Monday, October 16, 2017

Weasel of the Week: Sam Judge

Downtown Troy has been without a first-run movie theatre for several years, ever since the last multiplex at the Uncle Sam Atrium was converted to state offices. Just when it looked as though the drought would finally end, Bow Tie Cinemas, which would be moving into Rensselaer County for the first time, bowed out the other day. Why? Litigation.

Troy developer Sam Judge had tried and failed to fill the vacant space at Monument Square after the former City Hall building was demolished in 2011. Judge's company owns the Verizon building where city offices had relocated in 2008 until moving to their present location in Hedley Park Place on River Street. The two sides have been involved in lawsuits over the Verizon building, and now, Judge is part of a group of "influential" people along River Street who are blocking Bow Tie and Bonacio Construction from building a 11-screen multiplex that would bring fresh income to city businesses surrounding the theatre.

However, Judge and his associates don't see that. They see environmental concerns that haven't been resolved in the past five years or better, and last month, Judge filed suit against Bonacio & Bow Tie. At the end of last week, the movie theatre project was shelved, with Bow Tie & Bonacio Construction backing down and out. Judge bullied them out, is what it really is.

Instead of searching for a compromise that would make both sides happy, Judge seems content with keeping 1 Monument Square vacant, and in this writer's opinion, it's going to stay that way until Judge himself can put forth another proposal to develop the space, whenever he decides to take the chance. In this writer's opinion, Mr. Judge, you're little more than a self-serving little Weasel who's depriving the citizens of Troy of a quality, state of the art facility, and the opportunity to see a movie without having to drive to Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer, or Clifton Park, to name a few examples. Shame on you, then, Mr. Judge, for putting your interests ahead of the rest of the city.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Classic Reborn (?): The Saint (2013-7)

Some 20 years ago, some alleged genius in Hollywood thought it might be a good idea to reboot The Saint in a feature film that had Leslie Charteris' modern day Robin Hood, Simon Templar, repackaged as a master of disguise who was in fact searching for who he really was. The film, with Val Kilmer as Templar, was a dud from the get-go.

Sixteen years later, a proposed pilot for a new Saint went unsold until it was released on digital DVD earlier this year, and landed on Netflix, four years after production had been completed. Adam Rayner is the latest to essay the role of Templar, and certainly could've continued had anyone bothered to take a chance.

When the film begins, Templar is in Russia, disguised as a Russian soldier, infiltrating an arms deal that the CIA had been monitoring. He spikes the vodka, serving up the world's biggest mickey, if you will. That gets him in the crosshairs of a young CIA agent, and an older agent who had been pursuing Templar for years. Flashbacks explain a previously untold and, in truth, unnecessary origin for Templar. You see, the creative personnel on the film decided to borrow some elements from more familiar sources (i.e. Batman) to explain Templar's mission in life. His parents were killed, and the family, very wealthy to begin with, were linked with the legendary Knights Templar in some form. None of this fits Charteris' original vision, but what does in the 21st century anyway?

Today's writers are obsessed with making their heroes as dark, moody, and brooding as possible, following the template of Denny O'Neil's makeover of Batman in the 70's. These writers think that because it works for certain characters, it can work for other pop culture icons such as The Saint. The truth is, it doesn't, because it falls under "if it isn't broken, you don't fix it".

On the other hand, viewers are introduced to Templar's sexy associate, Patricia Holm (Eliza Dushku, ex-Dollhouse, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), who hadn't been seen on screen since the George Sanders series of "Saint" movies in the 40's. My brother & I were discussing what needs to be done to bring other popular heroes into the present day, such as The Shadow, Doc Savage, or The Avenger, who also have teams of associates working for them, as long as it adheres to the current Hollywood obsession with cultural diversity. This film heads in that direction, but relies too heavily on Bat-influences (not just the origin), and that may explain why it didn't sell.

The film also serves as a final coda for the late Sir Roger Moore, who played Templar in the 60's, and appears briefly prior to the climax of the film. Ian Oglivy, who top-lined Return of the Saint in the 70's, is seen as well.

Let's take a look at the trailer.

It took four years for this version of The Saint to see the light of day, and that was largely in tribute to Moore, as if someone realized this film was out there, waiting to be released. Let's just hope it doesn't take another four years or more for someone else to try to get it right.

Rating: B--.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Forgotten TV: The Joe Namath Show (1969)

Today, it's common for pro athletes, as well as managers & coaches, to be given air time on radio on a weekly basis during the season, or, in some cases, year-round.

Back in 1969, it was unheard of, really, for an active player to be moonlighting in anything besides acting or making commercials.

Joe Namath was never exactly the average pro athlete.

Coming off a Super Bowl win with the Jets, the only one in the team's history, Namath somehow landed a syndication deal for a talk show that ran during the 1969 season. Dick Schaap, best known for Sport magazine and as the initial moderator for ESPN's now-defunct Sports Reporters, acted as Namath's co-host, ostensibly to keep the playboy quarterback on point. Unfortunately for Namath, his first foray into television lasted just the one season. He'd try again a few years later, this time with a sitcom, The Waverly Wonders, for NBC, and that also flopped.

A few years ago, the Classic Sports Network (now ESPN Classic) acquired 15 episodes of the series. This sample episode features Knicks star Walt "Clyde" Frazier, now better known to today's generation for shilling for Just For Men hair color, often alongside Keith Hernandez.

Namath would follow up this flop with the film, "CC & Company", before Waverly Wonders ended any hope of being taken seriously on television, and, yes, that includes his broadcasting career at NBC.

No rating.

High School Fridays: Colonie @ Troy (football), 10/13/17

In two weeks, Troy High will open its athletic Hall of Fame to induct their 1996 football championship team. I may be wrong, but Colonie coach Eric Rouleau may have been on that team and/or the 1998 squad.

Rouleau returned to Troy as a visiting coach for the first time on Friday, hoping to not only spoil Senior Night for the current Flying Horses, but also deny them the Liberty Division title, which, on tiebreakers, would've gone to Shaker.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Garnet Raiders put up the first points on a 37 yard field goal by Christian Hubbard, who was left off the Colonie roster listed on the game program.

Then, Joey Ward took over, and, oh, did he ever.

It took just 4 plays for Troy to take the lead, with Ward racing in from 20 yards out. Jordan Audi returned after missing last week's win over Shaker, booted the extra point, and Troy was off and running. The defense kept Colonie's running game in check, denying them the end zone. Ward added four more TD's, and Dev Holmes caught a TD toss from Joe Casale, plus a 2 point conversion, then really put the game away with a 65 yard run off the option. Audi finished with four extra points, and Troy routed Colonie, 48-3, to wrap up a third consecutive perfect regular season under coach Bob Burns at 7-0, and their second straight Liberty title.

Audi still wasn't able to kick off, so junior QB/kicker Michael Fazio handled those duties. For what it's worth, Holmes changed jersey numbers just for this game, wearing his brother Darius' #22 instead of his usual #8.

Colonie entered the game with the lowest points against average in the division, but that took a hit after Troy rang up 48 unanswered points. Troy, meanwhile, lowered their PAA to 9.5 points per game, while Colonie's ballooned to 15.2.

Up next for Troy will be a first round playoff game at home against Christian Brothers Academy, which dropped to 4th place in the Empire division after losing, 21-10, to Shenendehowa. Colonie visits Shen, while Shaker hosts Guilderland, and Empire champ Saratoga welcomes Bethlehem. The Eagles close the regular season later today vs. winless Schenectady. CBA nearly stole one last year at Picken Field, but the Brothers (3-4) have not been the same team they were a year ago. I don't have the brackets in front of me for the playoffs, but it all points to Troy meeting Saratoga in the title game, as they're the two undefeated teams in Class AA. This year's title game, per the Albany Times-Union, will be played at a neutral high school site on November 2, as RPI reportedly will be unable to host the game this year due to a scheduling conflict. With the turmoil between students and administration there, it's just as well.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Sports this 'n' that

We are now down to four teams in the baseball playoffs after the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs ousted Washington, 9-8, in game 5 on Thursday night. The 3rd seeded Cubs, however, must head West to play the top seeded LA Dodgers to open the NLCS on Saturday night in a rematch of last year's NLCS. Los Angeles, however, will have had four full days of rest after sweeping out Arizona on Monday.

Momentum may be on the Cubs' side for now, but do they risk sending Jake Arietta or Jon Lester back out on 2 days rest? No, I don't think so. Both pitched on Wednesday in a 5-0 game 4 loss to the Nationals. Clayton Kershaw almost certainly will be on the hill for the Dodgers to start the series, hoping to exorcise the ghosts of postseasons past once and for all. If the Cubs aren't feeling fatigued after 5 grueling games with the Nats, they will be when this is over.

Pick-Cubs in 6.

As for Washington, another 1st round loss should, by rights, spell the end for Dusty Baker in DC. He had the same problem in Cincinnati, unable to get past the 1st round, and it may be time for a change. It wouldn't surprise me if a certain spoiled brat in Washington prevailed upon GM Mike Rizzo to fire Baker, but does the President know anything about baseball?
Meanwhile, Houston is looking to reach the World Series for the first time since they were a NL club back in 2005, when they fell to the Chicago White Sox. To get there, the Astros must first deal with the Yankees. Masahiro Tanaka and Dallas Keuchel will be the starters in game 1 tonight. The Yankees' rise comes a bit ahead of schedule, and while finicky fans were calling for Joe Girardi's head after game 2 of the LDS vs. Cleveland, no one is complaining now, at least until the Astros win a game.

However, it's Houston's time, at long last. Sports bars in the home district will be filled with Yankees and Astros/Valleycats fans for every game in the series, and I do mean every game. I do know some people who are fans of both the 'Cats and the Bombers, so there'll be some conflicted souls during the series. Houston doesn't have an easy out in the lineup, while the Yanks struggled to generate some offense in some positions, like DH, for example, vs. the Indians.

Pick-Astros in 7.
The NFL has won its battle to uphold the suspension of Dallas RB Ezekiel Elliott, but the case is far from over, as there could be more appeals, much like the Tom Brady case, to drag this out even further. Just let it end.

Meanwhile, the league is looking at an alternate site for Sunday's Raiders-Chargers game due to wildfires in the area. Given the Chargers' horrible luck since moving out of San Diego, this would kill the momentum after beating the Giants last week.
Troy High's soccer teams ended their regular seasons on Thursday, headed in opposite directions. The girls have lost six in a row after losing to Averill Park, 2-1, and have been outscored an unsightly 26-3 in those six losses, with all 3 goals scored by sophomore star Abby Burns, daughter of football coach Bob Burns. When sectional pairings are announced, as early as Monday, it looks like Troy will be at Bethlehem for the 2nd straight postseason.

The boys, on the other hand, snapped a 5 game winless streak (0-4-1) with a 6-1 Senior Night win over AP. Mike Murnane's club finishes the regular season 6-9-1 overall (5-9-1 in the Suburban Council), and while they too will be on the road for sectionals, at least they have momentum on their side. Senior Kevin Vargas notched another hat trick as Troy scored six unanswered goals after Averill Park drew first blood in the first half. The girls finish the regular season 2-14 (1-13 in league), the 3rd straight campaign with 10+ losses. A few breaks here and there, and maybe things are different.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Creepy TV: Buck Rogers vs. a space vampire (1979)

From season 1 of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century:

Buck (Gil Gerard) has to protect Wilma (Erin Gray) from a Vorvon, a form of vampire who drains energy from its victims. Talk about spooky.

For what it's worth, actress Patty Mahoney (ex-Far Out Space Nuts) dons Twiki's suit for this episode, sitting in for Felix Silla.

A year later, Thundarr the Barbarian took futuristic vampires to an even weirder extreme, with an alien vampire that was almost like a spider in design, and that show was set even further in the future than Buck Rogers.

Rating: A.

Musical Interlude: Call Me (1985)

No, Go West's "Call Me" was not a remake of the Blondie hit from 1980. Instead, this 1985 gem is a pastiche that includes a call-back to B-movies of the 50's, including a homage to the original "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman". I don't know what kind of look singer Peter Cox was going for with just one sideburn, though.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Classic TV: Dynasty (1981)

CBS' Dallas had already been on the air a couple of years when ABC called on Aaron Spelling to develop a similar primetime soap.

Dynasty was a mid-season replacement, launching in January 1981, and running for 9 seasons in all. Set in Denver, the show was built around the Carrington family, which, like the Ewings of Dallas, were in the oil business. In fact, the show was originally meant to be christened Oil, but had that remained, it wouldn't have lasted very long.

John Forsythe was in his final season as the titular voice of Charlie's Angels when he was cast as Blake Carrington. As the series begins, Carrington is about to remarry, and, as the series unfolds, the family is more dysfunctional than the average daytime soap family. Linda Evans (ex-The Big Valley) hadn't done much TV in years before Dynasty made her a household name all over again. Joan Collins joined the series at the start of season 2 as Blake's ex-wife, Alexis, and if I'm not mistaken, this was Collins' 1st foray into a regular American series role. She'd guest-starred on Batman during the 3rd season of that series, and did other guest work in the interim, and I'm not sure about any TV work in England.

Daytime fans will spot Wayne Northrop (Days of Our Lives) as the Carrington family chauffeur during the first season. After signing with Days, Northrop would not return to Dynasty until either season 6 or 7. To list everyone who'd appear on the show would require a multi-part post, and that's not happening here.

Here's the 1st season intro:

Dynasty enjoyed a pretty healthy cable run on FX during that network's formative years. There would be a reunion miniseries, but that would be the end of the series on ABC. A brand new Dynasty launches tomorrow on CW, with Evans' former character having been rebooted as a Latina. Typical 21st century breaking what isn't broken just for the sake of it.

I'm not a soap guy per se, so there ain't a rating.

Monday, October 9, 2017

On The Air: The Gifted (2017)

Marvel Comics' TV arm has joined forces with 20th Century Fox to develop a new mutant-centric series for Fox, and like FX's Legion, The Gifted is a short-season series (10 episodes) that intends to spotlight some lesser known X-Men, as well as a few that long time fans are familiar with.

Curiously, while there is no familial link established between district attorney Reed Strucker (Stephen Moyer) and comics villain Baron Strucker, the one common link is that each has two children with mutant powers. While the Baron's kids were identical twins, known as Fenris in the books, Reed's teenage offspring, Andy & Lauren are just manifesting their powers as the series begins. What develops is that the Strucker family has to go underground with a group of mutants led by Thunderbird.

The following trailer has the 1st 6 minutes of the series opener:

I waited a few days before watching this On Demand, and, well, color me unimpressed. While I get a vibe that says they're using The Fugitive as a partial template----and that template worked pretty well for The Incredible Hulk 40 years ago---using the same humans vs. mutants for all the wrong reasons tack that was used in the first X-Men trilogy of movies in a short-season series might not be the wisest direction to take. Marvel TV is in a bit of a slump right now, after their last two Netflix entries, Iron Fist & The Defenders, were savaged by critics. We'll take a look at Marvel's other network frosh, Inhumans, another time.

Rating: B--.

Forgotten TV: The Archie Situation Comedy Variety Hour (1978)

Until the other day, I didn't even know about this Archie pilot.

Now, I've known that producer James Komack had produced a sitcom pilot featuring the beloved gang from Riverdale in 1976 for ABC that didn't sell. After Filmation's final Archie series had left the air in April 1978 on NBC, Komack and ABC gave it another try, this time with a hybrid show that was equal parts sitcom and variety show.

The Archie Situation Comedy Variety Hour managed to air in the summer of 1978, but I never saw it. The following video is one of two clips available on YouTube, neither of which is in really good condition after nearly 40 years. Dennis Bowen (Welcome Back, Kotter) is among the stars, along with Gordon Jump (WKRP in Cincinnati) as Fred Andrews.

I think I can see why this bombed. No rating.

Sports this 'n' that

Apparently, the Mets think part of the problem with pitching injuries comes from playing in the thin air in Las Vegas.

It's just been reported that the Mets will acquire the community-owned Syracuse Chiefs, currently affiliated with the NL East champion Washington Nationals. The current affiliations (Mets-Vegas, Nats-Chiefs) will remain for next year, so the Mets will move their AAA team to Syracuse, returning to Western NY, in 2019. The Mets previously had their AAA farm in Buffalo until 2013, when they moved to Las Vegas. I may be wrong, but the Chiefs may have also previously been affiliated with the Yankees way back when before aligning first with Toronto, then Washington.
No one expected the NY Giants to start 0-5, but to lose 4 receivers in the same game on Sunday, before losing late to the LA Chargers, was a killer. Sterling Shepard, Brandon Marshall, Dwayne Harris, and Odell Beckham, Jr. were all knocked out of the game. It's just gotten out that Beckham is gone for the year, and I think Harris may be, too, as I think he broke his foot.

No one expected the Jets to start 3-2, either, and be in a 3-way knot atop the AFC East with Buffalo & New England, but that will change next week, as the Jets & Patriots will meet for the first time this season, while the Bills have a bye. With Miami starting 2-2, it won't be long before the Jets fall into the cellar, as was expected.

The one common thread between the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots and the Giants, though, is that both teams have offensive line issues. Tom Brady isn't quite as safe behind his offensive line as he usually is, and Eli Manning was sacked 5 times in the loss to the Chargers. Stranger things have happened with the Jets, of course, so who knows?
Hypocrisy, thy name is Jerry Jones.

Two weeks ago, the Dallas Cowboys' owner/president/GM knelt with his team before the National Anthem was played, then the team stood as one as the "Star Spangled Banner" played. Now, Jones has come out saying that any of his players who decide to kneel during the anthem will be immediately placed on the inactive list. Sounds like a certain spoiled brat in Washington got to Jones, doesn't it?

Meanwhile, after ESPN's Jemele Hill took to Twitter to suggest that advertisers boycott the Cowboys, ESPN placed her on suspension, taking her off SportsCenter for the duration. Oh, that's going to create even more controversy, since fellow ESPN yakker Stephen A. Smith has put his foot in his mouth more often than Hill has, and yet they keep him on the air, save for a brief suspension a few months back, because he pulls in the ratings. Maybe he can loan Hill some beef jerky.........
The dominoes are starting to fall in the baseball playoffs.

Houston just eliminated the Boston Red Sox, 3 games to 1, with a come-from-behind 5-4 win at soggy Fenway Park. Bad enough they had to deal with the elements, but you'd think that would spur them to speed the game along. Instead, it clocked in a nearly 4 hours for 9 innings.

Boston manager John Farrell was ejected early for arguing balls & strikes, leaving bench coach Gary DiSarcina to make a difficult decision in the 8th inning. Ace Chris Sale came out of the bullpen in the 4th inning, but after 4 shutout innings, DiSarcina left Sale in the game too long, and, for the 2nd time in the series, Houston's Alex Bregman took Sale deep with a game-tying home run. Houston added another run in the inning, plus an insurance run in the 9th against closer Craig Kimbrel. Houston now awaits either the Yankees or Cleveland, as their game 4 begins later tonight.

Also tonight, the Dodgers could close out Arizona in the NLDS, but nothing is certain. Visiting teams, counting today's Houston win, have won just 2 games so far in the Division Series (The Cubs won game 1 vs. Washington).

Add Yankees-Indians. Greg Bird, the forgotten Baby Bomber after Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, had the only run Sunday night with a 7th inning homer. The Yanks are waiting for Judge to get it back in gear after he carried them into the ALDS. Maybe tonight is the night.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Musical Interlude: Ride My See-Saw (1968-9)

The Moody Blues' 2nd single from 1968's "In Search of The Lost Chord" was John Lodge's bouncy "Ride My See-Saw". As we'll see in this clip from This Is Tom Jones, drummer Graeme Edge recites the spoken word prelude before the fun begins.

Troy High freezes out the hometown press. What's wrong here?

Seven months ago, Troy Record sportswriter Sam Blum wrote a feature piece alleging that women's varsity basketball coach Paul Bearup, a teacher who's been at the school for more than a decade, had inflicted emotional abuse on some of his players.

Since that time, school officials have enacted a blackout on The Record, refusing to grant reporters access to any athletes and coaches. Non-athletic events are still being covered by the hometown paper, mostly because it's usually district-wide activities, but as white-hot as the football team is, any feature pieces on game coverage in the Sunday editions don't have any quotes from coach Bob Burns, who's also running for county legislature, or his assistants or players.

So what does Troy High have to hide, if anything at all? If they felt Bearup was being unfairly slanted by Blum in his article, the least they could've done is refute what Blum wrote, or, at worst, ask for a retraction. A letter to the editor would've helped their case significantly. Instead, the school tarnishes their reputation anyway by being petty and vindictive toward the hometown paper, which, I'm sure, has employed several of their past journalism students through the years. My late journalism teacher would be turning over in her grave if she knew what was going on today.

It's not like The Record is a top grade paper, anyway. Their out-of-state owners are cutting corners to save money, and the issues we've referenced in this space about sports results not being reported started before the current blackout went into effect.

When softball coach George Rafferty was let go prior to the 2016 sectionals, it was the Albany Times-Union that broke the story, and a caller to the now-defunct Sound Off! column provided some details, since The Record didn't have a reporter present for Rafferty's meltdown at Averill Park. After the blackout went into effect in March, boys' varsity basketball coach Richard Hurley announced he was taking a year off from coaching. The Times-Union broke that story, too. Then again, The Record, due to a lack of manpower resources the last few years, has missed quite a few stories.

What it boils down to is this. While Troy High administration has put full support behind Bearup, who will begin his 12th season as girls' varsity basketball coach in December, they should've done the right thing, not only for Bearup, not only for the alumni and parents, but for The Record, and allowed for both sides of the story to be told, knowing how thin the paper's resources are. Instead, they opt to be petty and spiteful toward the hometown paper, and that is just wrong. They'd rather sweep it under the rug, and pretend nothing is wrong. As a Troy High alumnus myself, I find this to be a shameful display of disrespect toward the press. Just shameful.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Origin of a Classic: The unseen pilot of Gilligan's Island (1964)

You only think you know all about Gilligan's Island, right? Suppose I told you that Ginger was not an actress when the series was first being developed in 1963-4. Suppose I told you that Mary Ann wasn't on the original passenger list.

Well, it's all true.

Sherwood Schwartz's original vision for the series had Ginger as a secretary, not an actress, along with another secretary named Bunny. Seems they were besties and may have been in the same steno pool. Future soap actor John Gabriel was the original Professor, but apparently he didn't resonate with network suits, hence the part being recast with Russell Johnson gaining icon status.

Otherwise, the lineup remains the same. While future Oscar winner John Williams composed the music, the theme song was one with more of a calypso beat (artist not credited), and that, too, would change over time.

Now, let's take a look at "Marooned", the original pilot, which didn't see the light of day until 1992.

I think they made the right call ditching the calypso music. The chemistry would ultimately come together after the casting changes, and we all know that Bob Denver (Gilligan) would trade off his icon status with each succeeding series.

Rating: B.

Mapping out the high school football playoffs

After dispatching Shaker last night, Troy High ascended to the top of the Class AA Liberty Division. All that needs be done next is beating Colonie, which already lost to Shaker, to clinch the division.

Ah, but this must be couched with caution. Colonie, which now has the lowest points against average in the division after beating LaSalle last night, could still spoil the party and hand Shaker the division title. Courtesy of the Albany Times-Union, here's the current Class AA standings:

Conference: Class AA
Saratoga Springs6001.0006001.000
Ballston Spa1400.2001500.167

Should Troy beat Colonie, whose defense took a night off vs. Shaker 9 days ago, they would play Guilderland in the first round of the playoffs. Troy battered Guilderland, 59-26, on September 8 on the road. Colonie would finish 3rd and go on the road against either CBA or Shenendehowa, whichever wins their matchup next week. However, if Colonie wins, Troy falls to 3rd and would go on the road. This will be interesting, at least.

Let's say Troy beats Colonie, and Shen beats CBA. The 1st round playoff matchups would be:

Guilderland @ Troy.
Bethlehem @ Saratoga.
Colonie @ Shen.
CBA @ Shaker.

CBA lost to Shaker on September 1, 31-0, so they'd be looking for revenge. I honestly don't think Shaker will reach the AA Super Bowl this time. Their defense has given up 70 points in the last two games, beset by injuries, and, as Troy demonstrated, the Blue Bison could be vulnerable to a 1st round exit. The money matchup, if you will, would be Troy vs. Saratoga in the title game. We'll see how this all plays out.

Friday, October 6, 2017

High School Fridays: Troy @ Shaker (football), 10/6/17

This is what everyone has been waiting for since the season started. For the 3rd time in a shade over a year, Troy High met Shaker, this time in Latham, with first place and possibly also the Liberty Division title at stake.

The two meetings last year, one being the Class AA title game, were both in Troy. Perhaps still feeling insulted in some minor way by being designated the road team for the title game at RPI, Troy, as has often been the case this season, drew first blood, as Joey Ward rambled in for a touchdown in the first quarter. Before that period was over, coach Bob "The Builder" Burns reached into his bag of tricks and should've had his Shaker counterpart, Greg Sheeler, reaching for a volume of Santayana's writings. After a holding penalty forced Troy into a 4th & long situation, Ward faked to Dev Holmes, and found Joe Casale behind the defense for a 47 yard TD to make it 14-0 going into the 2nd period.

Speaking of Holmes, in what has seemingly become a regular occurence, the senior receiver returned a punt 75 yards for a score. However, for whatever reason, Burns decided to go for 2, and failed. He was without ace kicker Jordan Audi, who was injured last week vs. Schenectady, and backup QB Michael Fazio handled the kicking duties this week. Good thing, too, considering that he wasn't going to be lining up at QB for a change. Troy was up, 20-0, at halftime.

Needing a spark, Shaker started the 2nd half with a lengthy drive that took up 2/3 of the period before they broke the ice and cut the lead to 20-7. Troy answered right back, and started the final stanza with Casale hitting Holmes in the end zone. However, the 2 point conversion failed, and this was after Troy was pushed back twice due to penalties.

Back came Shaker. Aided by a questionable call on a catch that should've been an interception for Holmes, Bison QB Connor McHugh got the hosts within 26-15 after a TD pass and subsequent 2 point conversion. Unfortunately for Shaker, that would be the end of their scoring.

An attempt at onside kick was foiled by Isaiah Burdette, and Troy took over. More specifically, Joey Ward took over. Ward scored his 2nd rushing TD of the game. Fazio added the extra point, and suddenly, the Flying Horses put the game away, up 33-15. Shaker's next drive ended with McHugh sacked on 4th down by---wait for it---Ward, who added the cherry on top with his 3rd TD with under 2 minutes to go.

Shaker got the ball one final time, but time ran out before the Blue Bison could get within range of the red zone, and Troy moves a step closer to their 2nd straight Liberty Division title with a 40-15 win.

Let's step inside the numbers for a moment. Going in, Shaker had the lowest Points Against Average (PAA) in the league at 7.2 points per game. After getting lit up for 40 by the defending state champs, that average went up to 12.5 points per game. Troy has only given up 65 points in 6 game, or an average of 10.5, so they moved ahead of Shaker in that regard. Ward finished just shy of 200 yards on the ground, and passed 4,000 yards for his career (2 seasons at Bishop Maginn, 2 at Troy).

Shaker closes on the road at Columbia, a team Troy already beat last month. Meanwhile, former Troy star Eric Rouleau comes to town with Colonie next week for the Flying Horses' Senior Night. The Garnet Raiders may have given Troy the blueprint on how to shred the Shaker D. Thanks to injuries in recent weeks, Shaker's once stout defense has allowed 70 points in their last two games, and that doesn't bode well for the Bison with the playoffs to begin in 2 weeks.

As for Troy, now 28-1 overall in nearly 3 full seasons under Bob Burns, there's only one way to describe their dominant performance this season:

Enough said.

Sports this 'n' that

We've noted often in this space the last couple of years how some Section 2 schools aren't consistently reporting scores to the local papers and/or television stations. My own belief on this is that it shouldn't be just on the coaching staffs to send the reports in via phone or e-mail, or even a text, but also on parents who are attending the game to root for their teams.

Fortunately for high school soccer fans, Capital Region Soccer has all the updated standings, as they've managed to get the results that don't reach the mainstream press. For example, here's the updated Suburban Council standings:

 Suburban Council   Blue  

  Suburban Council   Gray  
Burnt Hills
Ballston Spa
Averill Park

As you can see, non-league results aren't included in the standings, though if you click on the Troy link, you'll see all the results are in. Overall, coach Mike Murnane's Flying Horses are 5-8-1 with 2 games left, having gone winless in their last 4 (0-3-1).

As suspected, Troy lost their home opener to Guilderland on August 29, and according to Capital Region Soccer, it was by a score of 1-0. Sure, it was a week before classes began, but that's no excuse for the coaches to whiff on sending the results to the Record or the Times-Union. Troy's road game at Schenectady was originally set for Sept. 26, but was delayed 4 days to Sept. 30 for unknown reasons, resulting in a 0-0 draw. The above standings are for boys' action only.

As for Troy's girls, they've dropped 3 in a row, scoring just 1 goal in that stretch, after Albany's women won their first game of the season last night, 1-0. It won't get any easier for the Lady Horses, not with Queensbury (Foothills Council) coming to town tomorrow for Senior Night. The girls are then on the road next week, knowing that a 1st round exit in the sectionals for the 2nd straight year is very likely. The upside for the Troy boys is that they can actually improve their standing at home, playing the two teams directly below them, with a chance to finish with a respectable record, though they'll be below .500 for the 3rd straight season.
Condolences to the family of hockey announcer Dave Strader, who passed away Sunday. Strader started his career nearly 40 years ago in the public relations department of the then-fledgling Adirondack Red Wings of the AHL, starting a journey that led to his going national with the NBC Sports Network, and being the voice of the Dallas Stars the last two seasons. The ECHL's Adirondack Thunder, now associated with New Jersey, will honor Strader this season with memorial decals on their helmets, from what I've read. Strader will be missed.
Back in the 60's & 70's, the Houston Astros, then a National League team, billed Jimmy Wynn as the "Toy Cannon". I think they've found a new "Toy Cannon" in 3-time batting champ Jose Altuve, who did most of the damage in game 1 of the Astros' ALDS vs. Boston with 3 homers, 2 off Red Sox ace Chris Sale. If this is any indication, the Sawx may be done sooner than expected, unless things change when they get home on Sunday..........!

You have to believe that Valleycats fans here in the home district are rooting for Houston, which has had a phenomenal season, rolling to the AL West title, and watching the maturation of other ex-'Cats, including George Springer. Former Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel starts today for Houston.

Meanwhile, the Yankees, who'd lost 5 of 7 to Cleveland in the regular season, fell last night in game 1. Seems manager Terry Francona knew what he was doing when he opted for Trevor Bauer, he of the injury plagued 2016 postseason, over ace Corey Kluber, who starts later today. Everything changes, I think, when the scene shifts to the Bronx on Sunday.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

When MTV Meant Something: Remote Control (1987)

I reviewed this next item several years back over at Saturday Morning Archives, but as it marks its 30th anniversary this year, let's take another look at Remote Control.

The year was 1987. By the fall, all but one of the original VJ's had left (Mark Goodman was the only one who hung on for a little overtime, if ya will, before leaving). MTV was moving on to original and acquired programming that fit the then-mission statement of being a music channel. Remote Control, hosted by comedian-actor Ken Ober, was the channel's 1st original series, and launched in the fall, running for 3 years (1987-90). At its peak, the series aired virtually every day, with reruns airing on weekends. Ober and his repertory company would also bring the show to Daytona Beach for Spring Break every March (1988-90).

That repertory company boasted quite a few future stars, including Kari Wuhrer (1988), announcer/karaoke singer Colin Quinn, and recurring players Adam Sandler and Denis Leary. Post-Control, Ober would give primetime a try in the 1st TV adaptation of Parenthood, shill for Milton Bradley (Jenga), and appear in a pair of Blues Traveler videos ("Hook", "Run Around"). Sandler & Quinn would, separated by a few years, join the cast of Saturday Night Live. Wuhrer joined the cast of Swamp Thing, then moved on to Class of '96, Beverly Hills 90210, and Sliders. Leary stuck around MTV initially to do some interstital spots, and today is the voice behind those Ford F-150 commercials after the success of his FX series, Rescue Me, cemented him as a quality character actor.

Now, let's go back to 1987, and some vintage Control, which plays out like a neighborhood party game with some goofy effects.

If MTV is really serious about putting music back on the channel, then a Control revival should be at the top of the list of things to do.

Rating: A.

Weasel of the Week: LaVar Ball

Yep, he's done it again.

America's most notorious sports parent, LaVar Ball, decided the other day to pull his youngest son, LaMelo, a junior at Chino Hills High in Los Angeles, out of school, less than a month into the school year, claiming he would home-school the youth while continuing to train him for his hoops career. Now, we know the real reason why.

Word has gotten out this afternoon that the elder Ball had tried to convince Chino Hills' new boys' varsity basketball coach, Dennis Latimore, the 3rd different coach in as many seasons, to put 4 of LaMelo's AAU teammates on the Chino Hills team. Essentially, he wanted Latimore to coach what amounted to his AAU team during the winter. Latimore, rightfully, would have none of that. The school principal also turned Ball down.

We get the deal. Ball isn't an accredited instructor in the school district, but he is obsessed with living vicariously through all three of his sons, realizing the success he never achieved decades ago. However, trying to play his shell game with school adminstrators and coaches isn't working, so, in effect, the Fred Sanford of high school parents is taking his Ball and going home.

When is he going to learn that one player doesn't always make a team? For every Michael Jordan or LeBron James, there are a few zillion kids who never make it to the NBA or other pro leagues for one reason or another, despite the fact that they're usually surrounded by the same glad handing leeches that follow James around like pampered puppies.

Maybe it's for the best that LaMelo isn't at Chino Hills now. Once the season starts, you could guarantee that ESPN, FS1 and even TNT would keep tabs on him, which is exactly what LaVar wants.

In upstate NY, we don't have overbearing stage parents in basketball or other sports. We don't play like that. LaVar Ball picks up another set of Weasel ears for his selfish act.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Forgotten TV: The Fun Factory (1976)

NBC was looking to put together a strong lunch hour block to bridge to their soap operas in the mid-70's. In June 1976, they thought they had the right combo. While Chuck Barris' envelope-pushing Gong Show enjoyed a 2 year run, the lead-in, The Fun Factory, was a bust.

Entertainer Bobby Van, fresh from ABC's Showoffs, was tapped to host. Fishman-Freer Productions had made its first network sale (its previous entries, Dealer's Choice & Diamond Head, were syndicated), despite the fact that Van and Showoffs had suffered from the same viewer & network indifference that would plague Factory as well. The series lasted just 3 1/2 months, and Fishman-Freer would never be heard from again.

Gilmore Box provides the intro:

Yes, it did air briefly on GSN before the channel was added to my local cable system. Just sayin'.

Van's last series, the 1979 revival of Make Me Laugh, would also air at lunch time in the home district. Van's passing in 1980 due to a brain tumor took away an enormous talent way too soon.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Musical Interlude: No Freedom (2017)

In the wake of the horrific mass murders committed in Las Vegas Sunday night by a 64 year old retiree, Stephen Paddock, Jimmy Fallon opened The Tonight Show by turning the stage over to featured guest Miley Cyrus (ex-Hannah Montana), who joined forces with actor-singer-comedian Adam Sandler, like Fallon an alum of Saturday Night Live, to cover Dido's "No Freedom".

To those of you who think of Sandler only as a comedian, let us remember that 30 years ago, he was part of the ensemble of MTV's Remote Control, and would occasionally join keyboard player Steve Treccase on stage as the credits rolled to jam. Sandler has also covered Warren Zevon's classic "Werewolves of London" in the past, but watch. "No Freedom" could wind up getting heavy radio airplay sooner than you think.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Musical Interlude: The Waiting (1981)

It's been crazy the last couple of hours.

Just as I had finished my last post, I had caught a headline that claimed that singer Tom Petty had passed on from cardiac arrest. It has since been reported that Petty is "near death", and that LAPD officials couldn't confirm that Petty had actually passed.

If he does pass, it would leave long time collaborator Jeff Lynne of ELO and Bob Dylan as the surviving members of the Traveling Wilburys, the supergroup that had been formed in the late 80's.

Anyway, from April 1981, here's Tom and the Heartbreakers with "The Waiting", the 1st single off "Hard Promises".

Update, 10/3/17, 8:26 am (ET): Petty has indeed passed away, as he was pronounced dead around 11:40 pm (ET).

MLB playoff forecast 2017

Now, the real fun begins.

The baseball playoffs begin with the Wild Card games on Tuesday (AL) & Wednesday) NL), followed by the Division Series on Thursday & Friday. Let's see if we can't correctly dissect this.

AL Wild Card: Minnesota @ Yankees.

Don't think this is an easy call, because strange things do happen in October. Just ask the Yanks, who let World Series slip through their fingers in 2001 (Arizona) & 2003 (the then-Florida Marlins). New York has owned Minnesota in recent years in the regular season, and they have the presumptive AL Rookie of the Year in Aaron Judge. I can't see an upset here, but the winner gets defending AL champ Cleveland.


NL Wild Card: Colorado @ Arizona.

Two NL West rivals meet one final time this season in Phoenix. That's the good news. The bad? The winner gets division champ Los Angeles. Arizona has not had a deep playoff run since they won it all in 2001.


NL Division Series:

Arizona vs. Los Angeles: Clayton Kershaw has proven to be mortal in the post-season, much to the Dodgers' dismay. But if the NL West champs want to win their first World Series since 1988, they need a bravura performance from their ace, as well as presumptive NL Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger.

Pick: Dodgers in 5.

Chicago @ Washington: The defending champs have to play the NL East champs to start. That didn't go so well in the LCS round 2 years ago vs. the Mets, but Washington is a little more vulnerable despite an improved bullpen. Dusty Baker still hasn't figured out how to get to the World Series as a manager, and he won't here.

Pick: Cubs in 5.

AL Division Series: 

Boston @ Houston: Tri-City Valleycats fans will be rooting for Houston around here. Jose Altuve just won his 3rd AL batting title. George Springer had a breakout season. Houston ran away and hid in the AL West. Boston? I picked them last year, and they were ambushed by Cleveland in the divisional round. Same thing happens this year.

Pick: Houston in 5.

Yankees @ Cleveland: Y'think maybe the Bombers want a little revenge on Terry Francona, who led the Sawx to the Series at their expense in '04? You bet. All 4 divisional rounds will go the same distance.

Pick-Yankees in 5.

LCS picks next week. Of course, I could be wrong.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

On The Air: Marvel's The Defenders (2017)

Nearly a decade ago, Marvel Comics began building its cinematic universe, step by step. 2 "Iron Man" movies, "The Incredible Hulk", "Thor", & "Captain America: The First Avenger" set the stage for "The Avengers", and all of those movies hit the top of the box office chart.

After forging a deal with Netflix to build a similar line of TV programs for the online streaming service, Marvel hoped to duplicate their success. What they have found, however, is that they've become vulnerable to the law of diminishing returns.

Their online incarnation of The Defenders isn't close to "Avengers", not by any stretch. Instead, it continues the downward spiral of the Marvel-Netflix line that started earlier this year with Iron Fist. There, the biggest problem was show's charismatically-challenged star, Finn Jones. That Defenders has just 8 episodes as opposed to 13 for the other series in the line means Marvel is intent on minimalizing the damage this miniseries could cause.

As the series begins, Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), aka Daredevil, has put his red suit away and has found success in the courtroom, all the while grieving over the seeming loss of his ex, Elektra, unaware that the Hand claimed Elektra for their own nefarious purposes at the end of season 2 of Daredevil. Detective Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) has gotten her agency back on track, but the mountain of offers for cases is proving to be too much, and one client ends up dead in her office when Elektra, now answering to her Hand codename, Black Sky, kills him.

Luke Cage (Mike Colter) is out of prison again, and back in New York, where he immediately gets busy with Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson). One of the Hand's "fingers" is working in Harlem, and that gets Cage's attention, leading to a meeting with Iron Fist.

Stick (Scott Glenn), Matt's mentor, is the one who ultimately brings the team together. Matt and Danny Rand find they have something in common. Danny's girlfriend, martial arts instructor Colleen Wing, and police detective Misty Knight (Simone Bissett) are on the periphery, and not just for support.

At the forefront for the Hand is Alexandra, an immortal (Sigourney Weaver), who has used a variety of aliases in her lifetime. Bokudo (Ramon Rodriguez) returns after seemingly having been killed off on Iron Fist. And, then, there is Madame Gao, who has menaced both Iron Fist & Daredevil.

So, where does this go wrong?

Showrunners Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez also worked on season 2 of Daredevil, and while Ramirez co-wrote virtually every episode with either Petrie, who left early in production, or other writers, neither actually has clue one about building team chemistry. Too much time is spent on expository dialogue and characters standing around when they could be doing something at key moments. It takes them half the series just to get the team together and on the same page. The second half is a muddled mess that only gets worse instead of better.

Without spoiling too much, there are plot threads left at the end that will set up season 2 of Luke Cage and season 3 of Daredevil. You just have to hope the quality of writing improves on The Punisher, reportedly due before the end of the year.

Right now, scope the trailer.

The comic book version of The Defenders had its genesis some 45-odd years ago with different characters, although Cage & Iron Fist were members of the "non-team" in various incarnations, and I think Daredevil might've been, too. The current incarnation of the comic has our four stars in a different storyline, and we'll address that another time.

Rating: C--.