Thursday, September 30, 2004

Advantage:Kerry



I could kick George Bush's ass. I know it.

In a debate, that is. I'm quite certain I could kick Bush's ass in a good old fashion brawl, as well, but I'm not worried about that right now.

Yep, as I watched the first debate tonight, all I could think about was how easily I could squash Bush in a debate if given a chance. I'd leave him speechless, stammering, searching for words as he awkwardly and predictably made his way back to his two or three money quotes that resurface again and again, over and over, only in varying forms. Man, Bush is so ripe for the plucking! It's so...so...so right there! And that's the most frustrating part about watching Kerry, not only in the debate, but in this election campaign as a whole. It seems he eternally leaves you waiting for the paralyzing one-liner that would reduce Bush to the intellectual neophyte that he is.

But that one-liner never comes.

However, in the initial debate at least, Kerry did a nice job, borderline excellent. I realize I'm far from unbiased on the topic of Kerry vs. Bush, but I think it's fair to say that Kerry definitely emerged the winner. He was calm, articulate, and, for what seems the first time, fairly straightforward with the American people. This is not to say that he has been deceitful in the past, but that he has a tendency to be long-winded and to speak in circles, often leaving listeners to think, "Well, I guess he answered the question, but I'm not exactly sure what he said." Basically, he was understandable. He made points. And these points were clear. He had his answers, and he offered them. For Kerry, this doesn't seem to come easy. He's not exactly a straight-shooter, more an aloof intellectual.

Tonight, however, he left the outcome never in doubt.

Maybe this is the Kerry we've heard about. Maybe this is the Kerry renowned for a big finishing kick in past campaign races. Most importantly, maybe this is the Kerry that his supporters have been anxiously awaiting.

I mean, he won. He struck some proverbail blows. His camapign is on the upswing. Strike a blow for the good guys. Finishing kick, indeed!

Meanwhile, Bush was his usual self. At the first hint of trouble he predictably resorted to the stubborningly overplayed themes he relies upon such as:

1) "How can my opponent say 'wrong war, wrong place, wrong time' and expect to support our troops? How does that make our troops feel?"

(To this I would say: Our troops are probably too concerned with dodging bullets and getting the hell out of Iraq to give a shit about what some suit in Washington says.)

2) "How does someone who changes positions so much expect to be Commader in Chief?'

(To this I would say: Uh, George, you've been going back to this 'flip flop' thing for months now. Yeah, we get it. BTW, Kerry has already explained himself over and over again on this issue. I mean, is this all you got or what?)

3)"Terror this! Terror that! A world without a strong America will drift towards tragedy."

(To this I would say: North Korea. Iran. Not only do these countries posess nuclear capability, but they flaunt it! They have come out and said, "Look at us! Look at us! We have have nuclear capabilities! Aren't we cool?" How many countries does Bush plan on being "tough" with when he has already made a mess of Iraq? Oh, but Bush specifically said last night that he believes talks with North Korea are a bad idea. Huh? Yeah, because giving the cold shoulder always solves problems. So, basically, Bush admits to being an overtly macho guy who chooses not to communicate. Do these sound like the characteristics of a leader?)

Bush's sheer reliance on the same rehashed quotes is, quite frankly, simply sad. I mean, this is our president? Look, I don't want to delve into Bush-bashing just for the sake of Bush-bashing, but the guy just cannot come up with an original answer that invloves any creativity, intellect, or wit. It's the same barren words repeatedly, no matter the question. If I didn't find his presidency so utterly appalling, I would almost be embarrassed for the guy.

This is where the frustration sets in. Once - just once! - I want Kerry to respond to an attack by Bush by saying something like, "You know, Mr. President, it might be nice if you came up with something new, like, mmm, EVER!"

For now, I guess, I'll live with the knowledge that Kerry won the first debate, and it wasn't even close. (No, all you Republicans in denial, it wasn't.) My confidence, which had reached a low point about month ago, is slowly starting to rise again.

The Daily Poll - Friday, October 1, 2004



Kerry 44
Bush 43

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

I Have a Question



Why does Dusty Baker even put LaTroy Hawkins in at the end of games? Why? Why? Why? Yeah, I know Hawkins is the so-called closer, but at what point do you realize that he sucks...absolutely, completely, positively sucks. He's already blown two ninth-inning, two-out leads in the final week of the season...and that just adds to his season-long list of disasters. He cannot be given the ball again in a tight situation. Cannot. I don't care who else has to fill his role. How many times must he be allowed to fail and singlehandedly ruin an entire season? Hawkins must be avoided like any TV show that involves swapping family members.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Finally, Some Common Sense



OK, OK, I realize that there may be some Chicagoans upset with the recent news about the possibility of pot being decriminalized here. The world must be coming to an end. These worried people are presently adding dead bolt locks to their doors, convinced that such a change in law would lead to the streets being overrun with hopped-up hooligans committing all sorts of heinous crimes and numerous other acts of chaos and absurdity.

To these people I have this to say: Hey, an innocent joint here or there might come in handy when taking in the overall ineptitude of our city's sports teams. Heck, I sure could use something - anything! - to help me deal with Rex Grossman's injured knee. Sedate me! Give me something! I need it!

All jokes aside, its good too see the city of Chicago showing some common sense on an issue that has been long overdue for massive revamping. Current marijuana laws are outdated and ill-conceived, and, worst of all, hypocritical. We live in a country that shows roughly 1.5 million commercials for various beer companies on any given weekend, yet we'll quickly arrest someone for a small amount of pot, which has an effect on the human body that doesn't even come near to that of alcohol. The two don't even compare. It's not even close.

Look, this is not a rant glorifying the use of pot. I'm not a pothead nor a hippie. I actually like taking showers and do so at least once every two weeks. I don't listen to Phish. In fact, I think Phish sucks. I don't vociferously decry laws against pot and demand its legalization. I'll leave that to the Woody Harrelsons of the world. I fully believe that both the human mind and body are best served by steering clear of any - any! - drug. Heck, I don't think the human body should take in much more than fruits, vegetables, and water, and I have taken great personal strides - well, baby steps...OK, I've thought about it - in one day reaching this level of discipline. If I don't, I'll be disappointed. But I'm trying. (Kicking the meat is a real bitch.)

However, making criminals of people who enjoy the momentary effect that comes from a plant that grows naturally in the ground is absurd. Pot has never killed anyone. It's not a gateway drug. People who become involved with hard drugs such as herioin or cocaine were most likely headed that way whether they tried pot first or not. Heck, doctors treat people with pot. I mean, how bad can it be?

Maybe the best defense of the use of pot would be to take a look at some of those who smoke it. Teachers. Lawyers. Doctors. Believe it. It's not just the teenage dropout or the unemployed deadbeat. There are plenty of people who are able to more than function in jobs that would be considered highly repectable while occasionally smoking pot. I know people like this. They're out there. If you think that all pot smokers are low-lifes, criminals, jobless, and otherwise pitiful, you're sadly mistaken, or close-minded, or in denial. Heck, our universities, our finest universities even, the so-called breeding grounds of our most influential and successful people, are virtual mini-Amsterdams for anyone interested. People of all realms of society are partaking.

So what's the problem?

A major problem with marijauna laws are the individuals who create them, many of whom fall into one of two dubious categories:

1) Close-minded people. These are people who refuse to try pot, which is entirely their choice, and entirely understandable. Nothing wrong with that. Yet they condemn pot because they have bought into the idea that it is in line with harder drugs. This is what they have been told. This is what they believe. It's not, but they wouldn't know this.

2) Hypocrites. These are people who have tried pot (and, in many cases, harder drugs), yet they refuse to acknowledge that their pot use was harmless. These people are often conservatives (the same conservatives who fanatically preach family values, but all too often end up having mistress and, when they're really on a roll, illegitimate children.) George Bush would be an example. The man spent years snorting cocaine, yet will gladly portray pot smokers as societal delinquints if it means appeasing his conservative base. Hypocrites.

Fines, rather than arrests, make sense (although I would argue that complete legalization would be harmless.) It has been said that last year alone more than $5 million would have been made for the city. This money would be much better spent on, say, a crumbling school system than on the prosecution and possible jail time of would-be offenders. And it's not as if the threat of arrest is actually deterring anyone. Those who want to smoke pot can find it with relative ease. It's everywhere.

Even Mayor Richard Daley has offered public support of the proposal. Then again, why shouldn't he? His name is mixed up in some corruption or another on an almost weekly basis, so he might as well throw his hat into the pro-pot ring. Daley could get caught in a hotel room with a needle in one arm and a hooker on the other, and, most likely, nobody would care. Hey, he's a Daley!

Again, I'm not trying to glorify pot. I'm not encouraging anyone to try it and "open their mind." In fact, I highly encourage a life led as clean as possible. (Remember, water, fruits, and vegetables. That's it.)

However, marijuana laws are ridiculous, relics of another time.They need to be completely reexamined, abolished even. Kudos to a few Chicagoans for having enough wisdom to realize this and attempt to make productive changes steered in the right direction.

They must have been smoking something when they thought of it.

Promise and Problems

Vikings 27, Bears 22



Three weeks into the Lovie Smith era and the Bears - his Bears - are starting to come into focus.

We now know Lovie's Bears come to play. We know they can play. They know how not to embarrass themselves. This is reason enough to keep the faith, or at least tune in.

Yet, as always seems to be the case with the Bears, every glimmer of hope comes with a black cloud.

Would you expect anything else?

Add Rex Grossman to the list of Bears who are actaully good but won't be suiting up for the forseeable future. The merciless hex continues. I'll be shocked if Thomas Jones and Adewale Ogunleye aren't in street clothes by the end of next week's game with the Eagles. Maybe it's time the Bears set up a shrine in the locker room to Jobu complete with chicken carcasses and incense. Heck, at this point, whatever might keep the impact players in uniform shouldn't be laughed at. Even Jobu!

The injury express is particularly a shame because the Bears, believe it or not, are actually- get this! - a decent team. No, really. I know, shocking. There is legitimate reason to believe the bumbling Bears are headed in the right direction, which for them, would mean just getting off their asses for a change.

However, it doesn't help the good vibes when Grossman is carted off the field with a sprained knee at exactly the two-minute mark of the fourth quarter. Ouch. Your promising quarterback riding off into the domed sunset on four wheels is never a good sign. Hey, at least he scored on the play, even if he was already in the locker room, forced to celebrate with the doctors on the x-ray table, by the time the play was done being thoroughly reviewed.

That's typical Bears melodrama for you. Grossman just had to go down. Had to! The Bears rarely settle for merely a loss when they can pick up a loss and add their quarterack to the injured list.

From Jim McMahon being more brittle than the coming fall leaves back in the '80s to Jim Miller being knocked out of the Bears' last playoff game three years ago, Bears quarterbacks are about as durable as a Britney Spears wedding vow. If you're worried about backup Johnathon Quinn taking over the reins of the offense, it gets worse. We're one play away from - gulp! - a Craig Krenzel sighting. That's right. Craig...fuckin'...Krenzel.

Still, there is no reason to lose hope. Sure, the game ended as most Bears games do, a frustrating loss topped with a healthy variety of injuries.

But they aren't bad, these Bears. I guess that's a start, a good sign for a young team playing in just its third game under a new coach. They had the ball and a chance to win at the end, before Quinn sauntered in for the first time this season and led possibly the most inefficient two-minute drill you will ever see.

How cool it would have been to see Grossman in there in that siuation. He earned it. Heck, he's been playing well enough that it's not unthinkable that he would have pulled it out. Although his numbers haven't been flashy, Grossman is nothing if not calm and collected. He seems to be a natural for fourth quarter heroics.

If the Bears weren't missing half of their defensive starters - literally - it's quite possible they win this game. Give them back Brian Urlacher, Mike Brown, and Charles Tillman, and I say let's play again, right here, right now. It also didn't help that they were irrefutably screwed on some controversial calls. There was plenty of bad officiating going on. Plenty. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm complaining, but the television announcers wholeheartedly agreed with me, and they know everything. Why do you think they're on TV?

Positives to build upon are not a problem. The Bears take first quarter leads. They force turnovers. They have backups who play like starters. They compete on the road. They get in rumbles in between plays. Lots of them actually. Hey, they're likable, sort of fun in a maybe-they're-better-than-we-thought sort of way.

And they cover the $pread on the road, in case you're wondering. Another good sign.

Look, the Bears stay in games, no matter how young, inexperienced, and injured they are. The only question now is, Will they learn how to win these close games? The NFC's superpower, the Eagles, come to Soldier Field next Sunday. Big game. And I think the Bears can win it. I really do. Hey, why not? The possibility isn't that farfetched.

And I'm not just being blindly optimistic.

Perhaps that is the best sign of all.

** The Jaguars look scary good. Never take lightly a team that can knock Steve McNair out of game. Now, if the Jaguars start scoring more than one touchdown per game, that would help.

** The Lions were cute...for two weeks.

** For being such a despised coach, Tom Coughlin is winning. Again. Maybe he'll soften up and allow his players too arrive to meetings on time.

** Why am I picturing Dick Vermeil resigning at midseason at a tear-filled press conference?

** Speaking of Vermeil, what's wrong with wearing diapers? Don't knock it if you haven't tried it.

** TEN GOOD ONES
1. Patriots (3-0) - Until they lose.
2. Eagles (3-0) - Not only winning, but winning big.
3. Colts (2-1) - Colts' offense vs. Jaguars defense. Right now.
4. Jaguars (3-0) - 3-0 with only 35 points scored. Defenses like this win Super Bowls.
5. Seahawks (3-0) - I think they're overrated, but, hey, they win.
6. Jets (2-0) - Could knock off the Pats. Seriously. Or not.
7. Falcons (3-0) - If Mike Vick improves as much as he is hyped, the Falcons could be scary.
8. Vikings (2-1) - Would be a bigger threat if they played outdoors come playoff time.
9. Broncos (2-1) - Cheaters.
10. Panthers (1-1) - May be only the third best team in NFC South. Beware the Saints.

** Let me get this straight:

USC goes on the road and beats a solid Stanford team, and their reward is losing votes in the poll? Who's tallying these votes, George Bush's cronies in Florida?

This is yet another example of what's wrong with the BCS. With the polls playing a large role in the process, why should the Trojans suffer because a few writers decided to punish them for not winning by a big enough margin? Sure, this may not prove to affect the Troans' aspirations for a title game appearance, but the cold hard truth is that it could.

That's unacceptable.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Wild Dogs, Baby!

Bears-Vikes preview



I don't know what Chicago ever did to piss off the mysterious ways of the universe, but the universe is obviously pissed off and taking out its anger with a wrath of injuries like nothing I have seen before. To note:

The White Sox: The South Siders looked to be the real deal this season, sporting the most potent offense in baseball and then adding Freddy Garcia and Jose Contreras to a questionable pitching staff. But it was all for nothing. Magglio Ordonez and Frank Thomas were both lost for the season at virtually the same time, and all hopes went the way of Geoge Bush's military records. Gone! I mean, Maggs and Frank? Talk about a worst case scenario coming to life. WTF? I can't even muster anger at the Sox this year. That just isn't fair.

The Cubs: Quite simply, the Cubs have witnessed an exodus to the injured reserve that would make Ken Griffey, Jr. proud. Virtually every player on the roster has seen extended time missing in the injury abyss. Aramis Ramirez. Sammy Sosa. Mark Prior. Kerry Wood. Matt Clement. Kyle Farnsworth. Todd Hollandsworth. Mark Remlinger. Joe Borowski. Nomar Garciaparra. Mark Grudzielanek. The list goes on. Really, it does. The fact that the Cubs presently lead the wildcard race speaks volumes about Dusty Baker. It's no wonder they are the grumpiest team in baseball. Yeah, they've looked like whining grouches at times, but can you blame them?

The Fire: Just when the Fire looked to be unable to overcome the loss of several of last year's starters to Europe, Justin Mapp, a youngster, stepped up with four goals and an assist over two games as the Fire appeared to be back, earning a pair of much-needed wins. Naturally, Mapp immediately went dow and hasn't been back since. How does this happen?

This brings me to the Bears. Just when the outlook had brightened after an ass-kicking of the Packers, the three best players of a solid and highly-underrated defense go down, bringing the rare joy in Bearsville to a sudden halt. Mike Brown, the leader of the team and a virtual coach on the field, has been lost for the season. Charles Tillman, possibly the best young corner in the NFL and certainly one of the most colorful interviews, will be out for a couple months. Now, Brian Urlacher's touchy hamstring has been aggravated again and his status for Sunday's romp with the Vikes is uncertain.

WTF? How does this happen? Seriously? The last thing I want to do is boo-hoo-hoo. I realize every team in every sport must deal with inevitable injuries, but the string of calamities in this town is uncanny...and I'm fuckin' sick of it. Sick of it, I tell you!

It's as if somebody wants to bring Chicago down. I don't know who this "somebody" is, but I'm on the hunt, on the warpath, like O.J. (OK, bad example.)

Fuck it. The rest of the Bears' young defense is going to have to grow up in a hurry. Guys like Tommie Harris, Todd Johnson, and Todd McMillon. Particularly McMillon, who has the task of dealing with Randy Moss all afternoon. Is he up to the task? Yeah, why not? Knock him on his ass, Todd, and then stand over him and howl like a wolf after the kill, baby!

Harris and Adewale Ogunleye need to hit Daunte Culpepper hard, and they need to hit him often. Ideally, they'll knock him out of the game. Let's make this happen. As the off-season's two biggest aquistions, both of whom have been relatively quiet thus far, Sunday would be a prime time for both to enjoy their coming out parties.

Wild dogs after loose meat, baby! Wild dogs!

Last week the Bears played with a swagger. The last thing they can afford is to lose that swagger because a few guys went down. Shit, swagger is about the only thing that can't be taken away from them. They have reached that oh-to-hell-with-it stage. Nothing matters anymore. Everything has gone against the so far, including the schedule makers, who were thoughtful enough to give the Bears possibly the league's toughest opening stretch. Like I said, to hell with it! The Bears need to laugh at all this negativity and play with a chip on their shoulder. They need to dance around the Metrodome like a bunch of crazy people and silence the crowd with their cockiness. Wild dogs, baby, wild dogs!

The swagger will be maintained.

The pick: Bears 20, Vikings 16.

Monday, September 20, 2004

How Depressing



I just watched the Twins clinch the AL Central on the White Sox' field in front of a crowd of roughly 58 people, many of whom seemed to be traveling Twins fans. Talk about a morbid scene. It was like a funeral, and about as lively. My head feels heavy and dark. This most certainly will not help my suicidal tendencies.

Now That's What I'm Talking About!



How refreshing it was today to walk around downtown Chicago and see the sudden surplus of Bears hats, jerseys, and t-shirts. Navy blue and orange were everywhere. Hahahaha! How funny. All the Bears fans were just itching to come out and play, and a sweet dismantling of the hated Packers was all the impetus they needed.

The pride has been restored.

As inept as the Bears looked in a bumbling loss to the Lions- the friggin' Lions! - in their opener, they looked the exact opposite on Sunday in a 21-10 trouncing of the Packers, whom we were told all week long preceding the game viewed the Bears too lousy to be considered serious 'rivals'. Ha!

The Bears' win, however, did more than just rekindle a rivalry that had been nearing flatline status ever since Brett Favre arrived in Packerland. The win may have actually saved the season for the Bears, who were looking at the very real possibility of starting the season 0-2, not to mention 0-4 with games against the Vikings and Eagles coming up. It's always a good thing when the Bears haven't played their way out of playoff contention before the first autumn chill even hits, which is quite often, sadly.

As satisfying as a win over the Packers always is, even more satisfying was witnessing the transformation of the Bears defense into the cohesive, swarming, turnover-producing unit that Lovie Smith has been promising since being named coach. It was a beautiful thing. A pack of wild dogs after loose meat. The defense played with something they haven't played with in a long time: a swagger. There are few things as fun as watching a team - your team - play with a swagger.

Favre, who has simply owned the Bears, was harassed relentlessly all day and goaded into a pair of interceptions, the first of which, a diving number by Mike Green, was as pretty a pick as you'll ever see. It was fitting that on the Packers final offensive play, Favre was forced to a heave a wild, underhanded throw to nowhere while being drilled into the grass, his shoulder pads ending up outside his jersey. He was a mess. This is what happens to a quarterback when he is hounded mercilessly. Of course, I was left waiting to see Favre removed from the field via a stretcher and placed into the back of an ambulance, but I can't be picky. Maybe next time.

Meanwhile, Thomas Jones ran like he stole something, a trick he must have picked up playing for the Virginia Cavaliers. There was a reason he was once the seventh pick in the draft, and he's finally showing it in this, his second year in the NFL. (Those seasons with the Cardinals don't count.) Not since Neal Anderson - has it really been that long? - have the Bears had a dominating runner. This fact is even more alarming when considering that the Bears seem to view the forward pass as a temporary fad.

Rex Grossman, while far from spectacular, is avoiding big mistakes and providing sparks here and there. Recent history has proven that this level of quarterback play can win Super Bowls. Did I just mention the Super Bowl while writing about the Bears? Damn right I did! What of it?

David Terrell? Ah, David, David, David. A week after his so-called breakout game, he managed to touch the ball just once. On a reverse. With four minutes remaining. And he fumbled. It was clearly not the type of performance to run one's mouth about, but I'm sure Terrell will have plenty to say nonetheless.

Luckily, Terrell's lost fumble came too late to cause any real damage in the game. However, it did lead to massive and irreparable damage as far as the Bears' season is concerned. Just moments after Terrell's fumble - the very first play of the Packers' ensuing drive, in fact - Mike Brown ruptured his achilles tendon, likely ending his season. This is a devastating blow. Brown is not only one of the most underrated safeties in the NFL, he is the Bears' emotional leader. His presence will be sorely missed. Thing is, Brown would not have been on the field had Terrell not fumbled.

Thanks a lot, Terrell. Thanks for nothing. Keep running your mouth, jackass.

If there was one downer about the win, other than Brown's injury, it's the lingering sense of "what if" when thinking of the Detroit game. If not for a series of mental mistakes and downright stupidity against the Lions, the Bears could easily be 2-0 right now.

Oh, well. Whatever. The winning streak has started and there will be no looking back. And, hey, there isn't really that much of a difference between 15-1 and 16-0.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Cold-Blooded



Really, really good: Tennessee kicker James Wilhoit cooly nailing a 50-yard field goal in the final seconds to give the Vols a 30-28 win over Florida after he had missed an extra point only minutes before.

Really, really bad: That ref who flagged a Florida player for 15 yards for a flagrant foul despite staring directly at a Volunteer slap the Florida player first, thus making Wilhoit's game-winner possible.

Terrible call by that ref. Terrible. It was as if he either A) took that old cliche about only the guy who retaliates being flagged as the law, or B) was too chickenshit to make a call on a Vol in Knoxville in the final minute...even though he was clearly looking at the Tenn player clearly instigating the mini melee. Terrible call. Who was in his pocket? Disgraceful. Send that ref back to the high school level.

Props to Wilhoit for bouncing back. That was cold-blooded. I'm not a fan of either team, so it was nice to be able to sit back and enjoy the moment with the knowledge that Florida was going to cover the $pread regardless of whether he made the kick or not. Good times.

WTF, Iowa? 44-7? That ASU QB Walters may be the most underrated college player in the country. I'm sure the NFL knows about him already.

I think it's safe to say that any of us could step in as Texas Tech's QB and go for 300 yards and 3 TDs per week. At least. Somebody get the Red Raiders a defensive coordinator already. Jeez. They'd be a contenda.

If I ever have a kid, I'm raising him to be a placekicker. There's clearly a job market out there.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Bad News Bears, Bradford, Broncos and a Chair in my Face



Losing is one thing. I can handle the losing. I've been watching the Bears do a lot more losing than winning for as long as I've been a fan. I'm not quite apathetic, far from it actually, but I've at least gained the ability to shrug off another loss with a little effort and some liquor. Repetition breeds expectation, or lack thereof. Sad, but true.

However, the Bears' 20-16 loss to the Lions last week was, quite simply, one of the ugliest losses I've had the misfortune of witnessing in my tortuous existence as a Bears fan. "Pathetic" is one word that comes to mind. "Ugly" is another. "Stupid" may be the most fitting.

I take that back. If I had only one word to describe that mess it would be "infuriating".

Let's see here:

Numerous 15-yard penalties for such idiotic endeavors as taunting (David Terrell, please go away), unsportsmanlike conduct, and late hits. A blocked field goal run back for a toucdown. Dropped passes. Fumbles. Twelve men on the field.

The Bears played like a bunch of Bradfords. (Note to readers: I haven't watched a single episode of 'The Apprentice', yet even I know what a bonehead move Bradford made.)

It's one thing to get beat. It's another thing entirely to give a game away, which the Bears did against a sad Lions team that went back to Detroit having snapped a 24-game winning streak. I mean, it was the Lions. The Lions!

The scariest part, other than the upcoming road games against the Packers and Vikings, was the look of detached confusion on Lovie Smith's face. He looked like a man who had little control as his team came unhinged. It certainly wasn't reassuring. Is this what we can expect from Smith's Bears - yet another era of ineptitude? I'm still trying to erase the memory of Dave Wannstedt's eternally bemused look from my brain.

Obviously, Smith can't directly control Terrell when he makes a 35-yard catch and then promptly gives back 15 of those by tossing the ball to the Lions' bench and generally being an obnoxious loudmouth. (Note to Terrell: If you absolutely must toss the ball to a Lions player, at least have the balls to give it to anyone but a kicker.) Smith can't directly prevent Olin Kreutz from retaliating to trash talk nor Charles Tillman from hitting Joey Harrington as he heads out of bounds.

Yet the Bears' overall aura of stupidity is a direct reflection on Smith and his coaching staff. The Bears were a team that was not prepared - prepared to play smart nor prepared to simply behave itself. These two characteristics are the staples of any well-coached teams, even moreso than sheer talent. Smith can't determine the level of talent at his disposal. However, he can, and better, determine the actions of that talent once it hits the field. Otherwise, his calm demeanor will quickly come to be ridiculed by the frustrated Bears faithful for its lack of fire, authority, and charisma. Heck, he'll be little more than the next Dick Jauron, another quiet, nice guy who didn't get it done.

Thing is, Jauron's Bears teams were exceptionally well-coached. Always. Jauron was the victim of Bears management making little genuine effort to acquire new talent nor retain the talent it had. The Bears under Jauron were disciplined and smart, strong qualities that, unfortunately, couldn't quite make up for their overall lack of playmakers. Jauron's teams deserved, at the very least, respect, if not accolades.

The Bears of last Sunday can't say that. They can't reasonably expect much respect to come their way. Not after they behaved like a bunch of Bradfords in virtually giving a game away.

Oh, well. I suppose there is no need to overreact to one loss. Smith needs time. Rex Grossman showed promise, as did Thomas Jones. I'll save my overreaction for Sunday night should the Bears lose in Green Bay, which they won't.

Nope, I foresee Tommie Harris knocking Brett Favre out of the game and Paul Edinger hitting a late field goal. Wishful thinking? I think not.

Bears 19, Packers 17.

** What's up with the Trail Blazers allegedly trying to deal for Jason Kidd? Do they want a roster full of the most abrasive, troubled and unlikeable players they can get their hands on? With their unfortunate label as the Jail Blazers, and numerous arrests in their recent history, you'd think they'd be trying to clean up their image. Or not. I can only imagine what a front office meeting must sound like at Blazers headquarters:

Head honcho: "Give me a rundown on how our roster is shaping up for the upcoming season."

Eager lackey: "Yes, sir."

"Do we have pot smokers?"

"Check."

"Drug dealer?"

"Check."

"Illegal weapons carriers?'

"Check."

"Wife beaters?"

"Um, no, sir. No wife beaters as of yet, sir."

"What? What am I paying you for, son? What's Kidd's status? We need a wife beater! Now!"

"Yes, sir. On it right away, sir."

** So let me get this straight. The Broncos blatantly cheated their way around salary cap rules at a time when, coincidentally, they happened to win back-to-back Super Bowls, and their punishment is the loss of a third round pick? That's it? Undoubtedly, they're snickering in Denver. Ridiculous. Oooooh, I'm sure they're real scared.

This punishment is way too light. This is like when your mom hits you and you're trying not to laugh.

The Broncos should have been fined, at the very least, a first round pick, if not numerous first round picks. And there should be astericks next to the Broncos' titles in the record books. And somebody should alert PETA about those ankle-length fur coats that Broncos owner Pat Bowlen likes to sport. There are few things more annoying than a fur coat-wearing cheater.

Am I overracting? I think not. Cheaters suck. Fur coat-wearers too.

** To be completely honest, I really wish a baseball player would smash me in the face with a chair. I could use the money.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Unknown's AFC Preview

AFC CENTRAL

BENGALS - Will he or won't he? Be the man, that is. It's Carson Palmer's team now, and Bengals fans haven't been this excited since Ickey Woods was shuffling. I wouldn't normally pick a team with a first-year starter at QB to win their division, but it's happened - I'm drunk on the Marvin Lewis Kool-Aid. (How redundant have "Kool-Aid" references become?) With Corey Dillion no longer around to pollute the locker room, rookie Chris Perry will complemet Rudi Johnson to give the Bengals one of the best 1-2 running back combos in the league. Chad Johnson is the stud of a solid receiving core that will ease Palmer's growth. The defense was a problem last year, but something tells me former defensive coordinator savant Lewis will remedy that. The Bengals are for real and their helmets are cool. The world needs a Bengals playoff appearance, damnit!
Pick: 10-6

RAVENS - I thought real hard about picking the Ravens to win this division, but I couldn't do it. Too much drama in Baltimore. The pending Jamal Lewis trial. The return of Deion Sanders. John Feinstein writing a book. Sure, ego maniac Brian Billick will love the attention, but it's all bound to implode sooner or later. I'm not sold on Kyle Boller being more than serviceable (alhough Trent Dilfer filled that role for the Ravens quite nicely, didn't he?) Should Jamal Lewis miss time, the offense will flounder. Ray Lewis can't do it all. If the Ravens can make it through the season without any further arrests, they should be content. And let's not forget that Kordell Stewart will be roaming the sidelines. If he sees action the Ravens are doomed. (In Edgar Allen Poe voice) Doomed, I tell you!
Pick: 9-7

STEELERS - Any team relying on Tommy Maddox to be its leader is bound to be disappointed. Maddox's comeback has been a nice story, but I'm expecting Ben Roethlisberger to take over at some point and for this season to be a learning year for him, as well as the Steelers, who released several veterans in the offseason and are clearly in a transition phase, whether they admit it or not. Productivity from Duce Staley is a dire necessity as Bill Cowher's best teams have always featured vaunted running attacks. Staley is no Jerome Bettis. Another long year in the Steel City.
Pick: 6-10

BROWN - If I'm a Browns fan, I'm furious that Butch Davis was signed to an extension. He's quickly becoming the new Dave Wannstedt, meaning he produces little succes yet somehow holds onto his job. Poor Jeff Garcia. After escaping one receiving a-hole (no gay jokes please!) in San Fran, Garcia gets to throw to another one in Kellen Winslow Jr., who is destined to become one of the most reviled figures in sports. Garcia had some nice years by the bay, but his surrounding weapons in Cleveland don't compare to those Niners teams. The Browns can't stop the run. Never a good thing. Browns are bad.
Pick: 4-12

AFC EAST

1) PATRIOTS - Bill Belichik? Very Good. Tom Brady? Very Good. Hell, the entire roster? Very good. Rest of the division? Not so good. The odds of repeating? Never good. The Pats will annoy the hell out of me and remain contenders. Here's hoping they don't go too far. There's nothing nore annoying than a dynasty that doesn't take place in Chicago. I wouldn't bet against Brady and the gang, though. New Englanders, rest assured, have something to look forward to after the Red Sox choke.
Pick: 12-4

2) JETS - Herm Edwards? Good. Chad Pennington? Good. Positve karma points for resigning the injured Jamie Henderson? Good. Playing in the same division as Bills and Dolphins? Good. Things are looking up for the J-E-T-S. Unfortunately, looking up means looking at the Patriots. A wildcard berth is not out of reach.
Pick: 9-7

3) BILLS - On paper, the Bills would seem to be contenders. Their defense finished ranked second in the NFL in 2003. In Travis Henry and Willis McGahee, they have two exciting young runners, though McGahee's recovery from injury is still to be determined. In Drew Bledsoe they have a solid veteran quarterback. They also have a rookie head coach in Mike Mularkey, which is not good. At least Bills fans don't have to worry about losing in the Super Bowl.
Pick: 6-10.

4) DOLPHINS - No Ricky Williams? Bad. No David Boston? Bad. No Adewale Ogunleye? Bad. Dave Wannstedt patrolling the sidelines? Very, very bad. Phin fans, who should stock up on William's precious herb if they hope to cope, should prepare themselves for plenty of Wannstedt's famous confused facial expressions, which are seared into my brain from his time Chicago. They can also take solace in the fact that this will be Wannstedt's last season. I guarantee it. Plus, there's always the Miami Hurricanes to root for and follow their legal troubles, and the Orange Bowl is a much cooler stadium anyway. Don Shula will be rolling over in his grave. Wait he's not dead yet. Nevermind.
Pick: 2-14

AFC SOUTH

TITANS - This would appear to be a down year with the Titans aging and no longer possessing the services of Eddie George and Jevon Kearse. However, Jeff Fisher is a coach in the Bill Parcells mold, meaning unknown but motivated players might be better than complacent vets anyway. Besides, Fisher teams will always be contenders. Steve McNair is reaching that can-he-win-a-Super-Bowl stage of his career and I'll be rooting for him. Chris Brown will assure that Titans fans won't miss George.
Pick: 11-5

COLTS - This is a pivotal year for the Colts, who will have a hard time keeping several key players in the fold following the upcoming season. Marvin Harrison isn't getting any younger, and Edgerrin James, not the same back he was a few years ago, is already plotting his escape to south Florida. Tony Dungy should settle into the same pattern he did in Tampa, meaning his teams will be consistently good, but not spectacular. Meanwhile, Payton Manning, for all his glorious numbers, will continue to be the Dan Marino of this generation. Also, Manning is probably due for an injury, isn't he?
Pick: 10-6

JAGUARS - There has been plenty of Jacksonville-flavored Kool Aid (there's that annoying phrase again) going around as the Jaguars have become the sexy pick as this year's from-nowhere-to-primetime pick. I'll believe it when I see it. The only thing I consider sexy about the Jags right now are those all-black unis they occasionally sport. Those are tight. I have that black jersey and I feel like a million bucks whenever I wear it. Get yourself one. I was a big fan of the Jags draft and can envision the trio of Byron Leftwich-Roy Williams-Greg Jones taking over as the Manning-Harrison-James of the division. I also like the +9 turnover ratio they produced in the preseason. An early three-game stretch against the Broncos, Colts, and Titans could seal their fate. The Jags will be much improved, and maybe contend for the playoffs, but don't expect to see them "hosting" the Super Bowl. The future, however, is very bright.
Pick: 8-8

TEXANS - The first mistake the Texans made was hiring Dom Capers as their head coach. As he did with the Panthers, Capers has the Texans hanging between mediocrity and bottoming out. Expect the same in 2004. David Carr is coming dangerously close to resembling Tim Couch, meaning he better start looking like a former No. 1 overall pick or risk being labelled as a disappoinment. I don't think Carr is the next Couch, but, as the face of the franchise, the Texans desperately need him to evolve into a star. Immediately. I don't see that happening this year, although he will improve. And I don't see Capers coaching much longer. I miss the Oilers.
Pick: 5-11

AFC WEST

BRONCOS - OK, when Jake Plummer came out of Arizona St. I was as high on him as any incoming quarterback, well, ever. I though he was the real deal, the second coming of Joe Montana. When he led the Cardinals - the friggin' Cardinals! - to the playoffs (and a win to boot!) in just his second season, I was convinced we were watching a legend. Unfortunately for Plummer, the doom and gloom of the Cardinals franchise brought him down. Of course it did. The move to the Broncos, his boyhood team, was a wise one. Last year, the Broncos were looking absolutely Super before Plummer was injured. If he stays healthy (probable) and Quentin Griffin comes close to filling the shoes of Quentin Portis (who knows?), look out. The Broncos could be as good as anybody. Besides, it's the Broncos. When are the Broncos bad?
Pick: 11-5

CHIEFS - This will be an interesting year for the Chiefs, maybe a last-chance year. Dick Vermeil has never made a habit of staying in one place for too long and his time in K.C. could be running out. Priest Holmes has put up a three-year stretch that compares with the best ever, but how long can a 30-something continue at such an awesome pace? The numbers he's put up can't go on forever. The defense, last year's sore spot, was tweeked hardly at all. How strange. Expect the Chiefs to be good, but not great. Expect Vermeil's status to be a question next offseason.
Pick: 10-6

CHARGERS - It's hard to feel sorry for any big-time professional athlete, not when they have mansions, stables of womem, and fleets of cars to ease the sting of a loss, but LaDanian Tomlinson comes close. Arguably the best back in the league, Tomlinson quietly does his thing for a tortured, innept franchise. He even signed a recent long-term extension when most players would have been counting the days until they could escape. My respect for him is huge. I'm also a big fan of Philip Rivers and think he'll be a good one, Bernie Kosar-throwing motion and all. In Tomlinson and Rivers, the Chargers definitely have something to build around. It won't happen this year, however, likely the last for Marty Schottenheimer. But I'll be keeping an eye on the Bolts in the years to come. I always do. Why, you ask. Well, have you ever been to San Diego. They could very well be my hometown team someday.
6-10

RAIDERS - Norv Turner sucks. Period. Nothing much else to say. It'll be a painful sight watching Jerry Rice going down with this sinking ship.
Pick: 3-13

Wildcards - Colts, Chiefs

Super Bowl - Titans

That Is All

Random Thoughts of Madness



** Alexis Serna meet Brian Huffman. Hug. Cry. Get it out.

** Northwestern placekicker Brian Huffman's body was found outside his apartment early this morning, three days after Huffman missed five field goals against TCU. Police have yet to reveal many details. We have been told, however, that there was a note left at the crime scene by somebody calling himself The Unknown Column. What this means we don't know at this point. Further details as they are available. Back to you in the studio, Kent.

** Is the White Sox' season over yet?

** I haven't watched much of the hockey World Cup, but I did happen to catch Canada sporting mustard yellow jerseys. What's up with that? Who was drunk on Molsons when they came up with that idea?

** Kevin Brown breaking his hand punching a wall vs. Kyle Farnsworth suffering a knee contusion kicking an electric fan. Pick.

** To be honest, I don't think losing Farnsworth is necessarily a bad thing for the Cubs. Unless they get in a bench-clearing brawl, in which case he would be invaluable.

** Speaking of the Curmudgeonly Cubs, the ongoing rift they started with TV commentators Steve Stone and Chip Carey is one of the most pathetic stories I've ever witnesed in Chicago. Pathetic. Period. Maybe it's time the Cubs unveil black alternate jerseys because they've taken their us-against-the-world self-perception to positively Raiders-esque levels.

Let me get this straight: Kent Mercker called the TV booth to complain during a game? Did I misread that? WTF? Maybe Mercker should be more concerned about incurring a three-game suspension in the middle of a wildcard race for intentionally hitting Roy Oswalt than what Stone or Carey have to say.

The funny thing is, Stone and Carey are two of the most mild-mannered, polite, "nice guys" you'll ever find in a TV booth. They both look more like math teachers than broadcasters.

Look, I appreciate the job Dusty Baker has done in turning around the fortunes of the Cubs. When he first arrived he said, "Why not us?" Perfect. Why not, indeed. However, there is a difference between finding ways to focus your motivation and acting like a clubhouse full grumpy crybabies looking to pick cheap and easy fights. Erasing the Cubs' persona as the Loveable Losers is an admirable (and necessary) goal. Making yourself completely unlikeable, however, is not the way to go about it.

** With Morten Anderson's long career possibly coming to an end, I think it's safe to say that no player had a greater impact on the pipeline of Danish talent into the NFL.

** Damn you, Mary Pierce, damn you! No Maria Sharapova. Yeah, I'll still be following Andre Agassi and hoping he claims another title, but following a 34-year old bald dude just isn't the same as watching Sharapova skimper across a tennis court and into my dreams. Not even close.

** I'm far from the first, but save me a position on the Utah bandwagon. They looked quite impressive against Texas A&M, although the Aggies havn't been quite the same since the days when Jackie Sherrill was around to laugh in the face of NCAA rules. I'm all for somebody - anybody! - from the non-BCS conferences forcing their way into the mix and making a mockery of the BCS sham. In the past few years I've cheered for Fresno St., BYU and TCU, and this year I'll be all about the Utes. Maybe I should learn the names of a few of their players.

** Poor Tyrone Willingham. The Notre Dame nutjobs have begun circling, the hint of blood in their nostrils.

** Oklahoma beat Bowling Green 40-24, leaving me to wonder, What happened to Josh Harris, last year's BG quarterback? Was he drafted? The last I saw Harris he was racking up, like, 600 yards of total offense against Northern Illinois.

** Rutgers 19, Michigan St. 14. Huh? Don't look too far ahead, but a peek at the Scarlet Knights' schedule would indicate that they could just possibly, maybe, not completely unrealistically be 7-0 when they host West Virginia. There's nobody overly daunting between now and then, just Syracuse (away) and Pittsburgh (home). We shall see. BTW, have you peeped Rutger's new stadium? It's starting to have actual atmosphere up in there.

** College football is beautiful. The best sport going?

Saturday, September 04, 2004

USA 2, El Salvador 0 - World Cup qualifying



How quickly things can change.

The U.S. were less than ten minutes away from a disheartening start to its World Cup qualifying campaign two weeks ago in Jamaica. They managed to produce a last-gasp tie in that game and followed that up with a 2-0 win over El Salvador in Foxboro today.

This means the U.S. is sitting pretty atop CONCACAF group A. On paper at least, their only daunting task at this stage will be the return leg to El Salvador as Jamaica must come here and neither game against Panama is expected to cause many problems. The Nats look like a safe bet to advance to the final round of CONCACAF qualifying, with either El Salvador or Jamaica joinimg them.

Brian Ching scored his second goal in as many games in just the fifth minute, while Landon Donovon notched the second goal. Tim Howard notched the shutout in his first start in a World Cup qualifier.

As an aside, watching the Nats playing on field with football stripes is very annoying. Let's do something about this.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Kill The Kicker



There is a reason people make fun of and/or dislike kickers. And Brian Huffman is that reason.

Huffman missed five - yeah, that's right, five! - field goals in a heartbreaking 48-45 double OT loss at TCU. Word is he was made to walk home from Ft. Worth, Texas. Hopefully, he doesn't make it back in time for next week's game against Arizona St. Five! 1,2,3,4,5! And three came from 31 yards or less and two in overtime. That's what he gets for being a kicker and wearing number 99. How dumb looking is that?

Stupid kickers.

On a postive note, the Cats did put on good offensive show against a TCU team that has been one of the nation's most successful over the last few seasons, and on the road to boot. They would have won if Huffman wasn't involved. Brett Basanez threw for 513 yards and four touchdowns, while Noah Herron ran for 97 yards and a couple of scores. The offense is in midseason form. Defensively, yeah, they gave up 48 points, but only 45 of those came in regulation. OK, I'm digging for a positive here.

Stupid, stupid kickers.

That Is All

God Has Spoken And Florida Best Not Fool Around



I don't know how much you believe in God. Heck, I don't know how much I believe in God, unless, of course, He's one of the three people actually reading this, in which case, "Praise, be to the Lord. Hallelujah!" (God, if you're there, give me a sign. Leave a comment.)

Yet I couldn't help thinking to myself last night that God was weighing in on the American political free-for-all during George W. Bush's acceptance speech at the RNC. It seems Bush's speech was barely seen in the all-important battleground state of Florida, where several television stations chose instead to broadcast continuing news of Hurricane Frances, whose path of destruction is currently more important to Floridians than the path of destruction Bush has blazed over the past four years.

Do you think that, just maybe, God was hanging out somewhere with a vengeful look upon his face, maybe playing Poker with Allah as they shook their heads at the idiocy of the human race, and saying, "This'll teach the Republicans not to tamper with the will of the Amercan people during the upcoming election"? Do you think that, just maybe, God is keeping a sharp eye on the state of Florida and giving ample warning of the wrath that shall come if any such shenanigans resurface in November?

I'd like to think so, although I'd also like to think that the Bears will win the Super Bowl, which probably qualifies me as delusional. That and all my imaginary friends.

I was briefly holding onto the hope that Pennsylvania TV stations would choose instead to run with up-to-the-minute details of the Steelers' prospective final roster cuts, or that Ohio would cut to continuing coverage of Ohio St-Cincinatti pregame happenings, or that Missouri would relentlessly cover the mental state of the recently returned Rick Ankiel.

Apparently, no such luck.

Then again, it's not like Florida missed much. It was a typical Bush speech, meaning it lacked much charisma, Bush seemingly running off a list of cliches and abstract promises and grinning whenever he thought he made a joke, although he could have passed gas into the mic and received thunderous approval from the crowd. At one point I even thought I saw him wink at somebody in the front row (the devil?), which deeply unnerved me in a this-guy-is-way-too-inept-to-be-cocky way. I wouldn't say it was a bad speech. There were no infamous Bush blunders. You know, where he makes up words and the like. In fact, he even poked fun at himself and his sometimes loose adherence to the English language. I'm a big fan of self-deprecation - believe me, it helps when you're a jackass such as myself - so I'll give credit to Bush for that. Of course, this was all well-planned and well-scripted gibberish to present Bush's softer side, as were the tears that looked ready to escape his eyes near the end. I mean, you could almost hear his speech writers and handlers beforehand: "Now, Mr. President, this won't be easy, and we'll understand if you can't pull it off, but at this point in the speech some watery eyes would really put the speech over the top. People eat that stuff up. Especially women."

Presenting a softer side is probably important when your term as president has been marred by a bloody and circumspect war that relentlessly rages on a daily basis. I mean, it can't hurt, right?

My biggest problem with the speech was the lengthy portion of it that dealt with Bush's plans for the next four years, or lack thereof. The the first three days of the RNC had been largely focused on the past (9/11) and the war on terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror. (I'm sorry, I can't stop saying "terror", a habit I picked up by listening to Republicans.) Bush attempted to make up for this by telling us of all the beautful ideas he has to push us into the future.

The only problem, however, was there was very little offered in the way of actual plans. Basically, Bush's thoughts on his future agenda read like this: "Blah, blah, blah...health care...blah, blah, blah...social security...blah, blah, blah...education...blah, blah, blah...tax cuts...blah, blah, blah...government interference...bla, blah, blah..."

There was no substance, only pasing mentions of all the subjects Americans care about. There were no actual hint of a vision, no groundwork offered as evidence that Bush has actual ideas on how to improve the country. Merely tossing out all the important subjects in between applause breaks doesn't qualify as a map to the future.

It also irked me that Bush, as has the GOP all week, attacked Kerry, particularly for his votes on military spending. Bush mocked Kerry's one time response of "It's a complicated matter" by saying, "There's nothing complicated about serving our troops in combat."

Well, this is certainly true. No doubt. The only problem is that Bush has championed the cutting of veterans' benefits, as well as the pay of active soldiers while they are at war! Is this Bush's idea of "serving our troops in combat"? He must have forgot to mention this. Of course he did.

Naturally, there was no mention of Iran or South Korea, countries that have openly flaunted their nuclear capability and/or harbored terrorists, but plenty of mentions of the "success" that is Iraq, which, weirdly enough, apparently never had any weapons of mass destruction, no connection to 9/11, and which continues to exist in a state of violent chaos. If Bush likes to cite Iraq as a success, I shudder to think of what he would have considered a failure. There was also no mention of Osama bin Laden, who could have been taking in Bush's speech from the first row for all the success we've had tracking down him and his accompanying dialysis machine.

Whatever. Both conventions are over, and not a momnent too soon. What a joke these things are, unecessary relics of the past if you ask me. In the modern age there really is no need anymore for the parties to gather and offer their stances. The Internet and television already do that with shocking efficiency. Besides, I don't think I could stomach any more shots of the crowds, which always look to be filled by mindless zombies that have been brainwashed to laugh and applause at all the righ times. (It's actualy frightening in a way Lord-of-the-Flies way.) Nor could I stomach the cameras zooming in on minorities at just the right moment. ("And cut to the Arab guy. No, that guy's black! And tell that white guy to sit dowm, damnit! He's ruining the shot!") And I especially could not stomach any more shots of Rudy Guliaini enthusiastically clapping at the mere mention of the war on terrorism, with a crazed look in his smile and the hint of blood on his lips.

Luckily, it's all over.

Bring on the debates. The Republicans - with all their blunders both at home and abroad, half-truths and shady alliances - have provided the Democrats with more than enough soft spots to poke at until the blood (and truth) comes pouring out for all America to see, if it isn't watching reality television instead, which, sadly, it probaly will be. Somehow I think that John Edwards, being a courtroom magician, will unmask Dick Cheney as the bumbling, slime-covered curmudgeon that he is, and Edwards will have a smile and a full head of hair all the while. Meanwhile, Kerry should have enough skills to dance around Bush, whose mastery of the impromptu response has been exposed in his off-the-cuff answers to the media. Look, if Matt Lauer can trip Bush up, Kerry should be able to pin him to the ground and beam his botoxed smile. Yes, I'm confident that the debates will be the turning point in this election race.

Hopefully, I'm not being delusional again.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Weekend Plans



How did I not know about this? The AVP Beach Volleball Tour will be in Chicago this weekend, meaning Misty May and Kerri Walsh will be all aglow under the Lake Michigan sun. It actually started today, but I don't think I missed much as it was only the preliminaries. This probably means that it was all the players who aren't that great. Or dudes, which I don't care about seeing anyway. Is it bad that I can't name a single volleyball "legend"? Karch Kiraly, I guess, but I don't know if I'm even spelling his name right.

Anyway, keep watch for my pending arrest during Sunday's finals, which will be broadcast on NBC, or for the highlights on Sportcenter. I must think of some wild court-charging shenanigans that are both clever enough to get me close enough to May to give her my number and highlight worthy. I'm thinking something involving a cape, moon boots and not much esle. Suggestions?

No Questions Answered



No surprise.

That's all I could think of saying upon learning that the Kobe Bryant case won't go to trial. What was all the commotion over? Why were we forced for more than a year to hear of stained underwear, vaginal bruises, DNA samples and sexual histories? Couldn't this entire sorry saga have ended a long time ago the way it now has? Bryant makes an "agreement" and gives girl money. Girl drops case. Neither ever talks about it again. End of story.

That certainly would have been a lot less messy, and a lot less painful for everyone involved.

It's not often you see a media-crazy case of such stature where both parties involved present such questionable images. Usually, there is the good guy who gains your sympathy, and a bad guy who fuels your distaste. There is the person who clearly seems wronged, and the person who, certainly, must have done the wronging. Those lines, however, are severely blurred in this case. Both Bryant and his accuser appear to be little more than a pair of circumspect individuals who went bump in the Colorado night and collided in a few moments of bad judgement and missing self control.

Who are you going to like?

On the one hand you have Bryant, a married man and father, who checked into the Colorado hotel and within minutes was alone with his young accuser in his room looking for sex. Within minutes. Certainly, this could not have been the first time he strayed in his marriage. How many times he cheated on his wife is unknown, but you can justifiably guess it was often. He then proceeded to engage in sex, consensual or not, which consisted of him, at one point, waving his private parts in the accuser's face (which isn't technically a crime) and the accuser ending up with bruises about her body and her blood on Bryant's shirt. The following morning Bryant was quick to smugly tell the police he was willing to pay the woman to make it all magically go away, which is easier than you think when you have been made a multimillionaire by putting a ball through a hoop.

Bruises and blood does not sound like the recipe of consensual sex, although I'm certain there is a segment of the population which is into that sort of thing.

On the other hand you have the accuser, who, by all accounts, was busy sleeping with numerous other partners both shortly before her encounter with Bryant as well as after, as in possibly that same night. True, her apparently healthy sexual appetite does not mean that Bryant didn't rape her, but it does make you wonder why she willingly went to Bryant's room so shortly after meeting him. Allegedly, she also had an unstable mental history marked by depression, pills, and a possible suicide attempt. Now, to top it all off, she has decided she no longer wants to "participate" just as the trial finally appeared set to begin after more than a year of intense legal wrangling.

What? Why now?

Was a possible sum of money, or an "agreement," offered by Bryant suddenly deemed sufficient? Did it suddenly dawn on her that she would be required to actually stand before a jury of her peers and speak truthfully of an alleged rape when, possibly, she wasn't so sure anymore if it was indeed a rape? Now that the civil suit has been filed, and she will surely be financially appeased, did she decide that she could no longer be bothered by the whole "criminal" thing?

It all looks suspicious, and not favorable in her direction.

My guess as to what happened that night would be this: a troubled, permiscuous girl meets a big celebrity and goes to his room with wide eyes. Bryant, being an NBA star and used to such things, expects sex and he expects it fast. Things start heating up. Maybe the girl enjoys the attention at first. Bryant, however, starts to move a little too fast for her pace. She wants him to stop and asks him so. Bryant ignores her pleas, finishes, and she leaves, mortified. Bryant goes to sleep feeling he has done nothing wrong, that he is entitled to such immediate gratification by nameless, faceless women.

That's just my guess, and I could be completely wrong. Maybe it's better than pondering the other possibilities:

A) Bryant forcibly grabbed the accuser and violently raped her despite her incessant pleadings not to.

B) The accuser willingly had consensual sex with Bryant and then falsely and coldly accused him of rape, possibly in an attempt to gain money, attention, or both.

Both of these possibilities are nasty.

If my guess is somewhere in the ballpark, this is where the disagreement begins between the two. I think that the accuser, honestly, believes that, despite possibly enjoying the initial attention, she requested Bryant to nonetheless stop and he chose not to. I also think that Bryant, honestly, believes he did not rape her, that the accuser came to his room and knew what she was getting into.

I also believe that if my guess is in the ballpark, then Bryant is guilty of rape, and I want this to be very clear. Of course, we'll never know, and it doesn't help that this case has been conducted in a Colorado court system that has been horrendously inept, a fact which should not be overlooked in the accuser's decision to call it quits. It's easy to see why she might lose faith in the court system that has made a sorry shambles of the most traumatic experience of her life. I hope that judge and everyone else involved is thoroughly embarassed, if their positions not reviewed.

Lastly, at the risk of sounding like a male pig, it's interesting that the Bryant trial is being unplugged just as William Kennedy Smith is being hounded by a new claim of rape by a woman who waited several years to come forth with the allegations, continued to have a sexual relationship with Smith for months after the alleged rape, is in serious and documented financial straits, and whose lawyer privately sought $3.3 million from Smith before actually levelling the charges. I'm not saying the woman wasn't raped by Smith. I'm not labelling her a liar, nor an extortionist. I'm just saying that this woman, like Bryant's accuser, definitely warrants justifiable reason for her intentions to be scrutinized. Things that make you go hmm.

Meanwhile, a Detroit woman is facing felony charges for falsely accusing Lions wide receiver Scotty Anderson of rape after she was found to have stuffed used condoms "inside of her" and attempting to make off with several hundred dollars of Anderson's money in her hair.

As I said, I have no intention of portraying myself as a male pig. In fact, I almost always side with the woman in these instances, particularely when famous, large athletes are involved. Being a male myself, I know how guys think. We're pigs, some more so than others.

However, the three cases above are interesting social commentary, especially when considering that each of the accusers, to varying degrees, appear to be less than stable, while each of the accused are easy - and more importantly - wealthy targets.

I'm not saying. I'm just saying.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

The Governator Can Speak - Sort Of



I have to give credit where credit is due. Arnold Schwarzenegger can speak. Sure, he can't properly pronounce the name of the state he governs (Cal-ee-forn-ee-yah), but he did put on a good show at the RNC. I was impressed, and it had nothing to do with the fact that I saw two black men speaking on the Republican stage just prior to him. Two!

I'd dare describe the Governator as the would-be future of the Republican party if it wasn't for that pesky little detail about being born in the United States. Man, that damn Constitution gets in the way of all the GOP's plans. First, it was that whole gay thing. Now this. (Sorry, Arnold. Yeah, Paris Hilton will be president before you. Welcome to America. Besides, we all know what happened the last time an Austrian-born ego maniac left the homeland to rule a foreign country.)

Inevitably, Schwarzenegger did hit us with corny references to his critically acclaimed, groundbreaking Hollywood career. He described being a Republican as someone willing to relentlessly "terminate" terrorism. Of course, if we want to be picky, it should be noted that in the context of the sentence "-ing" should have been added onto the end of "terminate," but we'll just chalk that up to his only being in America for - what? - 36 years. Give him time.

He urged people who question the faltering economy to stop being "girlie men." This joke must have gone over well the last time he dug it up from his comedic arsenal for him to use it again on such a big stage. It would have been nice to hear Schwarzenneger actually address the state of the economy with - oh, I don't know - a real answer, but maybe that's just me.

He also used "I'll be back" - of course, he did - but I was so expecting it that I was able to almost fully block it out. This involved gouging out my eardrums with screwdrivers.

Overall, Schwarzenegger was a success. He definitely had charisma. He knew when to stop and milk the audience's applause for all it was worth, which probably came easily to a classically trained stage actor such as himself. He was able to work the crowd into frenzy (if an arena full of conservatives can be described as being in a frenzy.) And he maintained the all-important ever-present grin that says, "Yes, I have smoked pot and groped women. Damnit, I am a politician! You love me."

Still, possessing political charisma does not negate the fact that he offered Richard Nixon as the inspiration for his becoming a Republican, going so far as to describe Nixon as "a breath of fresh air." (Pssst, Arnold, keep that to yourself.) In Schwarzenneger's defense, he was probably hopped up on drugs back in '68. That doesn't make it right, but maybe explainable. What does it say about the present Republican party that the audience joyfully cheered this revelation? Not much, if you ask me.

As an aside, what happened to Schwarzennegger's wife, Maria Shriver? Is it just me, or was she once hot? Somebody get that woman a meal, or help her put her skeleton back inside her skin.

This would be the point where I'd relentlessly criticize the trite and contrived "comedy routine" of the Bush daughters. (Is "unstomachable" a word?) However, I've chosen not to as I'm still holding onto the remote possibility of one day hooking up with the blonde one. Or the other one. Whichever. Preferably the blonde.

Laura Bush? Let's just say I wasn't expecting much from a woman who is married to Geore W. Those two must engage in some stimulating conversation, huh?