Saturday, May 27, 2006

Darth Vader Calls The Emperor

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Canuck Amuck

Redonkulous opening game of the Western Finals last night.

Devin Harris' 3-point-play at 3:43 gave the Mavs a seemingly insurmountable 9-point lead.

That's when the NBA's first Canadian hippie MVP/anti-war activist took over. 3 minutes, 10 points, and a perfectly executed pick-and-roll assist later, the Suns were up a point.

After a Mavs turnover and a missed Suns shot, the surprising Harris (30 points) threw the dagger with a 16-footer from the right wing with 4-seconds left.

Only it wasn't the last dagger.

The Suns' Boris Diaw posted up Jerry Stackhouse on the inbounds play and nailed the real game-winner.

121-118 Suns, and a promise of more thrills to come in this old-school (i.e., offense a-plenty) series.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Great Idea. Never Happen.

Slate's Josh Levin correctly identifies the Number 1 problem with this spring's otherwise scintillating NBA playoffs.

Too many timeouts.

This year's playoffs have featured a startling number of tight contests, overtime games and nail-biting seventh-games. Without fail, though, the games are in great measure ruined by their laborious stop-and-start finishes.
The last few minutes of a playoff game should burble with tension. Instead, we get an interminable, deflating cycle of sideline reports, inbound passes, and detergent commercials. There is a simple, elegant solution to this endgame insanity: Ban the timeout. ...

Let's say the NBA eradicated timeouts from the bench and replaced them with TV timeouts at the nine-, six-, and three-minute marks of each quarter. The networks could sell the same amount of ads, the coaches could talk strategy and make plenty of substitutions, and the players could rest. Most important, the endgame could be presented without commercial interruption. Maybe then the final act of a playoff game would be as exciting as the first quarter.
Great idea. Never Happen.

The fact is, the placing of timeouts in the interests of the game is exactly opposed to the placing of timeouts in the interests of television. Levin's idea would in fact improve the games immeasurably. As it is, all flow is lost, and the final minute is simply a series of set-pieces. Eventually the pressure of the moment comes to bear, but only after long minutes of lethargy.

The problem is that the placement of timeouts (and commercials) where they are is certainly in the interests of television. The preponderance of commercial spots are right where the greatest numbers of viewers are to be found -- at the end of the game.

And this is why exactly nothing will change about this.

TV coverage has little impact on most sports. Baseball, football, golf, tennis, none of these really have to change their action as a kow-tow to television. Soccer -- to the extent anyone is watching -- has forced TV to come up with new solutions in order to televise games without stopping for commercials.

Television kills basketball. All the pressure of a close game is dissipated by the endless waiting around, and taking 15 minutes to play the final minute -- only to have the game go into overtime and have the cycle start over again is just mind-numbing.

And it's not going to change anytime soon.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Wall 1, Aaron Rowand's Nose 0

Just in case you didn't see this 17 times on ESPN last night like I did...

Is Fonzie Revving The Bike?

It was hard to watch last night's season-ender of The Office and not wonder if The Fonz wasn't somewhere just off screen getting ready to throttle up the chopper.

In it Jim finally breaks down and confesses his love for Pam, eventually laying the mack-down on her -- which she quickly reciprocates -- in the show's closing moments.

In this the show follows the lead of its BBC forebear. In the last episode of that show's second season Tim lays it all out for Dawn as well, ending their own game of romantic cat-and-mouse.

The trouble for the American cousin is that that was the final episode period for the Brits, leaving no need to either resolve the dilemma of where to take the relationship, or resolve the dilemma of where to take the show once its central tension was released.

As ancient fans of Moonlighting found out, once boy and girl finally suck face it is all too easy for the show to quickly suck as well. Much of the fun of The Office came from Jim and Pam's knowing looks at Michael's boorishness, and their easy banter in response to Dwight's idiocy.

All of that has to be gone now, so what to put in its place? There is, of course, plenty of room to continue to bring the funny, but how they finesse the Jim & Pam while doing it will determine whether Fonzie starts gunning it up that ramp.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

What Am I Missing?

Apparently the players and fans of Chicago's losingest baseball franchise have recently been worried about the possibility of Barry Bonds hitting his 714th and/or 715th career home run during their recent visit to San Francisco.

Apparently the worry was widespread enough that the Tribune ran a story this morning (in lieu of an actual report from last night's late game) on sports history's "victims."

Ralph Branca is the prototype, of course, but Craig Ehlo, Pat Darcy and Scott Norwood are also featured, among many others.

What I don't get, of course, is why the pitcher who serves up Bonds' 714th would be at all memorable -- or even his 715th. Yes, these homers would tie, then surpass Babe Ruth's lifetime total. But here's the thing -- BABE RUTH DOESN'T HOLD THE RECORD ANYMORE!

Yes, 714 is a famous number in baseball, but isn't 755 equally famous (or shouldn't it be)? Al Downing was the only memorable pitcher to yield someone's 715th homer. What the hell is this all about? Have people managed to forget that Hank Aaron holds this particular record? Or is it the mere possibility that Chicago's losingest baseball franchise might be tied to a non-record-breaking event enough to trot out yet another tired feature story on Ralph Branca?

I guess merely writing about them losing again, day-after-day, year-after-year is even more tired.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Feel Good Hit Of Next Summer

Seriously, years from now, is there any way that this will not be the song everyone remembers from the summer of 2006?

The Last Days Of C.J.

Next Sunday brings the final episode of The West Wing. None too soon for some people, way too late for others. I would have been one of those before this season, when the show has come back to be more than just a pale shadow of its former self. Still not up to the standard of those first few seasons, but a strong comeback nonetheless, and light years better than the seasons between the ridiculous Zoe-kidnapping-story and the ridiculous Donna-blowing-up-in-Gaza-story.

I guess that was really only one truly awful, horrible season, but it was enough to put me off the show for another year after that.

Anyway, the stories this year have been much better, and the writing, while still not Sorkin-esque, has been better as well.

And there is no doubt that a good chunk of the allure of the show for me continues to be the great Allison Janney. If the series' penultimate episode this past Sunday was her final at-bat as C.J. Cregg, she definitely did a Ted Williams on it.

The show centered around C.J.'s last days as Chief of Staff, and her future as ... well, something else. Torn between desire and duty, until the final scene of the episode and a conversation with Danny Concannon finally allows her to realize that she can lay aside duty after eight years and pursue a life of her own.

Strong stuff, and while it was of a completely different tenor than the best writing of the Sorkin years, it was pretty damn close to being at that level.

In other words, the first time a few years that the writing has really been worthy of Allison Janney's talents.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Battle Of The (Little) Bands

One good idea often leads to another -- and often to the same idea.

Face it. You could do a whole lot worse as a concept for a band than a KISS tribute band made up of dwarves.

This is the motivating idea behind MiniKISS.

It's also the motivating idea behind Tiny KISS.

Well, actually Tiny KISS combines the dwarf-KISS concept with the 350-pound female Paul Stanley impersonator concept (admittedly, that's a new -- and perhaps less appealing -- concept).

But the best part of the story, of course, is the all-too-understandable death feud in which the two bands are now locked.

As the LA Times describes it,
Joey Fatale, the 4-foot, 4-inch New Yorker who heads the all-dwarf KISS tribute band MiniKiss, is denying published reports that he tried to sneak past security last month at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas to confront a rival band leader, 4-foot "Little" Tim Loomis of Tiny Kiss, for allegedly ripping off his idea for such a group.

Loomis, a former drummer for MiniKiss, was performing with Tiny Kiss, which includes three little people and a 350-pound woman, on St. Patrick's Day at Beacher's Madhouse, a Las Vegas variety show, when the incident occurred.
While it's hard to know exactly which band rocks harder, there is no doubt that MiniKISS has better makeup. And isn't that really half the battle for a KISS tribute? You decide: