Saturday, October 05, 2002


I'm in my own personal sports hell with both the Florida Gators and New York Yankees suffering season-ending losses today, the Gators figuratively, the Yankees literally.

But on the bright side, I had my first job interview in ages yesterday and I borrowed money to buy a 1989 Toyota Celica convertible. I'm back on the road to normalcy.


There are still two outs in the fifth inning of game four in the Angels-Yankees series. A nightmare inning for the Yankees. Another base hit. Mercifully, the runner is held at third. Ten hits in the inning. Wells has been yanked. Mendoza has been yanked. This is what losing feels like. Last year, it wasn't until the very last moment of the World Series when the Yankees and their fans tasting losing for the first time in four years. Now I can identify with the feeling of getting beaten around and thoroughly outplayed in a series. Hats off to the Angels, they've hit the crap out of the ball and gotten the majority of the breaks. I feel blessed to have experienced so much victory as a Yankee fan, and while I may be in severe sporting pain at the moment, I applaud the excellence that's required to defeat such a dynastic team. Finally, the third out, the Yanks are out of the inning. It's not looking good, but the Yankees still have twelve outs left. Posada just hit a home run to lead off the Yankee half of the sixth.

Friday, October 04, 2002


To conclude the comprehensive three-part review of the first two weeks of the fall television season, let us turn our attention to the best genre that TV has to offer – the one-hour drama. Now sampling one-hour shows is a much more daunting task than planting yourself on the couch with some 3-D Doritos to check out the latest shitcom. For one thing, you have to pay attention. There is no laugh track to use as a guide in deciding what is entertaining and what is not. Also, you run the risk of getting attached to a show and having to block off a whole hour to watch it each week. But, these dramas do offer the greatest potential rewards on the tube.

Thus far, I’ve caught episodes of “Push, Nevada”, “That Was Then”, “American Dreams”, and a portion of the premiere of “CSI: Miami.” The first episode of “Push, Nevada” captured my attention. I thought the writing was crisp, the casting was pretty good, and the thing was dripping with style. Call me an idiot, but I don’t really get the whole “solve the mystery and win a million bucks” gimmick. Maybe it will become clearer with time. I missed the second episode, but watched the third. By the end, my enthusiasm had waned. This obvious Twin Peaks wannabe had yet to give me enough clues as to what was going on. It didn’t draw me in, and there was nothing to keep me in, so I exited “Push, Nevada.” Judging from the ratings of the first few airings against heavy competition, if you’re curious at all, you better check it out fast.

Being a sucker for all things 80s, I had to watch “That Was Then.” The premise, ripped directly from “Back to the Future,” has the main 30-something character transported back to his high school days in the “Me Decade.” At the end of the somewhat amusing hour, he finds himself back in the present day, which has been altered to reflect the changes that he caused by reliving that portion of his life. Essentially, they boiled down "Back to the Future" into a pilot episode, but the reduction is not quite as tasty as the plot in its organic form. In fact, this whole metaphor has turned sour, because to create a reduction one removes the water, to create a television show one must water down a movie premise. "The In-Laws" has applied the same water-heavy formula to "Meet the Parents" and after airing four episodes in two weeks, I'd say it's already drowning creatively. I'm on the fence with "That Was Then," that way I'll be safe if the water level keeps rising.

I've never watched an episode of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" all the way through. But, being from the South Florida area, naturally, I tuned in for the premire of "CSI: Miami." I caught the first two scenes and thought it was highly stylized and well-produced but not my type of show. However, I will be watching this coming Monday because my friend, G-Style, wrote the episode. It's his first produced hour of television, so a hearty Mazel Tov goes out to G-Style.

The brand new one-hour I like the best is “American Dreams.” It’s a period piece set in the early 60s, another decade I can’t get enough of. It centers on a white family in Philadelphia. The teenage daughter wants to change her goody-goody image by appearing on “American Bandstand” as a dancer. It’s a soft show with a hint of an edge. When the teenage boy of the family, a high school football star, goes to tell his coach he doesn’t want to play football anymore, the Priest/Head Football Coach is smoking a cigarette and dispensing advice much more as the Football Coach than the Priest. The ending was emotional, as we see each member of the family react to the news that President Kennedy had been assassinated. But I felt a bit manipulated. I thought the use of Kennedy’s death to signal the loss of innocence was a little too on the head, a little too easy. I’m anxious to see what the tone is like in episode two, which airs this Sunday night, because I think this show has real potential.

All talk of potential is inconsequencial when referring to shows already operating their at their peak levels. "The West Wing" and "The Sopranos" are such shows. Sure, the Wing beats you over the head with it's self-righteousness unto you submit to its liberal leanings, but the dialogue crackles, the cast is sensational, and the production values are top notch. The storyline involving the fallout from the assassination of a Middle East leader and suspected terrorist has launched this season into high drama from the get go. With the presidential campaign acting as a frame for the season, the Wing just might be propelled into that rarified air occupied by television's all-time best dramas.

"The Sopranos" is already there. I'm still pissed that they took a year and half off after its only sub-par season and left us twisting in the wind, but I can't stay mad at this masterpiece. If it wasn't for "Six Feet Under", who knows, I may not even have a subscription to HBO anymore. That show rose to the top in the absence of TV's most beloved Mob family, pushing the boundaries of the medium in its two seasons since "The Sopranos" last aired original episodes. But now that lovable henchman of a show comes storming back to take back it's rightful place at the apex of the televised universe. The first three shows have been fluid and challenging, constantly shape-shifting and forcing you to have faith and flow with it. There is a tremendous confidence in the execution of this exalted program and an unpredictability that never lets you get settled and never lets you know what's really going to happen until it fully unfolds. Most of TV bores us by telegraphing their outcomes. We're too savvy. We've seen too much TV. But we've never seen anything like "Six Feet Under" and we've never seen the likes of "The Sopranos." Let's call a spade a spade: It's not TV, it's HBO.

Thursday, October 03, 2002


I overdosed on reality television this summer by religiously following "American Idol." Now I need to get my ass into a rehab program good and quick because I'm finally ready to quit. By the end of its run, I hated "American Idol." Don't get me wrong, I knew it sucked from the very beginning, but I was having some campy fun watching it and making fun of it and I enjoyed hating it. But after Christina Christian and Tamyra Gray were beaten out by the highly untalented Nikki McKibbin, all pleasure was gone, only pain remained. Now the fall season is underway and offering a serious dosage of reality TV and I have to admit to having some cravings. I see the promos and I feel the itch. I want to make fun of real people making asses out of themselves on television again. I had one relapse. I watched the second episode of "Survivor:Thailand" and that was enough to convince me that I can kick the habit. Last season's finale of “Survivor: Marquesas” was one of the worst television programs I have ever seen, with two extremely boring contestants I didn’t care one iota about vying for the million bucks and Rosie O’Donnell singing the Gilligan’s Island theme with Survivor lyrics. That should have been it for my tenuous association with the "Survivor" franchise right there. But I gave it one a shot, praying for another Colby or Elizabeth or even Richard Hatch. No such luck. More droning on about so-and-so not pulling their weight and should we vote out this poor schmuck or that whiny bitch. I liked both The Amazing Race and The Bachelor last season, but now they’re going up against each other and, more importantly, The West Wing. That makes it easy to just say no to those two tempting programs. All in all, I'm pretty hopeful that I can put the reality television addiction behind me. I'm just taking it one time slot at a time.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002


I’ve been watching a lot of television the last week and a half, sampling the new season’s offerings. I’ve seen a slew of sacrificial sitcoms, some potentially intriguing dramas, and a bunch of rapidly decaying reality shows. Every year the fall television season brings with it the hope of the new. Hope that a new story will capture our imagination, that new situations will make us laugh despite the annoying laugh track instructing us to do so, and that new characters will make us identify with them, care for them, and live vicariously through them. A very small percentage of shows are successful in accomplishing these lofty goals, leaving us with a scrap heap piled high with disappointment. Yet, being the gluttons that we are, we keep coming back for more. Stubborn. Curious. Hopeful.

As far as comedy is concerned, there hasn’t been a whole lot of it. That’s not to say that there aren’t many attempts at comedy. It seems like someone was shaking the death rattle for sitcoms a bit prematurely. They’re everywhere. So far I’ve watched Curb Your Enthusiasm, Everybody Loves Raymond, The In-Laws, 8 Simple Rules For Dating My Daughter, Life With Bonnie, Hidden Hills, Friends, Will & Grace, Scrubs, part of Good Morning Miami, and part of Less Than Perfect. And there were a bunch that I missed! There is no comedy on TV that consistently cracks me up. I’ve had sporadic laugh-out-loud moments while watching Curb, Raymond, Friends, Will & Grace, and Scrubs. I enjoy those shows, but I don’t love any of them. I’ve given my best effort in trying to love Curb Your Enthusiasm, really, I have. But too often I find that Larry is simply too much of an asshole… and I like him! Sometimes he's such an asshole it’s unrealistic, and with it’s improv methodology and stolen-from-life storylines, Curb is heavily reliant on realism. I do love how ballsy and daring the show can be, but when you have an editor, it’s improvisation with a net. I believe the show would be even funnier if it was scripted. As far as the new sitcoms go, I think Life With Bonnie is kind of funny and Hidden Hills gets some points for style, but The In-Laws, 8 Simple Rules…, Good Morning Miami, and Less Than Perfect all feel like stale soundstage-bound sitcoms that aren’t nearly as funny as the cranked up laugh track would lead us to believe. Frasier I could give two shits about.

There haven’t been many funny films lately either. What happened? Where did the funny go? The third installment in the Austin Powers series was funny, but I’m hard-pressed to name more movies this year that made me laugh. Thank God for “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” That movie is pretty funny and very charming and it’s a runaway hit. It’s easily the most profitable film of the year. People can’t get enough of it. They’re going back to see it three and four times. People are starving for a good laugh. These days, it seems like good comedies are as rare as honest corporate accountants.

I’ll continue with reality TV and dramas tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 01, 2002


The major league baseball regular season has come to an end and once again I am extremely proud to be a fan of the most fabled franchise in all of sports -- The New York Yankees. The Bronx Bombers finished with the league's best record and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Tonight, the Yanks set their sights on yet another championship, as they begin the AL Division Series against the surprising Disney-owned Anaheim Angels. Not only did the Yankees have a tremendous season as a team, but second baseman Alfonso Soriano exploded and established himself as a legitimate superstar, falling one home run shy of a 40 homer-40 stolen base season. Soriano was arguably the most valuable fantasy player in the league this season. Unfortunately, he was not on my team. Which brings me to the real reason why I called this press conference.

As co-owner of Yozanger, the troubled IBL franchise, I, along with my partner, endured a lot of heartache this past season. After extensive pre-season preparation and the good fortune of selecting A-Rod with the first pick in the draft, we fully expected Yozanger to challenge for the league title. That did not happen. Our team chemistry was a problem from the very beginning. The team suffered a few injuries, highly touted prospects struggled, and a few of our big guns got off to slow starts. Manny Ramirez was out for a significant stretch during the middle of what could have been an unbelievable year for the slugger, who wound up winning the batting title. Yozanger got sub-par years from Jeff Bagwell and J.D. Drew, both high draft choices and major disappointments. On the subject of disappointment, our scouts were very high on Toby Hall and Jose Ortiz heading into the draft, but both players turned out to be complete duds and sucked a lot of life out of our club. Paul LoDuca and Adam Dunn, two players who may turn out to be great one day, showed promise at various points of the season, but faded at the end, with Dunn in particular going into a horrible slump where he forgot how to hit a baseball. We made a few good pickups along the way, namely Randy Winn, Jacque Jones, and Junior Spivey, but those positive moves did not outnumber the negative ones. Frankly, our team was unbalanced. Our hitting was atrocious and our pitching was fantastic. We won the two most telling pitching categories, earned run average and WHIP ratio (walks plus hits to innings pitched), finished fourth in saves, and tied for fourth in wins. We had a twenty-three game winner in Barry Zito, a twenty game winner in Pedro Martinez, and a nineteen game winner in Roy Halladay. One of those three will assuredly win the Cy Young award. In contrast, the team finished the season fourth in home runs, last in RBI, last in stolen bases, last in average, and sixth in runs. Anemic. Overall, Yozanger ended the season cemented in sixth place out of eight teams, neither challenging for fifth nor being challenged by the bottom two teams.

Looking back on this exasperating season, my first back in the game after a ten-year layoff, I cannot say that I got that much pleasure out of playing. In fact, I think I followed baseball less and less as the season wore on because of the fantasy stress. Despite some questionable rules which led to some heated controversy in the league this season, I think the other owners in the league are a great group of guys. Although some might raise an eyebrow at the commissioner's team finishing in first place, I believe everything was on the up-and-up and I congratulate him on a well-played game. And while I thoroughly enjoyed working with my partner and life-long friend in the day-to-day operations of Yozanger, it is with great regret that I announce my decision to sell my interest in the team and retire from the game. To paraphrase Lou Gehrig, one of the all-time Yankee greats... Today, I consider myself the unluckiest rotisserie baseball owner on the face of the earth.

Sunday, September 29, 2002


The Miami-Kansas City game mercifully ended moments ago. As a fan, the Dolphins are a painful team to watch when they're trying to come from behind. Jay Fiedler is not a good quarterback. He is adequate at best, and that's mostly when he's handing the ball off. Although it was working, the 'Phins abandoned the running game early and got into a shootout with the emotionally-charged Chiefs. They paid the price. The Chiefs displayed an explosive offense and a lot of heart last week in coming back to take New England to overtime before losing. I had a feeling this would be a tough early season road game for Miami. Kansas City is always a loud and difficult place to play and I was worried the New England game left the Chiefs with the taste of blood in their mouths without the satisfaction of making a kill. Well, they got their kill in the form of an alpha dog named Jay Fiedler. Fiedler was pressured and knocked down and confused throughout the game and heeved up a couple of passes in the fourth quarter that made you question whether or not he was on the take. He just threw 'em up for grabs. Fiedler threw four interceptions in all on the day, two of them might be blamed on receivers not holding on to the ball, but even those seemed to be forced throws. The Dolphin defense did not play well by any stretch of the imagination, but they did do a decent job of containing Priest Holmes, one of the leagues best backs. However, their secondary was pushed around and physically dominated by the Chief receivers, namely Tony Gonzalez, who had a big big day. That, in turn, had the effect of making Trent Green look like one of the better quarterbacks in the league, which he is not. Patrick Surtain, one of the Dolphins' starting cornerbacks was out and his replacement, second year player Jamir Fletcher, looked lost out there, making a bunch of mistakes and giving up several big plays. But it was the Dolphin offense that set the defense up for failure by turning the ball over often and at key points in the game when momentum was there for the taking. The previously unbeaten Dolphins came into this game leading the league in turnover ratio and had only given up 37 total points in it's first three games. Today, they turned the ball over five times and allowed 48 points in a 48-30 loss. You have to question why Norv Turner and Dave Wannstadt decided to abandon the gameplan when what they were doing was working. And, once again, you have to wonder whether this team can beat anybody in the playoffs if they fall behind.