Monthly Archives: April 2010

Myron Rolle, an athlete to root for. And Charlie Crist flies solo, literally

I haven’t given you an athlete to root for in a while, so let me tell you a little about new Tennesee Titan Myron Rolle.

Rolle was a star defensive back at Florida State, with good speed, great cover ability, and all that you’d normally be looking for in an NFL player.

He’s also one of the smartest college football players in America, and I don’t mean that like, he knows when to blitz. He didn’t play for Florida State last year because he’d won a Rhodes Scholarship, and took a year away from football to study at Oxford.

So who wouldn’t want a guy like this on their NFL team? He’s a great football player, a role model (he wants to open up free medical clinics in the Bahamas, among other things), and an incredibly intelligent young man.

And yet, Rolle lasted until the end of the sixth round last week in the Draft, when Tennessee plucked him.

Why did he fall so far? Because NFL teams are scared of smart people. Seriously. They don’t want guys with other outside interests, or players who are too “smart” for their own good. Some even asked Rolle how he could “desert” his team last year to take the Rhodes scholarship.

This is pathetic. The NFL is filled with morons who only know how to read a playbook. And here’s a guy with some actual “life” skills and intelligence that can’t be shown on a blackboard with X’s and O’s on it, and he gets passed over for six rounds.

I hope Myron Rolle becomes an NFL All-Pro. He’s exactly the kind of role model the NFL needs, not guys like Terrell Owens.

Here’s a good column by Jemele Hill on Rolle, and a great background story from last October by Pete Thamel in the New York Times.

**And now, just for fun, and because I can’t watch it enough, Leo and Ainsley’s first interview from “The West Wing.”

**So the big political news here in God’s Waiting Room Thursday was Florida governor Charlie Crist, a man who once described himself as a “Ronald Reagan Republican,” deciding to bolt the GOP and run for the U.S. Senate as an independent.

This is no principled change of heart for old Charlie, though he doesn’t really fit in with the new hard-right Republican party. He was going to get drubbed in the upcoming primary by Marco Rubio, so Crist realized the only way he could win would be to run as a third-party candidate.

Is he going to win a general election? Probably not. I’m hoping he and Rubio spend the next six months beating up on each other, so Democrat Kendrick Meek can win.

What kinda made me sad Thursday was that after Crist’s announcement, most of his staff, including his campaign manager and communications director, resigned. Just because he was no longer a Republican. Don’t you sign up in politics to work for an individual, as much as for a cause? So basically the staff who spent thousands of hours and years working for Crist, suddenly bail on him because he’s not a Republican anymore.

That depresses me.

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Obama and the press, no longer BFF. Two quick TV questions. And Ricky Williams, explained

So one of the huge themes of the 2008 presidential campaign was the media’s love affair with Barack Obama.

Lots of liberals thought the complaining was overblown, that he really did get fair coverage for the most part.

Not me. I think the press totally gave Obama a pass on many things, such as the fact that he had better ideas, was smarter, and had a much better organized campaign. Seriously, why didn’t they rip him for that stuff?

I kid. It’s true Obama was treated pretty gently by the press, in at least a small part because he made himself so available to reporters, and seemed to like chatting with them. Here’s a dirty little secret about reporters: Be nice to us, and we’ll give you flattering coverage. It’s really not any more complicated than that, sadly.

Anyway, seems the media has turned on ole’ President Obama. I’ve been hearing and reading some of the complaints and stories for a while, but it really hit home in this fascinating story from Politico.com. Sure there’s a lot of press whining in here, but a few points are quite valid:

1, This promised to be a transparent administration, and it’s far from it, and 2, when people are saying Obama’s relationship to the media is worse than GWB’s, well, that ought to make some heads roll at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Nobody had worse press relations than Dubya, and if you’re being compared below that, that’s pretty scary.

This is probably a topic for another day, but I find it very interesting that people in the Obama administration seem to feel the press is something they only “need” occasionally.

**OK, two of my favorite shows this year really puzzled me this week. Maybe you can help.

— On “Parenthood,” they’re all about the storyline of Crosby falling in love with the mother of his child all over again, Jasmine. Except, what the hell happened to Crosby’s girlfriend on the show, the one he was going to have a baby with? I know they had that fight a few episodes ago when she found out he had a kid, but they just wrote her out of the show and out of his life after one argument? Weird.

— This week’s “Glee” was just not good. At all. They forgot the funny, and the same Burt Bacharach song twice in a row? Way too much schmaltz and cheese, not enough Sue and Rachel. So many good episodes have already come before this one, so “Glee,” I give you a mulligan.

***So after a pretty poor movie last week about fantasy sports, the good people doing ESPN’s “30 for 30” documentary series bounced back this week with the riveting “Run, Ricky, Run” about one of the strangest and most misunderstood athletes of our time. Ricky Williams failed a bunch of drug tests, did interviews with his helmet on, and basically walked away from the NFL in his prime.

He smoked a lot of weed, moved to Australia for a while, and oh yeah, we learn in this movie he allegedly suffered sexual abuse at the hands of his father as a boy.

He’s really a fascinating character, who even his friends and family can’t figure out. Check the movie out on ESPN this weekend when you get a chance.

Thoughts on Cobain’s widow. An idea I wish I’d had. And what really not to say to an NFL prospect

I never think about Courtney Love.

I don’t imagine many people do anymore. But completely randomly, I caught her on Letterman for a few minutes last night. She seemed calm, mature and pretty well-spoken. Apparently she’s all cleaned up, no more drugs or booze, just a regular old rock and roll woman.

Which shocked the heck out of me. She’s had quite the interesting life in the public eye the last 20 years or so, playing so many different roles. First she was the crazy woman married to Kurt Cobain. Then he killed himself, and my whole generation saw her as the grieving widow, and some looked to her to, I don’t know, carry on Kurt’s legacy. (Of course, now Nirvana fans hate her because she’s blocked the release of some of the band’s unreleased music. But that’s a whole ‘nother story).

Then Courtney became a star in her own right with her band Hole. Then she became an actress for a while, and actually was really good in “The People vs. Larry Flynt.” (I love that movie. I was just talking about censorship on here yesterday, and man, if that movie isn’t a freaking Valentine to the First Amendment). Then, the downward spiral really got bad, as she became a drunk, strung out on drugs, and had years of really odd and embarrassing behavior.

I figured that was the end of her, not realizing that rehab is the last great hope of a celeb’s public life. Maybe she’s cleaned up for good now. She seemed really lucid and analytical talking to Dave last night.

It’s funny how we root for celebrities to stay clean, isn’t it? It’s not like we know them. I never even liked her or her music, but for some reason I hope Courtney Love makes it this time, and stays clean and sober.

It would, at the very least, give us something happy to think about when remembering what a great band Nirvana was.

**OK, so here’s a dirty little secret about sportswriters: We get really mad and jealous when someone else writes a column off a brilliant idea they had. Sometimes you sit there and think, man, I SO wish I had thought of that first!

That’s what happened when I saw Orlando Sentinel scribe Mike Bianchi’s column the other day. In Charlotte to cover the Magic-Bobcats series, he drove to Chapel Hill and went to the Dean Dome, the University of North Carolina’s home arena.

And then he walked around for hours wearing a J.J. Redick jersey. J.J., of course, played for Duke. Bianchi was actually asked to leave the arena, and he was heckled for hours.

The photo may be the best part. Click the link if only to see the photo. Fabulous.

**Finally, NFL general managers are supposed to ask all kinds of probing, insight-seeking questions of the kids they’re about to draft. It’s smart business; you’re going to play these 20-something athletes millions, you want to know everything about them.

But, um, yeah, Miami Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland might’ve gone a little far while interrogating former Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant. Yeah, Ireland asked Bryant if his Mom was a prostitute.

I can’t imagine why that might bother a kid.

The evil of censorship. And a tribute to Rod Belding of “Saved by the Bell.”

As a writer, and as a liberal, I take censorship pretty seriously.

The fact that our freedom of speech and freedom of the press are sometimes compromised, and that forces act to restrict free expression, pisses me off.

This weekend I learned about censorship in two very different cases, but both

made me angry.

The first was this Lane Bryant ad being censored. Lane Bryant, a women’s clothing store for plus-size females, shot a commercial with one of their models in her bra and panties. No big deal, right? Half of the commercials on TV show women in that “outfit.”

But ABC refused to air it without edits, as did Fox. Apparently they thought it was too racy. I’m not buying it; I think they didn’t want a woman who didn’t weigh nine pounds wearing lingerie on TV. Crazy and wrong.

Here’s the ad, tell me is it any worse than the crap Abercrombie and Fitch, and Victoria’s Secret, put out?

**Then there’s the “South Park” Muhammad controversy. I’m not a big fan of “South Park,” though a few people in my life who have almost nothing in common all swear it’s the funniest thing on TV. One of South Park’s themes is to make fun of every sacred cow, be it religious, societal, or historical.

So apparently they’ve made fun of Muhammad a few times now, without too much controversy. But then they shot an episode that Comedy Central, and Muslim groups in the U.S., thought went too far. An Islamist group has basically threatened that Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the show’s creators, will be killed, and Comedy Central severely censored the episode in question.

Why is it that Muhammad is the one figure that absolutely cannot be satirized, even here in America? And Comedy Central, who knows what it has in “South Park,” decides now that certain mentions and commentary about Muhammad are off-limits.

Very disappointing for a network that hosts Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Andrew Sullivan, as usual, has a great take on this controversy here.

**OK, this cracked me up tremendously. Remember the “Saved by the Bell” episode with Mr. Belding’s brother, Rod? Of course you do.

Well, here’s a kick-ass tribute to a great TV character who was only in one episode.

Al Pacino as “Dr. Death.” And Eliot Spitzer, the chutzpah king

Nobody likes to mention this, but Al Pacino doesn’t really make good movies anymore.

Seriously, as ESPN.com’s Bill Simmons has pointed out, Pacino hasn’t made a good major theatre movie in, like, a decade.

His last movie that I liked was HBO’s brilliant “Angels in America,” when he played the savagely profane but brilliant lawyer Roy Cohn. (Lewis family trivia: I’ll always remember that movie because Julie and I had our first phone conversation that night, it lasted three hours, and I learned later both of us wanted to get off the phone at about 10:59 p.m. so we could watch the West Coast version of the movie. See, we were made for each other.)

So when I heard good ole’ Michael Corleone was playing Jack Kevorkian, a man I admire greatly, in a new HBO movie called “You Don’t Know Jack,” I was pumped.

Saw the movie Sunday, and it was really, really good. I feel very strongly about euthanasia and why it should be legal, and I always thought Kevorkian was truly on the side of mercy. Pacino completely channeled Kevorkian, and director Barry Levinson got a fantastic cast to play off Pacino (Susan Sarandon, John Goodman).

I remember thinking at the time that all the same people who protested Kevorkian and called him a murderer, are also the same people talking about religious beliefs and showing “mercy” to people. Allowing someone to die with dignity is as merciful as you can get.

The movie was great, I highly recommend it. But it made me sad that 15 years after Kevorkian started gently helping those with terminal illness to stop the suffering, this country still looks at assisted suicide as such a sin.

I think years from now, many will wonder why such a humane act was deemed illegal.

**So I woke up Sunday morning to read in The New York Times that former New York governor Eliot Spitzer has reservations about likely Democratic nominee Andrew Cuomo, that he’s too politically motived, and that Spitzer isn’t sure he’s right for the job.

Spitzer, you know, the guy who decided it’d be smart while governor to use a prostitution service and pay for it with a credit card, isn’t sure someone else is right for the job.

This brings up a host of questions: Why is Spitzer still asked by media members to pontificate and analyze, when he’s clearly a disgrace as a human being? Is there no “shame” period anymore in American life, or if there is, Spitzer’s sure seemed to be short.

Look, I don’t know how great or not great Andrew Cuomo would be as governor. I like what I’ve seen and read about him, my friend Andrew once worked for him at a non-profit and said Cuomo was nice, and his father is one of my favorite speakers ever (Mario Cuomo).

But that the New York Times would give Eliot Spitzer, one of the biggest megalomaniacs in politics, a platform to bash another gubernatorial hopeful, and that Spitzer would continue to come off as holier than thou as he has for years, just ticks me off.

An amazing dog leads a rescue. Missing Leon already. And a new take on “Go to hell.”

I’ll answer your first question immediately: Yes, it’s entirely possible that you’ll now read one or two more dog-related stories in this blog since, you know, I’ve got me a pooch. A pooch who, by the way, had his first two house “accidents” on Saturday.

Anyway, this story sounds completely made up, and too amazing to be true. But it’s real. Buddy the German Shepherd is the star of Anchorage, AK this weekend, after leading the Alaska State Troopers through back roads to a fire at a workshop.

I don’t know what’s the most amazing part of this story:The fact that the trooper’s GPS failed and the dog just happened to be in his line of sight, or that Buddy led the trooper directly to the house.

Truly incredible stuff.

**You know, as a sports fan you grow emotionally attached to some players on your favorite teams. They may not be the best players, necessarily, but you just love them for their whole careers. I felt that way about Adam Graves on the Rangers, Paul O’Neill on the Yankees, and Chris Carrawell of Duke basketball, to name a few.

On the New York Jets, Leon Washington has been my guy the last few years. I begged and pleaded with the coach at the time to get him the ball out of the backfield more, because every time little Leon touched the ball, good things happen. The running back made people miss, burst through holes in an instant, and was Mr. Excitement on kickoff returns.

He had a bright future. Only Leon suffered a horrible leg injury last year and missed most of the year. His rehab has been slow, apparently, and Saturday, after my beloved Green and White drafted another running back, they traded Leon to Seattle.

I am not exactly to the point of weeping and saying “Say it Ain’t so” or anything like that. But I loved Leon and I will miss him.

**Finally, Joe Posnanski makes me laugh out loud with his little asides in his columns. This one killed me, from a recent blog post of his:

*You know, if you think about it, “Go to hell,” as an expression, does seem a bit over the top, doesn’t it? I mean, you overhear a conversation that goes something like this:

Fan 1: “You really think Kobe is better than LeBron?”
Fan 2: “Of course he is. Look at the four rings.”
Fan 1: “Four rings? Kobe plays nursemaid to Shaq for three of them, and then wins one with a freaking loaded team with Gasol and Odom and Fisher and …”
Fan 2: “Fisher? You think Fisher’s good?”
Fan 1: “I think Fisher’s better than the garbage LeBron has been carrying on his back.”
Fan 2: “You’re crazy. LeBron is never going to win one.”
Fan 1: “Go to hell.”

In this case, a disagreement about the playing ability of two of the finer players in the NBA has led one to consign the other to eternal damnation in an everlasting furnace of fire with wailing and gnashing of teeth. Seems a bit much. Now, if Fan 1 was saying Kobe was better than Jordan, OK, maybe I can see it …

One man doing good, $10 at a time. And some Bret Michaels love

I’m a sucker for stories like this; I wish I had thought of this first.

Meet Reed Sandridge. He’s an unemployed guy living in Washington, D.C., and last December he decided to try an experiment.

It’s the kind of thing you talk about in sociology class in college, or just hanging out with some friends one day dreaming about making the world better.

Sandridge decided that every day, for a year, he would give away 10 bucks. And he would record all the details of the transaction, through video recording with his camera, and on his website, called A Year of Giving. So far he’s given away almost $1,300.

It’s such a wonderful concept, this random philanthropy on the street. My friend Pearlman, for a story for Newsday, once stood on a street in Manhattan and tried to give away $1 to every person he  met. An astonishingly large number of people refused to accept the bill. They thought it was a scam, or weird, or something.

But this Reed Sandridge guy, this is a man simply doing good. Who knows what that $10 might mean to that person on that day? They may use it to buy flowers for a loved one. Or eat a slightly nicer meal than they could’ve otherwise afforded.

Little gestures mean so much to people. Bravo, Reed Sandridge.

** Bret Michaels, one of the heroes of my 80s music-obsessed youth, is in critical condition with a brain hemorrhage, it’s been reported. Very sad to hear. He truly did kick ass on stage; I saw Poison live in Raleigh, N.C. once and he was fabulous.

Hope Bret pulls through; here’s a little bit of one of my favorite Poison songs. By the way, my sister Debbie used to have the lyrics to this song written on one of her school notebooks. She had a big crush on Bret.

Just throwing some random Lewis family trivia out there for you, that’s all.

The NCAA leaves the Tournament (basically) alone. A weird Nike commercial. And a baseball player who flew.

Well, color me surprised.

Ever since the NCAA poo-bahs floated the idea that they were thinking of expanding the NCAA men’s basketball tournament to 96 teams, I figured it was a done deal.

Never mind that it was a stupid, idiotic, why mess with success idea. One of the dumbest, craziest ideas the NCAA has ever come up with.

The Tournament is perfect, a wonderful three-week march to a champion. But money talks, so of course the NCAA was going to expand, take more TV money, and put more undeserving teams into the Big Dance.

As a diehard college basketball fan (you may have heard I like Duke), I was awaiting the inevitable: the destruction of March Madness as we knew it.

But well well well, the NCAA actually got one right. Thursday it was announced that the Tournament is only expanding by three teams, to 68.

I can live with that. Sure, a few more low-major schools like Winthrop and East Tennessee State will get screwed by having to play those stupid play-in games, but the Tournament’s beauty remains intact.

Much like Pat Forde on ESPN.com, I’m not sure if the NCAA actually did this because they listened to the howls of protest from fans and media, or they just scared us by threatening 96, without really meaning it.

Either way, I’m very happy with the outcome. Bravo, NCAA.

**So I was pretty puzzled by that Nike Tiger Woods commercial, and this one seems equally strange, but a little cooler and easier to understand. Athletes’ heads and hearts in different bodies while playing different sports. Pretty cool.

**Finally, how great is this slide by Fordham University baseball player Brian Kownacki in a recent game? Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do.

The Brat Pack gets their Boswell. And a way cool Chick Hearn statue

A short blog after another outstanding night of Stanley Cup playoffs action, and trying to figure out how my new dog is able to bounce off the bureau and propel himself over the fence we have set up to keep him in one room… the guys at Petco are going to know my name really quickly…

I think it’s fair to say that I loved the Brat Pack, as did most people of my generation.

Of course Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson and Molly Ringwald, et. al, weren’t the greatest actors ever. I don’t think they won any Oscars or Golden Glboers, but they were absolutely, positively the perfect embodiment of kids of my Generation, Generation X.

After the great John Hughes, who made many of them stars, died last year, we all mourned and talked about his legacy, and theirs.

Well, Susannah Gora has done more than that, and I can’t wait to read it. She’s written a book with the beautiful title “You Couldn’t Ignore me If  You Tried,” and if I have to tell you what movie that quote is from, I will be sad (“The Breakfast Club.”)

It’s about the rise and fall of the Brat Pack, and how they survived having an insane amount of publicity and attention at such a young age (here’s a thought: can you imagine how overexposed they would’ve been if the Internet existed in the 1980s?)

Anyway, it’s definitely on my reading list.

**So every once in a while, a sports organization gets something exactly right.

Chick Hearn was the legendary play-by-play announcer for the L.A. Lakers, a guy who invented the term “slam dunk” and was maybe the greatest hoops announcer ever (sorry Marv.)

He died eight years ago, and the Lakers finally got around to erecting a statue of him outside the Staples Center this week.

It’s a beautiful statue, truly, but the best thing is that they also created an empty chair next to Hearn, so anyone can sit down and pretend they’re calling the game with him.

Brilliant. Totally want to go to L.A. now to do that.

The volcanic ash thing just keeps causing problems. And we survived 4/20

So you know how there are news stories that come along and you sort of pay attention to them, but then they just drag on for days and days and suddenly you’re fascinated?

That’s kind of how I am with this whole volcanic ash thing going on in Europe. At first I just chalked it up to one of those weird meteorological phenomenons that would pass. But do you realize that until Britain re-opened its airspace Tuesday, 95,000 flights had been delayed?

I mean, a cloud of volcanic ash is clearly not something to mess around with, and it reminds us of just how powerless we really are when it comes to science. And who even knew there were active volcanoes in Iceland?

This whole story has just been weird. I’m so glad I’m not stuck in England right now; I can’t imagine too many more frustrating experiences than sitting at or near the airport every day, hoping that today will finally be the day I get to go home.

**I know most people think of 4/20 as a the Marijuana holiday (for those of you squares out there, 420 is the police code for pot.).

But are you aware of how many huge news events happened on either 4/19 or 4/20 in the last 100 years? I was just hoping these last two days were uneventful. Check this out:

–April 20, 1961: The Bay of Pigs invasion. Not John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s finest hour.

— April 19, 1993: The end of the 50-day Waco siege at the Branch Davidian compound.

— April 19, 1995: Timothy McVeigh blows up an Oklahoma City office building. 168 people are killed.

–April 20, 1999: The Columbine High School massacre. I’m thinking you remember that one.

Also, April 20 was Hitler’s birthday. Always a big celebration around the Lewis house.

So, yeah, I’m glad it was a relative slow news couple of days.