OH, YES. FOOTBALL IS BACK! Sure it's indoors; sure it's on a 50-yard field. But football is back -- and winning football, no less. I am pleased to report the Manchester Wolves (2-1) ran roughshod over the hapless Albany Firebirds (0-4) in Manchester tonight, beating Albany by an impressive 74-53 margin in af2 action. A strong second-half performance put the Wolves over the top. Considering how things went last year, when the Wolves started out the season 1-6, this game is a very good omen for the rest of the season.
What's that, you say? But Bennnnnnnnnn. It's Albany! Of course the Wolves beat Albany! Well, I agree there is something to that. Albany may have changed its name, and changed its colors, but they're still Albany. They're still sloppy. They're still prone to committing innumerable penalties, many of them stupid. And they're still not getting the job done.
And one very nice thing about watching Manchester play Albany is that the teams don't like each other very much. I mean, dig this: our kicker got an unnecessary roughness penalty. As a matter of course, I don't approve of those types of penalties, but that's kind of cool. The kicker, stepping up!
But I don't want to take away from the job the Wolves did tonight, for they came out in the second half and opened an industrial-sized can of whoopass on the New York squad. Despite the score, this was not an easy win for the home team; and although it is always fun to beat up on Albany, the upstate squad has gotten better since last year. Perhaps their best player, wide receiver Christian Wise, was a force to be reckoned with. More than once, he made an impressive catch. More than once, he bedeviled our special teams. And he and Albany came out of the gate and delivered a series of blows that had the Wolves rocking back on their feet.
For instance, on the first play of the game, Wise scored a touchdown on a long bomb in which he managed to outrun our defender, defensive back Al Phillips. That was somewhat disconcerting. Things got even more alarming when, after Manchester recovered an on-side kick attempt, Albany's defense managed to sack our quarterback, James Pinkney, on the ensuing drive. One of their players recovered the ball for a quick rush to the endzone. Suddenly, Manchester was down 14-0 and it looked like it would be a long night.
But Manchester didn't give up. Things got off to a good start with our kick returner, T.C. Myers. Myers put in a great performance during the game and I am glad to see him back from last year. Last year, he was a defensive back, but he is fabulous as a kick returner -- good decision, Coach Barto! -- and I think he has real potential to make it to the next level. Myers is quick and fast and small, and all those things make him a difficult target for opponents. On his first run back, Myers brought it out near midfield, and during the game he showed flashes of brilliance. On more than one occasion, he would have racked up six points had he escaped his last adversary, and with time he will improve. He is an asset to the Wolves' squad and the fans like him too.
Anyway, after a quick touchdown pass to wide receiver Emery Sammons, it was 14-6, with a missed extra point. On Albany's next sequence, they weren't able to move the ball -- on one instance, Albany quarterback Adam Bednarik threw the ball straight at the umpire, who was beaned accordingly. After Albany missed a field goal try deep in their own territory -- arenaball's substitute for a punt -- Manchester managed to rack up six points with a throw to wide receiver Steven Savoy. 14-13, Albany.
Albany came back with a quick touchdown on a kick return. One thing that Manchester must work on is its special teams defense, 'cause Albany bedeviled us pretty much the whole night on long kickoffs. On this particular play, Albany ran it out to about midfield, when it appeared Wise fumbled the ball -- only to have it recovered by Albany's Alvin Jackson. Jackson, on the ground, realized he hadn't been touched and the whistle hadn't blown -- so he got up and ran off before Manchester's players knew what happened. Albany 21, Manchester 13. Soon after, Savoy got another TD catch and it was 21-20 at the end of one.
Things settled down in a rather uneventful second quarter, and at half time the score was Albany 30, Manchester 26. Our kicker, Chris Koepplin, would redeem himself in the second half, but he was uneven in the first, going 2-4 on extra points.
For that matter, the whole team redeemed itself in the second half. At the start of the third quarter, Albany was up, 30-26. At the end of the third quarter, Albany was down 50-37. Not only did Manchester's offense run like clockwork, the special teams and defense came through too. At one point, defensive back Antwan Stewart managed to recover a wild kickoff in the endzone for a score, and on the next play, defensive back Brandon Isaac made an interception deep in Albany territory.
They kept it up into the fourth quarter, and eventually it was 60-37. But the fireworks didn't stop there. Stewart again came through with an impressive on-side kick recovery that he ran back into Albany's endzone, throwing six more points on the board. Albany tried to make a comeback, but it was too late, and the coup de grace was delivered at the game's end, when Albany kept calling time outs despite the outcome being all but certain. On the final play of the game, Pinkney delivered a rocket to Savoy in the endzone. The crowd cheered, the extra point was kicked, and the final was 74-53.
So all in all, this was a good game, and Manchester should be pleased with how it performed. But there were clearly things on which the squad must work. From my vantage point, Coach Barto often had a look on his face that indicated he was thinking something along the lines of, "Good grief." The special teams, again, need improving and our pass coverage wasn't as good as one could have hoped.
But I'll say this -- this team is a heck of a lot better than it was last year, and that's a good sign. Last year's squad nearly made it to the Arena Cup game and this year's squad clearly has the potential to do just as well. So the rest of the season will be great fun to watch!
Oh, I nearly forgot. The dance team is back this year. The dance team ... wow. They were almost -- but only almost -- enough to distract me from the game!
TONIGHT, at the Verizon Wireless Arena, the announcer said the following:
"At New Yankee Stadium ...
And there was much rejoicing. What I want to know, though, is: what the hell happened?
It's Time for Yet Another Installment of ...
BAD CINEMA WITH BEN
An occasional Rant feature
Today's Feature: Knowing.
THE BOOK OF MATTHEW tells us that no man knoweth the day nor the hour of Christ's return. In modern times, various wits have used Matthew 25:13 to reflect on man's mortality. With "Knowing," a not all that great science fiction film from director Alex Proyas, questions about such matters naturally present themselves to the viewer. Questions such as, "God, if you're really going to end the world, could you do it with a bit more suspense?"
Yes, "Knowing" is disappointing. Really disappointing, actually, although not entirely bad. The special effects are quite well done, there is one (1) scene of cinematic brilliance that hits all the right notes, and there was one throw-away quip at which I chuckled. Other than that, though -- God, what a stinker.
It's especially annoying because there are bunches of similarities with Proyas' "Dark City" -- and I mean bunches -- except they make clear just how much better "Dark City" was in comparison. Here's just a few, though, to whet your appetite. Consider: both heroes are named "John." Consider: both lead actresses are willowy brunettes. Consider: both movies' supposed bad guys are overcoat-wearing space aliens bent on harvesting man's potential for their own ends. Yet in all three instances, "Knowing" comes up short.
In "Dark City," Rufus Sewell played the man desperately attempting to solve the riddle facing him. In "Knowing," we got Nicholas Cage, whose delivery is ... well, a bit wooden at times. In "Dark City," the lead actress was Jennifer Connolly, of whom I approve. In "Knowing," the lead actress was Rose Byrne, of whom I also approve but who is the poor man's version of Jennifer Connolly. In "Dark City," the motives of the overcoat-wearing space aliens are explained and actually make sense. In "Knowing," the overcoat-wearing space aliens are -- well, as Joe Neumaier put it in the New York Daily News, "Rutger Hauer's family reunion."
Now, you can get away with this type of thing if you're a genius. Like Philip K. Dick. Philip K. Dick was a genius and relied on many of the same stock characters in his novels, and it worked because the man was brilliant. The people behind "Knowing" are not geniuses, so it doesn't work here. If they were, they would have made a blockbuster.
Anyway, here's the plot. Nicholas Cage plays *cough* Jeff Goldblum *cough* in the role of John Koestler, an widowed astrophysicist who has not gotten over the death of his beautiful wife. Mrs K, you see, had the good sense to die prior to the events of the film because she knew it would turn out iffy. This conceit, by the way, is one of the tell-tale signs that one is watching a science fiction movie, because in the real world the beautiful wife would have married Arthur Miller or something.
Where was I? Oh, yes. Prof Koestler is an astrophyicist, widowed, with a young son. The young son in question is bedeviled because of his loss, and also because the Rutger Hauer Band is channeling into his mind.
As it happened, some 50 years earlier, the elementary school the boy now attends decided to commemorate its opening through creating a time capsule. A student at this school, a tortured young girl who also gets messages from beyond, writes out a message to the future -- in the form of a string of numbers. Fast forward 50 years later, and John's boy gets the envelope with the code in it. One idle evening, Prof Koestler looks over the code and tries to crack it.
John's path -- and that of his boy -- cross with a woman, Diana Wayland, and her daughter, who like the boy is also getting various messages from the otherworldly alien types. Conveniently, Mrs W is the daughter of the girl who wrote out the code half a century ago. Although the girl from the Fifties has herself died, Mrs W is well aware of the code and the warnings contained therein. As such, all four team up in an attempt to save humanity (or at least, themselves) from the doom that may await them.
Of course, this goes to show how stupid the aliens are. After all, consider: you're trying to warn the people of Earth that something is Very, Very Wrong. Clearly the natural course of action is to give your message to a bunch of kids and an astrophysicist -- and not only an astrophysicist, but one who spends his days teaching undergraduates. Then you go around frightening people instead of sending them letters in the post.
And let's be honest: Prof K is not the brightest star in the night sky, either. For one thing, consider where the guy lives. He lives in a semi-restored old Victorian that manages not only to be pretentious and twee, but also the type of place that screams, "Look at me! I pay $5 for a cup of coffee!" True, he does show some flashes of brilliance -- he apparently manages to legally acquire a revolver in no time at all, despite living in Massachusetts -- but then he never actually uses the weapon when any normal person would be kicking alien ass.
Even the ending was a let-down, although there was one particularly good scene in it, which I won't spoil. But perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised.
Everything about tonight's movie-going experience was a bit blah. This ranged from the stupid preview for one of the summer's latest stupid flicks for teenagers, in which various pretty sorority girls are dispatched one-by-one for accidentally knocking off one of their sisters, to the stupid preview for a direct-to-video movie for children. The sappy moral message of this film, based on the snippet I saw in the theatre, was that a person can do anything he wants, provided he believes in himself.
Kids? We lie.
AS A MATTER OF COURSE, The Rant approves of secession movements in principle but not in practice.
In principle, they're nice because free people everywhere should have the right to organize their own affairs. If that means they decide to scrap their current arrangements and set up their own shop, that seems fair enough to me. Also, it stands to reason that in a situation where polities peacefully co-exist and compete with each other to provide better lives for their citizens, that competitive tide will lift everyone's boats.
In practice, however, secession movements are rarely neat. After all, look what happened the last time -- and that was before the invention of things like tanks and fighter jets, much less tactical nuclear weapons. Also, they're generally bad for business. In the best-case scenario, you get a whole new set of rules and regulations and cross-border issues with which to deal; in the worst-case scenario, you get your factories nationalized.
Accordingly, The Rant is not impressed with Texas Gov. Rick Perry's claim the Lone Star State can simply up and leave the United States without so much as a by-your-leave. It is not even true on a theoretical level, much less a practical one. In theory, the only special status Texas has, under the rules of the Texas Annexation of 1845, is its ability to divide itself into five separate states. Why the Texans have failed to use this to their advantage over the years is beyond me, but they haven't. In practice, we told them once they couldn't leave, and one would think the resulting actions would have settled the matter.
Of course, that was a long time ago, and I realize Texan secessionists may make that argument in defending their homeland's honor. So let's consider what it might be like if Texas were to secede, and everyone was all right with that.
Well, first off, there's this little matter of the national debt. As of Tuesday, the national debt stood at $11,172,298,738,031.41. (Yes, the Government calculates this to the penny). Texas has roughly 7.84 percent of the nation's population, so that would mean the Great Sovereign State of Texas, as successor to the American Government, would thus owe $875,908,221,061.66 to the national fisc for its share of that debt. Yes, that's $875 billion. Yes, that works out to $36,005.64 per Texan. No, I don't know where they would get it, although I would be cool with the new Government of Texas remitting part of this sum in barbecue.
Then there's the little matter of dealing with the innumerable programs from which Texas citizens now benefit. Since Social Security and Medicare are both pay-as-you-go systems, in theory Texas could still take part in these if it kept remitting the payroll taxes necessary to fund them. But if it didn't, there's no reason citizens of Texas would simply get to keep taking part in these. After all, they wouldn't be part of the United States any more.
Also, Texas now benefits from the federal Government's expenditures for national defense. These expenses will total $551 billion in FY 2009, according to the Department of Defense. So if Texas wants to keep benefiting from the United States' military shield, it will have to pay roughly $43.2 billion per year to do so. Of course, it wouldn't have to do this, but in that event, Texas would have to kiss all its military bases goodbye. Plus, Texas citizens now in the U.S. military would undoubtedly have to pledge allegiance to the remaining 49 states or lose their jobs, 'cause having hostile foreign nationals in one's army could be rather troubling.
Finally, Texas -- as a foreign polity -- would either have to come up with its own currency to replace the dollar or effectively cede any control or input it had on setting interest rates and monetary policy to the Federal Reserve. This would get especially interesting if Texas decided to go ahead and form its own currency -- maybe they could call it the tejano. If it did this right -- and agreed to peg it to the price of gold -- the new money could generate a lot of interest and become more valuable than the dollar. If it did this wrong -- well, that wouldn't be pretty. Think Mexico in 1982.
This is, of course, the best-case scenario. Obviously, the 49 remaining states could make things a bit more difficult for Texas if they wanted. For instance, if the 49 decided that Texas citizens couldn't enter the United States without a visa. Or if the 49 decided they'd slap tariffs on Texas-produced goods. You can see where this is going; and it's not like Texas would be able to do anything about it. What are they going to do, invade Oklahoma? Not bloody likely.
On the other hand, Texas might decide that it's still worth it to proceed with seceding, no matter the cost. After all, Texas would get to set up its own tax rates, its own laws, its own courts and its own constitution, without dealing with those pesky issues of federal supremacy. So if Texas wanted to outlaw abortion, for instance, it could. If it decided to get rid of environmental protection for some feeble animals in the way of development, it could. In that regard, leaving the union could have some benefits in terms of self-determination. But one would think the costs associated with doing so would outweigh the benefits considerably.
OK, HERE'S AN IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP for anyone considering a career in the growing field of maritime piracy: don't hijack an American-flagged vessel. That's not just because it will suddenly cause the world's sole superpower to take notice of your predations upon lawful commerce, but because the crew will fight back and ruin your plans well before Washington discovers something's up.
Apparently, the crew of the MV Maersk Alabama not only fought off the four armed Somali pirates that took over the ship, but managed to capture one and threw the remainder overboard. Sweet. That'll teach the Somali pirates to attack an American vessel. We've got your ransom right here, pal!
Those blues I lay low,
I'll make 'em stay low,
They'll never trail over my head;
I'll be a devil 'til I'm an angel,
but until then -- hallelujah!
-- Frank Sinatra
Like the sailor said, quote, ain't that a hole in the boat.
-- Dean Martin
ALL GOOD THINGS come to an end. In my case, the particular good thing that came to an end was my great job working as a reporter. It was interesting and engaging work, tough at times but also a lot of fun, and it was made even better by the great people with whom I worked. Plus, the pay and benefits I received were fantastic for the field, which made the work even better.
It wasn't entirely a surprise that I lost my job, of course. Since journalists love writing about themselves, the papers have been filled with stories about the troubles facing the media industry. So it's not as if I'm the only reporter to find himself studying up on rules and regulations about his unemployment benefit. Rather, I'm simply U.S. Media Sector Casualty No. 36,012 of the Global Economic Downturn. Business is business, and when you're at the bottom of the seniority list, these things can happen. So I certainly don't have any hard feelings about it, particularly since my employer kept me on as long as it could in my job.
That's not to say I don't feel any sense of loss, though. For a while yesterday -- yesterday being "the day after" -- I was feeling a bit lost, and a bit down about the whole thing. Fortunately, thanks to the Power of Technology, I can kind of show you how I felt for a few hours! Let's roll the clip:
Now, I know what you're thinking. "Kepple! You don't look anything like Joey Bishop!" Well, this is true. I just love that scene; the final contemplative walk in defeat. But I've got that out of my system and now I can move forward.
This is, of course, what one must do in a situation like this.
The way I see it, one has two options. You can feel sorry for yourself, and let the gloom drag you down into a deep funk, even though that leads to a variety of unfortunate things -- like growing a recession beard*, and watching daytime television, and lying on the sofa, and not showering regularly. Alternatively, you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off, spend a few days relaxing and then develop a plan to get back in the game. Personally, I think the second option is the better one.
This goes especially when you think about the great run I had over the last eight years. I mean, my God. When I think about what I was able to do, what I was able to see, who I was able to meet and interview -- I couldn't have asked for anything better. I hit more than one home run in my day and I'm proud of the work I did. Not only that, I went into it pretty darn green -- but when I came out, I came out with a whole set of new skills and experiences that taught me a hell of a lot.
So I'm grateful I had the opportunity to work there for eight years. I'm grateful for the chance they took on a wet-behind-the-ears kid. I'm grateful I was able to work with a lot of great people. Now that the experience is done, I'm older, wiser, tougher and richer. With the possible exception of the aging part, all those are good things. Now it's time for me to go conquer the world.
Finally, though, I would be remiss if I did not profusely thank everyone who has shown me their kindness and support over the past couple of days. That goes for my former superiors who agreed without hesitation to serve as references, my colleagues who gave me a round of applause as I left for the last time and have offered their support in so many ways, my family and friends who have offered their support and assistance, and my professional contacts who have taken time out of their own lives to offer me advice and assistance, and point me in the direction of finding work.
You see, if there's anything that got me emotional over the past couple of days, that's been it. When you realize -- really realize -- how many people care about your well-being, it's a very humbling thing. Being a bit of a stoic type, I'm not the best at expressing my emotions in person, and so to receive this outpouring of support has been a deeply moving experience for me. Thank you to everyone. And for the love of God, don't worry about me. I have plans!
* What's that? But Bennnnnnnnnn. You already have a beard! Not for much longer, I don't! Keeping routines are important when you're out of work, so I'm incorporating daily shaving into mine.