Friday, April 29, 2005

The Hot Potato That is Social Security

I've said it before, I'll say it again: the looming crisis over Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid is the most important issue facing the country. It's more important than the war in Iraq, and more important than terrorism. These two problems have the potential to bankrupt the United States. As Pete so eloquently said, "this is the one thing we absolutely must not f*** up."
There's a pretty good article on President Bush's most recent Social Security proposal, which I'll be referring to in this post (hint: read it if you want to understand what I'm talking about):

So why is progress so slow on finding a solution to this ultra-important problem? I'd love to tell you that the Democrats are completely and totally wrong on this. And in fact, I think they're more wrong than the President. But they're not totally wrong. I'd apportion the blame for the impasse about 70-30.

I view the Dems as being recalcitrant to pretty much any proposal. Politically, it behooves them to be so. If they look tough on Social Security and can make Bush look like the bad guy (and to their credit, they are doing a tremendous job of it; most Americans disapprove of the private accounts system, which is retarded for reasons I've previously stated, but vox populi) they're in good shape for the off-year elections. Old people vote. Old people REALLY vote when they think their hard-won government benefits are being cut off. The fact that Bush has said, literally dozens of times, that benefits won't be cut for these old farts is irrelevant. In politics, perception is reality. The Party of the Jackass probably can't recapture the Senate, but the House is a possibility.

So politically, they're smart. Unfortunately, in terms of, you know, results and leadership, they're dead wrong. So far, all we've heard from the Dems is that they don't want private accounts, they don't want to index benefits as in the Pozen plan (see the article) and they don't want to cut benefits for anyone or increase the retirement age. They're probably okay with hiking the payroll tax, but we can't be sure. They're like a fussy child right now. "I don't want that! Or that! Or that!!! I'm going to hold my breath until I get what I want!" Unfortunately, since we can't really tell what they want, they may be holding their breath for some time.

Bush, of course, is not totally devoid of blame. Some would call his insistence on sticking with a private accounts plan, in the face of significant opposition, noble. I would call it stubborn. It ain't gonna fly, GW. Give it up. As much as it's probably a good idea, it's probably a good idea that will have to wait 20 years or so until more of these Great Depression-era people, who as a rule are absolutely terrified of free market forces, die off. If Bush is trying to use that as a bargaining chip to get something else (like the eminently reasonable Pozen plan) pushed through, so be it. But given Bush's history of being pretty recalcitrant himself, I doubt it. Bush can't win this one, politically speaking. As I said, perception is reality. Kev made a very astute observation on this: if Bush should get private accounts pushed through or make progress in doing so by the November 2006 elections, all it takes is one ad, featuring a little old lady making a bad investment, going broke, saying, "the Republicans did this to me." And the Dems will gleefully run that from Anchorage to Miami. Of course, as noted before, private accounts WILL NOT AFFECT OLD PEOPLE, but then, facts have never gotten in the way of a good ad before.

I also think his refusal to raise the cap on payroll taxes is absurd. $90,000 was an obscene amount of money back when Social Security was founded. Now, it's probably an income level reached by (I'm guessing here) 30% of the population. An annual income of $90,000 makes you upper class, not obscenely rich. That figure was designed to represent a point at which there was no point in taxing above, because you would be dealing with much less than 1% of the population. Times have changed, and the standard must be changed as well. Believe me, I'm not happy about it. But as between letting government giveaway programs (Social Security and Medicare) bankrupt this country, and a modest increase in the amount that the wealthy are paying into the system, I'll take the latter.

Bush's plan is short on specifics, but it is a plan, and he's offering some room for compromise. The Pozen plan was drafted by a Democrat, in fact. So Bush's plan is far from perfect, but he's actually proposing something, while the Dems are content to play Dr. No, and in the process, bring bankruptcy closer to this country every day.

A Lifetime List

I have a list of things I want to do in my lifetime. Some of them are basic stuff that just about everyone wants to do: have kids, buy a house, retire while I've still got a couple marbles rolling around upstairs. Some are less basic: write a book, coach Little League, become Pope. Okay, I made that last one up.

And then some are sports-related. Sports, as you have no doubt figured out by now, is an important part of my life, even though I'm roughly as athletic as a beer-stained cocktail napkin. It's a big deal to me. And, it's a big deal with my circle of friends, too. Kev, Joe and I (staunch Republicans all) took a straw poll before the November election. The question was "would you rather have your favorite team win the Super Bowl, or have George Bush be re-elected?" The result was 3-0 in favor of a Redskins, Giants or Dolphins Super Bowl victory.

So, without further ado, here's a list of sports-related goals that I have. Obviously, they're all spectator goals. My dreams of an NBA career vanished roughly 29 years ago, when my mother turned down Wilt Chamberlain's overtures. Okay, I made that up too.

* See a game in every major league team's home park. Since teams move and parks change, I've had to make this a "franchise" goal, i.e. I've already seen a game in Montreal's Stade Olympique, so the Nationals' soon-to-be home park in Anacostia isn't on the list (for multiple reasons; I've been through Southeast DC and have no desire to go back). So far, I've crossed off the Mets, Expos/Nationals, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Padres and Tigers.

* Attend a Miami Dolphins Super Bowl. With the Nick Saban Era upon us, I feel good about this one happening sometime in the next 5-8 years. I have standing pacts with Joe and Kev on this: if the Dolphins play the Redskins (Kev) or the Giants (Joe) in the Super Bowl, we have a pact to go. Whatever the cost, wherever the location. Yes, even if it's Super Bowl XL in Detroit.
I don't have a burning desire just to go to the Super Bowl, though. Sure, I'd like to go, but the thing about football games, which separates it from baseball or basketball, is that you really have to have a vested interest in the teams playing to enjoy it. The traffic is insane, every third fan looks and acts like one of the guys getting arrested on COPS or "Dog: the Bounty Hunter", there's a good chance that you won't be able to see what's happening at one end of the field, and if you're in my part of the world (upstate NY), there's a 50% chance that the weather is miserable. Am I going to deal with all that just to see the Patriots and Eagles, when I could sit in the comfort of my own home with pizza bread, chicken fingers and enough beer to drown a water buffalo? I think not.

* Go to the Final Four. There's no better deal going than NCAA tourney tickets. You get three games for the same price that decent NFL tickets cost, with some of the most enthusiastic fan support anywhere. Of course, the trade-off is that you have to get loaded before the game, since they don't sell beer.

* Attend the best rivalries in college football. Ohio State-Michigan was probably the best sporting experience I've ever had. Just incredible. I'd love to have that again. Something tells me that Auburn-Alabama will measure up, with the added bonus of southern BBQ being omnipresent at such a game. Miami-Florida State probably won't, but it's the rivalry that I care most about, so that's on the list too. I'd also like to attend Michigan-Notre Dame and Texas-Oklahoma (I always felt that OU-Nebraska was the better rivalry, but whatever, it seems the Big XII has ruled against me on that score).

* Catch a foul ball. Haven't yet. Tom Donohue caught like 7 in one summer. I have zero, despite the fact that I've been to probably 50 major and minor league games, am tall, reasonably coordinated, know where to sit, and have no qualms about pushing children, the elderly, or cripples out of the way to get the ball. I did, however, convince an umpire to give a ball to my 10 year old cousin once. That's pretty good.

* Take my dad to a NASCAR Nextel Cup race, preferably the Daytona 500. My stepdad is a huge golf fan. Well, much as I love him, I'd rather watch paint dry than stand in the gallery at the Masters or US Open or wherever. That'll be a Father's Day gift where he can take Mom, or a friend, or someone not named Phil. But the 500? I'd go see that.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

My Draft Day Diary

Want my thoughts on Draft Day? Just head on over to: http://www.finheaven.com/cms/137.html

Monday, April 18, 2005

A Redder Shade of Pale

Remember that song "A Whiter Shade of Pale"? I don't know what it was about (death, drugs or sex, probably), but it seems that my neck is turning a redder shade of pale. Those who know me know that I'm about as tanned as Casper the Friendly Ghost. And yet, it seems that one part of my body is turning from luminescent white to red.

"Hi, my name is Phil, and I'm a NASCAR fan."
(all) "HI PHIL!"

Well, what the hell did you expect? Hockey's gone from my life. She walked out on me a year ago and hasn't written or called since. There's got to be something to replace her. Oh sure, I could take up a productive activity, I suppose. But no, I work hard and frankly, I earn the couch time I log on Sundays (one major advantage to NASCAR: it meshes nicely with the NFL season). Besides, NASCAR replaced hockey as the most widely accepted blue-collar sport some time ago. That's a plus. And, save for a Pistons-Pacers or Red Sox-Yankees game, there's nowhere else where you're likely to see the level of calamity that pervades the average NASCAR race. Sunday, Tony Stewart drove around half the track with his car engulfed in flames, before jumping out of the smoking wreckage and into an ambulance. This was treated as a normal occurrence.

So I like NASCAR. I like it because I learn something new every time I watch. FOX has occasional features about what goes into the car and the mechanical changes these guys make and stuff. As a one-time science and math nerd, this appeals to me. A hardcore NASCAR fan probably hates it, and says things like, "well, hell, I knew that!" and "hey Cletus, grab me another Pabst!" But I like it.

I like Jeff Gordon. Gordon is reviled by most hard-core NASCAR fans, but I'm a fan. For one, everyone else hates him. That counts for something (see also: U of Miami football, the "Bad Boys" Pistons). Moreover, his post-race interviews are comprehensible. In fact, as Jeff Foxworthy once postulated, that's probably why most NASCAR fans don't like him. They like their drivers to sound like Boomhower from King of the Hill.

Still, I don't know if my heart is totally into it. Not yet, anyway. My dad is a die-hard racing fan and that's probably part of the reason I enjoy it. And as much as I'd like to say I've had it with the NHL, I've got to admit, like any neglected person whose spouse comes back to them begging for a second chance, I'd probably take the NHL back in a heartbeat.

But not right now. Hockey needs to get her things in order, and frankly, the bitch needs to beg and plead a little before I let her back into my life. In the meantime, I'll spend time with my mistress, Sweet Lady NASCAR.

"Boogity, boogity, boogity, let's go racin'!"

Aw, honey, I love it when you talk dirty to me.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Good for you, Sheff

For those who have had their heads stuck in the sand over the last 14 hours, Gary Sheffield got punched in the face by a Red Sox fan when going for a ball along the outfield wall. Sheff grabbed the ball boy's steel chair, jumped in the stands and started swinging at everything in sight. A riot ensued and Boston police needed to use tasers and tear gas to restore order.

Oh wait, sorry. That's what would have happened if Ron Artest was playing right field for the Yankees.

A friend of mine took me to task for my lambasting of Artest after the Malice at the Palace. He said that given the same situation, any person, let alone any testosterone-filled athlete, would react the same way. Sheffield is not, by anyone's estimation, the coolest customer around. Did he beat the holy crap out of the fan, or (as in the case of Artest) the one nearest to him? No. Did he pull a Frank Francisco and start throwing chairs around? No. He got pissed but regained his cool, and walked away.

THAT is what a real man should do.

Hopefully Sheffield's reaction will silence the last of the Ron Artest apologists.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Star Wars

A Saturday afternoon with nothing to do but cook and do laundry. Huzzah. Major League Baseball, in their finite wisdom, had the Mets playing tonight, despite being in Atlanta, so I was left to kill time until then. Watch The Masters? Thanks, but I'd rather sit and count my hair. I channel surfed until I came across an old friend, born the same year as me: Star Wars, on FOX. Of course it's on FOX. Is there any doubt that, if you're a male between the ages of 13 and 50, FOX is the best network on TV? Of course, CBS brings football, the NCAA tournament and CSI, which is pretty good, and ABC brings the NBA and Monday Night Football, which is also pretty good. NBC brings a swift kick in the nuts.

The great thing about Star Wars is that it's one of the few movies that actually holds up on network TV, because they don't have to edit out any swear words or gratutious violence. Watch Demolition Man or any Die Hard movie on network TV sometime if you want to see a fine action movie butchered. It's fun to watch anyway, but more so when you've seen the four sequels that followed. For example, seeing Darth Vader as a pilot makes a little more sense when you remember The Phantom Menace.

Of course, Phantom Menace was the weak sister of the family. Maybe if they'd whacked Jar Jar, and cast Haley Joel Osment (or someone else who can, you know, ACT) as Anikin, it would be better.

Attack of the Clones was pretty good, though it was basically an action movie with a thin plot. I did, however, love the scene where Anikin pulled a Lt. William Calley (let's see how many sharp-eyed students of history catch that reference) and slaughtered a whole village of Sand People, a vignette which ended with him crying about it and the Imperial March playing in the background, a very cool bit of character-building.

But obviously, those two lag far behind the Holy Trilogy.

So which of the original three reigns supreme now? Here's one man's opinion, keeping in mind that all three of these movies have a place in my exalted top 25 list...

3. The Empire Strikes Back - Arguably the coolest movie title ever. In fact, my favorite moment of Tomorrow Never Dies was when the Rupert Murdoch-type character was writing a headline about a war between Great Britain and China, and came up with "The Empire WILL Strike Back". And yet, I digress. Empire was really the closest thing we had to the bad guys winning, which is always good, though it made it obvious that a sequel was coming. Well, that and the 800 bazillion dollars George Lucas was making on these flicks.

2. Star Wars - Some geeks have taken to typing out the full title, Star Wars: A New Hope, or Star Wars, Episode IV. Baloney. It's Star Wars. Always was, always will be. (If you couldn't tell, I'm hung up on titles.) Anyway, Star Wars comes in just a shade below Return of the Jedi, for reasons I'll explain below. Some of the little side plots in this are fun in retrospect, like Luke falling in love with Leia, well before finding out that she was his sister. And really, it's the ultimate battle between good and evil. By "Jedi" the whole enterprise had been somewhat convoluted. In this one, it was easy: we had Vader and the Empire on one side, Skywalker and the Rebellion on the other. Great stuff. By the way, does anyone else think that the Empire looks back on Tie-Fighter Pilot #2 smacking into Vader and knocking him off course the same way that Browns fans look at Earnest Byner's fumble on the two-yard line in the 1987 AFC Championship?

1. Return of the Jedi - Here's why Jedi is the best of the lot: in Star Wars, we've got Whiny Luke. Empire has a less-whiny Luke, but he's still got some candy-ass in him, until the end of the movie. Then Vader owns up to being Luke's father and lops off his hand. Now THAT'S tough love. And it pays off, because by Jedi, he's a certified, grade A prime badass. He's marching into Jabba's palace alone and demanding Solo and the Wookie. He's going one-on-one with Vader and beating the holy hell out of him. And of course, Vader responds by throwing the Emperor into the reactor and blowing up the whole thing. Like a real man, Luke ultimately uses his words as his best weapon. Good lesson for kids, by the way. The only thing that made me consider dropping Jedi to the #2 spot was the cuteness factor. The Ewoks set a terrible example that Lucas ultimately repeated with the most loathsome character in movie history: Jar Jar Binks. No matter. Small fault in a phenomenal movie.

So what's next? Well, Episode III looks freakin' awesome, according to the ads I've seen, though I severely doubt it moves past any of the original three. Most people know that Lucas also planned, once upon a time, to do episodes 7, 8 and 9. Everything I've heard says that he's got no plans to film them, but I'm skeptical. George Lucas is a money-grubbing man who had two great ideas in his life and plans to milk them for all they're worth. Look at the countless animated series and related material that has been spawned by Star Wars and Indiana Jones. He's rereleased and remastered the original three Star Wars movies numerous times under the pretext of "getting it right". At some point, he's going to stop fidgeting with them and say, "hell with this, let's just go forward with Episodes 7, 8 and 9. I need to buy a small, African nation." He's 60 years old, still plenty young enough to crank out the last three installments of the saga.

"But they don't need any more Star Wars movies!"
They didn't need another Indiana Jones movie, either. But that's coming out in 2006.
"But I liked the way they left it in Return of the Jedi!"
Me too. But I'm sure you'll like the way they end it in Episode IX, too.
"Whatever. It's a travesty, and a sham and a mockery. It's a traveshamockery."
Fine. Will you see Episodes VII, VIII and IX if/when they come out?
"Of course."
That's what I thought.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Friday Rantings

You may recall one of my early fits of righteous indignation with commonplace idiocy. So, without much else to rant about, like any mediocre Hollywood studio, I bring you (cue dramatic music) The Sequel: Even More Things That Piss Me Off...

- People who can't handle acronyms and plurals. These come in two categories, one a little more forgiveable than the other. The first is the person who doesn't realize that an acronym encompasses plurality in the first place. The best example is this: RBIs.

In fact, any baseball fan knows that RBI stands for RunS Batted In. It's already plural. A player doesn't have 2 RBIs in a game, he has 2 RBI. Still, the term has often been treated as a singular. And while it's irritating, I've come to grudgingly accept it.

But the one I'll fight to my last breath is the repetitive acronym: ISBN Number, MSDS Sheet.

ISBN already has the Number inside! MSDS already has the Sheet inside! MSDS stands for Material Safety Data Sheet. I forgot what ISBN stands for, darn it, but I know it ends with Number!

- The "reply all" button. At my old office, this was abused worse than a redheaded stepchild. Would anyone be opposed to instant commutation to Siberia for people who send a "reply all" where a simple "reply" is called for? Oh okay, fine, they get ONE warning. Obviously, I'm getting soft in my old age.

- Abuse of the word "notoriety". Somehow, people think "notoriety" is a good thing. No, it's a bad thing. Notoriety is just the root of the word "notorious". You don't gain notoriety by selling hundreds of millions of albums, like Michael Jackson did. You gain notoriety by molesting dozens of children, like Michael Jackson did. Get the difference? Good.

- Unfortunately, all my credibility is shot. One of the dumbest things I do, I do to myself. I'm a tall guy, with long legs. But my torso is a little short for my body (not enough to make me look like a mutant; my third arm does that). So the coats I wear tend to hang a little low. I keep my car keys in my coat pocket. My key chain is of significant size and weight, since there are lots of keys, a heavy brass AAA thingie that's somehow supposed to guarantee my keys will get back to me should I lose them in downtown Detroit just across 8 Mile Road, and a car starter on there. Because I have long legs, I tend to walk fast. And because I walk fast, stuff tends to move around in my pockets. Stuff like my keys, which sit in my somewhat low-hanging coat. So sometimes, when I'm not careful, my keys hit me in the nuts.

So there you go. You can now disregard anything I say that derides other people.

---

I just drafted my living will, in light of the Terri Schiavo disaster. Here for you to see...

I, Phunwin, being of sound mind and body, do not wish to be kept alive indefinitely by artificial means. Under no circumstances should my fate be put in the hands of peckerwood politicians who couldn't pass ninth-grade biology if their lives depended on it.
If a reasonable amount of time passes and I fail to sit up and ask for a cold beer and the score of the Mets game, it should be presumed that I won't ever get better. When such a determination is reached, I hereby instruct my spouse, children, and/or attending physicians to pull the plug, reel in the tubes and call it a day. If they won't do it, go out on the street and get some random passerby or wino.
Under no circumstances shall the members of the Legislature enact a special law to keep me on life-support machinery. I don't care how many fundamentalist votes they're trying to scrounge for their run for the presidency; they should play politics with someone else's life and leave me alone to die in peace.
It is my wish that these boneheads mind their own damn business, and pay attention instead to the health, education and future of the millions of Americans who aren't in a permanent coma. It just goes to show you how sick you have to be in this country to get Congress to pay attention to your health care.
I couldn't care less if a hundred thousand religious zealots send e-mails to legislators in which they pretend to care about me or demonstrate outside my hospital with their bleeding Jesuses and sandwiches with Mary's face on them. I don't know these people, and I certainly haven't authorized them to preach and crusade on my behalf.
And if any of my family goes against my wishes and tries to turn my case into a political cause, I hereby promise to come back from the grave and make his or her existence a living hell.

Phunwin

(P.S. Thanks for the forward, Alex)

---

Finally, your quote for the day...

"They keep talking about drafting a Constitution for Iraq. Why don't we just give them ours? It was written by a lot of really smart guys, it's worked for over 200 years, and hell, we're not using it anymore."
-- I'm not sure who said this, but since Stacy sent it to me, we're crediting it to her

Have a nice weekend!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

The Long, Strange Journey of Tom Cruise

You know what movie I love?

"Terminator 2, the movie you once said you would marry if only it had breasts and could cook?"

Besides that.

Cocktail with Tom Cruise. I bought it as part of a 2-pack at Sam's Club a week ago, along with Swingers. Total price? $12.22. I later found out that it was marked incorrectly, but that's their problem.

In any event, it's probably the last movie Cruise made where he was still in the teen idol mode. You'll recall movies like Risky Business and Top Gun, where Cruise basically allowed his good looks and boyish charm to carry the movie. Cocktail was probably the last of those.

In watching Cocktail, if you didn't know anything about what Cruise did afterwards, you'd swear he flamed out like every other 80s teen idol, because Cocktail is really pretty much like every other 80s movie.
- You've got the main character, a young guy just trying to make it in a world that's much too business-oriented. So he's going to be a bartender, and he's gonna take the world by storm. Of course he is.
- You've got the love interest, who has blonde, frizzy 80s hair and really, truly loves Our Hero, but doesn't know if she can trust him.
- You've got classic 80's hair, music and clothing. Good God, did people really use to wear that stuff?
- You've got oodles of unintentional comedy, from the "yuppie poet" who looks like ESPN's John Clayton with a hairpiece, to Cruise's attempts at poetry that are so awful, they have to be seen to be believed.
- You've got the villains, the love interest's evil yuppie parents. (Who, seen through the eyes of wisdom and maturity, actually aren't so unreasonable. Would you want your daughter to marry some guy who knocked her up, ditched her for someone else, all in a foreign country and runs a bar, thus working very late at night with endless opportunity for easy sex?)

In fact, the only thing separating Cocktail from the ash heap of forgettable 80s movies is the sidekick, Doug Coughlin, played by Bryan Brown. Your usual 80s sidekick was either:
a. the socially inept geek who's a really good friend.
b. the over-the-top cool guy who's a really good friend.
c. the girl, who's a friend, who becomes a girlfriend.

All of them are happy-go-lucky in the extreme, whereas Bryan Brown plays a complex and tortured soul, often teaching Our Hero valuable life lessons at the cost of being a total dick (i.e. sleeping with Cruise's girlfriend just to prove that she's a slut). Really, one of the most interesting sidekicks I've ever seen. Seriously.

Anyway, sometime shortly after Cocktail, Cruise (who by most accounts is not the sharpest tool in the shed) realized that boyish good looks and charm were only going to get him so far. Say, about as far as Emilio Estevez. So he tried to become a more serious actor. He took parts that might have been outside his range, in an effort to diversify his talents. Mixed success ensued. Days of Thunder may or may not have been one of those movies. Far and Away was, but no one watched it. Then he struck gold as a certain Navy lawyer.

"You want answers?"
"I think I'm entitled to them."
"You want answers?"
"I WANT THE TRUTH!"
"YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!"

The transformation was complete. Instant A-list, top-of-the-line, honest-to-God Star. I posit to you that few movies have ever done as much for an actor's credibility as A Few Good Men did for Tom Cruise. The only recent example that compares is Pulp Fiction and how it pulled the career of John Travolta out of the grave. And even his success doesn't really compare. And here's the funny thing: Rain Man should have been the movie to do that. The only problem was that Dustin Hoffman wasn't ready to share the spotlight, and Cruise wasn't ready to grab it. Hoffman upstaged Cruise so completely and totally that there's at least a 50% chance you just said, "oh right, Tom Cruise was in Rain Man, too!"

A Few Good Men was different. Jack Nicholson worked with Cruise, not over the top of him. And Cruise was ready to share the stage with an actor of Nicholson's talent, where he wasn't a few years before.

Now, of course, Cruise remains a top leading man for dramas, comedies, and action flicks. Not too many guys can say that. Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford can, but they're getting older. Ditto the Paisans, DeNiro (my favorite actor) and Pacino. Brad Pitt remains one, and Jamie Foxx is getting there, but that might be the list. In any event, it's a pretty amazing journey for a guy who almost certainly should have gone the way of Anthony Michael Hall and Andrew McCarthy.

Good for you, Tom.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Comedians and Pitchers

Ever play this game? It's kind of fun. Take a famous comedian, and figure out what baseball pitcher they're most like. Seem silly? Watch...

Chris Farley - Sandy Koufax. Both started a little slow, but got the hang of things and were on top of the business for about 8 years. Then, both left us way too early. Koufax retired at the peak of his game, and Farley died of a heart attack.

Bill Cosby - Steve Carlton. Unquestionably two of the greatest ever at their respective professions. You can't make a top 5 list of best comedians (or pitchers) without Cosby (or Carlton). Unfortunately, after fading from the spotlight, both tended to rant and ramble a little more than we liked them to. And they both pitched from the left side.

George Carlin - Nolan Ryan. Longevity and success well beyond anyone's expectations. Ryan should have blown his arm apart several times, and Carlin, by all rights, should be dead. And both guys still had their fastball very late in their careers.

John Belushi - Dwight Gooden. Too much, too soon. If these guys had stayed away from drugs, they both go down as first ballot Hall of Famers.

Eddie Murphy - Tom Seaver. Bill Simmons once said, "if Eddie Murphy gets hit by a bus right after doing Beverly Hills Cop 2, he probably goes down as the greatest black comic of all time." But he hung on too long and probably tarnished his legacy a little in the process. Still, both had some good moments late in their careers. Seaver had big seasons in 1981 and 1985, and Murphy had "Boomerang" and the voice of Donkey in "Shrek".

Bill Murray - Greg Maddux. Never overpowering, never over the top (well, maybe when Bill was in Caddyshack), always tremendously effective. You never thought about either of these guys as being the absolute greatest, but the career tells the whole story. And hey, they both love the Cubs!

Richard Pryor - Mike Scott. Both had a brilliant run created by a pitch that was subsequently stolen by everyone else. Scott had the split-fingered fastball, Pryor had...well, Jamie Foxx said it best: "if you're not stealing from Richard Pryor, you're probably not funny." And both guys were absolutely on fire for a short period. Quite literally, in Richard's case.

Denis Leary - Curt Schilling. Gods to the unwashed masses of New England.

Paul Reiser - Jamie Moyer. I can't figure out how either of these guys managed to have successful careers. Reiser hasn't made me laugh once. Moyer couldn't strike out a Little Leaguer. And yet, somehow, they both carved out a decent living. I've stopped trying to figure it out.

Chevy Chase - Roger Clemens. Both had tremendous and lengthy careers, both are first ballot Hall of Famers, and both are completely unloved. Clemens is a mercenary, and Chase was one of the biggest jerks in Hollywood history, which says a lot. Consider that Chase and Steve Martin both lost it about the same time, yet Martin can still get gigs, because he's a decent guy, whereas Chase torched bridges all over the place.

Adam Sandler - Bert Blyleven. Sure, they probably both belong in the Hall of Fame, but at the end of the day, do we really think of either of them as all-time greats?

David Letterman - Randy Johnson. Both guys took awhile to really have their careers take off. Both got shoved out of a place they loved (for Letterman it was NBC, for Johnson it was Seattle) for questionable reasons. Both have been at the top of their games for a very long time, and both of them have been getting by on natural talent, because they stopped caring a while ago.
(Is that unfair? I don't think so. You can't tell me that the Randy Johnson of 2001 would have ever okayed a trade to the Yankees. Plus, I've never seen any pitcher less excited about throwing a perfect game.)

Bob Newhart - Catfish Hunter. THE go-to guys of the 1970s. Both were brilliant in their time, and unfairly unappreciated after it was over.

Steve Martin - Jack Morris. THE go-to guys of the 1980s. Martin would be a lock for the Hall of Fame, and still had his fastball late in his career, much like Morris' 21-6 season at age 37. Morris SHOULD be a lock for the Hall of Fame, and it's a crime that he's not in.

Johnny Carson - Cy Young. The standard by which everyone else is measured.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Rantings, the Friday Edition

Sandy Berger (remember him?) pleaded guilty to stealing documents from the National Archives today. This reminded me of one of my favoite blog posts of the year, from when the story first broke:

From http://silflayhraka.com/archives/005193.html:
Q: Who covertly removes top secret documents?
A: Spies.

Q: So who’s he [Berger] spying for?
A: If we’re lucky, the Kerry campaign, or the company he’s chairman of.

Q: If we’re not lucky?
A: Let’s hope we’re lucky.

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For some reason, today's Get Fuzzy is exactly the same comic as today's Pearls Before Swine. I'm spelling out on my Ouija board now....Conley....and....Pastis.....suck....

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Is "The Simpsons" following the mistakes of "M*A*S*H"? If you'll recall, MASH was originally a comedy with dramatic overtones. Slowly, over the years, as the cast changed, it became a drama with moments of comedy. By the end, they had more or less abandoned the comedic aspects of the show. Col. Blake leaves, Col. Potter arrives. Maj. Burns is replaced by Maj. Winchester. (Awful trades, both, by the way.) MacIntyre gives way to Honeycutt. Klinger stops dressing like a woman. And so on and so forth.

Over the last few years, The Simpsons has become progressively more heavy-handed. Some episodes just aren't that funny anymore. Don't get me wrong, it's still one of the best things on TV, but how much that is due to their work and how much is due to the everflowing river of crap that's coming from everywhere else is up for debate.

I never thought I'd say this, but it might be time for Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie to make a graceful exit.

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I don't even know what to say to this...
http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/04/01/ms.wheelchair.ap/index.html

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Happy 10th birthday, espn.com. The worldwide leader in self-aggrandizement (tm, Jason Hammersla), may have an ego larger than Alaska, Texas and a Canadian province to be named later, but it's still easily the best source for sports news.

Espn.com: curbing productivity for 10 years.

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I should rename my NCAA tourney bracket "Rasputin". This thing has been shot by Vermont, stabbed by West Virginia, and burned by Michigan State. Yet it remains alive and if UNC beats Louisville in the final, I win one of my pools.

Speaking of, there is *WAY* too much momentum behind an Illinois-N.Carolina final for it to happen. It's just too much of a foregone conclusion. If history has taught us anything, it's that you can kill anyone. Wait, no, that's what Godfather II said history has taught us. If history has taught us anything, it's that whenever there's too much momentum behind a certain final, look for something else.

Mark my words, either Illinois or UNC will lose on Saturday. My money's on Illinois; I think Louisville is a much better team than they're getting credit for, and I think Rick Pitino can tap into the fact that they're getting slighted by everyone and their brother.

That said, never, EVER underestimate the abilty of Roy Williams to screw up a sure thing. If Dean Smith was coaching this team, we could hand over the title now. But it's Williams, the Fredo to Dean's Vito. Actually, I suppose Frank McGuire was Vito, and Dean is Michael, which makes Williams...uh, Andy Garcia's character? Ah, forget it. Let's just agree that Williams is a phenomenally overrated coach until he proves otherwise. Once he gets that ring, he can join the exclusive club of guys who are still overrated, yet have a ring that deflects criticism (i.e. Lute Olson, Jim Valvano, Al Maguire and John Thompson).

Happy April 1!

Don't worry, I'm not going to lay some stupid April Fool's joke on you. Just wanted to recount one of my favorites.

When I was living in Buffalo, there was a morning radio show called "Shredd and Ragan", on 103.3 FM. And these guys were good. Funny, original, and a huge departure from the normal radio show routine. You know how that goes: they've got George, the male host who plays the straight man (though he's dumber than rocks and can't handle anything more complex than cue cards and a monotone), Sandy, the ditzy, semi-flirtatious female co-host (who's actually a Harvard grad tearing her hair out over her perceived lack of intelligence), and Skippy, the third wheel who kicks out a lame smart-alecky comment now and again (who's only there because he's the boss's son and, in a fair and just world, wouldn't just be fired, but would be sterilized so he couldn't breed).

Now, I HATE morning radio. Give me the weather, the traffic and good music, and I'm a happy guy. But I listened to Shredd and Ragan regularly, that's how good they were. Back in 2002, there was a sport called "hockey". They played it in Buffalo, and the local team was known as the "Sabres". You may or may not remember it. In any event, they came on the air and said that Paul Allen, the Seattle zillionaire, had just bought the team and was moving it to Seattle after the season was over. Instant panic on the airwaves. People bought this hook, line and sinker (myself included).

This worked brilliantly for a few reasons:
1. Buffalonians feel naturally put-upon, and are inclined to believe the absolute worst if given the chance to do so.
2. The story had credibility. Hockey fans in Buffalo are very knowledgeable, and knew that Paul Allen had been looking to buy a hockey team for some time. The Sabres, a relatively small market team with questionable ownership, were a logical target.
3. They got a number of the team's players and management in on the act, coming on the air and saying things like, "I'm really going to miss this place. It's a huge shock to all of us."

They gave up the joke at the end of the show, as callers began poking holes in their story, but it was classic stuff. I talked to people later that week who were still saying "man, I can't believe the Sabres are moving!"

Still, try as they might, nothing quite compares to the story of Sidd Finch. George Plimpton put together the best April Fool's joke since the infamous "War of the Worlds" fiasco. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/01/sports/baseball/01finch.html.