Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Race to the Finish

I was never a Rick Sanchez fan. To be honest though, I never watched his show. To be even more honest, I have never watched CNN. Although I visit its website pretty much daily. The only Rich Sanchez video I ever watched was through The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. I was never impressed with the clips that I saw, but in Sanchez's defense, none of the clips from TDS painted him in a favorable light.

Although Sanchez seemed like a bit of a tool, he didn't seem like a total moron. That is, until he went on SIRIUS-XM Radio to do a show with Pete Dominick. There, he called Stewart a "bigot," said the people running CNN were just like Stewart and basically said that Jewish people were not an oppressed minority.

First things first - has no one learned anything from Mel Gibson? If you work in Hollywood/the Media, and you truly believe that Jewish people run Hollywood/the Media, why would you make unflattering remarks about Jewish people, i.e. your bosses? Gibson did that, and more, and basically ruined his career. Sanchez, it seems, has traveled in Mad Max's footsteps.

But the most interesting part of Sanchez's comments was when he proclaimed: "elite, Northeastern liberals...deep down, when they look at a guy like me, they see a guy automatically who belongs in the second tier, and not the top tier."

Sanchez's dislike of Jewish-Northeastern-Liberals-Who-Run-CNN stems from the fact that he can't believe that someone doesn't like him. He looks at Jon Stewart making fun of him on TDS, and he immediately assumes it's because he's Hispanic. He sees his low ratings (admittedly I have no idea what his ratings were, but since I never watched him, I'm going to assume they were low - my blog, my rules), and he thinks that people are not watching him because he's Hispanic. His bosses at CNN probably never gave him the backing he wanted because in his mind, you guessed it, he's Hispanic.

I was always a LeBron James fan. Not a die-hard fan, pulling for the Cavaliers just because he was on the team, but he always seemed likeable. He made funny commercials and he was an amazing player. I liked that he racked up assists even while scoring 20+ a game. So when I heard that he was going to have a show on ESPN where he was "interviewed" by Jim Gray, I, like many others, simply assumed he was signing with Cleveland again. Because, you know, who would stab a team in the back on national tv like that?

Apparently LeBron James would. Listen, I have no beef with him signing with the Heat. If he wants to play with two of his good friends, more power to them all. Does it take away a bit from thinking of LeBron as an Alpha-player? Of course. Even if the Heat win, it will be Dwyane Wade's team. When Kobe felt that the Lakers weren't doing enough to put a winning team around him, he told them get something going or trade me. The Lakers, thanks to Grizzlies' GM Chris Wallace, picked up Pau Gasol and the rest was history. Kobe was happy, he stuck around and got his championships.

In LeBron's case, he never made that ultimatum. The Cavs did what they thought was best to make a Championship team around him, bringing in Mo Williams, Shaq, Anthony Parker, Antwan Jamison, etc. Although it didn't work out, you could see the team was doing everything it could to make LeBron happy.

Then we came to "The Decision." The decision to do "The Decision" was possibly one of the worst decisions in the history of decision making. Whoever was advising LeBron, Maverick Carter or whoever, did not seem to realize that going with another team after an hour long "interview" was akin to breaking up with your girlfriend on national tv. Perhaps LeBron and his advisors have never had to break up with someone, or had someone break up with them. Regardless, there is a certain method to how an athlete should leave a team. You have a press conference, you say very nice things about the former team, how much you loved playing in the city of former team, how hard the decision was to leave former team, but in the end this was best for you and your family. Blah Blah Blah. It's the "it's not you, it's me" speech for athletes.

LeBron didn't do that. LeBron decided to break up with Cleveland on national tv. He broke up with Cleveland for a younger, hotter team. It was a debacle. LeBron and his advisors probably knew that Cleveland fans would be upset, but they probably didn't take into account that all the other fans would be upset. Howard Stern can say what he wants about how LeBron didn't owe Cleveland anything, but Stern doesn't get it. Cleveland fans were angry he left, certainly, but they were more angry as to how he left. The rest of the fans were just angry with how he left. It was a douche-move.

So how does this apply to the Rick Sanchez situation? Recently, LeBron and Maverick Carter went on CNN. Not Rick Sanchez's show. That might have brought Sanchez ratings. Soledad O'Brien asked LeBron if race played a role in people's reaction to "The Decision." Lebron said, "I think so at times. It's always, you know, a factor." ESPN's J.A. Adande wrote a column about LeBron and race and basically said that because the NBA had predominantly black players on teams owned by predominantly white owners, race would be a factor.

Here is where Sanchez, LeBron and Adande all fall into the same trap. Race is not always a factor. Just because there are different races involved in any given situation does not necessarily mean race was a factor. Just because most of the players are black and most of the owners are white doesn't mean race is a factor. All of the WNBA players are women and most of the WNBA owners are men - does that mean sexism is always a factor? Of course not. Jon Stewart and the writers of TDS criticized and poked fun of Rick Sanchez because they were not impressed with the work he did. His race had nothing to do with it. LeBron was criticized and poked fun of because his decision to do "The Decision" was a horrible decision and he came across like a jerk.

Both situations remind me of the banter between Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson in Die Hard: With A Vengance. Willis' John McClane accuses Jackson's Zeus of not liking him because he's white. Zeus retorts, "I don't like you because you're gonna get me killed."

Sanchez, James and Adande are not going to get us killed. But they don't seem to grasp the idea that it's ok to not like someone regardless of what race they are, and that is killing us.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Aussie Rules Television

If there was a television show with an Australian surrounded by Americans, would the world end? Would our minds be blown? That must be the case, because everytime an Australian actor does an American television show, that actor uses an American accent.

Would it really change the story if Simon Baker was Australian, in any of the many TV shows he has been in, including the phenomenal The Mentalist?

What if Alex O'Loughlin was an Australian working with Hawaiian police in Hawaii in Hawaii-50? Would we turn away from the show? Do we hate Australians? I didn't get that memo.

While we're on the subject, why is CBS so obsessed with Alex O'Loughlin? I watched Hawaii-50, and I enjoyed it. I will continue to watch it. But I don't really see what is so great about Alex O'Loughlin. Sure, I can admit he's a good looking guy, but the show is good primarily because of Scott Caan. Caan is absolutely hilarious - steals every scene. O'Loughlin is ok, but you could replace him with any number of actors and the show would be the same. Take away Caan, and the show is not nearly as good.

Plus, the only reason I wanted to watch the show in the first place was because of Daniel Dae Kim. I wonder when Sun is going to re-join him on the island?

I'm getting sidetracked - the point is, what would be the problem with having an Australian actor use an Australian accent while in an American television show? Does Hollywood believe that there are no Australians in America, working and living while still talking about putting their shrimps on the barbi? I'll admit, I don't hear the Australian accent every day, but I would assume there are some Aussies here in the States.

I just think there is a major anti-Australian attidude in Hollywood, and it has to end. The only time Hugh Jackman ever was able to use his real accent was when he was in the movie Australia. But fellow Aussie Nicole Kidman had to use a British accent. In a movie about Australia, called Australia, an Australian had to use a British accent.

Hollywood, that's just hurtful. Crocodile Dundee did not show us what a real knife is so that we could turn around and use that knife to cut his accent away from him.

Although, Mel Gibson is Australian. He hates Hollywood. Even badmouthed Hollywood a bit. Then he badmouthed every race and religion he could. Maybe Hollywood is taking its revenge on all Australians. Isn't the fact that Gibson's career is over enough?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lifetime TV Movies

It is amazing how much better TV shows are than movies. It is also amazing ho wmuch better cable TV shows are than network TV shows. Using the transitive property, that means that x=3. Or something. I didn't really pay attention in match class.

Movies are ridiculously expensive, and there is never a guarantee that a) they will be good or 2) you will enjoy them. But if you don't enjoy them or they suck, you won't get your money back. The popcorn ALWAYS sucks, and yet it costs $20 for a small bowl. And the drinks...basically a giant cup of ice with a splash of soda. For $10. Does anyone else think that is ridiculous? Apparently not, because the line for snacks at a movie theater is always long.

Anyways, back to the point. Movies are not very good these days. And they are expensive. And if you wait just a few months, you can have Netflix send you the movie. Do you realize that the monthly cost of Netflix is basically the same as a ticket/snacks for one to a single movie? Why wouldn't you wait those few months for the movie to come to DVD? You can watch it like you watch your TV shows, with better popcorn, cheaper soda, in the comfort of your own home, while in your underwear. What, just me?

Movies in the theater used to be a weekly or bi-weekly occurence, but no longer. They are too expensive and too many of them are horrible. Now, we need hard proof that the movie will be good before we shell out our hard-earned cash to see it. We need to know the movie is good in the cockles of our hearts, maybe below the cockles, maybe in the sub-cockle area, maybe in the liver, maybe in the kidneys, maybe even in the colon. Which usually means we need a friend to play the role of guinea pig and see the movie and give us their scouting report.

But even if Mel Kiper Jr.'s hair tells you that a movie is a can't-miss prospect, outside of going on a date (unless you're me, who goes to the dollar theater to see Ransom), or a movie that everyone talks about so you have to see it to feel a part of the human race (like Avatar), there is no point to seeing a movie in the theater. None. At all. Besides all the reasons listed above, these days, TV shows are just plain better. Better scripts, better acting, better plots, better everything. TV shows can actually play out a story line and not gloss it over because they only have 90 minutes to get the entire story in. TV shows can get you to fall in love with multiple characters, not just the one or two big names. When you watch a movie, generally speaking, you leave saying you really liked [insert actor's real name] and [insert other actor's real name] did a great job, but when you watch a TV show, you talk about what Sawyer and Kate and John Locke and Hurley and Jack all did in the last episode.

Granted, there are plenty of duds when it comes to TV. But the great thing about the duds - you didn't pay specifically for them. You watch an episode of some new show and it stinks, no skin off your back, you just won't watch that episode again and your tivo will thank you. But you go to see a movie and it stinks, you ain't getting that $12 back.

Network television obviously have their shows, and they market the heck out of them. But you know where you can find the highest percentage of winners? Cable television. After Tony Shaloub and Monk became popular, being a big name actor on a cable television show no longer was uncool. Although Monk's run came to an end, USA Network now has White Collar, Psych, Royal Pains, Covert Affairs, Burn Notice and In Plain Sight. NBC even sent Law and Order, Criminal Intent to USA. TNT has Leverage, Rizzoli and Isles, The Closer, Dark Blue, Hawthorne and Men Of A Certain Age, among others.

Why does cable have a higher percentage of winners than network channels? For one thing, the expectations are much lower. A cable show doesn't have to pull in 14 million viewers an episode to be successful. One would think that cable channels were just the network channels with beer goggles, going after any crappy tv show to put on their air because it was past midnight and you felt lonely. But that is not the case.

Cable channels, again, thanks to Tony Shaloub and Monk, go after big stars and put great casts around them with great writers and producers, probably good grip people as well (whatever that job means) and more often than not, they make great television. Because it's cable and the only thing on other than original shows is grown men in spandex pretending to hate each other while actually hitting each other in the back of the head with metal chairs, the channels can then replay the bejeezus out of their original shows, giving We The Viewers multiple chances to watch and/or tivo said shows. They don't worry about competing with the big boys and girls on network tv. They say "hey, you can go watch their show during primetime, but we'll leave the light on and the door open when you come back home at 1:00 a.m."

I think the growth of the cable shows has made the network channels stand up and take notice. I feel like even the network TV shows have become much better. Which makes it much easier for us to say "I don't want to go out to a movie tonight, let's stay home, make some popcorn, grab some sodas, and what all the shows we have on tivo."

Like college football, I would assume that the movie-television battle is all cyclical, and that eventually movie companies will start putting together a higher percentage of better movies. Even if they do that, though, for them to start bringing in higher crowds, it might be time to lower the prices. Theaters are no longer the place to go on a Friday or Saturday night. For one, most people have a big screen tv with HD, or at least know someone who do, so watching TV or a Netflix movie is just as much fun as going out.

Especially since home means better popcorn, cheaper drinks, and underwear.

None of you? Seriously?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

While sitting at lunch, a fellow A's fan and I became involved ina conversation about the upcoming Moneyball movie. For those of you who don't know, Moneyball is a phenomenal book by a phenomenal writer, Michael Lewis. It's the inside story about the Oakland Athletics, how the team is run under general manager Billy Beane, what type of players they look for, the relationships between management and manager(s), etc. It's an amazing book not only for A's fans, but also for baseball fans and people who think baseball is one of the most boring sports in the world, so pretty much 99.9 percent of Earth's population.

Regardless, while discussing who is going to be in the movie (A's assistant GM Paul DePodesta has been renamed to Peter Brand and will be played by Jonah Hill? Really!?), it reminded me of the A's under Art Howe (who will be played by Philip Seymor Hoffman), and how they had the Yankees on the ropes, holding a 2-0 lead in 2001, needing only one more win to advance to the ALCS.

The year was 2001. I had just graduated. I was working for the A's in kind of an internship situation, helping out with the radio broadcasts. They were nice enough to allow me to work at the ballpark on Oct. 13, when a young A's pitcher by the name of Barry Zito was about to go up against Mike Mussina and the Yankees. The A's had won games one and two at Yankees Stadium, 5-3 and 2-0, and needed just one win to knock off the hated Bronx Bombers. The next two games were at home. Oaktown Mojo was about to knock off New York, New York.

To say the game was a nail-biter is an understatement. The two pitchers combined for five 1-2-3 innings in the first four frames. In the bottom of the fourth, the A's put two on with one out, but Mussina induced groundouts by Eric Chavez and Jeremy Giambi to end the threat. (Remember the name Jeremy Giambi - 1) because I can't forget his name, and b) because he plays an integral part in this story.)

Know that I am not bitter about what happened.

In the top of the fifth, Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, who always seemed to get big hits against the A's, homered with one out to give NY a 1-0 lead. Mussina recorded 1-2-3 innings in the fifth and sixth, and then came the bottom of the seventh.

Mussina opened the seventh with two quick outs, as Jermaine Dye popped out and Chavez flew out. Jeremy Giambi ended the A's hitless streak with a single to right. Terrence Long, affectionately known as T-Long, sent a shot down the right field line.

Now, Jeremy Giambi is not what you would call fleet of foot. At the time, in fact, he was quite slow. Probably still is. I'm not bitter.

So Giambi is chugging around the bases. Since there are two outs, and Mussina hasn't given the A's many chances, third base coach Ron Washington waves Giambi around third. Shane Spencer, rightfielder for the Yankees, corrals the ball and sends it towards the infield. It had NO chance of getting home, even with Mr. Molasses on the bases. Derek Jeter, in one of his many ridiculously heads up plays, runs to cut the ball off and flips it towards home. The ball, and Giambi, get there right at the same time. Posada catches the ball and swings his glove around, hitting Giambi on the back of his leg as that same leg is stepping on the plate. Needless to say, the umpire calls Giambi out.

Say what you want about the call (I still maintain he was safe), why in God's name wouldn't Giambi slide in that situation?! What could he possibly be thinking as he nears home? One would imagine that he is paying attention to the ball, that he knows where it is, that he can tell the play will be close, so WHY WOULDN'T HE SLIDE IN THAT SITUATION!!! If you are a professional baseball player, you know how to slide and you know WHEN to slide. On a play like that, if it's going to be close, how do you not slide? You know that one way or another, the umpire is going to make a decision that will determine the outcome of the game, so why wouldn't you want to make it easier for Blue to decide in your favor?

Still not bitter.

Mariano then comes in for the two-inning save, gives up only two hits but eventually gets Jeremy Giambi (him again!) to ground out to end the game, cutting the A's lead in the series to 2-1. The next day, pitcher Cory Lidle gets bombed, Jermaine Dye shatters his ankle, A's lose game five, lose the series and lose Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi to bigger market teams.

Here's the kicker to the story. Opening Day, 2002 season, A's vs. Rangers at Oakland Coliseum. Jeremy Giambi is now the leadoff hitter, because the A's love guys who can walk (because Lord knows, Giambi can't run). In my memory, it was his first at-bat of the game, but in reality it was in the third inning. He leads off the frame with a single. Frank Menechino doubles, and Giambi comes all the way around the bases. There was no throw to home, no play at the plate, but Giambi SLIDES HOME ANYWAY. The crowd goes crazy, Giambi jumps up and pumps his fist, everyone's happy.

Except me.

Where was this in game three of the Division Series? Did he use the offseason to learn how to slide? We knew he knew HOW to slide, we just never saw any examples that he knew WHEN to slide. Sliding on Opening Day when there is no play at the plate? Yawn. Not sliding when your team leads the five-game series 2-0 but is trailing game 3 1-0 and this might be the last chance to score?

Ok, now I'm a little bitter.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I realized what was great about our country today. I was listening to the Howard Stern Show, and he had on Glenn Miller, a nut-case from Missouri who is running for Senator. Miller is the first person to (openly) run on the "Anti-Jew" platform. From what little I listened to the interview before I had to leave my car, Miller believes that Jews control America, and he wants to get into the Senate to try to help America get free of its Jewish Burden. On a side note, he is also not a fan of blacks, hispanics or gays, but the Jews, in his opinion, are the worst.

Glenn Miller and I agree on nothing. He is a racist, sexist, homophobic whack job who takes as gospel the word of Louis Farrakhan (gulp) and Pat Buchanan (double gulp). When Howard asked him about his anti-Jewish stance, Miller used Buchanan and Farrakhan was a way to make his ideas sound not-crazy, as in, "well Buchanan believes this and Farrakhan does as well so obviously that gives my thoughts credence." The fact that Buchanan and Farrakhan are universally laughed at and thought of as nutcases themselves apparently does not occur to Miller.

But here is what is great about our country - Miller has every right to speak his mind, as crazy as he sounds. (Although crazier still - and sadder still - is the thought that there are people out there who agree with him.)

Ignoring that, our country allows people like Miller to say what they want to say, to run for government if they wish, to go on national radio shows and tell us how they feel about things without fear of going to jail. And to give credit to Stern, he treated Miller like he would any other guest, asking questions and not trying to argue with him about his crazy ideas. It was obvious that Howard did not agree with Mr. Crazy Man, but he also recognized that an argument would not make for good radio - letting Miller spout his wacky thoughts was much funnier.

There is a Facebook page for "Making It Illegal To Protest Army Funerals." Apparently an extremist right-wing "Church" (I put "Church" in quotations because I refuse to believe any true Church would be as hateful as this group is) protested the funeral of an Army soldier with signs that basically said our brave men and women were dying in a war that was brought onto America because our country allows gay people to live here.

Again, ignoring the craziness of their opinions (and the sadness that there are people who actually buy into this crap), what makes America beautiful is that these people are allowed to protest at a funeral. Whether or not they see the irony that they were protesting the death of a soldier who was fighting for their ability to protest his death, I do not know. I am guessing not. The father of this soldier sued the protesters for emotional pain, and the judge ruled in the "Church's" favor.

Does that suck? Of course it does. Do I agree with the judge's decision? Of course I do. People have every right to protest whatever they want. His own son went to fight a war so that these whack-jobs could protest whatever they want. (Another argument for another day - whether or not fighting in a war halfway across the world actually does protect our freedoms. I say not.)

But the people who became fans of this page on Facebook, and the father of this soldier, are missing the point. Being American means accepting different opinions, religious, sexual orientations, races, no matter how much they differ from our own. Living in America gives us the right to express our opinions, no matter how crazy. If we start making it illegal to protest, we lose what makes us Americans.

Freedom of Speech is a great power, but with great power comes great responsibility, and most people aren't mature or smart or informed enough to handle that responsibility.

For example, I have a blog.