Friday, October 31, 2008

Point-Counterpoint: Edward Norton vs. Brad Pitt

One of the features we'll be doing regularly here at RTS is a point-counterpoint, where Chris and I debate two sides of an issue. It may include sports, music, or even personal hygiene habits (Graham: I shower every day; Chris: Daily bathing is overrated).

The first installment is trying to determine the finest actor of our generation: Brad Pitt or Edward Norton. Unfortunately, Christopher Mintz-Plasse didn't make the cut.

This won't exactly make for an incendiary intra-blog war, because the reality is you can't go wrong with either. Brad Pitt is a terrific actor. Se7en is one of my favorite movies. Ocean's 11 was a romp (sorry, had to channel my inner pretentious movie critic there), even if Ocean's 12 and 13 were annoying vanity projects. Hell, he was even funny on an episode of Friends, no small feat.

And while the volume of Pitt's body of work far outweighs Edward Norton's, I'm taking Norton.

I first saw him in Primal Fear. Actually, everybody first saw him in Primal Fear. Because according to his IMDB page that was only his second acting gig. No bit parts anywhere, no failed tv pilots, no working his way up the ladder. His second acting gig was a leading part in a very difficult role. Go back and watch the movie: his speech patterns, mannerisms, everything: it's phenomenal. And the way he handled the turn at the end was outstanding.

From there he had a nice part in the otherwise terrible People Vs. Larry Flynt, playing Flynt's put-upon attorney. But next came leading roles in one of the strongest three-movie stretches in any actor's career: Rounders, American History X, and Fight Club. All three are legitimate classics of that time period.

Sadly, the next few years things were kind of dry for him, but in 2002 he did what I'd previously considered impossible: he made a Spike Lee movie - The 25th Hour- enjoyable. It's an outstanding concept for a movie: drug dealer sentenced to jail, and the movie follows him around for the last 24 hours before he has to report to prison. The entire cast is terrific: Philip Seymour Hoffman (who might deserve his own entry in this finest actor debate just for his role in Capote), Barry Pepper (criminally underrated), Rosario Dawson (smokin' hot and a legitimately good actress), and Bryan Cox.

I love this movie. I love Norton in it. The scene where he reconciles with his father. How he interacts with his two best friends, who are polar opposites. How he's not sure if it was his girlfriend who turned him in. The recognition that he alone is responsible for his fate. It baffles me that no one ever talks about this movie, because it's one of the best of the last 10 years, and he's a major reason why.

Granted, since then, the well has run dry. Yeah, the Italian Job was fun, but that's been about it. Frankly, he needs to start making better decisions.

But here's the thing with Norton vs. Pitt: apart from roles where Pitt's looks play a major part, Norton could play Pitt's parts. Norton could have been the cop in Se7en. The tortured lawyer in Sleepers. Clooney's good buddy in Ocean's. On and on.

But I don't see Pitt doing Norton's Primal Fear role. I can't see Brad Pitt as a neo-nazi. And I don't think he could have pulled off 25th Hour. So I'm giving the edge to Norton.


I have to confess before that Edward Norton was my favorite actor for the longest time. As a matter of fact, he was probably my favorite actor until last Saturday. What happened last Saturday to change this? Pride and Glory with Colin Farrell happened. How could Edward lead me astray like this? What had I done to deserve this? I sat through Hulk just because Ed was in it and I told myself it wasn’t that bad, that he deserved a paycheck too. But this has been a reoccurring thing: I watch Edward Norton movies and become extremely disappointed. Down in the Valley wasn’t just the worst Edward Norton movie I’ve ever seen, it was unwatchable. By my count, Norton hasn’t made one good movie in the past five years. He had a nice run with Primal Fear, American History X, Rounders, Fight Club, Death to Smoochy, Red Dragon and The 25th Hour. Those days are gone my friend. I should’ve seen in coming back in Fight Club in ’99. The best actor of his generation was in that movie but it wasn’t Norton, it was Brad Pitt.

Pitt probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves because his devilishly good looks probably keep people from seeing that he’s actually a superb actor. Pitt’s best movies (and performances) stack up with Norton. Pitt’s legacy includes A River Runs Through It, Se7en, 12 Monkeys, Sleepers, Fight Club and Ocean’s 11. I’ve yet to see Burn After Reading but I assume not only will it be good, but that Pitt will be hilarious as well. He also has The Curious Case of Benjamin Button coming out later this year which looks fantastic. Here’s the trailer:

Even when Pitt makes a blockbuster, it’s better than Norton. I’d rather watch Mr. and Mrs. Smith than Hulk. I also give the Pitt the edge over Norton in range. Norton is at his best when he plays the seemingly normal guy that’s really hiding some deeper problem: see Primal Fear, Fight Club, The 25th Hour. Besides Death to Smoochy, Norton can’t really pull off a comedy. He’s not suited to do action movies either. Pitt, however, can do comedy (the Ocean’s movies), action (Mr. and Mrs. Smith), drama (Se7en, A River Runs Through It) and sci-fi (12 Monkeys).

Pitt isn’t immune to making a bad movie but at least he sprinkles them out between good ones. The only real stretch of time where he made some questionable movies was when he had the Snatch, The Mexican and Spy Game trio. And sadly, I’m in the minority on Snatch. Even the Pitt movies that I’m not a big fan of, most others seem to like (Snatch, Babel, Interview with the Vampire, etc.). Compare that to the 5-year stretch of crap that Norton has going on (Down in the Valley, The Illusionist, Hulk, Pride and Glory, etc.)

The bottom line is that both are great actors. But a great actor isn’t judged by just his method but by the roles he chooses as well. Unless Norton can start making some good-to-great films again, Pitt will continue to dominate.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

I'm So Happy To Be Stuck With You

The Grizzlies season started last night, which means that local Memphis journalist Geoff Calkins now has the city’s only major league professional team in his columns again. I’m excited to see what Calkins has to say after he spent the better part of the last year trashing the team, the organization and the Pau Gasol trade for, as he said, “trinkets and cap room.” Of course, those trinkets have turned out to be Marc Gasol, Darrell Arthur, Javaris Crittenton and another 1st round pick down the road.

Calkins wrote yesterday, “I wish I had the same sense of excitement about the Grizzlies today that I had back in the J-Will era. Remember how it felt back then?... How many care that this team's season starts tonight?”

At least Calkins can admit that he doesn’t have the same excitement and enthusiasm about this year’s Grizzlies as he used to have. That’s the main problem with him. He’s the most prolific columnist for the major newspaper in a one newspaper town. When he doesn’t have excitement, his columns show it. Just read his Grizzlies articles for the last 3 years. He wants to know how many people care that the Grizzlies season is starting. I’ll tell you who cares. I do, and other Grizzlies fans do as well. Season tickets holders care. The Grizzlies players and staff care. Just because you don’t have the same excitement doesn’t mean that others are with you.

Calkins then goes on to claim that Michael Heisley asked if Calkins wanted to run the Grizzlies out of town. “And what a bizarre question to ask,” Calkins says. Why is that a bizarre question? When the lead columnist for the most influential paper in the city constantly badmouths the franchise, it would seem bizarre to not ask the question.

Next, Calkins says, “I hate that there are days when the Grizzlies' story doesn't even make the front page of this section -- and nobody much complains.” Why would people complain to The Commercial Appeal or to Calkins when the Grizzlies don’t make the front page? 50% of the time the Grizzlies have made the front page over the last 8 months is when Calkins writes another article about the Gasol trade. Seriously, he was still writing about the trade in June when it happened the first day of February. When it comes to Calkins, Grizzlies fans would rather have no article than one of his. Why complain? There’s other places to get Grizzlies news without the bitterness and sarcasm.

Calkins next says that he’s fired up about the Grizzlies opener, after he just mentioned he wasn’t excited about the team like he used to be. He then says that he does and does not believe in the Grizzlies three-year plan. Confused, it’s okay, we all are.

“Memphis should have built through the draft 8 years ago,” Calkins says. Didn’t the core of the Grizzlies three playoff runs come by building in the draft? If I’m not mistaken, the Grizzlies core of the playoff years were Pau Gasol (acquired on draft night), Shane Battier (drafted by the Grizzlies) and Mike Miller (acquired by trading recently drafted lottery pick Drew Gooden). The Grizzlies core of the playoff teams came from the 2001 and 2002 draft, did they not?
And now, it’s time to see Calkins talk glowingly about Marc Gasol and Darrell Arthur. It’s nice to see Calkins take a liking to these two guys. If you remember, these are the “trinkets” part of the Pau trade.

“Within a month, he'll (Marc Gasol) be the most popular Grizzlies player because of his physical style,” Calkins says.

I guess Calkins forgot what he said of Marc Gasol when the Grizzlies acquired him, “He's a former second-round pick who will almost certainly be dealt.”


Calkins goes on to say, “He'll (Darrell Arthur) be the starting power forward by the end of the season, if not the end of the calendar year.”

The Grizzlies acquired Arthur by using one of the draft picks they got from the Lakers. Remember the analysis of those draft picks by Calkins. He said, “The Lakers' first-round picks in 2008 and 2010…will be so low in the first round as to be essentially worthless.”

Whoops, again!

Calkins goes on to predict that the Grizzlies will win, “21 games, or two fewer than last year.” Now, it doesn’t take a Harvard law degree to remember that the Grizzlies won 22 games last year. Seriously, can we just get the facts portion of the column right? It shouldn’t be hard since his columns so rarely use them.

Another Grizzlies season with Geoff Calkins at the helm on the local media. Now there’s something that I’m not excited about.


Monday, October 27, 2008

NBA Preview Part 2- Eastern Conference

Chris handled the Western Conference Preview earlier here on RTS, today we take a look at the Eastern Conference.

15: Charlotte
"Whatever the mess you are, you're mine, ok"
-"Challengers" by The New Pornographers"

What must Larry Brown think when he looks at this mess of a roster? Raymond Felton...barely competent point guard. Jason Richardson...gunner with no regard for teammates. Gerald Wallace...does lots of things ok, but isn't proficient in any areas. Emeka Okafor...decent player, just as long as you keep the ball away from him. Adam Morrison...bwah ha ha ha ha!

Seriously, what a mess this team is. And the last time Larry Brown had a roster that made no sense was his one year with the Knicks. In that case, if nothing else there was a terrific comedy factor when he and Marbury publicly ripped each other. It won't be the same when it's he and Matt Carroll this time around.

14: New York
"In New York I lost it all to you and your vices/Still I'm staying on to figure out my mid-life crisis/I hit an iceberg in my life/But you know I'm still afloat"
-"New York", by U2

This fits Mike D'Antoni and his mid-life crisis move to new York perfectly. This season's a wash. Next season's a wash. They could win a combined 4 games over the next two years, but he'll still be afloat. He wasn't hired to coach this year. He was hired to coach in 2010, when they get to use their cap room. Until then he's just biding his time. It must be freeing as a coach to know nothing this season matters. In that respect, I look forward to him playing Jerome James at the point just because he can.

13: Indiana

Ugh. I can't be bothered.

12: New Jersey
"Down here there's just winners and losers and don't get caught on the wrong side of that line...Well I guess everything dies baby that's a fact/But maybe everything that dies someday comes back"
-"Atlantic City" by Bruce Springsteen

Of course I'm picking a Springsteen song for New Jersey...

So Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson are gone, leaving Vince Carter behind. And since Vince will look around and decide it's hopeless, expect him to suffer a groin pull that'll keep him out for three months or so.

But like Bruce says...maybe everything that dies someday comes back. With or without Vince, they have some nice young talent: Devin Harris, Sean Williams, Yi Jianlian (who I'm not ready to give up on), and a solid 2008 draft with Brook Lopez and Chris Douglas-Roberts.

So yeah, this year's going to suck, but maybe someday it all comes back. Too bad it'll be in Brooklyn.

11: Milwaukee
"I never really gave up on/Breaking out of this two-star town/I got the green light/I got a little fight/I'm gonna turn this thing around"
-"Read My Mind" by The Killers

Ah, the Michael Redd era. Nothing like giving a max deal to a swingman who stays on the perimeter and has never won anything. He's like the East's Corey Maggette.

But hey on the bright side, at least they're surrounding him with lots of white guys- Andrew Bogut, Luke Ridnour, Joe Alexander. Hey, Golden State waived Dan Dickau, why not add him too? Anyone got Travis Knight's number?

10: Chicago
"You heard that we were great/But now you think we're lame/Since you saw the show last night/You hoped that we would rock/Knock it up a notch/Rockin was nowhere in sight"
-"All the Kids are Right" by Local H

A conversation I'd like to imagine that will take place in Chicago's locker room sooner than later:

Vinny Del Negro: "OK guys, we're off to a slow start, so I'm making Derrick Rose the full-time starter at the point. If anyone has something to say, now's the time."

Ben Gordon: "Can I still take 20 shots a game?"

VDN: "Well, I'd rather you didn't because you're part of the reason the offense stalls-"

BG: "Fine. 25 shots it is. I'll see you guys later."

Luol Deng: "Coach, what's my role in the offense?"

VDN: "No clue. Next?"

Kirk Hinrich: "Coach, what are your plans for me?"

VDN: "Oh, uh, hi Kirk. You're still here? Uh, listen, you know, just work hard in practice, be a leader, and uh, yeah. Stuff like that."

KH: "I hate my life."

Andres Nocioni: "Coach, why exactly did I get a $40 million extension when I don't do anything particularly well?"

VDN: "Beats me. Hell, why am I a white guy with the word Negro in his name? Anyway guys, we can continue this later. We have a flight to Toronto to catch. And don't forget your passports."

Drew Gooden: "I didn't know Toronto was in another country. I thought it was in Canada."

Joakim Noah: -sobs uncontrollably-

9: Atlanta
"Before we started to fade/You gave me something to believe in/And that's the best thing anyone can give"
-"Wrapped in my Memory" by Shawn Smith

I hope Atlanta fans enjoyed their run last year, because I don't see them making the playoffs again. They squeaked in last year, but lost the criminally underrated Josh Childress without adding anything. So that means their starting five has to carry them, and maybe Al Horford becomes an elite power forward, and maybe Marvin Williams improves again, and maybe Joe Johnson and Josh Smith don't go out and just try to get their numbers.

But I don't think so.

8: Miami
"Come back home for another year/And find yourself in the thick of it/Come back home for another year/I always thought that you could handle this"
-"Come Back Home" by Pete Yorn

You know what? I like Miami this year. I like Dwyane Wade looking to regain his place among the NBA's elite. I like Michael Beasley tormenting teams inside and out. I like Udonis Haslem holding down the middle. I like that Shaq is gone. I like that Pat Riley decided that his Dubya-esque mid-season vacations hurt the team and handed the coaching gig over to Erik Spoelstra. So I like Miami to sneak into the eighth spot.

And if the Heat finish with 18 wins because Wade blows out both ACLs on another reckless drive to the hoop, Beasley decides to move to Jamaica, Spoelstra's in over his head, the team doesn't resolve its point guard mess and the bench blows even worse than expected, then this pick never happened. Got it?

7: Washington
"Well the shot it hit hard/And your frame went limp in my arms/And an oath of love was your dying cry"
-"O Valencia" by The Decemberists

Remember a few years ago when everyone thought the Wizards were building a perennial contender? Well Gilbert Arenas can't stay healthy and Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler have pretty much maxed out as players. And speaking of maxed out, so is the Wizards' salary cap for the next half decade or so thanks to those three.

So the Wizards will spend the next few years the same way they spent the last few: enduring Arenas injuries, getting 42-45 wins or so, and losing in the first round. Have fun with that.

On the bright side, at least Arenas has an entertaining blog, so he's one up on us.

6: Toronto
"You said you didn't give a fuck about hockey/And I never saw someone say that before"
-"Fireworks" by the Tragically Hip

One of the best songs by one of Canada's best bands illustrates the uphill climb basketball faces in Canada...blah blah...

Anyway, much as I hate the city of Toronto, I actually want to like this team. But I'm not there yet. I love Calderon and Bosh, but I hate Jermaine O'Neal. Let's see...big man with chronic knee problems...bloated offensive game...doesn't make teammates better...never really won anything...oh, and how about that 43.3% shooting in the preseason? If a seven-footer is shooting 43.3%, it means one of two things: either his name is Jim McIlvaine, or he's washed up.

But hey, Andrea Bargnani should be panning out any day now.

5: Philadelphia
"You will be the death of me"
-"Time is Running Out" by Muse

When the Sixers signed Elton Brand, I'll admit I was fooled for a minute. Combined with their terrific finish last year, I thought this was a team primed for a deep playoff run.

Then I remembered Elton Brand is coming off a serious injury. And he's never really won anything. And he doesn't really make his teammates better. And he has a max contract. And he shot 39.3% (!) in the preseason.

Wait- sound familiar? Yeah, well, it's basically exactly what I wrote a second ago about Jermaine O'Neal. Then consider that as good as Iguodala is, he turns the ball over 4 times a game. And they can't shoot threes. And they're counting on guys like Thaddeus Young, Louis Williams and Willie Green to make huge leaps.

Yeah, I'm not quite ready to buy in yet.

4: Cleveland
"I got my hands on a miracle/Believe it or not hands on a miracle/And there ain't no way/I'll let you take it away"
-"Miracle" by the Foo Fighters

Sung by Cavs fans to the Knicks in reference to LeBron James. And what about Danny Ferry? What if LeBron leaves because he knows Ferry can't surround himself with anyone good? Obviously he'll get fired, but what will the fans do to him? Will they throw poop at his house? Tie him up and force him to watch According to Jim episodes over and over? Whatever they do, it'll be warranted.

3: Orlando
"Settle for a world, neither up or down/Sell it to the crowd that has gathered round"
-"Steady as She Goes" by The Raconteurs

Look, we already know how this will go. Dwight Howard will again be dominant inside. Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu will again do their thing out on the perimeter. Jameer Nelson will again do his best impersonation of a competent point guard. JJ Redick will still suck. Stan Van Gundy will again look more like Mario than an NBA coach. They'll win the division again. And that's about it.

Whatever, they're not interesting.

But you know what kills me? Dwight Howard's ad campaign with McDonald's for their Monopoly game. I've seen two different ads, and in each one he's wearing the same sweats, and doesn't have any lines. None.

Given it's a national campaign for the biggest fast food chain on the planet, he probably got paid well into seven figures for his "performance", which only required him to show up for an hour or two, say nothing, and just wear whatever he already had on that day. He didn't even have to give an "I'm Lovin' It" or anything.

Not since James Van Der Beek spent 5 years looking bewildered on Dawson's Creek has an actor had it so easy.

2: Detroit
"We're half-awake in a fake empire"
-"Fake Empire" by The National

So the Pistons lose in the Eastern Finals (again) and Joe Dumars promises big changes. And he does nothing, even though teams would line up for Rasheed Wallace's expiring contract. Oh, but he did can Flip Saunders. And sign Kwame Brown. So my bad.

Kidding aside, he could easily flip Wallace for a few decent players, add them to the Billups-Hamilton-Prince trio while working in promising youngsters like Rodney Stuckey, Amir Johnson and Jason Maxiell. The Pistons would still have a competitive team, while managing to build for the future at the same time. Instead, he's sticking with the same lineup, one that won't beat Boston, and may not beat Cleveland.

As a Pistons fan, it must be so frustrating. Yeah, you got the one title, but you were a few smart moves away from being a dynasty. Now the team is treading water with the status quo while other teams in the conference catch up fast. It's all going to fall apart soon there.

1: Boston
"So many people have come and gone/Their faces fade as the years go by/Yet I still recall as I wander on/As clear as the sun in the summer day"
-"More Than a Feeling" by Boston

Yep, Boston wins the East again.


NBA Preview: Part I

It’s time to preview the Western Conference the best way possible; using song lyrics. The countdown is from the worst to best. I think the Western Conference is really three tiers. I think, based on injuries, luck, etc., the teams we ranked 10-15 could end up anywhere in that range at seasons end, as well as teams 5-9, and obviously, teams 1-4. Graham will be using the same format to breakdown the Eastern Conference tomorrow.

Do You Realize – The Flaming Lips
“Do you realize we're floating in space… life goes fast, it's hard to make the good things last.”
We start off with an Oklahoma band singing to an Oklahoma City NBA team. Teams really are just floating in space, aren’t they? If the Seattle Sonics can be in Oklahoma City faster than you can say Venti Mocha Frappuccino, then yes, life does go fast.

Run – Collective Soul
“Now, in this world of purchase, I’m going to buy back memories to awaken some old qualities. Have I got a long way to run? Yeah, I run.”
To the Memphis Grizzlies, who’ve reminded everyone of the Vancouver Grizzlies over the last two seasons. At least now they have a young, identifiable core in place (Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo). Have they got a long way to run? Sure, but they’ll run. Maybe they won’t do much else, but they’ll run.

It Never Rains in Southern California – Albert Hammond
“Out of work, I'm out of my head, out of self respect, I'm out of bread, I wanna go home…It never rains in California…it pours, man it pours.”
Sure, the Golden State Warriors aren’t in Southern California, but it’s close enough for me. This is for Don Nelson who most likely will be out of work and back at home in Hawaii next year. It hasn’t just rained in Golden State since their remarkable playoff run 2 years ago, it’s poured. Baron Davis leaves, Monta Ellis injures himself on a moped and a losing season comes next.

This Time Tomorrow – The Kinks
“This time tomorrow where will we be…This time tomorrow, what will we know…I don’t know where I’m going, I don’t want to see.”
To the Sacramento Kings, who have no direction. Can you really build around Kevin Martin, Francisco Garcia, Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson? Those are 4 out of their last 5 1st round draft picks. Sure, Martin is a scorer, but Garcia has proven to be role player, and the other two centers have more bust-potential than anything else. At least they have Brad Miller for veteran leadership. By veteran leadership, I mean, pineapple express.

Do the Panic – Phantom Planet
“This place is turning upside down and shaking all of our change out… And I don't like this party or the sound of people walking across you when you're down.”
To the poor Clippers. They’ve managed to screw up every good player they’ve ever had. They looked primed for numerous playoff runs with Elton Brand, Corey Maggette, Lamar Odom and Andre Miller and couldn’t make that work. This offseason, they decide that they can reload with Brand and Baron Davis, only to have Brand jump ship. The funny thing is that they got Marcus Camby for next to nothing, and I still don’t think it helps this team.

Mr. Writer – Stereophonics
“You've just enough, in my own view, education to perform.”
To the Minnesota Timberwolves, who’ve assembled a roster with just enough talent to perform. Other than Al Jefferson, this team contains average starter/high-quality role players that will eventually lead this team to several consecutive first-round playoff exits. Seriously, how much different are these two teams: Al Jefferson, Kevin Love, Mike Miller, Corey Brewer and Randy Foye vs. Pau Gasol, Shane Battier, Mike Miller, James Posey and Jason Williams

Kids - MGMT
“Decisions are made and not bought, but I thought this wouldn't hurt a lot. I guess not"
To the Denver Nuggets, who thought shipping Marcus Camby off to save money wouldn’t hurt this team a lot. All Camby did for the Nuggets for the last 2 seasons is play in 70+ games each year and average about 34 minutes, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks a game. It’s not like the Nuggets were that good with Camby. They’ll tread water for a half season before the Iverson sweepstakes begin.

The Pretender – Foo Fighters
“I’m the hand that’ll take you down, bring you to your knees. So who are you?”
To the Portland Trail Blazers, who have to feel pretty good about the roster they’ve assembled. Seriously, Portland fans couldn’t have gotten any luckier than adding Greg Oden, Rudy Fernandez and Jarryd Bayless to a roster with Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. I’m scared of this team.

See These Bones – Nada Surf
“Try as they might, no one's immune to misfiring and acting on the wrong clues and thinkin' it's time to redo and redo.”
To the Dallas Mavericks, who haven’t been immune to misfiring several times now. They let Steve Nash walk and then use the money on Erick Dampier. They trade for a semi-raw prospect in Devin Harris only to exchange him for an aging Jason Kidd right about the time Harris gets good. Can’t the Mavs just blow this whole thing up and start over? It’s time to redo the redo.

Your English is Good - Tokyo Police Club
"'Cuz you don’t need to change. Your future is with us. You don’t need to change. Your future is with us."
To the Phoenix Suns front office, who had no reason to change out Shawn Marion for Shaquille O’Neal and Mike D’Antoni for Terry Porter. That was their future. Good luck trying to win with a 36- and 37-year-old Shaq. The Suns have managed to sandwich two good decisions (draft Amare Stoudemire, sign Steve Nash) around numerous boneheaded moves. This team was a title contender two years ago. Now they’re stuck in the 45 win range until they can find some cap relief and start rebuilding around Stoudemire.

Modern Guilt – Beck
"Modern guilt is all in our hands ...Don't know what I've done but I feel afraid"
To the Houston Rockets, who continue to think that Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady can win a title if they just tweak the roster each offseason. We’ll they’ve done it now. They’ve taken the “chemistry is important” blueprint and flushed it down the toilet by adding Ron Artest. Seriously, Artest combined with uber-nice guys Brent Barry and Shane Battier? I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I feel afraid.

Pork and Beans – Weezer
“They say I need some Rogaine to put in my hair.”
To the San Antonio Spurs and their roster with the average age of about 42.37. And this lyric goes to Manu Ginobili especially, who really does need some Rogaine. The Spurs have one more legitimate title run in them. It’s this year and then they’re done. They haven’t positioned themselves for life after Tim Duncan. Of the 14 draft picks the Spurs have had in the last 7 years, only 2 are on their roster. Way to think ahead!

I Believe in Symmetry – Bright Eyes
“And so I raise my glass to symmetry, to the second hand and its accuracy, to the actual size of everything.”
To the Utah Jazz, whose current run with Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer looks perfectly symmetrical to that of the former Jazz duo of John Stockton and Karl Malone. Of course, Boozer might bolt the Jazz after saying he wants to stay, just like he did to the Cleveland Cavs a few years ago. I think my point it that there is a lot of symmetry with this team, one way or another. Regardless, they’re loaded. Their last two playoff exits have been to the NBA Champion Spurs and Western Conference Champion Lakers. They’ll be good again, but will they be good enough?

Hard Road – Sam Roberts Band
“Got lost on my way but you found the road again. Stay true to your friends cause they'll save you in the end.”
To the New Orleans Hornets, who stayed true to the city of New Orleans after Katrina and now have the basketball gods on their sides. Seriously, the best two explanations for sports karma can be found in the New England Patriots (bad sports karma) and the New Orleans Hornets (good sports karma). What I’m trying to say is, I think I’ve had too much pineapple express, er, I mean, I expect the Hornets to do extremely well again this year. They’ve caught a lot of breaks to get to this point (landing Tyson Chandler, Chris Paul falling to them in the draft, Peja staying healthy, etc.) and I refuse to think they won’t catch a few more this year.

I Love L.A. – Randy Newman
“Everybody's very happy, 'Cause the sun is shining all the time. Looks like another perfect day.”
To the Los Angeles Lakers, where all their fans are happy with the Bryant, Gasol and Bynum trio that should be dominant this year. The team already made the Finals last year without Bynum and with Gasol only being in Los Angeles for half a year. There’s no reason to think that it won’t be another perfect season for the Lakers this year. I hate L.A.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Fantasy Basketball Draft Recap

Let the name calling begin.

Graham and I took part in the 1st Annual Rocking the Suburbs Fantasy Basketball draft last night with 10 of our closet friends. Well, my friends. Graham doesn’t have any. He’s married with a kid. If friends were Superman, then married with kids is kryptonite.

I want to go on record with our teams at the start of the season to show how awesome my team is compared to my fellow blogger. My players are listed first, naturally.

Andre Miller vs. Mo Williams
This is pretty even. I debated between taking Miller, Williams or Devin Harris. I went with the guy that was the safest bet in Miller. Plus, I needed assists, and Mo has never averaged more than 6.4 per game, while Miller hasn’t dipped below 6.9 apg in the past 4 years. Advantage, no one.

Graham's rebuttal: Last year their points, rebounds, assists, steals and field goal percentage were nearly identical. But two factors tip the scales heavily in Mo's factor: 1- he's in Cleveland now, which means tons of assists for LeBron. But even if that number stays even, there's #2: Last year, Mo had 89 three-pointers. Miller: 103. For his entire career. Miller hasn't hit double figures in threes since 2003-04. That gives Mo Williams the edge.

Hedo Turkoglu vs. Paul Pierce
If you were going off pure talent, team success and pronounceable name, Pierce would win hands down. If you were going by the least likely to be stabbed, it’d be Turkoglu. Turkoglu actually scored more points, had more rebounds, had more assists and made more 3-pters than Pierce last year. Advantage, me.

Graham's rebuttal: Yeah, but now Turkoglu has Mickael Pietrus challenging him for minutes...oh, wait, Pietrus sucks. Fine, Turkoglu's decent. But there's no way he's better than Pierce. This one's even.

Mike Miller vs. Randy Foye
I refuse to even discuss this. Advantage, me.

Graham's rebuttal: Yeah, Miller has the edge, but it's not as big as you think. Foye can hit threes, and he's the starting PG, which means assists. And Miller's rebounding totals will come down now that he's playing with Al Jefferson. But fine, I'll give you this one.

LeBron James vs. Josh Smith
LeBron is the best player on the planet, but Josh Smith is still a top 5 fantasy SF. Is he worth a 2nd round pick? We’ll find out. Advantage, me.

Graham's rebuttal: Chris is the league commissioner. Chris got the #1 pick. Clearly there's foul play involved. Possibly a frozen envelope. We may never know.

David West vs. Amare Stoudemire
Stoudemire is primed to be a fantasy beast once again, probably going for 28 ppg and 10 rpg. If West can put up the same stats he did last year, I’ll be perfectly happy. I think both Graham and I are just hoping our guys stay healthy. Advantage, Graham.

Graham's rebuttal: None. Amare's awesome.

David Lee vs. John Salmons
Graham loves Salmons because he’s on a crappy Sacramento team and someone has to get minutes. Just because Salmons gets minutes doesn’t mean he’ll produce. He might get filleted. Did I just make that joke? Yes, yes I did. The only thing I’m not worried about Eddy Curry eating is David Lee’s minutes. Zing! Advantage, no one.

Graham's rebuttal: That Salmons joke was terrible. But here were Salmons's stats as a starter last season: 17.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.6 steals, 49.7% FG%, 38.5% 3pt%, 81.1% FT%. With Artest in Houston getting ready to destroy the Rockets' hopes, Salmons has a whole season to spawn those numbers. Big advantage: Salmons.

Dwight Howard vs. Andrew Bynum
One guy is a rebounding monster who looks like the 2nd coming of Shawn Kemp, minus the sex and drugs. The other is coming off a major knee injury, only played 35 games last year, and has to share the rock with Kobe, Gasol and Odom. Advantage, me.

Graham's rebuttal: If Bynum's healthy, and he can figure out how to play with Gasol, he'll close the gap on Howard. And if Jonathan Coachman can go from WWE backstage reporter to ESPN anchor, then anything's possible.

Nick Collison vs. Andris Biedrins
American white stiff vs. foreign white stiff. I don’t think there’s really anyone in the front court of either the Thunder or Warriors that will keep these guys off the court. Advantage, rest of the NBA.

Graham's rebuttal: Biedrins led the league in FG% last year. Between he, Bynum and Amare, I have that category locked up every week.

Mike Bibby and Thaddeus Young vs. Rudy Fernandez and J.R. Smith
I didn’t want to take Bibby but figured I needed a backup PG. Young and Fernandez are both in the same boat. Uber-talented young guy who might not be that good in fantasy because they’re surrounded by too many other good players. Smith will be good when Iverson gets traded. Then again, Smith might end up being the Pacman Jones of the NBA. Advantage, no one.

Graham's rebuttal: Seems about right.

Rajon Rondo, Monta Ellis and Jeff Foster vs. Mike Conley, Eric Gordon and Darrell Arthur
Ellis was a steal in the 12th round. I don’t care if he doesn’t play till January. I can wait. Rondo vs. Conley is probably a wash. Jeff Foster won’t play unless once of my centers gets injured and Arthur probably won’t get enough minutes to crack Graham’s rotation. Advantage, me.

Graham's rebuttal: Eric Gordon might average 15 points as a rookie this year, and Conley's primed for a big jump. And Arthur, well, anytime you have the chance to pick someone who gets kicked out of the rookie transition program, you have to take it. I only took him though because you stole Ellis right ahead of me. Slight advantage: me.

So to recap, I’ve got LeBron and Dwight Howard carrying my team, and Graham has Amare and Josh Smith. This is too easy. Oh wait, Graham has Randy Foye. Nevermind, I’m screwed.

Graham's rebuttal: You're a fart face.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

ESPN Has Ruined Monday Night Football

I was forced to watch the 2nd half of the Broncos/Patriots game last night because I had 2 Denver players on my fantasy team and needed a high scoring 2nd half. Cheering for the Broncos offense against the Pats D was like cheering for Alex Kitner vs. Jaws. It was brutal.

The only thing more brutal was ESPN’s production of the game. ESPN continues to make Monday Night Football the least enjoyable football game of the week, regardless of the matchup. I’ll go ahead and give you a recap of last night’s 4th quarter since I was the only person in America watching the game after the score hit 34-0.

Tony Kornheiser: The Patriots are actually winning a game without Tom Brady. Did you know that Tom Brady was injured in the 1st game of the season? I don’t know how you couldn’t know this fact as it occurred 7 weeks ago and I’ve already mentioned it about 85 times tonight. I’m still amazed that the Patriots are winning this football game without Tom. I know, they’ve won 3 games without him already, but I still have to act completely shocked for some unknown reason.

Ron Jaworski: I used to play quarterback in the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Mike Tirico: Is it time for me to provide a random football fact to prove that I can dominate 98% of the country in sports trivia? Oh wait, New England just scored again.

37th Commercial Break.

New England kicks off, which takes about 12 seconds.

38th Commercial Break.

Stuart Scott: Coming up after the game our NFL experts are gonna get serious with the breakdown of the Pats beat down, even though there doesn’t need to be a 45 minute breakdown of a 4-hour football blowout. You just watched the Patriots handle the Broncos and the only analysis that needs to be said is, “New England Kicked Ass,” but we have to overanalyze and saturate the entire football experience for you because that’s what ESPN does. Back to you Mike.

Seriously, this occurred for the entire 4th quarter. I was in football purgatory. Oh yeah, and my fantasy football team didn’t even have a chance at this point. I’m just a glutton for punishment.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Dumbest Slogan Ever?

On Wednesday, I saw the above gun logo and slogan on a bumper sticker on a truck in the Chick Fil-A parking lot. (Way to perpetuate a stereotype Tennessee!)

This slogan made me think, "What if they are near someone that has a heart attack?" Well, we know they don't call 911. Do they just get their gun out and shoot the person, put him or her out of their misery? Do they shoot their gun wildly in the air, forcing someone else to call 911? Does having a gun solve all needs for 911? I'm totally confused.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

It's War

You know the Seinfeld episode where George thinks Elaine is sticking it to him. It happened to me today at work.

I walk into my team meeting this afternoon and I see some candy on my supervisor’s desk. I make the joke, “Why don’t you ever have candy that I like?”

My boss then turns around and asks me if I want any of the candy she got for “Bosses Day.” She shows me this purple plastic pumpkin (say that 5 times fast) filled with tons more candy. I reply, “Today is Bosses Day? Who gave you that?” She then goes on to tell me it was given to her by two of my coworkers, Sandy and Leslie.

What the hell is that? Seriously, they couldn’t include me on this? How much would my share have been, $4? My coworkers are dead to me. That’s the line in the sand. There’s only 4 people on our team here today, and 2 of them get a Bosses Day gift together and me and the other one, Susanne get left out. WTF?

After the meeting I ask Susanne what was up with Sandy and Leslie sticking it to us? She said that when I was out at lunch, they came to her and asked if they should do anything about Bosses Day. All 3 of them agreed that it probably wasn’t a big deal to our boss and it was left at that. The next thing that happens is that the Sandy and Leslie went out and got something, before I got back from lunch and they could ask me if I wanted in on it, and after they agreed it wasn’t a big deal.

Way to make me look stupid! I appreciate that. The funniest part about the whole story is that Sandy said one of the reasons she didn’t want to get a Bosses Day gift is that she didn’t have a ton of money. So she didn’t have $5 to spend on some stupid pumpkin and some candy, and then she goes and does it anyway? To say I’m perplexed is an understatement. The only thing I know for sure, is that I got some coworkers that are sticking it to me. STICKING IT!


Time to get motivated

Watching the baseball playoffs recently, I learned that Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon has various inspirational quotes painted around the team's clubhouse. Nothing unusual about that, except one of the quotes is from French philosopher Albert Camus.

Such is life for the Rays these days. Win with Camus quotes on the walls, you're an out-of-the-box visionary not afraid to take a knife to conventional sports wisdom. Lose with Camus quotes on the walls, you're a pretentious, Elvis Costello-glasses wearing prick.

Anyway, it got me to thinking- what other quotes are coaches painting up on locker room walls? An exhaustive investigation* led to these answers:

Larry Brown: "Don't have anything in your life you can't walk away from in 30 seconds flat if you spot the heat coming around the corner," by Robert DeNiro in Heat. You know Larry nodded with approval when hearing that for the first time.

Bill Belichick: "Both teams played hard," by Rasheed Wallace. Although, Belichick probably resents Wallace's revelation that both teams did, in fact, play.

George Karl: "They've done studies, you know. 60% of the time it works every time," by Brian Fantana. A perfect description of Denver's get-it-to-Iverson-or-Carmelo-and-get-the-hell-out-of-the-way offense they've been running for two years now.

Dusty Baker: "Oh, so they have the Internet on computers now!" by Homer Simpson. Keep on keeping on, Dusty.

Charlie Weis: "Oh, loneliness and cheeseburgers are a dangerous mix," by Comic Book Guy. OK, that was just mean.

Tom Cable: "I'm normally not a praying man, but if you're up there, please save me, Superman," again by Homer Simpson. A few weeks with Al Davis up his ass will have Cable screaming at the heavens.

Former Mariners manager John McLaren: "You don't like your job, you don't strike. You go in every day and do it really half-assed. That's the American way," by (of course), Homer Simpson. I often wondered if McLaren was even awake in the dugout.

Mike D'Antoni: "We need you. Hell, I need you. I'm a mess without you. I miss you so damn much. I miss being with you, I miss being near you. I miss your laugh. I miss your scent, I miss your musk. When this all gets sorted out, I think you and me should get an apartment together," by Champ Kind. Maybe D'Antoni won't paint it on the Knicks' locker room wall, but there's no doubt he'll be drunk dialing Steve Nash at 3 a.m. shortly after the season starts and repeating that line.


*No actual investigation took place.

Welcome, Part Deux

Graham already got the ball rolling, starting off with a nice Frank Drebin quote and introduction. While I'm a Drebin fan, I’m a little scared that Graham equated a quote about Frank and his love interest to our shared blog. Am I the love interest? Is the blog? I’m confused.

I suppose I should tell you a little about myself as well. I can’t let some Canadian do all the talking for me. I’ve lived in the Bible belt all my life, work in an industry that will never fully appreciate my talents, am a volunteer writer for the Memphis Grizzlies, and spend way too much time thinking about my fantasy football team. Believe it or not, I’ve not only managed to find a girl that likes me, but she likes me enough to get married to me next summer. And no, she’s not using me for my money, cause I’m broke.

I think most people blog just to get out there, to let people know what’s going on in their lives, and to rant from time to time. This isn’t why we’re blogging. I haven’t discussed this with Graham, but I think that I can speak for the both us when I say that this blog is the first step in our world domination. I expect us to be massively popular and wildly famous in the next 2-5 days. We’re that awesome. And by we, I mean me.

Welcome to rocking the suburbs, where we do know what it’s like to be “male, middle-class and white.”