Thursday, July 30, 2009

There are better ways to fall in love

As youths, we all have crushes, but as we get older, we get over them. Well, most of us do.

One of the pitfalls of fame for a young star such as Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana) is that there are going to be delusional, deranged, socially disconnected types who want to jump on the bandwagon for all the wrong reasons. One such fellow is Mark McLeod of Appling, GA., who was arrested on June 22 for disorderly conduct when he turned up on the set of "The Last Song", a movie Ms. Cyrus was working on.

McLeod claims that Miley is sending him "secret messages" through the television whenever he watches Hannah Montana. He claims to have sent the singer-actress gifts, such as diamond rings, and downloaded several pictures of Ms. Cyrus on his computer. Chatham County (GA) Sheriff's deputies released McLeod a day after his arrest due to jail overcrowding, unaware that a court order had been issued in Los Angeles barring McLeod from getting near Ms. Cyrus. McLeod is due back in court September 1 in Georgia, but in all probability won't see much jail time. Instead, McLeod will likely get psychiatric counseling & evaluation, something that should, rightfully, last for a year, maybe two, until McLeod is cured of his delusions.

The Sheriff of Chatham County, Al St. Lawrence, claims that if he had been apprised of McLeod's stalking of Ms. Cyrus, McLeod wouldn't have been released so quickly.

The article doesn't list McLeod's age, but I must assume that he's in his 20's or 30's. If the man couldn't find a girlfriend his own age, why pursue a celebrity not yet old enough to buy a drink? Chalk it up to being so totally smitten, that age doesn't matter. However, it should matter. Before it's too late.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A conspiracy in the name of needing attention

President Obama should be celebrating his birthday next week in peace. However, there are people who simply refuse to accept the fact that the Chief Executive was in fact a native of Hawaii.

They call themselves "birthers". I call them attention-seeking idiots who are mere flies on the wall compared to the larger problems that Obama has to deal with. These people refuse to accept the fact that the President, who represented Illinois as its junior Senator prior to becoming President last year, is a Hawaiian native, instead insisting that he is originally from Kenya. Obama is of Kenyan descent, and spent some of his formative years there, but as of Monday, Hawaii state officials once again verified that he was born in their state. That should be the end of the story right there, but these "birthers" won't let it drop. They listen to talk radio gasbags like Rush Limbaugh, and accept his word as gospel. Limbaugh's better off writing for a supermarket tabloid if this is what his "dittoheads" have become.

No, the truth of the matter is the "birthers" are upset because Obama is the first African-American to be elected President. They needed to find a cause to rally around in order to get attention. It doesn't matter to them that their outrageous claims have been denied repeatedly. They think it needs to be investigated completely, top to bottom. Sorry, geeks, it's not X-Files-worthy, and it never has been.

I have a pen pal in Long Island who is developmentally challenged, and believes in ridiculous conspiracies like this. I have told him repeatedly that "birthers" such as Philip J. Berg are way, way off base with their claims, but he won't listen. Neither will the "birthers" themselves, but I've got one simple, solitary message for these people:

The President is an American citizen. Get over it, get over yourselves, and get a life!

Monday Night Raw: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

So what happened next, after Night of Champions? Monday Night Raw began the road to Summerslam with the return of the Beat the Clock tournament. Guest host Shaquille O'Neal announced that John Cena, Triple H, Mark Henry, Jack Swagger, & MVP would each have an opportunity to earn the next title shot vs. Randy Orton. Shaq would also end up as an enforcer for the main event, a non-title tag match pitting Chris Jericho and his new partner, Big Show, vs. Cryme Tyme, visiting from Smackdown.

Beat the Clock results:

Mark Henry def. Carlito Colon in 6:49 with the World's Strongest Slam. A flaw in the booking is that it restricts the title pool to the five men being pushed in this tournament. There is no provision that allows for someone like Carlito, who's never had a real sniff at the World title, to be put into a position where he can upset the applecart and earn the title shot himself. To Carlito's credit, he presented himself as a possible future contender, but his lone mistake came in attempting his signature finisher, the Backstabber. Carlito merely bounced off Henry, who simply no-sold the move. The end came soon after.

MVP went to a double countout with Chris Masters at 3:39. The real surprise was Masters returning after nearly 2 years away in this spot. The battle spilled to the floor, and more than once Masters pulled MVP away from the apron, then locked on the Masterlock (full nelson) at 8. Referee Scott Armstrong counted both men out, so MVP's been eliminated.

Triple H went to a time limit (6:49) draw with Cody Rhodes. This exposed another mistake in the booking, as would be evident later. Pre-match, Ted DiBiase, Jr. clipped HHH with a tire iron backstage, hoping to weaken "The Game". With under a minute to go, DiBiase came out and got on the apron to taunt Helmsley. Michael Cole & Jerry Lawler stressed that if DiBiase made contact, then Rhodes gets DQd. But that would still be a win for HHH, lowering the time. Instead, Hunter ends up getting screwed by Legacy for the 2nd straight night.

The correct call is to call the DQ anyway, with about 20 seconds left, but when your head writer is a moron......!

Evan Bourne def. Jack Swagger at 3:40 with an inside cradle. Note what I said earlier about the "spoilers", such as Bourne, not being given an equal opportunity to earn the title shot. If they allowed this to count, then Bourne would've advanced, but that isn't what Vince McMahon wants. Swagger, the former ECW champ, looked more like a green rookie than normal against Bourne, who countered Swagger's Doctor Bomb finisher into a cradle for what amounts to a mild upset.

John Cena def. Mike Mizanin via submission with the STF at 4:23. Miz cut a pre-match promo claiming he was going to run out the clock to block Cena's chances of earning the title shot. Unfortunately, Miz also told the audience how this was going to end. These two had a better TV match a month ago, but given the time constraints, this was a little on the sloppy side.

Other stuff:

Mickie James, Kelly Kelly, & Gail Kim def. Beth Phoenix, Rosa Mendes, & Alicia Fox. Kelly was never tagged in, as they are subtly setting up a program between Gail & Mickie over the "Divas" title, which Mickie won at Night of Champions. The heels were not given an entrance, which is 95% of the time a sure sign that they're going to lose. Gail tagged herself in and pinned Fox after a missile dropkick off the top rope. Expect something to break down between her & Mickie in the next couple of weeks.

That's because former champ Maryse may be headed for the DL, if not back to Florida for more seasoning. Reports have it that Maryse will be heading to Dr. James Andrews' office in Birmingham to have her knee checked out. The match vs. Mickie was universally panned by critics, but now it seems there might've been an alibi for the poor performance.

Kofi Kingston def. "The" Brian Kendrick. Kendrick cut a promo on Jerry Lawler, but lost track of time. He never noticed the referee call for the bell, and Kingston, the US champ, nailed his Trouble in Paradise finisher, scoring the fall in nothing flat. I'd say from bell to bell, the match actually lasted less than 30 seconds!

Hornswoggle def. Chavo Guerrero. Again. This time, Chavo was blindfolded. More comedy with these two, and it's getting old already. Chavo missed the frogsplash, but Hornswoggle didn't miss with the tadpole splash. Earlier, Shaq said he & 'Swoggle (Dylan Postl) went to high school together. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Non-title: Cryme Tyme def. Big Show & Chris Jericho-DQ. The match started at 11:03, so you knew that this wasn't going too far. This set up Big Show for another SportsCenter moment when he had a post-match confrontation with Shaq, who bum rushed the colossus out of the ring with a shoulder block. Expect the two teams to be rematched on Smackdown on Friday.

Actor Jeremy Piven, star of Entourage and the new movie, "The Goods", hosts next week, but one match is already on the books, as Triple H will face Rhodes & DiBiase in a handicap match. In an interview with Josh Mathews, HHH said he'd been focusing on Randy Orton so long, he'd all but forgotten about the two stooges. Not anymore. If I'm Rhodes and/or DiBiase, I'd start considering vacation plans.......

The Mets issue a Bern Notice

It should've been as simple as opening a carton of milk. A mere press release from the New York Mets would've sufficed. Instead, the Mets fed the beast that is the city's tabloid media, be it their newspapers or talk radio, by holding a press conference to announce the dismissal of Tony Bernazard as Vice President of Player Development.

Adam Rubin, a beat writer covering the team for the New York Daily News, was singled out by General Manager Omar Minaya, not for bringing attention to Bernazard's on-duty indiscretions, such as a confrontation with star reliever Francisco Rodriguez and the now infamous clubhouse tirade against the Binghamton Mets, but because, it is alleged, Rubin had "lobbied" for a job with the team. By calling attention to something that no direct connection to the current scandal, Minaya made himself look like a fool, or at worst, another villain. Clearly, Bernazard had to be cut loose, because had he stayed on, then he makes owners Fred & Jeff Wilpon look like fools for letting him get away with destroying team morale at the minor league level, among other things. Bernazard, a former teammate of manager Jerry Manuel when both played for the Chicago White Sox, had become too much of a loose cannon in the eyes of the press, and for the good of the team and their fans, the Mets had to fire him. They had no other alternative.

But as they did nearly a week ago when the story finally broke, the Mets wasted everyone's time by building a molehill into a mountain. If they didn't do it that way, they may be reasoning, the tabloid media would've done it anyway, so, why not save them the trouble? Bad idea, bad execution. It may be 2009, but in some aspects, the Mets still function like it's 1962. Only in New York.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Roddy Piper was right

"Just when you think you've got all the answers, I change the questions!"---Roddy Piper, sometime in the 1980's, before he came to WWE.

The results of Night of Champions, in fact, may prove again how much of a prophet Piper actually was more than 25 years ago when he first used that line while working for Georgia Championship Wrestling.

I assumed that Triple H would win the WWE title, simply because it'd be an appropriate birthday present for the man, as he turns 40 this week. It wasn't to be. Having wrestled and lost earlier, Ted DiBiase, Jr. & Cody Rhodes, the other 2/3 of Legacy, interfered in the 3-way, which otherwise constitutes a DQ against champion Randy Orton. Orton, then, is on borrowed time.

I commented on another message board that CM Punk, I thought, had wrapped up one of Dave Meltzer's end-of-year awards for "best on interviews". So what happens? Punk's 2nd world title reign ends after just 7 weeks at the hands of Jeff Hardy. What that tells the internet community is that Hardy, with all of his issues, will in fact stick around, contrary to the rumors. Punk says all the right things in trying to "preach", if you will, to the "inattentive" masses supporting Hardy, stating a lot of facts, but even though he's on his 2nd tour of duty with WWE, Hardy still has some sort of seniority within the organization, plus the prospect of fighting his brother, Matt (currently on the DL), for the title down the line. They do see money in that.

Big Show was selected as Chris Jericho's partner to defend the tag titles vs. Legacy, but that meant erasing everything he'd done to move into contention for the US title, a belt he hasn't had in 5 years. What that says to me is that the creative team just didn't know what was the best option, and, even with Jericho contributing ideas, were stuck for a more appropriate answer. Show lucks into his first tag title run since 2005-06 (w/Kane), but this is a short-term deal at best.

On the whole, the ledger stands at 4-4 for Night of Champions. Average of late, but with room for improvement.

One more thing. Shaquille O'Neal is tonight's guest host, with actor Jeremy Piven (Entourage) on tap for next week. There may be more title changes afoot this week, so we'll wait & see.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

In the light of cowardice

We know that sports fans in Philadelphia have a reputation as the toughest in the country. They'll even boo Santa Claus if necessary. Heck, in the old ECW, they had someone dressed as Santa take a chokeslam, which the crowd applauded.

And, it seems, they're also willing to protect their own. Case in point, Saturday's Fox game of the week, Phillies-Cardinals. The defending World Champions had just taken the lead on back-to-back homers by Jimmy Rollins (a grand slam) and Shane Victorino. As St. Louis is at-bat the next inning, some jerk decides to have some fun at the expense of the Cardinals. Julio Lugo, who just came over from Boston earlier in the week via trade, suddenly had a green laser light show up, dancing around the top of his uniform shirt. Lugo ultimately struck out, but he had to be distracted by the laser light, which was exactly the goal of the fan using the laser pointer!

As All-Star slugger Albert Pujols digs in, the laser light shows up again. Umpire Jim Wolf, who'd just seen the same thing and got a complaint from Lugo, stops the game and walks in the direction of the home dugout. Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel tries to help, but it seems his own fans aren't willing to hand up the cowardly culprit. An obligatory announcement was made over the public address system, and the laser pointer was put away for the rest of the game. It's not as if the Phillies needed any additional help, as they went on to win the game, 14-6. It's the fact that this win, in which Philadelphia had to come from behind to win going away, was tainted because of one lone punk with a laser pointer. What if he'd blinded Lugo or Pujols? You know the Cardinals are going to complain----loudly----if that happened. That this jerk escaped unscathed and undetected speaks volumes to the contempt that certain Phillies fans have, a sense of entitlement that has them convinced they can do whatever they want because their team is the defending World Champion. If this slime tried the same stunt vs. the Mets, you know full well it's going to be played up huge in scandal-happy New York. So why pull it on national television against a team the Phillies may have to face in the post-season?

The simplest answer is that whomever this obviously inebriated dorkazoid is, he was looking to give his team an unnecessary extra advantage, not realizing that if he got caught, and he's a season ticket holder, he's losing his tickets for the rest of the season. The NY Giants of the NFL did that a few years ago when a drunken fan threw an ice ball at the San Diego Chargers' bench during a game, so there's precedent. But, drunk or otherwise, there's no excuse for infringing on a professional athlete competing against your team. It's not a twisted sense of entitlement, it's cowardice of the worst kind. Sadly, there's too many of these punks out there, and Mr. Laser will spawn the predictable copycats before the season is over. Count on it.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Night of Champions Predictions

World Wrestling Entertainment serves up their July Pay-Per-View, Night of Champions, this Sunday, but not a lot will be settled, only continued, leading up to Summerslam on August 23. Here, then, is the lineup for Night of Champions..

WWE title: Randy Orton vs. John Cena vs. Triple H.

Internet detractors have voiced their displeasure over this match, largely because all three participants have been going at it tooth & nail for months without end, and it's getting boring, they say. Orton, the champion, has been cast as a sociopathic, psychotic, remorseless thug whose emotions appear to have been surgically removed. On the other hand, he looks like he had his barber study old Doc Savage book covers to get that hairdo down. At the beginning of this decade, Triple H was that same thug, only he kept his emotions intact. Cena's the clown prince that the kids love. Normally, predicting this match would be a wee bit difficult. Not this time. For Hunter Hearst Helmsley, it's birthday weekend, for himself as well as his two daughters. Winning the title would be the icing on the cake, literally.

The pick: Triple H.

WWE US title: Kofi Kingston vs. Jack Swagger vs. Big Show vs. MVP vs. Carlito Colon vs. the Miz.

Kingston is the reigning champ, and you have two former champs (MVP & Big Show) in the field. All except Miz competed in a 6-man tag on Raw, which means the two-time tag team champ and general nuisance to the WWE Universe will be fresher than a bouquet of daisies. And that's the only advantage he really needs. It's hard to pick against this weasel, so I won't.

The pick: The Miz.

WWE tag team titles: Chris Jericho & ? vs. Ted DiBiase, Jr. & Cody Rhodes.

A year ago, DiBiase made his PPV debut at this event, and Rhodes double-crossed his then-partner, "Hardcore" Bob Holly, leading to the formation of what is now 2/3 of Legacy. This time, Jericho has the x factor on his side, since Edge, with whom he won the titles just a month ago, went on the shelf just 5 days later with a torn Achilles' tendon and is gone for the rest of the year. Some think either DiBiase or Rhodes will turn on the other, but that won't be the case. This match will come late on the card in order to appropriately build drama. Until Monday, I thought Legacy might three-peat as champions, but not anymore.

The pick: Jericho selects WWE World Champion CM Punk as his partner, and they'll beat Legacy.

WWE Women's title: Michelle McCool vs. Melina Perez.

Last month at The Bash, it was McCool who ended Perez's 5 month reign as champion, thus becoming the first woman to hold both the women's title and the "Divas" title, which only debuted last year. Not much for career accomplishments, but still....! It's too early to switch the title again, so we'll stay the course.

The pick: McCool.

ECW title: Tommy Dreamer vs. Christian.

At Extreme Rules on June 7, Dreamer ended a 9 year-plus quest to regain the ECW title. Dreamer had beaten Taz in April 2000, only to lose it minutes later to Justin Credible. Talk of retirement clearly was the touchstone to Dreamer getting the title this time, and being allowed to hold it for a few weeks. However, just as when he was NWA champion while with TNA, Christian was never truly defeated for the title (Dreamer pinned Jack Swagger). Abraham Washington's attempts to stir the pot on ECW on Tuesday proved to be lame, just like the ersatz talker himself. Dreamer's had his time, and I just don't see him sticking around too much longer.

The pick: Christian.

WWE World title: CM Punk vs. Jeff Hardy.

Last year, the critics felt Punk was getting the short shrift as champion, just like Rey Mysterio two years earlier. Now that Punk has turned heel, it hasn't changed anything. he's still not being booked as a strong champion (blame that on politics within the company if you like, but I don't think it's that as a whole). He's one of the best promo artists in the company, and that should account for something. Hardy, they say, is taking a vacation soon, so it's not the time to put the belt on him, either. By the end of the night, though, Punk will be a double-champion (see above).

The pick: Punk.

WWE Intercontinental title: Rey Mysterio vs. Dolph Ziggler.

In a past life, Ziggler was a member of the Spirit Squad and held the tag titles hostage for 7 months in 2006. His overall performance has gotten better since being recalled in this current incarnation several months back. The company is touting him as one of the cornerstones to build around down the road, and with the A-listers on the rosters all 40 or better (Triple H will turn 40 this weekend), youth has to be served. Ziggler has paid his dues. Mysterio, in all probability, will be in line to chase Punk next.

The pick: Ziggler.

WWE "Divas" title: Maryse Oulette vs. Mickie James.

Ever since being drafted from Smackdown to Raw in April, Maryse's value as champion has plummeted. She has lost non-title matches not only to 4-time women's champ James, but also to another ex-champ, Gail Kim. Maryse has pinned James just once, but the incompetent creative staff decided to have the suddenly cowardly champ attempt to blind James with hairspray on Raw. Totally lame. I had hopes that Mickie would win the title here, but now I'm not so sure. She'll win, but the gold remains away for now.

The pick: James wins via DQ, either by Maryse again resorting to using the spray, or having Miz show up and interfere. Either way, Maryse escapes----for now.

4 title changes out of 8. Given what's happened at PPV's this year, that would be about average. Check back here on Monday, and we'll see how it all turned out.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

How low can a peeping Tom go?

ESPN's Erin Andrews is a well respected reporter often assigned to sideline duty for college football & basketball games. She's also very attractive, and, as revealed on Monday, the victim of a weaselly peeping Tom who took nude pictures of her on his camera phone and posted them on the internet.

That's not the worst of it, though. While ESPN has seen to it that the video has been deleted from YouTube, Google, et al, that hasn't stopped computer hackers from making copies and attaching viruses, luring in unsuspecting, curiosity seekers with promises of seeing Ms. Andrews in her birthday suit. Unsurprisingly, the New York Post decided to make this a page 1 article in today's editions. The New York Daily News, on the other hand, opted not to do so, finding more compelling and important issues to front their editions.

Obviously, the perverted voyeur who started this mess won't come forward because he thinks he hasn't done anything wrong. Guess again, slick. All they have to do is pinpoint the exact angles of the camera shots, and you're busted, pal.

Of course, if there is a lesson for Ms. Andrews to gain from this sad episode, it's that she may be well served to close the window curtains in every room in the house before something like this happens again.

Monday Night Raw: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

The "go-home" episode of Raw leading to Night of Champions should've been stronger in terms of in-ring content. It wasn't. Billy Gibbons & Dusty Hill of ZZ Top were your hosts for the evening, but you could've hired two actors to play the Smith Brothers of cough drop fame and it would've been the same.

As is standard procedure for the flagship, we open with talking points that take up the first 15 minutes or so. It starts with John Cena playing cheerleader, getting the crowd fired up. That's all well & good, but then the human buzzkiller, Randy Orton, comes out. Neither man remembered that the last time they & Triple H were in a triple threat title match on PPV, it was Wrestlemania 24 15 months ago, not two years ago, as Cena claimed. The other 2/3 of Legacy, Cody Rhodes & Ted DiBiase, come through the crowd, but along comes Triple H to sort-of even the sides. See, it's supposed to be Legacy vs. Cena/HHH in the main event, and it will be, as Orton deals himself in to make it a 3-on-2 handicap match.

The first match of the evening pitted former tag team champions Carlito & Primo Colon on opposite sides of a six-man donnybrook, with Primo teaming with MVP & Kofi Kingston vs. Carlito, Big Show, & Jack Swagger. With the exception of Primo, all are in a US title match at the PPV. Standard fare for the first bout of the night. Both Colons have new video packages, and Primo has a new theme, though older brother Carlito has the same tired song he's had for nearly 5 years. To illustrate the poor logic in the booking, it is Primo winning the match, pinning Carlito after a springboard head butt off the top rope. After the match, Big Show, who'd mistakenly laid out Carlito with a spear to set up the finish, spears Primo and lays out everyone else. All that says is that the colossus isn't going to be the winner on Sunday.

Through much of the evening, Gibbons & Hill are in their office, with microphones at the ready in case they decide to sing. There's a 3rd bearded guy with them, Santino Marella with a fake beard and a toy guitar that looks like something from either Rock Band or Guitar Hero. The other member of ZZ Top, Frank Beard, isn't as big a fan as the others are, I guess, and declined to make the trip. In separate skits, Gibbons & Hill line up three other matches leading up to the main event.

We come back from break, and we find "The" Brian Kendrick berating Jerry Lawler & Michael Cole for no apparent reason. Well, actually, there is a reason. Kendrick, who'd been hunting for a new tag partner after Ezekiel Jackson was drafted away to ECW 3 months ago, is openly campaigning to team with Chris Jericho vs. Legacy at Night of Champions. It's more likely, thinking back, that Kendrick's days with the company have been numbered. Lawler, despite not being in battle gear, is Kendrick's opponent. It was short, & to the point. Kendrick got some offense in against the Hall of Famer, but Lawler blocked Sliced Bread #2 (redubbed "The Kendrick" for this gimmick), and hit a fistdrop off the 2nd turnbuckle to pick up the win.

A week ago, Chris Jericho was lured into an impromptu match vs. Mark Henry, then walked out. This time, the Duke of Dullness decides he needs to get his heat back and takes it to the former ECW champion. Frustrated by his inability to put Henry down long enough for the 3, Jericho goes to the floor and fetches that ol' reliable steel chair, which he thrusts into Henry's gut for the intentional DQ. Jericho rears back for another shot, but the Olympic Powerhouse blocks, then bum-rushes Jericho back into the ring. A Code Breaker is blocked and countered into the World's Strongest Slam. Thanks for coming, Chris!

Now, it's time for an old school (as in, late 80's) interview, conducted by Josh Mathews, with Mickie James, who gets Maryse at the PPV for the "Divas" title. Mickie rips Maryse, who hasn't exactly been sparkling in the ring since coming over in the draft from Smackdown, claiming the champ needs a reality check.

Enter "The Miz" (Michael Mizanin), who happily puts over Maryse as being sexier than Mickie (highly unlikely), and claims that the 4-time women's champ will be working at a waffle house in 10 years. More than likely, we'll see her at the Kentucky Derby by then, as a horse trainer. Maryse finally shows up, doesn't say a word, and sprays hair spray in Mickie's eyes. Second time she's done that in as many months. All that says to me is that moving to Raw has done nothing but devalue the Montreal Minx as champion, and adding Miz to the mix will actually make things worse.

Chavo Guerrero has been turned into a comedy jobber ever since his Aunt Vicki abdicated as Raw GM last month. Twice in a 5 day period, Guerrero had lost to Hornswoggle, and obviously would've been better served wrestling someone more his size. Instead, he draws 'Swoggle again in a "Sharp Dressed Man" match, which is just a fancy way of booking a tuxedo match. Chavo's pant-legs have been stitched together, which of course means he's losing again. It didn't take that long, and Guerrero might've been more embarassed than anything to be revealed with chili peppers imprinted on his boxers. Oh, stop the pain!

The semi-final match of the evening was a women's tag match, billed as a "ZZ Top Legs match", after their 1983 hit. Kelly Kelly & Gail Kim were pitted against non-winners Rosa Mendes & Alicia Fox, who haven't earned pinfalls of their own although they have had some tag team victories in recent weeks. It's one thing for these ladies to look good in the ring, but another thing altogether to coax a 3-or-4-star match out of them. I've seen worse than this. Fox earns her first pinfall victory rolling up Kelly in an inside cradle dangerously close to the ropes.

Gibbons & Hill were brought out to meet the audience before the main event, and it was announced that basketball star Shaquille O'Neal will be next week's host in Washington.

The main event came and was as good as it could be. Surprisingly, there was no hint of animosity between HHH & Cena heading into Night of Champions, even with a pre-match skit with the two of them in HHH's dressing room. Legacy made rotating tags that were so frequent and so fast, it was hard keeping up if you were just tuning in for kicks. Right about now, though, Orton might be regretting the decision to add himself to the match. He made a blind tag to re-enter the contest with Cena seemingly ripe for the picking. HHH had cleared out DiBiase, and Rhodes was clearly spent. Orton went for his concussion punt, but Cena rolled out of harm's way and schoolboyed the champion to gain the fall, adding momentum for himself going into Sunday.

However, it won't be Cena taking home the gold at Night of Champions. Triple H is about to turn 40, and figures to celebrate by winning his 14th World/WWE title at Orton's expense. Cena just got married, so figure he'll leave after the PPV to go on his honeymoon and return in time for Summerslam. Later on this week, I'll have my picks for Night of Champions.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Hong Kong Phooey: The Movie?

Don't laugh, because it may in fact happen. There was an article that I read online the other day that said that Warner Bros. was planning a feature film based on the 1974 Hanna-Barbera cartoon about a canine superhero who couldn't catch the bad guys without the timely aid of his sidekick, a cat.

Now, this is not the first time there've been rumors of a movie based on the series. A few years ago, in what amounted to a lame April Fool's Day joke, there was a rumor that had David Spade attached to a Hong Kong Phooey movie, presumably as the voice of the title character, though I'm not so sure about that. Yes, it's HKP's 35th anniversary this year, but if it's mostly live-action, that means HKP will be a CGI character, like Scooby-Doo was in his 2 live-action films. I don't think Warners wants to make the same mistake Disney did 2 years ago with their version of Underdog. However, I don't think, either, that it would sell to today's audience. Warners would be well advised to make this a direct-to-video movie.

It falls under the heading of "questionable decisions" by the studio, regardless. Another one is the casting of teen heartthrob Zac Efron ("High School Musical") as 60's adventure hero Jonny Quest. I'm sorry, but unless the story has Jonny in college and on the verge of getting married, Efron is not a perfect fit. I realize that this is a case of taking a hot commodity (Efron) and putting him in a movie about an iconic character from the baby boomer era of the 60's, but that is just short-sighted thinking. It's almost as if they didn't bother with an open casting call of local kids 10-12 who would be more appropriate for the part!!! It's all about the money, and hoping that Efron is enough of a selling point. Not in this case. He'd be a square peg in a round hole, and that always spells trouble. It'd be better if Warners suits take a longer look at the projects and how to cast the characters more appropriately, not relying on the trends. And Warners should know better than anyone. After all, they took a chance on a soap opera actor as Superman 31 years ago, and, well, you know how well that worked.

So why is Hollywood creatively bankrupt these days? Not enough attention is paid to research in developing projects. How else to explain a zillion movies that all seem like they came out of the same cookie cutter? Translated, if the Quest & Phooey movies do make it to the big screen, they're doomed to fail. No other explanation may be needed.

People who need to go away

I want to stress right off the bat that this is not about Hollywood stars like Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston, George Clooney, et al, that are always in the gossip pages of the national tabloids. Instead, it's about the nothing-happening get-a-lifes whose own fame is at best questionable.

At the top of the list is internet blogger Perez Hilton (real name: Mario Lavandiera). This punk is not related to Paris & Nicky, and I suspect those two would disown this clown in a mere heartbeat if he tried to claim he was. Lavandiera is the most infamous internet "reporter", and there's a reason for the quotation marks, since Matt Drudge started his online reports. Lavandiera baited since-deposed Miss California, Carrie Prejean, with a question about same-sex marriage during the Miss USA pageant a couple of months back. Lavandiera, you see, is gay himself, proud of it, but is also using his preference to further a personal agenda at the expense of others, which as a journalist you are not supposed to do! Ms. Prejean was later stripped of her regional crown, and she believes, rightly, that Lavandiera's loaded line of questioning cost her the Miss USA title.

A few weeks later, Lavandiera was at the center of another scandal, this one involving rapper-turned-actor of the Black Eyed Peas. Lavandiera hurled a gay slur at will, whose bodyguard allegedly served up a receipt in the form of a black eye. Lavandiera filed suit, but the folks at GLAAD reamed him out for the slur. He's since apologized, but there's no mistaking the fact that he is a punk of the worst order.

I have not seen either of his movies, nor do I care to, but Sacha Baron Cohen may need to find some different subject matter for his next project, or at the very least try for a supporting role. There has been one common thread in the promotion of both 2006's "Borat" and the current "Bruno" in that Cohen's tactics in the production of both films have led to lawsuits. It may be his idea of ensuring big box office, but the act has already gone stale. "Bruno" had a strong opening night, but while it was #1 last week, it was already showing signs of fading. And it surely won't be #1 now, with the latest Harry Potter movie having opened. They're not going to play along a 3rd time, if, say, Ali G (Cohen's alter-ego on HBO) stars in the next film.

It used to be that MTV helped create superstars in the music business. Nowadays, music is secondary to the relentless programming of reality shows on the once iconic network. The Hills, for example, has produced the most overexposed people on television at present. Spencer & Heidi Pratt, more commonly known by the gossips by the collective pet name "Speidi", are addicted to television cameras. They were brought in for NBC's airing of I'm a Celebrity....Get Me Out of Here! last month, and made more headlines doing what they do best---mugging for the camera and whining about having to participate in the game in the jungles of Costa Rica (if you care, actor Lou Diamond Phillips won), pretending to quit, then come back at least 2-3 times before finally being eliminated. The E! network has gone so far as to announce they won't report on the Pratts until they actually do something that is newsworthy. They just strike me as being duller than dishwater. I don't watch The Hills or its ilk, I just read about it in the papers.

That having been said, I think it's time the networks, both broadcast & cable, realize that regardless of the fact that "reality shows" are cheap to produce, they're also getting to be too much of a cottage industry. It's made celebrities out of ordinary citizens who now cannot evade the addictive scrutiny of the tabloid media (i.e. Jon & Kate Gosselin). Hollywood as a whole is creatively bankrupt, devoid of true original concepts. If all they've got now are horror movies imported from overseas (i.e. "The Grudge" and the like) or Saturday morning cartoons that were favorites of today's studio executives (rumors of a Hong Kong Phooey movie have circulated), then what are we teaching our kids nowadays? That we are a society raised on vicarious voyeurism? I'm afraid to even think of the answer.

In God We Trust

I have just been apprised of a lawsuit being filed by a Wisconsin-based atheist organization that is opposed to plans for "In God We Trust" to be engraved on a building at the Capitol in Washington. These people think that it's---are you sitting down, effendi?---Un-American. The hypocrisy of the atheists is just astounding.

"In God We Trust" is a national motto going all the way back to Colonial times. It's on our currency, and I believe it's also on the Constitution and/or the Declaration of Independence. The atheists' lamest argument is that they're afraid that we're offending the Jewish faith. Oh, stop! If an atheist is opposed to any faith, why would they worry about the Jews or the Christians?

To me, this is a grab for attention. I had no idea there was actually a national organization devoted to atheism until I read this article, accessible online on Yahoo!, among other places. As a Christian myself, I find this to be disturbing and distressing. The lawsuit has no merit, in my opinion, and won't get very far. The Founding Fathers were men of diverse religions (Quakers, Christians, et al), and this is one tradition that should not be expunged to appease one particular group.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Walter Cronkite (1916-2009)

"The most trusted man in America", iconic CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite, passed away earlier tonight at 92. It would be appropriate to attach the term "icon" to Cronkite, who was the first newsman to be billed as an anchorman when he took over the CBS Evening News in 1962. Cronkite broke the news of President John F. Kennedy's assassination in November 1963, and anchored CBS' coverage of the Republican & Democratic conventions and Apollo moon missions.

Cronkite also stepped away from the anchor desk to serve as host of the historical re-enactment series, You Are There, and the historical magazine series, The 20th Century. Today's generation of youngsters may be familiar with Cronkite as the voice of Benjamin Franklin on Liberty's Kids, which has aired in syndication the last few years after a 1 year run on PBS (2003-04). To viewers who grew up during the 60's, 70's, and early 80's, he was "Uncle Walter", the calm, reassuring voice of reason in times of chaos. It feels as though we've all lost a member of our families.

Good night, Walter, and thanks for all the memories. God bless you.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The beast has been freed from his cage......

By now, everyone's heard about what happened after Brock Lesnar defeated Frank Mir at UFC 100. Lesnar had a flashback of sorts to his brief WWE career (2002-04) when he flipped off the crowd and disrespected a sponsor, among other things. UFC President Dana White took Lesnar aside and virtually took him to the woodshed, prompting an apology out of his champion.

But in the aftermath, there is one glaring truth that White must deal with. He is going to run into this problem again and again in the long haul, as long as there are other wrestlers making a transition to UFC. Bobby Lashley doesn't feel he's ready for UFC yet, so he's working for a smaller MMA promotion. Smart thinking on Lashley's part. Current TNA Champion Kurt Angle, forever trading on his 1996 Olympic gold medals (which he counts among his world championships, but that's another story for another time), has claimed in interviews several times in the last three years that he wants to try MMA. With Angle's medical history, it's little more than smoke & mirrors. Kimbo Slice, the face of the now defunct Elite XC promotion, is angling to enter UFC by taking part in the next cycle of Ultimate Fighter. In White's eyes, that's the only way the internet phenom will enter his promotion, especially after Slice was exposed in a loss on Elite XC's final broadcast for CBS last November.

To that end, however, White exposes himself as MMA's answer to Vince McMahon of the WWE. UFC is the premier MMA promotion, just as WWE remains the lone major league of pro wrestling remaining. (TNA? Don't be ridiculous!) By forcing Slice to go through Ultimate Fighter, White is sending a message. He is letting personal opinions on certain fighters, such as Slice, cloud his judgment. Lesnar didn't have to go through this program to get into UFC, and he was a bigger name in terms of recognition than Slice. In his line of work, White should not, nay, cannot allow personal prejudices get in the way of long-term growth for his company.

When Lesnar entered UFC, Spike TV, UFC's cable partner, was able to generate crossover coverage by having Angle, among others, talk up Lesnar on TNA Impact. Lashley has appeared briefly on Impact, when they teased he was coming in to join Angle and his "Main Event Mafia" group, but hasn't been seen since. If he does go to TNA, I just don't see him being allied with Angle and his over-the-hill mob. Again, that's for another time. That TNA & UFC have not done enough business together in conjunction with Spike speaks volumes not of UFC, which gets bigger ratings for the network via Ultimate Fighter, but of TNA's corporate ineptitude, which knows no boundaries.

Would Lesnar eventually appear in TNA? I doubt it. TNA's more likely to fold its tent before Lesnar is even invited to attend a taping in Orlando. Of course, stranger---and in TNA's case, dumber---things have happened.

The best value for the sports fan

In these tough economic times, it's nice to know that you don't have to go to Yankee Stadium II, Citi Field, or even hallowed Fenway Park to take in a good ballgame. Not when it's economically more feasible to stay at home and support the New York-Penn League's Tri-City Valleycats, the short-season affiliate of the Houston Astros.

The Valleycats are mired in last place in the Stedler Division of the NYPL, but they are still a consistently solid draw. Attendance is actually up this year, it seems, and a big reason for that may be that the 'Cats don't have a radio outlet for their games anymore. They ended their association with Siena College's radio station, WVCR, after last season, with all of the games now being streamed on the internet through the team's website. Those that don't have computers but want to keep up with the team find themselves gravitating to Joe Bruno Stadium more frequently than they have in previous seasons. Even though the 'Cats are not likely to make the playoffs for the 3rd straight season, they are giving their fans lots of reasons to be there with their between-innings promotions. It's a sense of community that has people spending as much time on the concourse chatting with friends as they are in the seats watching the game.

You can actually hear the internet broadcast being played in the restrooms, believe it or not. It's weird, I know, but it allows for some continuity so you don't miss a second of the action.

Meanwhile, across the river, there is doom & gloom for the Albany Firebirds in Arena Football 2. The reincarnated Firebirds (who were the Albany Conquest from 2002-08) got off to a terrible start---again---and with the home season completed, the 'Birds have a slim chance of making the playoffs in what could be the final season for AF2 in Albany. Owner Walt Robb also owns the AHL's River Rats, and has lost a lot of money in recent years, prompting speculation about at least the 'Birds' future. The Rats are, for now, secure, especially now that they've got a local rivalry to heat things up next season, with the Phantoms moving from Philadelphia to Glens Falls. The Conquest/Firebirds have become a league doormat since winning back-to-back division titles in 2002-03, and the name change, marking the 10th anniversary of the original 'Birds winning the Arena Bowl, hasn't changed their fortunes as much as they'd like. AF1 is on hiatus due to money issues, but---and I hate to say it---maybe this is the end of indoor football in this generation.

The New York Buzz of World Team Tennis changed home courts for the 2nd year in a row, playing their home matches at UAlbany's SEFCU Arena. Like the 'Cats, the Buzz are in last place in their division in the short-season league, but what also hurts may be the insistence on raising ticket prices when better known players like Venus Williams or Martina Navratilova hit town. You'll get the hardcore tennis fans with the credit cards to burn, but Joe Fan gets left out of the loop if he can't afford to spend upwards of $45 per seat for "special attractions".

In sharp contrast, the Valleycats' ticket price range ($6-$10 on game day) makes a lot more sense. $10 will get you a seat behind home plate at The Joe, and it also gets you an end zone seat at Times Union Center, where the Firebirds play. Except that in the latter, it costs at least $40-$50 for a seat at the 25 yard line. And they wonder why attendance at the TUC is down.

I gave up on Arena football long ago, largely because there was something that didn't feel right. If baseball is to regain it's place as America's "National Pastime", it needs to start giving back to Joe Fan and stop catering to the corporate suits who can afford the exorbitant ticket prices at, say for example, Yankee Stadium II. More than anything, baseball is the people's game. Big business, which is at the heart of Major League Baseball, needs to realize this.

Dallas McKennon (1919-2009)

I've been made aware that actor Dallas McKennon has passed away, just shy of his 90th birthday. For those who don't know, McKennon played shopkeeper Cincinnatus on Daniel Boone, but he may be better known for his cartoon work, including a 10 year run as the voice of Riverdale teenager Archie Andrews (1968-78). McKennon's other toon credits include Gumby and Courageous Cat. I don't have any other information at the present time.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

It feels like 1977 all over again

If it wasn't for the Washington Nationals' horrid start, the New York Mets would be plunging deep into the cellar in the National League East. Injuries have ravaged the Mets more than any other team, but at the same time, team management is making poor decisions that may be more responsible for the team's ultimate failure to make the post-season.

On Friday, the Mets traded outfielder Ryan Church to division rival Atlanta for outfielder Jeff Francoeur. Both are exceptional defensive players, and Francoeur has been among the league leaders in outfield assists in recent years. However, if press accounts are to be believed, both men have been in the doghouse of their respective former clubs this season. Francoeur strikes out too much, offsetting the power numbers he'd put up since joining the Braves 3 years ago. Church has been plagued by injuries since coming to New York from Washington after the 2007 season, and if you believe the tabloid press, he supposedly wasn't seeing eye-to-eye with Met manager Jerry Manuel.

The trade has all the stink of a June 1977 deal that sent Hall of Fame-bound pitcher Tom Seaver to Cincinnati, alienating the Mets' loyal fan base, and villified then-GM M. Donald Grant. History has shown us that any player who leaves the Mets via trade or free agency tends to haunt the team down the road. Oh, yeah, and the Phillies, according to reports, have expressed interest in Pedro Martinez. Hmmmm.

One wonders what went into the thought process in trading Church, who had been one of the more consistent players for the Mets when healthy. All-Star third baseman David Wright has been hot & cold, and a case can be made that Wright more than anyone has been trying to overcompensate for the injuries that have sidelined Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, & Carlos Delgado, three of the Mets' most important players. Bringing in Francoeur isn't going to be a quick fix, however.

It is open knowledge that owner Fred Wilpon was one of the victims of convicted swindler Bernard Madoff. One wonders if Wilpon lost enough money such that he suddenly can't afford to pursue higher level players to fill all the holes. If that's the case, then the Mets have fallen all the way back to the dregs of the late 70's. It's a worst case scenario, but it's one that's becoming more realistic with each passing day. And that's the worst part about it.

Filling the space between

On July 10, New York Governor David Paterson finally appointed a Lieutenant Governor, naming Richard Ravitch to the post. The real shocker is that few realized that there hadn't been a Lt. Governor since Paterson was promoted to Governor in March 2008 to replace the disgraced Eliot Spitzer.

The next thing you know, the Senate is all whole again, the stalemate settled after 31 days, and the Democrats wasted little time in naming one of the chief weasels in the whole scandal, Pedro Espada, Jr., as Majority Leader, replacing Malcolm Smith. Now, it's Ravitch's job to keep Espada in line before anything else happens. Espada has already been villified in NYC, and it can be suggested that, perhaps, Espada coveted the role of Majority Leader, and somehow managed to convince his party that Smith wasn't the leader they wanted. It will take a very long time for the State Senate to recover from this, and they won't soon do so, as long as Espada has any sort of stroke that allows him to feather his nest at the expense of the Senate and the people he is supposed to represent.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A funeral fit for a King........

And yet, Michael Jackson considered himself as a King in his own mind. The "King of Pop", that is. The media enablers bought into it, of course, just to make him happy.

Earlier today, Jackson, who succumbed to a cardiac arrest on June 25, was laid to rest in a memorial service in Los Angeles. The motorcade leading to the Staples Center was more befitting a funeral procession for a head of state, not a pop icon who'd sought to make a comeback at age 50. Of course, the stars turned out, including Mariah Carey, who'd recorded a cover of an early Jackson Five hit, "I'll Be There", nearly 20 years ago.

Jackson's ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, chose not to attend, and, in hindsight, it was a good decision, on the heels of an incident recorded on video over the weekend of Rowe being besieged by reporters & photographers looking for a story. There have been conflicting reports about whether or not Rowe would seek to regain custody of the two children she had with Jackson, son Prince Michael and daughter Paris, but it seems as though she'd rather be left alone and away from the media glare. For now, the children are in the care of their grandmother, Michael's mother Katherine.

But while Jackson was laid to rest, the story isn't over just yet. Not as long as there is an investigation into exactly what led to the circumstances surrounding his death. The tabloids will continue to put Jackson on the front page until things cool down, and, given the Pavlovian curiosity of today's society, no one's sure when that will happen. And as long as the likes of the Globe continue to use Jackson to sell papers, it will be that much more difficult to separate the facts of the case from idle speculation and deluded fantasy.

Elvis Presley, long billed as the "King of Rock & Roll", didn't get this kind of sendoff 32 years ago. Then again, he didn't have 300 channels trying to record his every move for posterity, either.

Robert Burns was right

The fabled poet wrote that "the best laid plans of mice & men often go astray". That certainly holds true in the WWE.

Just 9 days ago, at The Bash PPV, Edge & Chris Jericho were inserted into a tag title match between then-champions Primo & Carlito Colon and Legacy (Ted DiBiase, Jr. & Cody Rhodes). The idea being that Smackdown's GM, Theodore Long, was under pressure from his nuttier-than-a-can-of-cashews boss, Vince McMahon, to shake things up for the Friday show. Edge & Jericho won the match and the tag titles, this after Jericho had dropped the Intercontinental title earlier in the evening.

5 days later, at a house show in San Diego, Edge tore his Achilles' tendon in a match vs. old foe Jeff Hardy. Edge had surgery earlier today, and the early estimate is that he's gone until next Spring, perhaps in time for Wrestlemania 26 in Phoenix. Since WWE taped two weeks' worth of television programming last week to accomodate a summer tour of Japan (Smackdown) & Australia (Raw), the company has the luxury of time before the next episode of Raw (July 13) to decide what to do with the tag team championship.

Edge's injury is the latest to plague the WWE. A month ago, Dave Batista had to vacate the WWE title after suffering a torn bicep muscle. Just a couple of weeks later, Matt Hardy was sidelined with a torn abdominal muscle. Hardy has since revealed on his Twitter page that he's actually had the tear since childhood, and it'd gotten progressively worse in recent weeks. Hardy, it's believed, will be gone until late September at the earliest.

What these injuries do to WWE is it hinders whatever long term planning the company had for their television programs. Hardy, for example, had a brief feud with his younger brother, Jeff, earlier this year, and Hardy had just been "traded" from Raw to Smackdown, despite the injury. The thinking, of course, was that they could finish the feud between the two brothers and move on. Similarly, they had just decided to have the only other brother act on the roster, the Colons, split up and feud, but that was before Edge went on the DL, and common sense says that it would be prudent to hold off on that for a while. Unfortunately, common sense is in short supply in the WWE. It will be interesting to see just exactly what WWE intends to do come July 13.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The People Have Spoken!

The rosters for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, taking place July 14, were announced on Sunday. The Mets have 4 players, Boston has 6, the most of any team in either the American or National League, the World Champion Phillies have 3, with the possibility of 1 more if outfielder Shane Victorino wins an online vote for the last spot on the NL roster. The Yankees have 3, none of whom is named Alex Rodriguez. Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez didn't make the NL team, either. And, in all honesty, that's the beauty of it all.

The fans voted Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria as the starter at 3rd base for the AL over "A-Rod", and his peers didn't even consider Rodriguez for a slot, since he missed the first few weeks of the season due to a hip injury. He's not in line for the final slot on the AL roster. Manny tumbled down to the middle of the pack among NL outfielders, but 2 of the starters, the Mets' Carlos Beltran & Philadelphia's Raul Ibanez, are doubtful due to injury. If the players, managers, & coaches didn't want Manny any more than the fans did, and he's not on the online ballot (teammate Matt Kemp is), well, what does that say about Ramirez, fresh from a 50-game suspension?

What it really says is that MLB and its fans don't want the All-Star Break clouded with constant questions about steroids as it relates to Ramirez & Rodriguez. It would create a gigantic distraction from the game itself, not to mention a public relations nightmare. Ramirez already has dug a hole having his agent, Scott Boras (who also represents Rodriguez, among others), with him for a pre-game press conference in San Diego on Friday. Ramirez didn't want to talk about steroid use, no doubt on the advice of Boras, who's also a practicing lawyer. Such defiance before Congress destroyed what chances Mark McGwire had of being elected to the Hall of Fame. Ramirez is on the slope, teetering. So is Sammy Sosa, who up until a month ago was so sure he'd be Cooperstown-bound. That is, until his name came up among the 103 players, along with Rodriguez, who'd tested positive 6 years ago for performance enhancers. You'd think they'd have learned from the sad examples of McGwire & Rafael Palmiero, both of whom damaged themselves before Congress 4 years ago (Sosa was also there), but they didn't.

As long as Manny keeps saying he doesn't want to talk about it, the media will apply more pressure and keep after him until he does agree to talk. And as desperate as some networks are for programming, I'd not be surprised if someone offered Ramirez & Boras more money than they'd ever need to do---gulp---a reality show. Yeah, that's the last thing MLB and its television partners need. And I hope it never comes to that.

The Reality of Saying "No!"

Until maybe a year or so ago, few had heard of Jon & Kate Gosselin, the "stars", and I use that term loosely for a reason, of TLC's Jon and Kate Plus Eight. The eight in the title being their eight children. A set of twins and a set of sextuplets. TLC threw a bunch of money to the Gosselins so they could allow a camera crew to record every day of their lives so that a nation of voyeurs can learn everything about them. Whatever happened to ordinary people having private lives?

Over the last few months, though, the Gosselins have fallen victim to the darker side of tabloid media. They're in the process of a divorce, and TLC, smartly, put their popular show on hold while the Gosselins sort things out. Jon supposedly has a mistress? And they want her on the show? If that doesn't scream, "Jump the shark!", I don't know what does. TLC is better off, and so would the Gosselin family, to be honest with you, if they just cut bait and end the series, rather than continue to exploit the family for the sake of ratings and ad revenues.

Over on WE, there's something called Raising Sextuplets. And I've read that "Octomom" has been offered a reality show so she can extend her 15 minutes of fame. Please! Stop the pain! There are more important things that this country needs to concern itself with, like the economy and the situation in Iraq, for example. It's one thing if a celebrity agrees to do a reality show just for a quick payday, but for a cable network to offer money to an average family just because they have 6 or 8 or more children? One more reason that Hollywood has gone creatively bankrupt.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Celebrating the wrong kind of role model

There is one thing that I don't understand in regards to Manny Ramirez. He gets a 50-game ban from baseball for testing positive for banned substances, and yet, Major League Baseball allows the Los Angeles Dodgers to send Ramirez off on a rehab assignment about a week and a half before he was eligible to return to the Dodgers on July 3. Oh, of course, MLB knew what they were doing. Manny wasn't going alone. MLB Network and ESPNews did live cutaways to every Manny at-bat in every game he played. MLB wanted America to follow this story because of its insatiable appetite for scandal.

And therein lies the problem. Manny lost all claim to being a role model when he was busted. And, yet, MLB insists on marketing him because he already has a reputation as a feared slugger, a former American League batting champion, and, as evidenced in Boston at the end of his run there, a bit of a goof. "Manny being Manny" didn't just become a marketing tool by accident.

In contrast, Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez didn't go on a rehab assignment before being activated in May. I don't think the Steinbrenner family would've allowed it, no matter how much money MLB was willing to throw their way. Rodriguez hit a home run in his first at-bat of the season in Baltimore, and all is right in the world of the Yankees. They've stopped talking about the inordinately large amount of home runs flying out of Yankee Stadium II, and the Yankees are chasing ancient enemy Boston for first place in the AL East. However, in the cases of both "A-Rod" & Manny, the questions will persist over their use of performance enhancers for the rest of their careers. America wants to know. Not entirely true. Not everyone is actually that interested.

Here's another contrast. Philadelphia pitcher J. C. Romero began the season suspended for 50 games, also for using performance enhancers, but you didn't get a media blitz out of Philadelphia heralding his return. Romero is a relief pitcher, a lunch pail kind of guy, if you will. He's done his time, he's back at work as if nothing happened. His suspension is behind him.

So why all the fuss over Manny Ramirez & Alex Rodriguez? Here's the reasons:

1) They play in major media markets.
2) They're paid to hit home runs.
3) They're marketed as role models to kids, even after they've been busted, which means that
4) MLB still wants to make money off them.

Today, Fox joined in the love-fest for Manny by cutting to the Padres-Dodgers game during coverage of other regional action (i.e. Mets-Phillies). They only did it 4 times, 3 of them being Manny's at-bats. After recording a putout to end the home 5th, Ramirez was removed from the game. You can bet that tomorrow, it'll be more of the same.

Meanwhile, Manny's chances of making the National League All-Star team for the first time dimmed while he was away. The only chance he has now is if he's selected by either Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel, who managed Manny when both were in Cleveland several years back, or by a vote among managers, coaches, and, most importantly, fellow players. In all probability, that's how he makes the team. He won't be a starter, though 2 of the 3 outfield leaders, Philadelphia's Raul Ibanez and the Mets' Carlos Beltran, are on the DL and doubtful to play in the July 14 All-Star Game, making it remotely possible that Manny will be in the starting lineup. And that would be the wrong decision, because it sends the wrong message to the kids. It means that MLB is telling children that it doesn't matter if Manny got busted. He's still a role model in our eyes. In truth, Ramirez forfeited any claim to being a role model the minute he was placed on suspension.

But try telling that to Commissioner Allan Selig and the money-comes-first suits running Major League Baseball. To them, people like Manny Ramirez are like the used cars Selig sells in his Milwaukee dealership, and every so often, one of them comes up a lemon.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Diversity is a dirty word......

A common, disturbing trend among cable networks these days is to run marathons of certain popular shows every day. Marathons are supposed to be special events, reserved for, say, 1) holidays, 2) memorials of recently deceased cast members, or 3) anniversaries of when the series premiered.

The Sci-Fi Channel (To be rechristened SyFy beginning July 7, a genius move if there ever was one. NOT!!) uses holiday periods for extensive marathons of one specfically iconic series---The Twilight Zone. On a regular programming day, however, the network will run a block of episodes of a different series per day. It could be Zone one day, X-Files the next, and Dark Shadows the next. It used to be they'd have a more diverse lineup, with, for example, 2 episodes of Shadows in mid-morning, and other favorites like X-Files and Stargate SG-1 dotting the schedule. Not so anymore.

WE (Women's Entertainment) & Hallmark share the rights to Golden Girls, and each runs at least 2-3 hours worth in a row. For the children, Nickelodeon is notorious for airing daily blocks of hits like Spongebob Squarepants and Fairly Oddparents 7 days a week. They will tell you it's all about ratings. What the purists, like myself, will argue is that they are burning out their precious commodities with overexposure, still convinced that their target audience will just sit there and watch the same episodes 5 times in 3 days, or something to that effect.

Turning to the opposite extreme, niche channels like Cartoon Network risk alienating their core viewership by daring to step outside the box. Cartoon Network, in particular, has gradually added live-action programming completely unrelated to animation to their roster of late, the latest being a series of pseudo-reality shows under the "CN Real" umbrella. They've also acquired the not-so-trendy Slamball, a basketball game played with trampolines, that has bounced around from Spike to Versus and elsewhere since its launch 6 years ago. There's a reason that Slamball, the brainchild of former Philadelphia 76ers executive Pat Croce, has moved around. It's not a huge ratings draw, contrary to the feeble thinking of CN's suits.

CN would be fine if they restricted their live-action programming to movies that had some link to the cartoons on their roster (i.e. any "Batman" movie). Ben 10 got so hot, they decided to do 2 live-action movies based on the series, but something gets lost in the transition from toon to live-action. Who's programming the channel these days, anyway? Beavis & Butt-Head?

What the bosses at most of these networks fail to comprehend is that while they're trying to attract today's generation, older viewers are looking to these channels to find old series they haven't seen in a while. They don't get what they're looking for, so they tune out. So what if "reality" shows are cheap to produce. It's become a crutch to the suits that stifles creativity. It's time to go back to basics. Lose the marathons. Reality shows have long since jumped the shark. It's time to recognize who's really watching.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Not even the Enquirer saw this one coming....

I was checking my e-mail at work earlier today and ran across a headline that reported that actor Karl Malden had passed away at 97. Most of us will remember Malden for the 70's crime drama, The Streets of San Francisco, co-starring Michael Douglas, and a series of commercials for American Express ("Don't leave home without it!"), but Malden was already a well respected and established film star by the time Quinn Martin had cast him in Streets.

The National Enquirer and other supermarket tabloids habitually will splash headlines claiming (fill in the blank)'s "sad last days", figuring if their readers recognize the name, they'll buy the rag and read the story. There were no such headlines forecasting Malden's passing. Rev. Phantom, posting on Mondo 70, admitted he didn't know Malden had lasted as long as he did. That sentiment, I suspect, is shared by so many because Malden had been out of the public eye the last several years. His last television appearance was nearly 10 years ago. It's almost a lock that Turner Classic Movies, assuming they have the rights, will air as many of Malden's films as possible in the coming days to honor his memory.

With all the media attention remaining focused obsessively on Michael Jackson, who passed away on June 25, Malden's death, and that of an early contemporary of his, Gale Storm (My Little Margie), will have all but slipped under the radar. There will be the obligatory mention on the news and entertainment programs, and that will be all. A week from now, we'll still be bombarded with "news", and I use the term loosely for a reason, about Jackson, while Malden will be resting in peace. Just the way he'd want it.

Mr. Franken Goes to Washington

Around 1981, I think, when appearing on Saturday Night Live, Al Franken declared that the 80's were "The Al Franken Decade". It was in jest, of course, but now he stands poised to make the next one his for real.

On Tuesday, Franken was finally, formally declared the winner of the Senate race in Minnesota, defeating Republican challenger Norm Coleman by over 300 votes and after several recounts. Franken thus becomes the latest celebrity to successfully be elected to political office.

In the last 20 years, we've seen actors Ben Jones (ex-Dukes of Hazzard) and Fred Grandy (ex-Love Boat) and singer Sonny Bono elected to Congress. Former pro wrestler and actor Jesse Ventura ("Predator") was elected Governor of Minnesota 11 years ago, so that historical achievement gave Franken at the very least a fighting chance against Coleman. Heh, considering that Ventura's co-star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is the current Governor of California, what are the chances of another co-star, Carl Weathers, being elected down the road? I digress.

Franken's views skew liberal. He hosted a talk show on the now-defunct Air America radio network until last year (not readily available in upstate New York, insofar as I knew), when he stepped down to make his run for the Senate. It will be interesting to see what happens when he makes his first appearance on the C-Span networks during the next session of the US Senate. Especially in terms of Nielsen ratings, if any.