LeBron, NYC and the Right Decision

On Sunday night, the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA title. If you’re a casual sports fan (or not a sports fan at all) you may have missed this headline because most of the attention was not focused on the team that hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy in victory, but rather on the team that lost.

Miami Heat superstar LeBron James is taking the brunt of the criticism, not only for his historically enigmatic performance in his first Finals appearance with his new team, but for ridiculous comments he made after the loss. You know, the ones that implied not so subtlety that he was happier and had less personal problems than any of his detractors.

The argument could be made that the criticism and attention that’s being paid to King James this week is overblown, the product of a 21st century sports media that amplifies the highs of professional sports heroics and digs the ditches to ensure athletes hit rock bottom. There’s certainly some truth in this, of course, but I’m finding it difficult to generate much sympathy for Mr. James.

After all, this is a man who couldn’t just walk away from the Cavaliers when he became a free agent. He had to turn his “decision” into a national spectacle and kick Cleveland fans in the crotch on his way out the door.

And when he joined Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, they couldn’t simply hold a press conference. They had to announce their presence with authority by throwing a monstrous celebration that employed more pyrotechnics than a KISS concert.

And during the infamous welcome party the Heat threw for South Beach’s Big Three, LeBron James spoke of championships; lots and lots of championships. Unfortunately, after talking the talk the King had a difficult time walking the walk. He only managed to score 17 points TOTAL in the fourth quarters of  the six Finals games and regularly looked lost and lethargic on the court.

In the aftermath, non-Miami fans cheered his demise. Columnists and pundits crushed him from every imaginable angle. And the Twittersphere became an open forum for all the haters to rant, rave and circulate cheesy jokes at LeBron’s expense.

Yet despite all the negative attention, drama and psychoanalysis, I would submit that things could be worse for LeBron James. Much, much worse.

He could be playing in New York City.

There was a time not that long ago when the New York Knicks seemed like the frontrunners in the LeBron Sweepstakes. Long suffering Knicks fans drooled over the prospect of having the world’s best basketball player come to Gotham. They saw him as their savior; the man who could lead them to championship glory for the first time in 38 years. And they would’ve expected James to accomplish this herculean task despite a lack of talented teammates and horrifically inept ownership.

Now imagine if King James had lived up to the hype and gotten the Knickerbockers into the NBA Finals. And imagine if he then disappeared the way he famously did in the last couple of weeks. And imagine if his response to the criticism of said disappearance was similar to the bomb he dropped in the American Airlines press room after Game 6.

Imagine.

New York City is not for the faint of heart. It is unrelenting and unforgiving. Especially when it comes to sports.

Had the Shakespearean tragedy that was LeBron’s NBA Finals performance played out under the white hot lights of Broadway, the fans would’ve destroyed him. The same people who cheered his arrival and wore his jerseys would’ve spent the majority of this week coming up with new and inventive ways to profanely scream his name.


The media would’ve chewed LeBron up and spit what was left of him onto the back pages of the tabloids. Pun-filled headlines featuring less than flattering pictures of King James would’ve lined newspaper stands all over Manhattan and columnists would’ve eloquently deconstructed his myth and served it to him on a silver platter.

Recently, Alex Rodriguez spoke out on the need for perspective when judging LeBron James. No one knows more about the scrutiny that comes with playing in the Big Apple like A-Rod. His personal and professional missteps have been fodder for public ridicule, and few people in New York City have used any measure of perspective when judging his career. The Hall of Fame slugger has won MVPs and a World Series ring for the Yankees, and yet it’ll never be enough to overcome his past mistakes.

In a year of questionable decisions, questionable statements and questionable play in the Finals, we should all take a moment to give LeBron James credit for coming to the very correct conclusion that NYC was not the place for him.

It’s quite literally the least we can do.


Weiners, Sex and Politics

This past Monday I watched Anthony Weiner stand behind a podium and confess his sins to the nation. As it turns out, the infamous picture of male genitalia that had overtaken the 24-hour news cycle last week was, in fact, his weiner (pun absolutely, unapologetically intended).

I’d like to say I was shocked by this development. I’d like to say I was aghast. I’d like to say I believed his flimsy storyline about a rogue agent hacking into his Twitter account and tweeting the photo in an effort to embarrass the Congressman. But I can’t.

Why? Because this is America and engaging in questionable sexual behavior is what our politicians do. It’s what they’re best at.

Colleagues on both sides of the aisle are calling for Weiner to resign, but as of this blog post’s publication, he’s standing his ground and holding on to his congressional seat. Can you blame him? Weinergate is certainly resignation-worthy but it’s small potatoes by American political standards. We’re only halfway through 2011 and he’s not even close to being this year’s biggest scumbag.

Just last week, former U.S. Senator and Presidential hopeful John Edwards was indicted for allegedly using campaign money to cover up his affair and love child from his now deceased wife, Elizabeth Edwards. The affair took place while she was battling cancer.

Classy. 

In early May, former California governor and Last Action Hero Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that he and wife Maria Shriver were divorcing. Shortly after that, it was revealed he’d fathered a love child with the family’s former maid over a decade ago. Now there are rumors circulating that the Governator may have fathered a few more love children.

Hasta la vista, dignity.

Then there’s John Ensign. The former GOP Senator from Nevada resigned in early May, in all likelihood to avoid the Senate Ethics Committee investigation into the extramarital affair with a campaign treasurer. It should probably be noted that this woman was the wife of his close friend and chief of staff. In an attempt to try and keep the affair on the down low, his parents allegedly paid off his buddy and his wife to the tune of $96,000.

WTF?

These are some of the people we’ve chosen to lead us. I certainly don’t expect perfection from our politicians but can’t these ass clowns at least stay away from their friends’ wives or avoid cheating on deathly ill spouses? Is that really too much to ask?

Anthony Weiner will hold onto his seat for as long as humanly possible. And I’m sure he’ll be taking his moves from the Fallen Celebrity Playbook. He’ll go into rehab and/or counseling, follow that up with a mea culpa media tour and then hope people forget about all those lewdly inappropriate twitpics.

If the Congressman has any luck at all, a bigger, more salacious scandal will come to light in the next couple of weeks and completely eclipse his personal problems. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be a political scandal. If the right story came along involving Charlie Sheen, Donald Trump or a Royal Wedding the media would drop everything and start shipping on-air personalities around the globe to cover these non-stories.

And if Weiner does resign, there’s no doubt he’d be back in public life in almost no time at all, if not as a politician then as a highly paid pundit.  And Americans would be all too eager to forgive him. Why? Because it’s what we do. It’s what we’re best at.

Just ask Elliot Spitzer, Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton.


Doomsday, Prophecies and Harold Camping

This past Saturday was like any other Saturday. My 4-year-old disrupted my slumber at his usual early hour and insisted on watching The Sunny Side Up Show while I fell back asleep. Eventually, I woke up, made breakfast and went about my day. In the afternoon my son and I sat out front and watched as our small town’s Viking Fest Parade made its way merrily down our street and into town. The end of the world was the furthest thing from my mind.

By this time everyone knows the story of the faux doomsday that was predicted for May 21st, 2011. Harold Camping, an 89-year-old radio show minister, had forecast this date as the unquestioned end of days. It was supposed to be the day of the Rapture, when all righteous Christians would ascend to heaven in God’s affectionate embrace while the rest of us non-Christians were abandoned; forced to suffer months of earthquakes, famine and deep introspection as we tried to figure out how it could be possible that the Bible thumpers had it right.

Instead, nothing happened. Life went on as usual. Harold Camping was wrong.

It’s not surprising that an octogenarian, God-fearing man of the cloth would claim to know the precise arrival of Judgment Day. What is surprising is that anyone took him seriously. My Grandmother is also in her eighties and had she predicted a date for the End Times, we simply would’ve patted her lovingly on the head and insisted she get some rest. But because this aging crackpot is the president of the Family Radio network his claim was considered legitimate by his loyal followers (aka “idiots”).

Some of the articles I came across documenting Camping’s failed prediction mention a few of these dumb asses by name. Robert Fitzpatrick, the leader in the clubhouse for the 2011 Sucker of the Year Award, apparently spent $140K of his life savings to advertise the rapture around New York City. Needless to say he was a little disappointed when Armageddon failed to materialize.

Also disappointed was a man named Jeff Hopkins.  This genius pissed away his retirement money on $4 a gallon gas, filling up his car over and over again so he and his lighted sign could drive back and forth between Long Island and New York City, informing the most cynical metroplex on earth that the end was near.

And those who didn’t have thousands of dollars burning holes in their pockets simply donated what they could afford to Family Radio International to help pay for the organization’s official billboard and painted RV campaign aimed at getting the word out to the non-believers.

We got the word. And we collectively laughed at it.

You’d think Harold Camping’s utter failure as a doomsday prophet (this was his second apocalyptic misfire) would be enough to keep him out of the public eye. Unfortunately, he’s still going strong. After originally being “flabbergasted” by the lack of fire and brimstone this past Saturday, he’s now saying May 21st was a spiritual Judgment Day and that October 21st will be the actual end of humanity. And since judgment has already been passed, there’s no need to inspire people through advertisements to make their peace with God, which is good because something tells me his closest followers are probably out of money at this point.

I only hope this old man lives long enough to see October 21st come and go as uneventfully as May 21st did. His baseless predictions have caused a great deal of pain and suffering, not to the heathens out there like myself, but to the people who looked up to him and trusted his word. While these people are ultimately responsible for their own stupidity, it would be nice to watch Harold Camping fail so publicly one last time. It’s the least he could do.


Sundays, Bin Laden and the Media

Sundays are great. They’re our day of rest; the final relaxed chapter to our usually hectic weeks. Who doesn’t like sleeping in, spending a couple of hours with the Sunday paper and getting in a little extra family time (you know, if you’re into the whole “family” thing). Sundays are for slowing down, watching sports on TV and going to church (you know, if you’re into the whole “God” thing). The only downside to Sundays is that they never seem to last long enough.

This past Sunday was an all-timer. I slept in, ate a great breakfast and read the Seattle Times. The weather was great so I got outside in the afternoon, watched an NBA playoff game, then read a book on my deck. Dinner consisted of a couple of tasty beers and a delightful meal at my favorite local restaurant. Oh yeah, and then there was that whole Osama Bin Laden is dead thing. That wrapped the day up nicely.

After learning of the Al Qaeda leader’s death at the aforementioned restaurant, I returned home and helped myself to a dessert of breaking news coverage.  Between the public reaction I saw on television and the steady stream of “fuck you, Bin Laden” and “rot in hell” posts that echoed throughout the social media landscape, one thing was clear: people were very fond of  Osama Bin Laden being dead.

Clearly, many Americans saw the demise of one our all-time greatest enemies as a deeply communal and cathartic moment. It was as if his death signaled some type of closure on a frightening and frustrating ten years that began on September 11th, 2001. Other Americans (i.e. college students) seemed to see it as a great excuse to throw down on the Quad.

Me? I was grateful for Bin Laden’s death for a far less substantive reason: it saved us from a week of reliving the Royal Wedding.

Had President Obama and the Navy SEAL Six team not taken out the most wanted man on the planet on Sunday, we’d have faced at least a week of media coverage rehashing William and Kate’s matrimonial celebration from every conceivable angle. Like vultures picking through the bones of some succulent road kill, the news networks would have spent countless hours regurgitating
the “Wedding of the Century” and force-feeding it to the general public. Instead we got something far more newsworthy… actual news.

Actual news is something the powers that be at CNN, MSNBC and FOX News seem reticent to broadcast these days. It’s far easier and cheaper to simply follow the downward spirals of celebrities like Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan or give Donald Trump an arena to spout his ridiculous bullshit. And, of course, if Sarah Palin Tweets something, they’re all over it.


But now that the details of Operation Kill Bearded Ass Clown are coming to light, actual news seems to be the in back in vogue. Okay, mostly it’s rampant speculation about the effects of Bin Laden’s death and most of it is crap. But at least it’s crap derived from a meaningful, newsworthy event as opposed to being crap for crap’s sake. And that’s really the best we can hope for.

So I say thank you, Mr. President. Not just for having the guts and intestinal fortitude to pull the trigger on a harrowing mission that rid the world of a horrific mass murderer, but for forcing the 24-hour news channels to actually focus their attention on something of actual substance. And much like our glorious Sundays this trend towards actual news won’t last nearly long enough. So I’ll just try to enjoy it while I can.


Trump, Marketing and the Presidency

If you’re someone who keeps up on current events you know one fact to be true: the world is full of assholes. There are the billions of literal assholes, of course, and then the figurative ones that seem to make their way into our daily news cycle.

Sometimes the asshole in question is a badly dressed despot (think Gadhafi) and other times they’re strategically misinformed fear mongers (think anyone appearing on Fox News). In recent weeks, one of America’s all-time great jackasses has managed to commandeer a ridiculous amount of press by threatening to run for the Presidency of the United States.

If there were an asshole Hall of Fame, Donald Trump would get in on the first ballot. The peak of the self-aggrandizing real-estate mogul’s jackass-ery may have been his recent celebrity roast on Comedy Central. As close friends and professional comedians took profane shots at the Donald’s career, enigmatic hair and love life, the guest of honor stared blankly at the audience, staunching refusing to acknowledge that any part of his life could possibly be the butt of a joke.

In the last couple weeks, the man with the world’s most famous comb over has provided future roasters with even more comedic gold by insinuating he might run for President in 2012.  While the idea of a Trump candidacy is funnier than a Jeff Ross put down,  there are many out there who don’t get the joke. The media is covering Trump and his potential campaign like it’s  a missing blonde co-ed and Republican voters have put some legitimacy behind the threat by moving him to the top of the GOP field in a recent poll with 26%.

This would all be very newsworthy except that there’s no chance of a Trump campaign ever getting off the ground. In fact, I’d say there’s a better chance of Lindsay Lohan gracing next month’s cover of Good Housekeeping.

For one, he doesn’t actually want to run. He admitted as much during a weekend interview with CNN. “I love my life. I love what I’m doing. I wish I didn’t have to do it. I would prefer not doing it. But I love this country.”

While I appreciate his selfless patriotism, a true patriot would have spared the American public from having to watch Meatloaf and Gary Busey yell at each other on primetime television. And I could be wrong, but that quote certainly doesn’t make it sound like the host of “The Apprentice” is ready and willing to go through the grind of a long political campaign.

Trump also knows he can’t win. As iconic as he may be, the GOP is not exactly a party known for taking a lot of chances with their presidential nominations. They have a long and storied tradition of putting the “next guy in line” on stage at their convention and I can’t imagine that changing anytime soon. Besides, does anyone really believe that Red State voters are going to come out in droves to cast their ballots for an elitist business tycoon from New York City who’s been married three times?

But the real reason Trump will not throw his proverbial hat into the ring is simple: financial disclosure forms. These documents are a requirement for candidates and Trump’s would be a particularly interesting revelation because of the public’s perception of his empire. No matter how much money the Donald is really worth, there’s always a chance that the figure, no matter how high, would seem inadequate.

The myth of Donald Trump’s wealth and success is perhaps the most important part of his public persona. If the numbers in his documents revealed him to be quite wealthy as opposed to really obnoxiously otherworldly rich it could seriously damage the Trump brand. And that’s something he would never allow to happen.

Trump is a brilliant self-promoter who has an uncanny ability of knowing when and where to rear his ugly head. He’s recognized a power vacuum amongst Conservatives and has pounced at the chance to fill it. Not because he has any serious ambitions for the highest office in the land but because badmouthing Obama and questioning the legitimacy of the President’s citizenship is good for business.

By endearing himself to the birthers and tea party faithful at the most extreme end of the political spectrum, he’s opening up new markets for all things Trump. He’s speculating on the anti-Obama crowd, knowing that these are consumers who have yet to drink from the Trump trough. But now that’s he’s gained their trust they’ll be ripe for the picking the next time he’s selling a book or promoting a reality show.

Donald Trump’s faux run at the White House is not about patriotism or love of country. It’s not about righteousness or outrage. It’s not even about politics. It’s about ego, money and little else.

And if that doesn’t make him one of the great American assholes then I don’t know what would.


Charlie Sheen, Cobras and Winning

Sometimes life sucks. How much it sucks and how often it sucks depends on where you fall on the human misery scale. The people at the highest end of this scale live in soul-crushing poverty in war torn nations. Close your eyes and point at a map of Africa and you’re likely to find one of these countries.

The people at the lowest end of this scale are the rich, famous and powerful. Close your eyes and point to a copy of US Weekly (or the Wall Street Journal for those of you too good to glance at checkout tabloids) and you’re likely to find one of the blessed. But sometimes even the very fortunate have to deal with defeats and setbacks. Just ask Charlie Sheen.

The actor who turned his vices and his dispute with the producers of “Two and a Half Men” into a treasure trove of unintentionally comedic interviews and catch phrases was recently reminded that even wealthy actors surrounded by goddesses sometimes have a bad day. The debut of his traveling one-man show apparently did not go very well. According to reports, midway through Saturday night’s performance at the Fox Theater in Detroit the sold-out audience turned on Sheen like Marlo Stanfield turned on Prop Joe. The man that turned “winning” into a national slogan for, well, winning, was booed mercilessly and some in the crowd even demanded a refund.

With 19 more dates left on the “The Violent Torpedo of Truth” tour, Ricky Vaughn better start thinking about providing his audience with some actual entertainment. Perhaps he can fly in Kristy Swanson, have her sit next to him and they can reenact each and every scene from “The Chase.” While I haven’t spoken to her agent, I’m quite sure she’s available.

However, a highly anticipated Sheen-Swanson reunion might not be enough. If he really wants to entertain his fans I suggest touring with the Bronx Zoo Cobra. Like Sheen, the escaped reptile was a nothing story that instantly became the darling of any and all media. So it’s only natural to assume the public would want to see these two ubiquitous personalities on the same stage. And if the audience were to tire of Charlie’s rants and the cobra’s incessant hissing, Sheen could always go for the ultimate showstopper: letting the snake bite him.

Sure, cobras are highly venomous, but I think it’s safe to say that this particular thespian has probably had worse things coursing through his veins. Plus, surviving a snakebite on stage would bring the crowd to its feet and prove once and for all that nothing can bring down a man who has tiger’s blood and Adonis DNA.

This stunt — particularly if performed over and over again — would garner an unprecedented amount of attention from the inept American news media and create a frenzy in the twttersphere. Clips of the performance would inevitably go viral and the Warlock’s legend would continue to grow. Eventually he and the snake could spin their popularity into a new sitcom (produced by Chuck Lorre, of course) or at the very least a buddy cop movie.

Problem solved. You’re welcome, Mr. Sheen.

And now that this spoiled jackass’s problems are a thing of the past, perhaps we can all turn our attention to more pressing matters, like our crumbling infrastructure, unemployment, climate change, energy dependence, skyrocketing health care costs, wars in the Middle East (and Libya!), and nuclear contamination in Japan. Not addressing these issues could be devastating for our future.

Or we can just wait for the next celebrity meltdown or interesting zoological adventure to pull our attention away from the things that truly matter.

What’s that? A pretty young blonde girl has disappeared again? Nevermind.


Freddy Krueger, Remakes, and New Nightmares

You know what I’ve been thinking about lately?  Freddy Krueger, remakes, and new Nightmares.

When I was in junior high I became mildly obsessed with the Nightmare on Elm Street movies.  Don’t ask me why.  It’s one of the few parts of my life that I haven’t taken the time to deconstruct.  Plenty of teenagers take a shine to horror films, but my love of A Nightmare on Elm Street went a little beyond merely liking the movies.  I hung Freddy Krueger posters on my bedroom wall, wore Freddy t-shirts, joined the Freddy Fan Club, and even dressed as the finger-knived serial killer for Halloween in the 8th grade.  In hindsight, I’m surprised my mother wasn’t a little more concerned.

The original Nightmare...

And now, twenty-six years after the original was released (and spawned a parade of sequels – each one worse than the previous installment), a remake is set to hit theaters this Friday.  And even though I still feel a warm nostalgia for the first few Nightmare films, I’m okay with the remake and may even want to see it myself.

This might not seem like much of a revelation, but I’m a guy who joined a Facebook group named “Protesting the remake of Teen Wolf….Long Live Michael J. Fox.”  You see I hate 98.2% of all remakes.  I hate the fact they remade Psycho (worst remake ever?) and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (A pasty Johnny Depp is no match for a subtle Gene Wilder).  And I HATE that I live in a world where The Karate Kid can be remade with Jackie Chan and Will Smith’s kid.

SIDE NOTE: Why the hell is Jaden Smith a child actor?  Both his parents are actors.  They’re rich.  Really rich.  They don’t need the money.  So why would they subject this kid to a business that has destroyed the childhood and futures of so many under-aged thespians?  This doesn’t get talked about enough.

So why am I at peace with this particular remake?  It has nothing to do with the genre.  I don’t think horror movies are any less dignified than any other genre.  And I feel some of the most regrettable remakes are those of classic horror films.  As mentioned above, the Psycho remake is, for my money, one of the worst decisions Hollywood has ever made.  I refuse to see Rob Zombie’s version of Halloween because the original is as perfect a horror movie as there is.  And I absolutely detest the fact that an Americanized version of Norway’s Let the Right One In is currently being produced.  It will inevitably be the worst stateside remake of a European classic since Wings of Desire became City of Angels.

Perhaps the reason I’m willing to look past my remake self-righteousness is because a part of me is looking forward to seeing one of film’s most notorious serial killers scary again.  As the years went on, Freddy Krueger became a joke.  Robert Englund’s performance as the grotesquely deceased child molester in the original was pretty terrifying.  But at some point along the way, Freddy started treating every film like it was open mic night at the Chuckle Hut.  Each teen slaughtering was punctuated by corny one-liners.  The only thing missing was a well-timed rim shot and a reminder from Krueger to make sure we tipped our waiters.

Nightmare 2.0

Mercifully, this new version appears to be humorless.  Freddy is back to being a burnt-faced murderer and is played by Jackie Earle Haley, a man who looks so creepy in real life they could’ve shot the film without a makeup artist.

It should also be noted that while the original A Nightmare on Elm Street was a classic, it was far from perfection.  I’ve seen the film more times than I can remember and yet I still have no functioning understanding of what happened at the end.

Did Nancy actually defeat Freddy and get her friends back?  Or was she dreaming her death in the convertible?  And if so, then how did she get resurrected in time for the 3rd movie?  And why did her mom suddenly turn into a doll before she was pulled through that tiny window in the front door?

So I say welcome back Freddy Krueger.  With any luck, some talented future filmmakers will come along and return Indiana Jones and Darth Vader to the respectable characters I remember from my youth as opposed to the bastardizations I’ve been forced to endure in the last decade.

I won’t hold my breath.


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