Mildly exciting NCAA Finals ... although there was some serious potential for a Pantheon Game in those final two minutes. We were one Luther Head three away.
I did think we learned a valuable lesson: Any time Team A has five future first-round picks and Team B has one future first-rounder and two future second-rounders, Team A is probably winning the game, no matter how many dumb things their coach does during the game.
My main criticism with the tournament: They need to move the three-point line back because college hoops is slowly morphing into another sport -- like a cross between basketball and those contests they have during NBA timeouts where fans get to shoot from different spots on the court for airline tickets. How is it basketball when a team attempts just as many threes as twos? Why not just designate spots on the court that count for four and five points, just so we could have heard this exchange:
Nantz: "We're back after the 35th TV timeout of the second half. What does Illinois need to do here, Billy?"
Packer: "Well, they're down by 5 with ten seconds left -- they need to run a couple of picks for Luther Head and try to get him the ball near that American Airlines Five-Point Circle."
Nantz: "Any chance they'll attempt a Burger King 6-Point Halfcourt shot for the win?"
Packer (complete disdain): "I don't think so, Jim -- I think they just want to tie the game here and send it to OT."
Nantz: "Well, folks, before we find out what happens, I don't mean to be a pest, but don't forget the world-premiere of 'Locusts' on April 24th. Billy, there's been a buzz building about this movie all month -- wait, timeout on the floor, we'll be back after this!"
While we're here, more thoughts on the NBA Draft prospects of some of the players we watched over the past few days.
Sean May: Reminds me of a righthanded Brian Williams -- his looks and his puffy body, his inside game and those random moments where it seems like he gives a crap -- to the point that he should change his name to "Venison Beret." He could absolutely become a 15-10 guys in the pros if he gets in shape and decides to start running back on defense. So here's my question: if he can't get in shape when he's playing for NBA lottery status, why would he get in shape when he's getting a paycheck every 2 weeks? I think it's going to depend which team drafts him -- for instance, if he goes to Minnesota and KG, or the Nets and Kidd, that could help him avoid things like "Maybe I should avoid having that 10th cheeseburger" and "I'll just hang out here at halfcourt while they finish up that 3-on-1," because guys like Kidd and KG would never put up with that crap. Worst-case scenario for May: The Lakers.
Marvin Williams: Would be more effective in the pros because he's so active and does so many of the Little Things -- along the lines of Luol Deng last year -- but he's not as polished offensively as Deng was. On a crappy team, I think he will struggle next year. On a decent team, he would have more of an impact. Needs to come out since he would be a top-5 pick.
Deron Williams: Strange player to evaluate because there hasn't been an NBA point guard even remotely like him -- he's built like a tree trunk, only it's all muscle and girth. If Raymond Felton couldn't guard him, how could half the PG's in the NBA handle him? What happens if he learns how to post smaller guys up? Really intriguing player. Not only is he going to be good, when he grows into that body, he's going to be the first point guard in NBA history who's 6-foot-3 and weighs 260 pounds -- almost like watching an NFL tight end running the point in a charity game, only for 82 games a year. Mortal lock for the top-7.
Jawad Williams: Grew on me throughout the tournament -- one of those fundamentally sound, fifth-banana types who doesn't take anything off the table. The Celtics have a 12th man named Justin Reed who does many of the same things, and he's not even half as good as Williams. Absolutely a 9-man rotation guy some day. And can you really go wrong with a guy named "Jawad"? I see him sneaking into the end of the first round.
Luther Head: Not sure about this one -- he doesn't have the handle to play point, and he's not tall enough to play two. Reminds me of Juan Dixon, another great college player who didn't quite translate to the pros. I have no idea where he would go. Fantastic name though.
Rashad McCants: A leading candidate for the 2005 Bo Kimble/Miles Simon Award. I couldn't have been less impressed -- he's four years away from his first Slamball game.
Dee Brown: Someone who could thrive in the pros because he has definable skills -- great defender, lightning fast, decent three point shooter. He's not a true point guard, but he could be effective on the right team with a bigger player who can handle the ball (like LeBron, for instance). And he's a good guy to boot, plus he looks like Little Bow Wow. I have high "sleeper" hopes for him.
Francisco Garcia: Reminds me of Kerry Kittles -- the good Kerry Kittles, not the one currently skipping games with an "injured" back even though the Clippers know that he's playing golf twice a week.
Paul Davis: I liked his effort during the tournament, but the UNC game proved that it would be a mistake for him to come out this summer -- unless he adds some more muscle, he's a poor man's Chris Mihm (and that's not a good thing).
Larry O'Bannon: This year's Chris Duhon -- one of those second rounders/undrafted free agents who ends up sticking with a team and playing minutes during the season. Mark my words.
-- Posted: April 5, 2005 at 2:15 p.m. EST
Some March Madness pseudo-ramblings ...
• I always thought a hockey game was the best possible HDTV experience, at least until I saw Gene Keady's hair on Saturday.
• Who was Roger Powell Sr.? Did he ever hang out with Mel Kiper Sr. and Roy Jones Sr.? And when Roger Powell is following up his own three-pointer with a dunk, isn't that the best possible indication that it's probably not your night?
(That should be an event on NBA All-Star Weekend: Follow up your own three-pointer and try to dunk it. It would be fun to see Chris Andersen try this 117 times before passing out from exhaustion.)
• If I hear Billy Packer claim that a college team is "tired" during an NCAA Tournament game one more time, I'm going to throw up. College games stop every four minutes for a TV timeout. Also, teams are allowed 350 timeouts apiece. If you can't play 35-38 minutes in a game that stops every eight minutes for 3-4 minutes a pop, you need to reevaluate things. Even Sean May can play 35 minutes during a college game. That should tell you something.
(Here's my Sean May question: Does he really think he can jog back on defense in the NBA? If he's biding his time until the last possible minute before he has to get in shape and start hustling -- basically, next November -- that's fine. Just let us know.)
• When your name is "Luther Head," and you're not a movie villain, basketball player, porn star or professional wrestler, something went drastically wrong.
• I think we need to add Rick Pitino to the David Robinson Hall of Fame for "Guys Who Never Seem To Age," if only because he has more hair every year (he's like the coaching version of John Cusack).
• Speaking of Pitino, there's one very good reason why he's much more successful at the college level than the pro level: He's completely full of (euphemism for feces). That was a winnable game for Louisville, who stuck with that hopeless zone that wasn't working and played with no sense of urgency -- in the last 4 minutes, they looked like they had a plane to catch right after the game -- and after it was over, he went right into his "They're just a better team" and "We would have had to throw a Pedro Martinez shutout to beat them" spiel. This is why the Celtics tuned him out in 12 months -- he's in the locker room before the game doing his "We can beat these guys, we're better than them!" spiel, and then, after they lose, he goes right into "We never had a chance" and "We couldn't play man-to-man, our man-to-man left us 15 games ago" mode.
(Notice how it's never his fault? Ever? In college, that's fine because guys graduate in 2-3 years, plus they need to obey you if they want a chance to play professionally, so they overlook this stuff. In the NBA, they know you're not honest AND they're making more money than you.)
• Hey, does anyone else think that Bruce Weber looks like he should either be selling Acuras or working as a golf pro at a rundown country club?
• Jim Nantz highlight of the weekend: During the first game, when they were talking about CBS Sportsline's riveting "What was the best game of the tournament so far?" poll and Packer went with Arizona-Illinois, then asked Nantz for his pick, and Nantz gushed, "It's yet to come!", followed by total confusion from Packer, then Nantz explaining that he still felt that the best game in the tournament hadn't been played yet. You know, I wasn't thinking about watching the championship game, but now that I know Jim Nantz thinks two double-OT games and two double-digit comebacks can be topped, maybe I'll tune in on Monday night to ... CBS!
• Speaking of CBS ... CSI Cold Case CSI Miami Without a Trace CSI New York CSI Cold Case CSI Miami Without a Trace CSI New York CSI Cold Case CSI Miami Without a Trace CSI New York CSI Cold Case CSI Miami Without a Trace CSI New York CSI Cold Case CSI Miami Without a Trace CSI New York CSI Cold Case CSI Miami Without a Trace CSI New York CSI Cold Case CSI Miami Without a Trace CSI New York CSI Cold Case CSI Miami Without a Trace CSI New York CSI Cold Case CSI Miami Without a Trace CSI New York CSI Cold Case CSI Miami Without a Trace CSI New York CSI Cold Case CSI Miami Without a Trace CSI New York.
• The Anti-Ben Gordon Award for "Worst Job of Boosting Your NBA Stock" -- Francisco Garcia on Saturday. I'm not sure if "passive," "tentative" or "downright frightened" was the right word, but he could drop to the end of the first round unless he's able to somehow convince Chad Ford that he grew up in Argentina or Brazil.
• Raymond Felton reminds me of a poor man's Chauncey Billups: Great athlete, very good defender, clutch three-point shooter ... only he makes too many poor decisions and struggles handling the basketball (two negatives that will only be worse in the NBA). I'm not quite sure what to make of him as a pro prospect. Six years down the road, couldn't you see him draining dagger threes on a playoff team? Me, too.
• Best random crowd shot: Darrell Griffth during the Louisville game as Nantz gushed, "Dr. Dunkenstein!" One of the five greatest nicknames in sports history. It's been 25 years since the last Dr. Dunkenstein -- couldn't we pass that nickname to someone else? A whole new generation needs to enjoy it.
• My pick for tonight: UNC over Illinois ... and only because the Tar Heels haven't played a good game yet. Illinois was a little TOO good on Saturday. That makes me nervous -- couldn't you see Powell going 2-for-15 tonight? I'm not sure how they can keep UNC off the boards. I'm also not sure how a team with five potential NBA players can lose a national championship. Not even with Roy Williams involved.
Seven other quick thoughts ...
1. My editor Philbrick summed it up best this morning: "Congratulations to the Yankees for winning Game 8." That could have been the most ironclad lock in gambling history. I have April 6 in the Page 2 Office Pool for "When will the Boston writers and radio stations start playing the 'These guys were a little too pleased with themselves about last season and it's starting to show' card."
2. This week's Gut Feeling: Johnny Damon is playing somewhere else on August 1st. "(Multiple magazines covers) + (autobiography where you admit that you cheated on the mother of your 2 kids) + (book tour)" = a formula that will NOT go over well in Boston. The front office is already trying to move away from the "Clubhouse of idiots" thing. If he starts off slow and takes the inevitable beating from the local columnists and radio hosts, I guarantee they start shopping him around.
3. Sad day today: Pedro kicking off Opening Day for a non-Boston team. Yes, I'll be rooting for him.
4. Doc Rivers has officially entered the Jimy Williams Zone for me.
5. Four years ago, I wrote an angry column on my old website slamming the Pats for picking Richard Seymour over David Terrell. Now they just signed him to a one-year deal and I'm making faces and saying, "David Terrell????" The lesson, as always ... well ...
6. Best way to sum up my West Coast roto draft last night: After it was over, my co-owner Hench and I were looking over our roster when Hench pointed to someone's name and said, "There's the key to our team, right there." Here's what he pointed to ...
JASON GIAMBI -- $8
7. Loved "The Contender" last night, highlighted by a heinous-yet-brilliant move by Anthony, and here's why: These guys were all making gentleman agreements for which matchup was next -- which is fine, except that it's a reality show and they should have known that someone would betray that "trust." So Anthony pretends he's calling out one guy, pulls a swerve and ends up fighting someone who wasn't prepared mentally since he didn't think he would be fighting (the same reason why Peter Manfredo lost in the first episode). Was it a somewhat evil move? Absolutely. Will I be rooting against Anthony the rest of the way? Absolutely. But that was the smartest move anyone has made during this entire show.
Anyway, here's the big question: Was that Anthony's mother or his wife last night? Can we get a definitive answer on this? Not since Bob Costas interviewed Juanita Jordan and ID'ed her as "Michael's mother" have we had a mother-daughter conundrum this confusing.
-- Posted: April 4, 2005 at 3:57 p.m. EST
A few quick items for today:
1. Happy anniversary to ESPN.com. I enjoyed looking through the different years and seeing how the main page evolved. When I started writing for them four years ago (April 3rd to be exact), the page looked like this My first column ("The Nomar Redemption") appeared right where Halberstam's column was located on that page. Very exciting day. At least until I received the 900 "You sold out!" emails from the old BSG readers. That was fun.
2. Most common e-mail all week: "What's your book about?" I wasn't going to spill the beans until it came out, but what the hell? I spent the past four months working with Bobby Simmons on a book tentatively titled "Simmons on Simmons." It's about a year in the life of an NBA player -- the groupies, the pressures, the chemistry with the other guys, the road trips, all that inside stuff that everyone likes. Looks like it's coming out in October. There hasn't been a book like this before so we'll see how it goes.
3. Bizarre situation back home: Apparently Cedric Maxwell went on a local radio show and claimed that Dirk Nowitzki has surpassed Larry Bird as a basketball player. While everyone agrees that the seedy-looking German star has emerged as a viable MVP candidate ... I mean, Larry Bird? How can they be in the same class when Dirk doesn't make his teammates better? I was almost speechless when I heard about this. Although I do think there's some lingering resentment on Max's part after Bird gave the thumbs-up to the Walton-Maxwell trade before the 1986 season.
4. My first roto draft was last night -- an ESPN draft in Bristol, with my buddy Gus as the point man -- and somehow we kept getting bargains for less than we thought they were worth, leading to the bizarre scenario where we had $59 left with one pitcher and one utility spot to fill. It was like we turned into Elgin Baylor. We ended up overpaying for Rich Harden ($25), which was fine, so then we threw the remaining $34 for the last remaining big hitters (Melvin Mora and Aramis Ramirez) and ended up getting out-bid for both of them. Complete disaster. In the end, we got stuck with Brad Wilkerson for $15 ... and left a whopping $19 on the table. I feel like hanging myself. Worst thing that can happen at a roto draft. Next week, I'll tell you who's on my team -- I just can't say anything yet because my West Coast draft is on Sunday.
5. Dramatic "Survivor" last night: my favorite character in the history of the show (Stephenie) was in danger of getting voted off by that nimwit Bobby John ... and then she got the old last-minute reprieve. Although I always wonder if they edit these things to make them look more dramatic than they actually were.
6. Correction from earlier this week: WEEI is already online . I listened to about an hour of the new Dale Arnold/Michael Holley show yesterday while procrastinating from starting my Page 2 column -- Holley hasn't been this good since "I Max."
7. One random note: Dolphins owner Wayne Huzienga is pushing Miami as a permanent Super Bowl site. I still vote for the rotating Vegas-SD-NO-Miami superfecta, but this isn't a bad alternative. I'm sure they'll screw it up somehow.
8. Today's NBA pick: I like the Celtics over the Hawks, Seattle over Portland and Phoenix over Minny. I also like the Knicks at home against the Nets. My NCAA pick: UNC and Louisville to make the final. Feel free to go against any of these; I'm 1-3 this week.
9. That reminds me ... what a weekend! Holy crap. Please tell me again why WrestleMania XXI had to be in Los Angeles at the exact time the Sox were defending their first championship in 86 years?
(And no, you won't see me at the Staples Center on Sunday. Not with the Sox heading into the lion's den. Oh, well.)
10. One final note: I made up the thing about the Bobby Simmons book. April Fools.
-- Posted: April 1, 2005 at 2:57 p.m. EST
Ten thoughts for today ...
1. I hope you're watching Project Greenlight on Bravo -- the director they chose this season (John Gulager) could be the biggest wacko in Hollywood history. Last night's show centered around Gulager arguing the merits of casting his Dad, brother, niece and girlfriend as four of the five major parts in the movie, even announcing that he was filming a screen test with all of them together, then flying to New York to show that test of the Weinsteins -- which caused a Defcon 2 meltdown from the great Chris Moore. Supposedly Gulager gets fired next week.
So here's my idea: Shouldn't a studio fund Gulager for another movie, allow him to cast his goofy relatives and friends, then film a documentary about what happens? It could be the next "American Movie," couldn't it? Or what about teaming up Gulager and Mark Borchardt (the "American Movie" guy) for "The Coven 2"? Can you imagine those guys battling each other on the set? I'm not sure why stuff like this doesn't happen.
2. USA Today came out with their annual list of NBA salaries (page 8 of today's section). You know what that means, right? Fake trades! Why didn't they do this before the trading deadline? I would have written a 9,000-word column about it. You can also see the salaries on their updated salary database, one of my favorite bookmarks because you can go back as far as the 2002 season.
(By the way, seeing the Knicks payroll list in print has to be one of the funniest random things of 2005. Does Isiah realize that he's only six million away from cracking the 100 million mark? Somebody should tell him -- he'll immediately swing a deal of Trevor Ariza for Doug Christie.)
3. "Cocktail" was on TBS last night, which was funny because TBS has revamped itself as the "comedy" channel (with TNT as the "drama" channel). After 17 years, that means "Cocktail" finally qualifies as a comedy -- in fact, by 2008, it may pass "Caddyshack" as the funniest movie of all-time. Anyway, I may have been wrong about two things: On the edited TV version, Koglan never says "Everything ends badly, otherwise it wouldn't end," which I always though he said first before Flanagan repeated it outside the art gallery. And second, in the closing credits, his name was spelled "Coughlin," not "Koglan." More importantly, why haven't the first 45 minutes of this movie into a TV show yet? What are they waiting for? They could even get Bryan Brown to play Coughlin again. Maybe they're afraid that nobody could approach Cruise's performance.
4. Speaking of bad movies, the jury has returned with a verdict: "Beautiful Girls" was definitely "set" in Massachusetts in the fictional town of "Knight's Ridge," although it was filmed in Minnesota. Other than that I mentioned yesterday, three more pieces of evidence: In the script, it says Massachusetts; Tim Hutton wears a 1980's Celtics Starter jacket in one scene; and the writer (Scott Rosenberg) grew up in Needham. Glad we settled this. Now it's ten times funnier that Michael Rapaport was in this movie.
5. I was so excited about Jose Canseco joining the "Surreal Life," I didn't even realize that Omarosa and Bronson Pinchot were involved. Poor Balki ... I mean, wow. He must have finally given up on "Beverly Hills Cop 4" happening. My friend Kirby had the best take: "I hope Omarosa and Balki hook up because we'll finally have proof that she's a man."
6. One mistake from yesterday's Cowbell: Susan Faludi wrote the New Yorker feature on the porn industry, not Susan Orlean. I got my pretentious Susans mixed up. And it was called "The Money Shot," not "Waiting for Wood." Other than getting the author wrong and the name of the story wrong, I was right there. if you're ever in the library and killing time -- which means there's an 80-percent chance that you're homeless, but still -- the piece ran in the October 30, 1995 issue.
7. Reader Pete D. has decided to defend Charlie O'Connell: "I want to defend Jerry O'Connell's brother who happens to be the new 'Bachelor'. He was in 'The New Guy' with that geeky guy from 'Road Trip' and apparently is a regular guest on 'The Tony Danza Show' (It is amazing the things you learn in hospital waiting rooms when you have no control of the TV). That seems like a pretty good resume to me. And if Jerry O'Connell can pull Rebecca Romijn Stamos can you imagine the 'scraps' that fall to the C level star brother??? It probably looks like a Nelly video at their house."
8. Good news for the West Coast transplants from Boston: WEEI starts internet streaming again on Monday (WEEI.com).
9. Biggest game of the season for the Celtics tonight: They're home against the Mavs, coming off a three-game losing streak and dealing with a number of things -- GP's ailing back, Antoine shooting too many 3's again (uh-oh), Pierce hogging the ball down the stretch, the rookies (Jefferson and West) losing confidence, the first genuine slump of the season from Ricky Davis -- so it will be interesting to see how they respond, especially when they have nobody to cover Nowitzki. And Philly is lingering just enough that it's becoming a problem. By the way, since GP has a problem with his sciatic nerve (same thing I have), I'm in the "We can't count on him, let's start playing Banks and West more" camp. But we'll know more after tonight.
10. That reminds me, I lost my fake Clippers pick last night, although it wasn't my fault -- Bobby Simmons was scratched right before the game, which meant A.) Maggette had to play 48 minutes, and B.) LeBron spent huge chunks of the game being guarded by Rick Brunson. Read that sentence again. So give me a mulligan on that one. Today's picks: Toronto (+5) in Orlando and Sacramento (+7) in Detroit.
-- Posted: March 30, 2005 at 3:38 p.m. EST
Some middling stuff for today:
•As you probably noticed on the page, I'm re-running three columns from my old website about Rick Pitino this week. I had been thinking about re-running some of the old BSG stuff on this page for a while -- the problem is that some of those columns are pretty raw and I can never resist the urge to tinker with them. With the three that we're re-running this week, I cleaned up certain paragraphs (they were too wordy at times, even for me) just to make the columns tighter, but that's about it.
•One mistake in yesterday's "Cowbell": The song in the "Grey's Anatomy" commercial was "Such Great Heights" by Postal Service, not the Pet Shop Boys. I always thought that was a Pet Shop Boys song from a comeback album or something.
•Speaking of ABC, I didn't watch "The Bachelor" last night, but the Sports Gal reports that they tried to sleaze it up -- sluttier girls, roses given outside of the ceremony, girls cutting each other down and so on -- only it came off like a tamer version of "Elimidate." Her final grade: C-minus. This season's bachelor is Charlie O'Connell, brother of Jerry, and apparently they never allude to what he does for a living ... because he doesn't do anything for a living. He just hangs out with his brother and picks up his chick scraps. At least they finally accepted the fact that nobody will ever get married on this show. Although, if they're heading in this direction, they should have three of the girls randomly carrying an STD.
•According to today's USA Today life section ...1. Courtney Love signed on to play Linda Lovelace in an upcoming motion picture, which had to be the easiest casting decision in the history of Hollywood.
2. VH1 is trotting out a reality-show about Hulk Hogan called "Hogan Knows Best," about the Hulkster dealing with his two teenage daughters, along with another "Surreal Life" featuring Jose Canseco as one of the roommates. I mean ... am I secretly running VH1 and nobody told me?
•When I was falling asleep last night, "Beautiful Girls" was on and I ended up watching the last 30 minutes. I remember seeing this movie in the theater and thinking it sucked ... over the past few years, since it's on TV so much, it's one of those movies where you watch various chunks at various times and think, "You know, maybe that wasn't such a bad movie." For some reason, I hadn't seen the ending in a few years. Now I remember why I was lukewarm on it -- the last 15 minutes are truly painful. Ugh.
Anyway, I mentioned before that this movie was set in Masschusetts, but some e-mailers are adamant that it was set in upstate New York. I don't think they ever give the answer in the movie, so here are my three reasons: First, you can see green Boston Globe newspaper boxes outside in one of the opening scenes. Second, Matt Dillon's character was nicknamed "Birdman" in high school, which sure seems like a Larry Legend reference. And third, Dillon stays home near the end to watch a "Rick Man/Poor Man" marathon on Channel 38 (which was a Massachusetts station). So I'm saying Massachusetts unless someone can definitively prove me wrong. For instance, one reader claims that you can see signs that read "Knight's Ridge, New York" in one scene. Not sure if that's true. Maybe it's set in a New York town right on the Massachusetts border.
•For you roto baseball fans out there, here are my buddy Gus's projections for the 2005 Mets. The biggest Mets fan I know, he was a producer on "Baseball Tonight" for a few years, so he has a pretty good feel for this stuff. Anyway ...
Reyes: .282, 91 runs, 25 2b, 12 3b, 47 sb
Matsui: .251, 73 runs, 31 2b, 5 3b, 24 sb
Beltran: .278, 111 rbi, 39 hr, 27 sb
Piazza: .284, 81 rbi, 21 hr 125 games
Floyd: .276, 71 rbi, 17 hr 130 games
Wright: .287, 84 rbi, 24 hr
Cameron: .248, 48 rbi, 22 hr, 133 ks
Doug M: .268, 53 rbi, 8 hr, 2 errors
Pedro: 16-6, 3.38 era, 189 ip, 190 ks
Glavine: 14-9, 3.92 era, 207 ip, 147 ks
Benson: 18-11, 4.21 era, 225 ip, 201 ks
Looper: 29/36 saves
Mets: 85-77 3rd place
•Since I usually read a book every seven-to-10 days, I thought I would start writing about the ones I finished right here. Over the past three weeks, I finished two books:
1. "The Other Hollywood" by Legs McNeil -- This is an oral history of the porn industry, and that sentence is funny enough in itself. I always thought that the porn industry was the great untapped area for an investigative book. Back in the mid-'90s, Susan Orlean wrote a feature for the New Yorker called "Waiting for Wood," which was one of the most mesmerizing things I've ever read. So I had high hopes for this one. But it turned out to be 600 pages of rambling nonsense; for some reason, more than half the book is spent on the feds cracking down on the industry over the past 30 years, which couldn't have been less interesting. Some of the stuff was good -- the "Deep Throat" section, the Marilyn Chambers/Tracy Lords/John Holmes sections -- but there wasn't nearly enough of that stuff. And the way they presented it was too choppy. I don't recommend this one.
2. "DisneyWar" by James Stewart -- I couldn't put this thing down. Of course, since it's about the company that owns this website, and it's not very flattering, I'm afraid to say anymore because I don't want to end up in cement sneakers.
•Today's NBA pick: I like the Clippers (getting 3.5) to keep it close in Cleveland, as my brother Bobby auditions for a $50 million offer from the Cavs this summer. And yes, these picks are for recreational purposes only.
-- Posted: March 29, 2005 at 2:52 p.m. EST
My favorite moments from the weekend:
1. The Louisville-West Virginia game
Just in terms of "two teams bringing out the best in each other," I thought this was the best game of the tournament. Both teams shot 55 percent, even though they took 55 threes between them. Are you kidding me? They also had just 25 turnovers combined -- remarkable for an OT game. Plus, Louisville's best guy (Garcia) fouls out, so O'Bannon puts the team on his back and wins the game without him. (How is O'Bannon not a first-rounder?) West Virginia finishes 18 for 27 on threes, makes just eight two-point baskets in 45 minutes and pretty much masters the Hickory High routine -- could Gus Johnson have been rooting for them any more? -- and they finally go cold in OT, ending a two-and-a-half-game hot streak. And if that wasn't enough, O'Bannon's missed dunk at the end of OT took its rightful place alongside Chris Duhon's half-court shot as one of the great moments in gambling history. I give this game an A-plus-plus-plus-plus.
2. The Patrick Sparks 3-pointer for Kentucky
One of the all-time best buzzer-beaters -- great set-up with the missed free throw, followed by the frantic last 16 seconds and the second rebound bouncing right to him. Did anyone else instantly think of Ollie in "Hoosiers" (I know, second "Hoosiers" reference), between the missed free throw and the way he tried to draw the contact on the final shot? And has a buzzer-beater ever bounced around that many times? I didn't think this one was very well-played, though -- tons of mistakes on both sides.
3. The Illinois comeback against Arizona
Although this was tainted by 'Zona's embarrassing collapse down the stretch -- a Lute Olson special! -- as well as the fact that they had the chance to win in regulation and tie in OT and got one terrible shot and one non-shot. How can you not even get a shot off? (Same thing happened to Kentucky on Sunday -- I can see it happening in high school, but in college?) The thing I liked about this one: The way Illinois carried themselves like they KNEW they were coming back. I loved the play where Luther Head was clapping after a basket, then he kept clapping as Salim Stoudamire was bringing the ball up on him -- like he was saying, "We're not going away, sucker." Tough Illinois team. Saturday's game against Louisville has Pantheon Potential.
(And while we're here, I think all three Illini guards can play in the pros, but Deron Williams jumped out more than anyone. He's Bibby-esque at times. Definite lottery pick -- he could start for the Clippers and about 10 other teams right now. Much better bet than Devin Harris last year, don't you think?)
4. Duke losing on Friday night
I didn't care what happened in this one until Jim Nantz started with his, "Coach K was saying this week that, no matter what happens, the Duke students and alumni will remember this team for the rest of their lives, the way they kept battling back from so many injuries, how they handled adversity and blah blah blah" routine (I'm paraphrasing). Yeah, what a bunch of courageous underdogs -- instead of relying on players who were top-10 national recruits in their high school classes, they had to rely on some of the guys who were just in the top 30. I feel horrible for them. It's such a chore to play Shavlik Randolph big minutes when he was the No. 1 recruit from that 2002 class. Check out this column from Dick Vitale from October, 2001. Really, I'm supposed to feel bad for Duke? Ever?
5. Celts-Pistons on Saturday night
Hard-fought OT game that looked like something out of mid-May. These two teams bring the best out of each other for some reason. And no, I'm not concerned that the C's have lost three straight, or that Philly is creeping back in this thing . . .
6. Watching Sunday night TV
My mom and stepdad were visiting for the past few days. After going out for dinner every night, we stayed in last night and watched a powerhouse lineup: "The Contender" at 8, "Desperate Housewives" at 9 and "Grey's Anatomy" at 10. A quick recap:
"The Contender": This was the first show that looked a little rigged to me. For one thing, why read the scorecard numbers (48-47) when you haven't done that for the four other shows? Why was it edited to make it seem like Manfredo dominated the last two rounds when it was clearly closer than that? Why was the other guy so upset after the fight, enough that he walked away from Sly's David Stern handshake. (Did he feel robbed by the decision? And if he did, would they have told us?) How did Manfredo end up back on this show, anyway? Did anyone else think the whole "Someone came down with chicken pox, and in an astounding coincidence, the best boxer out of the 16 is coming back?" thing was a little fishy? And didn't the conversation in the closing credits between Sly, Sugar Ray and the old guy about how Manfredo had the "eye of the tiger" back and how he was the guy to beat ... I mean, didn't that seem a little contrived, like they were trying TOO hard to make it seem like he deserved to get the decision?
(At gunpoint, I think the show is legitimate. But since we've been conditioned not to trust anything centering around boxing, I couldn't help but notice this stuff. Of course, my mom hated the show and made snippy comments throughout, even blaming Sly for Najai Turpin's death. She was in rare form. My stepdad was a little more intrigued, claiming he didn't like it, then cackling in delight at Sly's training tips for Manfredo ... by the time they showed James Caan and Chuck Norris in the crowd, he was hooked.)
"Desperate Housewives": I don't like this show. It's well-acted and well-written ... it's just one of those shows that makes you question your manhood pretty much the entire time. It's a show for women. And that's fine. Still, the chance to hear the Sports Gal and my mom making catty comments like "Whoops, Nicollette Sheridan forgot to take the Botox needle out of her face" and "I'm glad they added the port-o-john; now Eva Longoria will have another place to make herself throw up" was worth the price of admission.
"Grey's Anatomy": I wanted to gave this show a chance for three reasons: 1.) I'll support anything with Patrick Dempsey, especially a show that gives him "And Patrick Dempsey" status in the opening credits; 2.) I always liked Katherine Heigl and the chick from "Old School"; 3.) They used a song from the Pet Shop Boys in the ads, which was just goofy enough to capture my attention. But this show exceeded everyone's expectations. Not only did it keep our collective interest, we actually liked it. It reminded me of the first season of "ER" -- not as well-done, but hipper and quirkier. The key was the chick from "Old School," Ellen Pompeo. She was likable, believable, understated and attainably hot (along the lines of Julianna Margulies and Sherry Stringfield in "ER", where she wasn't TOO good-looking, so you feel like you could have had a chance with her if you were on the show). She was just terrific -- like a non-insane Renee Zellweger. "Grey's Anatomy," welcome to my TiVo Season Pass.
(Whoops, I exceeded my word limit. One more note: Don't forget to check out Paul Shirley's latest NBA blogs from the weekend, which keep getting better and better. We might try a gimmick where I send him questions from my readers and he answers them, so if you have any questions for America's Favorite 12th Man, send them to me and I'll forward the best ones to him. And don't forget to take the Bulls at home against the Grizzlies tonight.)
-- Posted: March 28, 2005 at 4:25 p.m. EST
Three thoughts for today:
1. Heading into the tournament, I thought Louisville was the sleeper because of their losses (they only played one bad game all season) and their slash-and-kick style (which always seems to work in March). I also liked Garcia, as I've mentioned many times -- he's looming as the Tayshaun Prince/Delonte West of this year's draft. And I wanted to root for Pitino because things are always more interesting when he's involved. With that said, they kicked the crap out of a good Washington team last night -- that had to be the best performance of the tournament so far. If college basketball was always that good, I would watch it more often.
2. I wrote this in the Mag column two weeks ago, but Salim Stoudamire's NBA future has the widest hit-or-miss potential of anyone I can remember, Worst-case scenario, he lands on a crappy team, turns into a head case, starts acting crazy and ends up in a "Real Sports" segment and a Munson-Yaeger feature within three years. Best-case scenario, he goes to a semi-contender with a good support system that can keep him in check, then starts winning games for them. I could see his pro career unfolding the same way Jalen Rose's did -- one checkered stop on a lottery team, followed by a contender rolling the dice with him, followed by 1-2 years of high-quality basketball as the crunch-time scorer on a good team, followed by him signing a huge contract and becoming a head case again. Should be interesting.
3. Picks for tonight: Wisconsin with a mild upset over N.C. State; Villanova keeping it close with UNC, raising some Ewing Theory possibilities, then blowing the game in the final two minutes; Utah upsetting Kentucky as they get 75 percent of the calls and the announcers do everything but propose to Andrew Bogut; and Duke cruising over MSU as Nantz and Packer do everything but nominate Coach K for the 2008 Presidency.
Also, I'm not sure if the Celtics are beating the Bulls tonight or not, but they aren't winning by 7 points. That line's too high -- the Bulls are a bad matchup for them. If that game doesn't come down to the last minute, I'll be stunned.
One more note: That was the best episode of "The OC" in a solid year last night. I had almost forgotten why I keep TiVo-ing the show every week.
-- Posted: March 25, 2005 at 12:09 PM EST
In case you haven't figured it out yet, I'm using this "Cowbell" space to post quick thoughts, immediate reactions, predictions, updates for the site, mini-columns like "What I'm Reading" and "What I'm Watching," favorite links and everything along those lines -- basically, everything that either A.) I can't figure out how to work into a column, or B.) time-sensitive material that would become irrelevant after 48 hours. I'm limiting myself to 500-750 words per posting so I don't get too carried away.
Stuff from the past two days:
• As a few astute readers pointed out, I introduced the concept of the VCR Test (from yesterday's Contender column) in my review of Entourage last September. Of course, I totally forgot this. On the heels of using the same mailbag question twice in nine months, I'm thinking about getting a CAT-scan.
• The link of the week: Paul Shirley's blog on NBA.com. After I plowed through this thing, I was practically speechless -- an NBA player speaking his mind, making fun of other teams, even cracking some decent jokes? Does David Stern even know about this? If Shirley's body doesn't turn up frozen in a meat truck three weeks from now, I'll be astounded. Thanks to reader Brandon Cotter for passing that along.
• Watching another Ulong loss last night, I decided that Stephanie was my favorite "Survivor" character ever -- she's trapped on this tribe of idiots that lose every week, she keeps putting them on her back with every challenge, and they keep losing in heartbreaking fashion. She's like the Ernie Banks of reality TV.
• Speaking of reality TV, I hope you're watching John Gulager's meltdown on "Project Greenlight." I am now convinced that they go out of their way to select crazy directors that will make for good TV, at the expense of the actual movie. This guy takes the cake -- it's like they pulled him out of line at the Store 24 when he was buying scratch cards and Winstons, then handed him a multi-million movie. I also loved Matt Damon's Will Hunting-like meltdown in the first episode, when he started screaming at the Dimension execs, "The master of horror is sitting two seats away from you and just told you the script can't work!" I kept expecting Robin Williams to come in with a beard and tell him, "It's not your fault, it's not your fault..."
• A reader identifying himself as "The Guy in the Brown Jacket" writes in to say, "They gave away Dave Roberts' #31. ALREADY! Now I'm not saying the number should be retired, but respect must be paid. Here we are at the start of 'Season 1 ADS' (After Daves' Steal) and no one has voiced any concern over this issue. I approached one of the owners of the World Champion Boston Red Sox a few weeks ago. It was during a breakfast event and towards the end he took questions from the audience. I took the oppourtunity and enquired as to why he felt #31 should be passed along to another player when, in actuality, it would be much more appropriate serving as the new flag for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts- I recieved no comment in return. Do you have any idea why this number isnt serving some purpose, somewhere? I feel it should at least be the most worn jersey by fans from now on. It represents when Everything changed, and I don't think enough people see and appreciate that fact. A little help communicating this to the masses please."
• My NCAA picks tonight: Illinois big; Oklahoma St in a nailbiter that comes down to a Salim Stoudamire missed three for the win; Louisville pulling away from Washington with a big second half; and Texas Tech big over a WVU team that shot their wad on Saturday. Absolutely go against them.
• Finally, readers keep e-mailing me wondering why I've been "slacking" with columns lately. The answer? I've been working on a book since mid-January, but I didn't want to take off for three months like most writers do (for instance, look at Dan Shaughnessy's column output from November through January). Anyway, I'm hitting crunch-time with a mid-April deadline, so I have to cut back to one Page 2 column a week until I'm finished with the book. Details to come down the road.
-- Posted: March 24, 2005 at 5:02 PM EST
Not feeling the fever
If you haven't seen the extended trailer for "Fever Pitch," click here.
So here's my question: Why am I rooting so hard for a movie that prominently involves footage of Fenway Park, David Ortiz, the 2004 World Series celebration, the city of Boston and everything else to fail?I narrowed it down to four reasons:
1. Not only was Nick Hornby's book about following an English soccer team, not only was it one of the better sports books ever written, but they already MADE it into a movie eight years ago. If you're going to bastardize the idea and Americanize it about the Red Sox, at least call it something different. I'm not sure why this enrages me, but it does. The lack of creativity in Hollywood is appalling. It really is.
2. If you're making a Red Sox movie, and you want Sox fans to like it, you cannot cast Jimmy Fallon. You just can't. It's bad enough that he admitted he doesn't like sports, and that he's had three favorite baseball teams over the course of his life -- the Mets, Yankees and Red Sox. More important, it's Jimmy Fallon! He's your choice as a diehard Sox fan, a guy who always looks like he's wearing makeup? Who was the runner-up for the role, the lead singer from Train? Think of it this way -- imagine if Jimmy Fallon played either of the lead roles in "Good Will Hunting"? Would that have EVER happened? So why the hell is he in this movie? I always thought the casting of Timothy Hutton and Michael Rapaport in "Beautiful Girls" was the least realistic casting of any Massachusetts character ever, but this one takes the cake. They could have hired 50 Cent to play the lead character and it would have been more realistic.
3. The trailer screams "chick flick," which is bad enough, but the scene where Fallon's character drops to his knee and makes the Opening Day proposal ... I mean, what guy would ever do that, and what woman wouldn't kill him with her bare hands afterwards? Is it possible to take the movie seriously after that scene? I say no. I'm also worried that this is one of those movies that will give women ideas -- like, "If Drew Barrymore can tame Jimmy Fallon and get him to stop watching so much sports by the end of this movie, maybe my man will follow suit!"
4. I don't blame Fallon and Drew Barrymore for being on the field right after Game 4 of the World Series, since they were actors just doing their job; if anything, I blame the Red Sox for allowing it to happen, as well as the Farrellys for not understanding how offensive that moment was for every Red Sox fan who had been waiting their entire life to see their team finally win a championship -- it was like cutting the umbilical cord of your first baby while Fallon and Barrymore were inexplicably making out five feet away. The fact remains, it happened, there's no going back, and I hope the movie bombs because of it.
(And if it turns out to be a good movie, and my "thin-slicing" of the trailer was wrong, I will happily admit it. But I don't think I'm going to be wrong on this one.)
-- Posted: March 22, 2005 at 3:38 PM EST
Weekend warriors fall short
Super-quick thoughts about the NCAA Tournament that I wanted to post before they went stale ...
• At the end of the Duke game, listening to Jim Nantz launch into his inevitable "Whatta first week it was!" routine made me want to throw up. We didn't have a single decent game until Friday night, which is almost impossible. There was one phenomenal game (West Virginia-Wake Forest); one out-of-the-ordinary intense game (Boston College vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee); three entertaining upsets (Vermont-Syracuse, Texas Tech-Gonzaga and NC State-UConn); one awful game that was only interesting because a 14-seed won (Bucknell-Kansas); and one decent near-upset (Duke-Mississippi State). Really, was it any different than any other year, other than some of those higher seeds played so staggeringly bad (especially Kansas, Syracuse and UConn)?
The thing that really stood out to me was how so many big-name guys failed to step up when their team needed them -- Hakim Warrick, Rudy Gay, Wayne Simien, Ronnie Turiaf, Charlie Villaneuva and everyone else -- which seems like a reflection of how much college hoops have slipped more than anything else. When someone like Julius Hodge (who was up and down in the two NC State wins) came through on the pivotal play in the UConn game, it was actually surprising. Things have deteriorated so much that the announcers were practically building a cathedral for Andrew Bogut near the end of a game where he had 10 points, 7 assists and was getting shoved out of bounds every time he tried to grab a rebound. This guy couldn't grab 10 rebounds in an NBA game if it went into sixtuple-OT ... and they're comparing him to Vlade Divac and Brad Miller? Really?
Even Chris Paul -- who's going to be a fantastic pro, if only because he needs to play with guys who are as good as him -- didn't totally step up in the WVU game and ended up killing his team with a dumb fifth foul (which the announcers didn't even mention, of course.) I was disappointed, I have to say. When you watched how Francisco Garcia played for two games, it made you realize how many other alleged big-time guys DIDN'T step up.
With that said, WVU-Wake had to have been one of the best college games of the past 10 years -- I can't remember a team catching fire quite like West Virginia did. By the end of that game, I think they could have taken on the Spurs. You know a team is playing over its head when they're taking the lead on an old-school backdoor cut. I loved that game and it reminded me why I spend 40 hours watching the opening four days every year. You never know when you might see a great game. So you keep watching until you do.
• Did anyone else find it interesting that, in the same week when we were desperately searching for big-name college players to step up, LeBron dropped 56 on the Raptors and Shaun Livingston played crunch-time for the Clips against Bibby and the Kings? I mention this every year, but imagine if that NBA under-20 age limit had taken effect and LeBron, Livingston, Josh and JR Smith, Dwight Howard, Al Jefferson, Sebastian Telfair and Trevor Ariza were just randomly thrown into this tournament? I think we would have had a few more decent games.
• My favorite e-mail of the weekend, from Kris Wuebbels in Germantown, Illinois: "If CBS and ESPN replaced Billy Packer and Dick Vitale with any member of the Cameron Crazies, would anybody know the difference?"
• By Sunday at 11:30 a.m. West Coast time, I had been eliminated from every pool I'm in. Warrants mentioning.
• Two things amazed me about Syracuse-Vermont: 1) The Dick Bavetta-level officiating geared towards Vermont, which was fine, but it would have been nice if the announcers had mentioned it; and 2) 'Cuse not pressing Vermont for the entire game and letting them dictate the pace (just like Kansas did with Bucknell). When are these big-time schools going to stop allowing these smaller, unathletic schools to limit the number of possessions, play slowdown hoops and make some threes? Why not just blow them off the court? For God's sake, I watched Holy Cross-Bucknell two weeks ago -- the Cross almost made up an 18-point lead in the final six minutes because Bucknell couldn't even remotely handle the press. So Kansas never presses them until the 3-minute mark? Don't these teams have scouts?
• Another thing I write every year: There can't be a dumber rule in sports than "You can call a timeout even when you're flying out of bounds in midair." There just can't. Why not just make a rule that you can only call timeout when one foot is touching the ground?
• After watching everyone for four days, Washington-Louisville is the most compelling Sweet 16 game to me -- two good teams with guys who are stepping up. I have high hopes for that one.
• If you missed "Spring Break Shark Attack," you missed a good time, highlighted by an out-of-the-'80s "date rape drug" subplot, horrible CGI, an inane plot, Shannon Lucio jiggling around in her bathing suit like a redheaded Suzanne Somers (and winning the Jennifer Love Hewitt Memorial "Did she always have those?" award, as my editor Brick points out), and the classic moment when Bryan Brown (responsible for the shark attack because he chummed the waters of a rival beach to drive people to his beach) staring out to the water as dozens of swimmers were getting eaten alive, then calmly saying, "This wasn't supposed to happen." Was he talking about the sharks or his career after "FX2"? We may never know. Needless to say, I loved it. Final grade: A-plus.
-- Posted: March 21, 2005 4:58 PM EST
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His Sports Guy's World site is updated every day Monday through Friday.