Sunday, September 23, 2007

Not Convinced

Michigan St. 31, Notre Dame 14

It's nice and all, but ... come on. Get back to me eight weeks.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

756*

*Fuck all y'all.

On May 9, Dave Roberts hit a home run in the New York Giants' 5-3 loss to the New York Mets, but according to the AP he "noted afterward that he was heavily medicated"

Two days ago, Scott Rolen hit a 3-run homer against the San Diego Padres causing ESPN's play-by-play announcer to remark something to the effect, "He sure has come around since getting that cortisone shot."

Sandy Koufax needed cortisone shots before just about every start in order to lift his arm. Years ago, Greg Maddux had laser eye surgery to correct his vision and eliminate the need to wear contact lenses. Tommy John's career was saved by an experimental surgical procedure that now bears his name. During the 2004 ALCS Curt Schilling had surgery on his ankle, not to repair to its normal condition, but simply to allow him to stand on it long enough to pitch one game. Wade Boggs ate fried chicken before every game.

All of these players—and many, many others—have used similar medical procedures and pharmaceutical solutions to alter their bodies in a way not necessarily intended by nature. Barry Bonds probably used some sort of drug or chemicals that allowed him gain and lift weights with greater efficiency. My question is: how is that different than anything any other athlete has done to "improve" their body and by extension, their performance?

Steroids don't make you stronger. Lifting weights does. They also don't make you lay off a 3-2 curve on the outside corner. You still have to do the work. Yes, he changed his body chemically. So do dozens of other players every single day, from something as simple as cold medicine to as things harsh as cocaine. So why are steroids so bad? Because they are illegal? Why are they illegal? Because some government bureaucrat said so? Because they're dangerous? So is smoking. Bonds probably put some questionable substances in his body, but how far removed are they from the supplements you can buy off the shelf in any GNC? Why should Creatine be a crime and Sudafed isn't?

Is he a cheater? How? It's not clear that he ever broke a standing rule of baseball and even if he did, how you do break a rule that was not monitored and never enforced?

You know who did break rules that were enforced? Sammy Sosa, Norm Cash, Gaylord Perry, maybe 1,000 other players throughout the history of the game. None of their of accomplishments have ever been erased or declared invalid.

(You know else cheated? The two newspaper writers who ignored one of the most important principles of jurisprudence to bring us this all-important information about Barry Bonds. But all they did was cheat the legal system, not something important like a game.)

Baseball is more obsessed with standards than any other sport, yet the game itself is less standardized than almost any game ever played. The field changes every time you change opponents. The equipment changes with every batter. The strike zone changes with each umpire. The pitcher's mound has changed height. The balls vary, the bats vary, the gloves vary. The season is longer, the leagues are bigger. You don't even have to play the whole game for it to count! No, Bonds' home runs are not the same as Aaron's, which were not the same as Ruth's. But they still happened. Statistics are simply a record of what happened on the field and, like it or not, those 756 pitches were hit over the fence. Nothing will ever change that.

Which brings me to the only part of this whole ordeal that actually upsets me. Bud Selig—the commissioner of baseball for a healthy chunk of Bonds career—has behaved rather despicably. His lack of enthusiasm—no, his outright contempt—for this moment has sent a message to the sports world: Bonds' accomplishment is not special. The last 20 years of this game are not as special as the 100 that preceded them. My entire reign as commissioner is illegitimate.

Because that's what we're saying here, correct? Bonds has never been suspended, never been punished, never been accused in black and white terms of breaking the rules of baseball. But if you believe that his record is illegitimate, then you must as a matter of course, believe that baseball itself is illegitimate. If his stats don't count in your mind, then no one's should. If you want to call 1990-2005, the "Steroid Era" as if it were the "Dead Ball Era" or the "Pre-Jackie Robinson Era" or the "Expansion Era," that's fine (misguided and stupid, but fine), but for the commissioner himself to take the stance that he has, is an affront to the game ... his game. The one he was in charge of. The last 20 years didn't count, because some guys were doing something different than others? Bullshit. But if Bud wants people to believe that, then he and Curt Schilling and Dale Murphy and every other player who could have spoken up and didn't are the ones who have truly cheapened the sport.

The truth is that many fans, for whatever irrelevant reason never liked Barry Bonds, never wanted to admit he was the best player in baseball, and now they've been handed an excuse for their hatred. He's the greatest hitter of my lifetime and if I live another 50 years, I may never see his equal. You don't have to like him, but if you can't appreciate him and what he's done, that's your own damn fault. I'm glad I got to see him in action.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Transformers

Let's break down the experience of watching a trailer for a Michael Bay film. In this instance, we will use the upcoming Transformers movie as our example, but anything directed or produced by Michael Bay will give you the same results.


The trailer begins with a dramatic opening shot, usually from outer space. About 10-15 seconds into it, you realize what movie is being advertised and then you remember that it's directed by Michael Bay. You immediately decide that you will not see this film.


As the ad unfolds, however, you start to become intrigued. Some of the visuals are quite compelling. Sweeping panoramas, shadowy figures concealed by darkness. The editing of the trailer is, of course, fantastic; revealing just enough to pique your interest, but not enough to give away the farm. If you want to see it all, you will have to pay admission.


With no annoying voiceover, very little dialogue, and absolutely no plot exposition, you become a little stumped as to how the film will unfold. This is good cinema. Pull the audience in, keep them guessing, zig when they expect a zag. A key dramatic moment, is almost, but not totally exposed. As the final moments wind down, you actually think to yourself, "Wow, this looks like it could be pretty good."


Then the title card comes up, followed by four magic words that immediately invalidate everything that has just happened and painfully snap you back to the reality of the situation.


"A Michael Bay Film."


You have just been reminded that no matter how much you enjoyed the previous two minutes of your life, no matter how daring and creative it may have seemed, no matter badly you would like to watch a childhood fantasy play out in all its live action splendor, there is no conceivable way within this dimension of space-time we are currently inhabiting that this film will be anything other than a clichéd, overwrought, and offensively pro-American pile of steaming, rancid, fly-bespeckled horseshit.



It will look fantastic. You may even find yourself slightly entertained at some points. But it will not be good. It is simply not possible.


Michael Bay has directed six feature length movies. All (but one) have been wildly successful at the box office. All (including that one) have been horrible. Talented actors, powerful storylines, incredible production values, and a few clever ideas, but not one decent movie to show for it.


His trailers, on the other hand, are phenomenal. Best in the business. And why not? As Roger Ebert said, Armageddon was the world's "first 150-minute trailer." The problem is that sooner or later, you have to actually show the robot. That's when everything goes to hell.


One other thing: as a kid I loved Transformers toys. I still have my Optimus Prime and the box he came in. Also, when I was 10 years old I would watch literally anything as long as it was on television. I was not picky. But even I thought the Transformers cartoon sucked. So if you take a bad TV show, add Michael Bay and $300 million dollars of CGI effects—oh, and bastardize the original visual aesthetic of the toys themselves—then it's obvious you're just hurting me on purpose.


I would love for this movie to be good. Everything I've seen so far, leads me to believe that it will be. Except for those four little inescapable words ....


"A Michael Bay Film"


Rating: Two thumbs down. So close, yet so far. The story of his whole career.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Next

If all the money and manpower that Hollywood expends on movies and television shows about imaginary nuclear terrorism was redirected to fight actual nuclear terrorism, it's safe to say there wouldn't be a drop of loose uranium anywhere on the planet. I know I'd certainly sleep a lot better.


Rating: 1 star. But no ... by all means, keep scaring us shitless/boring us to tears with your inane, unimaginative Nicholas Cage vehicles. Atomic annihilation is fun!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Spider-Man 3

Reasons why Spider-Man 3 will not be good.



1) Too many villains. The Bane of all bad superhero movies (and a few of the good ones.) Have you seen the Batman franchise? If your villain can't support a movie by himself, find a new villian.



2) One of those villains is played by Topher Grace. Just because you screwed up by not picking him to play your lead seven years ago, don't compound your mistake by miscasting him in this one.



3) One of those villains is made out of sand. Batman has gone ten deep already and Clayface is still on the bench. What does that tell you?



4) It took me a long time to figure out why bloggers kept calling Kirsten Dunst "Snaggletooth." Then I realized that she has a snaggletooth. Now I can't look at her without thinking about it. Oh, and the "Go get 'em, Tiger" was just awful.



5) This picture right here.





See, the reflection symbolizes the character's inner conflict. I know this because I took the same film classes at Michigan State that Sam Raimi did.



6) The lead character is basically a fucking cartoon. What hath CGI wrought?



Rating: 6.4 It won't be awful ... but it won't be great either. Even though it could have been. Which is the real shame

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Not Again.

Earlier today, I spent an unhealthy amount of money to renew my season football tickets to Michigan State, even though I don't live in Michigan anymore, didn't go to a single game last year and probably won't this year. At some point in 2005, I declared that the program was dead to me—at least until John L. Smith was gone, and that even after that, they would have to earn me back. (To claify: I did not leave them for another team. I simply refused to give them any more of my sweat and tears.)



Well, Smith is gone and there's a new coach. But I don't know if I can go through this again.





Hope is a dangerous thing. Especially at $46 a seat.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Marv Marinovich: Still A Jerk

Ok, I'm not planning to turn this into a sports blog, but this story about Pat Venditte, an ambidextrous pitcher from Creighton University, reminded me of something I was thinking about a few weeks ago. Specifically, it reminded me about Drew Neitzel, the point guard for Michigan State who is also ambidextrous. (He actually shoots layups with one hand, and jump shots with the other.)


See the thing is, he's not naturally ambidextrous—he was made that way. Drew's father is a high school basketball coach who forced (his words) his son, at a very young age, to eat and brush his teeth with his left hand so that he would become equally strong with both. It worked. Drew is now the starting point guard for a Division I program, and has a better than average shot at playing in the NBA someday. But what if it hadn't?


I know the story above, because TV announcers loved to tell it and it was repeated during almost every single game that State played this year. It gets mentioned as part of the feel-good human interest backstory on a unique player, and often gets a few chuckles.


However, if Drew were not the starting point guard for a Division I program, and was instead, say .... an alcoholic truck driver or a serial killer, that exact same story would be used to illustrate what a heartless bastard Mr. Neitzel was. A cruel taskmaster who pushed his own son to unreasonable limits, all in the fruitless effort to vicariously achieve the athletic glory that he had been denied in his own youth.


Sports parents are menace on society, but as long as their relentless, overbearing attitude results in an All-American child, then no harm, no foul, I guess.