No Such Nonsense

A little of this, that and... what was I talking about again? It's TV, sports, pop culture and politics - all the stuff that really matters in life.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Last Football Post till Summer

I'll do my best to last that long, but I can't promise... Here are some tidbits to hold us over.

Yes, San Diego is Screwed
They hired Norv Turner. Norv Turner, who's head coaching stats stand at a brilliant 58-82. Brilliant move, Smith and company. Britney-esque in its brilliance. Even Oakland thought he sucked.

Gisele Bundchen, Step-mom
Tom Brady's gonna be a daddy - with ex-girlfriend Bridget Moynahan. And based on the timing, she pretty much got pregnant during break-up sex. Nice. Almost Matt Leinart-esque in its niceness. But Brady still goes home every night with Gisele, so he's probably not all that bummed, like, overall.

No More Irvin
ESPN has dropped Michael Irvin as a commentator so that Irvin can concentrate on his burgening film career. Sad, in that Irvin was a TV train-wreck waiting to happen - you never knew what insane thing he was gonna say next. Like basically calling Tony Romo's great grandma a whore with a serious case of jungle fever. My favourite moment? A few years ago when discussing the Ricky Williams case, Irvin was the local expert as had 'some familarity with the league's substance abuse program.' Like Tony Romo's great-grandma had some familarity with the boys in the slave quarters, Mickey? Oh how we'll miss you.

The downward spiral

It's taken me a few days to post about Britney, because the crazy head-shaving incident this weekend seemed more sad than anything else. It seemed like a girl on the brink of something very, very bad - which isn't so fun to blog about.

Britney's had a rough few years, but many hoped that the divorce from Federline - the total leech of a husband - would signal a new beginning for America's favourite former pop tart. But despite the hopeful signs - the appearance on Letterman, the visits to the studio, the return of her old manager - things quickly went off the rails. (And let's not forget that it is Britney who foisted Federline upon us in the first place. We have no-one to blame but her.)

Lately, it had started to look like Britney really would turn out to be just another child star gone bad - too stupid to know good friends from bad, too rich to have to grow up, too insulated by enablers to do anything else. Drugs. Check. Bad boy choices. Check. Going commando in miniskirts. Check. It all seemed fairly innocuous, though a bit sad if you thought too much about the fact that this was, after all, someone's mom.

Then came the in-and-out rehab stay and the head shave. At the time I shook my head in disbelief - just how fucked up is this girl? And now, it turns out she may not be so fucked up as just really, really dumb. The word is Britney shaved her head because Federline threatened to have test done on a strand of hair - to prove what a drug-addled loser she really is - as part of the custody case. Nice. No-one will be suspicious now Britney. Good move.

And once again, this is someone's mom. Sean P is going to have one hell of a tell-all to write when he grows up.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

GM's Ad Suicide

So a few weeks ago we're sitting around watching some football game - okay, it was the Superbowl - and we're treated to a brand spanking new commercial from GM. It starts out on an assembly line. One of the robots makes a mistake and drops a screw. He/it is promptly fired. The next few scenes play out to that saddest of songs "All by Myself." The robot is forced to take on menial jobs. He looks wistfully at all the beautiful GM cars that drive by. Cut to sad robot standing on a bridge. One last wistful glance and the robot leaps to its watery end. Cut back to the factory where we see it was all just a dream. Sad robot goes back to work, careful not to drop any more screws, and continues his job yet more obsessed with quality. It's a wonderful life, sort of.

You can see the ad here. Except you can't. Not really. Because GM has re-edited the ending. Now, sad robot sees a pile of cars at the auto-wrecker and snaps back to reality.

Here's the original ad, as it aired on Superbowl Sunday.

I have to say, when we were watching the ad live, at the point where the robot is standing on the bridge I said: "They couldn't. They wouldn't dare. There is no way that robot jumps" He/it jumped.

I guess, it could have been the recipe for some serious buzz - the chance for GM to have one of the most-talked about commercials on the air. And it was talked about, all right. And condemned. And vilified. And mercilessly mocked. And you have to wonder how GM didn't see it coming. Not all buzz is good buzz.

See, GM tried to make suicide funny. And the ad is a little funny, if you can forget about the context. The context of someone who has lost a loved one to suicide watching that ad. Or the context of one of the many thousands of laid-off U.S. auto-workers now struggling to survive watching that ad. But if you do think about the context, you have to concede that the ad doesn't pass the most basic of good taste tests. And it does no good to argue that the robot is just a robot. The whole build up of the ad is to show us that this robot has feelings.

And even worse, the ad has the whiff of a rip-off. To me, it feels not a million miles from the ad I consider one of the best of all time. As with so many things, Ikea gets it just right. And GM? Not even close.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Is San Diego Screwed?

In case you missed it with all the snow and Anna Nicole and cheating Nascar drivers, there was some pretty big football news this week. Important football news in February? Yup. Turns out that, after giving him an unqualified vote of confidence after a painful loss to the Patriots in the playoffs, the San Diego Chargers have decided to unload Marty Schottenheimer after all.

Charger's president Dean Spanos said he made the decision to address a “dysfunctional situation” between the coach and general manager A.J. Smith. And it was dysfunctional. Dysfunctional in that Smith wanted to be in charge, and so did Schottenheimer. Dysfunctional in that that Schottenheimer once again got outcoached playing a worse team in the playoffs. Dysfunctional in that Smith wasn't about to let him forget it.

So Marty is out and the AFC's best team last season is without a coach in the middle of February. With Bill Cowher signed on as a CBS studio analyst and Pete Carroll insisting he's staying at USC, just who is out there for the Chargers to hire? All of the typical also-rans, it seems. All those guys who the Cowboys considered worse than Wade Phillips. That's gotta be pretty bad, no? And along with the also-rans, there's one new name: There's Rex Ryan, one of the best defensive coordinators in the business and son to the legendary head coach Buddy Ryan. But is he ready to lead a team to the Superbowl in his first season as head coach. Because, with their talent, that's where San Diego needs to be aiming this year. So coordinators like Ryan and Mike Singletary may be too green to get the nod. Which leaves? Norv Turner, I guess - a good offensive coordinator who has twice been a head coach in the NFL. And twice gotten canned. Maybe Ryan's not such a bad bet after all.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Gays in the NBA

Last week, came word that John Amaechi is gay. There are many possible reactions to this piece of news, but I'd wager the most common would be:

a) Who the hell is John Amaechi?
b) Why should I care if he is gay?

Well, the answer to the first is ultimately the answer to the second. See, John Amaechi is a retired NBA player - and the first player associated with the NBA to ever come out of the closet publicly. Hence his big book deal and all the surrounding buzz.

Now since this announcement, most NBA players have fallen into 2 camps in their comments - either wan 'good for him' endorsements and 'who the hell is John Amaechi?' evasions. And it is plausibly true that many players barely remember the guy. He was a role player, never anything close to a star. This revelation, and the book, is by far the most media attention the guy has ever garnered.

But now a guy who was an actual NBA star has something really interesting to say. Enter Tim Hardaway: “You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known. I don’t like gay people and I don’t like to be around gay people. I’m homophobic. I don’t like it. It shouldn’t be in the world or in the United States.”

Setting aside the fact that Mr. Hardaway apparently believes that being in the United States is somehow different than being in the world, this statement is probably the most important one to be made in the wake of Amaechi's announcement. Why? Because it shows us that within professional sports, homophobia is so pervasive and accepted that Hardaway would feel comfortable espousing the position on a radio talk show. It shows us the environment Amaechi played in. It shows us why so few players are willing to come out, retired or not.

Hardaway continued: “First of all, I wouldn’t want him on my team. And second of all, if he was on my team, I would, you know, really distance myself from him because, uh, I don’t think that is right. I don’t think he should be in the locker room while we are in the locker room.”
There's more: “Something has to give. If you have 12 other ballplayers in your locker room that’s upset and can’t concentrate and always worried about him in the locker room or on the court or whatever, it’s going to be hard for your teammates to win and accept him as a teammate.”

Hardaway even said he would lobby for the gay player to lose his job. So, the choice for gay athletes is simple. Stay in the closet or risk both the antipathy of your peers and the loss of your job.

Of course, Hardaway has since apologized. Not for holding these views. But for saying them out loud, in the media. Because that's what's so wrong. Not thinking it. Talking about it. How is it that homophobia is that last acceptable bigotry? Why is it still so okay to say you hate gays? Maybe, in part, because "role models' like Tim Hardaway keep it that way.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Love and Death on Lost

Okay, just death on Lost. MSN TV has posted a handy Deathpool, with odds on which one of castaways will meet their end next. Handy, because the producers have said that one of the main characters won't make to the season finale.

The pundits give the lowest chances of survival to Charlie, Clare, Sun, Juliet, Alex and Sawyer. As for me, I'd say Sun is safe. Unlike Clare and Charlie, it seems like there is still enough to her story, both on the island and off, to keep us going for a while- especially now that she's pregnant. And kill off Sawyer? The writers might be out to shock us, but they know who keeps all those panting women tuning in. I'd say Sawyer's safe too. And Alex surely doesn't count as a main character, which doesn't mean she's safe but it does mean if she goes, she'll have company.

On the other hand, those pundits give Kate and Locke great odds to survive. Now, the idea of Kate dying could just be wishful thinking on my part, but that's a death I could really get behind. My money, though, is on Locke. Rumours are that we'll soon learn how he ended up in a wheelchair - which is really the last significant loose end to his backstory. And let's not forget Mr. Eko's dying words to Locke after Eko tussled with the island's monster: "You're next." Let's just say I wouldn't be investing in that oceanside timeshare any time soon if I were him.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Valentine Shmalentine

One of my best friends has a serious problem with New Year's Eve. In fact, she and her husband have stopped going out for New Year's entirely. No matter how great the invitation, they stay in for the night. Because, otherwise, the evening would always end in a fight. One year, he even punched her in the nose (on a crowded dance floor, totally by accident, but still, not the makings of a great night). The point is, it's all too much pressure. The pressure to go out have the most fun and the biggest party of the year was just too much. And when things inevitably went wrong, the level of bummerhood was just too much to bear. Throw in some drunken hysterics and you can see why she's banned the New Year's Party.

That's kind of how I feel about Valentine's Day. Now, normally, I would be all over any holiday on which I receive chocolate. And rest assured, I won't be turning down any chocolates should they come my way tomorrow. But I do rather resent the pressure of it all. The implicit pressure to be all romantic and lovey-dovey and Valentine-y this one day a year. Maybe it's all those years I spent as a single gal, but it irks me that one must spend three times as much on dinner or roses as one would spend for the same dinner or roses on February 15. It is, as a movie character once observed, the most Hallmark of holidays.

So, in that spirit, stay home and watch a movie. I love romantic movies, and I'll give you a list of the very best one of these days. But for tomorrow? Say, Fight Club. Too bleak, you say? Silence of the Lambs, then. It does have a character named Precious. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Aquarium Break

Was watching Buffy DVDs the other night (because there is nothing on TV that comes anywhere close). Low and behold, in one of the season 2 episodes, who does Buffy run into but Wentworth 'Prison Break' Miller. He played a member of the swim team who turned into a nasty sea monster because the coach was drugging the team with fishy steroids. That's literally steroids from fish. Okay, maybe not one of Joss Whedon's finest episodes. And clearly not one of young Wentworth's shiningest moments - he's just plain bad. Bad, bad, bad. But, he looks pretty and wears a speedo. What else can we ask for?

Lost Returns

It's back. Finally. No more Day Break or whatever other crap ABC used to try to fill the Wednesday night slot. Finally, Lost is back. And the writers assure us they have negotiated an end point with ABC, so they can now craft a coherent strategy to reach that point that does not involve going months without answering a single damn question! Perhaps they will also remember that there are characters on the island other than Locke, Jack, Sawyer and Kate. Where is Charlie? Did Rose and Bernard totally disappear from the island? What of Claire, Sayid, Sun, Jin and Hurley? Who is the hotty new Spanish guy? Who knows. But maybe we'll finally get a chance to find out.

Now that Lost is coming back after so many long weeks, let's take a minute to remember where we were:
  • Jack, Sawyer and Kate were being held captive by the Others, with Jack segregated in his own bizarre underwater cell while Sawyer and Kate perform forced labour and live in bear cages outdoors
  • Juliet was introduced as an inscrutable Other with a medical background and a seeming grudge against Ben (the Other formerly known as Henry Gale)
  • Benry promised to let Jack go home (i.e. get the hell off this island) if only Jack would perform a critical life-saving operation on Benry's pesky tumour
  • Surprise: The Others live in suburbia on a totally different island
  • The spooky black smoke killed Eko
  • We got a glimpse of a freaky guy with an eye-patch who seemed to be watching the island on a bunch of TV monitors
  • Sawyer and Kate had sex - and Jack got to see a little of the action on closed-circuit pay-per-view
  • Sun shot an Other, so...
  • One of the Others decided he wanted to shoot Sawyer in the head but was stopped just in time when...
  • Jack threatened to let Benry die on the operating table unless Sawyer and Kate were released
Tonight's episode is called Lost In Portland. Apparently, we will see Juliet's flashback. Excellent. At this point, anyone but Kate! Then, we know that next week is a Desmond episode (hurrah!), so we may get see what happened to him after the hatch explosion and why he was naked. Also excellent.

The Difference Between Me and Jessica Simpson

Having trouble telling me apart from Jessica Simpson? No worries. Happens all the time. To help you out, here's a handy guide to the subtle ways in which I am different from Jessica Simpson:

1. She is blond. I am not.
2. I have never slept with John Mayer.
3. I can almost always tell the difference between chicken and fish
4. I have never once washed a car while wearing a string bikini
5. No amount of margaritas in the world would induce me to sleep with one of the Jackasses (and if it did, it would certainly be Johnny Knoxville and not Bam Margera. Ew.)
6. She is much, much richer than me and owns much Louis Vuitton. I own no Louis Vuitton.

and finally, and most importantly:

7. watching The Notebook did not inspire me to announce that I am divorcing my husband.

The erstwhile Mrs. Lachey, in a interview with Elle magazine, has revealed that she was inspired to draft a statement on the end of her marriage after watching the weepy romance The Notebook. Now, it just so happens that I watched The Notebook for the first time this weekend. It did not inspire any life-changing decisions. It did however inspire the following things:
  • a desire to fast-forward over all the Gena Rowlands-James Garner old-people scenes
  • some serious eye-rolling during said old-people scenes
  • 10 minutes of trying to remember the name of the actor playing Noah's rival for Allie's affections before recognizing that it was Cyclops - James Marsden. That he had two eyes threw me off
  • a whole slew of very dirty and highly inappropriate thoughts about Ryan Gosling
See, how easy is that?

Monday, February 05, 2007

Indianapolis 29, Chicago 17

Well, it was a good day to be a Colts fan. It was a wet, sloppy, fumble-filled day, but a good day nonetheless. Peyton Manning, Tony Dungy and the rest of the Colts were finally good enough. The Chicago offense - which managed one touchdown and 11 first downs - couldn't get it done, though Devin Hester's opening run-back on special teams was a thing of beauty. No wonder the Colts squibbed for the rest of the day - that guy's a beast.

So, Manning's into the Hall of Fame for certain - twice a regular-season MVP, he's now got a ring and a Superbowl MVP to boot. All that talk about being a choker, unable to win the big game, is over. Poor, poor Dan Marino is now back to being undisputed as the best QB to never win a Superbowl. Had to happen in Miami, too. That's gotta sting a bit.

As to the MVP award, Hubby, Randy and I started talking about who should win around the middle of the third quarter and kind of agreed that Dominic Rhodes deserved it - the guy had the game of his career, for Pete's sake. Then, Bob Sanders, who had been pretty stellar up to that point anyway, made a critical interception to close the door on the Bears. Personally, I would have given it to Sanders. But defensive players rarely get the Superbowl MVP (Ray Lewis notwithstanding). So I figured it was going to be Manning's day. With a few good candidates and no one single dominating performance, the default is the QB. So it has always been, so it shall always be. Just ask Tom Brady. Or better yet, ask Ty Law and Rodney Harrison.

A few thoughts on the day:

Performance of the Day: Phil Simms. Normally I'm not a Simms fan - he states the obvious and is almost always wrong about which way a play review will go. But Simms was seriously on point yesterday. I shouldn't have been surprised though - he did play basically the best game of his career in the Superbowl once upon a time. Clearly, he's a big game guy, even in broadcasting.

What the Hell? of the Day: Shannon Sharpe was actually making sense in the pregame. That never happens! What magical producer was speaking in his ear this week? And where have they been all season?

Question of the Day: Dan Marino to Peyton Manning in a pregame sit-down. To paraphrase: "If you win, is it all humanly possible to make any more commercials?"

You're killing me! of the Day: CBS - a feature on the very-ill coaching legend Bill Walsh, then one on dearly departed Bears Brian Piccolo and Walter Payton, then a long, touching story on Heinz Ward and his mom. You will not make me cry CBS! I'm not crying. Damn you, CBS.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

My very late Superbowl post

So, it's taken me a while to get around to get around to my Superbowl post. Let's just consider it a slightly early part of the pregame show. Or has the pregame show started already? It is 10:00 a.m. on the day of the big game. Someone must be talking football on CBS by now.

So let's get to what is really important in the day ahead? Who's gonna win? Nope, that's not the most important thing - maybe for the guys on the field and the ones with stacks of cash to bet - no, for us regular folks, what really matters is looking like we know what the hell we are talking about at a Superbowl party. So, let's break down some of the top stories of the week:

The 3 Buccaneers:
Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy gave Bears coach Lovie Smith his first NFL coaching job back in 1996 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Kansas City coach Herm Edwards was on that staff too. Together, the three are still close friends - they all had dinner together the night before Indy beat KC in the playoffs. They are also three of the most successful black coaches in the history of the league. Don't kid yourself - this is a big deal. This is, after all, the league that had such ingrained racism that they had to institute a rule to ensure that teams would interview at least one minority coach per job opening. It's called the Rooney Rule - named after Steelers owner Art Rooney II, who helped draft the regulation. The Rooney Rule almost certainly helped Lovie Smith get his job with the Bears - he wasn't really on the top of the candidates list until they met with him. Today, either Smith or Dungy will become the first black head coach to win a Superbowl ring.

The Colts Kicking Corps:
Last year, the Colts failed to make the Superbowl because their kicker, Mike Vanderjagt - a Canadian and the most accurate kicker in the history of the NFL - missed a 46-yard clutch kick in the dying minutes against the Steelers. At the time, my friend Randy and I agreed that Vanderjagt - who just two years years before went an entire regular season without missing a kick - was done with the Colts and possibly with football. He was, after all, a lot more trouble than he was worth. A hot-head with a big mouth, Vanderjagt had mouthed off in the media, criticizing both QB Peyton Manning and coach Dungy. Now that he had screwed up large, Indy let him walk away to sign with Dallas this season. After clashing with Dallas coach Bill Parcells and missing a few kicks along the way, Vanderjagt was cut and spent the rest of the season watching from home. In his place, Indy made possibly their most important acquisition since Peyton Manning. They signed former Patriots kicker Adam Viniateri. Viniateri has three Superbowl rings and a reputation as the best clutch kicker in the league. He misses a few here and there but always, always makes the kicks when they count. He's also an anomaly among kickers for his place on the team. Most kickers are considered peripheral - not 'real' football players. Viniateri has as much football knowledge as anyone on the team - and watches almost as much film as Manning, which is a hell of a lot. On media day, he was afforded one of the prime interview spots along with the other undisputed stars of the team. Viniateri could be the difference today - as he was so often for the Pats.

The QBs:
Lots of people hate Peyton Manning. He was born to the game - son of former star QB Archie Manning of the New Orleans Saints - so some people think he's had it too easy, that he was born with a silver football in his hand. Other think he's a prima donna. No question, Peyton has whined in the media in the past. He's also, indisputably, a great big nerd. I mean, have you seen the guy? The fact is, I can't think of a QB who works harder in the film room, at practice and in the game. I love Peyton- likely at least in part because we're never gonna see him dating the world's top supermodel. This year, Peyton may finally have shed a growing rep as a regular season star who couldn't win the big game. He came up big against the Pats - his nemesis - and mounting a stunning second-half comeback to win the AFC Championship game. At this point, he's looking to shed the Dan Marino label as the best QB in football to never win a Superbowl. Then there's Rex Grossman. What to say? He can be very good. He can suck hard. If he wins the big game, Grossman will stand along side Trent Dilfer (of the Baltimore Ravens, 2001), Brad Johnson (of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2003) and probably Phil Simms (of the New York Giants, way back in the 80s) as the least lauded pivots to gain a ring.

The Defense:
Remember, defense wins in the play-offs. The Bears have, alongside the Baltimore Ravens, the best defense on football. Smart, strong and intimidating as hell, they'll be looking to put Manning out of his rhythm and onto the ground. Led by future Hall-of-Famer Brian Urlacher, the Bears are poised to put the best defense of the field today. But don't discount the Indy D just because they played like pre-teen girls in the regular season. They have been phenomenal in the post-season - and were the reason the Colts won their first two playoff games. Why so much better? One guy - Bob Sanders. In just his second year in the league, this fast, hard-hitting safety has emerged as the Colts' leader on D. Out most of the regular season with a knee injury, his return transformed the performance of the entire defensive unit. Keep an eye on him - he's number #21. Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson figure to see a lot of him today.

Names to know:
Colts: Manning, Viniateri, Sanders, plus: Marvin Harrison (supremely talented and soft-spoken wide receiver - expect to see him in double coverage a lot), Joseph Addai (rookie RB replaced superstar superstar Edgerrin James - he's been great this year), Reggie Wayne (another WR - he'll get lots of balls thrown his way when Harrison is covered), Dallas Clark (tight end - when Indy struggled to throw the ball to Wayne and Harrison last week, they switched to Clark, to great effect). Dwight Freeney (Defensive End - he'll be looking to mash Grossman into the ground).
Bears: Urlacher, Grossman plus: Jones and Benson (the running backs - they'll see a lot of plays heading their way if Grossman stumbles and Smith wants to keep him from throwing the game away), Muhsin Muhammed (a WR with a big mouth - shocking - and some big skills), Bernard Berrian (another major player at WR), Adewale Ogunleye (defensive end - he'll be all over Manning today), Charles Tillman and Ricky Manning Jr. (cornerbacks - if Manning throws interceptions today, it'll probably be to them).

And finally, here my favourite piece of information I heard about the protagonists in the lead-up to the Superbowl:

Yup, it's his real name. His parents thought they were having a girl, who they planned to name Lavena. When a boy came along, they adapted it to the much more manly Lovie.

And the winner is? Hmmm. There's the Bears def... Oh come on. You all know I'm taking the Colts. See you after the game.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

5 months and 21 days....

J.K. Rowling has announced the release date of the final Harry Potter novel - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The book comes out on Saturday, July 21. I'm not saying I'm addicted or anything, but if Hallows is anything like The Half Blood Prince, by the end of Sunday July 22 I'll have read the whole thing, be cruising on little sleep and too many peanut butter cups, have one very serious reader's headache and be simultaneously satiated, exhausted and sad that's its over. Hey what, does that sound a bit dirty? Sorry. Seriously, I have no impulse control when it comes to a good story. Or when it comes to Reese Peanut Butter cups.

The release date also come hot on the heels of widely publicized publicity pictures for Daniel Radcliffe's role in a west-end production of Equus. The young actor best-known -okay only-known - for his role as Harry in the Potter films, strips down in the play and in the posters. I really did not need to see Harry Potter in the buff. But speaking of buff, young Daniel seems to have been taking quite good care of himself. Is it wrong that I think that? That's dirty too, right?

5 months, 21 days.