SO ESPN CASHIERED JOE THEISMANN as a commentator on their Monday Night Football broadcasts. As an ardent football fan, I can only praise God and all His saints and angels for this wonderful news. It is yet again proof that there is a good God in Heaven and He loves us all very much. Quite frankly, ESPN's decision making can be a bit out there sometimes, so only divine intervention could have explained such a reversal.
However, in the event anyone from ESPN stumbles across this, I would simply like to say thank you. Thank you thank you thank you for sacking Theismann.
Also, I'm enjoying the Arena Football League broadcasts on ESPN2 and would like to see more of them. I'm watching the Orlando-Dallas game right now, and it's good football. Plus, only in arenaball could you watch some dumbass fan try to maneuver himself to catch a seemingly-errant pass, and end up falling from the front row onto the field, and into the middle of a potential touchdown play. Truly this is a fun game.
For what it's worth, ESPN's MNF broadcasts would be even better if ESPN would not allow actors, musicians, comedians or any other very special guests into the broadcast booth at any time during the game. It takes away from the football.
Football is why people watch MNF. They do not watch MNF to see Matthew-fucking-McConaughey blather on about "We Are Marshall." In fact, I made a point of not going to see "We Are Marshall," just because I was still ticked about McConaughey showing up in the booth and going on about this and that while actual football was taking place on the field. I'm still so ticked that I'm not even linking to its IMDB entry.
So I would ask the good people at ESPN to rethink their celebrity policy, which is insipid and wretched and detrimental to the game of football. But enough of that -- I don't want to bash ESPN over the head too much. I mean, not only do I get to watch arenaball on Mondays -- with a good play-by-play squad to boot -- they cashiered Joe Theismann.
Oh, joy. Oh, joy! Shot down like some disgraced cosmonaut. Yeah.
MY FELLOW AMERICANS, Shashi Tharoor thinks we have a problem. Simply put, we don't care much for cricket, a state of affairs which horrifies the United Nations' outgoing Undersecretary-General for Communications. As a result, Undersecretary Tharoor did what any UN chief flack would do -- he sent an op-ed to The New York Times, in which he condemned this state of affairs. Also, as he is an outgoing undersecretary, the man made plenty of nasty asides at the United States in his essay.
While Undersecretary Tharoor's unfortunate remarks about America have been condemned elsewhere, The Rant would take the high road in this instance.
As Loyal Rant Readers know, I am a great supporter of American football, the greatest sport in all of human history. Like Undersecretary Tharoor with cricket, I have tried to spread this football gospel to those who don't yet realize the beauty and majesty of the sport. Sometimes, this falls on deaf ears.
As amazing as it may seem to Americans, many foreigners want to stick with their own sports, like soccer. But the proper response is simply to allow them time to understand American football's sublime spirit, as well as those of its close variants, Canadian and arena football. They'll discover it eventually, because American football has so many great human qualities which transcend politics and nationality. When they do, they will become as passionate and devoted fans as any Midwesterner. We're already achieving some small measure of success in Germany and I am confident the rest of the world will eventually come 'round.
Sadly, Undersecretary Tharoor has given up on his mission and instead reverted to angrily bashing the nation which has hosted him for so many years. He writes:
In any event, nothing about cricket seems suited to the American national character: its rich complexity, the infinite possibilities that could occur with each delivery of the ball, the dozen different ways of getting out, are all patterned for a society of endless forms and varieties, not of a homogenized McWorld. They are rather like Indian classical music, in which the basic laws are laid down but the performer then improvises gloriously, unshackled by anything so mundane as a written score.
Cricket is better suited to a country like India, where a majority of the population still consults astrologers and believes in the capricious influence of the planets — so they can well appreciate a sport in which, even more than in baseball, an ill-timed cloudburst, a badly prepared pitch, a lost toss of the coin at the start of a match or the sun in the eyes of a fielder can transform the outcome of a game. Even the possibility that five tense, hotly contested, occasionally meandering days of cricketing could still end in a draw seems derived from ancient Indian philosophy, which accepts profoundly that in life the journey is as important as the destination. Not exactly the American Dream.
So here’s the message, America: don’t pay any attention to us, and we won’t pay any to you. If you wonder, over the coming weeks, why your Indian co-worker is stealing distracted glances at his computer screen every few minutes or why the South African in the next cubicle is taking frequent and furtive bathroom breaks during the working day, don’t even try to understand. You probably wouldn’t get it. You may as well learn to accept that there are some things too special for the rest of us to want to waste them on you.
We love you too.
Oh, wretched Kansas
You live despite all efforts
to send you back home
You'll choke soon enough
for karma can't be denied,
and you will collapse
God knows the Bruins
would love to throw you down
to the hardwood floor
Your run will end soon
for if Bucknell could beat you
Crikey, not again
Why won't Ohio State lose?
Does fate demand this?
Must Ohio pull
victories out of its ass
ev'ry single game?
I mean, they were down
twenty points against the Vols,
yet came back to win
Maybe we should blame
the wretched squad from Knoxville
that failed on TV
We saw it coming
just like everyone else did;
Not much to say here;
Pitt got outplayed, as usual
but that's how it goes
Oh, those two free throws
put Memphis over the top
in the last seconds
How great were those shots
as they broke the Aggies' spirit
after a tough game
Now the real test comes
as they must face the Buckeyes
over the weekend;
Please, beat them soundly;
let the Buckeyes reap defeat;
let the clock strike twelve.
SO THE LATEST FAD in backyard accessorizing -- giant outdoor fireplaces with chimneys that sprout hideously into the air -- creates animosity, tension and defiance of local planning officials in a small town. Where is this small town, you ask? The New York Times tells us:
Back when houses had one television set, that was a powerful force pulling families together. As entertainment options multiply, many families say an old-fashioned fire still provides a magnetic attraction.
Kevin Lurie, a health insurance consultant who built a 14-foot fireplace behind his home in Solon, a Cleveland suburb, said, “It’s the only way I can get my three kids to unplug from their iPods, computers, video games and TiVo and actually spend time together.”
They may also may be a way for busy, well-educated, well-to-do families to connect with deeper things, said Barbara Risman, chairwoman of the sociology department at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and executive officer of the Council on Contemporary Families.
“People put a lot of thought these days into how to construct family rituals that are really high-quality, because the time they spend together is not much,” Ms. Risman said.
Some landscapers doubt that their clients’ motives are quite so pure. “A lot of this is about status,” said Paul Dorko, co-owner of Hidden Valley Nursery in Stockton, N.J.
But sometimes the desire for the latest backyard accessory backfires. A neighbor’s complaint about Mr. Lurie’s fireplace led to a political squabble in Solon. And some 8 to 20 homeowners in Solon have ignored a citywide ban on outdoor fireplaces, said the planning commission chairman, Bill Maser. A ballot initiative in November will allow voters to decide whether to legalize the fireplaces.
“This all seems a little silly,” Mr. Lurie said. “All we want to do is enjoy a fire.”
For the record, The Rant does not oppose the construction and use of outdoor fireplaces, which can be really nice if properly constructed and incorporated into the design of a home. An outdoor fireplace can be an integral part of a pleasant outdoor patio and, depending on the climate, a centerpiece for afternoon relaxing and after-dinner conversation for many months out of the year. Furthermore, an outdoor fireplace properly integrated into the design will be pleasing to the eye not only from inside the home but also from well away.
However, The Rant does think it's goddamned stupid to build a giant backyard fireplace in northeastern Ohio, where it is winter six months out of the year, and as such is often unusuable. The Rant also thinks it's stupid to build a giant backyard fireplace which ticks off the neighbors, causing them to report one to the authorities. Lastly, The Rant thinks it's incredibly and profoundly stupid to build a giant backyard fireplace without first getting the OK from one's local planning board, because they have the power to have the giant backyard fireplace torn down.
These are all things which the Luries reportedly did, according to The Plain Dealer of Cleveland's January story on the matter. Fortunately for the Luries, however, the Solon City Council gave them the OK to keep their fireplace, which The Rant would again note is 14 feet tall and cost $8,000. 14 feet. That's more than a story tall, isn't it?
Of course, to focus entirely on the Luries is not fair -- the Times somehow found an even more unsympathetic couple to portray and writer Christopher Maag, who got all reporter-smarmy in his story, didn't exactly paint a warm impression in his lead.
Still, I do find it rather amusing Solon has become a Major Battleground on this key policy issue. I would imagine that many Solonites -- as well as many people living in adjacent communities -- have little more outdoors than a gas grill and would consider giant outdoor fireplaces in their neighborhoods about as pleasant as Texas root rot. Besides, you'd think the real powers that be -- namely, the local homeowners' associations -- would be up in arms about these things from the moment the first bricks were laid.
However, the last thing I would want to do is make it even more difficult for families to spend time together, and if giant outdoor fireplaces help do the trick, then perhaps they should be looked upon charitably. It does amaze me, though, that so many Solon residents are openly defying planners on the issue. There's no defiance in Ohio!
AH, ST. PATRICK'S DAY -- a day for Americans to celebrate their Irish heritage, enjoy Irish culture and cuisine, and have a drink or two even before the clock strikes noon. It is such a fun time, in fact, that even people without any Irish heritage join in the fun, and celebrate through wearing green, holding wild parties, and what not. Why, even I -- noted curmudgeon and raconteur that I am -- will celebrate with a beer or two around 11 a.m.
I must admit, though, that as someone with no Irish ancestry whatsoever, I don't get into the holiday nearly as much as other people. On one level, this is understandable: as I'm not Irish, I can't understand what the day means to those with that ancestry. But on another, it suggests that I'm looking for someway to celebrate my own ethnic heritage, which has always been a bit problematic.
After all, my ancestors made a point of leaving the generally Godforsaken places from whence they came, primarily because they knew that if they stayed, their descendants would have to deal with bad harvests and rampaging bureaucrats and panzertruppen. Even where it was nice, there was little in the way of jobs or opportunity. So that makes me a bit hesitant about openly celebrating my Continental heritage.
But I do think I've come up with a solution. As a Scot -- well, part Scots anyway -- I too can get into the celebratory spirit. I'll keep celebrating St. Patrick's Day, but I'll also celebrate St. Andrew's Day. St. Andrew's Day is the national day of Scotland, and as such it should be a big deal here in America. Yet practically no one celebrates it, and I don't understand why that's the case.
After all, St. Andrew's Day falls on Nov. 30. If you ask me, that's a perfect day for getting blitzed. I mean, it's Nov. 30. People are done with Thanksgiving, but it really doesn't feel like Christmas yet, and it's the end of November and it's gloomy and cold outside. If that's not enough reason to get out The Glenlivet, then nothing is. Plus, as Scots, there are plenty of ways we can celebrate our national heritage, with celebrations of national sports, cuisine and ...
READERS: Uh, dude, that's during Christmas. We're supposed to spend more money on --
Oh, quit. OK, I'm proclaiming this the first rule of St. Andrew's Day: the Bein' Thrifty with the Celebrations, even though that's a national Scottish pastime, will be restricted from between 7 a.m. until 8 a.m., or whenever one has one's first shot of whisky, whichever comes first.
Besides, many of the festivities on St. Andrew's Day will be free. Why, just think how much free fun a Scot can have during an extended session of Rooting Against the English. Och, the English, with their caste system and arrogance and drunken braggadocio. Damn their soccer players and their unionism and their seizin' of the North Sea oil, which as everyone knows is rightfully Scotland's and Scotland's alone.
So the second integral part of St. Andrew's Day will be the Rooting Against the English, whether that means hoping all their soccer teams lose or actively supporting the Scottish National Party. The Rant would, however, encourage this rooting to be all in good fun, as all the Trident missiles are in England.
There will be plenty of good fun on St. Andrew's Day, especially when the people indulge in the Drinking Before Noontime. While revelers probably ought wait until after noon to commence seriously heavy drinking, folks should break out the good whisky as soon as they feel ready, and continue imbibing. Alternatively, one could drink plenty of India Pale Ale throughout the day, although the Morning Celebratory Whiskey and the Wee Nightcap would almost certainly be mandatory.
I'm sure there are plenty of other things Scots in America and elsewhere could do for St. Andrew's Day, such as playing the bagpipes, golfing, and eating bagels and lox for breakfast. But here in New Hampshire, another ritual of St. Andrew's Day -- and this St. Patrick's Day -- is going out to Clean Off the Car so the Landlord Can Plow the Parking Lot. This post, however, should get everyone thinking ahead for the big day in November.
One point eight seconds
made all the difference for
the VCU Rams
How wonderful was
that last jump shot near the paint
which sealed Duke's defeat
For the nation cheered
as ignoble Duke sank down
And through the Southland,
there rose a great, mocking cry:
"Go back to Jersey!"
Oh, Boston College
you have done a great service
for basketball fans
Now, you see, we can
ignore Bob Knight's existence
until next time 'round
demands the wretch suffer for
his silly antics
We're glad you lost, Coach;
now sink back into the muck,
you son of a bitch.
"Old Dominion" sounds
like a bad aftershave brand
for sale on the cheap
Like bad aftershave,
Old Dominion started strong,
but couldn't hold out
Oh, they seemed so close
to knocking off a five-seed
per long tradition
But the second half
soon showed they were no match for
No. 7 Indiana 70, No. 10 Gonzaga 57
How bright your future once seemed,
how lofty your dreams
They now lie ruined
before proud Indiana
which surged to glory
You were not the same
squad as you were this last year,
when Morrison played;
Do better next time,
for Michigan makes me weep
in the NIT.
AS A FOOTBALL FAN above all else, I must admit I don’t share the passion for college basketball which energizes so many of my fellow sports fans. Basketball has always struck me as a second-tier sport, on par with ice hockey and auto racing, and a sport one generally watches because there’s no football or baseball on television.
Furthermore, compared to the order and strategy one finds in football and baseball, basketball is a generally chaotic affair in which all decisions are tactical and style is too often valued more than substance. Every missed dunk, every technical foul, every bit of showboating and every bit of faux controversy stands as testament to that argument.
I mean, really. Think about how many times one has watched a basketball game and seen the following scenario take place:
Teams A and B are playing in a game in which the score is tied. Team A has the ball and is passing it around in an attempt to find an open shot, when a player for Team B intercepts a poorly-thrown ball. The squad from Team B then rushes down the court only to miss an easy lay-up. Team A then recovers the ball as it rebounds from the basket, and rushes back down the court with it. One player for Team A then drives towards the basket with the ball, and a scrum of players for Team B attempt to stop him.
In so doing, a vague foul of dubious import is called against a player for Team B, while the player for Team A – despite running with the ball in hand for six or seven paces – is not called for traveling. This prompts Team B’s coach to jump up from the bench and start screaming at the officials, which results in a technical foul. Suddenly, Team B finds itself down several points. With little time left, long-established tactics call for Team B’s players to repeatedly foul players on Team A. Anticlimactic denouement follows, along with extensive commentary fromDick Vitale and Kraft Foods Inc.
What’s that? My scenario isn’t realistic? Yes it is, and you know it, baby! Especially regarding the fouling bit. I’m certainly not the only one to have asked: what the hell kind of sport not only encourages fouling, but makes it an accepted tactical maneuver during the final minutes of the game?
Here’s the truth – that’s just wrong, OK? In football, penalties result in scorn and derision all sixty minutes of the game, and that’s pretty much the case in baseball and ice hockey as well, although in the latter sports, there are exceptions (e.g. Ozzie Guillen, Ogie Oglethorpe). But in basketball, hell – go ahead, foul away.
This fouling situation is even more mystifying because no one, not even the referees, knows all the potential foul calls in basketball. Does a player accidentally touch another player while trying to defend a shot? Foul. Does a player spend too much time near the basket? Foul. Does a player cut back one way across the court, then another way, dodges past a guard and drive for the basket? That’s a foul too, even though the player picked up a triple-word score AND used the X and Z tiles.
But all those fouls, again, are OK because as long as one doesn’t have five (or six) of them, they can still play in the game and realistically suffer no consequences. Meanwhile, you can be damn sure that the football player who got an unnecessary roughness penalty is STILL in the doghouse with his coach, the assistant coaches, and most of the offensive line.
Of course, there are plenty of other things with basketball I’m not thrilled about. Let’s look at the collegiate basketball realm for some examples.
One major issue is that many of the schools competing for this month’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament are annoying (e.g. Virginia Tech), utterly lame (e.g. Purdue) or thoroughly deserve to get knocked on their asses (e.g. Duke, USC, Duke, Michigan State, Duke). Sure, this means there are plenty of teams to root against, but the plethora of icky teams will often mean a team one doesn’t like will end up playing another team one doesn’t like. This is not fun.
It’s also not fun when teams from – how does one put this – less-renowned conferences are given guaranteed berths in the tourney, despite no one knowing who the hell they are. For instance, it’s worth noting the Corpus Christi campus of Texas A&M University – the Corpus Christi branch campus, for God’s sake – won something called the Southland Conference and as such, was named a No. 15 seed in this year’s tournament. While I will secretly root for them in their game against Wisconsin – because Wisconsin, as a matter of course, goes easy on their schedules each year – it does feel like Texas A&M (CC) will show up, get beaten about on the court, and have a long, not fun bus ride home.
Now, I don’t really mean to cut down the Texas A&M (CC) squad – well, not directly, anyway – they were just the first example that came to mind. They also have an impressive 26-6 record, which is better than one can say for, oh, Purdue. But it’s no fun watching cannon fodder get cannoned either. So either the NCAA has to do a better job promoting why these teams are important basketball players on the national scale, or add in more at-large berths for other schools. I’m just saying: I’m sure the Mid-Continent Conference is important, but I’m not entirely sure why it should get a guaranteed tournament berth.
That said, it’s also not fun when one’s own alma mater will ONCE AGAIN lean against the wall looking awkward during the Big Dance, because one’s alma mater can’t win a big game even if their evil arch-rivals practically hand them a victory on a plate. Not that I am bitter.
After all, Michigan’s situation is Michigan’s own fault. Getting caught putting nitro in the tank is not exactly a way to make friends or influence people. Still, that was many years ago and it is getting increasingly frustrating to have a basketball team that can’t get the job done when it needs to do so. All Michigan basketball fans want, when you get right down to it, is at least one win over Ohio State per season and a berth in the NCAA Tournament, even if that berth involves playing Fairleigh Dickinson (or a similar school) in the play-in game.
But I digress. Plus, I want to end on a positive note – which is that March Madness starts this Thursday (or Tuesday, if you count the play-in game). This is one of two times during the year in which basketball is enjoyable to watch (the other being when the Clippers are in the NBA playoffs). So, I do hope Rant readers will spend some time watching the college kids play some hoops – because like all sports, this isn’t just about the game of basketball. It’s about school pride, cheering on one’s favorite underdogs, blatant regionalism and indulging in a whole bunch of schadenfreude (e.g., with Duke).
Speaking of favorites, since my alma mater is heading to the Not Invited Tournament ONCE AGAIN, The Rant will again root this year for its coreligionists, the Gonzaga Zags, who are apparently really the Gonzaga Bulldogs but no one calls them that. I haven’t any idea how well they’ll do, but I certainly hope they’ll do well – and knocking off Indiana would be rather a bonus, I would think.
EIGHTY YEARS AGO, the University of Michigan dedicated its new football stadium in Ann Arbor. One of the very cool things about that particular Saturday's football game -- aside from our triumph over a certain second-rate university -- was that the day was filmed.
Dig this compilation of pre-game footage, crowd reaction shots, and football action from the fall of 1927, which even includes aerial shots and a pleasing score of school songs:
Yeah. Let's see those scoundrels down at Ohio State top that. Oh, wait. Michigan beat them when their stadium was dedicated; in fact, we shut them out at home, 19-0. Also, it's again worth noting Michigan Stadium holds more people, is much more fun to attend and is generally cooler than Ohio Stadium.
Although it seems inconceivable, Michigan Stadium could be even cooler if this plan for the stadium's renovation was adopted.
(with thanks to my good friend Lee, a fellow Michigan alumnus)
ONE SUSPECTS THAT if A.O. Scott, the chief movie critic for The New York Times, had been around for the Battle of Thermopylae, he would be the first to welcome Greece’s new Persian overlords. It is the only conclusion one can draw from Mr Scott’s unfriendly review of “300,” the new movie devoted to the battle in question, as most of his ire is aimed at the plot and not the various technical aspects of the film.
The kicker, of course, is that the plot – despite its considerable artistic licenses – is taken from the very fabric of history itself. Back in 480 B.C., a small band of Spartans and their allies held off a vastly superior force of subject conscripts and Persian elite units at Thermopylae, a key mountain pass. Their three-day stand – which was only broken due to treachery – paved the way for the epic Battle of Salamis, in which Persia was badly beaten.
It is no exaggeration to say the Spartans’ stand at Thermopylae pretty much saved all of Western Civilization from Persia’s cruel despotism, which was the standard governance model of the day back in 480 B.C. It is also no exaggeration to say the Spartans’ stand was one of the greatest military accomplishments of the ancient era, given that Persia’s forces outnumbered the Greeks by at least 30 to 1, and perhaps as much as 300 to 1, depending on which commentator one believes.
However, Mr Scott does not seem to care. Nor does he seem to care that certain artistic licenses were taken in making the story into a comic – from which the movie is adapted. Here are some of his observations:
Devotees of the pectoral, deltoid and other fine muscle groups will find much to savor as King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) leads 300 prime Spartan porterhouses into battle against Persian forces commanded by Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), a decadent self-proclaimed deity who wants, as all good movie villains do, to rule the world.
The Persians, pioneers in the art of facial piercing, have vastly greater numbers — including ninjas, dervishes, elephants, a charging rhino and an angry bald giant — but the Spartans clearly have superior health clubs and electrolysis facilities. They also hew to a warrior ethic of valor and freedom that makes them, despite their gleeful appetite for killing, the good guys in this tale. (It may be worth pointing out that unlike their mostly black and brown foes, the Spartans and their fellow Greeks are white.) …
… There are a few combat sequences that achieve a grim, brutal grandeur, notably an early engagement in which the Spartans, hunkered behind their shields, push back against a Persian line, forcing enemy soldiers off a cliff into the water. The big idea, spelled out over and over in voice-over and dialogue in case the action is too subtle, is that the free, manly men of Sparta fight harder and more valiantly than the enslaved masses under Xerxes’ command.
I suppose this might be a bad time to mention that Xerxes pretty much did, in fact, want to rule the world. I mean, if you look at history around 500 BC, the Persian Empire is IT in terms of powerful empires at the time. Persia controlled Egypt and a lot of other Near Eastern real estate, plus what is now Iran and other Central Asian territory. So why else would he consider expanding west? Also, as much as I hate to break it to Mr Scott, back in the old days people fought battles and killed each other in hand-to-hand combat, often for reasons that people today don’t really understand.
Now, it may be that “300” just really stinks; not having seen the film, I can’t offer a defense on artistic merits. But my argument with Mr Scott is not over that; it is rather that his review treats the historic import of Thermopylae as barely an afterthought, when the historic import of the battle is fundamental to the work. Basically, Mr Scott ought recognize that some 25 centuries ago, a group of people made a great sacrifice, and its benefits still accrue today.
That said, Mr Scott does in his review somewhat address what he considers fundamental shortcomings with the film itself. Here’s one standard criticism:
Zack Snyder’s first film, a remake of George Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead,” showed wit as well as technical dexterity. While some of that filmmaking acumen is evident here, the script for “300,” which he wrote with Kurt Johnstad and Michael B. Gordon, is weighed down by the lumbering portentousness of the original book, whose arresting images are themselves undermined by the kind of pomposity that frequently mistakes itself for genius.
Well, if that ain’t the pot calling the kettle black, I don’t know what is.
WELL, I DARESAY someone at WAGT-TV in Augusta, Ga., got cashiered over this rather unfortunate mistake during one of their recent news broadcasts. (Watch very closely for this, uh, adult slipup).
(via Corey Spring)