Monday, March 29, 2010

10 Things I think
1. Chuck is still a good show, but it's missing something. The first two seasons had a real spark and energy to them, and this season (probably the final one) is coming off a little ... flat. I still will watch and hope it gets renewed for a fourth season, but I'm not too hopeful of that.

2. The Indians' signing of Russell Branyan? Genius.

3. After last season, I'm not going to predict the Cavs will win the NBA title. I really thought last season was the year to do it. The Cavaliers probably are better than a year ago. But I keep thinking the window is shutting for good after this season, and something will stop a title. Cleveland curse? I try not to believe. But after last season ...

4. I don't see Evan Turner sticking around for another season in Columbus, nor should he. One injury and his career and payday could be over. But he's a top 3 pick right now. He'll go. Anyone in the same position would, except maybe Tim Duncan.

5. My best friend asked me who I thought was smarter -- Harry Reid or Sarah Palin. I gave him an answer and he told me I was crazy. I reminded him there were only two choices and I picked one. And I'm not sure I was right.

6. V returns tonight, and not a moment too soon. It was the best show on TV in November. Assuming it picks up where it left off, it will be an exciting couple of weeks.

7. Didn't watch Wrestlemania this year. It's only the second one I haven't ordered or seen at a bar in 12 years. I think wrestling is a funny business, interesting in many ways, and certainly tragic. But without Rock, Ric Flair, Brock Lesnar, Eddy Guerrero, Kurt Angle and others I enjoyed watching, it just isn't worth it anymore. And $60? I'd like to know if Linda McMahon will be buying commercial time with that money.

8. I don't care who the Browns draft, as long as they don't take a quarterback in the first round.

9. Syfy is showing episodes of the original V series in the 1980s. Was camp required then or something?

10. I have to feel for the Xavier basketball teams right now.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Desert Fox
The film was on one of the movie channels, and I was able to record it. It was the first time I had seen James Mason since Lolita.

I would imagine the take on Rommel was perhaps too sympathetic. However, Mason's acting in the film was fantastic, as was much of the acting in the film.

His wife was played by Jessica Tandy, and I must confess it's the first film I have seen Tandy where she wasn't an old woman.

Not sure about the historical accuracy, though I am still amazed that Hollywood would make a sympathetic film about a Nazi general six years after the conclusion of the war.

The Desert Fox is certainly worth seeing, at least for Mason's effort.


Commercial thought
The guy in that Viagra commercial who talks to the reflection of himself got me thinking. If the guy is having conversations with himself, he has a few bigger problems than erectile dysfunction.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Geoff Sindelar dead at 62
Geoff was not only the voice of the Cleveland sports fan in the 1990s, but he his presence on WKNR made the all-sports station a force in the early part of the decade.

Knowledgable, interesting, but always about sports. Sindelar's show was rarely a soapbox like so many who are on the air today. I had no idea who he voted for, or where he stood on the issues.

But I did know how he felt about what the Indians would do, could do and should do.

I called on his show twice. Hope those tapes don't exist anymore.

It used to be him, then Herb Score and the Indians on 1220. It's sad that Geoff died so young. My thoughts are with his friends and family.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

My Top 10 Wrestlers (updated, 2010)
A week into this blog, I posted a list of my 10 favorite wrestlers of all time. That was around six years ago.

Then I started taking myself seriously.

Well, no one reads this anymore, so what the hell? Here is an updated list.

1. Ric Flair: I wish he'd retire and go back to WWE and do work for Linda McMahon's campaign or something. It beats seeing him in TNA. I know Ric needs the money now, but I can't help but think that he will eventually regret going to TNA. Still, the best promo ever, and one of the best workers, if not the best. I'm not sure fans now really get how great he was. I didn't until I started watching the DVDs and the old matches. I still probably don't get it like those who grew up in the Mid-Atlantic days do.

2. The Rock: Rock was the last wrestler I remember really cheering for, even when he was a heel in 1998. Duane Johnson is a successful actor now. Some seem to resent that he doesn't wrestle anymore. Having seen the mortality rate of wrestlers jump in the last 15 years, I'm glad he's out of the business. Hollywood is screwed up in its own ways, but it seems like a safe haven compared to the wrestling industry.

3. Midnight Express (Bobby Eaton/Stan Lane): Put them with Jim Cornette, and you have a combination that is the best of what wrestling can be. If you haven't seen the Midnights vs. Southern Boys from 1990... well, as bad as the documentary is, get Rise and Fall of WCW. I know Dennis Condrey is just as associated with the Midnights, but I prefer the Stan Lane version.

4. Ted Dibiase: Somewhat lost in the Million Dollar Man character is that Dibiase was a superstar before even coming to the WWF in 1987. If you see some of his matches from Mid-South, you see a guy who was a bump machine, with a charisma that made him work as a heel or a face. He enters the WWE Hall of Fame this weekend. As silly as I think that HOF is at times, I'm glad he's getting recognition. I just fear WWE will act like he didn't have a career before it branded him.

5. Randy Savage: Blackballed from WWE for something that has to be really, really bad (think of how many people Vince has brought back), Macho Man is probably one of the five biggest names of the modern era. He never had to re-invent himself, because his character was so unique, and his personality was so strong. Few can claim such things.

6. Curt Hennig: The death of Curt Hennig is second only to Owen Hart's for me in terms of sadness (Eddy's is close; Chris Benoit's is a different thing altogether) Hennig was one of the few heels I really was a fan of when I was 11. I just thought he was so cool.

7. Sting: The biggest modern star never to work in WWF. Here's the interesting thing about Sting. He was never much of a promo in WCW. He even had a character that didn't talk for more than a year. But then he goes to TNA, and starts cutting the best promos of his career. At one point last year, I'd put him up there among the top five interviews in the business. He's one of the few guys who I think has actually improved his legacy in TNA.

8. Kurt Angle: Should have been 100 times bigger than he was in WWF. An Olympic gold medal winner who could work and talk, he was saddled with a comedic character for his first two years in the big time. I think certain people saw him as a threat. They should have, because he was better than them and is probably one of the top 20 ever.

9. Hulk Hogan: Huge fan of his until 1999, when I realized that his presence was helping to kill WCW. I'm glad he got a farewell run in 2002. Sadly, that was eight years ago. Hogan is in TNA, and I am pretty sure he'll regret that move soon enough. Still, he's perhaps the biggest wrestling star America has ever had. Steve Austin was more popular and may have drawn more, but his run was shorter. Rock is another contender, but his run also was relatively short. Hogan's been a star for almost 30 years.

10. Vader: An amazing worker for a big man, Vader was a monster in WCW. He went over Sting in 1992, and was a star from then on here. More of a personal favorite for me, because his run in WCW was so different than most heel pushes I'd seen to that point.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dwight Gooden and the power of addiction
If the police report is true, Dwight Gooden was on drugs before 9 a.m., driving, and had his five year old son with him.

This is bad. It's depressing, but most of all, it shows just how strong the power of addiction is.

Had it not been for Gooden's well-know struggles with drugs and alcohol, he could have been one of the greatest pitchers ever.

But I also remember in 1999, when Gooden was pitching with the Indians, and had one bad outing after another. Finally, he pitched well. He gave up two runs through 6 innings. When then-Indians manager Mike Hargrove returned to the dugout, he grabbed Gooden by the face and embraced him.

After the game, Hargrove went on about what a "good guy" Gooden was.

He might be a good guy. But his apparent need for drugs has made him make some horrible decisions, ones that could have had dire consequences for others.

You hope Gooden can get his life on track. But that's been written before. Addiction has been called a disease, and it appears to have ravaged a man who at one time was destined for the Hall of Fame.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Health care bill
Anyone who has read this blog for any amount of time can guess what I think of this.

But for all the anger, the threats and the marches, I keep coming back to one thing.

This is what happens when Democrats control the House, Senate and the Oval Office. If you don't like it, vote Republican next time. That's how the country works.

President Obama has his health care bill. So do Democrats in the House and Senate. They own it.

For better, or worse.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mine is shot after Kansas and Villanova went down. Not doing as well as the President. I don't fault President Obama for filling out brackets. I do fault the media for treating it like it's a story.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

B-W Please
Not to knock the restaurant B-W 3's; I spent many hours there watching football and wrestling pay-per views when I was in college.

But the commercials that are playing endlessly during the NCAA Tournament are an insult to everyone's intelligence.

In the commercials, the rowdy crowd at a B-W 3's is enjoying a game too much, and wants it to continue. So a guy at the bar pages someone at the game to create a scenerio that will send the game into overtime.

The crowd at the restaurant is overjoyed.

But there are some majors issues with this:

How many people watch a game without a rooting interest? Even if you aren't a fan, there's a good chance (if you're at a sports bar with the game package) that you have some money on said game. And if BW-3's had such power, wouldn't a fan (or a compulsive gambler) want to use it to DECIDE the outcome, not prolong the contest?

Sorry, but these ads have been bugging me for months.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bracket Blister
Thursday was a great day of basketball. Almost every game was exciting, or at least interesting for a while.

And yet, my favorite game of the day was perhaps the least exciting game, aat least in terms of how competitive it was.

As a graduate of a Mid-American Conference university, I pull for those teams come tourney time. Usually, I take the MAC school in the first round, just out of loyalty.

This year, I didn't. Georgetown just looked too strong for the Ohio, who won the MAC tournament despite going 7-9 in conference play.

A No. 14 seed had not beaten a No. 3 seed since 2006.

And Ohio came out and press-slammed the Hoyas.

For the record, my bracket had Georgetown beating Ohio State and making it to the Elite Eight.

Well, so much for that. Still, I took joy in Ohio's win, thinking that maybe, just maybe, the "experts" will notice how good MAC teams are.

Oh, who am I kidding.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ron Washington
Texas Rangers' manager Ron Washington seems like a good man. He made a horrible mistake, he went to his superiors and confessed, fully expecting to be fired.

Washington failed a cocaine test in July of last year. Had many other baseball executives been in charge of the Rangers, he would have been.

I want to believe Washington's story, that he has never used hard drugs before that one night last July.

But what makes a man, 57-years old, try cocaine? Washington played in the 1980s, when cocaine use in MLB was, if not heavy, certainly prevalent.

Not many players have had public problems with cocaine in recent seasons. One of the few that has, Josh Hamilton, plays for Washington and the Rangers.

I just can't figure out why Washington would allow himself to be put in the position of trying an illegal drug for the first time, when it could cost him everything.

Which brings up another question: Was Washington's drug use the result of the stress of the job? If he resorts to illegal drugs in those situations, that's a problem, because with this out, there are plenty to be more.

Washington played for the Indians in 1988. I made him a write-in vote in what was my first All-Star ballot. In the years since, I've often thought about how strange that vote was. If nothing else, the memory made me follow Washington as a coach, and then a manager.

We haven't seen major league managers or coaches with drug problems. We have seen coaches and managers who have been pulled over for DUIs, which in reality is worse than what Washington did.

Washington's handling of this today was impressive. I do believe he's a good man, and I hope he makes the most of what becomes a second chance.

But there will always be questions now, and I doubt he will ever have good answers.


St. Patrick's day
St. Patrick's Day has always had more meaning for me in the fictional world.

-The St. Patrick's Day parade in The Fugitive where Harrison Ford (the movie was made in 1993. I think he was just 81 then)escapes Tommy Lee Jones' grasp by joining the Parade.

- The Simpsons' episode where Bart gets drunk and Springfield discovers a long-lost law of prohibition. Two great lines here:

Homer: "Prohibition. They tried that in the movies and it didn't work."


Cop after being given a bribe: "I don't know why people are always bad-mouthing the Mafia."

-Then there's Boondock Saints, where a barfight on St. Patrick's Day sets up the whole film.

I'm not really sure if I'm Irish or not. If I am, it's not much. My biggest memory of the day is when I had a horrid migrane in seventh grade and needed to leave school, but my classmates thought I was faking to go to the parade.

I protested my innocence. At least I think I did. This happened 16 years ago and I don't remember much other than my head hurt. Thing is, it was only a year earlier when I HAD skipped on school to go to the Indians' Opening Day.


Anyway, to all my Irish friends, and those who are faking it to escape school and work, be safe. Happy St. Patrick's Day.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Erin Andrews/DWTS
I just read Don Ohlmeyer's latest Omsbudsman piece on (OK, that's not accurate. I skimmed it. I let my eyes pass over it. I... OK, fine. Zach reads column in full.)

OK, first off, Ohlmeyer is best known to most people as the guy who helped get Norm MacDonald removed from Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update. No disrespect to him, but I'd prefer journalists being media critics, not guys with entertainment backgrounds.

But my main concern is that while Ohlmeyer touched on Tony Kornheiser's suspension, Olympics coverage, Tiger Woods and web-premium content, he DIDN'T address something that, as a journalist, rubbed me the wrong way.

That was the news earlier this month that Erin Andrews would appear as a contestant on ABC's Dancing With the Stars.

Andrews is a popular sideline reporter for ESPN. She has done baseball, basketball and football, and appears to be well-liked by most in that role.

But my understanding is that by working in a news capacity makes you a journalist, not a celebrity. I also was annoyed when I saw Andrews on a Sony commercial earlier this year with Peyton Manning and Justin Timberlake.

This is not an Andrews issue. CBS' James Brown appeared in the Sony commercials last year, and Kenny Mayne was a contestent on DWTS a few years ago.

ESPN and ABC are owned by Disney. Maybe there's intentional cross-promotion with Andrews -- certainly an attractive woman-- being on the show, maybe not.

But the fact that Andrews would agree to it, that there wasn't a flatout rejection by ESPN of the idea, and that the question wasn't even raised in Ohlmeyer's column, is concerning.

How does one appear on commercials and dancing programs and still maintain credibility when giving information?

It's a question few seem to want to answer.

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Indians thoughts
Surprising enough as it is, I am being sucked in again by the allure of baseball. Games every night, warmer weather and longer days always provide me with optimism.

The Indians have always been my No. 1 team, but the last two years have been like getting kicked in the stomach. Not only did the Indians follow up a mediocre 2008 with a horrible 2009, they also traded everything they didn't have control of for more than two years.

This is just rehashing, I know. The Indians have a new manager, new coaching staff, new lineup and a new... eh, who knows.

Russ Branyan is back with the Indians for the 24th time. He hit 32 homers last year in Seattle, but his back has kept him out of Spring Training games thus far. It'd be disappointing until you realize that Branyan's well-known back problems are why the Indians were able to sign him in the first place.

But baseball is baseball. Bring on April.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Thoughts on TNA Impact's first Monday show
Ric Flair is my favorite wrestler of all time. When he returned to the WWF in 2001, I jumped around my dorm room at Bowling Green, cutting a mock Ric Flair promo.

That was before WWE (WWF has to pretend it was always WWE. I don't.) put out Flair DVDs and classic Flair matches. The guy delivered more often than anyone in the modern era.

I also was impressed two years ago, when Flair retired from WWE, and the company gave him a touching sendoff, which included three of the original Four Horsemen, Harley Race, Greg Valentine, Ricky Steamboat and Dean Malenko.

It almost made me like HHH (who was the emcee of ceremony, and he did a great job) for 30 seconds.

You knew, even then, that Flair would come back. I just hoped it would be in WWE. For as much as I don't like WWE or Vince McMahon at times, they do represent the major leagues of wrestling. McMahon used Flair at last year's Wrestlemania, and did so effectively, in a manager's role.

Less than a year later, Flair was back in the ring with Hulk Hogan. I tried to watch the match, but it was too sad. Flair, now north of 60, just doesn't have it anymore in the ring, nor could anyone expect him to.

The fact that Flair and Hogan, approaching 120 years old combined, were in the situation spoke to how poorly TNA has conceived its Monday night show.

In 1995, when Eric Bischoff began the first Nitro, he started with a cruiserweight match. It was two young guys (Jushin Thunder Liger and the late Brian Pillman) wrestling a fast-paced, exciting match.

Buschoff was sending a message: We're bringing the fans something new.

As much as I love Flair, as much as I respect what Hogan has done for the business, that message was not sent on Bischoff's Monday show some 15 years later.

But that was one problem. Among the others:

Sting comes out five minutes into the show and inexplicably turns heel. You know what Flair thinks about this; he's said it 100 times in interviews:

"Sting isn't a heel. He can't be a heel."

This, however, is typical of TNA writer Vince Russo. He loves to take top babyfaces and turn them heel. It worked in 1997, when he was on the WWF writing team and they turned Bret Hart. Since then, teams that Russo have been on have turned:

Bret Hart, WCW, 1999.
Bill Goldberg, WCW, 2000 (Remember the Big Surprise? No? Don't worry about it)
Ricky Steamboat, TNA, 2002
Sting, TNA, 2008, 2010.
A.J. Styles a few times, despite being one of the few homegrown wrestlers the company has and therefore as close to a "franchise" wrestler as the company has.

Sting is a great performer. His interviews in the last year are by far the best in his career, and made him, stunningly, one of the best talkers TNA had. But you get the sense Steve Borden really can't get into a heel character. Nor, after 22 years of playing babyface, should he be expected to.

- The biggest crowd reaction I've heard in TNA all year came when Rob Van Dam came out. He beat an unsuspecting Sting in eight seconds (and, like a true face, got him from behind), and then got beaten to a pulp by his opponent after the match. That's right, it took a minute for TNA's top new act to look weak. Not only that, but RVD was laying on his back for a minute after Sting beat him up.

- RVD, Jeff Hardy and Sting are on your show. Think you want to tell anyone? TNA wants to surprise the viewer, who, strangely, wasn't watching because he or she didn't know the three would be on, and therefore wasn't a "viewer" to begin with.

-Hall, Nash and Waltman are all pretty played out. Nothing against them as performers, but the acts haven't really changed in 13 years. Hall didn't look good.

-I did like some things about Monday. The atmosphere -- which my close friend Joe was a part of -- was electric and felt fresh. There was a really good X-Division match that could have used 5 more minutes. But in the end, it was a microcosm of what TNA has been for much of its existence -- potential, but not much delivered.


Quinn, Wimbley out
When the Browns signed Jake Delhomme Saturday, it was clear that the Brady Quinn era in Cleveland was over.

So when Quinn was traded Sunday, I wasn't surprised.

When linebacker Kamerion Wimbley was dealt that same day, I was surprised.

The Quinn deal was a clear message from Browns boss Mike Holmgren. It was "Brady's not good, and I wasn't in the mood to wait around to see if he'd get good."

I have no problem with that line of thinking.

The Wimbley deal is different. He was one of the few guys who benefitted from Eric Mangini, and had his best season since his outstanding rookie year.

Left to protect his interests, I'm confident Mangini would not have made this deal. But Mangini's not in charge anymore. The trade with the Raiders (for a third-round pick)says what I think we know: Mangini is the head coach but has no power in front office decisions. After 11 years of watching this franchise, I don't know if that's good or bad, since any system, run the right way, can bring success.

But I wouldn't have traded Wimbley.

As for Quinn, his story is that of a new car that came off the assembly line, looking like a great ride, but the shift was stuck in neutral. He never got a real chance, but sometimes that's the way it works in professional sports. He certainly had a better chance to make it than most (how many quarterbacks in NFL camps never start?) I hope he finds success, since he seems like a decent guy. But football is an impatient business. If he doesn't cut it in Denver, he may end up in the UFL.

As a journalist, I see troubling signs in the new regime. As a fan, I keep telling myself Holmgren knows what he's doing.

The fan is winning the argument -- for now.


Sunday, March 07, 2010

Monday Night Wars
One of the great things about neglecting this blog for weeks on end is that, with my readership down to two people a day who stumble upon this on accident, I can write about mundane things and there's no one to care.

Not quite as cool three years ago (when I was averaging more than 20 hits a day-- small time, but consistent), but it's amusing in its own way.

In a way, this blog is kind of like the returning Monday Night Wars in professional wrestling, that return tonight when TNA Impact begins a run on Monday nights against WWE's falgship, Raw.

It will have its moments, but they will be on a small scale.

TNA is trying to make itself like WCW Nitro, which ran on TNT from 1995-2001. In those days, the program would score ratings in the low 3s and the high 2s, and be laughed at as a massive failure. Should TNA reach a 1.5 for tomorrow night's debut, it likely would be trumpeted as a major success.

Meanwhile, RAW, in its Wrestlemania push, will register a high 3 rating. Not great when compared to the early part of this decade, but reasonable given that much of the audience that made the "wars" seem important are either grown up or watching MMA.

TNA is like WCW. Many of the faces from that program are in TNA now. Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Sting, Eric Bischoff and Kevin Nash are all big parts of the program.

I enjoy all those performers to a degree (Well, maybe not Nash. Flair is my all time favorite wrestler). It's easy to say that TNA is relying on stars of the past. But its also relying on a system from the past. Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara are on the writing team. Bischoff has power.

Russo and Ferrara and Bischoff all played major roles in the success of Monday Night Wrestling 12 years ago. But their strength came from creating television in a different time. Russo is the creator of "Crash TV," which usually means short matches, 1,000 angles crammed into two hours, and playing main event angles for comedy.

It worked in it's day. The WWF was extremely popular in 1998, and Russo deserves credit for much of that success.

But 12 years later, Russo's version of wrestling doesn't really work. He can, at times, create compelling television. But he's never been the greatest at creating angles that create Pay Per View buys.

I don't blame Russo for this. He's like Hootie and the Blowfish. At one time, the band was one of the most popular acts in music. I'm sure if you went to see a performance from them now, it would still be entertaining, but it wouldn't draw like it did in 1996.

But a band only knows how to play its style of music. If Russo is your writer or booker, he's going to produce television that he knows. That means Crash TV. It also means it won't sell like it once did.

Bischoff is another interesting case. He's, without a doubt, one of the best performers in the business. He also doesn't wrestle, which means he can't be used to sell a pay per view.

In his first show back on the job, Scott Hall and Nash were featured. Like Russo, Bischoff's greatest success came in the 1990s, when the Outsiders were one of the hippest acts in wrestling.

But neither one means much now. But since Bischoff had success with the act then, he goes back to it now.

TNA's problem is that it has always needed to create new stars, its own stars. Its biggest stars are still ones WWE fired or were content to let walk.

Kurt Angle is fantastic, but he's still most known as a former WWE guy. Mick Foley is the same. The company has some really talented guys -- AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Chris Daniels -- but I'd venture to say that 80 percent of the viewing audience from WWE has no idea who they are. That's not those guys' fault. It's the promotion's for not showcasing them as the new age of wrestling.

My point is that TNA is heading into a battle with WWE its ill-equipped for. It's not providing anything new. New is what it needs.

I need to add that I haven't watched WWE TV in more than a year. Bret Hart is back in WWE, but I have no interest in that. The truth is that WWE has been stale for years, but at least it knows how to be successful. At least WWE can, when it wants to, create its own stars, like Batista and John Cena. Those guys weren't stars during the Monday Night Wars, but they are now.

I'm not sure TNA could create its own star if it wanted to.

That's why I'm not optimistic about its chances or its future.