band of the Year. I heard them playing something that sounded familiar, but of course, since they only play the music, without the lyrics, it took me a minute to pick it up. Finally, I did, and started laughing my ass off. The song was "1985".

For the benefit of my readers who are either: a. not college basketball fans, or b. a little slow on the uptake, here's a link.

Kev, of course, Georgetown fan that he is, was somewhat less appreciative.

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I give them credit for getting there (somewhat unlike my beloved Orange), but the Wisconsin/NC State game was one of the sloppiest contests I've ever had the privilege to witness. I think the Badgers had more travelling calls than baskets in the first half. In the second, State's point guard blew layups like he had money riding on the other guys.

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Signs that Kev and I are getting old: we left at halftime of the Nova-UNC game. Yes, we suck. But the flip side is that we'd arguably still be stuck in traffic on Jamesville Rd. The lack of energy was mostly due to the fact that: a. my cat woke me up at 4 am, and b. no beer is sold during NCAA tournament games, which was easily the worst news I received all week.

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Signs that the Syracuse-Georgetown rivalry is alive and well...
"Vermont. Vermont, Phil!"
"And how is the NIT going, by the way, Kev?
"Hey, at least we've won at least one game after the Big East tournament."
"Oh yeah, the 'We're number 66!' chant is really catchy."

"You gotta love the Carrier Dome. You've got one basketball championship banner but a hundred lacrosse championship banners."

"That was a travel."
"You should know, seeing as how Georgetown perfected the manuver."

Springsteen, Madonna, way before Nirvana, there was U2, and Blondie, music still on MTV...

Friday, March 25, 2005

Duke-UNLV, 1991

My cat woke me up this morning and I couldn't get back to sleep, so I watched the Duke-UNLV game from 1991, which I had recorded. If you hate Duke, this game was the worst thing that ever happened to you. If you love the Devils, it's the best. This was the game that started the Duke dynasty. Some would argue that advancing to the 1986 Finals against Louisville was what started it, but I disagree. Up until winning the 91 championship, Krzyzewski was known as the Marv Levy of college hoops: great coach who couldn't win the big one. Winning the 91 championship, and beating a UNLV team that was being fitted for the title of "Greatest Team Ever", put all that to rest. Only in hindsight do we start the Duke dynasty with a date of 1986. I've always liked Duke; they engaged in a neck-and-neck battle with Syracuse for supremacy in my world for a long time, so I recall this game with a lot of fondness.

Here are some thoughts:


* It's amazing to me how badly Jerry Tarkanian was outcoached in that game. Admittedly, there's little shame in getting outcoached by Mike Krzyzewski, who will one day take his place on college basketball's Mt. Olympus with Dean Smith and John Wooden, but Tark the Shark had his sizeable head handed to him. It really exposed once and for all the fact that Tarkanian (like Bob Huggins and former Ohio State football coach John Cooper) was a great assembler of talent, but lousy as a game coach. The two most striking examples came late in the game. Krzyzewski was standing up, barking orders at his guys every minute, making corrections and calling plays on the fly. Then they cut to a shot of Tark, who was sitting on the bench with a towel on his head like he was at the beach. Second was UNLV's final play of the game, trailing by two, with 12 seconds left, who was bringing the ball upcourt but the 6'7 power forward Larry Johnson. Johnson was a great college player, but didn't have a point guard's bone in his body. Predictably, Johnson dribbled around, passed up a decent look and skipped a pass over to Anderson Hunt, who had to hurry a bad shot just to beat the buzzer (it missed, obviously). Don't blame Johnson; blame Tark for putting him in that situation to begin with.

* That year's Final Four: Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and UNLV. Tremendously star-studded group. Three of the six greatest basketball programs in history (Indiana, Kentucky and UCLA are the others), along with an undefeated team that was considered by many to be the greatest team ever. That's like seeing a movie with Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Tom Cruise and the hottest actor of the moment (Jude Law? Colin Farrell? Man, Hollywood had a bad year...I'd better just skip that analogy for now).

* Pretty impressive group of NBA talent in that game, too: Christian Laettner, Larry Johnson, Grant Hill, Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony all went on to have nice careers as pros. And Bobby Hurley would have if he didn't get in that huge motorcycle accident. What is it with Duke point guards and motorcycles? Didn't Jay Williams learn anything from Hurley? Someone make sure Daniel Ewing buys a Volvo.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Quick Ramblings

Best line ever, from Stacy, after reading my previous post:
"Wait a minute, the WNBA is still around? I thought they folded."

No, but you'd never know that from the ratings.

I've come to accept the WNBA as the PR sham that it is, rather than get upset at its very existence. Actually, that's not fair, either. I was never upset that it exists. On the contrary, there's nothing wrong with a women's pro basketball league. The problem lies in the fact that the NBA repeatedly jams it down my throat, in their never-ending quest to be known as the most progressive sports league. My wife tried to tell me that the WNBA could exist if more people knew about it, which is laughable. They marketed it as a "stars" league, like the NBA used to do with Larry, Magic and Mike, and it didn't work. They marketed it to basketball fans, and it didn't work. They marketed it under the whole "girl power" thing, and it didn't work. They tried saturation bombing with their ads on NBA games, and it didn't work. Frankly, I'm not sure who's left. If we haven't started by now, it's just not happening. Give up, cut your losses, and pump the money into a much needed NBA minor league.

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"Two married couples trying to make plans with each other is like watching a monkey with boxing gloves on trying to f--k a football."
-- Joe, as dinner plans followed their usual course of "how about Saturday?" "Can't do it, how about Friday?" "No, can't do it, how about Thursday?" (rinse, lather, repeat)

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I'll be getting a triple dose of March Madness this weekend. LIVE from the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York! This is so cool I'm even looking forward to the NC State-Wisconsin game, which would ordinarily have me channel surfing before the first timeout.

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Quote of the day that maybe only I find amusing:
"If Larry Brown acts like he invented the game of basketball, George Karl acts like it was his idea to cut a hole in the bottom of the peach basket."
-- Fox Sports' Charley Rosen, arguably the best basketball writer in the business

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I saw that Terri Schiavo's parents have had five emergency orders denied by the U.S. Supreme Court. FIVE!!!! Good God, the arrogance of these people. The Supreme Court is not open 24 hours a day for your convenience. It's not Walgreen's, Mr. and Mrs. Schindler. There's no line that says "10 cases or less, jurisprudence while you wait."

"But, but, it's a life and death issue!"

No kidding. They're the Supreme Court, they decide life and death issues over lunch, for crying out loud. This is one of the most obnoxious abuses of the judicial system I've ever seen. How many times do the courts have to tell these people, "you lose" before they'll go away? What are they, 0-27?

I hope some judge has the courage to slap their lawyer with sanctions for frivilous lawsuits. It won't happen, obviously, because said judge would surely end up vilified as if his name were "Scott Peterson", but I can dream. I shudder to think how much money this whole fiasco will cost the taxpayers of Florida and the United States as a whole, to say nothing of the people involved. I'm sorry, but occasionally, there's something to be said for a cold, hard dose of cost-benefit analysis.

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http://www.cnn.com/2005/LAW/03/24/abdul.ap/index.html

Hopefully she'll be able to attend the Billy Joel Driving School's 6 hour course, with guest lecturers Kelsey Grammer and Oksana Baiul.

By the way, check the caption on the photo. I must have missed the Executive Order that said we'd ignore Paula's 18 month run atop the pop music industry, but I'm grateful for it.

Today's Entry: Phil Tries To Offend Everyone

Pat Summitt is a phenomenal basketball coach. She has probably forgotten more about basketball than most coaches (male or female) will ever know. She should be applauded for reaching 880 wins. But will I recognize her as the all-time wins leader in college basketball?

Over my cold, dead corpse.

The comparison between the men's and women's games is night and day; they are two entirely different sports. They play a game with a round ball and a 10 foot hoop on a 94 foot court. That's about where the similarities end. The athletes are different. The attitudes are different. The pressure is different. The presence of a professional league makes men's hoops much different (please don't bother me with the WNBA). It is, simply put, much easier to win in women's ball than in men's. To compare Summitt's win totals with those of Dean Smith would be like trying to compare Don Shula's 325 wins as an NFL head coach with the totals of Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden. Are they legends in their own sport? Absolutely, but it's a different sport, and they shouldn't be lumped together.

Actually, I'd argue that the difference is more like that between high school football and the NFL, but I'm trying to avoid being completely chauvinistic, and will give the ladies the benefit of the doubt here.

I suspect that this little frenzy over Coach Summitt will blow over, and before long, Smith will be recognized as the all-time wins leader, while Summitt will be characterized as the all-time wins leader in women's ball. Just like that, before long, we will come to accept 61 home runs as the standard for baseball once again. Though in her defense, all indications are that Summitt at least plays by the rules.

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There are only two good things that I can think of that will come from this Terri Schiavo situation:
1. I suspect that most people are making it clear to their loved ones exactly what they'd like done should they end up in a vegetative state.
2. I will have a wealth of tasteless jokes and one-liners to make for the next six months.

If you think I'm not taking this seriously...you're right. The fact that this story has dominated the news for the last 2 weeks just shows CNN has nothing better to talk about now. The whole thing looks like a Lifetime TV movie gone horribly wrong.

I feel bad for all concerned, but really, how long can they possibly drag this out? The parents are roughly three steps beyond "nuts", and for some reason, Congress and the President have jumped in behind them, ignoring a few hundred years of precedent and reason, not to mention the age-old GOP theme song "we'll keep government out of your life." These people have had their day in court, for crying out loud. They've had SEVERAL! This whole "we've got new evidence that needs to be investigated" claim is ridiculous. You've had your days in court. You lost every single time. Let your daughter die in peace and let your son-in-law get on with his damn life. That's it, end of story.

I love my wife. Every so often she reminds me that we've got a lot more in common than we sometimes think. She said, "this poor guy can't even get remarried. If the parents are so stuck on being her legal guardians, why doesn't he just get a divorce and say, 'Okay, she's your problem now'?"
And if you still think I'm insensitive (and I am, let's not kid ourselves), wait until Oprah trots out the poor suffering parents after they lose their 263rd appeal and Terri finally dies, and she does her classic "I'm crying on the outside, but laughing on the inside at the ratings bonanza we're going to have" routine.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

A Few More Thoughts on the Tourney

Penny wise, pound foolish: I picked Utah to upset Oklahoma. Of course, I also picked Syracuse to make the Final Four, so a Utah win probably isn't enough to get my street cred back.

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This tourney has had more games than I can remember where I said, "I picked that team, right?" and didn't. Nevada and Iowa State in round 1, and then Texas Tech in round 2. It's a weird feeling, and none too pleasing, I might add. Next year, I obviously need to take a little more time to fill out my bracket.

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This isn't basketball-related, but it's well worth sharing: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,150866,00.html

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Am I wrong to think that Illinois' James Augustine would be a great 7th/8th man for the Suns? A big man who can run the floor with the little guys and passes well? Sounds like a perfect fit to me. Then again, Kev and I could look good in an offense being run by Luther Head, Dee Brown and Deron Williams.

By the way, I miss those old Suns teams. You know the ones that put Kevin Johnson on the floor with three swingmen and a token rebounder (first Mark West, then Charles Barkley)? Fun basketball to watch.

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So what was the more impressive feat: Danny Manning carrying Kansas to the 1988 title, or Lawrence Fishburne carrying Keanu Reeves to a reasonably competent performance in "The Matrix"?

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God bless DVR. I went to the grocery store today, paused the game, came back and caught up to real-time by fast forwarding through commercials. The only way this backfires is if someone calls you after a great finish and says, "Holy shit, did you see JJ Redick's buzzer beating three?!?" I'll have to start pulling a Jerry Seinfeld and answering the phone with, "IfyouknowwhathappenedintheDukegamedon'ttellmebecauseItapedithello?"

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Speaking of which, I believe (though I'm not sure) that I possess the all-time greatest game recording horror story. There was a girl at school that I'd been dying to go out with. For various reasons, it didn't happen until 16 months after I first asked her (more on this another time, and no, a restraining order was not in my future).

In any event, this date happened on the Saturday of the 1998 South Regional final: Duke vs. Kentucky. I decided to record the game on a primitive device known as a "VCR", thus giving me the best of both worlds. I got back to the dorm, went straight to my room without a word to anyone and popped the tape in. I had warned my suitemates ahead of time. Duke was taking UK behind the woodshed, but late in the second half, the 'Cats were making a run. A 17 point deficit became an 11 point deficit, and that in turn became an 8 point deficit with about 7 to go....and then the tape ran out. Damn.

"Well", I thought, "surely Duke won." I asked one of suitemates, "hey Dave, my tape ran out. Duke won the game, right?"

Dave looked at me as though an alien had torn through my stomach and begun attacking Sigourney Weaver.

"Um, right?"

"Um, no."

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By the way, I'm almost certain that above story was karmic payback for the fact that I tuned into the famous 1992 Duke-Kentucky game with 2.1 seconds to go.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Physician, Heal Thyself

I did it. I went against my better instincts and led with my heart, not my head. I picked Syracuse to make the Final Four. As a result, my bracket lies in a shambles. I should have just saved my entry fee for poker and gone all-in on 2-7 offsuit. My chances of winning would have been about as good. I'm half a step from writing off my NCAA pool entry fees as "charitable deductions" on my 2005 income taxes.

I ignored ALL the signs, every damn one of them. I ignored the fact that the Orange had a hard time shutting the door on inferior opponents all year. I ignored the fact that Gerry McNamara, who I love so much that I'll probably name my first born child "Gerry", has been one of the most overrated players in America all year. I ignored the fact that they had been unable to get a consistent third scorer all season. I ignored the fact that wide-bodied big men and long-range assassins kill the Cuse, and Duke (who I, obviously, picked SU to defeat in the Sweet 16 round) HAS BOTH!

Could I have seen a loss to Vermont coming? No, of course not. But I could have minimized the damage by not putting SU in my Final Four, and by picking Duke in that widely presumed Sweet 16 game.

By the way, here's a conversation I'm virtually guaranteed to have with my mother at some point in the next week...
Mom: Isn't that a great story about Vermont's Tom Brennan?
Me: I care not at all.
Mom: Oh come on Philip, you can't feel too bad about Syracuse losing to a nice guy like that, who's going off into retirement.
Me: Mom, you overestimate my maturity. I could feel bitter about the 'Cuse losing to a team of orphans coached by a blind nun with terminal cancer.

Either that or...
Mom: See, I told you Jim Boeheim was a choker!
Me: ...

Mom's never gotten over Syracuse winning the 2003 national title, one of the very few times I've been able to give her a heaping helping of "I told you so."

Well, I'm an idiot.

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Louisiana-Lafayette apparently has a coach named "Robert Lee". Shouldn't the NCAA mandate that he has to wear a gray military uniform with a white wig and beard at all times? And will a conference rival try to find a coach named "Ulysses Grant"?

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I always get a chuckle out of ESPN touting their "exclusive" coverage of the women's NCAA tournament. Can something be "exclusive" if you've only got it because no one else in their right mind would want it?

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I'm disappointed in one thing this year; the downfall of an annual tradition. Every year, at tourney time, CBS has some new TV show that is guaranteed to be craptacular, and they pimp it endlessly. The Handler, Falcone, Baby Bob, Century City, etc. And they fail every single time. Apparently CBS is trying to fill the gap with "Spring Break Shark Attack", (which, to its credit, appears to deliver precisely what the title advertises) but that's not the same.

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On the flip side, I think a betting line on "CSI-related ads" vs. "lowest scoring team of the day" for a full day of tourney programming would be pretty close.

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And so the Hakim Warrick Era ends not with a bang, but with a whimper. Nevertheless, he'll be going onto the NBA, and I hope he carves out a nice career for himself. I'll never, so long as I live, forget Warrick's block on Michael Lee's three pointer, to seal the 2003 title.

Thanks, Hak.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Madness

I woke up this morning and noticed a strange rash on my chest. It looked like a series of interconnected rectangles, with the words "Syracuse", "Austin", "Albuquerque" and "Chicago" written near them.

On my way to the bathroom, my cat Phoebe ran into me at full speed. I flopped to the floor and screamed to my wife, "that's a charge! Call it, ref!"

I called the newly chartered "ESPN U" to see if I could obtain a B.A. in Bracketology.

I've changed my cell phone ringer to ring "Let's Go Orange! Dum-dum-dumdumdum!" repeatedly.

At work, I nailed my wastebasket to the ceiling, began crumpling pieces of paper and firing away.

Eventually, my boss asked me to seek medical treatment for this strange behavior, so I went to the doctor that afternoon. The diagnosis? A terminal case of March Madness. The cure? Watch as much of the NCAA tournament as humanly possible over the next 3 weeks.

To that end, I'm taking vacation tomorrow afternoon. Far be it from me to disobey doctor's orders.

Happy St. Patrick's Day

A potpurri of wit, wisdom and mularkey from my people, the only ethnicity with our own national holiday...

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"Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and fat."
- Alex Levine

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Three English guys are sitting in a bar, with an Irishman nearby. They decide to get under his skin, so the first says, "hey Irish, your St. Patrick was a homosexual." The Irishman responds, "didn't know that. Thanks for sharing."

The second one goes over and says, "hey Irish, your St. Patrick liked to bugger little boys!" The Irishman, unfrazzled, says, "no kidding? That's interesting, thanks."

The third one thinks he knows how to really get under his skin and says, "hey Irish, your St. Patrick was an Englishman!" The Irishman responds, "yeah, I know. That's what your two pals were trying to tell me."

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"God invented whiskey so the Irish wouldn't take over the world."
- Ron Rostan

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May those who love us love us.
And those that don't love us,
May God turn their hearts.
And if He doesn't turn their hearts,
May he turn their ankles,
So we'll know them by their limping.

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May the curse of Mary Malone and her nine blind illegitimate children chase you so far over the hills of Damnation that the Lord himself can't find you with a telescope.

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An Englishman, a Scotsman and an Irishman are sitting at a bar drinking, and a fly lands on each of their beers. The Englishman, disgusted, pushes the beer away. The Scotsman shrugs, scoops the fly out of the beer and keeps drinking. The Irishman grabs the fly by the wings and shouts, "Spit it out, you bastard!"

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Here's to me, and here's to you,
And here's to love and laughter-
I'll be true as long as you,
And not one moment after.

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"This is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever."
- Sigmund Freud (about the Irish)

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And finally, my wish to you on this glorious March 17th:

May your glass be ever full.
May the roof over your head be always strong.
And may you be in heaven
half an hour before the devil knows you're dead.

Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

An Open Letter to the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee

Robert Bowlsby
Chairman, NCAA Tournament Selection Committee
University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA

Re: Tourney Selection

Dear Mr. Bowlsby,

Fuck you.

Yours,
Philip Unwin
Alumnus, University at Buffalo

One Step Closer

Since getting married, it has been my mission to turn my wife into a Republican. Yesterday, she got one step closer. When hearing about how Brian Nichols overpowered a deputy and stole his gun, leading to three deaths, she asked, in an exasperated tone, "why the hell don't they have minimum height and weight standards for prisoner transports?"
"You want answers?" I asked, snarling.
"I think I'm entitled," she responded.
"You want answers?"
"I want the truth."
"YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!"

Um, okay, it didn't go exactly like that. But I did explain to her that she had no one to blame but her own political party (you know, the Party of the Jackass). Liberals have been coming up with cockamamie regulations on equal hiring and equal protection for years and have managed to win just enough in court that administrators are running scared. Rather than impose stringent physical regulations on prisoner transports (and other personnel that deal with large, violent men), they choose to avoid a lawsuit and ignore such regulations, at the cost of the safety for all concerned.

A great man (well, maybe just a man), once said "A liberal with a cause is more dangerous than a Hell's Angel with an attitude." Court personnel get put in more danger than they should be on a daily basis because these liberals with a cause took a noble idea (ensuring that minorities get a fair shake in the workplace) and took it about 27 steps too far.

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In the interest of equal time, however, I'll rail against a pet Republican idea that drives me bonkers: farm subsidies. The first time I heard about this idea that we pay farmers NOT to produce, I thought, "well that seems kind of silly." I was 6 at the time. It still doesn't make sense to me. Cattle are slaughtered by the thousand and crops burned by the ton all because we want to keep the price for goods artificially high and preserve a charming, antiquated style of life. Ugh. And of course, we can't piss off our friends in other strong agrarian nations by just dumping these commodities on the world market (and, you know, maybe feed a few starving nations along the way). Sadly, this is mostly a Republican ideal, which embarasses me since we've traditionally been the big free market advocates. If a business doesn't run well, let it die. Hire who you want, pay what you want, charge what you want, but God forbid you touch the good, old family farm!

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Buffalo lost, but Syracuse won. I'll take that trade. Call me disloyal to my alma mater, but still, the Orange were here first. By the way, for as much abuse as Craig Forth takes, the guy is part of the all-time winningest senior class in Syracuse history, and now has a Big East tournament championship to go along with a national title. So he can't be THAT bad.

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Mark McGwire is the latest to get implicated in the steroid scandal. I'm not shocked by this, of course, but still, it's pretty sad. This will be a real test of the previously Teflon McGwire's goodwill with the public. We're quick to jump on Barry Bonds for steroid issues and his evasive responses. Let's see how McGwire holds up in the court of public opinion. Everyone likes McGwire, whereas Bonds is one of the least popular baseball players in decades.

If it all comes out that the last 15 years (or whatever) were tarnished by widespread steroid abuse, I'd like to see those records wiped from the books. Or at least get an asterisk. Hell, Roger Maris got the infamous * because he needed 162 games to hit 61 homers. Surely Bonds' 73 and McGwire's 70 should, at minimum, have the same treatment if they've actively cheated. Maris broke the home run record within the confines of baseball's rules and spirit. McGwire and Bonds broke the record within the confines of the rules (remember that baseball only recently had ANY steroid policy), but clearly not the spirit.

And I haven't decided how I feel about a Congressional investigation into this, in case you were wondering. On the one hand, it seems that Congress surely has better things to do. There's a war going on, a budget to be approved and crises looming in Social Security and Medicare that, unchecked, could bankrupt this country. On the other hand, this is clearly a public health issue, and baseball must take the good with the bad. MLB has enjoyed "sacred cow" status from Congress for decades. They cannot now turn around and say, "don't get involved in our game!" In any event, we're not talking about the entire House and Senate, just a committee, so it's not as though the full energies of Congress are being devoted to this business.

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The last word:

"I feel like I've seen everything there is to see on the internet. Pepsi can coming out of a vagina? Yup, seen it." -- Joe

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Go, Go Buffalo!

On a list of "Words I never in a million years I thought I'd be saying", that's right up there with "and please meet my wife, Mrs. Kirsten Dunst-Unwin".

Did Satan grab hold of my soul and turn me into a Bills fan? Not hardly. A Sabres fan? No, and what is this "hockey" you speak of? Anyway, all my adult life I've had at least a little regret about the fact that I didn't attend a major Division I powerhouse sports school for undergrad, (i.e. Michigan or Penn State) or law school, (i.e. Maryland or Connecticut). Not much regret, but enough to think about it. As good as the education I received was, the University of Rochester will never have a sports program of note. Neither, I thought, would the University at Buffalo, my law school.

Those days are over. Maybe.

With a win last night over Western Michigan, UB is on the brink of the NCAA tournament. A win over Ohio U tonight clinches it. Even with a loss, they have a decent chance at an at-large berth.

Suffice to say, prior to this year, I probably couldn't have told you three things about UB's hoops program. I could have told you the team nickname (Bulls), and pointed out the spot on campus where they played, and that was about it. When this season started, I took a look and thought, "hey, this team could be pretty good this year." I hopped aboard the bandwagon and have enjoyed the ride ever since, even taking in a game against my wife's alma mater (Miami-OH) at Alumni Arena. After all, how can I not pull for a team that named its arena after me? (Get it? Cause it's "Alumni Arena", and I'm an alumnus? Get it? Huh? Ah, the hell with it.)

Go Bulls!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Sitcom Curse

Ever have a really good stream of consciousness thought? I get them all the time. For example, I was standing in line at the grocery store this afternoon and saw a DVD of the movie "Troop Beverly Hills", starring Shelley Long.

I snickered, as I do at every mention of the career of Shelley Long.

I had a discussion with my mom once: who made the worse career move, Shelley Long or David Caruso. Mom said it was Shelley Long, by a country mile. And she was right. If you play the "who made the worse career move" game, NOBODY tops Shelley Long. Not even Kurt Cobain putting a shotgun in his mouth and painting the walls with his brain.

From there, I thought, "well, maybe it's not just her. Most of those people on Cheers didn't have much of a career afterwards." Kelsey Grammer, of course, is the notable exception, but he was just playing the same character for the next 10 years, so that doesn't count. Ted Danson had an unremarkable run as Dr. Becker, one of the most one-dimensional leading men in TV history. Kirstie Alley had a couple flops and then decided to go the self-parody route. Woody Harrelson had a "blink and you'll miss it" run as an B-list leading man in the 90s. Rhea Perlman, George Wendt, and John Ratzenberger all did absolutely zilch.

And then I thought, "well, it extends to Seinfeld, too....in fact, you could say that about most great sitcoms." And it's true. Think about all the great TV sitcoms of the last 30 years or so. Cheers, Family Ties, The Cosby Show, MASH, All in the Family, Diff'rent Strokes (which may or may not qualify as a great sitcom. I think it does, but your mileage may vary), Three's Company, Night Court...with few exceptions, the people on these shows didn't do squat afterwards. It's too soon to tell with Friends, but I've got a feeling we're in good hands. I had to check IMDB to verify that Joey was still on the air (it is...at least, as of this writing) and Jennifer Aniston looks headed for one of those post-divorce Nicole Kidman career deaths.

Seriously, go through the list of great sitcoms of the last 30 years, and see how many people went onto other big things. Michael J. Fox and Carroll O'Connor you get for free. Rob Reiner, too, even though all his work was as a director and producer (God bless that man for doing "Spinal Tap"). Hell, I'll even throw in the Olsen Twins, even though: 1. Full House wasn't a great sitcom by any stretch of the imagination, and 2. they're mostly famous for being famous.

I've already discussed "Cheers".

The Seinfeld gang? Nothing, to my complete surprise. Seriously. I thought that Jason Alexander and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss were more than capable of carrying their own shows. It looks like I haven't been this wrong since I pegged Bill Pulsipher as a future Cy Young winner. But if this is karmic retribution for the absolute worst series ending in TV history, then I'm all for it.

MASH? Nothing, and they went through cast members like Paris Hilton goes through condoms. (BURN!)

Diff'rent Strokes? Nothing, to no one's surprise.

Cosby? Nothing. Remember "A Different World"? I always thought that was funny because they made the show as a vehicle to showcase Lisa Bonet, who was constantly getting upstaged on Cosby...and then she got upstaged on her own spinoff. Has a network ever done more for a less talented actress than Lisa Bonet?

Night Court? Nothing, and again, I'm a little surprised. I thought for sure that John Laroquette or Markie Post would have made something of themselves, though the rest of the characters were just painfully one-dimensional.

Feel free to think of your own. For the most part, they'll fit right in. But there are a couple exceptions, as there are to most rules:

Mary Tyler Moore had some successful supporting actors. Betty White, Cloris Leachman and Valerie Harper all did okay afterwards. Ed Asner had a nice career, too. Ted Knight didn't do much, but made up for it in quality: Judge Smails remains one of the funniest characters in movie history.

Happy Days didn't have a lot of successful actors, but Henry Winkler and Ron Howard both had tremendous careers as producers and directors. And Pat Morita and Ted McGinley both carved their own little niches in Hollywood lore, though Ted's was mostly for being the Grim Reaper to any show you ever liked. It also spun off Laverne and Shirley, which doesn't count, either, but it bears mention.

Finally, there's Taxi. Taxi featured Judd Hirsch, Danny DeVito, Tony Danza, Andy Kaufman and Christopher Lloyd. Wow. That's a murderer's row. We will almost certainly never see one sitcom churn out that many successful actors again. Who knows what would have happened if Andy hadn't died prematurely? Admittedly, Tony Danza still holds the record for "longest and most inexplicable 15 minutes of fame", but still, you can't argue with his success.

Since sitcoms are a dying breed in today's TV landscape of cop shows, lawyer shows and people humiliating themselves for no good reason, I'm not sure when we'll see the next great sitcom, if ever. But maybe that's for the best, at least for the actors.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Has it Been This Long Since I Posted?

Wow. I'd apologize to you, dear reader, but you're getting hours...well, minutes, anyway, of quality entertainment at an eminently affordable price. At least, you're getting that from the sites you visit when I'm not actively posting.

On with the Ramblings...

Semi-random adolescent moment of the day, from Denis Leary's "No Cure For Cancer":
"I got two words for you: Jim Fixx. Remember Jim Fixx? Big, famous jogging guy, did a jogging book, did a jogging video, and dropped dead of a massive heart attack WHEN?!? When he was f**kin' jogging, that's right! What do you wanna bet it was two smokers who found the body?
'Hey, isn't that Jim Fixx?'
'Wow, what a f**kin' tragedy, let's go buy some butts.'"

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Am I the only one who thinks George 41 is going to outlive Billy Jeff? Sure, we're probably past the point where Hillary will bash Bill's head in with a frying pan, but the guy has a new heart surgery every six months. Meanwhile, George 41 is jumping out of airplanes on his birthday.

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You know how much I miss football when I read that the Dolphins have signed Donnie Spragan ("who?" Exactly.) and I start searching for every piece of info I can find on the guy. Would it kill Paul Tagliabue to make the NFL season 40 games? I mean, sure, the union would be pissed at first, but if Tags took negotiating lessons from David Stern, he'd have Gene Upshaw dancing on tables on command, like Stalin used to make Khruschev do.

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I'm not sure what it says about me that I took classtime this evening to explain to my students what Guinness is. I'm even less sure what it says about them.

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If you're wondering what happened to Kirk Cameron, well, you're just moments away from finding out...http://www.wayofthemaster.com/

Personally, I think he saw Jason Bateman's huge comeback, went on a 6-month coke binge and "found God" right about the time his funds were running low.

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"Hey, isn't that Dan Rather's career?"
"Wow, what a f**kin' tragedy, let's go buy some butts."

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I was thinking about college nicknames this morning. Or, more accurately, three specific ones: USC, Michigan State and Notre Dame. The Trojans, Spartans and Fightin' Irish. And I started to wonder what it was about these schools that made them opt to pick the names of these groups of warriors. (Yes, I know, Trojans and Spartans are clearly warriors, but Fightin' Irish is a stretch. Well, I needed a third one, and it's my article anyway, so there.)

Spartans, I can see; the Spartans were the Terminators of ancient Greece. 300 of them held off 10,000 Persians at Thermopylae. Bad asses to the core. Good name for a football team.

But the other two, eh, not so much. The Trojans weren't anything special, and they got duped by some dumb guys piling inside a wooden horse, after all. What's so great about that? And the Fightin' Irish...well, let's not kid ourselves. First, the Irish (my people, by the way) did most of their fighting with themselves. Still do, by the way. And in any event, the Emerald Isle is one of history's great losers: 700+ years of English occupation before finally throwing them out in 1922. And even that was largely the end result of English war weariness. Why pick these names when there were so many names that do far more to inspire victory?

How about "Romans"? They only ran the entire continent of Europe for 500 years or so. That's pretty cool. A lot better than the Trojans, who couldn't even hang onto their own city. And what coach wouldn't want the unofficial title of "Caesar"? An egomaniac like Bill Parcells would jump all over that.

What about "Macedonians"? An extraordinarily well-trained group of warriors that conquered half the known world mostly because it was there. This would have the added benefit of disabusing children of the idea that Alexander the Great was Greek. Alexander was no more a Greek than I am a Mexican. He was not Greek; he was a ruler who conquered Greece, much as I plan to do to Mexico...or perhaps I've said too much.

Maybe "Mongols"? An insanely violent group of conquerors that absolutely could not be stopped, destroying everything in their path. Sounds like the '85 Bears defense.

Fortunately, there's at least one team that got it right. They're not a football team, but a minor league hockey team. Just as violent, works for me. They opted to emulate the most techologically advanced, well-disciplined warriors the world has yet seen.

The Rochester Americans.