Category Archives: Random
2nd Annual Birthday Burger Draft Results
MARINA DEL RAY, CALIF. — When people first heard I was doing a Burger Draft with my buddies, they were more confused than Tom Brady looking for a high five. “So you’re drafting hamburgers? That sounds dumb.”
“Well, yes, no, it’s not really that simple. It’s fun. There’s strategy involved. You might not even get to eat the burger you chose! Depends where you pick.”
“What? Why would you do that?”
It’s at this point I realized the people I was explaining this to either a) don’t understand how the NFL or NBA Drafts work or b) aren’t the type of freaks to seek out competition, to wager on things like whose bags come out first at the airport or who the person three lanes down at the bowling alley calls their favorite football team. Or they just don’t have a sick crew of friends who can accelerate a Wednesday night from zero-to-Ferrari like I do.
So be it.
Last year, at the inaugural Burger Draft, we had six guys; this year, 10, which meant FOUR MORE BURGERS. We decided to stick with 26 Beach as the host venue, which is known for its exotic burger choices with names like New York Mile High, UFO and Viking; 28 burgers in all on the menu and each one it’s own special kind of delicious.
Upon our arrival we were escorted through the restaurant and into this private back room away from the rest of the regular patrons; like the “Goodfellas” Copacabana scene except the opposite. It’s almost as if they knew what kind of morons were showing up to destroy some Grade A beef. The room was straight out of Wayne Manor with the lighting (which we had control of with a dimmer), tree benches, and these white royal-looking chairs at the head of the table. The perfect combination of space and separation from society.
Matt kicked off the burger selection process with Yuki’s Spicy Tuna. Law followed from there with PB&J and we were off and running. Here’s the final eight chosen: Soft Shell Crab (Parker), ABC (Phil), Mori Eel (Eric), New York Mile High (me), Salsita (Hall), Cattleman (Cahill), King Kobe (Brad) and Texas (Shawn).
(for complete 26 Beach burger menu including description, CLICK HERE)
We then drew for draft position. Each burger was cut in half, which meant TWO ROUNDS. We did standard fantasy football snake draft for selecting and when all the burgers were delivered in front of us we got started. There were some surprises.
1.) Eric — New York Mile High
2.) Law — Soft Shell Crab
3.) Phil — New York Mile High
4.) Brad — Soft Shell Crab
5.) Hall — Salsita
6.) Brockman — Texas
7.) Parker — Yuki’s Spicy Tuna
8.) Shawn — Cattleman
9.) Matt — Yuki’s Spicy Tuna (traded 1/4 to Brad for 1/4 of Soft Shell Crab)
10.) Cahill — Cattleman
11.) Cahill — King Kobe (traded 1/4 to Eric for 1/4 PB&J + a beer)
12.) Matt — Mori Eel
13.) Shawn — ABC
14.) Parker — PB&J
15.) Brockman — King Kobe
16.) Hall — ABC
17.) Brad — Salsita (traded 1/4 to Brad for 1/4 of Soft Shell Crab)
18.) Phil — Mori Eel
19.) Law — Texas (traded 1/4 to Cahill for 1/4 of PB&J)
20.) Eric — PB&J (traded 1/4 to Cahill for 1/4 of King Kobe + a beer)
What really took the draft to the next level was the amount of trades that went on in the minutes after. Cahill started the wheelin’ and dealin’ and the frenetic pace snowballed from there. For a minute I thought we might need a second set with Daniel Jeremiah and Ian Rapoport breaking them all down. I even tweeted as much.
All in all, I’d say everyone was pleased with their selections. Even the PB&J burger sounded like a hit. Things got out of hand at the end, however, when Law challenged Eric to eat another whole New York Mile High with anchovy salad in 20 minutes for his share of the bill. Remember that scene in “The Great Outdoors” where Chet eats the Ole ’96er? Picture that. It wasn’t pretty though he came pretty damn close to finishing.
The 2014 Graduation Speech I’ll Never Give
LOS ANGELES — Sixteen years ago, I and 198 of my Thornton Academy classmates did what thousands upon thousands of half-wits do every year: graduate high school. It rained all morning in Saco, Maine on that first Sunday in June but had basically cleared up by the time the scheduled 1pm start rolled around, however the decision to hold the ceremony indoors at Lynnell Gymnasium had already been made. Disappointed, and because I was such a big deal, I tried to talk our Headmaster and Assistant out of it with my go-to line of, “you can’t do this to me;” – it didn’t work. Even at 17, I thought I had Tywin Lannister’s heavy hand of influence.
Inside the gym where I became a local schoolboy hoops legend (in my own mind) it was rainforest damp, and while the nearly one thousand friends and family in attendance were packed in like Black Friday Wal-Mart shoppers, the festivities went off without a hitch. All I recall about our valedictorian Matthew McGinnis’ speech is that he wore a “Star Wars” pin or ribbon on his gown, and student speaker Jason Grantham did a bit that included a Webster’s definition of a word that’s now slipped my mind. I recollect a few other small details about that day: my cousin, Bridget, from Colorado, made an unexpected visit that week and joined us; I knew the first and last name of everyone I graduated with as we went down annual the Hug Line, despite not having regular interaction with probably half of them; our gowns were more fuchsia and purple than maroon; and we had dinner at the Olive Garden (hey, it’s Maine).
The one thing I can’t recall is who the other keynote speaker was on that day. Usually it’s a faculty member but the identity of this mystery person escapes me, to much frustration. I’m fascinated by speeches. Their tempo, content, and tone all intrigue me. Rudy Giuliani spoke at my college graduation and I can’t tell you a thing he said but it was heavy on 9/11. Billy Joel orated at my brother’s four years later and went on and on about doing what you love and loving what you do before forgetting what he was saying and busting out a song number. (He was probably inebriated.) Regardless, I figured it was my time to throw my hat in the graduation speech ring.
So, despite not being asked for the 16th consecutive year, I’m going to print below the speech I would’ve given this coming Sunday, June 8 to the 304th graduating class of the great Thornton Academy.
Greetings, friends and fellow Golden Trojans. It’s an honor to be speaking before you. I can remember sitting where you are some time ago and feeling both nerves at the upcoming next chapter of my life and relief that this part of my book is over.
Before I get started, if any of you out there have your phones on you and feel like live-tweeting my speech, have at it, just use the hashtag #BrockmanTAGradSpeech. I doubt I’ll do anything too crazy that’ll end up going viral, but you never know. Plus, I wanna be able to go back and see who exactly talked shit about my speech. Totally kidding. Sort of.
OK, graduates, congratulations on making it this far. I know it wasn’t easy. I don’t mean that facetiously either. Actually go ahead and give yourselves a hand … [starts clapping … raucous applause ensues] … Good, yeah, that was great. Now don’t get me wrong, being young is awesome, good job by you guys, but I would never want to be a kid these days. Never. Y’all got too much going on. I could never keep up. I can’t even read everything in my Twitter timeline. And while your unknown futures are exciting, your upcoming adventures filled with mystery and intrigue, I’m happy to let you live them and critique your mistakes on my blog from the cheap seats. The very cheap seats.
Now, while I could write a book about the things 33-year old me would tell a 17- and 18-year old me … actually, that’s a good idea, hold on a second … [pulls out iPhone … “Hey, Siri, yeah, no, I’m good, thanks for asking. Look, got a good idea for a book here … Things I would tell 17-year old me … oh, that’s sweet of you to say, glad you like it too … Remind me start working on this when I get back to LA tomorrow. Thanks. Love you, Siri.” … puts iPhone back in pocket] …
Sorry about that. So yeah, I would never want to be a kid these days. The pressure on you to be successful is immense, not to mention the rising cost of college tuition in an uncertain future job market, growing national debt and global warming, that type of crap. But with technological advances becoming what they are, you’ve also been robbed of so many of life’s simple pleasures. For example: sending and opening an actual hand-written letter from someone … when was the last time any of you did this with a classmate or even had a pen pal? When I was a kind I had pen pals. Now you just blindly text shorthand to one another or someone you meet online … How ’bout this: because of the easy access to internet porn, you’ll never know what’s it like to watch the scrambled XXX channel hoping to see an unfiltered nipple and the joy that ensues from that moment. It really was glorious; now you just SnapChat dick and boob pics to each other, probably in class!; … and finally, you’ll never know what it’s like to be so lost on a road trip that you have no choice but to ask the hillbilly-looking dude behind the counter at the barely functional gas station in the middle of the woods for directions back to the highway, and feel the stress of not knowing whether or not you might be reenacting a scene from Texas Chainsaw Massacre; now there’s Google Maps on your phone for that.
It’s cool, though, you’ll have new, more badass experiences and someday you’ll be in my shoes reminiscing about these simpler times. And so here I am, where past speakers, I know, have stood on similar gorgeous spring days here in Sunny Saco … by the way, how awesome is this stadium? Quick straw poll: Raise your hand if some of your favorite memories as a Thornton Academy student have taken place right here on the turf of Hill Stadium? [raises own hand] … my hand is raised … yeah, I’m right there with you guys … so awesome … So past speakers have come up here and given generic speeches that have included famous quotes and cliches, some got slightly original and rattled off Top 10 lists. I know others have sung with a guitar and played songs over the loud speaker, and even dressed up.
I’m not going to do any of those things. No, I’m not. What I am going to do is name drop. Because if I’ve learned anything living in Los Angeles the last five years it’s that this generation, your generation, loves celebrity news and taking what these chemically-enhanced narcissists say as gospel.
Before I do that, however, I’m going to post a selfie on Instagram. Who wants to be in my selfie? … [runs into front row and gathers as many kids as humanly possible for a graduation selfie … walks back to podium and posts picture] … OK, I’m sure you all have your phones on you right now, so retweet and like that bitch. @ChrisBrockman. Get on it.
Now, my job as a sports television and podcast producer has given me the opportunity to rub elbows with some of Hollywood’s more accomplished members. I’ve listened to stories and even asked a question or two, so I’ve heard tales I would have otherwise not been privy to. I’ve walked Red Carpets, and been to movie and TV premieres, and even had a cameo on a cable sitcom. I even got high with Snoop Dogg once … well, I didn’t actually smoke with him, but when we shook hands the contact high was so strong I felt like I was floating, so I imagine that’s what smoking with Snoop Dogg would be like … Such, I think I’ve gained a little perspective and peeked a tad behind the curtain of this celebrity world and have a sense of what it takes to be successful in their business. The lessons behind these stories are applicable for all professions, whether you want to be a teacher or doctor, lawyer or retail store manager. So from those conversations I want to share some of what I’ve learned.
From acclaimed film director Ron Shelton, who wrote and directed “White Men Can’t Jump” and “Bull Durham” and “Tin Cup,” among other hits … he said you have to change the energy in the room. Shelton was telling a story about how Susan Sarandon came to him and other studio executives to audition for a key role in “Bull Durham,” and when she walked into the room the energy shifted. She controlled everything about that meeting from the get-go and it was all because she came in confident, looked smashing yet professional, and in turn she got the part which helped rejuvenate her career.
I sat four feet away from Academy Award winner Kevin Costner as he told a story about one afternoon when he was on his way leaving the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank. A young woman was screaming his name as he walked to his car. He was well ahead of her and tried to play it off like he didn’t hear her shouting, “Mr. Costner! Mr. Costner!” He kept walking towards as if she was a bird singing in the trees, but she didn’t relent. “Mr. Costner! Mr. Costner!’ Until finally, he stopped and turned around and asked her how he could help her. See, “Dances With Wolves” had just been released and was being recognized as this great cinematic achievement and if you haven’t seen it, there’s this scene where Kevin and his wife in the film are reunited and they share this epic kiss. A real movie kiss. You know what those are, right? Where you just… uh! … go for it, and you leave it all out there and roll around in the dirt and don’t care because she’s your woman and you’re her man and your love is one that cannot be contained by rational measures… so this young woman tells Costner that her husband is a soldier overseas and he’s been missing and she doesn’t know if she’ll ever see him again, and all she thinks about is that scene because she dreams of the day when he’ll return and she can have that movie scene kiss and reunion with him… and Costner is floored. And he gets her information and has the actual film from that scene clipped off and framed and sent to her as a gift as a reminder to never give up hope. And from that I learned that sometimes you need to stop and listen to people you aren’t familiar, and maybe you don’t want to listen to, because you never know if what they might say could change your life. And clearly Coster’s life was changed at that moment because nearly 25 years later he remembers every last detail of that story.
Jerry Ferrara … you may know him as Turtle from “Entourage” … he’s become a regular on our show and from our conversations with him you can feel his ambition and drive as a kid from a small neighborhood in Brooklyn. A kid with big dreams who struggled for a long while, like most do who move to Los Angeles to become actors, before getting the break of a lifetime on one of the trend-setting shows of the last decade. Now he’s starring in Kevin Hart movies and owns a chain of sandwich shops in Southern California. And every time we talk I think about his journey and how he’s always thinking about his goals for tomorrow, remembering and honoring the past, all the while being completely present in the moment which he’s living. Keep your future in mind, respect your past, but always be present in the now because what you do now affects tomorrow and becomes your past.
Here’s a bigger name for you … Billy Bob Thornton … how many out there are watching “Fargo?” Intense ass show, right? So Billy Bob came in a few years ago and was wearing the most ridiculous pair of snakeskin cowboy boots I’ve ever seen. Right off a movie set probably. So when he sat down and I was checking the cameras, I told him, “good thing I didn’t wear my boots today, that would’ve been pretty embarrassing for you,” like a wiseass. Seriously, who did I think I was talking to Billy Bob Thornton like that? But lucky for me he laughed or else that would’ve been a mighty uncomfortable interview … so anyway, he’s telling us about this small independent film he was working on and what he was in to promote, a film he wrote and directed, and after the interview was over, off camera, he told us that to get films like that made he had to say “yes” to bigger, commercial films he wouldn’t normally have any interest in like “Armageddon.” One for them, one for him. Saying “yes” to things you normally wouldn’t do or have interest in doing is important, it takes out of your comfort zone and expands your senses and skills in all arenas. Don’t take it to extremes like Jim Carrey in that terrible movie “Yes Man,” you remember that? But allow yourself to step outside your skin from time to time and try something new. It was very LA of me, but I dated an actress once who was into vegan food and all that healthy LA bullshit and every time we’d go someplace new I’d look at the menu and not understand what was on it, and I’d say to her, “what am I supposed to order here?” That was really outside my northeast eating habits but it made me think about what I ate and how I consumed specific foods and in the last 5 years since I’ve moved there from Maine, I’ve lost 30 pounds and more importantly, kept it off. So say YES and expand your horizons.
Finally, hop hop legend Nas came in and told of his life growing up in the rap game in New York, and how he had to overcome the bevy of obstacles in his way to become one of the most successful artists of his generation. He also had a funny story about playing street football with his friends. He had wanted to play pro football but one of this boys, this kid named Mo Rooney, hit him so hard up against a parked car, and knocked him out. He then realized he would never have the size or strength to make it as an NFLer, so he turned his efforts 100-percent to music and the rest, as they say, is history. The lesson I took away from his tales was simple: no matter the circumstances, always believe in yourself and you will survive … no matter how bleak things look, tomorrow the sun will come up and you get a fresh start to make it how you wish.
And if any of this advice didn’t resonate, you could always do what Sports Illustrated model Chrissy Teigen told me, and that’s get yourself cast in a music video and seduce the artist until he becomes your husband.
The future is yours, new graduates, and whether you choose to extend your education immediately or become a sucker like the rest of us and join the work force, go forth and strive for greatness. But remember, your happiness in this world isn’t guaranteed, just your pursuit of it is. And I have no doubt you’ll post all the details for the world to see on some social media app that hasn’t even been invented yet.
Lastly, lemme pull out my phone real quick and see what you guys had to say about the speech … [scrolls Twitter] … OK, nothing too bad. You’ll be all right in this world after all.
[raucous applause … followed by standing ovation and me posing for pictures and signing autographs as I walk off stage …]
A Sterling Idea
By FREDDY WEINBERG
Special To The Chris Brockman Website
LOS ANGELES — We can all agree that the now banned-for-life Clippers owner Donald Sterling has been found guilty in the court of public opinion. How the conversation that did him in came into the public discourse is irrelevant at this point. Whether his girlfriend’s recording was legal is also moot. But how we move forward will say a lot about who we are as Americans and what kind of country we want to live in moving forward.
To me, the idea of stripping a man of his property because he’s a racist prick is scary. Sure the National Basketball Association has every right to enforce its bylaws and policies. But here’s the thing, we have all said and done things that would make us look like assholes. And if we start stripping property from crotchety white guy who have treated people poorly and said offensive things, then mobs are going to form in every major city in the nation.
Not so long ago there was a group of people who decided to take people’s businesses away because of ancient beliefs. We called them Nazis.
The media and fans are equally guilty of something else as well. The aforementioned controversial conversation and the ensuing media circus this week has brought more people and more interest to the Clippers/Warriors playoff series. The result is increased viewership and ultimately allowed a host of media companies to profit from this whole mess.
Lost in it all is the Clippers franchise which has lived in the shadow of its Lakers big brother its entire existence. Stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have finally put their Showtime counterparts in the back seat while they drive down Sunset Boulevard like the true NBA players that they are. Only to be sabotaged by their own boss.
New commissioner Adam Silver wasted no time dropping the hammer on Sterling. I applaud his stance but not his punishment. The NBA and its owners (allegedly its players as well) are in the process of voting the 80-year old, long-time Los Angeles off the island, leaving him with few if any options. But we’re traveling down a dangerous road. And it’s a road that he’s been down before.
Sterling is a slumlord and a lawyer. Make no bones about it, he is not going away quietly. A protracted legal battle stands only to place players lives and the Clippers team in disarray. The only winners in that battle are an army of attorneys.
Despite the ugliness and prehistoric thinking responsible for this whole ordeal, I find myself agreeing with billionaire Dallas Mavericks owner Marc Cuban; I’m not sure I want to live an America where a private conversation can ultimately allow others to strip a man of his property.
So how do we support the team and punish Sterling without resorting to fascist practices?
It’s simple, we start a grass roots campaign online and allow each and every American to vote with their actions and their wallet.
Every sponsor pulls their contracts.
Every season ticket holder cancels their tickets.
The Clippers themselves vow not to play until ownership changes.
Every other NBA player signs a pact not to play in Staples Center until ownership changes.
And every NBA fan in the nation can voice their outrage by promising not to watch a minute of any Clippers game unless ownership changes.
But do it all the day after the NBA season ends this June.
I’m talking about a viral push bigger than the “light saber kid,” stronger than “sneezing panda,” more powerful than “two girls, one cup.”
Set up a web page, shoot a couple of videos (comedy not porn to eviscerate this racist pussy) and get people to sign on the dotted line.
I _______________ hereby renounce the Los Angeles Clippers. I promise to end immediately any viewership, paraphernalia and/or business association with the Clippers Basketball Organization.
As for the army of bloggers, blow-dried TV sportscasters, radio hosts and legal stiffs destined to fall all over themselves as a result of being left in the dust by a movement taken out of their hands. Fuck’em. They’ll get over it.
Whether it’s the federal government or the NBA, too much power coupled with a mob mentality too often results in actions I just can’t endorse. But I do endorse the marketplace of ideas and good ‘ole fashion capitalism.
I think that is sterling idea. Don’t you?
If season ticket sales disappear along with sponsors and viewers while this dinosaur drags the process through the court system, the most likely scenario is a loss of a couple hundred million dollars in the Clippers franchise value.
See how eager Donald Sterling is to hold on to the team when that happens.
8 Things To Look For: 2014 Masters
LOS ANGELES — The legendary comedic actor Tim Meadows once said, as Tiger Woods on a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit, “golf is great and I love golf and whatnot.” And he’s right, though I’m not sure what the “whatnot” is anymore since Tiger, well, ya know, gave up all the whatnot. Regardless, golf is nearly the perfect game in the sense that all its glory and goathood rests squarely on your shoulders. You’re not competing against anyone else except yourself and the golf course, which makes for a 5-hour battle of will and determination. The ultimate mental game, if you’ve ever swung a club you know exactly what I mean, golf pushes your limits in ways other sports can’t. I taught myself how to play 15 years ago, molded my swing after watching countless pros on TV throughout the years and reading magazines and infomercials, and am still a gigantic hack. Just when I think I have the game figured out, my ball striking goes into a funk or I can’t putt to save my life. This ever happen to you: if one aspect of you game is on point, another is completely off kilter? All the time right? It’s a good thing I’m not a professional. I’d have won and lost my Tour card a dozen times by now and more than once gone completely Tin Cup by breaking all my clubs out of frustration during a round.
As it were, I didn’t completely embarrass myself this past week at Lakeside Golf Course in Toluca Lake, Calif. in a Red Cross Celebrity Golf Tournament. What was I doing there? Good question. Let’s just say it’s good to know people. But it was hands down the nicest course I’ve ever played on, with pristine fairways and the smallest, neatly manicured greens I’ve ever seen in person. And fast. Dang were those greens fast. It was a modified scramble, so my final score 87 was much more generous than I would’ve shot had I been required to use my own tee shot each hole, but still, considering I’ve hit the links twice in the last 9 months, I’ll take it. Point is, the round was the perfect way to begin Masters week. And because I’m always looking out for you guys, here’s my 8 Things To Look For: 2014 Masters:
1.) Where Is Tiger Woods? — So Eldrick announced last week he was going to miss the Masters to have surgery to alleviate the pain in his aching back, thus missing his favorite even for the first time since 1994, ya know, when he wasn’t yet on Tour. We all know the next year he set the scoring record and took the golf world by storm. So let’s just assume that’s going to happen next year.
2.) Wait, Really? Tiger’s Not Playing? — Really! And I’m pretty bummed out about it (as I tweeted out shortly after his announcement), as Tiger is hands down my favorite golfer and a main reason people watch on Sundays, especially at Augusta where even though he’s been up-and-down the last few years, he’s always found in himself in contention heading into the Back 9. I really think his absence will affect ratings but I guess we’ll see if the Masters truly are Tiger-proof. It won’t be the same without him this year, that’s for sure. Think of all the great Augusta moments in the last 19 years that he’s been a part of! It’s amazing.
3.) Can Adam Scott Win This Thing Again? — Here’s the most crazy stat in the last five years of golf: 19 of the last 21 majors have been won by someone different. On top of that, there hasn’t been a consecutive Masters champion since Tiger in 2001-’02, so you’d think something has to give, right? Clearly Scott, an Aussie, has the game to repeat and he’s off to a good start this season with four Top 12 finishes in five events. Knowing he can win at Augusta is a big mental hurdle to overcome and with that in his back pocket he’s already a leg up on those who have faltered in years past.
4.) Who Is The Next Young American Champ? — Speaking of, and with Tiger out, I’m ready for a new, young American to come on the scene and really take charge and ignite some excitement among U.S. golf fans. It’s been a while. We need a stateside Rory McIlroy. So let me just throw out five names to keep an eye on in the next couple days:
Keegan Bradley: The Vermont native is 27, a Red Sox fan and will be wearing sick Jordan XI golf shoes throughout the tournament. (Hey, I’m easy to please.)
Harris English: The 24-year old is from Georgia, has five Top 10 finishes dating back to last October, and wait for it, we have the SAME BIRTHDAY. That makes him rootable in my book.
Ricky Fowler: Of course, any list of upcoming Americans has to include Fowler, who’s only 25 believe it or not. And while he’s struggled on the course of late, you know he’s going to have one of the craziest outfits out there, and that counts for something.
Webb Simpson: Remember, Simpson won the U.S. Open back in 2012, so you know he’s got major game. Plus, he’s only 28 and also has five Top 10s since October. Another major win here would really elevate his status as a serious contender to take Tiger’s place among American superstars.
Patrick Reed: Then we have Reed, who shocked everyone a couple weeks ago by donning the red shirt on Sunday a la Tiger and then went out and beat him. Only 23, he’s proven to have the moxie to hang with the big boys but Augusta chews up and spits out hopefuls for breakfast.
5.) Will Fred Couples Be Near Leaderboard This Weekend? — Freddy is like your cool uncle who lets you stay up late and watch the movie with some tities in it ,and maybe let you sip on his beer while you’re at it, which is why he’s one of the biggest fan favorites at this event each year. He also somehow seems to find himself in contention heading into the weekend. Couples, who won back in 1992, made a serious run last year before sliding off late and finishing 13th. As always with Couples, it’ll be how long is back can hold up in that Georgia heat.
6.) Will A Past Champion Make A Run? — There are 19 former champions in the field this year and those with the best realistic shot to contend include Angel Cabrera (2009), Adam Scott (2013), Phil Mickelson (2004, ’06, ’10), Charl Schwartzel (2011) and Bubba Watson (2012).
7.) How Many Times Will Jim Nantz Say “Hello, Friends”? — Get ready to hear it A LOT in the next four days. I’m talking like at least 438 times. And while we’re here, get ready for talk about the azaleas, Butler Cabin, Amen Corner, Hogan’s Bridge, Eisenhower Tree (which is gone from the 17th hole), Condi Rice being a member now and how it’s a tradition unlike any other. In fact, you might want to play a Jim Nantz Drinking Game or two while you’re crushing cheese sandwiches and watching the Masters package on DirecTV. Better yet, don’t. There’s no reason to end up in the hospital on Friday. It’s a long weekend of golf.
8.) Tiger’s Really Not Playing? — Unless he’s been secretly in the WWE the last month with Vince McMahon plotting what would be the coolest ruse ever, then yes, Tiger’s really not playing. Trust me, you’ll live without him.
8 Things To Look For: 2014 Boston Red Sox
LOS ANGELES — The Boston Red Sox won the World Series in 2013 behind beards and a band of unique brothers united by a love of the city. It was a championship season as unexpected as any considering the natural disaster that was the 2012 season, and the equally catastrophic September of 2011, in which the team went from first place to missing the playoffs faster than you can spell Yastrzemski. The collapse was terrible and predictable with the moves made in the 2010 and ’11 offseasons (Terry Francona out, Bobby Valentine in, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez for a combined $489 bajillion) but in a way necessary to make Sox fans appreciate those good ole’ days of ’04 and ’07.
Those title teams were fun to watch and root for, and always gave you everything they had. They were full of colorful characters and personalities, and found new and exciting ways to win games. The 2012 team sucked, wasn’t fun and probably hated each other as much as I hated them. Shortly after Boston dealt Crawford, Gonzalez and Josh Beckett to the Dodgers around the trade deadline in 2012, I ran into LA GM Ned Coletti at a bar in Culver City and thanked him for taking those guys off Boston’s hands. He laughed me off but the move turned things around (much like the Nomar trade in ’04) and laid the groundwork for a title run.
In a way, I enjoyed 2013 more than the other World Series years because of what was expected (nothing) and the ultimate end result (champagne baths and Duck Boats). And because of Mike Napoli. He’s taken Manny Ramirez’s place as the lovable goofball who hits mammoth home runs and keeps everyone loose. He’ll never be as enigmatic as Man-Ram or cut off throws from the centerfielder or high-five fans while making a catch at the wall or rub Julian Tavarez’s head in the dugout (or hit .330) but he does have a penchant for getting a clutch hit (and parting around Boston without a shirt). And I love him. Look, the ’04 team was supposed to contend given how close it came in ’03, and ’07 was still riding that success thanks to a bevy of home-grown talent (Pedrioa, Youkilis, Lester, Papelbon, etc.). That title was expected.
What’s going to happen this season? Who knows, but what’s for certain is that this Red Sox team should be there come the stretch run again. Unlike the NFL, where teams go from worst to first all the time and the playoff turnover year-to-year is great, only a handful of teams have a realistic shot at hoisting the trophy come October in Major League Baseball, and this Red Sox team is one of them.
With that said, here’s 8 Things To Look For: 2014 Boston Red Sox:
1.) What will we get from David Ortiz?— Big Papi is one of the most beloved Red Sox of all time. He’s going to be a Hall of Famer five years after he retires. He can do anything.He’s Superman. For baseball purposes, he went from 2-for-22 in the ALCS last year to a whopping 11-for-16 in the World Series. That swing was a microcosm of what No. 34 has been doing in recent years in the Hub. Slow starts have led to big finishes, but let’s be honest, Ortiz is 38 and while he’s signed on for two more seasons, what he has left is very much in doubt. Sure, he hit 30 homers last year (his 7th season with at least 30), but as we’ve seen historically from other sluggers, when it goes it goes in a hurry. I won’t overreact to a slow start this year but I’m not expecting the end to be pleasant, whenever it occurs.
2.) Who will be this year’s Jonny Gomes? — I’m not talking about the numbers, because I’m a realist in that Gomes isn’t The Babe, and he hit just .247 in 366 at bats last year. But the spark he gave this team when he was an every day player can’t be measured. He started the beard revolution, provided me with my favorite moment of the year – punting his helmet rounding third after a walk-off homer in June against Tampa Bay – and was an infectious spirit on the diamond. The Red Sox are gonna need it again because it’s a long season and repeating is hard.
3.) Is Felix Dubront ready for primetime? — I covered the big lefty when he was with the Portland Sea Dogs coming up and I’ve enjoyed watching his progress in the big leagues. Dubront is a power pitcher and has 306 strikeouts in 323.1 innings in his two full big league seasons but got shelled this Spring Training (7.77 ERA in 19 innings). He’s going to be an important element of this Boston pitching staff and if it’s going to make another deep postseason run he’ll need to win 15-or-more games. He’s only 26 but it’s time to show some consistency.
4.) Grady Sizemore, starting center fielder? — This is actually not a question, it’s happening, and I’m just as shocked as you are. Sizemore hasn’t played in two seasons, and hasn’t played a full season since 2008, but somehow beat out Jackie Bradley, Jr. for the center field spot. The same JBJ who most, including me, thought was in line for the starting job after Jacoby Ellsbury signed with the Yankees this offseason and was sent down to Pawtucket last week. I don’t know if Sizemore is gonna make it, but I hope so. He averaged 26 HR, 81 RBI and 28 stolen bases in his best four full seasons with Cleveland, and if he can be around those numbers again it’ll be a genius move and soften the blow of losing Ellsbury but giving the Sox some speed and pop at the top of the lineup. Fingers crossed.
5.) A.J. Pierzynski? Yes, really. — And you thought spelling Saltalamacchia was tough? I’m pretty shocked the man once voted the most hated in Major League Baseball is wearing Red Sox colors this season, but by all accounts, he’s a great teammate, and one of those guys you’re glad is on your team because of what makes him so hated. I just want him to do what everyone wants out of their catcher: handle the pitchers, be reliable, and provide a little pop at the plate now and then. Salty’s 40 doubles last year will be hard to top, let’s hope A.J.’s intangibles make up for it.
6.) Will the bullpen repeat its 2013 performance? — Let’s be honest, what the bullpen did last year, especially Koji Uehara, was unbelievable. He was downright unhittable in the stretch run and postseason, giving up just one run in 13.2 innings with seven saves. But he’s 38, so I wouldn’t expect a repeat performance. Uehara came out of nowhere and I’m guessing it’ll be someone else giving manager John Farrell a surprise performance to save the day this summer, whether it’s Andrew Miller or Burke Badenhop or Edward Mujica or someone from a deadline deal. Stay tuned.
7.) How will this team handle being expected to win? — It was different last season, there weren’t any expectations – last year every Red Sox fan would’ve been satisfied with a .500 season given the way 2012 was an unmitigated nightmare – but now this band of mistfits are champions. They are expected to win 90 games this year and compete for another World Series. A year ago, there was no pressure and what happened? They won. A lot. Now that there is pressure what’s going to happen if this team struggles in April and May? If Xander Bogaerts isn’t living up to the tremendous hype we all have for him early on? If Will Middlebrooks get sent down again because he’s lost his power? If Jon Lester has control issues or Clay Buchholz injures his back again? If Koji blows a couple saves? If Ortiz is hitting .091? What if? I’m hoping no one panics, remembering how patience paid off a year ago, but this is Boston and what happened last year is in the past. We’ll see.
8.) What grimey thing will these guys do next? — Last year it was the beards and David Oritz and Boston Strong that carried this team and provided its spirit and driving force. In 2004, there was “Cowboy Up” and the Jack Daniels and the naked pullups, in ’07 it was The Idiots, so we’ll see what comes from this team. You don’t know when it’s gonna happen or who’s going to be the leader, but I’m expecting something and I can’t wait.
Big East Memories And March’s Opening Weekend Madness
LOS ANGELES — At age 20, I went to Madison Square Garden in New York City for the first time. It was March of 2001, and being in charge of the college basketball show at Syracuse University’s student television station had its perks. Such, I made the executive decision to cover the Big East Men’s Basketball Tournament, for which our Orangemen were a 3-seed. To say I was out of my element was an understatement, as this was the first event of this magnitude I had covered.
Rich Kiss, UUTV’s sports director, came with me, and he and I had three of the most fun days I can remember as a college student. That our Orangemen (we were still the Orangemen back then) won two games, and narrowly missed reaching the league championship by a single point in the third, was only icing on the cake of the experience. We took the train over from New Jersey into the World Trade Center, walked over to 34th and 8th with our camera equipment, picked up our credentials and felt like we belonged. I remember we grabbed every media guide and quote packet we could get our hands on in the press area, ate from the $5 donation buffet (Boston Globe hoops historian Bob Ryan took the last piece of cheesecake) and when some real reporter asked us if we were using the phone on our table we bewilderingly said no, as if who were we to even have phones. But we were somebodies covering the event; the names on our passes told us so.
We walked among the stars of this Broadway show even if we were barely understudies. I got a little journo-hero struck when we saw Bill Rhoden of the New York Times, and Dick Weiss of the Daily News, two basketball writing legends, but for the duration of this tournament we were all colleagues and it felt as such. In the locker room interviewing players, in the press room talking to coaches, high above the MSG floor in the media section as I called all of my friends from the working telephones; we we there. After one of the games, we even did our standups on the court. Like pros. At The Garden. Basketball Mecca.
The next year, our Orangemen weren’t very good but Rich and I returned; we lost the first game to Villanova and the three things I remember most are: a) that we basically called it on the train ride over, since like I said, we weren’t very good; b) saying if we somehow lost tonight we were going to head to Atlantic City the next day (we did); and c) The Scene. The Scene was unlike anything I’ve been around, not like the high school, college or pro games I attended growing up. There was a buzz as soon as you walked through The Garden doors or made your way up the steps from the subway. It made the hair on your arms stand up. The clapping and chanting. The team regalia. School cheerleaders lining the entrance. Vendors screaming out deals for programs, t-shirts and refreshments. Everyone talking hoops at every turn. Even the back pages of the Daily News and New York Post were smathered with Big East Tournament headlines.
And the basketball. Oh the basketball. Other conferences have high-flyers, run-and-gun offenses and the visual eye candy to attract those with less-than keen eyes for superior hardwood mastery. And that’s what the Big East was, the best hoops the nation had to offer, and it was on display night-in and night-out across the northeast. From Providence to South Orange, out to Syracuse, back to Storrs and everywhere in between; college basketball at its absolute pinnacle. Marquee coaches, superstar players and the most rabid fans. Those qualities and more were on full display in the latest 30-for-30: Requiem For The Big East, which documented the league’s creation in 1979 and ultimate demise in 2013.
It was a fantastic two hours of television that featured commentary about the Big East’s rise and fall from legendary coaches Jim Boeheim, John Thompson and Lou Carnesecca, writers who covered the league Michael Wilbon and Charlie Pierce, former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese, and players Ed Pinckney (Villanova), Chris Mullin (St. John’s), and Patrick Ewing (Georgetown), among others.
The documentary touched on the seminal moments of the conference, from Georgetown ending Syracuse’s 57-game home winning streak to close out Manley Field House, to the recruitment of Ewing, who hailed from Jamaica through Boston, New York City’s Mullin and Pearl Washington, the league’s toughness, Big Monday, and everything Dave Gavitt went through to get the league off the ground and to the heights it reached by teaming up with ESPN for broadcast rights. It was a fantastic trip down memory lane.
One of the elements I found the most interesting was one of Gavitt’s initial reasons for wanting to create the Big East was to keep the best players from the northeast – including New York City – in the area. Gavitt watched Big Apple schoolboy legend Lew Alcindor leave the east coast for UCLA in the 1960s and knew something had to be done. And it worked, as the league’s top eastern players stayed at home and played in the new power conference. Always fighting for national respect, the Big East received validation when Georgetown reached the 1982 NCAA Championship, and then just three years later placed three teams in the Final Four.
Other thoughts: I loved hearing Pinckney and Mullin talk about playing pickup hoops at parks across New York City, starting in Harlem and working their way down. That’s the thing about city ball, if you can play, the color of your skin doesn’t matter, and Mullin was one of the best around. … I never knew Boeheim got his Bob Knight on with a heated chair throw in the press conference after the 1984 Big East title game. … Thompson told Ewing to block every shot in the 1985 title game, which resulted in five goaltending calls off the bat. Also, Ewing still hasn’t gotten over losing the game to Villanova, saying, “in my heart the best team did not win that night.” … Pierce saying capitalism ruined the Big East, while Wilbon blames “dumb and greedy presidents.” … The doc was voiced by “Breaking Bad” villain Giancarlo Esposito, aka Gus Fring.
I first wrote my world famous “Tips For Enjoying March Madness” column for the Journal Tribune way back in 2006 – the 2009 version won me a Maine Press Association award. A lot has happened since then and most of it hasn’t been great for my bracket in 2014. Speaking of, how’s yours looking? Did you call North Dakota St. or Stephen F. Austin? What about Dayton? Mercer is in Macon, Georgia if you still haven’t figured that out yet. These first 48 games were some of the best basketball of the year, with perhaps the most exciting game of the first two rounds being #8 Kentucky/#1 Wichita St., which made the worst #11 Dayton’s upset win over #3 Syracuse.
Seriously, the last month of basketball being played in the 315 has been downright atrocious. (rant alert) Forget that we lost to a six-win Boston College team AT HOME, but also to Georgia Tech and N.C. State to end the season, losses happen, I’ve played sports my entire life, even when you’re better than your opponent you’re not always going to win. It just happens. Fine. But your effort in those losses is something you CAN control. Your shot selection. Your aggressiveness. Your rebounding. All within the realm of things you can have a direct outcome of. And where has it been the last month? Very good question. Bottom line, Syracuse didn’t deserve a 3-seed in this year’s tournament and it didn’t deserve to reach the Sweet 16. Obviously, I’m not over the loss yet and probably won’t be until Opening Day at Fenway next month. When you start the season 25-0 you expect a more satisfying ending than losing to Dayton two hours from your campus. What a frustrating end to what should have been a joyous season. And that’s the other thing, I didn’t have that much fun watching this team play. Every possession was a struggle. Every shot was spent praying it went in. Nothing was automatic. When we got a big lead, we quickly surrendered it. We played down to the level of our competition. We scored 47 points! To Dayton! For the game! Oregon nearly had that at the half against BYU. Did the season turn when Boeheim got tossed late in the game against Duke? Is someone really going to make that moment when it all went to crap? Did I just do it? I just hope Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant come back next year. Neither are ready for the pros and I think this tournament confirmed that.
[exhale] On to next year.
Here’s what else caught my eye after the most amazing four days of college basketball I can remember (it was a 48-game blur, so forgive specifics):
– These kids are terrible shooters; most but not all of them. Doug McDermott had a great first game against Lousianna-Lafayette going 12-for-23 and 30 points, but then not so much against Baylor (15 points). Meanwhile, Wichita St.’s Cleanthony Early couldn’t miss Sunday against Kentucky, going 12-for-17 and 31 points. It’s too bad both couldn’t make it out of the first weekend.
– Hard to tell which team is playing the best right now. After the first round I would’ve said Wichita St. and Syracuse, and then both lost in Round 2. Now, I might say Kentucky, Baylor, Arizona, Florida, Virginia and UConn are leading the field, so who knows what their fates hold in the Sweet 16.
– Player I want taking the game-winning shot on the final possession: UConn’s Shabazz Napier; dude is fearless.
– Got to explain what a backdoor lob was this weekend, which was pretty hilarious in between the 13-year old giggles. I even used two glasses of water and a dipping container of ketchup to visually illustrate. Coach Norman Dale would’ve been proud.
– Baylor’s hunting uniforms need to join the NBA’s sleeve jerseys and take a long walk off a short pier. Not a good look for anyone.
– I participate in an NCAA Tournament individual scoring fantasy league each year and I felt really good about my squad after the draft, especially after I missed out on the championship last year by a measly 7 points (thanks a lot, Georgetown). However, after the opening weekend I’m down to only four players remaining and I have about a good a shot at a title as Dayton, which is a long one. Seriously, I can’t believe Oklahoma AND Creighton both went down. Those two losses cost me at least another 75 points. Just so long as I don’t come in last.
– Speaking of, did any of these potential top NBA Draft picks (Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Marcus Smart, etc.) have good games or do anything noteworthy? And who is this year’s Harold Arceneaux? He’s yet to reveal himself.
– Anyone else really sick of that Buffalo Wild Wings old man in the hat? We get it, the game is on, we’re probably already in our seats. Stop yelling at us.
– My original Final Four was Florida, Virginia, Creighton and Louisville. Revamped Final Four: Florida, Virginia, Baylor and Louisville. Sticking with my Louisville championship pick as well, although that may change at halftime of Friday’s Kentucky game; stay tuned and happy madness!
86th Academy Awards Running Diary
LOS ANGELES — For the first time in the last 3 years, I am not at the Academy Awards (#StraightUpBrag), so I figured I’d roll over to Berger’s place and bust out a running diary for this year’s show. Ellen DeGeneres is the host, a much safer choice compared to last year when apparently Seth MacFarlane offended everyone, but we’ll see who ends up stealing the show. I’m not expecting many surprises in terms of who the actual winners are, but you never know. OK, let’s get to it!
5:29pm PST – Since I wasn’t at the Red Carpet this year for The Eisen Podcast, figured I’d do a running diary since I can actually watch the show. Berger cares about this stuff as much as I do so hopefully we’ll have some good commentary throughout. We’re a minute away. I’m guessing it’s gonna be another long ass show. Berger thinks 3 hours and 24 minutes. I’m definitely taking the over.
5:30 – Ellen walks out and immediately goes in with a “raining in LA joke… Thank you for your prayers.” Predictable, and everyone laughed. UGH, that’s the problem with Ellen, she’s so safe and everyone loves her. But seriously, it was touch-and-go with the rain here, people. She’s not wrong about that.
5:32 – The June Squibb being old and can’t understand anything bit was funny. And is Ellen wearing velvet? Berger immediately breaks out into Seinfeld velvet lines. This is why we’re friends.
5:33 – Ellen should just quit now after that Liza Minelli male impersonator joke. That was hilarious.
5:35 – “Did Julia Roberts always have that many teeth?” Valid question by Berger. … Julia is loving this Ellen monologue. Jesus stop laughing, this is not that funny. “She’s hammered!” That’s the only explanation I’m accepting.
5:37 – Jennifer Lawrence is mostly perfect, right down to stumbling while getting out of her car. But I wouldn’t have cut my hair if I was her.
5:39 – How does Jonah Hill have a better seat than Marty Scorsese? And everyone brings their mom to this show, huh? Not gonna lie, I would bring BrockmanMary, too.
5:40 – OK, time for some awards. Anne Hathaway is out to present Best Supporting Actor. We can all agree she’s the worst, right? And it’s gotta be Jared Leto, yes? It’s the rule. Dress up like a woman/man, get the statue. They don’t break rules in Hollywood.
5:42 – Leto wins it. And Tyler Perry with the great seats next to Jennifer Garner. “The only reason I’m watching this show is for this speech.” Leto tells Ellen he loves her first. Upset of the night.
5:44 – Neck tattoo guy turns out to be Leto’s brother. “To all the dreamers out there!” Hooray for dreamers! Nice of him to mention those who’ve lost battle to AIDS. Very well done speech. Hard to top that one tonight.
5:47 – Jim Carrey out for the next awards and wow, that’s a blue suit. Lotta blue suits tonight. Lot going on with Jim’s hair, too… and he’s breaking out the weird faces. Sweet. He’s never changed… LSD joke and director cuts to U2. Was that on purpose?
5:51 – Kerry Washington comes out and damn, she’s huge! That little Nnamdi inside her is ready for the Draft. She’s here to introduce Pharrell singing some song titled “Happy.” Wait, so Jim Carrey didn’t even give out an award? What was that for then? I’m so confused. This is an awards show still, right?
5:53 – “Is there any big event that Pharrell hasn’t performed at in the last two years? When did he bcome Quincy Jones?” It’s a good point. Where’s he showing up to next? 5:1 he’s at the NFL Draft.
5:55 – Berger has these peanut butter filled pretzel bites which are basically heaven in your mouth. I just crushed 6 like it was nothing. I might eat the whole container in the next 3 hours.
5:57 – Sam Jackson walks out sans Kangol hat (also a huge upset) with Naomi Watts. “Shes in my top 5 tonight, look at her. She looks Incredible.” And Berger’s DirecTV DVR alert comes up that 2 things are abut to record at once. True Dectective and Wicked Tuna. Yeah, the tuna’s getting canceled. Oh, and they’re handing out costume design which goes to “Great Gatsby,” and Catherine Martin, which is the third win for this woman apparently and she’s also nominated in another category tonight. That seems selfish.
6:00 – HOW DID BAD GRANDPA NOT WIN FOR BEST MAKEUP?!?!??!!!!?? “Is that the same woman from the Kimmel bit before the show?” Dallas Buyers Club won, by the way. Making Jared Leto look like a hot chick takes a lot of makeup.
6:02 – Harrison Ford comes out and immediately quotes Marlon Brando. That’s the best moment of the night so far. Harry introduced as “Oscar nominated” so we look it up and it’s true, he’s never won an Oscar OR Golden Globe. He wasn’t even nominated for The Fugitive?! That’s incredible. What a joke. And he’s teasing “American Hustle,” “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Wolf of Wall Street,” the first 3 of the 9 Best Picture noms.
6:05 – Channing Tatum out next. If you painted him gold he’d look like the Oscar statue. Not for nothing, but the best part of last year’s show was post-Oscars when Tatum and Jamie Foxx were on Jimmy Kimmel playing on the piano. That was downright hilarious.
6:07 – Something funny to do during big events is seeing what ELSE is on TV. Right now we have the Fab Five 30 for 30, the Bassmasters Classic and the “Rockford Files” leading the clubhouse at the moment. Clearly I’m not mentioning “True Detective,” which I’ll be watching later tonight. Life is a flat circle of time.
6:09 – Spike has “Return of the Jedi” on, “Anchorman” too, and “The Skulls.” Some great counter programming right now, people.
6:11 – Who is this old broad with bad plastic surgery on stage with Matthew McConaughey?! Man, he’s really handsome. And why is he rubbing her back? That’s creepy. Apparently, it’s Kim Novak who was in “Vertigo.” They’re presenting animated short. We could’ve got MMc a better category.
6:17 – Sally Field walks out… “She looks unfucking believable. She has to be like 70!?” She’s 67, but I’m feeling you, Berger. And “Frozen” won for best animated feature in the least surprising victory of the night.
6:19 – Not sure I understand the point of this montage. Is it supposed to be about heroes or something? “42” was not a good movie by any stretch and it’s mixed in with all these iconic, Academy Award-winning performances. Strange.
6:21 – “Emma Watson! Holy shitballs!” Yeah, she’s out with Joseph Gordan-Levitt to present visual effects… “Emma Watson gets an achievement in visual effects!” Wait, so you’re telling me Johnny Depp wasn’t really walking across a moving train in “The Lone Ranger?!” I feel so cheated, but only because I paid $12 to see that piece of garbage. “Gravity” wins. No shock. Best visual experience in a theater I’ve had in a long time.
6:24 – “Gravity” has made $700 million worldwide. “So have I.” That’s amazing. And not sure what this song is that Zac Efron just introduced. Why is he even there? Do people still think he’s a movie star? His face looks fat, too. Yes, I am just jealous.
6:30 – Good job by Kate Hudson for not getting outrageous-looking breast implants. They’re classy and probably didn’t cost as much. And Jason Sudeikis is a handsome man, but I definitely would’ve hated that guy in college. Without question.
6:32 – They’re presenting Live Action Short Film… and “Helium” wins. “When I inhale helium it usually turns into a live action short film, too.” Well played, sir.
6:36 – Ellen walking down the aisle and mentions ordering pizza and if anyone would want any. Yeah, that’s what these people wearing ridiculously expensive gowns and tuxedos want, greasy-ass pizza. Wait, preggo Kerry Washington gives a fist pump. She’s excited at the thought of pie. But pregnant people don’t think rationally. Someone help her out.
6:37 – What’s going on with Bradley Cooper’s hair? And every woman just said, “I just want him to speak french to me. Who cares what his hair looks like?” “20 Feet From Stardom” wins for best doc feature. Very cool idea. Definitely going to check that out… and Tina Turner’s Hollywood Blvd. lookalike just started singing and is now getting a standing ovation. That was bizarre.
6:40 – Frank Underwood just strolled out and addressed the crowd. That was awesome. Kevin Spacey is a boss… WHOA. Angela Lansbury is 88? “Ya, I’ve been watching a fair amount of ‘Murder She Wrote’ recently.” It’s too bad Kevin Spacey is such an amazing actor, he’d would’ve been an amazing late night talk show host or stand up comic. I’d watch him do impressions all night. He should actually host the Oscars.
6:48 – Jeez, where the hell has Ewan McGregor been? He’s looking like an extra from “Dallas Buyers Club.” Also, the side balcony squads are 3-for-3 in Oscars tonight after “The Great Beauty” just took home Foreign Language Film… and I think this Italian director just thanked Diego Maradona and Mike Napoli. That was weird.
6:51- Why is Tyler Perry there?! “He is the richest person at the Oscars.” Well OK then. He’s out to showcase the next 3 Best Picture noms: “Nebraska,” “Her” and “Gravity.”
6:55 – Brad Pitt, looking like he’s about to film the Macklemore biopic, comes out to introduce U2 singing “Ordinary Love,” which is my new favorite song. It’s incredible, even though I cant stand Bono. Even though I want to be The Edge. I’m nearly convinced he’s the coolest guy alive right now. It’s a constant conundrum of mine.
6:57 – “Why is he on the ground?” I stopped trying to explain Bono a long, long time ago.
7:03 – Ellen is now in the aisle next to Meryl Streep talking about tweeting about a picture of the two of them. She wants to make it the most RT’d photo in Twitter’s history. OK, wait, Brad Pitt is walking over. Now Julia Roberts wants in. Jesus, everyone is getting in on this now. Jennifer Lawrence just said she wanted to grab a boob if the picture wants to get retweeted that many times. Wow, this is incredible. Who is that guy in the flat top?! “I’ve never tweeted before!” -Meryl Streep. Jesus, what a mess. Bradley Cooper actually ends up taking the photo. Can’t wait to see how this turns out. And no way am I giving this an RT.
7:06 – Holy shit, I would absolutely watch a sex tape with Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron. Great Caesar’s Ghost they are two perfect humans.
7:09 – Ellen broke Twitter. This picture stunt has taken it down. That’s unbelievable. Wonder how many RTs that photo is gonna get. I’ll admit it was a pretty cool 2014 moment but I’m just curious with all these stunts how people would react if it was Seth doing them.
7:11 – Two-time Best Supporting Actor and Quentin Tarantino mouthpiece Christoph Waltz out to present Supporting Actress… real categories! Should be a good one.
7:14 – “12 Years A Slave” actress Lupita Y’ongo wins, as she should. Absolutely amazing performance by her. “Lupita and Liza, the hug of the night.” … her and her date have matching flat tops. No big deal. I ask Berger if he thinks Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence have had sex: “yes.” And that’s that.
7:21 – Ellen is really taking this pizza bit to the next level as some dude just walked on stage with three pies… Julia Roberts and Spacey immediately raise their hands that they want some… is this a real guy? I’m so confused. Brad Pitt is handing out plates. What the hell is going on? Isn’t this supposed to be a dignified awards show? This should be a Golden Globes bit. Leo’s no dummy, he’s not eating the pie. Don’t wanna get grease on that navy tux.
7:24 – What the hell was that spaceship thing that lady was talking about? Are they making a sequel to “Flight of the Navigator?”
7:26 – “Are they going to give out any awards on this awards show? It’s like that scene from ‘Jurassic Park,’ ‘you plan on actually having dinosaurs in your dinosaur park, yes?” … and we just made an “A Few Good Men” joke. We are on fire… classy of Bill Murray to just shout out to Harold Ramis during the cinematography category.
7:29 – Anna Kendrick comes out and I think I see a nipple. Either way, shout out to her for being from Portland, Maine. Represent… and yes, “Gravity” just won another technical award, this time for Editing. “We get it, ‘Gravity’ was cool looking.” It really was.
7:32 – That Ellen photo is at 433,000 RTs right now and going up infinitely every second. “Let’s call a spade a spade, it’s a pretty amazing photo.” Yes, it really is… and I think Whoopi Goldberg, wearing the wicked witch socks from “Wizard of Oz,” just said Pink’s real name in an effort to tell America she hangs out with Pink. Really strange. Has anyone ever won an Oscar and then gotten really weird like she has? Nic Cage, I guess.
7:38 – Pink just absolutely destroyed “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in the Oz tribute wearing an amazing ruby red dress. That was fantastic. Director cuts to John Travolta and Kelly Preston. “Kelly Preston, I can’t say it enough.” Berger is a fan.
7:42 – Ellen comes out wearing a fairy costume. Right, because of the Oz thing. This is not funny.
7:43 – Jennifer Garner is incredibly stunning tonight and is joined by Benedict Cumberbatch, who is an absolute boss. He has to be the next James Bond right? “He should come out with a line of candy, Cumberbatch Kids” … and Catherine Martin wins her second Oscar of the night for production design. She’s got 5 now, if you’re scoring at home. So greedy.
7:47 – Another semi-pointless montage. Not sure what this one was for, but it was kind of awesome. I think it was for movie badasses. Also, that Ellen pic now up to 736,000 RTs. Americans are morons.
7:52 – Glenn Close out to introduce the In Memoriam piece. Who’s the hammer? We vote Shirley Temple… kicks off with James Gandolfini… wow, that was tough… goosebumps during this thing…
7:58 – Ends with Philip Seymour Hoffman, fitting, he was an Academy Award winner… and Bette Midler comes out to sing … “WIND BENEATH MY WINGS?!??!” Definitely didn’t see that coming.
8:05 – Whoa, Goldie Hahn needs to cut back on the plastic surgery. Who wins in a Plastic Surgery Off: Goldie or Kim Novak? She’s introducing the last three Best Picture noms: “Philomena,” “Captain Phillips” and “12 Years A Slave,” which is my pick to win the whole thing.
8:08 – Ellen’s photo is now at 1.2 million RTs, which is officially the most RT’d tweet of all-time… and how come no one ever calls out John Travolta on all his wigs? We’re just gonna let that slide, along with Harry Ford’s earring? Guess so.
8:09 – What did Travolta just say?! There’s no chance that’s her real name… Apparently it’s Idina Menzel. Wow, that was a butcher job… people are going nuts on Twitter.
8:11 – I’m pretty sure Jamie Foxx is doing a beatbox of Chariots of Fire right now during this award for costume design or something. You think that was in the prompter?
8:14 – Holy smokes, Robert Lopez just completed the EGOT, made famous by Tracy Morgan on “30 Rock” for winning for best song in “Frozen.” This guy has to get the necklace now, right? Or at least walk around with an F U shirt. I probably would.
8:23 – Ellen is now passing around one of Pharrell’s hats for a tip for the pizza guy. This bit has officially jumped the shark. Do you think these stars actually carry cash? … Robert DeNiro and Penelope Cruz out for Best Adapted Screenplay… John Ridley has to win for “12 Years a Slave,” right?
8:25 – Indeed he did. Whoa, purple dress on his Asian gf/wife/side piece? Wasn’t ready for that… Man, some good speeches tonight. Really liked his. Well done… OK, off to Original Screen play … this one is tough.. “American Hustle,” “Her,” “Blue Jasmine,” “Nebraska,” “Dallas Buyers Club”…
8:27 – Going to say “Her” wins because of how unique it was, and I really enjoyed that film … booyah! Spike Jonze everyone. Wow, you could tell me any age for him and I’d believe you. Amazing that he used to direct Beastie Boys videos and now he’s won an Academy Award. Shows you anything is truly possible.
8:32 – Best Director already! Has this show flown by or not? I can’t tell. It’s been 3 hours so probably not. Ok, here we go… and it’s Alfonso Cuaron for “Gravity”… how many statues is that for Gravity now? “They’ve won all the dumb ones.” Well. So there.
8:42 – Daniel Day-Lewis out to present Best Actress. I forgot it’s been a whole year since he transformed into Abraham Lincoln. Funny tweet just now saying DDL prepared four years for this introduction… So it’s been Cate Blanchett leading this category since the summer, let’s see if she can go wire-to-wire.
8:43 – Yeah she did. I like Cate’s dress… and good use of exacerbates.
8:48 – Jennifer Lawrence out to present Best Actor… all she’s thinking right now is, “don’t trip, don’t trip, don’t trip.” And all I really want her to do is trip… whoa, she just scolded someone for laughing… what was that? She realizes this isn’t about her, right? I think in the course of a few hours I’m losing interest…
8:50 – OK, who ya got? Leo was really awesome in “Wolf of Wall Street” but for some reason you get the feeling like he’s never gonna win one of these, though I often think about what type of acceptance speech he would give. Speaking of, I know everyone wants Matthew McConaughey to win and believe me, no one loves MMC like I do, but I just think Chiwetel Ejiofor was so fantstic in “12 Years A Slave” and deserves it. We’ll see…”it’s either AIDS or slavery, so some oppressed people will be really happy.”
8:52 – Effin’A’, McConaughey for the win. Fantastic tux. Gave us the “all right, all right, all right,” too … he nailed it. Wow. That was awesome… and he’s his own hero. Just wow.
8:55 – Final award of the night. Best Picture, and who else but Will Smith out to present… wearing… whatever that is… and we’ve hit the 3:25 mark, the over wins… Like I said, I’m predicting “12 Years A Slave”…
8:57 – WINNER. Seriously, if you haven’t seen it, just a fantastic (yet disturbing) film. Really well done.
OK, that’s gonna do it for me and Berger. Thanks for reading. Hope you were entertained. My next running diary will most likely be the 1st Round of the 2014 NFL Draft. So you have some time to prepare yourselves. Oh, and the final RT count on the Ellen photo as we go off the air is 1.73 million. Simply amazing.
An Open Letter to Paul Pierce
LOS ANGELES — Paul Pierce has been my favorite NBA player since he entered the league as the 10th pick of the 1998 Draft. Through thick and thin, some losing and a LOT of winning, he personified what Boston Celtics basketball was for the last 15 seasons. He was the Captain and The Truth.His draft-night trade, along with Kevin Garnett and others, to New Jersey was made official Friday, which ended his fantastic and Hall of Fame run at the Garden. Such, I felt compelled to reach out and express my love, gratitude and respect for what he meant to me as a gigantic fan.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you for being a true Celtic. Thank you for not giving up on the city and fans when it would have been easy to, especially in the early years. Thank you for always caring. Thank you for always playing hard. Thank you for every pull-up 3 on the fast break, every step back elbow jumper, every spin move in the lane and every fist pump to get the Garden crowd going. Thank you for being the Captain and The Truth and living up to what both of those words actually meant. It was an honor and a privilege to watch you play night-in and night-out, through the grinds of the losing seasons and the supreme joys of the winning ones. Thank you for letting Antoine wiggle and Walter dive on the floor and Scal drop 3s and Rondo drop dimes and Kevin drop 12-letter bombs. Thank you for making it fun to be a Celtics fan again. For making the Garden the place to be in Boston. Thank you for Banner 17 and in your post-Game 6 presser in 2008 for thanking your teammates first. Thank you for making it look so easy and difficult at the same time. Quick anecdote: after the championship, I had to get your jersey (don’t ask why I didn’t have one before, I mean, I’m a grown ass man, we shouldn’t wear jerseys). I just had to. I wanted to wear it around in celebration.
That summer, I went to Atlantic City with my buddies, like we do every year, for our fantasy football draft and one night I wore it out. Wore it to dinner at our traditional Friday spot, Hooters in the Tropicana, and karaoke at Desert Rose, and high-fived every person who said something to me about it because I was proud. The glory had been restored and it meant a lot to rep you. That jersey is still proudly displayed today in my house. Now, I’m a Celtics fan out here in Los Angeles, your hometown, and it’s been difficult at times dealing with the lunacy of fans of that team from here. But we stay strong. And I’ll always stay strong. You’re my guy and it’s been a great ride these last 15 years. You’ll always be the Captain and The Truth and I know you’ll always bleed green. And I’ll be rooting for you next season in 78 games. I hope I’m in the house when you return to Boston for the first time. It’s bound to be a magical moment, and likewise I look forward to the day when “34” is raised to the rafters, where it belongs. Gone but never forgotten, you’re one of a kind.
A Celebration of Independence
LOS ANGELES — When did you first feel like you were a free and independent person? What was that feeling like? Was it when you turned 18 and went and bought cigarettes or lottery tickets or porn at the corner store? Was it when you went away to college and had a boy or girl sleep over in your dorm room? Was it when you turned 21 and bought booze for the first time? Or when you got your first car or learned how to cook or when you finally stopped sharing a room with your sibling? When you got your first job and had your own money? Do you still not feel independent? Does some form of tyranny still rule over your world? Don’t let it.
Thursday is the 4th of July. The biggest party and most important day in our country’s history, when we officially said to Great Britian, “no thanks, we got this from here” and started on this journey of becoming a unified nation; 237 years of work, and counting. We’re not perfect – no country is, but we’re trying (aren’t we?). I mean, look at all the cool stuff we can do and have that others don’t: meatlovers pizzas and 24-hour tattoos parlors, water parks and waffle ice cream cones, and that’s just what I can think of this second while I watch some instant movie on my buddy’s Netflix account. Hundreds of years ago, we needed maps and horses to get around, now there are cars that park themselves and pocket GPS devices that double as telephones and Angry Bird Tweet machines.
Does that make us more independent? Sure, why not. Freedom is a wonderful thing when it’s not abused. Thursday, millions of Americans will exercise their freedom to consume grilled and smoked meat by the poundful, suck down Budweiser and Coors by the gallonful, and argue with friends in the backyard over proper Corn Hole scoring. Apple pie and vanilla ice cream will wash it all down while everyone gathers in front of their flat screens to watch Will Smith and Bill Pullman save the world from aliens.
Today is our Independence Day, and while John Hancock and Thomas Jefferson aren’t walking through that door, if they did, the fathers of our nation might feel a bit lost. And that’s OK. Change is good and we’re becoming more free and independent by the day, which is what the signers of the Declaration would’ve wanted.
Wait, don’t answer that, the Hot Dog Eating Contest is on.
Happy 4th, everyone! Now go watch some fireworks!
James Gandolfini: 1961-2013
LOS ANGELES — The first time I ever saw “The Sopranos” was in the Spring of 2001. The show was leading into its third season, and as customary, HBO was replaying Season 2 every Sunday night as a buildup. I got hooked by my dorm neighbor and great friend, Rich Kiss, who like the Sopranos themselves, hailed from New Jersey. He was a junkie for the mobster hit and I figured, if he liked it, then I would, too. One of the first episodes I remember seeing was the one where Janice kills Richie Aprile. Blown away a semi-main character would just be offed like that, I turned to Rich in disbelief and he looked at me and said, “that happens ALL THE TIME!” Of course, he knew what was coming at Season 2’s end, but when Big Pussy met the fishes, let’s just say I was the one who had trouble sleeping for a few days.
And I was forever hooked.
It wasn’t the violence that intrigued me about “The Sopranos,” however, it was the performances. They were unlike anything on television, and the actors, writers and producers knew that as much as we did. (I couldn’t even begin to tell you what else I was watching on television at this point outside of “SportsCenter.” Probably “Survivor” or Craig Kilborn.) ‘Sopranos’ was edgy. Gratuitous with its swearing and excess, and hilarious with its rough dialogue. These guys were gangsters but real people with surprisingly normal problems. They argued with their wives, their kids were a pain in the ass, and their troubles on the job always came home with them. Sure, they talked funny and dressed gaudy but we kinda liked them, even though we hated them.
At the center of it all was Tony, played to perfection by James Gandolfini, whom the world was shocked to learn died Wednesday at age 51 while on vacation in Italy. Larger than life, commanding of your undivided attention whenever he appeared on screen, and surprisingly sympathetic as the ruthless and murderous lead of the show, Galdolfini consumed the role, swallowed it whole and spit out pure gold. He made you root for the bad guy and almost had you feeling guilty when you didn’t. (One of the best illustrations of this is in the show itself, when Agent Harris, a longtime nemesis of Tony, cheered out after learning of Phil Leotardo’s death, “we’re gonna win this thing!”) Gandolfini made wanting evil to triumph cool. Make no mistake, Tony Soprano is one of the baddest men in television history, yet because of Gandolfini’s weekly performance, you wanted him to come out on top. You wanted him to finally find peace and that loving relationship with his family, to get past the panic attacks, to defeat New York. You wanted those things and you looked coldly the other way when he stepped out of bounds from time to time.
Certainly no one looked like him on television, which was another part of his appeal – he was big and balding, not exactly leading man looks – and no one could cuss like him. I’d argue he brought back creative cursing. What fun it must’ve been to write those scenes in which he went off the deep end with Carmela or Christopher or Paulie or the poor bartender at the Bada Bing, and then watch Gandolfini flawlessly execute them.
All this paved the way for characters like Don Draper and Walter White and Vic Mackey and Dexter Morgan and all the rest of our cable anti-heroes who lead questionable lives but whom we all want to see come out squeaky clean in the end. The power of the individual performance allowed not only “The Sopranos” but the rest to take big chances and change how we consumed television. It allowed Showtime to take a chance on an anti-hero, and FX and AMC and Netflix to do the same. It made Sunday nights the must-see TV night. Think about all your favorite shows… they all air on Sunday nights. That’s because of the power and the emotion and the rage and the ability of James Gandolfini, of what he did every Sunday night on HBO for 86 episodes.
He was truly amazing.
So much was written Wednesday about the man and it was all incredibly moving and tugged at your heart strings. By all accounts Gandolfini was a gentle giant who never forgot a face or an encounter, no matter how small, and made everyone feel as if they were the most important person in the room. These reflections couldn’t have been more refreshing to read. Someone who achieved his level of fame could’ve easily acted differently and no one would look the other way. Just goes shows the type of man he was and the legacy he leaves behind.
I spent any free time Wednesday watching old ‘Sopranos’ clips, thinking about his other flawless cinematic performances, and reading countless lists and reflections about the man, A co-worker and I even went and ate Italian for dinner at a place called “Godfathers,” which even had a painting on the wall inside of Tony and his crew. Just seemed like the right thing to do. And who could forget my old 1999 Chevy Tahoe, which I aptly called “Stugots” after Tony’s boat on the show. I told my buddy, Jay, that it was a night like Wednesday night I wish I still had Stugots, so I could just take a drive and pretend I was Tony Soprano huffing up the driveway one last time.
Rest In Peace, James.