Sunday, February 28, 2010

Weasel of the Week: Whitney Houston

By all rights, we should be celebrating the comeback of a mid-80's music icon, but if the reports coming out of Australia are correct, then Whitney Houston has not totally returned from the abyss she plunged into in the mid-90's.

A week ago, in Brisbane, Ms. Houston took a break after just 2 songs, but still finished the concert. Outraged fans, seeing Whitney coughing while trying to sing, left early. It could've easily been explained away as Whitney trying to soldier on despite a head cold or, at worst, a case of the flu. I posted on a Yahoo! blog after more than 100 comments had been entered accusing her of not having totally kicked her drug habit, among other things. There were some that said they weren't buying tickets to any more concerts or buying any of her CD's. That's their perogative, but they're also being too presumptive in their judgments.

Making matters worse, Ms. Houston had her publicity flack issue a press release claiming that Whitney was in good health, despite the coughing. Huh? I've heard of being in denial, but this takes the grand prize. How can a top flight singer making a comeback be in good or near-perfect health, when there are thousands of witnesses that can confirm the contrary? It only adds to the bitterness the fans are already feeling, both here and abroad.

It has been 8 months and counting since Michael Jackson passed away, and the tabloids are still filling pages with stories about allegations involving his doctor and what drugs Jackson was taking while preparing for a concert tour that never was. One would think that Whitney Houston, this week's "Weasel", would've learned a valuable life lesson from the misfortunes of Jackson, but apparently, either she hasn't, isn't, or ain't ever going to. And that's a tragedy in and of itself.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

On the air: WWE NXT (2010)

After all the hype, it's just another WWE show.

NXT, which launched on Tuesday, has 8 wrestlers called up from Florida Championship Wrestling, WWE's developmental program, paired with veteran mentors in the hopes that 1 will win a contract and be assigned to Monday Night Raw. Instead of being the hybrid of UFC's Ultimate Fighter and the former WWE/MTV series, Tough Enough, NXT comes across as a boot camp for wrestlers, redefining the phrase, "on the job training".

The focus of the opener was "rookie" Daniel Bryan (Bryan Danielson), whose decade of experience in American independent promotions such as Ring of Honor and in Japan doesn't mean squat as far as WWE is concerned, this despite the fact that Bryan was trained initially by Shawn Michaels. For now, Bryan has to deal with "The Miz" (Mike Mizanin, ex-The Real World), who went through the Tough Enough competition in 2004 when it was part of Smackdown. Miz, speaking for WWE's insane chairman/CEO, Vince McMahon, thinks Bryan lacks charisma & personality, two things supposedly essential to succeeding as a WWE superstar.
Miz slapped Bryan at the end of an opening promo, and after Bryan lost a tough match to current WWE World champ Chris Jericho, Miz struck again, attacking his fallen charge. By the time it's over, Miz's attitude toward his "protege" will change, and by extension, maybe McMahon's will, too, if he could ever be convinced to expand his myopic worldview.

The only other "name" in the field is David Otunga, who is engaged to singer and Oscar winning actress Jennifer Hudson ("Dreamgirls"). Otunga looked a little sloppy in beating fellow trainee Darren Young, but then they weren't given that much time, anyway. Common sense would've had Otunga paired with Miz, since they have something in common (Otunga's previous television experience was in the VH1 reality show, I Love New York), but we must remember that WWE doesn't deal in common sense all that much. If they did, much of its history might have to be rewritten.

Play-by-play announcer Michael Cole (Monday Night Raw) also represented for the corporate attitude against Bryan, an abrupt turnaround from his normal neutral role on Raw. It will be interesting if this carries over to Raw in the coming weeks, but Cole, a former radio news announcer in my home area, needs to work on perfecting his new "persona" if it's meant to be a long term thing.

McMahon has gone on record as saying that NXT will be a year-round program, like the rest of WWE's shows, meaning that each "season" of 13 weeks will be succeeded by the next one without any respite for the viewers or the production staff, and if this is the case, that would get them a leg up on Ultimate Fighter. They say McMahon doesn't acknowledge UFC as competition, but this proves otherwise, in this writer's opinion. By focusing strictly on the action in the ring, NXT is allowed to stand on its own without any comparisons. However, it also prevents the viewer from making a connection with the other "rookies", as the short video introductions won't do them justice. NXT, then, is a work in progress that should only get better with time.

Grade: B.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Complacency leads to insanity

Apparently, Vince McMahon never took courses in philosophy while at East Carolina University in the 60's. Otherwise, he wouldn't have made the decision on February 11 to make some changes with his Pay Per View (PPV) events.

They say that if it isn't broken, you don't fix it. However, citing a decrease in consumer buys from 2008 to 2009, McMahon decided at a quarterly shareholders meeting that he was discontinuing the Survivor Series after 23 years (1987-2009), but he as of press time hadn't decided what the new title for the November PPV would be. Survivor Series has its place in WWE history, both good and bad, and the decision to end it may have more to do with erasing the black mark attached to it, dating back to 1997 and the infamous "Montreal Screwjob". Coincincidentally, McMahon is currently feuding with the victim of that screwjob, Bret "Hitman" Hart, on Monday Night Raw, with the goal of closing that chapter in company history once and for all.

But that's not all. Consider the following:

Extreme Rules (formerly One Night Stand) moves from early June to late April, replacing Backlash as a post-Wrestlemania PPV. Money in the Bank, built around a showcase specialty match at Wrestlemania from 2004-09, now is a PPV itself, replacing Night of Champions in July. The late June PPV, which was The Bash last year, will be renamed Fatal 4-way (tenatively), meaning all the title matches would conceivably have 4 contestants each. They're also renaming the September PPV for the 2nd straight year, going from Unforgiven to Breaking Point to something else that escapes me at the moment.

In each case, the PPV's affected had all lost money. McMahon, remember, has to answer to shareholders despite his selfish inability to make more necessary changes in the company, refusing to step outside the myopic bubble-world he's created for himself. On screen, he occasionally has the gall to suggest he possesses a God complex, but the truth is, the raving maniac he plays on TV may be closer to what he's become away from the cameras. The only realistic solution that is there would be for McMahon to swallow his pride, embrace reality, and walk away with what little dignity he has left intact. Unfortunately, getting him to do that just got a little bit harder.

Total Non-stop Action (TNA), taking the initiative of its latest so-called saviors, Hulk Hogan & Eric Bischoff, are moving Impact to Mondays, starting March 8. While the very idea of competition would be good for both TNA & WWE, TNA's product comes across, as it has throughout its 7 1/2 years of existence, as stale, moldy bread because of the familiar talent signed off the WWE waiver wires (most recently Orlando Jordan, Ken Anderson, and Brian Kendrick) or associated with, specifically, Hogan (Nasty Boys & Jimmy Hart). The "homegrown" talent that TNA has cultivated over the years keeps getting pushed to the side because of the misguided belief that the old faces still draw ratings. Not all of them do. If Hogan's looking to piggyback his "Hulkamania" tours of Australia (he may do that again later this year, for all we know, depending on how well they drew in November) onto TNA, it would surprise absolutely no one. Hart is also involved in a start-up promotion, Wrestlicious, which is meant to be this generation's GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling), due to launch next month, so there will be some cross-promotional ties there, too.

Hogan & Bischoff, seeing how TNA has failed to completely replicate WCW (World Championship Wrestling)'s final years (1999-2001), think going a little further back (1996-98) may do the trick, hence the aggressive fast-tracking in shifting Impact from Thursday to Monday. They want to stick it to Vince McMahon, but they keep tripping over their own shadows. Head scribbler Vince Russo has them thinking the ratings are more important than company revenue, and he couldn't be more wrong. TNA has to start turning a profit on their PPV's before they can actually think they can be on the same plane with WWE. It simply isn't going to happen, because they keep insulting and underestimating the intelligence of their audience. McMahon does it, too, but he at least is willing to give younger wrestlers a chance to shine. TNA won't, but should.

Right about now, if someone decided that a pro wrestling league built around Greco Roman or freestyle amateur wrestling might work, they'd actually succeed. And wouldn't that give McMahon sleepless nights? You bet. TNA is being written off by McMahon as a poser promotion, which might not be the smartest thing, but in the long run, it may prove to be true. However, Vince being around to see TNA's demise is open to debate.

On DVD: Gang Busters (1952)

Most of you may be more familiar with Gang Busters as a radio show instead of the television incarnation that aired in 1952. Alpha Video, the rights holder to the DVD releases of the series, claims Gang Busters is "an early predecessor" to shows like Fox's America's Most Wanted, but that claim is laughable because Gang Busters has more in common with other procedural crime dramas, from its best-known contemporary, Dragnet, to today's shows like Law & Order and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Volume 1 begins with the case of little-known gangster Homer Van Meter, who gained notoriety from being associated with the legendary John Dillinger. All 4 cases on the disc are taken from authentic police & FBI files across the country, contrary to Dragnet, which confined itself to its home base of Los Angeles, and rarely ventured outside its territory. Like Dragnet, however, Gang Busters offers a disclaimer at the end of the show acknowledging that the names of some of the characters were changed "to protect the innocent". The use of public all points bulletins (APB's) to report on fugitives at large at the time of production would later be used, if my memory serves me well enough, on The F. B. I. in the 60's & 70's.

Dillinger's not the only known name that has been used on Gang Busters. I have one episode on a Radio Spirits TV/radio compilation I acquired a few years ago that told the story of infamous bank robber Willie Sutton, for example. Would Gang Busters be revived today? In a way, it has, with the success of CSI and the Law & Order family of shows over the last two decades. Law producer Dick Wolf tried reviving Dragnet as a 1 hour drama 7 years ago, but it didn't work out as well as it should have, which should answer the question about a Gang Busters revival more clearly, although it wouldn't hurt to try, preferably on cable.

The quality of the video is very good, as the episodes are well preserved 55 years later. Too bad it isn't readily available on cable right now, though it should be.

Grade: A-.

Edit: 4/11/14: Here's the episode, "The Scissors Gang":

Weasel of the Week: Mark Steinberg

Mr. Steinberg is the agent of scandal-scarred golf champion Tiger Woods, and should be held accountable, moreso than Woods, for the staged press conference that took place on Friday.

Woods had the perfect opportunity to speak from the heart and make his apologies to his wife, Elin, their children, and his fans for his serial philandering. Instead, Steinberg created a controlled environment in which Woods read from a prepared statement, and the media assemblage was not allowed to ask questions. That made the mea culpas and the accompanying promises ring rather hollow.

What did Steinberg hope to accomplish? The easiest answer would be that he, and perhaps Woods himself, wanted to cling to what dignity and imagery that is left. Woods had already lost commercial endorsements with Accenture, Gillette, & Buick, among others, in the wake of the sexual skeletons that burst from the closet in the wake of his wrecking his SUV on Black Friday. By choosing to create a controlled enviroment, Steinberg has only made the situation worse for Woods. The tabloids aren't about to let go of the story, and who's to say that they may have exaggerated the number of alleged mistresses attached to Woods, in order to make the story juicier for the scandal-obsessed curiosity seekers among us?

The right thing to do would've been for Woods to pour his heart out and be completely contrite, forthright, and honest. By keeping a lot of his feelings contained, Woods is letting the mountain of redemption become even more difficult to climb. He's become a pariah to his fellow golfers and some of the media. There are those in the media who think that everything will be just fine as soon as Woods returns to the golf course. A win, especially in a major tournament, such as the Masters or US Open, will heal most, but not all, of the wounds, they say. I don't think it'll be that easy.

In his statement, Woods admitted he was wrong for thinking his star status allowed him to live by a different set of rules. However, he comes off as a hypocrite because of the controlled environment in which he made that statement. You can't have it both ways, but Woods & Steinberg seem to think so. Steinberg gets the "Weasel" label this week more so than Woods because you have to pin the blame on the agent for controlling the environment surrounding his client in the deluded notion that Woods' image can be saved or repaired. Instead, the damage is closer to irreparable.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A few words for the attention marks

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin just can't stop making headlines, can't she?

Earlier this week, Mrs. Palin railed against the producers of Fox's Family Guy for poking fun at children with Down's Syndrome, if not specifically her family. Her son, Trig, has Down's, and it can be suggested that the writers came up with a female character that would be a blend of Trig and his sister, Bristol, since the girl tells her date, Chris Griffin, that her mom is "the former governor of Alaska".

Ironically, Mrs. Palin is now a Fox employee herself, as a correspondent for Fox News Channel. It can be suggested that she's not really familiar with Family Guy, otherwise she'd understand that Seth McFarlane and his staff are equal opportunity offenders, and, as a public figure, Mrs. Palin has to expect that either she or any member of her family is fair game and ripe for satire. That's just the way it is. She's also biting the hand that feeds her by going another another branch of the Fox tree (Family Guy is produced by 20th Century Fox), which puts Mrs. Palin at risk of wrecking her television career before it gets started. How much do you want to bet that once Saturday Night Live gets hold of this story, they'll ask old pal Tina Fey (30 Rock) to play Mrs. Palin one more time?

Meanwhile, in New York, the attention-addicted lunatics from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) were at it again Tuesday night, disrupting the Westminster Kennel Club's annual dog show. It seems that PETA's tired of the dogs all being purebreds and not simple "mutts", or street dogs, if you will. Anything to get in the news, I suppose, as if PETA doesn't do enough to embarass activist groups of all varieties to begin with. What's next? Deciding that insects are animals, too, and boycotting Johnson Wax, the makers of Raid, for cruelty?

Yeah, that would be embarassing.

The bottom line, folks, is that the Palin family and the PETAmaniacs need to get over themselves. It's one thing to crave attention, for whatever reason, but there are times when you just need to let it go.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

On DVD: "The Glory Days of Wrestling" (2009)

This independently released DVD set has no extras, just 8 matches culled from the 50's to the early 80's. To wit:

1. Gorgeous George def. Jesse James, 2 falls to 1. Site: Hollywood.

George was a heel, but he also gave the ringsiders something to take home by tossing some gold "Georgie pins" (Bobby pins) to them before the match. The man was way ahead of his time. Seeing George's side profile as he walked to the ring, I had a flashback to the latter days of Adrian Adonis' career in the late 80's. Adonis, better remembered as a NYC street tough and as a tag partner of future Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura, was repackaged as a gruesomely obese parody of George, a gimmick Adonis took with him from the WWE to the AWA at the end of his career. That should absolve Vince K. McMahon of all blame for Adonis' loss of respect, in this writer's opinion.

2. Killer Kowalski and Eduard Carpentier battled to a time limit draw. Site: Chicago.

My earliest memory of Kowalski was when he used a mask, but kept the familiar ring name, as 1/2 of a heel tag team in the then-World Wide Wrestling Federation in the mid-70's. Here, Kowalski had already gained his rep, and the infamous match with Yukon Eric is referenced in commentary.

3. NWA title: Buddy Rogers def. Pat O'Connor, 2-1, to win the title. Site: Chicago (Comiskey Park).

Today's generation remembers Rogers more for his tenure with WWE in the 80's, as a talk show host and mentor to "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka. I am not sure if this match is included on WWE's World title DVD compilation, and if it isn't, shame on McMahon. This is proof positive that a heel doesn't need to cheat to win a championship, which unfortunately is now the exception rather than the rule.

4. Jerry Lawler def. Randy Savage, DQ, in a steel cage match. Site: Memphis (naturally).

These things we know are true. 1) This took place before Savage went to WWE and became a national star, 2) it was after Lawler had his famous feud with actor Andy Kaufman (ex-Taxi), and 3) it was contested in the weakest looking cage in wrestling history. Joe LeDuc, who'd have a cup of coffee with WWE himself a few years later, ran in and climbed into the cage for the cheap DQ.

5. Bobo Brazil won a 2-ring battle royal. Site-Detroit.

Aside from Brazil, the only other names known to most of us in this match were the undisputed king of battle royals, Andre the Giant, long-time WWF mainstay Dominic DeNucci, and 1972 US Olympian Chris Taylor. Taylor made the mistake of eliminating himself in the course of pursuing a enemy of his during the match. The Brute, one of the top heels of the territory at the time (1980), was the first man sent into the 2nd ring, then dismissed each succeeding opponent until it came down to Andre & Brazil in the 1st ring. Andre then withdrew, allowing Brazil to go after the Brute, who then fled. A future match was promised between Brute & Brazil, ostensibly at the next show......

6. Princess Little Dove def. Diamond Lil. Site: Unknown.

This match was in a TV studio somewhere, around 1978. That's all I can tell you, aside from the fact that these are female midgets. Way too short, and treated the same as a regular TV squash. Pun not intended, of course.

7. Killer Tim Brooks def. Haystacks Calhoun-countout. Site: Cincinnati.

Brooks, who would work for Jim Crockett in Georgia and for the Von Erich family in Texas in the 80's, was known simply as Killer Brooks here, but he does have the familiar skull & crossbones on the back of his tights. Brooks was working a injured elbow gimmick at the time, which meant the prospect was there of a "loaded elbow pad", only in this case, Brooks' elbow was loaded with gauze under the pad. Calhoun is known around these parts from his frequent junkets into the then-WWF in the 70's. Disappointing, and should've been flipped with the Rogers-O'Connor match on the disc.

8. Crusher, Dick the Bruiser, & Little Bruiser def. Bobby Heenan & the Blackjacks. Site: Unknown, perhaps Milwaukee.

Long before he was The Brain (or the Weasel to his detractors), Heenan was "Pretty Boy". Naturally, he ends up with the proverbial crimson mask before this match was over. In today's wrestling this would probably be DX and their current sidekick, Hornswoggle, vs. the Straight Edge Society, who have a female accomplice. Anyway, Crusher & Bruiser were in a feud with the Blackjacks, former WWWF champs under Capt. Lou Albano's management, and this was one of the matches in this feud, with the midget Little Bruiser brought in to offset Heenan.

There is no narrator or documentary footage to set up any of the matches, as they're thrown together with no regard to history. Wait. Isn't that how TNA is booked? Grade: C.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Super Bowl 44: It was a great game

They began the season undefeated, then swapped dreams of a perfect season for ensuring that their top players would be in peak condition for the post-season, and thus ended the regular season on losing streaks. They were the top seeds of their respective conferences, and answered all the critics' questions in resuming their winning ways. The final questions remained in the days leading up to the Super Bowl. Would the Indianapolis Colts win their 2nd NFL title in 4 years? Or would the New Orleans Saints, in their first Super Bowl ever, bring home the prize, not only for themselves, but for their city, still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Katrina nearly 4 1/2 years ago?

New Orleans won the opening coin toss, and promptly went 3-and-out on their first series. Colts QB Peyton Manning took Indianapolis down the field and hit rookie receiver Pierre Garcon for a touchdown to put the Colts up, 7-0. A field goal by Matt Stover extended the lead to 10-0 after the first quarter.

New Orleans controlled the ball for virtually all of the second quarter, and chipped away, with 2 Garrett Hartley field goals trimming the deficit to 10-6 at the half. The longer halftime period, though, would be a turning point. As The Who entertained the crowd at Sun Life Stadium, Saints coach Sean Payton laid out a game plan for the second half. New Orleans caught the Colts flat-footed with an onside kick to start the 3rd quarter, and the Saints recovered. QB Drew Brees put the Saints up for the first time with a scoring pass to Pierre Thomas, and New Orleans was now up, 13-10. Back came the Colts, who retook the lead on a TD run by Joseph Addai. It was now 17-13. Hartley's 3rd field goal brought New Orleans within 1, 17-16, but momentum was still on the side of the Saints.

Thomas scored his 2nd TD, putting the Saints in the lead for good. A 2 point conversion catch by Lance Moore was initially ruled incomplete, but was overturned by replay on the only challenge of the game. Manning brought the Colts back again, but New Orleans safety Tracy Porter iced the game with a 74 yard interception return, putting the final score at 31-17. Manning made one last rally, but a costly offensive pass interference penalty on Garcon, for all intents and purposes, finished the Colts. A 4th down pass to Reggie Wayne went through the reciever's hands, and New Orleans began celebrating. Brees, the game MVP, took a knee, and the clock ran out.

As great as this game was, people will spend more time analyzing all the commercials. I simply sat there and shook my head at some of these. Advertisers are spending millions of dollars to fill time with ads that either inform (Focus on the Family), entertain (Cars.com, Snickers), or celebrate stupidity (Bud Light). CBS took the opportunity to toot its own horn, and even invited Jay Leno & Oprah Winfrey to do a spot with David Letterman (fittingly attired in a replica Colts jersey). They also did a bit to plug tonight's episode of How I Met Your Mother by having one of the show's central characters, Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) "at the game" (in a pre-taped bit with commentary by game announcer Jim Nantz) with a classified ad on a poster. Lame-o!

Snickers provided one of the silliest, but most entertaining bits, using TV icons Betty White (ex-The Golden Girls) and Abe Vigoda (ex-Barney Miller) in a pickup football game, though there will be some who might find fault with the context of the ad. I admit I didn't see all the ads, nor did I really care to keep track, as much of it is filed under "wasteful spending". For me, the game's the thing, not the sideshow (not including halftime). And that's the way it should be.

Edit: 2/22/15: Here's that Snickers ad:


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Live in person: The Harlem Globetrotters at Times-Union Center, Albany NY, 2/7/10

Let's be frank. These are not your father's Globetrotters, not even your grandfather's. The 2010 Globetrotters have become more show than sport, and it's not good.

The last time I saw the Globetrotters, they played an exhibition game vs. Siena College. Today, former Siena star Tay Fisher is a Globetrotter, nicknamed "Firefly", and the near sellout crowd came largely for Fisher's "homecoming", if you will. Anyone expecting a more traditional 'Trotters-Washington Generals game found something more along the lines of the 'Trotters' Saturday morning cartoons from 40 years ago. The Generals' current coach, Reggie Harrison, was cast as a cross between wrestling legend Fred Blassie (he cut a promo before the game and was walking with a cane, as Blassie did as a manager in the 70's & 80's) and toon villain Dick Dastardly (Wacky Races). Once each quarter, Harrison would spin his umbrella and hypnotize a random Globetrotter (Fisher was one of the victims), enabling Washington to score some cheap baskets. It wouldn't last long, and in the tradition of "Peter Pan", the hypnotized 'Trotter was restored by fan noise or a "spectacular" play by the 'Trotters. The PA announcer's frantic narration kept the fans in the game, but to have the 'Trotters act oblivious to what was going on was an insult to the team's tradition and to the game itself.

It was almost as if Vince McMahon had bought a stake in the team. This sort of in-game chicanery would be right up his alley, but whomever's in charge of the team probably did cut their teeth on the 'Trotter cartoons (1970-72 and 1979-80). The pre-game, hosted by a hip-hop DJ, seemed to go on forever. The game was supposed to tip at 1:00, but didn't until 1:25, since they didn't start the pre-game show until 12:40. Globie, the 'Trotters' mascot, served up the world's worst moonwalk in doing a tribute to the late Michael Jackson, and on top of that, they did a riff on the Taylor Swift-Kanye West controversy from last fall's Video Music Awards. Yes, they're still mining that joke 5 months later. To be fair, the blonde wig Globie wore, coupled with the blue costume, made Globie look like a giant sized Smurfette! Oy!

If this is the way the Globetrotters are to be presented going forward, I've gone to my last Globetrotters show. It's not a game anymore, and that's sad.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Next thing you know, they'll be drafting Pop Warner players

Apparently, Lane Kiffin never took an ethics course in college. If he did, he probably flunked.

Less than a year ago, after being hired as football coach at Tennessee, Kiffin obtained an oral commitment from an 8th grader. Now that he's at USC, Kiffin is still trying to rob the cradle.

Yahoo! Sports & Rivals Inc. are reporting that Kiffin has managed to obtain an advanced oral commitment from 13 year old David Sills from Delaware. Yes, you read that correctly. Sills is 13, and in the 7th grade. He's a quarterback, and already getting the star treatment.

Is nothing sacred anymore? If Kiffin can get away with securing these kids before they've even started high school, what's to stop pro scouts, not to mention parasitic professional leeches like Scott Boras, from showing up at the Little League World Series? And we've already seen that Kiffin can't or won't keep his end of the bargain, having left Tennessee after 1 season to take his ethically-challenged business back to USC, where ethics apparently isn't high on the priority list.

Suffice to say, when Sills is a senior at his high school, there's no guarantee that Kiffin will still be at USC, and the NCAA will find some legal redress to nullify the commitment in the interim.

Let me amend my opening statement. If Kiffin took an ethics course, it probably wasn't at college. It was probably in the executive office of Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis. Kiffin might've had his issues with Davis leading to his ouster after a year and a half at his first head coaching job, but he certainly learned something from the experience. And that's a scary thought.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Weasels of the Week: Rex Ryan and the Editors of the NY tabloids

They say two wrongs don't make it right. Try to follow along as I explain why we have multiple "winners" this week.

Ryan, the 1st year coach of the NY Jets, was in Florida last weekend not only to see his players compete in the Pro Bowl, but also attending a Strikeforce MMA show in nearby Sunrise. Ryan was interviewed, and when his mug appeared on the big screen, the fans booed lustily. Their beloved Miami Dolphins had swept Ryan's Jets during the regular season, but lost out on a playoff spot while the Jets had a hotter-than-normal December, and we all know how that went. Anyway, Ryan answered the partisans by flipping the bird. Someone caught it on his camera-phone, and, well.......

Monday morning, Ryan was on the front pages of both the New York Post and New York Daily News, with the middle finger raised for all to see. Ryan has since apologized to the Jets and their fanbase for his indiscretion, and was fined $50,000. The NFL, however, chose not to add any further punishment, determining that the Jets had settled the matter in-house in an appropriate manner.

So why do the tabloids' editors get "Weasel" status? For putting the picture on the front page, of course! It's bad enough that we've had at least 3-4 generations of kids picking up this habit as a form of rebellion, but by using this picture as a "lead", if you will, the tabloids are sending a clear message that to them this is acceptable to use as a marketing tool to sell papers. Sorry, but it isn't. Rex Ryan isn't the NFL's answer to, say, Stone Cold Steve Austin. Away from the field, he's trying to be just an average schlub enjoying a night on the town now that, for him, the season's over. Instead, he finds out the hard truth in that, in season or out, he still represents the Jets wherever he goes as a sort of team ambassador, as his players also do.

Such bluster does run in the Ryan family, though. Papa Buddy infamously picked a fight with an assistant coach while with Philadelphia, if memory serves me correctly, and he also made the bold prediction that he would take Arizona to the playoffs. That didn't happen, but Rex, who brought the family swagger with him from Baltimore, also brought the winning attitude the Jets needed so badly.

Does anyone want to bet that Rex will get a call from Austin's old boss, Vince McMahon, some time soon?

Not every kid is Bart Simpson, but.......!

Earlier today, I read a news report that disturbed me.

A 9-year old Staten Island boy was nearly suspended from school. Why? He had a toy pistol in his possession. Let me repeat that. A toy pistol. It was attached to a Lego policeman action figure the child was using during his lunch break, but that it was a pistol, no more than 2 inches long, raised a red flag with school faculty. I realize we are living in hyper-sensitive times because of 9/11/01, but come on!

The child's mom is hoping for an apology, but at the same time is considering the prospect of a lawsuit. Oh, give me a break! This is a case more suited for The People's Court than requiring a lawsuit.

Another student, who was presumably playing a game with this boy, had a Lego figure of his own, wielding an axe, but wasn't disciplined. I guess the faculty's not keen on all those slasher movies. Anyway, this sends a disturbing message to the kids. Ordinary games like cops & robbers may yet be phased out because you can't bring toy guns to school. When I was a kid, we would play the game by using our hands for pretend guns. It's a safe alternative, and the only one these children may have now. Next thing you know, they'll ban slingshots, if they haven't done that already........!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Extreme Championship Wrestling (1994-2001, 2006-2010)

Over the last 3 1/2 years and change, Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) has existed only as a third wheel for World Wrestling Entertainment. With the last of the "original" ECW wrestlers, Tommy Dreamer, having left WWE over the holidays, the next step was inevitable.

On Tuesday's installment of ECW on SyFy, WWE Chairman-CEO Vince McMahon made the announcement that ECW would "go off the air", replaced by something "new & innovative". In truth, while McMahon is retiring the brand name he purchased in 2001, he will continue to produce wrestling for SyFy on Tuesdays. The last ECW on SyFy will air on February 23, with the new program debuting on March 2.

Early reports had WWE trademarking the initials NXT for their new show, showcasing talents called up from their developmental program in Florida, with veterans such as Christian, Goldust, & William Regal possibly being reassigned to either Raw or Smackdown. What prompted the change? What else? Ratings.

SyFy and its corporate parent, NBC-Universal, have not been happy with the numbers for the Tuesday program, unable to get above 1.3 in the Neilsens, making it the lowest of the 3 brands (Superstars, revived last year, airs on WGN America, which isn't available in much of the country). Changing the "call letters", if you will, might not change the ratings, but WWE & SyFy would like to get more people tuning in. Unfortunately, the harshest truth might be that for most folks, Tuesday might not be the best night after all.

You'll notice I posted two sets of birth/death dates for ECW. The original, founded by Tod Gordon & Paul Heyman, was absorbed into WWE in 2001, and revived as an ongoing concern 5 years later after the success of a "class reunion"-style PPV (One Night Stand) in 2005. Heyman didn't stick around too long, as he resigned from WWE in December '06 after a PPV.

The last ECW "original", announcer Joey Styles, now works for WWE.com, forced to retire from broadcasting 2 years ago. That aside, McMahon has finally gotten what he wanted all along, and that was to lay ECW to rest. Where the company goes from here with their new program, though, is anyone's guess.

It turns out that there's an Australian promotion that uses NXT for the same reason that McMahon wanted to. That will create some problems unless McMahon comes up with something else before March 2. I said before that part of ECW's problem may lie in airing on Tuesdays. As with a lot of prime time programs, a wrestling show swims upstream against well-established viewer habits. ESPN found this out more than 20 years ago when they had a deal with Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association (AWA) and aired AWA on Tuesdays, only to bounce it around due to conflicts with live sporting events. To this day, you do have those same conflicts, plus popular prime time network shows like Lost, which returned last night.

So, here's a solution. Since ECW/NXT & Friday Night Smackdown are pre-taped (ECW is same-day tape presently), it would be a better move for SyFy to run ECW on Fridays ahead of Smackdown, with some WWE cross-promotion to keep people interested. It can't hurt, can it?