Worlds are Colliding, Jerry!

Posted in Sports with tags , on October 6, 2010 by fieldingmellish

So, if you haven’t heard, John Henry and the New England Sports Ventures conglomerate have waded into the morass that is top flight European Football. And not only that, they’ve purchased Liverpool FC, my favorite Premier League team. I’ve been reading the English press, and it seems Liverpool fans are a bit reticent about more Yank owners. I will just say this: Tom Hicks bid against himself to sign Alex Rodriguez, and then somehow managed to pay the Yankees to take A-Rod off his hands. John Henry brought Boston its first (and second) World Series in 86 years. I can’t even tell you how excited I am.

What’s even more awesome about this is that the New York Yankees, hated rivals of the Red Sox, have a partnership with Manchester United, hated rivals of Liverpool. It warms my heart that hopefully, some day, some little lad from Merseyside will grow up hating the Yankees just because he’s a Liverpool fan. And if Henry and Co. put a Red Sox logo on the Reds’ jersey, everyone in my family is getting a Liverpool replica kit for the holidays.

Bold prediction: Liverpool will lift a major trophy by 2014. And maybe you’ll even hear the dulcet tones of “Sweet Caroline” ringing down from the terraces.

What’s the Most Recognizable Theme Song of All Time?

Posted in General with tags on September 13, 2010 by fieldingmellish

It should be obvious by now that I have an unhealthy obsession with theme songs. I’ve already covered the cheesiest intros of all time. And apart from a small segment of weirdos, people don’t generally remember the theme songs all that well. So I got to thinking: What is the most easily recognizable TV theme song of all time? Continue reading

Deep Thought for the Day

Posted in General on August 5, 2010 by fieldingmellish

If Pro Wrestling is a soap opera for men (men who really like half naked, well-muscled, oily men grope each other for the better part of an hour), then isn’t The Replacements really nothing but “He’s Just Not that Into You” or “Valentine’s Day” for men, too? I mean, it’s like the Love Boat for washed up action stars.

Webcomic Weview #2 Coming Soon!

Posted in General on August 3, 2010 by fieldingmellish

As I mentioned yesterday over at the other blog, I will be back on a somewhat regular posting schedule now that my many summer exploits and daliances are over. The plan is to get a webcomic weview and my long awaited Monty Python post up, plus hopefully some other fun stuff as it comes to me. Now though, I don’t have the effort to dig through archives for marginally related strips. I will give you a preview by posting one of my favorite SMBC panels:

See you then!

Look Who’s Late to the World Cup Party!

Posted in Sports on June 17, 2010 by fieldingmellish

Well, I completely failed to jot down my pre-Cup predictions. Suffice to say, they were all brilliant and perfect and everything’s gone according to plan. Ha. Anyways, now that the second round of games is well underway, here are some random thoughts and musings on the World Cup so far.

  • Americans have applied their unique brand of overreacting already. If it wasn’t for one lucky bounce, the US would be tied with Algeria on 0 points and looking at a potential disaster. I don’t know where all these armchair soccer experts came from all of a sudden, but if you think drawing with an England team that played like that is indicative of a squad ready for prime time, you are wrong. This is not to say the US won’t pick it up. Like every team, they’re feeling their way through the early stages. They have a great keeper and their midfield can knock it around. With a bit of luck, they may end up doing pretty well. But we didn’t see any signs the balance of power is shifting. Tomorrow’s game against Slovenia will be the real test. Anything less than a 2-goal comfortable win will be a disappointment for me.
  • That said, England looked terrible. I don’t know how many times it needs to be shown, but Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard cannot play next to each other. They’re like brothers who think their mother is favoring the other one. England needs to get Gerrard out on the wing. Hopefully Gareth Barry can come in and provide a little defense. I also think they need to get Peter Crouch in there. A lot of crosses this cup have been very dangerous, and having someone to aim at might help with scoring.
  • The most disappointing side so far have been France. They looked mediocre against Uruguay and even worse against Mexico today. They hit about 30 free kicks into the middle of the wall. They looked sort of like the team of 11 year olds that didn’t have anyone capable of kicking the ball in the air. They had little pace and never really looked like they would score. They have a lot of talent. Maybe they should have fired Domenech.
  • I’ve often been hard on ESPN in this space, but credit where credit is due. So far, the announcing has been excellent. They’ve gone with 4 English play-by-play guys who have been terrific. They’ve been funny and insightful. Also, they have such a way with words. American play-by-play guys don’t have the same ability to paint a picture of the action, even the good ones. If Gus Johnson were calling these games, we’d hear something like, “Rooney, in to Heskey. Heskey lays it for Gerrard! OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHH!” Versus something like, “Lovely ball in to Tevez, who dances by Park Si-Yoon, flick on to Messi. Always at his best when he’s running at the heart of defense. Danger here for the Koreans. Oh, what work from Messi to find a bit of space… What a strike! Only the merest of touches to send it over the bar!”
  • As hard as it is to believe, the color guys have even been good. They’ve got one American, one Englishman, a Scot, and a Nigerian, the wonderfully biting Efan Ekoku. They’ve been willing to criticize the players, the managers, and the refs. They’ve been great.
  • I’ve discovered the greatest Soccer nerd site of all time, the ridiculously in-depth Zonal Marking. Warning: if you don’t really care about the differences between a 4-1-3-2 and a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield, or why a 3-5-2 with active wingers is best against a team with a single striker who holds the ball up, you may not be interested. But for the rest of you, it’s really interesting to see how in-depth soccer tactics really can be. Speaking as someone whose knowledge of tactics stopped at “you cover this guy,” it’s really opened up my eyes to all the little things a soccer manager has to keep track of.
  • And on the flip side of that coin, Rick Reilly, who I swear at one point was a funny, insightful columnist, has written the worst thing ever written about soccer. My fellow Americans, we soccer fans do not really care if you do not like soccer. We understand it’s hard to watch a sport with little scoring. It’s hard to appreciate the nuances of the game if you don’t really care to learn why things happen when they do. Soccer players look ridiculous when they flop around and grab their knee whenever someone sneezes next to them. But when you deride the sport, you’re really just showing your own ignorance. Believe it or not, a well-played 0-0 draw can be exciting to watch, as you would have seen if you’d watched the Cote d’Ivoire-Portugal game. Don’t try to give everyone advice that really amounts to the same advice you give every other sport, to be more like football. As if the game would be more exciting if goals counted as 7 points and every time there was a foul, they showed 5 minutes of commercials. Or maybe whenever there’s a play where it’s hard to tell the ball went out of bounds, we can stop the game so the ref can go look at a screen under a hood like an 18oos photographer taking battlefield portraits of General Hooker. If you don’t want to watch, don’t. But stop acting holier than thou about it.
  • So far, the only team that’s been really impressive is Germany, but hey, it’s only one game. I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

The NBA Finals and the Shadow of Donaghy

Posted in Sports on June 9, 2010 by fieldingmellish

So far the Celtics-Lakers series has been reasonably entertaining. The games have been pretty close, the players have worked hard, and the energy has been high. It certainly feels like it’s shaping up to be a classic finals. The one thing that can ruin it? The refs. And they’ve started pretty well.

Since the Tim Donaghy disaster came out, the NBA has done absolutely nothing to dispel the rumors that the officiating is a disaster. Rather, the official policy seems to be “let’s do nothing and hope people forget that our refs are literally fixing games.” Perhaps it’s working from a PR standpoint*, but from a sports aspect, it’s pretty apparent that something needs to be done soon, or the NBA is going the way of pro cycling.

*And if you need PR, there’s no better team to do your dirty work than the ABC announcing team. I was legitimately convinced that Breen, Van Gundy, and Jackson were one of the best teams in all of sports. My respect drops every time one of them says “that’s a great call!” on an obviously botched call. Each second of silence after a terrible non-call makes me like them less. If this series goes to seven games, they’ll be in Joe Morgan territory. On the bright side, Kim Jong-Il would do well to hire them to announce North Korea’s World Cup matches.

First, it’s staggering that the NBA would assign a referee to a Celtics game who filed a grievance against Doc Rivers last season. It goes without saying that anyone in such a position should be watching future Celtics games from his recliner. I don’t want to sound like a whiny homer, even though I do think the Celtics have gotten the worst of it this series. I think Lakers guards have gotten away with more handchecks, the Celtics have been called for more tickytack off the ball fouls, and I’m not sure, but someone in the Lakers frontcourt owes Kendrick Perkins dinner after this series for all the groping he’s taken. But every time I get worked up about it, I remember that Perkins has yet to set a clean pick and Rajon Rondo fouls someone every time he does his little open-the-door-then-try-to-strip-the-guy-from-behind play. So maybe the Lakers have gotten more calls, especially in the paint, but it hasn’t been a travesty.

But if you’re like me, you noticed the ridiculousness of that last statement. At this point, we’re hoping that the bad calls against one team even out the bad calls against the other. Rather than which team plays better deciding games, we’re in “I hope the refs don’t fuck this one up too bad” territory. Say what you will about Major League Baseball. When an umpire misses a call, he hears about it. Announcers blast the umps all the time. The league office occasionally descends from high to issue a “stern warning” to misfit umpires. What has David Stern done to allay fears that the refs are taking over what should be an all-time classic series?

It’s a cliche to say that sports should be decided on the field by the players, not by the refs or umps. But all cliches have an element of truth to them. We’re going to get to see a lot of hilariously bad officiating in the World Cup over the next month. But even the worst refs in soccer can’t decide a game short of awarding stupid penalty shots or cards. And when they do that, they get pilloried in the press and FIFA gets involved. NBA refs have a ridiculously hard job, sure. We all know how the difference between a block and a charge requires chalkboards filled with Calculus to call correctly. And it’s not helped by the diving, either*. That said, there are three officials per game. This is literally the most important series of the year. How is it possible that the NBA cannot find 3 refs that can call a good game?

*Americans like to make fun of Soccer players because of the diving. Basketball players not only dive more than soccer players, they complain to the refs more too. We need to start giving out yellow cards to people like Derek Fisher and Glen Davis for diving anytime someone dribbles near them.

There has been an average of 53 total fouls called per game so far. The stereotype is that playoff sports are tougher and grittier, but so far all we’ve seen is a bunch of pointless off-the-ball fouls called on incidental contact, inconsistent calls on drives to the basket, loose balls, and big men in the paint. Both coaches have spent a lot of time complaining about the officiating. What if this continues? For all the bleating about the Rivalry and Tradition and other Capitalized Words, the NBA has been extremely lucky since the Donaghy scandal broke. They’ve been able to coast because fans want to watch the Celtics and the Lakers and they want to believe the players are fighting for history. But with all the questions mounting, it’s possible that David Stern could end up with a nightmare PR scenario, where the series is decided by the refs. No matter how much they try to play up the teams and the games, if the series continues like this, questions will get asked. Because while the reopening of the Celtics-Lakers rivalry may have helped wipe the refereeing scandal under the rug, any lingering doubts about the integrity of the officials will be magnified and blown out of proportion. It’s a double-edged sword, and the NBA is wielding it pretty irresponsibly.

If I were David Stern, I would at least acknowledge the situation. Even the old Bud Selig gem of “we’re looking into it with our blue-ribbon committee” would be better than silence and speculation. He needs to buckle down and get his best refs involved for the rest of the series. And then, in the offseason, he needs to start totally overhauling the league’s officiating structure. Of course, he won’t. He’ll stand in the court, hand the trophy to Phil Jackson or Doc Rivers, grin that shit-eating grin of his, then go back to trying to fix the biggest American sporting problem today with silly putty and a pie in the face. And in the meantime, he’ll be quietly driving one of the major sports leagues into the ground because he’s too proud to admit there’s something wrong.

Say what you will about Gary Bettman. At least they let ’em play in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

A Word about James Bond

Posted in General on May 26, 2010 by fieldingmellish

Honestly, I have no idea what prompted this, but I was thinking about James Bond today. Actually, I know exactly what prompted it, but it sounds better to say it came out of the blue than from hours of mindlessly clicking around TV Tropes. I’m not exactly an expert on James Bond, but I was about 8 years ago. It may have been longer. It started when Goldeneye came out on N64. After milking that game for all it’s worth, I eventually branched out and watched all the movies (including Never Say Never Again, shudder). I read nearly all of the novels. I played a long string of Bond games that weren’t Goldeneye. I think it’s safe to say I’m about as familiar with the James Bond mythos as any casual fan. So if you’ll indulge me, I’m going to now try to explain why James Bond will never be as good as it used to be.

Let me get this out of the way: I don’t like the Daniel Craig Bond movies. I like them better than the Timothy Dalton Bond movies. I like them better than the later Roger Moore movies. I like them better than almost all of the Pierce Brosnan movies. But it sort of shows why I fell out with James Bond in a way I never did with say, Star Wars. I understand that the original James Bond, the one Ian Fleming created, was kind of a jerk. He was a misogynist. He was a cold blooded killer who would do whatever it took. He was sort of a sociopath. Daniel Craig gets that across. But here’s the thing. The last thing James Bond movies need is a gritty reboot.

This may be unpopular. In fact, I guarantee it is. I must be in the minority on this, but I don’t much care for dark, gritty reboots. That’s the trend these days, and I feel like a loser for not being on the bandwagon. But I’d rather watch 4 episodes of Adam West flouncing around as Batman than 2 hours of Christian Bale growling about justice. Maybe I just love campiness. In any case, I think people who like James Bond tend to fall into two groups:

1. People who like Casino Royale/Quantum of Solace – These people tend to like Timothy Dalton better than Pierce Brosnan and Roger Moore. If you get enough alcohol in them, they may admit to liking On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. They like From Russia With Love better than Goldfinger. They tend to play serious video games. They watch the movie Groundhog’s Day, but only because of the philosophical implications.

2. People who don’t like Casino Royale/Quantum of Solace – These people will happily sit through Roger Moore quipping his way through space in Moonraker and think The Man With the Golden Gun is the underappreciated gem of the franchise. They liked the Goldeneye movie more than Casino Royale and will happily admit it. They absolutely think Goldfinger is the best Bond movie. They also like the entire Back to the Future trilogy, not just the first one.

Obviously, this is mostly in jest, and I’m sure completely wrong. But let’s pretend for a minute. The only thing everyone agrees on is that Sean Connery was the best Bond, and his movies are without question the best in the series. Group 1 people think it’s because Sean Connery’s Bond was a complete badass, with his hairy chest and cigarettes and the casual rape-i-ness of it all and what have you. People in Group 2 don’t really know why. Maybe it’s because Sean Connery is the best actor to have played the role. Maybe it’s because the plots are the perfect balance of ridiculous and realistic. Maybe it’s because that’s what everyone says, and they don’t want to seem like an idiot.

Well, I consider myself a Group 2 person, and I’m going to put down my theory. Sean Connery played Bond in the 60s and early 70s. He was the closest, time-wise, to the actual writing of the books. He also had the opportunity to define the role with out the pressure of competing with, oh, Sean Connery. But for me, the key is the time period. James Bond really is a time piece. Some movies age well, others don’t. Ghostbusters is still fun and interesting. Airplane! will never get old because even though traveling isn’t the same as it used to be, disaster movies are. James Bond, as a character, will always look out of place. He was crafted to be a man of his time, i.e the late 50s to early 60s. Whether or not Ian Fleming meant Bond to be a lighthearted goof like Roger Moore or a scowling sociopath like Daniel Craig is irrelevant. The fact is, 007 is not suited to our world. Maybe the stakes aren’t high enough. Taking on warlords and smugglers isn’t the same as preventing worldwide nuclear war, you know.

But I think it runs deeper than that. Sure, Craig’s Bond is probably more like Fleming’s than Brosnan or Moore’s. The problem is, we don’t want our heroes to be misogynistic twats who aren’t all that interested in not killing people for spite and raping women until they turn straight.* The world of James Bond is one of Black and White morality. No, the Soviet Union weren’t evil. But SPECTRE was. And MI6 were good. James Bond never wrestled with questions of right and wrong. You didn’t see Sean Connery waxing philosophical while he held another man’s life in his hands. Nope, he killed him because the guy invented a puppy-rapping machine. And then he quipped about it. Today’s world is much more Black and Grey, which is why we end up with all of these gritty reboots passing for original entertainment. Forcing this onto a guy who throws people through plate-glass windows and casually commenting afterwards, “He was getting to be a pane” is a bit incongruous. The problem with the Craig movies is that they’re good movies (well, the first one anyway), but not good Bond movies.

*Seriously, watch Goldfinger again. When you get to the fight scene where the 6’5” Bond is facing off with the much smaller Pussy Galore in a barn, stop and think about it. He not only kicks her ass, he has sex with her, something I’m not sure she was really interested in. But the sheer machismo not only turns her straight, it also makes her fall in love with him. The problem with dark and gritty reboots is that they’ll still keep the womanizing Bond, while playing everything else “realistically.” The mind boggles.

Anyways, the reason so many people look at Sean Connery’s Bond as best is that he was the best fit. Roger Moore seems goofy because he seems almost self-conscious. He knows the attitudes are changing around him so he has a bit of a sense of humor about it. But Connery could play Bond as Bond was meant to be. They may never be able to capture that again. But if I was tasked to make the next Bond movie, I would set it in 1967. It would have the US and the USSR, and a psychotic villain playing them against each other. James wouldn’t have a watch that could burn a hole in a floor or a belt that shoots poison darts or a car that can travel through time if it hits 88 miles per hour. He would have a gun, a briefcase, and maybe a grappling hook, and he would fight legions of baddies in an underground doom fortress before knocking the big bad into a pit of molten piranhas. Then he would have sex with a woman who actually wanted to do it while making a joke about the villain getting his “just desserts.”

And while I’m at it, maybe I’ll make a Batman movie where he still wears pajamas and fights villains who want to destroy Gotham City with a giant weapon that shoots exploding cats.