Monthly Archives: July 2010

Catching up with the “Boom Goes the Dynamite” guy. And a cool mash-up of press conference quotes

Sometimes, you watch a YouTube video and think, “This guy is going to be haunted by this his whole life.”

Definitely felt that way the first time I saw poor Brian Collins, a young sportscaster from Ball State University, on this famous clip from 2005. The kid was as bad in front of the camera as I’ve ever seen, and came up with an odd catchphrase, “Boom Goes the Dynamite.” Here, watch for yourself and cringe, as 4.6 million others already have:

I thought that was the end for Mr. Collins’ broadcasting career. Who could survive that kind of public ridicule and actually get another job? “Boom Goes the Dynamite” became a catchphrase, but for all the wrong reasons. I felt terrible for the kid. It turns out, it was his first night doing the broadcast, and the teleprompter guy screwed up, so it wasn’t all his fault.

Still, I figured Collins would end up a tax collector or a plumber or pushing papers behind a desk.
But Sports Illustrated, in their annual “Where are they Now?” issue (one of my favorite of the year), found Collins and thankfully, he’s doing OK.

The kid is now a web producer at a Fox station in Cincinnati, and can laugh at his situation. Good for the kid, though I have to admit, the clip is pretty damn funny.

**This is fantastic and awesome. A DJ named Steve Porter created a mash-up of great press conference moments a few years ago, and it was a huge YouTube sensation.

Here’s his sequel, featuring Tiger Woods, Herm Edwards (God love Herm), and LeBron James. Enjoy.

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A very cool stop-motion walk across America. Sherrod sues Breitbart, rightfully. And another lunatic candidate in Tenn.

Let’s start today with a very cool video. A stop-action film of a man walking across America. Stuff like this always boggles my mind, and makes me think that only 80 years ago, we all just listened to the radio for entertainment.

**I was happy to see that Shirley Sherrod, the African-American woman whose life and career were basically ruined by right-wing blogger Andrew Breitbart, has decided to sue him.

And it’s funny how now, President Obama and others in the administration go to great lengths to praise Sherrod and take some blame for the incredible over-reaction they made, by firing her before any of the facts were in.
Two weeks after the incident, though, I’m still horrified and ashamed at how quickly the USDA and the Democratic party turned on Sherrod.

It speaks to once again, how unbelievably frightened Democrats in Washington are. God forbid, we wait and verify before condemning. God forbid, we take a stand and support a woman who from all accounts has been an exemplary public servant.
When, when, when are the leaders of my party going to grow a backbone? Been waiting all my life for it, but it seems fear still rules the party I support.

**Is it me, or does this election cycle seem to have WAY more loons than usual? Seriously, I think every nutjob in America is running for office.
This guy might be my new favorite, though; Basil Marceaux (above), running for Governor of Tennessee. He starts the video by saying his name is “BasilMarceaux.com” and, well, it doesn’t get better from there: Check out his equally-insane website here.

A Jersey school district does a smart thing. The best parallel park ever. And a really funny football/rock Photoshop

Grade inflation has been a huge problem in schools for years now. You wouldn’t think so based on the test scores of American kids, but it seems like it’s far too easy to just skate by.

Which is why I was really happy when I heard what the Mt. Olive, N.J. school district is doing. It announced this week that it is removing “D” grades, and requiring all students to get a C, or a 70, to pass a class.

Maybe this will motivate kids to try harder. Maybe it’ll scare some of them into studying more, and not always shooting for the lowest common denominator, or being so satisfied with just “getting by.”
But mostly, I hope this challenges the kids of Mt. Olive to stop doing just enough, and to actually shoot for goals that are a little higher.

**I am a pretty mediocre driver, but I’m a really, really bad parallel parker. When we lived in Saratoga Springs it drove my wife nuts when it would take me five minutes to park on the street between two cars; she would honestly put her hands on her head and make guttural, inhuman sounds of frustration.

So I could not have more respect for this guy right here. He’s a New Zealander who was trying to break the record for the tightest parallel park in the world. And man, he absolutely destroys that record.

This guy is my new hero. Think he’s available for private lessons?

**Chad Johnson (aka Ochocinco, though I refuse to use that stupid name) has always mostly amused, more than annoyed, me as an NFL player. He never seemed to be half the jackass that his new teammate, Terrell Owens, is, though Chad does love the spotlight. He’s also pretty funny, tough.

This slayed me; a Photoshop that Chad put up paying tribute (sort of) to a great old Simon and Garfunkel record cover:

WikiLeaks and the Times give us real story on Afghanistan. And some parting New York thoughts

I finally had the time Tuesday to read the New York Times’ huge, and hugely important, series of stories about the thousands of leaked Afghanistan war documents that WikiLeaks discovered several weeks ago, and gave to several media outlets.

There was some pretty horrific stuff in there, about members of the Pakistan intelligence agencies supporting and encouraging the Taliban, all the while pretending to help the U.S., and about the Taliban possessing heat-seeking missiles and other high-tech weapons we weren’t aware they had.

But I was left with one overriding feeling after reading the series: Despair. Nine years in to this war, and I don’t really think we’re any closer to finishing the job, and ridding the area of terrorists, than we were on Sept. 12, 2001.

I’m sorry, I just don’t see a successful way out for America here. I have faith in President Obama, and General Petreus, to do as good a job as possible in turning around the country.

But it’s such a massive job, with so many competing elements that want us to fail, that I just don’t see it happening, ever.

And I wonder how many more American soldiers have to die before Obama and Co. realize that too.

Read those stories. Hear the voices of the soldiers and commanders in them. And then tell me how you can possibly feel optimistic.

**So unfortunately my vacation is over; had to head back to Florida Tuesday night, back to real life, high humidity, and what I’m sure is a stack of work emails you could choke a horse with.

But I had a wonderful two weeks in New York; a few parting thoughts that I wanted to share:

**I’ve never seen this in any other city: Monday afternoon, about 12:30 p.m., my wife, father-in law and I were walking in Manhattan. And there was a line at least 30 people deep, waiting to get into a restaurant that apparently had “great salad.”
There were 17 other eating options on that block alone. Yet these people stood in the 90-degree heat at lunchtime just to get in to this one restaurant. Nuts.

**Went to Bethesda Fountain (above) in Central Park Monday for the first time. About a million movies have been filmed there, if it looks familiar to you. Very cool place.

**I wish I saw the name of the business the following slogan was advertised, but we drove by it too fast. On the side of the truck it said “Trust God first. Then trust us for good service.” I love it.

**Always love listening to the hilarious and delusional hosts and callers on New York sports talk radio station WFAN. Spent a huge chunk of my childhood listening to the FAN; now I only hear it when I come home.

What kills me more than anything is that when they talk about baseball players and the trade deadline, which they did all this week, it’s just a given that other teams’ best players will or should eventually become Yankees or Mets stars. Joakim Soria, the Royals’ ace closer? He’s coming here. Dan Haren of the Diamondbacks? He’s here. And Roy Oswalt? Of course the Yanks will get him.

It’s kind of sickening how fans and the hosts think the rest of the league exists just to stock the Mets and Yankees.

The despicable Lane Kiffin strikes again. And a “Despicable Me” review

Once a schmuck, always a schmuck.

Lane Kiffin is proving once again what a total scumbag he is, as the new head football coach at USC has royally pissed off a very prominent alumna.

Here’s the deal: When a college program wants to hire a coach from the NFL, he always, always, always, talks to the head coach of that pro team, to let them know that he’ll be talking to a member of the pro staff.
Ninety nine times out of 100, this contact is approved. Generally, it’s because a pro assistant coach is getting a better opportunity at the college level. Kiffin knows this, having worked both as a pro and college head coach.
Yet he decided last week to piss off Tennesee Titans coach Jeff Fisher, going behind his back and hiring Titans running backs coach Kennedy Pola to be the new USC offensive coordinator.
A week before NFL Training camp starts.
So now the Titans are actually suing USC over Pola’s hiring, saying the Trojans “maliciously” swiped the coach against the rules and that Pola violated his own contract.

Good for the Titans. Kiffin is a clown.  Forget for a moment the stupidity of Kiffin for angering Fisher, a well-liked and well-connected USC alum, right off the bat in your first year. But to steal a coach a week before training camp, and then play innocent about it, is just disgusting.
My feelings about Kiffin’s past behavior is here, and Sports Illustrated offered an excellent portrait of his jerkiness here in 2009.

**So I took my 5-year-old nephew to see “Despicable Me” at the theaters last week. He liked it a lot, though it was hard to tell what he was saying sometimes with so much candy in his mouth (hey, I’m a good uncle, I know candy at the movies is crucial).

I’d heard the movie was fantastic. My opinion: It was pretty good, but by no means as good as “Toy Story 3.” Steve Carell was amusing as the voice of Dr. Gru, the evil genius who plots to steal the moon, all while adopting three little girls. The 3D in the movie seemed pretty unnecessary; there were only a a couple of scenes where it really made things better.
As usual there were a couple of jokes that only adults would’ve gotten, which is fine by me; hey, we’re the ones paying for the movie. The storyline moved along pretty well, and there were some great, touching moments toward the end.
But it just didn’t blow me away, and some of the plot just stunk. I’d say 2 1/2 stars. I think my nephew would give it 3 stars, while the AirHeads candy he consumed voraciously gets 4 stars, easy.

“Mad Men” is back and again is awesome. And a titanic meeting of the family dogs

“Mad Men” is back and not a moment too soon, as we’re in the vast television wasteland of mid-summer right now.

It’s a very odd show, different from most others on TV, but it’s been terrific for two seasons. So naturally it’ll be good again this year, especially since they’ve opened up a lot of new storylines with most of the major players starting their own firm at the end of last year.

Some quick hit thoughts from the premiere Sunday night (SPOILER ALERT: SKIP DOWN UNTIL YOU SEE PICTURES OF DOGS IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT YET)

**Solid episode, with some really funny lines from, of course, Roger Sterling and Don Draper.

**Loved how mean they’re making Betty Draper, like we’re supposed to believe Don is the victim in this divorce. Please. He’s a cad, always will be.

**Hilarious stuff with the two ladies in the diner who fought over the ham.

**Don Draper has to hire a hooker? Really? Guy gets laid a hundred times in the first few seasons, every woman he meets seems to love him, and he needs a prostitute? That part didn’t ring true to me.

**They’re making Pete more likable, dammit. I hate that guy.

**It was a day that been coming for months, and no one knew how it would turn out.
Cautiously, optimistically, thrillingly, we waited until the day finally arrived.
Saturday afternoon, the two family dogs met each other for the first time.

Sadie (right), my sister-in-law’s seven-pound terrier-chihuaha mix, has always had most favored dog status since she’s come into the family five years ago. She’s a bundle of energy, had a spring-loaded ass (can jump from anywhere to anywhere), and is extremely interested in human food (I’m told she knows what the words “burrito” and “Pizza” mean.)
Anyway, since Julie and I got Bernie a few months ago, we knew at some point the two tiny doggies would meet (though at 10.2 pounds, Bernie is HUGE compared to Sadie).
That day arrived. How’d it go? Well, Bernie was all into Sadie, sniffing her butt and chasing her around my in-laws big house. Sadie was sort of annoyed by Bernie, especially since Grandma and Grandpa’s house has always been her sole domain.
At one point Saturday they had a “pooping in the house” contest, with both leaving their marks on the kitchen floor. Another highlight was their staring contest on Sunday, when for about five minutes they just walked toward each other in the kitchen, and wagged their tails while staring intently in each other’s eyes.
It was the canine equivalent of “High Noon.”

Finally, Sadie went home to New York City, and Bernie remained. They didn’t kill each other, and now hopefully next time they meet things will go more smoothly. Meanwhile, Bernie lays here at my feet, exahusted.
It’s tiring trying to get siblings to like you sometimes.

My first trip to new Yankee Stadium: Good God it’s freaking huge

 

A snapshot from Saturday at the new Yankee Stadium, a locale I visited for the first time:

It was free Lunchbox day at the Stadium; the first 10,000 or so kids got a nice little back-to-school present for September.
After the game as my friend Victoria and I were walking out, we saw adults with signs saying “I will buy your lunchbox,” and others saying “Lunchboxes for sale.” (Why they didn’t just get together, I don’t know).
Anyway, we’re walking behind a dad and his kid, who’s maybe 8. The kid suddenly starts walking up to one of the grown-ups looking for lunchboxes and says, “I’ll sell you mine.” Minute or two later, the kid sells his lunchbox, and walks away proudly with the 10 bucks.
Aah, New Yorkers, always so entrepreneurial. I actually felt kind of sad that the kid valued money over a cool Yankees lunchbox.

I’ve written before that I think the new Yankee Stadium was a ridiculously unnecessary structure.
There was absolutely nothing wrong with the old House that Ruth Built. Just Yankees greed, led by the dearly departed George Steinbrenner and former mayor Rudy Giuliani, and the complete bowing down of the city of New York to whatever subsidies or tax breaks the Yankees wanted, built the new park on 161st Street in the Bronx.
I was pretty sure I was never going to go into the new Stadium. But I wilted when Victoria, a native Kansan and a dear friend with a heart the size of Texas, said she wanted to see a game at the new Park.
So Victoria and I met in NYC, and took the D train to the Bronx Saturday, to watch Royals-Yanks.

My thoughts? First, it’s enormous. The stadium is an ode to excess, gluttony and just, vastness. The concourses are so wide you could drive most of the Long Island Expressway rush-hour traffic through them. There’s a concession stand selling food or beer every 5-10 feet.

Still, it’s a pretty amazing place, I must admit. The scoreboard was unbelievably gorgeous, with picture quality better than any HDTV you could watch. The selection and choices of food and drink were also incredible; we didn’t go to any of the restaurants because we didn’t want to miss the game, but there were choices for everyone.
The personnel at the Stadium was also helpful and tremendous in number; everywhere you looked there was an employee ready to help with any question.
Our seats were pretty bad, way up in the upper deck on the first-base line, but you still had a great view of everything. Didn’t seem to be any obstructed seats in the house that seats over 50,000. There’s also a Yankees Museum in the Stadium which we didn’t get to because the line was so long; and cool features like the Babe Ruth Plaza outside, and banners of great ex-Yankees inside).

(One quibble as a Yankees fan: Used to be they played Frank Sinatra’s version of “New York, New York” only after a win, and Liza Minelli’s rendition after a loss. Saturday they lost and still we heard Old Blue Eyes. Heresy, I say.) 

I came away impressed, but still annoyed at the excess of the place. The prices are outrageous, for tickets and for everything else in the joint. It’s a facility that basically screams “Look at us and how great we are!”
To that end, mission accomplished. Even on a day when the team poops the bed and loses to lowly Kansas City, visiting the stadium is still a pretty memorable experience.

Cheerleading as a sport takes a hit. And a few words about the wonder of hammocks

It’s so easy to mock cheerleading if you wanted to.
Especially when people call it a sport. I know I’ve mocked it in the past.
Come on, a bunch of girls and guys throwing people in the air, waving pom-poms, and chanting silly mantras about the school?
But I’ve softened my opinion in recent years; the athleticism and danger elements in modern cheerleading certainly edge it much closer to sport in my mind, where it’s a legitimate debate.

On that front, the peppy people on the sidelines suffered a body blow Wednesday, when a federal judge in Connecticut ruled competitive cheerleading is not a sport colleges can claim helps make them more Title IX compliant.
Not sure I agree with this ruling. This is not about cheerleading on the sidelines of games, these cheerleaders are real athletes these days. I don’t know where a judge gets to make a decision on what’s a sport and what’s not a sport, but a lawsuit by Quinnipiac University’s volleyball team put the judge in position to make this call.

Further complicating this case was that Quinnipiac killed its women’s volleyball program while elevating competitive cheerleading. That doesn’t exactly make a lot of sense to me, but neither do a lot of things in college sports.

It’s a terrible consequence of Title IX that some sports teams have gotten killed to make room for others. With this ruling, we’re not exactly making progress.

**Has anyone ever gotten on a hammock in a backyard, and emerged in a worse mood than they were before?
Of course not. That’s because hammocks are right up there with massages and soft music as the best relaxants (that’s a word, right?) ever invented.
My in-laws had just bought one when I met them in 2004, and I couldn’t have been more excited. Now every time we come home in the summer, my father-in-law swings the rope out, puts the poles in the ground, and I enjoy sheer bliss for hours at a time.

I don’t know exactly what makes hammocks so stress-relieving; you’re just lying there, rocking gently back and forth, while drinking a glass of iced tea and reading a book. You hear the wind blow, the leaves rustle, an occasional car going by, and it all just puts you in such a wonderful frame of mind. I often never want to get out when I’m in a comfy hammock; I once read an entire book (“Presumed Innocent” by Scott Turow) in one sitting while lying on a hammock.

In the incredible hustle and bustle of everyday life, I find the simple hammock makes me extremely happy and relaxed.
Maybe I can live in one someday; all I’d need is a port-a-potty and a fridge!

The Brat Pack book was great. And a twist in the travel routine.

One of the many, many reasons I love traveling is it gives me a chance to catch up on books.

I’m one of those people who always has 3-4 books on the shelf that I “mean to get to,” any day now.

Finally got around to reading something I’ve been wanting to read for months, Susannah Gora’s “You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried: The Brat Pack, John Hughes, and their impact on a generation.”

I was pretty darn sure I was going to love this book going in, as I wrote when I first heard it was coming out.

And it was pretty fabulous. Gora totally takes you inside the process of the making of some of the classic 80s movies, like “The Breakfast Club,” “Pretty in Pink,” “Sixteen Candles,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” and “Say Anything.”

She’s talked to just about all the key players, except the late great Hughes, who apparently wouldn’t give her an interview (it’s never made clear in the book.)

I learned so much about the Brat Pack and the movies I’ve adored all my life, like, did you know Molly Ringwald turned down “Pretty Woman”? And that she and Hughes had a nearly-inappropriate relationship while making her trilogy of 80s movies? Or that John Cusack was up for the lead in Ferris Bueller? (Man, would THAT have been a different movie.)

Gora was clearly a huge fan of these movies, and could’ve just written a love-struck fan kind of book. To be honest, some of the final chapters are quite a bit fawning toward my Generation X, but really, there’s some terrific background in here, on how difficult it was to make “Some Kind of Wonderful,” and how the label “Brat Pack” basically killed some of the members’ careers.

But the best stuff in the book is about Hughes, who I of course worship like the god that he was. What a strange, strange guy. Everyone said how great he was to work with in the beginning, but he was always obsessive and had strange relationships with his casts.

Then once his fame really took off, after “Home Alone” came out in 1990, he became impossible to work with, and eventually flamed out (it saddens me to know he wrote the awful “Curly Sue.”)

I won’t ruin the book by telling you all of it, but if you’re a Gen X’er like me who regularly quotes Ferris and John Bender (“this is what you get in MY house, when you spill paint in the garage!”), you definitely want to read this book.

***Returned from my Iowa/Chicago voyage Wednesday, and of course I had many scattered thoughts while sitting in the airport writing this:

  • Both at the Field of Dreams and at Wrigley Field Tuesday, I was again struck by how few African-American baseball fans I saw. This sport has completely lost black people to basketball and football. I blame Michael Jordan, myself.
  • No matter how many improvements they make, the automatic hand dryers in public bathrooms never really get your hands as dry as paper towels do.
  • Since I met my wife in 2003, I’d say 95 percent of my travel has been with her. When you fly and drive with one person fairly exclusively, you develop a sort of choreographed dance. She knows your routines, you know hers, and everyone compensates and manages fine. Traveling with my Dad the last few days has been … odd. Not good or bad, just odd. Like, I usually do the driving with my wife. But my father hates being a passenger, so he drove and I navigated. Which isn’t my strong suit. Eating schedules, sleep times, all that stuff is just a little bit different, and it throws you off a tad.Still had an incredible trip though, to two baseball shrines. Didn’t want to come home, and isn’t that the sign of a great vacation?

Glenn Beck’s possible blindness, a trip to Wrigley, and drunk college girls who brought back memories

**OK, I promise, no more “Field of Dreams” posts for a while. But man, it was awesome.

I’ve always believed that karma pays you back not just in the afterlife, but in your time on Earth too.

Glenn Beck has been one of the most despicable human beings in media for the past, oh, seven years or so. First on CNN Headline News, now on Fox News, he has repeatedly made racist, sexist, anti-gay remarks on his television show and in interviews.

Now, while I try not to wish ill on people (except quarterbacks in the NFL when they’re playing the Jets), I wasn’t exactly crying when I heard this today, while web-surfing in my Iowa hotel room this morning.

Mr. Beck has been told by doctors that he has an eye disease called macular dystrophy, and that he may go blind in the next year.

Something tells me that even if he loses his vision, he’ll still see racism in Barack Obama, injustices against white Southerners, and absolutely no reason Sarah Palin shouldn’t be President.

What a schmuck he is.

**Had my second-ever Wrigley Field experience Tuesday night, and my first under the lights.

It was fabulous; Cubs were down 7-1 in the fourth, and rallied to score the next THIRTEEN runs, and won 14-7. If you’ve never been, and you’re any kind of a sports fan, I implore you to visit the ballpark before you die.

It really is a shrine, with so many wonderful elements (the ivy on the walls, the sellout crowds, the old-time feel of the place) that even if the game is terrible, you won’t be sorry you came. I mean, my Dad and I went to a Tuesday night game in late July between two really bad teams this year (Cubs and Astros), and there were still 36,401 people in attendance (I counted).

Best T-shirt I saw in Wrigleyville: “Jesus said to the Cubs: Don’t do anything until I get back.”

**The real fun at the game, though, came from the drunk college girls sitting in front of us. Quick summary: Brunette and blonde try to buy beer in about 2nd inning from beer vendor. He appears to turn down their attempt because their ID’s weren’t believable. Girls get pissed off, and then leave seats, disappearing for about 40 minutes.

When they come back, man are they in a better mood! Laughing, swearing, high-fiving everyone in sight as the Cubbies come back. I’m guessing they had at least 2-3 beers each while they were gone.
Then, when the blonde loses her cigarettes, she asks for help finding them. Instead, I find her wallet under the seat, which she thought she lost. Man were she and the brunette relieved and excited. The brunette spent the next 20 minutes thanking us profusely, clutching our hands, grabbing my face, and telling us she could get us a free round of golf in Chicago because she works at a country club near here.

“Just give me your cell phone and I’ll put my number in,” she declared joyfully. “Then you can call me and we can set it up!”

I passed. But watching someone get drunk that quick, and have their entire outlook and mood change, sure reminded me of 1994 and the Tau Kappa Epsilon house at Delaware, all over again.