Friday, January 31, 2003 THE TWINKIE DEFENSE BEGINS: We're just a week or two away from those four beautiful words (Pitchers! And! Catchers! Report!), and the Sporting News has the defending AL Central champion Twins as #1 in their pre-season rankings, I would imagine for the first time in history. However, I expect most pre-season publications to at least pick the Twins first in the Central, ahead of the White Sox and Cleveland "Baseball Team" Indians.
Link comes via the wonderful TwinsGeek. If you thought I covered the Twins a lot, my fellow Minnesotan John Bonnes writes a full column every day of the year, including in the offseason. Yesterday, for instance, he contributed an 850-word essay (complete with statistical tables) on the Twins' signing to a minor-league contract of journeyman relief pitcher Mike Fetters. Now that's devotion.
See also TwinsGeek's sister site, WolvesGeek.
EVIL UMPIRE: Bruce Froemming, baseball's longest-serving umpire, is in hot water today after he allegedly left a phone message for a female baseball administrator on which he referred to her as a "stupid Jew bitch." Froemming has been suspended without pay for 10 games and also stripped of the coveted opening-day umpiring assignment in Japan.
Now it's clearly not okay for anyone associated with baseball to spew such venom at a female official. But I must admit that if Froemming had directed the exact same phrase at the commissioner, I wouldn't be quite so offended.
NO-NAME DEFENSE: The Lincoln Journal-Star newspaper announced this week that they will no longer publish the names of sports teams with Native-American nicknames or likenesses. The Journal-Star joins the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which has had a similar policy since around the time of the 1991 World Series, and thus had considerable difficulty covering the Series four years later when the Cleveland Indians squared off against the Atlanta Braves.
The issue of "offensive" team nicknames in sports is one on which I have a couple of deep-seeded prejudices that best be gotten out of the way first: two of the three teams I hate most in baseball (the aforementioned Indians and Braves) use such nicknames. The Minnesota-based lobbying group AIM (American Indian Movement) picketed Games 1, 2, 6, and 7 of the '91 Series over the Braves' participation and actively cheered for the Twins- after all, we've all seen the sad, pathetic spectacle of Braves fans wearing Indian headdresses and moaning the odious "Tomahawk Chop" theme song; seeing that this is the same organization that tolerated John Rocker, it's hard not to be offended.
I object to "Redskins" because it's an actual racial slur, and to the Indians' "Chief Wahoo" logo (though the team was named after Louis Sockalexis, a turn-of-the-20th-century player who was himself Native-American). I have less of a problem with more neutral terms such as "Chiefs," "Warriors," and even "Braves," as they could be construed as not referring to tribal sensibilities specifically. And I must put mind to a survey published in Sports Illustrated two years ago which stated that a majority of Native-Americans in the US are not opposed to their likenesses being apropriated by sports teams.
As for newspapers blacklisting Native-American nicknames, I object not so much on anti-PC grounds as on journalistic grounds. For a newspaper to react to facts that it doesn't like by pretending they don't exist is simply shoddy, dishonest journalism- if the Journal-Star were virulently opposed to George W. Bush's policies, would they be justified in removing "President" from his name? The approach is also counterproductive, in that it does nothing to hurt the teams financially or pressure them to change the names; no team above the high school level has been affected by the 10-year boycott of the Strib, which has many times the circulation of the Journal-Star. Why would the Washington Redskins, the principal target of the the move, feel pressured by the actions of a newspaper in Lincoln, Nebraska?
Leaving sports team names out of newspapers is clearly a fruitless activist cause of questionable journalistic legitimacy- so how long before Howell Raines hops on board?
I FEEL A NEED- A NEED FOR LAPID!: Israel's latest parliamentary election is over, and Ariel Sharon will once again govern The Zionist Entity as Prime Minister. His Likud Party came in first, after a collapse by a Labor Party that makes the Democrats' recent performance in US politics look a triumph of visionary strategy and purpose.
I'm no big fan of Ariel Sharon, I wish he weren't Prime Minister, and I don't believe there will ever be peace for as long as he is in the picture. That said, the Labor Party's strategy was faulty, to say the least, in nominating ultra-dove Amram Mitzna over Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezar (who, I believe could have presented a serious challenge to Sharon, especially considering Ariel's corruption problems.) Mitzna didn't help matters with his ridiculous plans to immediately enter into negotiations with Yasser Arafat over withdrawl from the West Bank regardless of terrorism- followed by promises to unilaterally withdraw if negotiations were to fail. Huh? We may not love Sharon's thus-far-fruitless get-tough approach, but it's certainly preferable to the abject surrender favored by Mitzna & Co.
One bright spot from the super-fractious election was the rise of the center-right Shinui Party and its charismatic leader, Tommy Lapid; the party fell only one seat behind Labor to finish third. Lapid is exactly what is needed in American politics: a secular Jewish leader who is tough on issues of terrorism, yet not entirely opposed to peace, and ardently against right-wing attempts to impose theocracy. I guess the closest we've got is John McCain, but he's not running for president again anytime soon, and he's not a Jew.
Could Lapid be Israel's first Kosher Scoop Jackson?
Regardless of what the results were, we should all be thankful that this election happened, because there aren't too many of those going on in that part of the world these days. The historical miracle that is the State of Israel continues...
Thursday, January 30, 2003 MORE REGIME CHANGE AT NYPRESS: The Editor-in-Chief's job at New York Press has had a rate of turnover lately that's reminiscent of the Soviet Communist dictatorship, circa 1983-'84. First longtime editor John Strausbaugh (the Brezhnev figure) was fired when the paper was sold at Christmastime. Then the editorship of his replacement, Lisa "Andropov" Kearns, lasted all of three weeks until she announced her resignation last week. Now, the New York Post's Keith Kelly reports that Jeff Koyen, an American who is currently with an alternative paper in Prague called The Pill, and has written for the Press in the past, has been tapped as the new editor. Whether Koyen will be a Chernenko or a Gorbachev remains to be seen, but it appears some writers at the paper are either taking advantage of the leadership confusion or are caught up in it: this week the Press published a column by Jim Knipfel that already ran, two months ago.
MOST CHILLING QUOTE IN RECENT MEMORY: I just ordered a book from Amazon called "The Devil's Candy," an insider account of the making of 1990's misbegotten movie version of Tom Wolfe's "The Bonfire of the Vanities." In the reviews section of the site is an assessment by an anonymous writer from Kirkus Reviews, which was written in 1991. Here it is (emphasis mine):
This movie struck its makers as 'the definitive vehicle of dreams...the stretch limo of hopes and ambition.' Stephen [sic] Spielberg's take on what happened is right on target: 'Brian [DePalma] is stepping into shoes that can be worn by other film makers. When he does that he's caught up in the machinery of the studio system.' Like watching a World Trade Center tower topple onto Wall Street.
This was written two years before the 1993 WTC bombing (in which the terrorists attempted unsuccessfully to collapse one tower into the other) and of course ten years prior to 9/11. DAMN.
Wednesday, January 29, 2003 EARLY CONTENDER FOR '03'S "MOST SHAMEFUL EVENTS": At last week's National Abortion Rights Action League fundraiser that was attended by every one of the Democratic candidates for president in 2004, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean got up and stated that if President Bush is re-elected, "next thing, girls won’t be able to go to school in America. You watch.” Dean did not explain why, if Bush is so intent on imposing a Taliban-like system in which the education of women is banned, he would wait until after the 2004 election; I eagerly await Dean's next major policy speech, in which he details the president's thus-far unhinted-at plans to bring back slavery.
Dean's statement is just as stupid, though not quite as offensive, as Trent Lott's pro-segregation comments. At one point I thought perhaps Dean, as a governor and outsider, could be a breath of fresh air for the '04 field. Not anymore.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: This comes from Chris Matthews. On last night's MSNBC post-coverage of the president's State of the Union address, Matthews hosted his usual political panel of Newsweek's Howard Fineman, entertaining-but-crazy former pollster Patrick Caddell, ever-smiling Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, and still-very-angry Gore 2000 campaign manager Donna Brazile. After a brief Matthews interview with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (during which DeLay referred to "Saddam Hussein, and his allies in Germany, France, and the Democratic Party"), Brazile proceeded to mock DeLay as a "former exterminator," which he indeed is.
This caused Matthews to explode at Brazile that it's never okay to make fun of a man's occupation, especially "working people" such as exterminators. Matthews concluded with the anti-Brazile diartribe with: "He succeeded as an exterminator; you failed as a campaign manager."
I can't wait to see this entire exchange parodied on "Saturday Night Live" next week, with Tracy Morgan (in drag) as Brazile.
THE STATE OF THE UNION WAS STRONG: With the exception of the abortion talk, the faith-based talk, and the fuzzy math associated with the tax cut numbers, I was quite impressed tonight with President Bush's State of the Union Address. He both gave the necessary preparations for the war in Iraq, and came up with some surprisingly visionary domestic and foreign policy ideas.
While the president tripped over his words a time or three, his strong delivery proved once again that he's not the inarticulate buffoon that his critics make him out to be. The speech was full of effective lines and persuasive arguments; even the most ardent Bush hater would be hard-pressed to deny that he's got a brilliant speechwriting staff.
Bush's idea for aid to fight AIDS in Africa, if successful, strikes me as an Nixon-goes-to-China type of move, since if Clinton tried it you know he'd be accused of "shooting for the moon" and/or "mis-using American power." And if America is going to be using its power for good abroad, it's best that there be initiatives that have nothing at all to do with military operations. Yet Bush also laid out the case for disarming Saddam the best he could, while not turning a blind eye to the War on Terror. The 17-month "Rush to War" rolls on...
And those who would criticize the president for "warmongering," keep this in mind: there was substantially more warmongering (between Alton and Irulan) in the half-hour episode of "The Real World: Las Vegas" that immediately followed the speech than in the entire 60-minute address.
Tuesday, January 28, 2003 IN THE GYMNASIUM: Around this time last year, in an effort to finally get in shape that has thus far been generally successful, I joined a local gym. And while attending the gym is usually quite a nondescript experience (as most people are sweating, panting, grunting, and not wanting to talk to anyone), I have seen quite a few things of interest in my year at New York Sports Club.
-The most laughable instances at the gym are those of people doing things while working out that they just shoudn't be doing. Now annoying as cell-phone-on-the-street people can be, cell-phone-on-the-exercise-bike people are ten times worse. What could they be thinking?
-It's natural to audibly grunt while lifting weights and not realize it; I don't begrudge those who do. But I have less patience for exercisers who sing along to their headphone radios, especially those who attempt to squeak out rap solos while doing pushups. And don't even get me started on those who insist on playing air guitar/air drums while on the treadmill.
-As a rule, female personal trainers are either extremely beautiful, or monsters in the mold of Chyna or Nicole Bass. Luckily my gym employs more of the former. On one occasion I was about to use the ab-rolling machine when one of these gorgeous creatures came up to me and kindly requested that she go first. I was happy to oblige, until I heard her say "hey Debbie, come over here!," and motion to a grotesquely large client of hers, who proceeded to spend about 10 minutes doing 15 reps.
-And last but not least (because I know you were all wondering), I have not myself witnessed any of the type of, um, male activity (of the "Oz" variety) that's been known to occur in gym locker rooms throughout the city. Though on one occasion I did see a laminated, apparently oft-used sign on the door of the steam room, stating "due to inappropriate behavior, the sauna and steam room will be closed for the remainder of the evening." Not that there's anything wrong with that...
Despite all these minor annoyances, I do enjoy going to the gym each morning; I highly recommend it.
PHRASE I HOPE I NEVER, EVER HEAR AGAIN, DOUBLE-ENTENDRE INTENDED OR NOT: "There should be rules against LeBron James getting a Hummer from his mom."
THE RALPHIE TREATMENT, CONT'D: Remember the nonsensical scapegoating of Hollywood and video games for the Columbine massacre? Get ready for more, as America has just seen its first "Sopranos"-inspired murder. Two brothers in Orange County, CA, killed and dismembered their mother, apparently attempting to mimic the famous "Sopranos" episode from this past season in which Tony kills Ralphie (Joe Pantoliano) and he and Christopher dismember the corpse.
If the boys' intent truly was to imitate Tony and Christopher, they didn't do the greatest job of it. The entire point of dismembering Ralphie, of course, was to eliminate evidence of fingerprints and dental marks- Ralph's body was thrown in a river while his head, hands, and feet where buried separately miles away from the rest of him. While the boys threw the torso in a dumpster, they kept the head and hands hidden somewhere in their house. Bad move. And perhaps more importantly, they killed their mother, something Tony Soprano never did, despite being cursed with perhaps the most difficult mother in the history of recorded fiction.
And finally, I don't want to hear a single person suggest that this murder happened because of "The Sopranos." It happened because these two guys were extremely depraved and disturbed; if they hadn't adopted the scenario from 'Sopranos' it could've come from just about anyone else. And these aren't little children- one is 20, the other 15. So shut up, Bill O'Reilly, shut up Bill Bennett: blaming any crime on popular entertainment is nothing but a fool's exercise.
WAY TO GO SILVER!: According to the The Wall Street Journal(via Google News and Lileks), a dinner panel at the recent meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland engaged in a constant hammering of American policy, until one lone voice rose up in defense of the red, white, and blue: Ron Silver. Yes, the regular "West Wing" guest star who once played Alan Dershowitz in a movie was the only one in the room with the guts to stand up to the Euro-idiots. From the WSJ:
"“Ron Silver, the US actor and political activist, jumped up from a table across the room to retort that if it weren’t for the US, hundreds of thousands more civilians would have died in the Balkans, while Europe sat idly by. The US had no interest in that region other than humanitarian, he said. ‘We are not an imperial government, Mr. Cox,’ he said. ‘You know that, and everyone here knows that.’”
Proof positive that there's nothing wrong with loving America and supporting its efforts worldwide if you happen to have "liberal" attached to your name. Or, for that matter, "Silver" attached to your name.
Monday, January 27, 2003 GOING OUT LIKE A LION: An an event surprising only in that it was delayed, the Detroit Lions today fired head coach Marty Mornhinweg after a less-than-stellar two-year tenure in which the Lions went 5-27, including an 0-12 start in 2001 and an 0-16 road record. While the Lions have a talented young quarterback in Joey Harrington and a brand-new stadium, remaining obstacles before a possible franchise turnaround include the presence of team president Matt Millen (the Isiah Thomas of the NFL; he's failed as both a team executive and broadcaster), the unwillingness of Barry Sanders to come out of retirement, and those ugly, ugly uniforms. Aren't they about due for a change on all three counts?
Mornhinweg's dismissal also means that the number of NFL head coaches named Marty has dwindled to one (Schottenheimer, of San Diego), though if, as expected, Steve Mariucci takes over the Lions, the number of Steves will double to two (Mooch and Steve Spurrier of the Redskins). The most popular first name among NFL coaches is currently Mike, with five (Holmgren, Shanahan, Sherman, Martz, and Tice), while Bill is second with four (Parcells, Belichick, Cowher, and Callahan). There are two each of Dave, Dick, Jim, and John/Jon.
SUPER... THANKS FOR ASKING!: I never thought I'd type these words, after all those years that they wore those garish pewter jerseys while losing to the Vikings, Bears, Packers, and Lions, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the champions of the world. It's the first professional sports championship of any kind for the glorious body of water known as Tampa Bay, not to mention for the cities surrounding it (Tampa and St. Petersburg).
The Bucs made the previously unstoppable Oakland Raiders look like amateurs, in reaching their third straight decisive victory of the postseason. In the process, Eagles fans who already had suffered through a week of flashing back to Ronde Barber's game-icing interception return for a touchdown experienced further agony, as the Bucs scored TDs off INTs THREE TIMES against Rich Gannon and the Raiders.
As for the more important events of the evening, the commercials: While none of last night's ads were as witty or clever as the Vegas tourism/limo spot, or Nike's Soccer Streaker, it was still a generally strong year. The Gold Medal goes to Reebok, for its groundbreaking Terry Tate: Office Linebacker spot. Not only was it hilarious, but in naming the fictional company "Felcher and Sons," Reebok paid tribute both to the Big Gay Al musical number in the "South Park" movie, and to "felching," a certain marginal sexual practice that will go undefined here, but was the source of many punchlines back in my sketch comedy days. A coincidence, or a subversive plot by some very evil advertising exec? I'm betting on the latter...
Who will seize on this first, Savage Love or Pucker Up? The Silver Medal for commercials goes to Yao Ming's "Yao/Yo" bit- Yao's made two commercials in two weeks, and they're both classic-caliber. And I give a cumulative Bronze to the entire Bud Light lineup, most notably the upside-down-clown drinking beer through its own ass, the mother-as-your-girlfriend-in-20-years, and the three-armed beer drinker played by the all-time greatest cast member in the history of "The Real World," Teck $. All way beyond Bud Bowl.
And the worst? Who but Partnership For a Drug-Free America? Even after the drug-money-supports-terrorism and pot-makes-you-shoot-yourself campaigns of recent months, the Partnership reaches a new low in depicting a 12-year-old's positive pregnancy test- and blaming it on marijuana! This sends a very clear message to teenagers everywhere: if you smoke pot, no matter how young you are, it'll make you have sex!
REMEMBERING DANNY: I was remiss in not mentioning, on Friday, the one-year Yahrtzeit of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was murdered by terrorist thugs in Pakistan while covering the War on Terror. In his honor, a sculpture has been dedicated by the WSJ. May he rest in peace.
Saturday, January 25, 2003 ALEXANDER PAYNE: SELF-HATING MIDWESTERNER?: The other night I finally caught "About Schmidt," and I thought it was one of the best movies of '02. Great performance, against type, by Jack Nicholson, and exceptionally well-written and well-directed all around.
Director Alexander Payne and screenwriter Jim Taylor clearly worked very hard to give the midwestern-set film an authentic, lived-in feel (just like Payne's previous film, "Election," he adapted the location to his native Omaha even though the novel was set elsewhere). It's like the Coen Brothers' "Fargo" in that everyone in the film speaks in goofy midwestern aphorisms, and almost every character is decked out in Kmart and Target-purchased clothes and stuck-in-the-'70s hairstyles, on top of house decorations heavily dependent upon promotional items from Joe Camel and Miller Lite.
"About Schmidt," with the exception of a middle section in which Nicholson's character is on the road, is set primarly in the suburbs of Omaha and Denver. Now having myself grown up in the suburbs of a major midwestern city, I can say that the film's depiction of midwestern folks is accurate in some cases, yet I believe it's a bit of an exaggeration on Payne's part to pretend that everyone in, say, suburban Denver is fat and/or mulleted and/or inarticulate and/or an uncouth redneck. If it were a small, rural town, I could understand that- but Denver?
Is Omaha native Payne simply poking fun at his midwestern upbringing, like the Coens did with "Fargo" and Payne himself did with "Election?" Or by populating the midwest with stereotypical inbred hicks, is Payne perhaps signifying a deeper hurt, almost a shame, about where he grew up? Maybe, just like Warren Schmidt in the movie, the director believes his entire life in Omaha was one huge waste of time. And instead of writing letters to a 7-year-old African boy, he chose to deal with it by making a movie...
Thursday, January 23, 2003 8 SIMPLE RULES FOR DATING TEENAGE DAUGHTERS: Oops sorry... wrong Ritter.
Yes, as the world now knows, former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter has been arrested twice in the last 18 months for attempting to solicit sex on the internet from underage girls. Though charges were not filed, an assistant prosecutor in Ritter's hometown near Albany was fired when the local DA discovered that she had dismissed Ritter's case without permission.
Ritter is best known as the UN weapons inspector who visited Iraq several times throughout the '90s and was originally an anti-Saddam hawk until, long after returning from his final trip to Baghdad as an inspector, he abruptly reversed field and began proclaiming that he doesn't believe Saddam is building nuclear weapons. Ritter has since become a darling of the anti-war movement as well as a frequent guest on "Donahue" (but I bet none of you have actually seen him on "Donahue"!)
Since the arrests were revealed two days ago, predictably, conspiracy theories have been flying in all directions- false pedophilia charges, after all, were the sort of thing the Syndicate used to throw at Mulder all the time on "The X-Files." And even though Ritter may very well have done what the authorities said he did, it woudn't surprise me if certain enemies of his had something to do with the arrest story being leaked at this particular moment (a la the Bush drunk-driving arrest revelation in 2000).
In addition, the opposite has been suggested: perhaps someone in a position of power has known of Ritter's (alleged) proclivities for a long time, and that person used the information to blackmail Ritter into radically changing his views on Saddam. A similar scenario was feared when it was revealed a few months ago that a member of the current, Hans Blix-led inspections team, Jack McGeorge, is a leading figure in Washington, DC.'s S&M/bondage community. Though at least that guy is having consensual sex with other adults, and not making a secret of it.
Some have suggested that if the charges against Ritter are true, we can never take anything he says about Iraq seriously again. I don't know that they are true, but I can say that I personally stopped taking Ritter seriously after reading a New York Times Magazine profile (NYTM, 11/23/'02) that gave me the impression that the man isn't far from insane. Notice you haven't seen nearly as much of Ritter in non-"Donahue" media since that profile; aside from CourtTV, you're likely to see even less of him now.
AND WHILE WE'RE ON THE SUBJECT OF WEAPONS INSPECTORS: Band name suggestion of the week: "Inspector Hans and the Material Breach"
Wednesday, January 22, 2003 ALL IN A ROE: Today marks the 30th anniversary of the most controversial Supreme Court decision of the past half-century, Roe v. Wade. And while it's generally considered the most contentious issue in American politics, I find it kind of funny that in the eight-month history of this blog, this is I believe the first time I've as much as mentioned abortion. I discuss much more grave, much more catastrophic world events on an almost daily basis, yet somehow the A-word is some sort of blogger third rail. So enjoy; I've got a feeling this is the last time I'll address it for awhile.
Despite my various shifts to the right in many other matters in recent times (as illustrated three posts below this one), abortion is one issue where I fall pretty squarely into the liberal camp; my brand of pro-choicism is generally in line with the mushball Clintonite ideal of "safe, legal, and rare." I also think that since Roe v. Wade has already been on the books for a full generation, it's a little too late now to suddenly take those rights away from women all over again. And I would be for the banning of partial-birth abortion if I were convinced that it actually existed, and that it wasn't merely invented as an issue to create a precedent for overturning Roe.
However, where I part company with the NARALs and NOWs of the world is that they caricature all anti-abortion people as vile sickos who want nothing more than to control women's bodies, while ignoring that many good people have legitimate reasons to oppose abortion- and don't think the pro-life side isn't guilty of this sort of thing themselves. Also, while Kim Gandy and Kate Michelman's jobs require a certain Chicken Little quality (or else they'd have nothing to say in their fundraising letters), I personally don't believe there's much likelihood of abortion ever being illegal again in our lifetimes. For one thing, knowing the current makeup of the Democrats in the Senate, they're likely to continue Borking Bush Supreme Court nominees forever until they find one that's suitably abortion-friendly. And more importantly, the political will simply isn't there among the American people: save for a continuing recession or a series of catastrophic terrorist attacks, the only thing that could make George W. Bush lose in 2004 is if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned before election day.
(Which again illustrates the peril the Democratic candidates find themselves in: in order to have any hope of winning, they have to root for economic disaster, terrorism, and/or the banning of abortion!)
So in conclusion, I hope in the coming years to see abortion remain safe and legal, as well as a greater amount of civility from both sides in the debate. Too bad the latter is so much less likely than the former...
CELEBRATE THE SUPER-SONIC-AH: Check out Seattle Super-Slavic Peja Drobnjak's home page, on NBA.com. Get this man a blog, pronto!
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Those who have suspicions and antipathy towards Communism in 2003 are viewed with the same bemusement you’d extend towards someone who runs a website devoted to bringing back 'WKRP in Cincinnati.'"- Who but James Lileks?
Tuesday, January 21, 2003 THERE'S A NEW JEW: According to a front-page story in The Forward this week, a survey of Jewish Americans indicates that the demographic is moving to the right politically, a shift that has been predicted by the neoconservative movement for decades but is only now actually coming to fruition. This is especially true, says The Forward, of younger Jews.
While the Forward piece speculates that President Bush and other Republican candidates will be helped significantly by this change in next year's elections, the shift that I've noticed isn't based on electoral politics alone.
Just like everything else, the political attitudes of Jews were profoundly affected by the events of September 11. America, as we all know, was attacked on that day by a foreign enemy which professes hatred for Jewish people, a desire to destroy the state of Israel, and a belief that the US is acting at all times in subservience to the "Zionist Entity." And then, America fought back diligently against the aforementioned menace, at the same time never wavering in its support of Israel, despite the risks involved.
This did an historic thing that has gone underreported since: it removed any remaining doubt that the US and Israel (and by extension, the American Jews) stand side by side- and further, it showed that the centuries-old status of the Jew as outsider in Western society is as close as ever to coming to an end. As a result, events caused a level of patriotism among American Jews unseen at any time in history, as it's hard to deny that Jewish Americans have a "special relationship" to the War on Terror.
This is not to say, of course, that every one of those American Jews has abandoned a lifetime of loyality to the Democrats for the GOP just because these events took place under a Republican president. I myself fall into a group, along with many of my friends, of young Jews who remain generally liberal on most social issues, and loyal to the Democrats, yet quite hawkish in regards to the terrorist threat, unwavering in support of Israel, and very much opposed to the reflexive anti-Americanism and other lunacies of the far left. We're people who grew up surrounded by "progressive" leftism but never quite bought into it, yet don't feel comfortable joining up with the Republicans either.
I think this common sense approach may very well be the true future of Jewish political activism, rather than the discredited ideologies and strategies of the past. Because the terrorists hate a lot of the things we love: freedom, democracy, America, Israel, and Judaism.
This group is, of course, well-represented in the Blogosphere, from this blog to Guanubian to Mike Silverman to Isaac Slepner. Call us the Kosher Scoop Jacksons, or the Jewish auxilery to Andrew Sullivan's "Eagles." 11:08 PM
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Now that we know the best way to solve problems is not to have any enemies, let’s see what fences we can mend with our Islamicist “Friends We Haven’t Met Yet.” All they are asking is a little respect for their different – but equally valid! – cultural preferences. We can clear up this little misunderstanding by making a few small compromises. All we have to do is abandon the Bill of Rights, convert to Islam, adapt Sharia, or Islamic law, imprison our women in mobile tents, remove their clitoris without anesthesia so that they don’t get any ideas while we are out stoning rape victims, use our young male relatives for sexual domination since premarital sex with women is a mortal sin, kill anyone who writes anything disrespectful of our government or religion, throw away science, technology and modern medicine, murder all homosexuals and Jews, eliminate music, dancing, beer drinking, sports, television, movies and other vices, throw acid on our daughters if they are seen in public with a male non-relative, and swear unwavering loyalty to whatever the half-blind, one-armed raving lunatic spews at us during our five-times-a-day prayer sessions.
In exchange, they promise not to fly any more of our airplanes into our buildings." - The blogger Proteus, aka "Eject! Eject! Eject!" Read it! Read it! Read it!
NO TRUTH IN ADVERTISING, PART I: A new advertisement opposing the potential war in Iraq, sponsored by a website called MoveOn.org, reprises the classic "Daisy Girl" ad from the 1964 presidential race, arguing that if we go to war in Iraq, there's a possibility that it will result in a nuclear holocaust.
Now if "MoveOn.org" sounds familiar, it's because they surfaced during the Clinton impeachment drama in 1998, believing that the country should "move on" from the allegations against the president and pay attention to other, more important issues. What this has to do with war in Iraq I'll never know (as I didn't often check the site in the intervening four years). Back in the impeachment days, not only was "Move On" a noble cause with which I agreed, but the very phrase, "move on," was used correctly both logically and grammatically. Not so four years later.
I don't say so only because the first thing President Clinton did after his 1999 acquittal was bomb Iraq. Nor do I believe this because, in using Lyndon Johnson's 1964 ad, the anti-war movement is suddenly on the same side as LBJ (maybe it's a result of the rapturous reaction by elites last year to the Robert Caro biography). The ad is faulty because it juxtaposes footage of a nuclear blast with a call to "move on." Why? Is a nuclear threat something that we should just will away and forget about? Most of the anti-war movement believes war is not justified because Saddam does not have weapons of mass destruction. By depicting hypothetical nuclear devastation, the ad seems to concede that he does have them. But if he does, then why in the world would we move on? Even if we don't go to war, shouldn't the incidence of a sworn enemy of the United States possessing such weapons at least be cause for alarm, if not cause for fear? I don't remember there being a "move on" movement during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The truth is (as Kenneth Pollack's excellent book "The Threatening Storm" articulates), every single piece of intelligence we have tells us that while Saddam Hussein doesn't yet have nuclear weapons, he's working to get them and may have the capability very soon. Therefore, there's a greater threat of nuclear holocaust if we don't invade Iraq than if we do. Regardless of what happens, just about the worst option imaginable is "moving on."
NO TRUTH IN ADVERTISING, PART II: We've also got a new ad claiming that those who drive SUVs are guilty of aiding and abetting terrorism. And while this ad isn't quite as off the mark as the ones last year that claimed small-time pot users were standing foursquare with Osama Bin Laden, it's still a bit of a stretch, and as someone who covers the energy market for a living, I feel qualified to retort.
The argument is that it's "gas-guzzling SUVs" that eat up so much oil that it makes the OPEC countries rich, they give money to the terrorists, and therefore we've got a hole in the ground where the World Trade Center used to be. But my question is, why just SUVs? They may use more gas than the average car, but what percentage of American cars are SUVs? I don't have the stats in front of me, but I'm guessing it's less than 10. After all, most people can't afford them.
But clearly, while SUVs use up gas, so does every other car on the road. So how about, starting tomorrow, everybody America stops driving cars, period! That'll show those Saudi bastards!
Of course, this reasoning is faulty, because if no one drove cars no one could get to work, America's economy would grind to a halt, and we'd be hurt just as bad economically as we would if the terrorists did in fact hit us again. The answer then, rather than to ban or otherwise stigmatize SUVs or other cars, is to introduce other sources of energy, and reduce our dependence on oil from the despots of the Middle East. And as I'm sure the "no blood for oil" people know, drawing more oil from a democratic, post-Saddam Iraq will only help move us towards that goal.
One more question: the people who designed this ad- how'd they get to work that day? Just curious...
37?: As the world now knows, Super Bowl XXXVII is all set, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will do battle with the Oakland Raiders. I was rooting for the Eagles in the NFC title game, I'd like to make clear, but unfortunately it wasn't meant to be, and therefore there will only be one army of scary, drunken, very hostile fans in San Diego for the big game, not two.
So we've got all the stories that can be expected- Bucs coach Jon Gruden going head to head with his old team, as well as his protege, Bill Callahan! The long-suffering Bucs, in their first Super Bowl ever! Proof/dis-proof of the NFL's longstanding "conspiracy" against Al Davis! Two ex-Vikings QBs doing battle (Gannon and Johnson)- both of whom have battled for QB jobs in recent years with another ex-Vike, Jeff George!
I must say I'll be rooting for the Bucs, because I am an NFC guy, I like Gruden (though I concede he's likely to drop dead of a heart attack by the time he's 50), the Bucs have the best uniforms in the league by far, I like the underdog, and they have generally likable players, with the exception of the loathsome Keyshawn Johnson. I'm pulling for Tampa, but don't construe that as a prediction...
But I can predict this: after the best halftime show in Super Bowl history last year, this year's (featuring Shania Twain) will suck by comparison.
Monday, January 20, 2003 MAIL TIME!: A reader asks: "Is Paul Westerberg Jewish?" An interesting question. The frontman of The Replacements, the seminal '80s band from Minneapolis, has been making superlative music for more than two decades, yet this is the first I've heard of his potential Hebraicity. If so, that's cool; if not, he's a prime candidate for the Eckstein Award. If anyone has any idea, drop an e-mail or comment below.
HAPPY MLK DAY: "When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, 'Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'" -Martin Luther King, Jr., August 28, 1963.
VIC-TORII!: The Star Tribune reports that Torii Hunter has agreed to a long-term deal with the Twins, for 4 years and $32 million. Excellent, excellent- the Twins for the first time in years show an actual commitment to winning by locking up their best player. And best of all, we'll be spared that nightmare we've had from time to time about Hunter inevitably signing with the Yankees. Woo hoo!
EXPOS DEEZ PLAQUES: The Baseball Hall of Fame has decreed that Gary Carter, despite winning his only World Series and playing much of his career with the New York Mets, will be sporting a Montreal Expos cap on his plaque when he was inducted this August. Carter will be the first Expo enshrined in the Hall of Fame and, unless '84 Expo Pete Rose should decide to don the old "ME" for his still-unlikely induction, probably the last.
Only the second most nonsensical decision made by organized baseball this week (after the ridiculous new All-Star Game/World Series deal), this decision is primarly the fault of three people: Bud Selig, Dave Winfield, and Ja Rule.
Selig, because he's the boss and the buck (the Bud?) stops with him. Winfield, because prior to his induction in 2001, players entering the Hall were allowed to choose which cap they wanted. But that was before Winfield played several of his former teams against one another, making clear that he would wear the cap of which ever team gave the most sizable donation to his foundation (the Padres won out). And while it was heartening that George Steinbrenner lost out on that particular bidding war, the Hall's governing committee took note and decreed that from then on it was their call on which cap players would wear. They messed up on Carter, yes, but at least this new rule will prevent such disgraceful future events as Wade Boggs' professed desire to be inducted as a Tampa Bay Devil Ray.
Speaking of Rules, Ja Rule spent one of his videos last year clad in the winning (?) red-white-and-blue combo of a '70s Expos hat and a '70s Washington Bullets jersey. And since rap videos are for black men what "Sex and the City" is for white women, throwback uniforms soon became all the rage, with nothing gaining more appeal than the classic Expos cap (last week I had to fight the urge to purchase a Minneapolis Lakers hat). Gary Carter in all probability has never heard of Ja Rule, but don't tell me there's no connection between that fad and the Hall committee's decision.
In the meantime, I very much look forward to the day when Vladimir Guerrero is enshrined in Cooperstown as the first-ever inductee of the Washington Expos.
ORIOLE BLOGS: We've now entered the next logical phase of the blogging phenomenon, in which random, long-forgotten people from our past pop up with blogs of their own (and no, I'm not talking about Wil Wheaton and Adam Curry). Here I give you two of my classmates from St. Louis Park High School, Matt Thomas and Sara Elliott.
Thursday, January 16, 2003 COWBOYS KILL WITH GUNS, NOT CARS: Dallas Cowboys defensive back Dwayne Goodrich, one of the stars of last summer's "Hard Knocks" special on HBO but never more than a marginal player on the field, was arrested last night and charged with vehicular manslaughter in the deaths of two people that he allegedly hit with his car.
Adding insult to injury, Goodrich comes in a distant fourth on the all-time list of Greatest NFL Players To Be Indicted For Killing People, after O.J. Simpson, Ray Lewis, and Rae Carruth.
I BELIEVE PETE TOWNSHEND: I want to go on record as saying right now that I don't think Pete Townshend is a pedophile, or that he knowingly accessed child pornography for nefarious purposes. I am convinced that Townshend, as a survivor himself of child sexual abuse and someone who has covered the subject in his art, was researching his autobiography like he says he was.
The charges should of course be vigorously investigated, but if you ask me, I don't think there's any way Townshend could be guilty, for one simple reason: now that we're nearly a decade into the internet era, there's not an internet porn connosiour on Earth (kiddie or otherwise) who doesn't know how to find the porn he/she wants for free; if Townshend really were the pedophile Scotland Yard says he is, he likely would know how to find kiddie porn with relative ease and for free, without stumbling for his credit card to use a pay site.
One more thing about this: I haven't heard anyone mention it yet this week, but I remember about ten years ago Townshend caused a minor stir when he announced he'd had affairs with men in his distant past. Here's a how-long-before: you've gotta think some ultra-conservative pundit (Coulter? Derbyshire? Rod Dreher?) will try to use this against Townshend, re-using the "gays are all child molesters" line left over from the Catholic Church scandals. I hope this doesn't happen, but I suspect it will.
Oh, and while we're on the subject of has-been celebrities accused of pedophilia:
DR. DAN BLOWS THE DIAGNOSIS: I like Star Tribune sports columnist Dan Barreiro an awful lot, especially on the radio, but I've got to admit that his column yesterday was way off the mark. Barreiro writes of the "Ex-Viking Curse," afflicting such former Purple People as Steelers cornerback Dewayne Washington (who committed a game-losing running-into-the-kicker penalty in Saturday's loss to the Titans); Browns lineman Dwayne Rudd (whose unsportsmanlike conduct penalty cost the Browns a win in Week 1), and of course Cris Carter, the Hall of Fame-bound receiver who made a disastrous comeback with the Miami Dolphins.
But what Barreiro forgets was that for many other ex-Vikes in the NFL, 2002 was a banner year. Now since the Vikings changed starting quarterbacks almost every year of the '90s, there are all kinds of ex-Minnesota QBs running loose all over the NFL. One of them (Rich Gannon) was the league's MVP this year. Another (Brad Johnson) got Tampa Bay into the NFC title game for only the second time in franchise history. And a third (Jay Fiedler) led the Dolphins into first place for most of the season before he was injured. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) Jeff George didn't make it off the bench for Seattle.
And coaches too! Former defensive coordinator Tony Dungy led the Colts into the playoffs, something his predecessor Jim "Playoffs?" Mora was of course unable to do last year. Former Vikings LB Jack Del Rio today accepted the Jacksonville head coaching job, beating out another former Vike, Mike Mularkey. And the frontrunner for the now suddenly-vacant 49ers job? None other than Dennis Green. This is in addition to former Vikings assistant Tyrone Willingham's astonishing success with Notre Dame.
Now if only the current Vikings could perform as well as the ex-Vikings...
PICKS FOR SUNDAY: Eagles, Raiders. It's the battle of the drunken, hostile, strangely costumed fans!
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!: The (first) Gulf War began 12 years ago today; the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke five years ago today.
GOOD ARGUMENT FOR CLASS WARFARE: According to a story in Tuesday's New York Times, a "philanthropist" named Peter B. Lewis recently donated $8 million to the ACLU, on the condition that it be earmarked towards "fighting anti-terrorism measures."
Funny, if i had a spare $8 million lying around that I was looking to bequeth for the betterment of humanity, I can think right off the bat of a couple dozen causes much more worthy of my time and attention than "fighting anti-terrorism." First and foremost among those, I'd say, would be "fighting terrorism."
It says a lot about Mr. Lewis that he made that choice, and it says even more about the New York Times that they take it for granted that anti-terrorism measures are somehow a greater evil than terrorism measures.
Wednesday, January 15, 2003 THE REDNECK LOBBY: Yes, it exists. According to a story in the Washington Times, a group called the Center for Rural Strategies has begun an ad campaign in opposition to CBS' plans for a "Beverly Hillbillies"-based reality series, on the grounds that it's offensive to country folks.
Yes, the CRS is following in the footsteps of the ADL, GLAAD, the Arab-American Institute and the Catholic League, putting pressure on Hollywood and Congress in order to advance their unique, narrow brand of identity politics. Nice to see that the rural folks of America can be just as irritable and humorless as everyone else.
TV CRITIC QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "'Joe Millionaire' on Fox and 'The Bachelorette' on ABC - two of the most vapid program concepts ever devised - are thriving thanks to women - especially 20-something women, with their princess fantasies and gold-digging aspirations." -My buddy Adam Buckman, in the New York Post. Ouch!
PUT THE CHAIR DOWN, THEO: In the latest chapter in their century-long crusade to screw the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees today pulled off a three-way trade in which they both rid themselves of pitcher Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez's excessive contract and prevented Bartolo Colon from landing in Boston. El Duque is the newest member of the Cuban defector community in Montreal, while Colon ended up with the Chicago White Sox (the Yanks got bullpen help in return, in addition to the payroll relief. Like they needed either).
If I were a Red Sox fan my first reaction would be "Casey Fossum BETTER win 20 games this year," because the heretofore not-so-mighty Casey was the one player new Sox GM Theo Epstein refused to give the Expos for Colon. The Sox ending up losing out on both of their pitching acquisition targets for the offseason (Colon and Cuban defector Jose Contreras) and adding insult to injury, apparently untrue rumors were planted in the New York papers (probably from Yankees sources) that Epstein had broken furniture upon hearing that Contreras had chosen to make his major league debut in pinstripes.
With the trade of Duque, the Yankees are now down to a measly seven (7) major league-level starting pitchers (Roger Clemens, David Wells, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettite, Jeff Weaver, Contreras, and Sterling Hitchcock), six of whom are former All-Stars. However, Clemens and Wells are both old, and Hitchcock is always injury-prone, so don't be surprised if the Yankees are in the hunt for more starting pitching at the trading deadline.
Since the White Sox have been as good as anyone at bungling things the past few years, I see them as virtually no threat at all to my Twins in the AL Central- and if Colon-to-the-Yankees rumors don't start popping up by the All-Star Break, I'll be shocked.
EVERY SONG IS A COMEBACK:Andrew today links to a piece in the Guardian by Martin Kettle, about the British anti-war left and their immaturity in opposing Tony Blair. Which begs the natural question: is Kettle black? And would I be wrong in calling Kettle black? Would Pol Pot?
LEFT-LIBERAL PSYCH:Guanubian has some great observations about the psychology of ideology- especially in the Middle East. Check him out.
'REAL WORLD: LAS VEGAS' QUOTE OF THE YEAR: "Trishelle and Steven's relationship is wrong. Oh so wrong. On a scale of wrongness, it falls somewhere between the Barbra Streisand/Don Johnson public smooching of 1988 and the sex on ''Oz'" - Josh Wolk, in Entertainment Weekly.
Tuesday, January 14, 2003 TWENTY TWENTY TWENTY FOUR HOURS TO GO...: We already knew that Fox's "24" was one of the more ingenious concepts in the history of television. But after tonight's episode, I think we can safely say that it's simply the best show on TV that's not on HBO. (But then, as the ever-present self-congratulatory ads remind, HBO isn't TV, it's HBO).
"24" would be worth all the praise it gets based purely on its setup- 24 one-hour episodes, each told in real time. But then there's the suspense, and the surprises, and dramatic tension, and the clock that's always ticking... This season, we've got the even more tense scenario of a nuclear bomb that could go off at any time, on top of presidential palace intrigue, in addition to the nice touch of a character who knows he has less than a day to live. Usually when a character on a network drama talks about "tonight" or "tomorrow" that's a reference to the next scene. Not on "24."
Tonight, in the last episode before a three-week pre-sweeps break, we were treated to one minor surprise and one huge one- and for "24," that's par for the course. And most amazingly of all, these twists don't come across as contrived, but rather as just another part of the puzzle. After the latest episode's final surprise, I simultaneously heard my roommate and downstairs neighbor scream "holy shit!"- last time that happened was the moment Ralphie Cifaretto's head was pulled out of the tub.
If you haven't watched "24" yet, now's a great time to start. After all, it's only 6:00 PM- there's 14 more hours left.
MARVIN, NO LONGER STARVIN': In a blow to the twin old-white-boys networks of NFL coaching and Queen City sports, the Cincinnati Bengals today hired Marvin Lewis as their new head coach. It's a long overdue chance for Lewis, who presided over the #1 defense in NFL history (the Ravens' Super Bowl champions of two years ago) and had fallen just short of jobs in recent years with the Buffalo Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Lewis becomes the third active black coach in the NFL, along with Herman Edwards of the Jets and Tony Dungy of the Colts.
While the Bengals have been the league's most moribund franchise for over a decade mostly due to a marked lack of effort from ownership, Lewis is known as a superior defensive mind and a keen judge of talent, so if anyone can turn the Bengals around, he can. Especially considering the NFL's ridiculous parity, in which a team can go from 3-13 one year to 13-3 the next (or vice versa) and no one bats an eye.
I HAVE JOINED THE GEO URL REVOLUTION:. Better that than the P'Zone Revolution...
Monday, January 13, 2003 HITLER CHIC: Last year, Kurt Cobain and Elvis (among others) made visible, well-hyped posthumous comebacks. In 2003, there's another figure from the past who's primed for a revival: Hitler.
Following the twin Spielberg-driven mid-'90s fads of "Greatest Generation" romanticism/boomer guilt, and increased Holocaust consciousness, it's time for the other side of World War II to enjoy its cultural moment. And now that America is once again at war with a fascist menace halfway across the world, Nazi imagery, coincindentally, seems to be popping all over the place, from academia to comedy.
"The Producers," of course, remains by far the most popular show on Broadway. The History Channel has maintained its traditional programming ratio of 60% Hitler, 40% other stuff. A controversial academic book last year, "The Hidden Hitler" by Lother Mochtan, posited that Hitler was in fact a closeted homosexual, leading to a deal for a TV movie and "Gay Hitler," a recurring character played by Chris Kattan on "Saturday Night Live" (does this mean a coterie of gay fascists will emerge, calling themselves "Log Bunker Republicans?"). John Cusack is starring in a new movie called "Max," about a Jewish art dealer who befriends the young Fuhrer in 1920s Berlin. "South Park" recently aired a memorable episode featuring the "Museum of Tolerance"- depicted as a concentration camp. And HBO's "Oz," which includes as a main character the unrepentent Nazi Vern Schillinger, is more popular than ever.
Some Jewish theologians have complained about this trend, arguing that any attempt to "humanize" Hitler is a disgrace to history, and to the Six Million. I say that as long as the subject is treated tastefully, without using Holocaust rhetoric for petty argumentative purposes, and without resorting to "moral equivalence" between Hitler and his victims, then I have no objections.
As for use of Hitler in a comedy context, in college I was a member of a sketch-comedy troupe that once performed a sketch called "Hitler On the Moon With Gary Coleman," which was a 'Producers'-like attempt to place a heavy subject like Hitler into a super-absurd situation. Maybe not as absurd as the "Gay Hitler" book, but still pretty absurd.
Just one question though- in a climate of Hitler Chic, can a Jew be elected President of the United States? 8:33 PM
WILL McDONOUGH, 1935-2003: The world lost one its foremost sportswriters on Friday when legendary Boston Globe sports columnist Will McDonough passed away unexpectedly at the age of 67. McDonough wrote for the Globe for more than 40 years and was one of only a handful of writers who had covered every Super Bowl. McDonough also once punched out a Patriots player, Raymond Clayborn.
After the death last year of Ted Williams, McDonough's passing marks another Boston sports legend who tragically never lived to see a Red Sox world championship. But after covering the Patriots since their establishment as a franchise, McDonough was on hand in New Orleans last February when the Patriots won their first-ever Super Bowl.
McDonough's final column for the Globe, about his longtime friend Bill Parcells, was published January 5.
INTERSPECIES SEXUALITY, CONT'D: According to Mr. Lileks, a series of classic cartoons exist in which the legendary Disney character Goofy lives in blissful domesticity- with a human wife. Now we all know of the endless debate over exactly what species Goofy belongs to, but it's pretty much a given that human is not one of the options- does that make him human by marriage?
Lileks also shares that Goofy, in these old cartoons, has a last name- "Geef." He doesn't mention it, but "geef" has long been used as a euphenism for marijuana by the hosts of Minneapolis' KQRS Morning Show, which I'm sure James listens to.
Sunday, January 12, 2003 FILM CRITIC QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "[Nicole] Kidman’s putty nose [in "The Hours"] is less convincing than Noah Taylor’s 'Max' makeup, which made him look more like Prince than Hitler." - Armond White, in New York Press. Tonight we're gonna party like it's 1939?
Saturday, January 11, 2003 ESOTERIC WEBSITE OF THE DAY: Here's a list of last meals requested by condemned men sent to the electric chair in Texas.
Friday, January 10, 2003 SUPER BOWL SHUFFLE: With the NFL's divisional playoffs scheduled for this weekend, we're only two weeks away from Super Bowl XXXVII. And not only is that a tie for the most roman numerals in Super Bowl history (with XXVIII), but if trends continue this may very well be the most watched Super Bowl worldwide, ever!
The Super Bowl is nothing if not hype, and there's usually a built-in storyline between the two teams that's milked for all its worth in the week before the big game. Here, as a service to you the reader, are all sixteen potential Super Bowl matchups, and the most likely gimmick assigned to the game:
Eagles vs. Raiders: Battle of Teams With Crazy, Drunken, Hostile, Strangely Costumed Fans!
Eagles vs. Jets: Battle of Teams Formerly Coached by Rich Kotite!
Eagles vs. Steelers: Battle of Teams From Pennsylvania!
Eagles vs. Titans: Battle of McNabb vs. McNair! (With McNown Watching at Home!)
Falcons vs. Raiders: Battle of Teams That Wear Black!
Falcons vs. Jets: Battle of Teams With Electrifying Young Quarterbacks!
Falcons vs. Steelers: Rematch of Battle From November That Ended in 34-34 Tie!
Falcons vs. Titans: Battle of Teams That Each Lost the Super Bowl a Few Years Ago and Now Are Good For the First Time Since!
49ers vs. Raiders: Battle of the Bay Area! (and Jerry Rice Too!)
49ers vs. Jets: Battle of Teams That Wrested Division Titles From Last Year's Super Bowl Teams!
49ers vs. Steelers: Battle of the Best Team of the '80s vs. the Best Team of the '70s!
49ers vs. Titans: Battle of Quarterbacks From Colleges You've Never Heard Of!
Buccaneers vs. Raiders: Battle of Jon Gruden's New Team vs. His Old Team!
Buccaneers vs. Jets: Battle of Keyshawn Johnson's New Team vs. His Old Team!
Buccaneers vs. Steelers: Last Year, Steelers Safety Lee Flowers Called the Bucs "Paper Champions"- Now, They Battle!
Buccaneers vs. Titans: Battle of Teams That Had Embarrassingly Ugly Uniforms Until Recently!
PS: I almost wish the Packers had made it this far, making possible a Packers-Steelers Super Bowl, and thus an historic matchup between Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala.
FALLING HALE: One of America's foremost dirtbags is finally behind bars, and for that we should all be thankful. Matt Hale, leader of a white-supremecist cult called the World Church of the Creator, was arrested earlier this week for attempting to have a judge killed; U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow had been scheduled to preside over Hale's trial in a copyright-infringement case. In 1999, a follower of Hale's went on a shooting rampage in Indiana and in Chicago's West Rogers Park neighborhood, killing (among others) former Northwestern University basketball coach Ricky Byrdsong.
HE IS SUPER AND HE'S PROUD TO BE FAY: I just finished "The Last Commissioner," the autobiography of former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent, and I must say I can't remember the last time I was so disappointed with a book.
As a longtime chronicler of the idiocies of baseball under the Bud Selig regime, I was looking forward to an intelligent analysis of the game from the man who Selig drove from office, preferably with astute commentary on all of the events in baseball (on and off the field) in the decade since. Unfortunately, that's not the book Vincent wrote. Instead, he put together a self-serving collection of unamusing anecdotes, doting tributes to pretty much everyone Vincent has ever met in baseball, the author's creepy fixation with umpires (his father was an ump), and a tiresome amount of name-dropping. Vincent, for one, makes sure from page one that we know how close he's always been to the Bush family, as he mentions over a dozen times that he once roomed in Midland, TX, with Bucky Bush (brother of Bush 41). Vincent's rampant use of the phrase "my very good friend" makes Sid Hartman sound like the world's loneliest man.
Vincent, clearly still upset that he was driven out of the game in 1992 by a cabal of hardline owners led by Selig and Jerry Reinsdorf, gave some excellent, damning quotes to reporter Frank Deford for his profile last year of Selig (Sports Illustrated, 7/8/'02). The book's very title, after all, signifies that the author rightly considers Bud's commissionership illegitimate. But Vincent was clearly so committed to writing his memoir as a touchy-feely reflection on his years in the game that he spends much less time than he should on the most important events of his tenure, namely the banishment of Pete Rose from the game by his predecessor Bart Giamatti, and Vincent's losing power struggle with Selig. The Rose chapter feels incomplete and unfinished, and Vincent doesn't touch on his departure or the current woes of the game until the very end. Hell, Bud Selig is mentioned in the book fewer times than Bucky Bush is.
I remember reading that around the time of his ouster, Vincent was considering writing a memoir about his time as commissioner and the circumstances under which he left, but backed out of the deal at the last moment. I would still love to read that book, as clearly few people have the insight into the intricicies of the baseball business that Fay Vincent does. But as of now, after this misfire, the ex-commish is 0-for-1.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I don’t hate Michael Moore, I pity him - he’s going to die in 15 years of a massive coronary on a cold tiled bathroom floor, awash in the blasts of his emptied bowels, his autopsy photos posted to The Smoking Gun's new 3D holographic photo section." - James Lileks 12:27 AM
Thursday, January 09, 2003 LOOK OUT BELOW: Here's the best online short film I've seen in awhile: Fifteen minutes of footage, from all over the country, of "Cups Being Knocked Off Tables." (P.S.: the picture on the web page is of Charlie Chaplin. NOT Hitler.)
LIAR, LIAR: Notre Dame coach-for-a-week George O'Leary was hired yesterday as the Vikings' new defensive coordinator. OR WAS HE?
Wednesday, January 08, 2003 SHOULDA WON A GRAMMY...:The Grammy nominations were announced yesterday morning, and I can't say I'm too upset about what was chosen. It's been a foregone conclusion since last spring that the Album of the Year would go Bruce Springsteen's "The Rising"; everyone else is merely playing for second place. Joining Bruce in the coveted Album of the Year category are Eminem, Nelly, the Dixie Chicks, and Norah Jones. I'd have subbed Wilco and Beck for Nelly and the Chicks, but you can't win 'em all... These nominees, as well as last year's, indicate that the traditional Grammy voting electorate of sixty-something white people is a thing of the past and actual quality is finally being recognized. It's certainly a step forward from two years ago, when Album of the Year was awarded to the worst album of Steely Dan's career, that a talent as truly special as 22-year-old Norah Jones is being recognized now.
SILVER IS GOLD:CAMERA (The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) has named their Letter Writer of the Year for 2002, and he is... Stephen Silver. Nope, not me, but rather Stephen A. Silver of Concord, California, who in the past year has had letters published in, among other publications, USA Today, The Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Time, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Times, Ha'aretz, Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, and the Jewish Bulletin of Northern California, all in staunch support of Israel. On behalf of Stephen Silver's Blog, I bestow congratulations upon you, Stephen Silver.
IN THE LAND OF 'OZ': Great season premiere of "Oz" on Sunday night, as the final season of the HBO prison saga finally got underway after a wait of nearly a year. Narrator Augustus Hill may be dead, but he will continue to narrate each episode from beyond the grave. And like Shoeless Joe in "Field of Dreams," Hill has brought all kinds of friends back from the dead with him, as various characters killed off in past seasons will return throughout the eight-episode season. And those who complained about a lack of "whackings" on "The Sopranos" last season must be in heaven now, as "Oz" has averaged a DPER (Deaths Per Episode Ratio) of more than one throughout its run.
Sunday's episode also featured the return of Jericho, the sock puppet on the hand of inmate Cyril O'Riley (Scott William Winters, who played the "how do you like them apples" guy in "Good Will Hunting"). While I'm only guessing that the puppet is named after wrestler Chris Jericho, who looks just like Cyril, I can say with certainly that Jericho is my second-favorite sock puppet on television, after Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. Though Triumph is only my second-favorite insult comic on television, after Donald Rumsfeld.
And in other HBO news, the network announced yesterday that "Sex and the City" will go off the air next year, after 12 episodes this summer and 8 next January. Now can we all stop pretending that Sarah Jessica Parker is pretty?
IT'S NOT A TUNA!: I watched tonight's one-on-one interview (shouldn't it be two-on-one?) by Chris Mortenson with new Cowboys coach Bill Parcells and his owner, Jerry Jones. Whether the Parcells/Jones marriage can work remains to be seen, although Parcells' record indicates that while he's as effective as anyone who has coached in the NFL in the past two decades, in all three of his previous jobs he has both left a huge mess behind, and left the fans wanting more. This tells us a lot about why he chose this particular time to come back.
I lived in Boston during Parcells' final year with the Patriots, and in New York at the end of his Jets tenure, so I've seen this phenomenon first-hand. In 1997 the Patriots reached the Super Bowl, but the question of whether or not the Tuna would walk was unquestionably the #1 story in New England that week, even bigger than the big game itself. When Parcells finally did quit and jumped to the Jets, Pats fans remained obsessed with the ex-coach, really, until last year when they finally won the Super Bowl under his protege, Bill Belichick. His replacement Pete Carroll paled by camparison, and Pats fans had to contend with Parcells' ghost twice a year, in the form of games against the Jets that were always marked by not-so-creative puns on the word "Tuna" in Globe and Herald headlines.
Just as Parcells left the Giants in the lurch in 1990 (leading to the "Ray Must Go" era), the reaction to his departure from the Jets a decade later was similarly pathetic. First Parcells quit, then he was replaced by Bill Belichick, then Belichick quit after two days, and the entire Jets fan base demanded Parcells' return. Then a year later, after coach Al Groh quit to return to his alma mater, and again there were demands from irate Jets fans that they bring the Tuna back. Then, when Herman Edwards got the job, outraged fans begged Bill to at least remain in the General Manager's job. Which reminded me a lot of a jilted boyfriend begging to remain friends with his erstwhile lover.
In the past year, however, Bill Parcells' grip on the sports fanbase of the entire northeast corridor has loosened. The Patriots, of course, won the Super Bowl last year under Belichick, something Parcells never accomplished in New England. And, the week Parcells was announced as the Cowboys' new coach, the Jets wrapped up a near-miraculous comeback that won them the AFC East title, their first since the Tuna left. Perhaps Bill Parcells realized that it's been over a decade since he last coached a team to a championship and more importantly, that he was no longer the mythical, desired figure that he once was, and that he needed a whole new football-obsessed town to shower him with the attention to which he had become accustomed. And then, after three or four years of returning the 'boys to respectability, he'll walk away again, return to ESPN, and laugh with glee at Dallas' utter inability to get over him.
THAT'S ALMOST 2,000 MORE THAN HALL OF FAMER EDDIE MURRAY: This blog passed the 5,000-hit mark yesterday. Thanks so much everyone...
Tuesday, January 07, 2003 KNOCK KNOCK. WHO'S THERE? GO FUCK YOURSELF: My review of "Catch Me If You Can" is right here.
Monday, January 06, 2003 BRUTAL JOURNALISM: The front-page headline this morning in the New York Daily News: "BRUTAL!" Is it a reference to the horrific terrorist attack yesterday in Tel Aviv that killed 24 people? Fuck no- it's about the Giants, and their loss in yesterday's playoff game to San Francisco! Because apparently, to the Daily News, the loss of 24 Israelis isn't quite as brutal as the Giants blowing a lead of that many points, dropping the game-winning pass in the end zone, botching two snaps on field goals, committing a game-ending ineligible receiver penalty, and failing to spike the botched snap on third down in order to set up another field goal.
Though I do think that whatever ends up happening to Yassir Arafat, even worse should happen to Jeremy Shockey. Will Shockey find a way to blame Sunday's loss on "the faggots"?
FANTASY WHIPPING: Readers of this blog (and more notably, The Sports Guy) are likely familiar with the laughingstock known as Doug Christie, a guard for the Sacramento Kings who went public in the New York Times last year as 100% submissive to his wife, Jackie. The comedy was augmented in this year's pre-season when Christie got into an on-court fistfight with L.A. Laker and former "Oz" inmate Rick Fox, and Mrs. Christie interjected herself into the ensuing brawl. Bill Simmons has harped on this constantly for the past year, even suggesting that his readers should purchase Doug Christie jerseys for their whipped buddies.
My friend Susanna, an avid fantasy-basketball junkie, informed me recently that she's considering re-naming her team The Doug Christie All-Stars, because she has Christie on the team, he's having a good year (7 steals the other night) and almost every member of her otherwise all-male league has been trying to trade for Christie all season.
How odd. The members of Susanna's league are all guys, all sports fanatics, mostly live in or near Boston, and at least one of them even works for Sports Guy's employer, ESPN. It seems to me that they all must be avid readers of Simmons' column, so apparently they know all about Doug's proclivities, it doesn't bother them, and they'd be proud to have a "man" of Christie's caliber on their team. Good thing Jackie's not in the league, or else they'd probably try to trade for her, too.
AND I SWEAR THAT I DON'T HAVE A GUN: Got a piece of SPAM earlier tonight that asked "Do you have life insurance"? I would've relegated this to the Recycle Bin, like I do with most SPAM, had I not noticed who it was from: "Cobain26." Huh? Of all the names this person could've chosen to sell that particular product... would you buy life insurance from a guy who shot himself in the head?
Friday, January 03, 2003 FILM CRITIC QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "Best Documentary: 'Jackass,' far and away. It makes the self-important, pseudo-political quests of this year's trust-fund and grant-hound filmmakers irrelevant. Fuck 'Bowling For Columbine.'" -Armond White, crossing over to the Village Voice on the occasion of the Take 4 poll.
BOWLING FOR COOPERSTOWN: The latest inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame will be announced Tuesday. If I had a ballot I would cast votes for Eddie Murray, Ryne Sandberg, and Gary Carter; however, I predict Murray and Carter will make it and Sandberg (due to his two-year retirement which prevented him from reaching 3000 hits) will have to wait 'til next time. And no, I don't think Bert Blyleven should make it, nor should Don Mattingly. Or Pete Rose.
Thursday, January 02, 2003 THE 2002 STEPHEN SILVER ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS:
Man of the Year: Hennepin County District Court Judge Harry Crump, who last fall issued an injunction blocking baseball’s plan to eliminate the Minnesota Twins. Therefore, the Twins continued to exist, won the American League Central division, and defeated baseball’s best team (the Oakland A’s) in the first round of the playoffs.
Quote of the Year: In Washington Square Park one day in August, while a group of NYU kids were attempting to shoot a student film, an elderly, homeless-looking woman who was nearby feeding birds got upset about appearing in the shot and started yelling at them. Her retort: "Who the fuck do you think you are, Antonioni?"
Film Critic Quote of the Year: "With dour killjoys like Ralph Nader and Noam Chomsky serving as the public faces of progressive politics, the Republicans can't help but come across as the fun-loving party of pony rides, keggers, and free lap-dances." -The Onion AV Club's Nathan Rabin, reviewing the Chomsky doc “Power and Terror.”
Music Critic Quote of the Year: “Jay-Z's ‘Izzo (H.O.V.A.)’ is an argument for Ebonics as a third language—right behind Spanish. It's so cool to say, ‘Fa-shizzle, my nizzle’ to a nondescript white person and have him respond back with ‘fa-sheezy, my neezy.’” –Trent Fitzgerald, in the Village Voice
Sports Talk Radio Quote of the Year: “"Vinny Testaverde is currently the fifth-best quarterback in New York, behind Kerry Collins, Chad Pennington, Drew Henson, and Charlie Ward.” – A caller to WFAN, before Testaverde was benched in favor of Pennington.
Headline of Year (Tie): “Armed Jews to Patrol Brooklyn,” and (in reference to a denial by former Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog), “Whitey: I’m Not a Racist.” Both, it should go without saying, are from the New York Post.
Chutzpah Award Winner: Real-estate developer and World Trade Center leaseholder Larry Silverstein, who sued in order to get his WTC insurance settlement amount doubled to $7.55 billion- on the grounds that the two planes crashing into the two towers count as “two separate tragic occurrences.”
Eckstein Award Winner (for cool gentiles with Jewish-sounding names): Teen rocker Avril Lavigne, beating out sk8r boi David Eckstein.
Burn Your Siddur Award Winner (for embarrassing statements or actions by Jewish clergy): French Rabbi Pauline Bebe, who started an international fundraising campaign so that her inner-city Paris synagogue could move out of its neighborhood (which had “changed”), into one with fewer African Muslim immigrants.
The 25 Most Shameful Events of 2002 (in no particular order): - After Senator Paul Wellstone is killed in a plane crash, his aide Rick Kahn uses his funeral eulogy to demand that the Republicans in attendance “honor Paul’s memory” by electing Democrats.
- A “divest from Israel” movement gains momentum on US college campuses.
- The baseball All-Star Game ends in a tie.
- Christina Aguilera’s “Dirrty,” the least sexy video in the history of MTV.
- “A Beautiful Mind,” a mawkish film dedicated to proving the false premise that severe mental illness can be overcome by romantic love, wins the Academy Award for Best Picture.
- Opponents of US military intervention in Iraq spend over a year decrying the “rush to war.”
- Minnesota Viking Randy Moss takes a Minneapolis traffic cop for a low-speed ride on the hood of his Lexus; is somehow not suspended by the team.
- The World Wrestling Federation, due to pressure from the panda-fronted World Wildlife Fund, changes its name to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).
- Humorist Garrison Keillor, in successive Salon.com articles, spreads vague unsubstantiated sexual gossip about Norm Coleman, and then insinuates that Coleman had Wellstone murdered.
- The “Star Wars” franchise finally loses its last shred of integrity as the “Attack of the Clones” DVD is advertised with the tagline “Who Da Man? YODA Man!”
- Despite his indictment, conviction, imprisonment and expulsion from Congress, James Traficant receives 18,614 votes in his bid to reclaim his house seat.
- After members of the Cincinnati Jewish community sue to allow a Menorah to be displayed in a downtown park, local activist Kabaka Oba accuses the Jews of working with the KKK to undermine blacks.
- Philadelphia sportscaster and former NFL player Vai Sikahema is caught on camera licking a horse’s ass.
- “The West Wing” regresses from the smartest show on television to a weekly dose of creator Aaron Sorkin’s masturbatory political fantasies.
- Ted Williams dies; his greedy son has him cryogenically frozen.
- The anti-Strokes backlash, and the anti-“Sopranos” backlash.
- Senator Trent Lott states publicly that America would be better off if Strom Thurmond had been elected president.
- New York Post gossip columnist Neal Travis publishes the unsubstantiated rumor that Mets catcher Mike Piazza is gay; smitten by the resulting bad karma, Travis drops dead a month later.
- Michael Jackson makes the goofy assertion that the reason his 2001 album flopped is because he’s black.
- Kirby Puckett is exposed by multiple former mistresses as violent and abusive, is arrested for sexual assault, and divorces his wife Tonya.
- After Jerry Falwell calls the prophet Muhammad a terrorist on “60 Minutes,” a riot breaks out in India in which nine people are killed.
- In what National Review calls an “anti-small market hate crime,” two drunken, shirtless Chicago White Sox fans run out onto the field of Comiskey Park during a game and beat up Kansas City Royals first base coach Tom Gamboa.
- Spurred on by noted hip-hop expert Bill O’Reilly, hundreds of angry callers pressure Pepsi into firing rapper Ludacris from his endorsement deal.
- Eminem taints his otherwise perfect year by picking a fight with a puppet (Triumph the Insult Comic Dog) at the MTV Video Music Awards.
- And at year’s end, Saddam Hussein, Yasser Arafat, and (probably) Osama Bin Laden all remain tragically alive.
PUNK ELITISM: There's a fascinating little piece in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine (an issue comprised entirely of tributes to deceased celebrities from 2002), that's written by Chuck Klosterman about two different rock stars who died within 24 hours of one another last April. Klosterman notes that while the passing of Ramones bassist Dee Dee Ramone got substantial media attention, the concurrent death of Robbin Crosby (guitarist for the '80s hair metal band Ratt) was all but ignored. This was despite Ratt's record of four platinum albums to the Ramones' zero and, as the author notes, "Crosby co-wrote a song ('Round and Round') that has probably been played on FM radio and MTV more often than every track in the Ramones' entire catalog."
So why the disparity? It's because the Ramones, according to hipster conventional wisdom, are "better," "more important," and most of all, "seminal." I myself of course rate the Ramones much higher than Ratt, but I do realize that this is a case of the good ol' East Coast Bias coming through once again- few NYC punk scenesters realize that the Ramones weren't nearly as highly regarded in most of the country as they were in New York.
Punk is supposed to be a reaction to elitism, but in this case (as in many others) it's proven to be the most elitist form of pop there is. New York and other big cities are filled with obnoxious hipsters who believe that punk is the only good music in the world, and that anyone who questions this fact is merely a "corporate sellout," or something of that ilk. After all, in the reaction/non-reaction to the Ramone and Crosby deaths, isn't the implication that more people may have listened to Ratt, but "better people" listened to the Ramones?
On the same subject, the punk/politics connection may have reached its all-time nadir last week when, after the death of The Clash's frontman Joe Strummer, National Review's group blog "The Corner" was deluged with a dozen or so pro-Clash tributes from its army of ultra-conservative writers. It was almost like they dusted off their "I disagreed with his politics, but he was a great man" speeches from November, substituting Strummer's name for Paul Wellstone's.
I FEEL A DRAFT COMING ON: In one of the more disingenuous moves in recent American politics, Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY) has introduced legislation to bring back the military draft. Why is it disingenuous? Because the dovish Rangel (who voted against authorizing the use of force in Iraq) has no intention of the draft ever returning- he merely noticed that there's not nearly as much opposition to war with Iraq than he feels there should be, and he knows that (per Vietnam) Americans will be more likely to oppose war if they or their children are faced with the prospect of having to serve against their will. And even more absurdly, Rangel argues that the return of the draft would be more fair than the status quo- how is that? Isn't a military comprised entirely of volunteers both substantially more fair and more effective than one in which a large percentage don't want to be there?
'HEAVEN' ISN'T TOO FAR AWAY: The Village Voice's Take 4 Film Critics poll, as far as I know the most comprehensive critics poll anywhere, has selected Todd Haynes' "Far From Heaven" as the best picture of 2002. This follows last year's selection of "Mulholland Drive," though in 2000 the critics' findings were so esoteric that six of the top ten choices were films that were never released in the United States. Oh, and here's the ballot of my college film professor, Thomas Doherty.
Wednesday, January 01, 2003 JEWISH MULLETUDE: You may not date much, you may be a social retard, and you may be disconnected from normal society in every way. But at least you're not this guy.
FURTHER PROOF THAT BUSH REALLY JUST WANTS TO BE BASEBALL COMMISSIONER: According to Sports Illustrated's Steve Rushin, after July's All-Star Game tie, "President Bush proposed that a White House intern write a case study of Bud Selig's behavior that night- as an object lesson in what not to do in a crisis."