Saturday, April 20, 2013

To Those With Tender Ears

Granted, the American Family Association may be horrified by this, and demand that NESN should have its broadcasting licensed revoked. They may even demand that this foul-mouthed ruffian have his mouth washed out with soap, and apologize to the overly-fragile children at Fenway Park who had the misfortune to hear this.

Well, AFA....TOUGH!

The kids probably hear that from their own parents, or drunken fans in back on them. What David Ortiz said at the pre-game ceremony after Boston suddenly became a man-made Hellmouth for a week because its marathon was bombed by two guys was appropriate. Thanks to YouTube, it will also live on for all time...if you bothered looking for it...

What he said was an act of defiance against the people apparently responsible for the deaths of four people this week. Besides, you can always pretend he said "fracking" instead.

At least he's not like "Rob, Arnie and Dawn" at 98 Rock in Sacramento, who made some inappropriate remarks after the bombings that wound up getting them suspended. He's not like cable news, who tried to solve the crime as fast as those TV crime detectives, only to wind up looking like fools.

It's been a very cruel week for Boston, and he wanted to say something that proved Boston will survive, as New York came back after 9/11. Excuse his French, but it's fine this time.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Jackie Robinson Bio A Few Details Short of a Home Run

I just came back from seeing 42, the new bio picture about Jackie Robinson. I did read a few reviews that mixed about the movie, mainly about how the story was told. Here's my takes, and it will include some spoilers...

The movie does lack several details that would have improved the story, and what Robinson really meant to baseball and this nation. It's still a good baseball movie that traces Robinson's road from the Negro Leagues to the major leagues, but it was just only the basics about Jackie's struggles. We see fans upset that he's on the field, plus racist remarks from opposing players. That was what was party of the first movie about him. Why not add a few more details, mainly about those who wanted him to play and those who didn't.

Sportswriter Wendell Smith, who plays a big part in the movie, could have mentioned early in the film how he tried to convince baseball owners that adding the best of the Negro Leagues could help them and the game...only to be ignored. In fact, Smith was about as welcome in the press box as Jackie was on the field.

If you saw PBS' Baseball mini-series, you know Rickey was deeply influenced about how racism affected a ball player he knew, and how he wanted to make sure that never happened again. That should have been made more clear. We should have had more on Jackie's year in Montreal, and how the team's manager, who didn't want him there, changed his mind.

Also, the movie claims Brooklyn manager Leo Durocher was suspended in 1947 because he had an affair with eventual wife Laraine Day, and the Catholic League was threatening to boycott. It was really because of Durocher's connection with gamblers, and that Yankees owner Larry MacPhail pressured Commissioner Happy Chandler to bench Durocher. MacPhail also hated Durocher.

On the other hand, it does include Durocher's famous "he's coming" speech to Dodger players who signed a petition saying they won't play with Robinson. The movie also included Pee Wee Reese willing to stand next to Robinson before a hostile Cincinnati crowd.

Chadwick Bozeman did a good job portraying Robinson, and Harrison Ford was just great as Rickey. If nothing else, it showed what an aging Han Solo will be like if we get a new Star Wars movie someday. Fans of Law and Order SVU and True Blood may recognize Chris Meloni as Durocher. He was pretty good in that role

There was one section that really sounded too good to be true. This was where Brooklyn played Philadelphia. Ben Chapman, manager for the Phillies (and played by Alan Tudyk), baited Robinson with racist remarks, Eventually, Robinson collapses from pent-up anger...and from out of nowhere, Rickey appears and gives him a pep talk to get him back on the field. That was a real stretch, although it's easy to imagine that both men had a lot of discussions about how people and players were reacting to Robinson being there.
(Update: Looking back, I would have believed Rickey's pep talk to Robinson if it happened after the game).

Robinson's legacy is well-known, but could there be a movie about him that's different to what we already know about him?
We could make one that starts when he retires, and we see how he makes a difference in the civil rights movement, and established businesses including a bank. The ending would be perfect: throwing out the first pitch of game two of the 1972 World Series, and saying he'd be more proud when he sees a Black man as a manager. That would send a message that baseball has come a long way, but not that far.
We had a TV movie that showed Robinson's court-martial because he wouldn't sit at the back of the bus. Why not one that shows his life after baseball?

For now, 42 is a good reminder of how Robinson changed baseball and this nation. It comes just in time for the 66th anniversary of his debut with the Dodgers. That's when everyone wears 42 for one day.

A Modest and Absurd Proposal To Solve The Kings Drama

Seattle and Sacramento: two cities who act as if staying in the National Basketball Association is a matter of life and death.
Well, it is...especially for Sacramento. Without a major pro team, it's just a mid-sized city who thought it was a major league city just like San Francisco.
For Seattle, without basketball, fans would keep seeing the Oklahoma City Thunder...where the old Sonics play now...and wonder what could have been.
Sure, it has the Mariners and Seahawks, but a new arena also means maybe the NHL in the future, along with the rebirth of the Sonics.

The NBA Board of Governors meet in a few days to maybe decide whether to allow the Maloofs to sell the Kings to developer Chris Hansen, or accept a competing bid from a Sacramento group that includes Mark Mastrov and Mark Friedman. Commissioner David Stern has said there's a chance no decision will be reached. It's not the case of a city saying "good riddance" to a team it no longer wants. It's a city who wants to stay in the NBA, and has jumped through every hoop to make it so--only to have the hoops changed to doors that open to brick walls.

Now Hansen has said he'll raise his bid by 25 million dollars. Does that mean Sacramento's bidders can't afford it anymore? Not according to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. He thinks his bid is the best, and will lead to a new future for downtown and sports in general. Maybe it won't mean Sacramento will get to the NHL, but an AHL team might work, plus the return of the NCAA basketball playoffs..and a whole lot more.

However, there is another solution that's so crazy, it definitely won't happen....
Remember when the Kings were one team serving two towns?

Between 1972 and 1975, the Kings played half their home games in Kansas City, and half in a bigger arena in Omaha. This changed when the Kemper Arena opened.
One team playing in two cities 188 miles apart. That was unusual, and still is.
So, what if the NBA decided that Sacramento and Seattle could share the Kings?
The team would be called the Sonic Kings.
Half their home games at the Key Arena in Seattle, the other half at the Sleep Train Arena at Natomas.  
One team playing in two cities, 753 miles apart. Sounds like reliving history, doesn't it?
Of course, this will never happen. For the heck of it, though, what would the logos look like?

Well, the team name has a nice ring to it.
However, there are conditions. The NBA would then demand that both cities get an arena approved and built. Whoever finishes first gets the team permanently. The loser at least has a new arena that may be attractive to the next team who wants to move. How's that for incentive?
A much better solution, of course, is that both cities get a team. With all that money being committed to staying in the NBA, why let it go to waste?
Sadly, the Board of Governors doesn't seem to be interested in expansion, maybe because one expansion team, the Vancouver Grizzlies, moved to Memphis. It may also be worried about diluting the quality of play, too.
Maybe some NBA officials want to sit back and let this bidding war go, and profit from who wins.

Never have two cities have gone so far, just to belong to a place where they both say they deserve to stay.
The NBA should just accept both bids, keeping Sacramento and reviving the Sonics.
If Anaheim objects, after it almost got the Kings, it can always try to lure the Clippers or Lakers to Disneyland. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

End of the March Madness

As Wichita State fell short of a major upset victory over Louisville at the NCAA Final Four Saturday in Atlanta, I heard the cheers of Cardinals fans overjoyed that their team is a step closer to its first national championship in 27 years.

I also thought I heard a big sigh of relief from Coca Cola. If the Shockers had won, it would have cost the company more than three million dollars.

Like millions of other people, I was part of the Enjoy More Madness game, where you enter a bottle cap code at a special website. It assigns you a team, and you root for it all the way to the NCAA men's basketball championship. Naturally, I got several very low seeds, like Florida Gulf Coast and Harvard. Surprisingly, they paid off. So did Cal, LaSalle and Wichita State.

Up to the Final Four, I did pretty well: eight bottles of Coke Zero, $20 in music tracks (enough to get all of Taylor Swift's new album), a $20 gift card from Live Nation, and a $100 gift card from Best Buy. Usually, I don't get this lucky. The biggest prize I get in these contests is a free Big Mac.

With Wichita State's incredible run, peaking at its win over Ohio State, I dared to dream that I'd get a free round trip airline ticket if they beat Louisville.
It would have happened if the Shockers hadn't committed five turnovers late in the game. The Cards' full-court press also made the difference, although some blame the referees.

If the Shockers had won, more than 8100 people, including me, would have gotten free airline tickets worth 400 dollars. That's more than three point two million dollars, or a lot of Coke Zero. A lot of executives at Coca Cola must have rooted for Louisville that night.

Now, there's 23 people left who could get the grand prize of 100 thousand dollars or a free trip to next year's Final Four in Dallas. If Louisville wins, it's the cash. If Michigan wins, Coke will have to choose from 22 people who will get to go to Dallas. They have only nine trips to go around. If it comes to that, what about those who aren't chosen? I expect them to e-mail Coca Cola, demanding their prizes. They'll be told they should have read the rules, and maybe one or two will say "what rules?"

So, let's go Louisville! Win that NCAA title and give the Enjoy More Madness game a simple ending.
Of course, they're also giving away a car. With the odds being about 1 in 250 thousand, I'm not even thinking about that.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Everything Evil and Dead Are Scary Again

When Sam Raimi announced he was going to make a new Evil Dead movie, there was the fear that it wouldn't live up to the three previous ones. For one thing, no Bruce Campbell.

The new Evil Dead was unspooled to some preview audiences in Northern California, including one at the Downtown Plaza in Sacramento a couple of days ago. True, there was some laughter, but mostly the nervous kind. The crowd was very impressed with how nasty the nightmare became, flowing in blood and fear. Sure, there were some nasty scenes that would have been seen recently on True Blood or even Grimm. Then there's some really nasty stuff that led to people seeing the movie with their eyes nearly covered.

The biggest reason to check this out, though, is Jane Levy. Yeah, the red-headed teen from Suburgatory who acts as if the suburbs can be a living Hell. Well, it's not compared to a cabin in the woods where the ultimate in demons sleeps until someone's curiosity wakes it up.

Mia (Levy) is at the cabin with her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez), and friends Olivia (Jessica Lucas), Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and (Elizabeth Blackmore). It's part vacation, but mostly an intervention for Mia, who nearly died from a heroin overdose.
Things get into high gear when Mia tries to run away after she hits withdrawl, while Eric finds a book wrapped in barbed wire. Kind of suggests a package that shouldn't be opened at any Christmas. Of course, he does open the book, and reads the words that awakens the evil demon within. Mia, meanwhile, crahes into the water, and sees...something. It leads to her, as those who saw the original know, being trapped by the branches of an very scary tree.

Slowly, things get out of control when Mia acts strangely. The sight of her very scared face, whispering that she wants to leave, is something you don't forget. It's passed off as part of her withdrawl, until she tells her friends in a possessed voice that they're doomed. Fede Alvarez, who also co-wrote the script, keeps things very tense as he builds suspense and starts the blood flowing from everywhere and everyone. This script makes you laugh at what you see, then cringe when you realize what you just saw. It's best to say you have to see it for yourself, but it's major-league gore the old-fashioned way.

It's also creepy when Mia and her friends become Deadites, and become either more horrible, especially after what they do to their bodies. Levy is the most impressive of all, when she goes from a junkie trying to kick her heroin habit to a creature that has an even worse urge. What will also surprise you is what happens when they try to kill her to defeat the demon, and that's not a spoiler.

There was a fear that The Cabin In The Woods could have affected the response to the new Evil Dead movie.
Just like in CITW, you have five victims, doomed to die. Despite that, Evil Dead has a lot going for it. Aside from the gore, it has a good backstory involving Mia. However, nothing much is said about Eric and how he can make sense of the evil book. We know he's a teacher, but how did he figure it out? David resists the truth because he doesn't want to lose his sister, even if it has to be done to stop the evil. Let's say there's also some personal guilt.

This Evil Dead for the 21st Century lives up to the original tradition, especially thanks to Levy. Check it out!