Friday, September 18, 2009

Frontier Justice

This story caught my eye today, and really made me think. A judge legally taking sports away from a star athlete (and teenager) is quite an act, really -- one which seems unprecedented to me.

My first reaction was that it was over-the-line, not because the crime he committed wasn't bad enough -- it was -- but because sports is usually viewed as a positive in the lives of young men (especially ones who grow up in ghettoes). With his crime, the kid had already lost his chances for scholarships with countless colleges. Taking this away seemed to me to be counter-intuitive: Why take away the one thing which could allow this young man to truly improve his circumstances?

But then, upon re-examination, I relized the genius behind the decision. See, athletes are forgiven for all manners of transgressions, from tiny to immense -- all because they are athletes. So, while taking away this young man's greatest lifeline may deprove him of untold money, fame, and opportunity, this also takes away his get-out-of-jail-free card. It very well may be the one thing which forces this guy to actually become a better person.

Think about it: Michael Vick is back making millions after a jail sentence. His crimes may make millions hate him, but it won't stop him from making lots of money or recieving the love and adoration of millions more. Does he ever really have to become a better person, or just act like he has. This decision, however, will force the young man to learn to survive in society without the crutch of sports to aid him. Any future transgressions will not be forgiven so easily. Then again, if he falls into a life of crime or squalor, folks will say this judge robbed him of his chance at escape by taking away the one thing at which he could excel.

All things considered, I like this decision, but I would also allow for a review of the terms after a year or two -- if he's managed to get a job, or enroll in school, and has done well for himself, I would be open to allowing back into sports. Otherwise -- if he improves, but isn't allowed to play sports until he's 24 -- one could argue his potential career will be lost over one incident, with no regard given to how he's rehabilitated himself.

Either way, this makes for a fascinating test-case, a social experiment with a real life in the balance. I suppose the hypothesis behind it would be to discover whether the world may lose a great athlete to gain a good person. That's a pretty fair trade, if you ask me.

Rock You Like A Hurricane

No, as much as I would like to devote a blog post to The Scorpions, this one is about a whole other kind of powerful force, namely, The U. My favorite college football team, the University of Miami Hurricanes, have been laying dormant for the past several seasons, putting up fair 7-6 type seasons which would be fine for some teams -- like my second favorite college football team, the Stanford Cardinal. But wins in the Emerald Bowl or Humanitarian Bowl aren't sufficient for fans of a school like Miami, where nothing less than competing for a national title is acceptable.

When the schedule for this season came out, it appeared the Canes were headed for a similiarly mediocre fate -- they faced arch-rival #20 Florida State to open things up on Labor Day, followed by tough matchups at home vs. #14 Georgia Tech, on the road at #7 Virginia Tech, and home vs. #3 Oklahoma. Despite the improvements to the program under coach (and alum) Randy Shannon, the Canes did not appear ready for four tough tests in a row to start the season. I told the best Cane fan I know, my buddy Josh, that I'd be happy with a 2-2 start. He concurred. Neither of us understood why Coach Shannon turned down the reported contract extension he received in the off-season with such a tough schedule to start, and some claiming he was already on the hot seat. I also found it hard to believe some of his staements about true Sophomore Jacory Harris -- namely, that he would go down in Cane history with championship QB's and legendary leaders like Ken Dorsey and Bernie Kosar.

Now, I understand. Now, I believe. Jacory Harris looks like a born-leader and potential Heisman Trophy candidate. And suddenly, 2-2 doesn't sound so acceptable anymore.

The Canes are 2-0 after escaping Tallahassee with a win (as if simply escaping Tallahassee wasn't good enough in itself), and beating up on previous Cane-killers Georgia Tech (Tech ruined the Canes shot at an ACC title last year, and also 3 years ago). Now, they face their toughest test yet -- going into Blacksburg to face VaTech. But despite the odds being stacked against them, the Canes have two large factors falling in their favor: 1) For the second striaght week, they have a week and a half to prepare for a big conference matchup, while their opponent has just a week, and 2) Oklahoma's Heisman-winning QB, Sam Bradford, may be out for their matchup.

So, in honor of their hot start, here is a list of the best Canes currently in the NFL. Enjoy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Not About Baseball

Sometimes, especially on days like these, I wonder why I'm a sports fan. Last night, I knew better than to watch my baseball team, the Pathetic Fucking Bastards Giants, play the Rockies. Or so I thought.

After a surprisingly feel-good 2009 for the first 4 months or so, the Giants have been getting on my nerves. First, their inability to put togther offense of any kind has worn on me throughout the year -- there are only so many times you can see your favorite pitchers leave it all on the mound while dominating their opponent only to settle for a no decision (or worse, a loss) before it starts to eat away at your soul. After this season, my soul is in worse shape than Michael Jackson's nose. (Too soon?) Secondly, this crucial flaw, which should have cost them their ability to compete for a playoff spot weeks, or even months ago, is only now coming home to roost in new and annoyingly inventive ways -- heading into the weekend in Colorado, they'd gone from leading the wild card chase for most of the year to trailing the red-hot Rockies.

Lastly, after taking the first game in Colorado, they laid a gigantic egg turd at the on-going nightmare that is Coors Field, losing the next two, and endangering themselves of falling out of the race with a loss on Monday to drop 3 of 4 and end up 4 games back of the streaking Rockies. What's more: They had Zito on the mound. And while Zito's been much better lately -- let's face it, as tough as it is for me to say, he's been downright good -- I didn't want to see him pitch with the season on the line.

So I didn't tape the game as I normally do. I didn't intend to watch it. But when I got home and my wife was taking a shower, I didn't think it would hurt to check in on the game. I was wrong.

The Giants were tied, 1-1, so I watched a bit. Soon, after watching their wretched excuse for an offense flail wildly at pitches everywhere but in the strike zone, I gave up on the game -- and the team. Even their best hitter, the Kung Fu Panda himself, Pablo Sandoval, was hurt and out of the game, so no reason to watch. I did, however, keep tabs on the score as I watched shows with my wife all night. 1-1 in the 6th inning turned into 1-1 in the 9th, then 12th, and finally 14th.

And then it happened. The Giants scored. Not once, or twice, but three freaking times! Suddenly, they had a chance. And, much more dangerously, had hope. Now SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION taught me that hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, but I'm certain Stephen King never watched the Giants play (he is a Red Sox fan, after all). For Giants fans, hope is a four-letter word. Well, obviously, hope is a four-letter word for everybody, but it's the bad kind for Giants fans. We learned this in 1987 and '89. And '93 and '97. And again in 2000. And '02. And '03. And '04. Maybe in the 5 preceding years we forgot, but the bottom of the 14th provided an indelible reminder. Watching the Giants "relievers" walk 3 Rockies -- including the pitcher (with the bases loaded!) -- before giving up a back-breaking, soul-crushing walk-off grand slam, was like God whispering "Gotcha!" in our collective ear.

It was apinful loss, on a road trip full of them, for a franchise well-versed in them. But it was a little more even than that. It was a reminder that even the most surprising, joyous, and innocent hopes can be turned into something embarrassing and ugly. And while, I don't like to admit it, I feel like this love/hateafraid to love relationship I have with the Giants has spilled over into other aspects of my life. I have the same distrust about potentially positive developments, and the same general feeling of unease and impending doom in aspects of my personal life. My writing in particular. I have the same "Why can't I quit this?" reaction to every setback. The same "Why does God hate me so much he must tease me like this?" defeatism. The same "Trying is pointless" pessimism.

I can't say for sure the Giants did this to me. Maybe I was already this way. Maybe I'm so fucked up I unconsciously looked for a team which seemed cursed to fit the feeling I had for myself. But it's hard to believe that when taken in chronological context -- the Giants weren't really cursed when I started watching them. I'd beenb a fan for two years before the first cursed-like event happened (Candy Maldonado, a good right-fielder, losing Tony Pena's flyball in the lights for a triple, and then making a weak throw which allowed him to score the only run in a 1-0 debacle in St. Louis is the '87 playoffs). And it's really only been in the last 16 years -- at least 7 years into my fandom -- when the real karmic shit hit the fan: 103 wins falling short in '93 (the year before the wild card was instituted), two walk-off one-run losses in the '97 playoffs, Benny Agbayani's walk-ff HR in the 2000 playoffs, the big blown lead in the '02 world series, Jose Cruz's dropped fly in '03, Steve Finley's division-clinching walk-off grand slam in '04.

There's really no way I could've know what I was in for. That means fate chose me. Maybe that's why I seem to align myself with the disappointed, the disillusioned, the disenfranchised. Or at least why I think I do. But whether it's actually the case or not is moot. You are you you think you are. And, more and more, I think I'm a near-miss, a could've been, a contender who always falls short, someone who never seems to get (or make) the big break when they need it. Maybe it's my destiny, maybe it's just the shackles I've applied to myself. Maybe I watch way too much fucking sports, and it's poisoned my brain with well-worn cliches about winners and losers, and curses, and teams of destiny.

But the thing is, life really is just like baseball -- just when you're bitching and moaning about the latest loss, injury, or disappointment, there's another opportunity on the horizon. A new game, a new day, a new chance to do something which makes you (and everyone else) forget the skeletons in your closet. This season's not over, it just feels that way. There's always tomorrow -- a new chance to prove all those diappointments were just the appetizer for an epic meal of accomplishment, or another chance to fail in new and appalling ways. Probably the latter.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Blog Post

Obviously, I haven't posted in while. I'm not sure exactly why. I guess I'm struggling to find things I feel need writing. Don't confuse that with having nothing to say. I actually have a lot to say -- it just all usually ends up being written in a script, or being told to my wife and/or friends, or lost to the revages of time because I don't feel it's important enough to write.

I think that might be the real problem actually -- the idea that something should be important if you're going to take the time out of your busy schedule to write something down. Especially if you highly doubt anyone will actually read it anyway. It shouldn't be that way. I want to write just for the sake of writing -- that's why I started this blog in the first place. But I've never been a journal type of guy -- I've never had a diary, or jotted down my feelings on legal pads at difficult times in my life.

I'm a writer, sure, it's become ingrained in my DNA. But the desire to entertain or inform is so great, I can't bring myself to write just because. I'll pour my feelings of frustration into a story. Hell, I even used to write a poem here and there back in touchy-feely college days, though I feel distinct embarrassment at revealing that. I've written about baseball for this blog, about football for this one (which I plan to return to here in a couple of weeks for the beginning of the NFL season), and reviewed movies and TV shows for this here blog, but I don't write just for writing's sake.

That was the intent when I began this -- to write whatever popped into my head. But my internal editor seems incapable of allowing that. There must be a reason, a goal. First, I found myself drifting into more and more entertainment reviews -- so I could be that site you went to in order to find out if that show/movie was worth checking out from someone (sort of) inside the entertainment industry. Then it was more sports -- I could be that blog you went to in order to read a snarky take on the sports world (god knows there aren't enough blogs doing that!). But soon it became apparent to me that my writing was totally uninspired and redundant to so many things already available on the web. I wanted to quit, but that seemed even more cliche than what I was already doing.

The only obvious choice is to write about something nobody else writes about -- namely myself. And while lots of other bloggers write about their lives, none actually write about mine, so it would be unique. Well, unique-ish. But I just don't find my life to be all that interesting. Maybe nobody really does. But a hell of a lot of people spend a lot of time on their blogs pretending they do. I just can't bring myself to write something I doubt anyone finds entertaining. Sure, nobody's probably reading anyway, so who could be bored? But that's not the point. The point is, I've been trained through screenwriting to believe writing should entertain. Boring = death. So if my life is boring, it's the last thing I should write about.

Another factor is timing. If I had started the blog when I was taking lots of meetings around town pitching scripts it could've been good -- the world of pitching movie ideas in Hollywood from the inside. Sure, I couldn't have revealed too many juicy details without risking my livelihood, but it could've been good. The same could be said if I started the blog right after my writing partner and I sold our pitch, THE DISCIPLES OF DARRYL to Intrepid Pictures and began the development process. I've written about it a bit here, and again the caveat regarding my career security woul've still applied, but keeping a running diary of my experiences would've been interesting. Instead, I started the blog right as screenwriting -- or at least the business of screenwriting -- began to take a back seat in my life.

But now I'm writing a new screenplay -- one I'm exceptionally excited about -- and writing as much as I have in a long time. The ideas are flowing, and while 99% of the best stuff will probably find it's way into my script, I feel like they're might even be enough to carry over to here. Of course, I'll have to wedge it in between the screenwriting, the football writing, the (almost) full-time job, and the time spent with my wife, but maybe there's a small crack in there I can exploit. No promises, but I want to continue writing here -- even if it's navel-gazing minutia like, Oh I don't know, this post right here as a matter of fact. I don't know why I feel the need to make this declaration. I doubt anyone's reading, so maybe I'm just making it to myself. I just think this forum is too valuable, too open, too flexible, too much fun (potentially) to waste.

I'd liek to write reviews of things I've seen recently -- FUNNY PEOPLE (they weren't), BRUNO, PUBLIC ENEMIES, reality TV, something -- but when I do that, I feel like it has to be, you know, actually good. When I write about whatever stupid thing I'm thinking/doing, it can be crap -- like this -- and still not be a failure. It's sort of like that first lesson every writer has to learn: If there's something on the page, then it's not a failure. Making it good? That's the second step.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The 2nd Half

The Giants second half began with a tough loss -- 2-1 in 14 innings at Pittsburgh, where the Giants have struggled mightily in recent years. Lincecum was dominant, but it wasn't enough, as stale OF prospect named Garrett Jones hit 2 homers to beat the punchless Giants, who scored just one run and needed an error just to get that.

Will this great pitching, no hitting continue? Will it spur Sabean to make a desperate play for veteran bats? Is this the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning? Or is it the middle of the end? Or the beginning of the middle of the end? The end of the middle? Only time will tell.

Pic courtesy of FriscoJoe over at McCovey Chronicles.