Friday, January 29, 2010

Are they going to save bugs next?

I'm sure you've read about how the wacky folks at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are insisting that Punxatawny Phil, the world's most famous groundhog, be retired and replaced with-----get this----a robot.

These attention-hungry geeks having nothing better to do than to trample on a small town tradition, accusing the city fathers of Punxatawny, PA. of abusing Phil. It's not enough now that PETA has to resort to juvenile stunts to call attention to themselves, but to mess with a tradition that extends at least a couple of centuries? I'd ask if the membership of this group has lost their collective minds, but then, they may have done that a long time ago.

One of my high school teachers would often admonish the class on a bad day by suggesting that "stupidity runs rampant". In the offices of PETA, it certainly does.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Weasel of the Week: Scott Boras

This one is a slam dunk. Boras is the most notorious sports agent in the business today, a failed minor leaguer who represents several major league clients, duping owners into overpaying time and again, just so he can line his pockets with the commissions he gets, and living vicariously through his clients' realizing the riches that he himself was denied because of a knee injury that curtailed his playing career several years ago.

Boras gets the nod because he was asking for too much money (as usual) for one of his clients, specifically outfielder Johnny Damon, who now may be finding a new place of employment, after the World Champion New York Yankees cut ties with Damon by signing free agent outfielder Randy Winn away from San Francisco for considerably less than what Boras wanted them to pay Damon across two years. To Boras, it's all good, because he'll find some other patsy (Detroit, anyone?) who'll fall for his con game. Since the Major League Baseball Players' Association won't do anything, seeing how Boras has made so many of the union membership rich beyond their wildest dreams, the owners may need to seek some sort of action to decertify Boras once and for all. The Yankees are one of the teams he's fleeced over the years (see: Brown, Kevin), and the Steinbrenner brothers, along with GM Brian Cashman, weren't letting Boras play them for fools again.

Boras ignores the fact that Damon is on the downside of his career at 35. All he sees is the 2 World Series rings (1 each with Boston and the Yanks), and a string of postseason appearances over the last several seasons. You can bet the farm that this won't be the last time Boras is named a "Weasel of the Week", because the man just doesn't get it, and probably never will.

J. D. Salinger (1919-2010)

His novel, "Catcher in the Rye", has inspired generations of teenagers, and was mentioned in Billy Joel's 1989 hit, "We Didn't Start the Fire". However, J. D. Salinger preferred to avoid the limelight, and was quoted as saying that he wrote for his own enjoyment, not for the masses, even though "Catcher" was a huge best-seller.

Salinger passed away earlier this week at the age of 91. If you were asked if you knew anything about him, chances are the only thing that would come to mind would be the tale of teen rebel Holden Caulfield that has been a must read for millions of youths over the years. Because Salinger opted for the life of a recluse, we'll never know for sure if there was more to his body of work than just one seminal, iconic novel.

The NCAA may be right after all......

The NCAA has had an advertising campaign running this season illustrating that many of the student athletes go on to professional careers in other fields, including the military. One of their most high profile athletes, however, may be already preparing for a career in the ministry.

Tim Tebow, who led Florida to 2 BCS titles and won the Heisman Trophy in 2007, filmed an ad for the Christian group Focus on the Family that will air during the Super Bowl on 2/7. Supposedly, the ad has taken on an anti-abortion angle, which has activist groups like the National Organization for Women (NOW) up in arms. Usually, Focus on the Family is one of the groups filing protests over more controversial content (i.e. coarse language) on television, but now the shoe seems to be on the other foot.

Tebow, who spent at least one offseason in the mission field already, hasn't exactly impressed pro scouts in preparation for the NFL Draft in April, but I'd not be surprised to see him and his mother, Pam (who also appears in the ad), turning up on The 700 Club, among other places, in due course. If he ends up crashing in the NFL, chances are pretty good we'll see him as a motivational speaker or evangelist by the end of the decade. I haven't seen the ad yet, and probably won't until the Super Bowl, but I'd have to believe the controversy will be lost after the game.

Zelda Rubenstein (1933-2010)

It would be easy to say Zelda Rubenstein was a late bloomer in Hollywood. After all, she was in her late 40's when she made her on-screen debut in "Under the Rainbow", and prior to that had worked in cartoons. However, Zelda landed her big break in "Poltergeist", and would co-star in the succeeding sequels. Zelda Rubenstein passed away earlier this week at 76, the latest in a fresh string of celebrity deaths that also included Pernell Roberts (covered last time), Jean Simmons, and character actor Johnny Seven.

Other bloggers have noted that Ms. Rubenstein avoided the alleged "Poltergeist" curse, which had previously claimed at least 4 members of the cast of the first two films, including Heather O'Rourke, who starred in the first film. Truth be told, there are no such things as curses. I stopped believing in such things long ago.

Rest in peace, Zelda. You will be missed.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The last of the Cartwrights rides into the sunset

A tip of the cap to Ivan Shreve at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear for tipping me off to the passing of actor Pernell Roberts at 81. Roberts was the last original cast member of Bonanza, leaving the series in 1964. After making the rounds as a guest star, Roberts was cast in the title role of Trapper John, MD, reintroducing the character who'd originally appeared on M*A*S*H to a new audience.

In fact, I think the only Bonanza alumnus still with us would be David Canary (who was cast as Candy when he replaced Roberts), currently on All My Children. Anyway, I'd not be surprised if TV Land decides to do a larger-than-normal Bonanza block to honor Roberts. He'd certainly deserve it.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

And now there are two.....

Super Bowl XLIV is now set for February 7 in Miami, and the next two weeks will be spent micro-analyzing every minute detail right down to the punctuation.

The New Orleans Saints advance to the "Big Game" for the 1st time, defeating Minnesota in overtime, denying Viking QB Brett Favre another chance for a championship. There will be those that will say that Favre choked when it counted the most again, just as he did 2 years ago vs. the Giants when playing for Green Bay. New Orleans citizens will see this Super Bowl as a sort of epiphany, more than 4 years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city. For them, Mardi Gras will start very early if the Saints can take home the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

The Indianapolis Colts last played in the Super Bowl just three years ago, beating Chicago. The Colts had to rally from a 17-6 halftime deficit to eliminate the upstart NY Jets, 30-17. I suppose, then, that the Giants would have to follow the pattern and return to the big dance next year, seeing as how Pittsburgh won two of the last 4 Super Bowls, and a Colt win would duplicate that feat.

In the days leading up to the conference championships, I and so many others had assumed that the Vikings were, well, pre-destined to advance to their first Super Bowl in seemingly forever (0-4 in the big game). Madison Avenue advertisers would've profited the most, considering the commercial endorsements of Manning & Favre combined (i.e. Sony, Wrangler, Sears). Instead, another, more personal storyline begins to take shape as the hype for the Super Bowl goes into overdrive.

Archie Manning has seen his two sons, Peyton & Eli, win championships, something he never was able to do when playing for New Orleans. Now, he may play a prominent role in a pre-game storyline. Are his loyalties divided this time, between the Saints, for whom he played his entire NFL career, and Peyton's Colts? You know someone will bring this up at least a dozen or so times.

As icing on the cake, the Manning brothers made Donald Trump look like a total tool. Donald Trump, Sr. & Jr. were the latest team to challenge the Mannings in a convoluted match involving Oreo cookies & milk. Trump the elder wasted too much time cutting a promo, to use wrestling parlance, on Peyton, such that he didn't realize the contest had started, and the Mannings had finished off their milk & cookies before the Trumps could even lift their milk glasses. Somewhere, Vince McMahon is having a few laughs, seeing Trump get totally owned out of his element, something that McMahon couldn't do to Trump three years ago at Wrestlemania. However, if I'm Vince, I'm learning something from Trump's folly.

Of course, one of the great mysteries of life is how Peyton, the most charismatically challenged superstar athlete since Larry Bird, could make Justin Timberlake look like an Olympic gold medalist at ping pong in one ad, yet turn around and turn Trump into chump change.

Back to the Super Bowl. The two best teams in the league are playing for the title. That's the way it's meant to be. For New Orleans, it's a chance to prove that, once and for all, they are an elite team in the NFC. For Indianapolis, a 2nd title in 4 years likely punches Peyton Manning's ticket to Canton and the Hall of Fame. Either way, it's going to be a great game. We hope.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Air America (2004-2010)

Air America, the radio network that was created as an answer to media demagogues such as Rush Limbaugh, discontinued original programming on Thursday, and will close down completely on January 25 after nearly 6 full years on the air.

In a press release issued Thursday, Air America owners Stephen & Mark Green stated the channel would be liquidated under Chapter 7 of the bankruptcy laws. The Greens had purchased Air America, saving it from bankruptcy in 2007. Air America's on air staff has included, at various times, personalities as diverse as Rachel Maddow (now with MSNBC), rapper Chuck D (Public Enemy), Montel Williams, Jerry Springer, and Ron Reagan, Jr., son of the late President. Before leaving the network in 2007 for his Senate bid, actor-comedian Al Franken was, for all intents & purposes, the face of Air America.

With Air America fading away, political talk radio now reverts to being dominated by gasbags such as Limbaugh, whose own views have gotten him in trouble in recent months. It'll be a long time, I believe, before there is another network in the mold of Air America that can change all that.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Weasel of the Week: Jeff Zucker

Well, pilgrims, it is official. NBC's head programming idiot, Jeff Zucker, is the first "Weasel of the Week". I outlined the reasons why when I nominated him in the first place, so I won't repeat them here. Instead, I will point out one other blunder committed by Zucker. He made the decision to cancel a critically acclaimed police drama, Southland, before its 2nd season could be put on the air. He claimed it was "too dark" to air at 9 PM (ET) as a lead-in for his pet project, the ill-fated & ill-advised Jay Leno Show. Instead of keeping Southland in reserve in case Leno tanked in prime time, Zucker let TNT pick up the series. Long story short, TNT & the viewers win, Zucker loses (again).

Making a bad situation worse, Zucker is ending the Jay Leno Show next month, allowing Leno to take a brief vacation before returning to The Tonight Show after the Winter Olympics. The latest word is that NBC is working out a settlement with Conan O'Brien, who was royally hosed by Zucker.

Zucker's prize is a lifetime gift certificate to the Candyass Cafe, located at the corner of Know Your Role Blvd. & Jabroni Drive, right next door to the Smackdown Hotel. I hear they're looking for a new manager, since the old one went to Hollywood 8 years ago..........!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Nominations for "Weasel of the Week" continue!

From the wacky world of college sports comes our next contestant.

On Monday, Pete Carroll resigned as head football coach at the University of Southern California (USC) in order to return to the NFL, this time to coach the Seattle Seahawks. Carroll had previously coached the New England Patriots & New York Jets during the 90's, and it's his first pro job since his lone season with the Jets in 1994. A former Carroll assistant, Lane Kiffin, left Tennessee after 1 season to return to USC as its new head coach.

USC is up to its collective waistline in scandals engulfing both the basketball & football programs, for the usual reasons, such as overzealous boosters offering gifts to superstar recruits, such as football hero Reggie Bush (now with the NFL's New Orleans Saints) and hoopster O. J. Mayo (currently with the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies).

Kiffin, less than a year after being booted as head coach of the Oakland Raiders, signed on to succeed Tennessee legend Phil Fulmer as football coach. About the only thing Kiffin learned from Raiders owner Al Davis was how to stir up controversy and leave enough wiggle room to escape at a moment's notice. Kiffin was cited for a few minor violations less than a month after arriving at Tennessee. The Volunteers went 7-6 this past season, not exactly world-beaters in the talent-rich SouthEastern Conference (SEC). In taking the USC gig, Kiffin demonstrated what kind of a weasel he really is by not only taking two assistants, including his father, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, with him to USC, but trying to convince new recruits not to enroll at Tennessee and join him in California.

USC is almost certain to end up being placed on probation somewhere down the road if the NCAA's investigation comes up with any hard evidence to prove anything went wrong as it relates to Bush, or more recently, Joe McKnight, who's about to turn pro. The school has already decided it's vacating its basketball record for the one season Mayo played there (he was drafted by Memphis in '08) after conducting its own internal investigation. Athletic Director Mike Garrett took pity on Kiffin, claiming that Kiffin had been "beaten up" at his last two jobs. As Jay Mariotti pointed out earlier today on ESPN's Around The Horn, Kiffin's track record at Oakland & Tennessee wouldn't merit him the USC job, if it wasn't for the fact that he was previously an assistant there and was considered a prodigy when Davis hired him after the 2006 season.

Not that Pete Carroll gets off scot free. He flees USC for Seattle, knowing that the allegations of gifts being given to Bush & McKnight happened on his watch. Since Garrett had his head in the sand, paying no heed to the antics of Kiffin in Knoxville, then Garrett, Kiffin, & Carroll are all being nominated for "Weasel of the Week".

Sam Wilson has chosen evangelist Pat Robertson as his "Idiot of the Week" over at Think 3 for insinuating that the Haitian earthquake was the result of a pact made with the Devil more than 200 years ago to end slavery under French rule. Of course, on The 700 Club, Robertson has spun it to say he wasn't condemning the Haitian people, and that like all Christians, he's praying for the survivors. Robertson has said some strange things in recent years, which leads one to wonder if he's really on the same page with God.

We'll decide the true "Weasel of the Week" this weekend.

Nomination for "Weasel of the Week": Jeff Zucker

Sam Wilson has had the "Idiot of the Week" over at his Think 3 blog, so I figured it was time to do something like that here, hence the "Weasel of the Week".

The first nomination goes to NBC's Jeff Zucker, who has made a mess of things of late. A product of the panic button mentality of network suits, Zucker listened to complaints from a number of NBC affiliates dissatisfied with The Jay Leno Show's declining ratings taking viewers away from their late news. Zucker's knee-jerk reaction was to chop Leno in half and move it into late night, back to the 11:35 (ET) space that Jay occupied on The Tonight Show for 17 years. The dominoes would fall from there, with Tonight moving to 12:05, and so on.

One problem. Current Tonight host Conan O'Brien is not a happy camper, as one might've expected, and is unwilling to accept what he feels would be a demotion. O'Brien correctly pointed out that by moving Tonight to an after midnight (ET) slot, it damages a franchise that has been one of NBC's crown jewels for more than 50 years. O'Brien denied a Monday article that claimed Fox was interested in signing him away from NBC, and said he wasn't sure what his next move would be.

The problem is that Zucker and his bosses at NBC-Universal didn't want to part with Leno in the first place, fearing he might sign with Fox or ABC, for example. I have said it before, and I will say it again. The best solution in this case, something a short-minded executive like Zucker can't/probably won't think of, is to use Leno as a modern day Bob Hope, and have him do a series of specials in prime time. Once every 3-4 months sounds like a good idea. That way, you keep the late night lineup intact without ruffling feathers.

Though I've never met the man, the best way I can describe Zucker is to invoke the spirit of the late Capt. Lou Albano, and guess that Zucker has "the brain of a dehydrated pea-bean. Put it in a parakeet----ZING! It flies backwards!" On the whole, that might describe most network executives nowadays......!

Teddy Pendergrass (1950-2010)

I received an e-mail this morning from a pen pal in Long Island who mentioned that 70's R & B icon Teddy Pendergrass had passed away after a bout with colon cancer at 59.

What I didn't know, in reading some articles in the interim, was that Pendergrass had been a drummer-vocalist for Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, and before that, manned the drums for the Cadillacs. What I do know, though, is that Pendergrass' solo career nearly crashed, literally, when he was paralyzed from the waist down after a 1982 accident. He would appear at Live Aid in 1985, but scaled back his concert tours until retiring in 2000, returning only for a 25th anniversary concert in his honor in '07.

Rest in peace, Teddy. You will be missed.

Monday, January 11, 2010

"Big Mac" serves up some humble pie

The timing, to some, is a little convienent, considering that less than a week ago it was announced that Andre Dawson was the only one voted into the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America, but Mark McGwire, recently hired as a batting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals, finally admitted to using steroids during the great home run chase in 1998.

The real question is, what took him so long? He refused to answer questions before Congress pertaining to steroids and other performance enhancing drugs (PED's) a few years ago, which turned him from hero to pariah pratically within seconds, or in about the amount of time it takes for a baseball to leave his bat and land in the bleachers some 400+ feet away. By refusing to cooperate with Congress, McGwire virtually sabotaged his own chances of being enshrined in Cooperstown. There is a large number of sports writers who've already gone on record as saying they'd never vote McGwire or anyone else tainted by steroids (i.e. Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmiero, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds) into the Hall, despite the fact that you already have someone like Gaylord Perry, who committed a more common kind of cheating (using a "spitball") during his playing days, and you have men like Babe Ruth & Ty Cobb, who weren't exactly choir boys themselves.

Before today, there was talk that McGwire, who finished his playing career with the Cardinals around 2003, might be placed on the active roster, making him a player-coach, available as a late inning pinch hitter. Such a move, it was said, would be made late in the season, assuming the Cards were contending for another NL Central title. The Cardinals might feel they could use "Big Mac" as an added gate attraction, even though the man who succeeded him at first base, Albert Pujols, is currently the Cardinals' #1 star. If the Cardinals were to activate McGwire, say around August 1, then he doesn't become eligible for the Hall again for at least 5 years, depending on when he moves back into retirement. It's all about image rehabilitation in this case.

I seem to recall reading a newspaper account that said that McGwire had a bottle of andro in his locker during the '98 season. At the time, it wasn't a banned substance, but it would later be added to the list of prohibited items. In 2010, if McGwire and the Cardinals are serious about having "Big Mac" come out of retirement as a late-season offensive weapon, and he really is willing to repent for his steroid use,  I'm sure Pujols could loan him the one thing that would be of greater use. A Bible.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Art Clokey (1921-2010)

I was saddened to read of the passing of Art Clokey in this morning's paper. Clokey is the genius who created the first claymation star, Gumby, in a long running series of shorts in the 60's. Clokey's success with Gumby led to the Lutheran Church commissioning Clokey to create Davey & Goliath, which also achieved iconic status thanks to the characters appearing in a commercial for Mountain Dew a few years back. Davey & Goliath's shorts continue to appear presently on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) after being a Sunday morning staple in syndication for several years.

Gumby, meanwhile, enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in the 80's, thanks to Eddie Murphy's vulgar characterization of the icon in a series of sketches on Saturday Night Live. Clokey actually enjoyed these skits, and it ultimately led him to create a new set of Gumby episodes later in the decade for syndication. Unfortunately, Gumby isn't presently airing, and that's a shame.

Rest in peace, Art. You will be missed.

Friday, January 8, 2010

People who just don't get it

This isn't about the rampant egos that have moved into TNA Wrestling. Rather, it's about others who've left their common sense behind.

Take for example the case of one Richard Heene, the reality-TV wannabe behind the "Balloon boy" hoax a few weeks back. Heene insists that his stunt wasn't a hoax, and said he entered a guilty plea to protect his wife, who otherwise might've ended up being deported to Japan. While I am not sure if that could possibly have happened under these circumstances, I do question Heene's sanity. He's already been convicted of fraud and will do a minimal amount of time in prison. However, he remains in denial about the truth behind his little stunt.

Then, there's Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who's whining about the NFL Playoffs cutting into his revenues. You see, the Dallas Cowboys, despite the fact that they now play their home games in Arlington, are still the #1 gate attraction in the area. Cuban's gripe is that the NFL and NBC decided to schedule Saturday's Cowboys-Eagles rematch for 8:00 (ET), directly opposite a Mavericks game taking place at American Airlines Arena. Cuban's afraid he'll draw more flies than actual paying customers. In contrast, you don't see anyone in the Boston area complaining about the Celtics competing with the Patriots for fan attention on Sunday, when New England hosts Baltimore in a 1st round game. They're used to that. The Cowboys, meanwhile, have shaken off the late-season-loser label stuck to them the last few years, and are primed to snap a lengthy playoff losing streak.

Cuban really doesn't need to worry about losing one night's gate receipts, but it wasn't so long ago that the NBA's Denver Nuggets were involved in a bit of an imbroglio with the WWE due to their involvement in the NBA playoffs. Post-season play takes priority, and Cuban should know that by now.

Next, there's controversial talker Glenn Beck, back in the headlines today for claiming that the phrase "African-American" is, in his mind, "bogus". Apparently, Beck loves to stir the pot, but his recipe for publicity has gotten worse as time wears on. The people are tired of his act.

Finally, we must call into question the thinking process of the programming suits at NBC, who are now considering moving The Jay Leno Show into late night due to a steady decline in ratings at the 10:00 (ET) hour. It was a risk putting Leno in prime time as it was, but it's clear that the average viewer isn't ready for a talk show airing in prime time on a broadcast network. You can get away with it on cable or syndication, but NBC, afraid that they would lose Leno to a competitor (i.e. Fox), wanted to ensure he'd remain on their roster. The news coming out of LA on Thursday now puts Conan O'Brien, who inherited The Tonight Show from Leno last spring, on the hot seat. NBC's made some questionable decisions before, but the final judgment on this matter won't be made until after the Winter Olympics next month. By then, there will probably be a compromise made to appease all parties. Here's an idea. Leave Conan where he is, and put Leno in the old Bob Hope gig of doing periodic specials. It's so easy on paper, but too complicated for the simpletons in power at NBC-Universal. What else is new?

David Gerber (1923-2010)

Prolific television producer David Gerber passed away January 2 as a result of heart failure at the age of 86.

Gerber produced the sitcom Nanny & the Professor for 20th Century Fox and the seminal dramas Police Story and its spin-off, Police Woman, for Columbia Pictures Television (now Sony Pictures Television), all of them during his peak years in the 70's. After moving to MGM in the 80's, Gerber was credited for developing the popular drama thirtysomething and adapting the feature film "In the Heat of the Night" into a successful TV series starring Carroll O'Connor & Howard Rollins, Jr.. Gerber's last project was the 2006 TV-movie, Flight 93.

Rest in peace, David.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Like bringing a slingshot to a gunfight........

"One step up and two steps back"---Bruce Springsteen.

Actually, Total Non-stop Action (TNA) Wrestling took several steps backward Monday night in their most ambitious attempt yet to become relevant enough to be a serious challenge to the WWE.

TNA Impact opened its 2010 schedule with a heavily hyped 3-hour, live, special edition from their home base in Orlando, but while they had the best match of the night between the two promotions, it wasn't enough to save the show from being a disaster, and the blame falls at the feet of TNA President Dixie Carter and her latest "saviors", Hulk Hogan & Eric Bischoff.

Where did TNA go wrong? Let me count the ways:

1. Too many commercials in the first hour, too much talk, and not enough action.

I get that TNA wanted to minimalize the advertising in the final 2/3 of the program to emphasize the action, but it would've been nice to have more than 2 matches during that opening hour. Instead, they spent the majority of that time repeatedly teasing the "pending arrival" of Hogan, who promptly blew that up at the start of the 2nd hour when he opened his speech by saying that he had been backstage all day. Even at its worst during its final days, WCW wasn't that inept in preparing their product. There were exactly 2 matches in the first hour, including a women's title match that ended with a new champ being crowned and the pinfall not shown because the new champ, in grabbing her opponent's tights for leverage, ended up giving the crowd a moon shot not appropriate for television audiences. TNA cameras ineptly turned away, not willing to risk the FCC giving Spike TV a fine for indecency.

The opening match, a "Steel Asylum" match contested inside a dome that looked more like it was made of plastic than metal, ended in a "No Contest", because one of the combatants, Homicide, pulled out a retractable baton and went postal on the other wrestlers. Now, normally, in a cage match, anything goes. Not in this case. The fans understandably were upset and a profane chant went up. Thank goodness for the seven second delay in live broadcasts, otherwise the FCC would have something to pin on the network.

2. TNA hires some "old friends".

The one problem TNA has had from the get-go has been to bring in "familiar names" because they cannot completely trust their audience to get behind "homegrown" stars like AJ Styles, the current TNA champion, X Division champ Amazing Red, or "Black Machismo" Jay Lethal, for a few examples. Hogan will happily plead guilty to charges of cronyism, with the Nasty Boys (Brian Knobbs & Jerry "Sags" Sagonovich), Scott Hall, & Sean Waltman turning up, along with Tampa radio personality "Bubba the Love Sponge" (more on him later), plus ex-WWE stars Orlando Jordan, Sean Morley (formerly known as Val Venis), Shannon Moore, Ric Flair, & Jeff Hardy, the latter of whom was indicted earlier today on drug charges in his home state of North Carolina. With Hardy, Hall, & Waltman, all of whom have previously worked for TNA, the company is taking on a huge, huge risk. What if Hardy is convicted and sent off to prison, effectively ending his career (as we know it)? TNA will have wasted an investment that could've waited until Hardy's legal troubles were resolved. Hall and Waltman have had their own issues over the years, and Hall is on his 3rd tour of duty with TNA. The over-under on him is 3-5 months, tops. He lasted three months during his last go-round with WWE in 2002. Waltman, last seen in the short-lived Wrestling Society X for MTV in 2007, had been wrestling in Mexico since then. And that leads to my next point.....

3. You can't call them the NWO anymore, but.....

Hall, Hogan, & Waltman, along with Bischoff & Kevin Nash, were the founding members of the New World Order (NWO), a rule-breaking faction in WCW that carried that company to the top in 1996. Unfortunately, Bischoff ran the golden goose into the ground, too busy counting the merchandise dollars to realize that, as Shakespeare said, "all good things must come to an end", and when the NWO was first dissolved, it was at least a year or two later than it should have. The last 1/3 or so of Impact saw Hall, Nash, & Waltman attack Rhino, the Motor City Machineguns, and Beer Money, Inc. for no other reason than to establish one salient thing. Just as in '96, these overpaid---and now over the hill---stars were taking over. Mick Foley was the last victim at the end of the show, and it was clear that Bischoff wasn't just content with being in the background. He wanted to be front & center, to stick it to Vince McMahon one more time.

One thing to understand about McMahon's attempt at reviving the NWO label in 2002. He brought Hogan, Nash, & Hall in. Waltman was already on his roster. Less than six weeks in, Hogan swapped his black & white togs for the classic red & yellow. Two months later, Hall & Waltman were gone. Another month passed, and Nash ended up on the disabled list with a torn quadricep muscle. Bischoff began a 3 1/2 year run as "General Manager" of Monday Night Raw in July 2002 with the NWO already a distant memory again. By keeping Bischoff away from the other founders, McMahon made sure to keep the NWO under his control. By hiring Bischoff and not giving him any creative freedom, McMahon made sure his old rival listened to him. Dixie Carter is too much of a mark to recognize the mistakes that Bischoff made in the past, and by letting him & Hogan join TNA as "business partners", it was tantamount to inviting a weasel into a hen house, with the predictable results.

4. Poor behind the scenes communication. A story making the rounds today claims that a set of TNA-sanctioned complimentary passes given to "Bubba the Love Sponge" were determined by Universal Studios theme park officials to be counterfeit, leaving several fans unable to attend the live show. TNA essentially threw Bubba, a Hogan confidant who was the play-by-play announcer for Celebrity Championship Wrestling in 2008, under the bus during a post-show after-party. Bubba even went as far to state he wouldn't be at tonight's taping for the 1/14 show, and considers himself 1-&-done with TNA. Not the first one, to be sure, but this speaks volumes of the lack of communication between TNA & their landlords at the theme park.

It's clear to me that TNA would rather continue to ignore the talent that should be developing into major players in the business in favor of catering to the overfed egos whose best days are long behind them (referring, of course, to Team Hogan) in pursuit of ratings points more than professional respect. As it is, the 3 hour show netted a 1.5 rating in the Nielsen fast national ratings.

Monday Night Raw, after spotting TNA a 1 hour head-start, managed to double TNA's rating in just 2 hours and change with former champ Bret Hart as host. From top to bottom, Raw was the superior show, as everyone expected it to be. Hart mended his fences---in wrestling terms, anyway---with old foe Shawn Michaels, and with Vince McMahon, but the latter started the wheels turning for a new feud by booting Hart in the gut to end the show. Speculation is that the 52 year old Hart, whose in-ring career ended nearly 10 years ago, would fight the 64 year old McMahon at Wrestlemania 26 in late March, in what figures to be a career coda for both men.

In hindsight, WWE felt they didn't really need to do anything special to combat TNA, knowing that their would-be challengers would trip over themselves again, and they did. Hogan, like McMahon, prefers to relive the past in order to keep himself in the limelight, but as Hart & Michaels ably demonstrated last night, it's better to put the past away and move forward. In effect, the two old enemies set an example. The question now is, will it be followed? Stay tuned.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

And so the wheel will spin again

As expected, Fox & Time Warner Cable reached an agreement late on New Year's Eve to avoid Fox cable networks from being pulled from TWC systems across the country. However, in New York, the Food Network, cable home to Rachael Ray, among others, was removed from Cablevision's roster in a similar dispute. Cablevision owner James Dolan, who also owns Madison Square Garden, the NY Rangers, & NY Knicks, is more of a hardcase when it comes to negotiations of this nature. In time, a deal will be reached to put Food Network back on Cablevision, but this is the sort of thing we will have to expect at the end of the year every year. As I noted before, I'd not be surprised if TWC has the same thing happen at the end of 2010, but this time with NBC-Universal, Disney (which has previously had problems with TWC), or even Cablevision, which also owns AMC (formerly American Movie Classics).

Maybe the Government should put this on its priority list ahead of President Obama's dream of a college football playoff......