Thursday, March 31, 2011

Play ball!

Yeah, I know. It's baseball season already. In an effort to avoid having the World Series spill into November again (which otherwise would be a ratings bonanza for Fox, depending on who is in the Fall Classic), Major League Baseball Commissioner Allan "Bud" Selig decided that the 2011 season would start on March 31, a Thursday, as opposed to those Sunday starters we've had the last few years to accomodate ESPN. This way, ESPN AND MLB Network will share the opening day festivities, and, for you cable subscribers, MLB Extra Innings will be F-R-E-E for the first few days of the season.

Let's take a look into the ol' crystal ball and see just how the divisions stack up for 2011, starting in the American League:

AL East:

1. Boston. The consensus pick after missing the playoffs last year. Offensively, can Adrian Gonzalez provide protection for David Ortiz that Victor Martinez couldn't? I think so.

2. Yankees. Business as usual, meaning more tabloid drama than necessary in scandal-obsessed New York.

3. Tampa Bay. The defending division champs lose Carl Crawford & Dan Wheeler to Boston, and Matt Garza to the Chicago Cubs. Getting Johnny Damon & Manny Ramirez doesn't mean this becomes Idiots South (think the '04 Red Sox).

4. Toronto.
5. Baltimore. As David Byrne wrote 31 years ago, same as it ever was.

AL Central:

1. Minnesota. Ron Gardenhire's Twins always make a late kick in the stretch run, and this will be no exception. Might as well pencil them in now, rather than be surprised come September.

2. Detroit. This time, they may have a better shot at the Wild Card.

3. Chicago. This could be Ozzie Guillen's last stand in Chitown if the White Sox don't make the playoffs.

3. (tie) Cleveland. Not even Charlie Sheen can get these guys back to the playoffs this year.

5. Kansas City. They'll start fast, fade, and fall into place.

AL West:

1. Texas. The experiment in converting Rookie of the Year Neftali Perez into a starter failed. The Rangers realized they didn't want to do to Perez what the Yankees did to Joba Chamberlain, and will be better for it.

2. LA Angels of Anaheim. They start the season without Kendry Morales, but they're still going to be a factor because of pitching.

3. Oakland. So what if "Moneyball" has been made into a movie? That won't help the A's get into the playoffs.

4. Seattle. One more year before contending again.

NL East:

1. Atlanta. The Braves were the Wild Card last year, but fell to eventual World Series champ San Francisco. The post-Bobby Cox era begins with a division title.

2. Mets. Yes, they're going to beat out Philadelphia for 2nd, but not enough for a Wild Card. Yet.

3. Philadelphia. Chase Utley & Brad Lidge start the year on the DL. The Phils cut Luis Castillo a little more than a week after signing him, meaning Castillo may be done. With Jayson Werth now in Washington, Ryan Howard suddenly has no protection early, and that's trouble that not even the pitching can cure.

4. Washington. Stephen Strasburg won't be back until 2012, but they've got plenty of offense to make some noise.

5. Florida. Dan Uggla is gone (to Atlanta). Like the Royals, the Marlins will start fast, then fade.

NL Central:

1. Cincinnati. A 1st round exit vs. Philadelphia will only make the Reds hungrier.

2. St. Louis. Worried about losing their star, Albert Pujols, after this season, the Cardinals will----repeat, will---make the playoffs as the Wild Card.

3. Milwaukee. Nipped at the wire. Again.

4. Chicago.
5. Houston.
6. Pittsburgh. See Toronto & Baltimore.

NL West:

1. San Francisco. Can the defending champs make it 2 in a row? The Yankees, remember, were the last team to repeat as champs (1998-2000), and the Giants, who will pick up more fans on this side of the coast with the World Series trophy tour coming to upstate NY in May, have the horses to pull it off.

2. Colorado. Watch them make another run in September, as they are the NL's answer to the Twins.

3. Los Angeles. Don Mattingly's 1st season as Dodger manager will be painful---and possibly short if the Dodgers fall out of contention early.

4. San Diego.
5. Arizona. Someone has to bring up the rear.

Wild Cards: Yankees will beat out Detroit, Chicago, & the Angels in the AL, while St. Louis takes the NL card.

Playoffs? Well, I don't believe in projecting stats, but I see the seedings thus:

AL:

1. Texas.
2. Boston.
3. Minnesota.
4. Yankees.

NL:

1. San Francisco.
2. Atlanta.
3. Cincinnati.
4. St. Louis.

AL playoff projections: Texas over Yankees (again); Boston over Minnesota; Boston over Texas.

NL playoff projections: San Francisco over St. Louis; Atlanta over Cincinnati; San Francisco over Atlanta (again).

World Series: San Francisco over Boston to become the first NL team to repeat since Cincinnati in the 70's.

Of course, I could be wrong.......

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Wrestlemania 27 predictions

WWE presents Wrestlemania 27 on Sunday in Atlanta at the Georgia Dome. The 4-hour card has, as of now 9 matches and plenty of star power, including promotion for the revival of Tough Enough, which returns the next night on USA in back of Monday Night Raw. Let's take a look at the card.

Monday Night Raw matches:

WWE title: The Miz (w/Alex Riley) vs. John Cena.
Miz (Michael Mizanin, ex-The Real World) won the title in November, but has a problem. Every time he has a quality match with someone like Randy Orton, whom he beat for the title, or ex-partner John Morrison, Miz gains credibility with critics and fans. However, that credibility is flushed right down the tubes in his very next match when he gets outside help to win a match. Miz's biggest asset of late has been his ego, which has, predictably, given his character, spiraled out of control. In the tradition of past champions such as Orton, Cena, Triple H, et al, Miz has done the talk show circuit to promote PPV's and WWE-related products like their newest video game. However, when he calls himself "the most must-see champion in WWE history", it's more hyperbole than anything else, because the ratings aren't exactly moving when he's on.Cena, a 9-time champ, has been distracted by the presence of former champ-turned-movie star Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who has a movie, "Fast Five", due in May, but isn't using his former employers to help promote that. Instead, Johnson has put his movie career aside to address an outside-the-ring issue with Cena stemming from an interview Cena gave some three years ago in which he questioned Johnson's loyalty to the wrestling industry. Sounds like a lot of sour grapes, considering that Cena's first two feature films didn't crack the top 5 at the box office, and his rap career stalled after his lone CD peaked in the top 20 in 2005. Johnson is giving some love back to WWE, and giving Cena---and, to an extent, Miz---a painful reality check. It's been reported that Johnson is willing to dust off his tights and boots after 7 years away from the mat, but the window of opportunity is rather small, considering other movie commitments on the table.Back to the match. Johnson is the x factor, but I don't see him screwing Cena out of the title. Once he grasps onto Miz's overbearing self-hype, which has Miz, an admitted Rock fan back in the day, putting himself ahead of the People's Champion, you can bet there will be a RockBottom for both champ & challenger by the end of the night. Miz is not leaving Atlanta as champion. Pick--Cena.

CM Punk vs. Randy Orton.

One by one, the members of Nexus, the faction Punk took over in January, have been punted back to developmental by Orton. Punk didn't really need them anyway, in this writer's opinon. He has, however, wounded Orton, who was selling a knee injury from the previous week on last night's Raw. This feud is far from over, but this chapter won't end on Sunday, contrary to what Punk said last night. This will continue at Extreme Rules. Pick--Punk.

US title: Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan.

2-time WWE champ Sheamus won the title on March 14. The reigning King of the Ring has ditched his cloak, scepter, & crown and rediscovered his killer instinct. Bryan (Bryan Danielson) may be wrestling one of his last matches for the red team, as I see him being moved to Smackdown in next month's draft. Way too soon for another title change. Pick--Sheamus.

Jerry Lawler vs. Michael Cole (w/Jack Swagger). Special guest referee: Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Cole (former WFLY news anchor Sean Colthard) has morphed into an annoying heel announcer over the last 13 months, coinciding with the launch of NXT last year. His hairstyle and mode of speech & dress of late suggest that Vince McMahon's "Mr. McMahon" persona has been transferred to Cole, who has been with WWE since 1997. Austin's presence will checkmate Swagger, who won the Money in the Bank ladder match at last year's Wrestlemania, and is definitely getting stunnered back to Smackdown for his troubles. I personally believe Cole is nearing the end as an announcer, just like McMahon before him. Lawler, after announcing 16 of the last 17 Wrestlemania PPV's, wrestles at the big dance for the first and probably only time. This is the best bet of the evening. Pick--Lawler.

Friday Night Smackdown matches:

WWE World title: Edge (w/Christian) vs. Alberto Del Rio (w/Brodus Clay & personal ring announcer Ricardo Rodriguez).

Del Rio won the Royal Rumble in January and has since claimed that it is his destiny to be World champ. He'd be the first Latin World titlist since Rey Mysterio last held that belt last year, so history's not a factor. He has a face like actor Antonio Banderas (and was known as Alberto Banderas while in developmental), attitude & charisma like another famed actor, Ricardo Montalban, but the growing entourage bogs him down. People are already speculating that Christian will screw his former partner out of the title, but I don't see that. It would be too predictable and cliched. Edge, though, has lost 4 matches in a row at Mania. Unfortunately, that streak is going to reach 5. Pick--Del Rio.

Rey Mysterio vs. Cody Rhodes.

The story is that Mysterio supposedly broke the nose of Rhodes, the youngest son of Hall of Famer Dusty Rhodes, prompting Rhodes to wear a plastic faceguard that doubles as a licensed weapon. Rhodes has eschewed wearing tights & boots in the ring of late, opting for dress slacks & shoes. The gimmick is transparent, short-term, and short-sighted, just like Cole's commentary defending Rhodes and blaming Mysterio, all the while ignoring the fact that Rhodes precipitated the entire scenario in a January match by exposing Mysterio's knee brace, leading to the 619, Mysterio's trademark. It will be a clean sweep for the Latin contingent. Pick--Mysterio.

Crossover matches:

The Corre (Wade Barrett, Ezekiel Jackson, Heath Slater, & Justin Gabriel) vs. Big Show, Kane, Vladimir Kozlov, & Santino Marella (w/Tamina).

Slater & Gabriel are 3-time tag team titlists. Barrett just cheated his way to the Intercontinental title thanks to his compadres' help. The Corre thinks they can control Smackdown, but there are unanswered questions about how Barrett, Slater, & Gabriel were able to move over from Raw back in January without so much as a trade being announced between the brands. The answer has slipped through the collective fingers of WWE's much maligned creative staff, but we won't go into that here. You have 2 sets of former champions who'd like to get back into the title picture and put the Corre out of business. This match would be a good start. Pick: Show/Kane/Kozlov/Marella.

Triple H vs. The Undertaker.

This is the match that most fans want to see. These two last met at Wrestlemania 10 years ago, when Undertaker was not the supernatural Phenom we see now. Back then, Triple H was the most despised man in the company, and was humbled by the then-American Bad Ass. Undertaker's spotless record at the big dance is on the line, but the pre-match hype has ignored the 2001 meeting, perhaps because the personas then were vastly different. Undertaker just turned 46 the other day. Triple H, already with an office job on the side, preparing for inevitable retirement, will be 42 later this year, and has had several major injuries in the last 10 years. The chase for Ric Flair's record of 16 World titles doesn't matter to him anymore. He's willing to revisit the ruthless side of him that has been dormant for so long, and the no holds barred stip protects both men. Undertaker is returning too early, some say, from shoulder surgery, but after more than 20 years with WWE, he is the very definition of the term, "company man", as much as Triple H also is. However, you just can't fight fate. Smackdown's central theme on this night is destiny, from Alberto Del Rio all the way to Undertaker. Pick--Undertaker.

LayCool (Michelle McCool & Layla El) & Dolph Ziggler (w/Vickie Guerrero) vs. John Morrison, Trish Stratus, & Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi.

Snooki (Jersey Shore) is being brought in to goose PPV buyrates, after 2 of her castmates have turned up in rival TNA over the last year. Vince McMahon just can't resist the tabloid bait. Like Stone Cold Steve Austin, Stratus, a 7-time women's champ, is there to pump interest in Tough Enough, where she'll be a trainer. Predictably, the press is reporting that current "divas" are complaining about being left out in the cold, but then, most of the heat is also being reserved for McCool, whom some say gets preferential treatment because she's married to the Undertaker. Well, that's been news for a while, kids. Morrison, himself a former Tough Enough winner (2003), is likely being punished for some misadventures outside the ring with real-life love Melina Perez recently, but penance time is over. Ziggler and his storyline lover, the widow Guerrero, rebounded after being fired from Smackdown last month for attempting to overthrow GM Teddy Long. The only friends they have left on the blue brand are, of course, LayCool, whose act is so stale, they may be checked for bread mold when it comes time for their annual physicals. The only reason LayCool continues to exist has already been explained, but their comeuppance is long overdue. The guys will carry the bulk of the action. They have to, but in the end, it'll be Snooki collecting the pin. Pick--Morrison/Stratus/Snooki.

Of course, I could be wrong......

Monday, March 28, 2011

Rockin' Funnies: The Creep (2011)

The Lonely Island, a 3-man comedy troupe consisting of Jorma Taccone, Aviva Schaffer, & Saturday Night Live cast member Andy Samberg, have released their latest novelty single, "The Creep", from their forthcoming CD. The video is introduced by avant-garde filmmaker John Waters ("Hairspray"), and the boys are joined by rapper Nicki Minaj, who joins them in modeling 21st century nerd chic. Kind of like Project: Runway was invaded by a "Revenge of the Nerds".

Uploaded by irmanistheking:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rockin' Funnies: Deep, Deep Trouble (1990)

One sure sign that Matt Groening's The Simpsons had become a pop culture phenomenon was the release of the album, 'The Simpsons Sing the Blues", released during the winter of 1990-91. Two singles, "Do the Bartman" & "Deep, Deep Trouble", garnered heavy airplay on MTV. The CD featured guest appearances by Joe Walsh (The Eagles), B. B. King, Buster Poindexter, and, on "Deep, Deep Trouble", though not noticable when you listen to the song, DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince (Jeff Townes & Will Smith). And, so, here's  "Deep, Deep Trouble", an attempt by Bart (Nancy Cartwright) at some serious rapping. The lyrics are on the screen for the karaoke crowd.



Haven't we all had bad dreams like that?

The Dunce Cap Award: RPI Tour de Troy organizers

To paraphrase the title of an old movie, suppose they held a bike race and nobody came?

That's exactly what happened today when Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) hosted the first-ever Tour de Troy bike races. However, aside from students cheering on other students or taking pictures for the school newspaper, the streets were deserted. As I walked through downtown this afternoon during the main event, a men's 5K race, I didn't see anyone lining the streets to watch the race. Some curious observers sat at a table at Dunkin Donuts, but that was about it.

So, then, what was the problem? Well, for one thing, not everyone reads the newspaper anymore, so there were more than a few irate commuters upset over bus reroutes that would last longer than they would for the Flag Day Parade in June. By the time the streets would be cleared after the last race, the buses, save for the #22 Albany-Troy via Watervliet line, would be off the roads for the rest of the day. For another, not enough advance notice was given about the races.

Granted, the cold weather might have kept some people away, and I'm not exactly sure when RPI had their Spring Break, but if you give downtown businesses 6-8 weeks advance notice instead of 1 week, or even 2 days, you might get some civic support. Didn't happen in this case, and as the kids these days say, it's an epic fail. Because of such poor planning and lacking appropriate publicity, the organizing staff at RPI gets a supply of dunce caps for blowing a golden opportunity to create what could be an annual event that allows the college community to bond with the citizenry. We'll see if they've learned their lesson if there is a Tour in 2012.....

Friday, March 25, 2011

Rockin' Funnies: Dare to be Stupid (1985)

"Weird" Al Yankovic, pop music's most prolific song satirist, came up with the perfect song to celebrate April Fool's Day (which is next week).

"Dare to be Stupid" is the title tune from Yankovic's 1985 album, and gave the Cootie toys more exposure than they'd had in years before or since. Oh, yeah, the parade of Mr. Potato Heads at the end of the clip is pretty cool, too, years before "Toy Story" restored the product to cultural icon status.

Al & the band are parodying Devo here, specifically with the yellow outfits that Mark Mothersbaugh and his boys wore in a video for their cover of the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction". Like so many artists, Yankovic has a VEVO channel devoted to his clips on YouTube, from whence we get the whimsical "Dare to be Stupid":

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Weasel of the Week: Fred Phelps

The high priest of hate speech has done it again! Fred Phelps, the shepherd of the Westboro Baptist Church, announced plans late Wednesday to hold a protest at the funeral for actress Elizabeth Taylor, perhaps emboldened by a recent Supreme Court ruling that such protests are protected under the First Amendment right to Freedom of Speech.

While it is well known that Ms. Taylor devoted a large amount of money and time to AIDS research and other charitable causes in recent years, Phelps and his haterizing followers see things through the haze of their own skewed vision, villainizing the screen icon for even associating with the gay & lesbian community. In truth, the real villains here are Phelps and his family of ambulance chasing hypocrites (some of his children are, in fact, lawyers), seeking to extend their 15:00 of infamy further by smearing the reputation of a cherished Hollywood legend, piggybacking on the headlines to further their own sick agenda.

But, let us consider this item, which I discovered in reading an item online earlier:

[The WBC is not affiliated with any known Baptist conventions or associations. The church describes itself as following Primitive Baptist and Calvinist principles, though mainstream Primitive Baptists reject the WBC and Phelps.]

And if "mainstream Primitive Baptists", or any other branch of the Baptist Church or any other denomination reject Phelps because of his dark doctrine of disrespect toward his fellow man, can Westboro really be considered a house of worship? The church has been in operation since the 19th century, and, clearly, based on the negative attention it's drawn under Phelps, it's seen better and brighter days. They've maintained an anti-gay agenda for the last 20 years, but have been more in the public eye in the last couple of years by taking their agenda national. No television station will likely ever sell air time to Phelps, in this writer's view. What Phelps needs, however, aside from another set of weasel ears, is to wake up to reality and what the Bible is really all about.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011)

It has come over the wires that screen legend Elizabeth Taylor has passed away at 79.

Ms. Taylor's 1st major film role was in 1943's "Lassie Come Home", opposite Roddy MacDowell. At 12, she landed the lead in "National Velvet", co-starring Mickey Rooney & Angela Lansbury. Most of us know about some of her later films, such as "Giant" (with James Dean), "Elephant Walk", and "Cleopatra" (with 2-time husband Richard Burton). Ms. Taylor then segued into television in the 80's, first with the adaptation of Agatha Christie's "The Mirror Crack'd", then guest appearances on General Hospital and, in later years, The Simpsons & All My Children. She designed jewelry and a perfume, White Diamonds, and was involved in a number of charitable causes.

Ms. Taylor's last marriage, to Larry Fortensky, took place at Michael Jackson's Neverland ranch. Her last acting role, in 2007, was opposite James Earl Jones in a theatre production of "Love Letters". Today's generation might not know about the enormous body of work Ms. Taylor compiled in films, but rather the frequent tabloid headlines documenting her marriages, rumored relationships, and health issues. I would expect Turner Classic Movies to devote a whole day or two to her in memorium in short order.

Rest in peace, Elizabeth. You've earned it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Don't feed this troll!

Yes, as of right now, Charlie Sheen is the equivalent of an internet troll. It doesn't matter to him that he's lost his TV gig. Rumors have him negotiating with Fox about a new show. He's mounting a tour where he's getting paid to rant to the public, and the ticket prices, predictably, are in the high-rent district in a lot of cities. I've seen prices quoted as low as $75, or at about the level greedy promoters overcharge for classic rock acts.

Sheen is unwilling to accept the fact that he has not completely kicked his drug habit, and that the drugs have affected his brain, leading to the deterioration of his public image and professional reputation the last few weeks. He claims to be clean after his last stint in rehab, but if he was, he wouldn't continue to trash his former bosses at WB, producers of Two and a Half Men. As of now, Sheen is not coming to my neck of the woods, and even if he did, I wouldn't waste my money on him.

Let me give you a little slice-of-real-life analogy. A certain acquaintance recently spent time at a local hospital being treated for psych issues after going off medication. Said person also broke ties with my ex-girlfriend, and a mutual friend believes that this person checked out of the hospital a wee bit too soon. Kind of like Charlie Sheen, whose ego, enhanced by his out-of-control substance abuses, has spiraled out of control. He should be wondering why his father, Martin, hasn't landed too many jobs after his series, The West Wing, ended a few years back. Charlie's problem, though, is far worse, making him a little more toxic to most producers. Why Fox would even consider giving him a gig only reminds us of how they have a rep for thinking outside the box, and have ever since the network launched in the late 80's. Sheen should've stayed in rehab, but he believes he's beaten his addictions, and was allowed to check out on his terms. The gossip shows can't stop talking about him, which only feeds the ego.

It's a matter of time before Sheen winds up back in rehab. It's not a question of if, but of when, and the next time he goes in, it'll be in a rubber room with a straitjacket waiting for him.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Another trifecta for the reaper

To say that Death has been busy lately is a gross understatement. While the world continues to mourn the victims of last week's double whammy of an earthquake and a tsunami in Japan, the entertainment world has lost three more prominent names.

Michael Gough's most significant impact in American cinema was his role as Alfred Pennyworth, the faithful butler/conscience to the Batman (as played by Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, & George Clooney) in 4 feature films during the Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher era (1989-97). Gough, who passed away earlier this week at 94, had also appeared in an earlier incarnation of the venerable British science-fiction classic, Doctor Who, among his many credits.

Nathaniel Hale, otherwise known by his stage name of Nate Dogg, had suffered two strokes before the age of 40. Hale was still recovering from those issues when he passed away on Wednesday at 41. He's best remembered for his lone Top 40 hit, "Regulate", a duet with rapper Warren G, in 1994, used in the movie, "Above the Rim". In addition to his recordings, Hale had also been involved in charitable causes in and around the Los Angeles area.

Funkfunkking uploaded "Regulate" to YouTube:



Most fans will remember Ferlin Husky mostly for his 1960 hit, "Wings of a Dove", a classic country-gospel rave that has been covered by artists as diverse as Dolly Parton & Daniel O'Connell since then. Husky passed away at 85 earlier this week. We'll close this post with a video of "Wings of a Dove", uploaded by John1948FourD:



Rest in peace, gentlemen.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

An odd encounter

This morning, I was returning to my apartment with the morning papers when a guy, appearing to be in his late 20's by best guess, sidled up to me.

Him: "Do you have a cigarette?"
Me: "No. I don't smoke."
Him: "Do you have 75 cents?"
Me: "No."
Him: "Can I pee on you?"

Thankfully, he walked away before even trying that. The last I saw of this goof, he sat down for a moment on the doorstep of the pizzeria two doors away as I entered my building. When I ventured out again 2 minutes later to go to work, he was gone, perhaps to ply the same routine on some other unsuspecting citizen. Just what I didn't need to start my day.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Poster Child for Extreme Stupidity

I originally wrote this for http://www.2xzone.com/ in the wake of Sunday's TNA Victory Road pay-per-view.
=================================================================
I've often referred to TNA as "Totally Negligent Airheaded" Wrestling, and Sunday's Victory Road PPV was an example of that, especially in the World title match.

Much has already been made of Jeff Hardy, the former champion, being in no condition to compete, and thus was squashed by Sting in under 90 seconds, a record for a TNA World title match. Sting wasn't happy, understandably. Eric Bischoff tried to call an audible by making it no-DQ at the last minute, citing the title change that aired 10 days earlier as an excuse, but all that got him was getting quickly KO'd by Sting.

Sting is in his 50's, and has been in the business about twice as long as Jeff Hardy. As a born again Christian, it must be tearing him up inside seeing how the business he loves so much has deteriorated to the point where there was no accountability for last night's debacle. The blame goes in a number of different directions.

*Hardy is as much at fault as anyone. He got married days before the PPV, but that would be no legit excuse. He appeared, according to reports, to be clearly stoned or drunk, depending on whose account you read, and should never have been allowed to go out there.

*Bischoff and head writer Vince Russo deserve a large chunk of the blame. They had to have known right before the start of the PPV that Hardy was in no condition to go, and yet, they let him go on. Bischoff, as noted above, did what he could to save it, protecting both champ & challenger because of Sting's own nagging injuries, but it was an epic fail. The #1 contender's match between Rob Van Dam & Ken Anderson, which ended in a double-countout, could've carried over by having both men added to the match, making it a fatal 4-way, but by then, time was no longer a factor. There wasn't enough left. The blame for that, of course, falls on Russo & Bischoff for not holding Hardy accountable for his condition.

*By that same token, co-owners Jeff Jarrett & Dixie Carter have to be held accountable. Dixie is working behind the scenes because of her current angle, but with Jarrett as part of the same heel stable with Hardy & Bischoff, he has to take a good deal of the blame, too.

*Same goes for Jeff's brother, Matt, just hired a couple of months ago on Jeff's recommendation. Yes, Matt has packed on a few pounds, and you wonder if he's been on the same bong, if you will, as Jeff has of late, given his wacky online antics before leaving WWE last year. But, of all the people closest to Jeff, Matt has to be the one to be held accountable the most. He has to play brother's keeper, for no other reason than to save both their jobs. There is already a clamor for Jeff's 2nd tour of duty in TNA to come to an end with his firing. TNA already canned him once, six years ago. WWE doesn't want him back, I don't think, until his court case is finally resolved, and that needs to move forward. The continuances have to stop. The next date is in one week, and Jeff can forget the excuses. He needs to man up and accept the consequences for his actions yesterday!

I don't see Jeff remaining in TNA too much longer, because the Carters won't put up with his nonsense, and if not them, definitely Spike TV, TNA's TV partner. Matt may not be long for the promotion, either, if Jeff gets cut loose. Let's face it. The Hardy Boyz have run their course in this business, and have become like so many of the tired acts TNA brings in with the excuse that name value still means ratings. Not in 2011, it doesn't. The audience has already spoken, with the ratings having already crested. WWE still has fresher stars on the rise in the likes of Wade Barrett, Alberto Del Rio, and so on. They're the guys people want to see, not the older, hanging on to their careers by threads types like the Hardys, Hulk Hogan, & so on. Kevin Nash & Booker T knew when it was time to leave, and if it wasn't for the Carters, likely at Bischoff's insistence, opening the checkbook for Sting, he's likely bound for Atlanta on April 2 to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

And so it is that TNA continues on the same slippery path it's trod since day one. The end of the road can't come soon enough.
===================================================================
After I wrote this, it came to my attention that Hardy had been sent home by TNA, scratched from the tapings for Impact for this week & next. There is an unconfirmed report claiming that Hardy may in fact be already fired. Stress "unconfirmed", as I've not been able to locate a site that has any actual details as of press time. TNA should've known what to expect when they welcomed Hardy back 14 1/2 months ago, but then, they never leave the door open for common sense, and that is their biggest failing.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

On DVD: Not 'Till The Fat Lady Sings (2003)

One Christmas a few years ago, my brother gave me the book & DVD combo, Not 'Till The Fat Lady Sings. I read the book, and resolved to play the DVD at an appropriate time, but that was a while ago. I finally got around to the DVD last night, and, well, let's just say it doesn't do the book justice.

The venerable Jim McKay, for years the host of ABC's Wide World of Sports, is the host-narrator of the DVD, which was one of McKay's last gigs. A small number of classic sports events, mostly from the 80's, are encapsulated in this short documentary, which clocks in at under an hour. Among the highlights:

*1979 Cotton Bowl: From the way the late Lindsey Nelson described it on that New Year's Day, it might as well have been Ice Bowl II, as future Hall of Famer Joe Montana leads Notre Dame past Houston.

*Stanford vs. California, 1982: Everyone knows the ending of this one. After John Elway led the Cardinal on what seemingly was a game winning drive, Cal takes the ensuing kickoff the full distance, unwittingly aided by the Stanford marching band.

*1980 US Hockey "Miracle on Ice": All that was missing was Al Michaels' long-remembered game ending call in the Gold Medal game.

*1946 World Series: St. Louis vs. Boston: Enos Slaughter scores all the way from 1st to win the championship for the Cardinals.

*1951 Giants-Dodgers playoff: "The Shot Heard 'Round the World". 'Nuff said.

*1980 Wimbledon men's final: Bjorn Borg's drive for five culminates in a 5-set thriller vs. John McEnroe.

*1972 Olympic basketball final: The Russians needed 3 extra seconds, and, supposedly, some excuses, to beat Team USA for the Gold Medal. Suffice to say, the hockey semi-final 8 years later provided some sweet revenge.

Understandably, the producers had to encapsulate everything, but they overdid it, in this writer's estimation. I remember seeing some of the Borg-McEnroe match, the Cotton Bowl, and the hockey. I think most of us would've liked to have seen more of the older baseball games (paging MLB Network!). The footage of the Giants-Dodgers game has been used on similar specials for years, making announcer Russ Hodges just as iconic as the game itself. The presentation, then, fails to live up to the text in the book.

Rating: C-.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Weasels of the Week: Tareq & Michaele Salahi

Two years ago, they were introduced to the public as a pair of unwanted guests who crashed a party at the White House. They claimed they had the proper credentials, but few, if anyone other than television producers, bought their story. Apparently, no one told Tareq & Michaele Salahi that their 15 minutes of fame ran out when they left Bravo's Real Housewives of DC.

A week ago, it was reported that the Salahis would be appearing on another reality show, VH1's Celebrity Rehab, hosted by Dr. Drew Pinsky (Loveline). These two would share space with former Mets star Dwight Gooden and the likes of Michael Lohan, father of actress-singer-tabloid bait Lindsay. The operative word, it turns out, is would, because, folks, it ain't gonna happen.

Word has gotten out in today's papers that the Salahis have been bounced from Celebrity Rehab because, quite frankly, the show is meant to help its cast members kick their addictions to drugs and/or alcohol. The Salahis' only addiction, that we know of, is to publicity, by any means necessary. Dr. Pinsky was quoted as saying that both Salahis were checked out and are physically fine, with no record of substance abuse to be had. Predictably, Tareq Salahi has reportedly threatened legal action, but in this case, he has no case. He tried to scam his way onto another reality show to extend his & his wife's 15 minutes of infamy, and it backfired. Badly. Just because you got away with it once doesn't mean you can do it again and again. Addiction to publicity can be treated----away from the cameras.

I recall a line in an old Popeye cartoon that parodied the tale of Ali Baba & the 40 Thieves, so I'll paraphrase it here:

Salahi, Salahi, baloney.

Just because the Salahis live in the nation's political epicenter doesn't mean they're meant to be famous. They just got lucky one night, and they figured, this is easy living. No, it isn't. There's an old expression. Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on you, and the Salahis should be ashamed of themselves. Weasel ears certainly would look good on them, and that's what they're getting as a consolation prize for trying to shove their way into the public eye again when they're not really wanted anymore.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

On DVD: The Johnny Carson Show (1955)

One present my brother gave me for Christmas was a compilation collecting episodes of the Johnny Carson Show, which lasted one season (1955-56), but introduced audiences to the future King of Late Night, who would take over the Tonight Show in 1962 for a 30 year run.

Carson's 2nd wife, Joanne had kinescopes of this series in her vault at home, and reached a deal with Shout! Factory to release the episodes to DVD in 2007. The collection also includes episodes of Carson's self-titled daytime talk show and his lone game show gig, Who Do You Trust?, for ABC & producer Don Fedderson (The Millionaire, My Three Sons). The Johnny Carson Show came to be after Carson, a writer for Red Skelton, filled in for the veteran comic one night after Skelton suffered a concussion during rehearsals. According to the liner notes written by Bill Zehme, it was assumed that nervous CBS executives, unsure of what to expect, were "meddling" with the program, leading to its cancellation after just the one year.

Before I go any further, I do want to comment on Who Do You Trust?, which supposedly was inspired by Groucho Marx's iconic You Bet Your Life, although the use of the soundproof booths came from other games, such as Twenty-One. Carson lasted three years with Trust before bolting for late nights. The episode included on the DVD demonstrates one of the pitfalls of live television when one of the booths malfunctions, trapping a contestant inside.

Toddzillas uploaded this sample from The Johnny Carson Show to YouTube:



Rating: B+.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Weasel of the Week: Mike Huckabee

As a Christian myself, I'm a little bit puzzled, if not also annoyed, by the public comments made by former Presidential candidate-turned-talk show host Mike Huckabee this week.

First, Huckabee made a bonehead play by mistakenly giving the dreaded birthers some ammo by implying that President Obama had spent his formative years in Kenya. It's bad enough that the birthers won't go away and won't give up their losing battle, forever claiming that the President was actually born in Kenya, not in Hawaii as his birth certificate maintains. Huckabee must've bumped his head on a door somewhere waking up one day. Nothing worse than giving a bunch of morons a reason to continue their pointless crusade of cretinism.

Then, just to prove his credibility with the Beavis & Butt-Head types in this country, Huckabee pulled a Dan Quayle and ripped into Oscar winner Natalie Portman, who is also an unwed expectant mother. For those that don't get the Quayle reference, the former Vice President made headlines while in office, I believe, for ripping a storyline on the sitcom Murphy Brown, in which the title character (Candice Bergen) was also having a child out of wedlock. Either way, it is representative of a common social problem that has been in this country for decades.

Huckabee, in both cases, may have damaged any chance he might have of getting the Republican nomination should he try to run again next year. There must be something about the governor's mansion in Arkansas that leaves a lasting, if not also damaging, effect on those who've served in that office. We all know what happened to Bill Clinton when he went from being governor to President nearly 20 years ago. Is Huckabee trying too hard to be the GOP's answer to ol' Bubba? Pray that's not the case, although foot-in-mouth disease apparently is a job hazard, as are earning a set of weasel ears for saying stupid things in a public forum in inappropriate, inopportune times.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The player you may never have heard of

He was called the "Nisei Jackie Robinson", the first American-born baseball player to play in Japan's professional leagues. He also, briefly, played football with the San Francisco 49ers in the late 40's. However, you'd be hard pressed to find any hardcore baseball or football collector that has heard of Wally Yonamine, who passed away Monday at 85.

Born and raised in Hawaii, Yonamine brought the American style of baseball to Japan in the late 40's & early 50's, helping to foster a mending of fences between the US & Japan following World War II. While playing for the Chunichi Dragons & Yomuiri Giants, Yonamine was a 7-time All-Star, and was inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994. As late as 2008, Yonamine was still on the diamond as a coach and part-time player at the age of 83.

After his playing career had initially ended, Yonamine opened a pearl shop in Tokyo, with a branch in Los Angeles, which his children operated.

As Jackie Robinson became celebrated for shattering the color barrier in Major League Baseball, Yonamine similarly had opened doors for American players to continue their careers overseas. To this day, over 1,000 American ballplayers have played in Japan, some becoming far more successful than they were in the US. But while Robinson is in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, Yonamine isn't. Given the global impact baseball has had since Yonamine first played in Japan, shouldn't he be given a place in our Hall of Fame, too? I think so.

Rest in peace, Wally.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Jane Russell (1921-2011) & Duke Snider (1926-2011)

One is a beloved New York City baseball icon, the other one of Hollywood's earliest sex symbols. We are mourning both this week.

Most of us will recall Jane Russell not for her film career, but rather for commercials she made for Playtex in the 70's. Russell, though, earned iconic status in the controversial Western, "The Outlaw". Legend has it that the film was delayed three years because the censors had issues with Russell showing so much cleavage, unheard of at the time. Russell passed away at 89, 4 months shy of her 90th birthday.

Duke Snider was the last of the Brooklyn Dodgers' fabled "Boys of Summer" of the 50's, and immortalized in song by Terry Cashman in his 1985 classic, "Talkin' Baseball (Willie, Mickey, & the Duke)". Snider's Hall of Fame credentials speak for themselves, and the three way debate among baseball fans, especially in New York, over who was the city's best center fielder, Snider, Willie Mays, or Mickey Mantle, during that golden period, will rage on and on into eternity. Willie's still with us, while Duke has joined Mickey in that ballpark in the sky, having passed on over the weekend at 84. In all probability, when the Los Angeles Dodgers take the field this season, they'll have the black armbands on their uniforms to honor Snider, but Brooklyn's current pro team , the NY-Penn League's Cyclones (affiliated with the Mets) will likely pay tribute in some form as well. Expect some sort of memorial when the Dodgers, now managed by ex-Yankee Don Mattingly, visit Citi Field during the season.

Rest in peace, Jane & Duke.