Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Good work if you can get it

Leonard Shapiro wrote a piece sympathetic toward blowhard Joe Theismann, who can't comprehend why he was fired from Monday Night Football. Is it because, oh, I don't know, he's an idiot who is in love with the sound of his voice and brings nothing to the table. I'm thrilled that I'll only be subjected to Theismann four times this year for Redskins preseason games, where perhaps he'll cede to the far better commentator Sonny Jurgensen, if for no other reason than he too is an ex-NFL quarterback. New MNF analyst Ron Jaworski is sure to make less absurd statements, and then try to defend an untenable position, like this exchange between Tony Kornheiser and Theismann in the preseason last year, in the much criticized Kornheiser's 2nd or 3rd game (thanks to Profootballtalk):

Theismann: I think you need a guy who's short, vertically challenged, maybe 5'9", 5'10" with a lot of 'quicks' that can double as a kick returner. Those are the guys that can transition into professional football. To come in and just try and play the wide receiver position-

Kornheiser (incredulous): He has to be short?

Theismann: Well-

Kornheiser: This is a prerequisite, to be short?

Theismann: I think you need to be short and quick. I think that gives you an opportunity-

Kornheiser: What if you were big and quick?

Theismann: You don't have the 'quicks' when you're that tall.

Kornheiser: Correct me if I'm wrong because you watch a lot more college football than I did, wasn't there a quarterback recently from Arkansas who was the quarterback who then became a wide receiver in the NFL?

Tirico: Matt Jones.

Kornheiser: Matt Jones, right? And he's big. Big and quick.

Theismann: But not at the kick returning position.

Kornheiser: (Makes barely audible noise connoting "Is this guy f--king serious?")

Theismann: No.

Tirico (wisely changing the subject): It's 48 to 17. . . .

1 seeds: Mike Tyson, Brian Bosworth, Doc Gooden, and Eric Lindros

I was alerted by my dad to a hilarious piece on the satirical website theheckler.com on ESPN's follow up to ESPN Now, ESPN Then, featuring matchups such as Penny Hardaway versus Grant Hill as judged by stars such as Corey Feldmen and Joey Lawrence.

Jack and the Beanpole

Anyone who's ever collected sports cards had one friend in elementary school or junior high who could be counted on to trade way too much for too little. Maybe borderline retarded, maybe they just didn't care, but they'd trade Joe Montana, Randall Cunningham, and Jim Kelly rookies for a $3 Shaq Wooden Winner card, at least in my case. But I always wondered, what would happen when two of these unshrewd negotiators got together and traded a cow for a cow instead of for magic beans.

Look to yesterday's blockbuster deal between the Timberwolves' Kevin McHale and the Celtics' Danny Ainge. Boston will trade away an eight figure expiring contract, three good young players, two first round picks, and only one legitimate headcase for one of the top five players in the world in the form of Kevin Garnett. Wow, I don't know what to make of this deal. On one hand, Boston has the best threesome in the league with KG, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen, and maybe the best since Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman. On the other hand, just a few months ago Boston was in rebuilding mode, hoping for the right combination of ping pong balls, and now they think they're contenders? But this definitely makes the Ray Allen trade look less laughable.

I definitely like the move for Minnesota. They got the triple crown: expiring contracts, young players, and draft picks. The rumored deals during the draft were for Atlanta's two lottery picks or possibly Amare Stoudemire. You're never going to get equal value for a guy like Garnett, but I can't imagine a more attractive package for a rebuilding team.

Head turner

Warner released their first movie poster for Watchmen. Drawn by Dave Gibbons, the artist of the Watchmen comic, specifically for Comic-Con 07, it's got the release date in the bottom right and depicts the catalyst for what happens in the comic. Firstshowing.net had an excellent piece on the all things Watchmen at Comic-Con, but I found that Stephen McHattie was added to the cast, presumably as the original Night Owl, from IGN.com. CHUD had the best Snyder interview I've seen yet.

I also checked out the official website of the movie, which points out that Watchmen is the only comic to win the Hugo Award (given to best sci-fi or fantasy work) or to be named Time magazine's "100 Best English Language Novels from 1923 to the Present." (they are sorted alphabetically, but the readers ranked Watchmen 5th; they also made a list of best graphic novels)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Bill Walsh passes away

Three time Super Bowl winning coach Bill Walsh passed away today at the age of 75. Some people regard Vince Lombardi, George Halas, Paul Brown, or Chuck Noll the greatest coach of all time, but none had the impact on the modern passing game that Bill Walsh had, with the popularization of the West Coast Offense. Centered around short, quick, accurate passes, the passing game became diagonal as opposed to vertical. Explosive plays did not suffer because the goal was to get the ball to the receiver where he had some momentum to run after the catch. Joe Montana and Steve Young, the two QBs Walsh had for most of his career, have the two highest passer ratings for retired quarterbacks. Arguably the biggest innovation to the passing game since Knute Rockne employed the forward pass, the West Coast Offense is visible on basically every team over the last decade except last year's Raiders.

My top 10 TV stars of all time

Here's a random list I came up with. The main criteria is that you have to act, leaving off hosts such as Johnny Carson, Oprah Winfrey, and Rod Serling, and reality TV personalities. If you starred in multiple television shows it's a huge bonus, and longevity is key.
1. Michael J. Fox (Family Ties, Spin City)
2. Lucille Ball (I Love Lucy)
3. Andy Griffith (The Andy Griffith Show, Matlock)
4. Bill Cosby (The Cosby Show, I Spy, Electric Company)
5. Will Shatner (Star Trek, Boston Legal/The Practice, T.J. Hooker)
6. Carroll O' Connor (All in the Family, In the Heat of the Night)
7. Ted Danson (Cheers, Becker)
8. David Hasselhoff (Knight Rider, Baywatch)
9. Jackie Gleason (The Honeymooners)
10. Angela Lansbury (Murder, She Wrote)

Ensberg justifies the means

Morgan Ensberg was designated for assignment yesterday by the Astros, essentially ending his six year tenure with the team. Some people remember Ensberg for clubbing 25 homers in only 385 at bats in 2003 or finishing 4th in MVP voting in 2005, but I always think of the bizarre Sportscenter feature where he and four other minor leaguers were allegedly robbed at gunpoint at their hotel in 2000. I say allegedly because the robbers said in the feature that the players called them to buy drugs, and things just went south. The whole story didn't pass my smell test: robbers going hotel room to hotel room, and they start at the room with five privileged athletes hanging out with a groupie, one of the guys jumped off the second floor and the other spent three years in a coma. A drug deal gone south sounds much more likely to me, but I'm not on Kissimmee, FL jury. Well, both of the robbers were sentenced to life in prison, so Ensberg could look at them and think "it could be worse."

Texiera to Braves

The Braves, only 4.5 games out of first and 2.5 games out of the wild card, traded their backup catcher, a Class A shortstop, and two minor league pitchers for Mark Texiera and Ron Mahay this morning. The trade almost fell apart when one of the minor league pitchers Atlanta was dangling had shoulder tendinitis, but apparently they are flush with pitching prospects. The Maryland native and Georgia Tech alum arguably becomes their best hitter and makes the Braves look like a dangerous second half team.

DVD of the year

300, my favorite movie of 2007 thus far, drops tomorrow on DVD and I'm pretty confident it will hold up as the best DVD of the year. I received my copy about a week early and would be wearing it out if it weren't for my XBox 360 dying. It actually died about of a third of the way through the movie, but I did get a chance to check out some of the copious special features, including material about the Spartans and the Battle of Themopylae and my favorite author, Olney, Maryland's Frank Miller. Pick it up either at Circuit City for $13.99, $22.99 for the special edition or Deepdiscount.com, who will match that price.

Director Zach Snyder talked to G4 about 300 and Watchmen at ComicCon, where it was announced Watchmen is scheduled to be released March 6, 2009.

Someone to root for

The first Big 12 Championship Game was played in 1996 in St. Louis. I was in college there at the time and couldn't get tickets, but I had a chance to watch the Texas/Nebraska matchup with a football player on my school's team from San Antonio. Texas was on their way back to prominence while heavily favored Nebraska had one of the country's premier programs. Led by fifth year senior Priest Holmes 120 yards and 3 touchdowns on 9 carries and a gutsy naked bootleg on a huge 4th and 1, the Longhorns shocked the Cornhuskers and Mack Brown earned his place in Texas lore.

Largely because he had spent much of his career sitting behind Ricky Williams, Holmes managed to go undrafted in 1997 before being signed by the Ravens. He sat for a year, playing some special teams, before earning the starting job and becoming one of the league's success stories in his second season, when he rushed for 400 yards against Cincinnati alone. The following year the team hired Brian Billick as head coach, and Holmes didn't get 20 carries in a game that season. I was at training camp that year and I will attest that I've never seen anyone more accommodating to fans than Holmes. When the rest of the team was in the locker room, he hadn't left the practice field, signing autographs literally until every Ravens fan at camp was satisfied, looking people in the eye and striking up conversations. Here was a guy who had worked his way from being a backup in college to an undrafted free agent playing special teams on the fringe of the team to becoming a starting running back in the NFL, and the new coach couldn't replace him quickly enough. Yet he wasn't sulking, he wasn't demanding a trade, he was the last one to leave the practice field, earning fans for his team.

The Ravens drafted Jamal Lewis, his eventual replacement, with the fifth pick in the 2000 draft. Priest Holmes, never complaining, backed him up, played some on third down, and helped the Ravens win Super Bowl XXXV. He left as a free agent, signing with Kansas City. Through two weeks, he totaled 51 yards on 15 carries, splitting carries with fullback Tony Richardson, before exploding for 3 TDs and 225 yards from scrimmage against the Redskins. His first three years with Kansas City he put up Hall of Fame numbers, breaking the single season touchdown record in 2003 with 27. He signed an extension, and his following two seasons were cut short by injury, including a spinal injury incurred by a typically violent Shawne Merriman tackle in 2005.

21 months later, with starting RB Larry Johnson holding out for more money after setting the single season record for carries with 416, Priest Holmes is back in Chiefs camp after being cleared by doctors. Now I'm not going to call Holmes brave or foolish for coming back from this injury, because he was cleared by doctors. (When asked what he had been told by doctors, Holmes said "No one wants to be hit with a malpractice suit so, of course, the doctors are going to respond accordingly.") And I'm not going to imply that Holmes didn't have to rehab and could sit at home counting his money, because since he was cleared by doctors the team could fine him if he didn't report, especially after paying him $1.5 million last year instead of pursuing an injury settlement. But Priest Holmes is one of the truly good guys in sports and is trying to come back from a devastating injury. He's never had a starting job handed to him and has never complained about having to prove himself all over again year after year. And amid Bonds chasing Aaron, Feds chasing Vick, and mafia hitmen chasing Donaghy, you can truly look forward to seeing linebackers chasing Priest Holmes.

The Washington Post gets scooped yet again

When you think of the stereotypical greedy agent, you probably think of either Drew Rosenhaus, Scott Boras, or Jerry Maguire's Bob Sugar. All there guys take the proverbial bullets from the fans and media by getting in front of the camera or microphone for their clients. But I think of Atlanta based Joel Segal (at least while the Poston brothers have been temporarily put out of commission by Lavar-gate).

Redskins beat writer Jason La Canfora has been all over the negotiations between the team and first round pick LaRon Landry, updating progress daily in his notebook. Then why was he scooped by ESPN's Len Pasquarelli on the signing? Len broke the story this morning, and The Washington Post still hasn't reported it on their website: the lead story at this moment is that it's "seconds" away. Because Len disseminates information when instructed by Landry's (and Vick's) agent Segal, and Segal leaks signings to Pasquarelli so he can get his name on the ESPN crawl. So if you want to know why Pasquarelli was on Outside the Lines two months ago confidently declaring Vick's innocence in relation to dog fighting even as Bob Ley trotted out witness after witness, it was so this morning you can turn on Sportscenter and watch the words "Len Pasquarelli reports Redskins sign LaRon Landry to 5 year deal."

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Friday, July 27, 2007

Entirely Logical

Heroes star Zachary Quinto has been confirmed as landing the sought after role of Spock in the Star Trek prequel that will be written and directed by J.J. Abrams. (Alias, Lost, M:I 3)

With all due respect to Jonathan Frakes, J.J. Abrams is by far the most accomplished director to helm a Star Trek movie. This is truly make-or-break time for the once mightiest of franchises. After Enterprise's premature cancellation, Paramount is at risk of losing a generation of nerds. But I'm confident this movie will deliver.

Why is it that all NHL news is bad news?

I don't remember the last time I heard a positive NHL story. I do remember the last two dozen negative stories I've heard. The latest is that NHL 08 cover boy, Carolina Hurricanes center Eric Staal, along with his brother, 18 year old Pittsburgh Penguins center Jordan Staal, were arrested this past weekend when Eric's bachelor party got a little too rowdy. I suppose any publicity is good publicity for the dying NHL, but it's pretty rough when it's a bigger headline at Gamespot.com than ESPN.com. I mean that seriously: I noticed it on the front page of the leading video game site but it was completely buried on the leading sports site. And who the hells idea was it to release NHL 08 on 9/11? Still, after all the promise that NHL 07 showed (with the much safer choice of Alexander Ovechkin on the cover) I'm pretty excited about this year's offering.

Kelly Rowand uses Youtube!

Here's some mildly amusing footage of Beyonce falling down some stairs at a concert with around 2:11 left. After Sony makes them take that down here it is on Liveleak.

The funniest season preview I've ever read

Deadspin released their season preview for the Baltimore Ravens, and it was pretty damn funny. Some highlights:

Adalius [sic] Thomas bolted to New England, inching Bill Belichick nearer to his dream of a defense composed solely of linebackers...

In the end, the offense rests of the oft-injured shoulders of McNair, who is being held together of duct tape and chewing gum at this point. It is a little-known fact that the Ravens drafted Troy Smith out of Ohio State in this season's draft not as an insurance policy, but for spare parts. Billick is ready to literally replace some of McNair's ailing body parts with the 23-year-old Smith's if that's what it comes to.

So yeah, the Baltimore Ravens should be pretty good this year. Ten out of 11 starters returning on the league's top defense and an offense that rests on the health of 34-year-old quarterback with his own personal stretcher and a potent running back with whose defining moment can be seen on the from cover of the "Sports Greatest Injuries" DVD.

Probably a fake, but...

Maybe this pic of Aaron Eckhart has been photoshopped to be blurry on one side. Or maybe this is the first pic of Two-Face, rumored to be first seen at the end of the upcoming The Dark Knight, and to be featured in the third Christopher Nolan Batman movie.

Based on how gruesome the Joker looks, I had pretty high expectations for Two-Face: flesh dripping, strand of skin across the mouth, eye socket exposed. So I doubt it's real.

Added: Definitely a fake; it's a photoshopped image from the movie The Core.

No pass rush? Just add Rice.

Yesterday, Tampa Bay released future Hall of Famer Simeon Rice, reportedly because he failed a physical. Last year, limited by a shoulder injury, his sack total dropped to two, ending a five year streak of sack totals in double figures. Were he released six months ago, he likely would have been one of the more sought after free agents and landed a contract with a signing bonus well into eight figures. You have to figure the Dan Snyder and the Redskins, desperately in need of a pass rusher, are going to kick the tires on Rice. Then again, every team in NFL is in search of pass rushers and guys who can block pass rushers, so Rice figures to be busy the next week or two.

Adam Schefter notes that the Bucs will likely pursue Daunte Culpepper with the salary cap space cleared with the Rice release. This offseason they also signed Jeff Garcia, considered the premier free agent quarterback, and traded for Jake Plummer, who has unofficially retired. They join Chris Simms, who quarterbacked the team to a 10-6 record, winning the division, the year before last before missing most of last season with a lacerated spleen. The also drafted Gaines Adams, the premier pass rusher in the draft, but you can never have too much pass rush. The are scenarios where you can have too many quarterbacks.

The downside of suspending Vick

According to my man crush Adam Schefter, Goodell included language in his letter barring Vick from training camp that he would not be in violation of his contract by not reporting. This is of tremendous importance because the Falcons could have pursued some of the bonuses already paid to Vick if missed mandatory practice time for his trial, like he did yesterday. This significantly lowers the likelihood of Atlanta releasing Vick. Atlanta might still release him, but because the they and the rest of the NFL are trying to keep Vick away from the team, they have basically no shot at getting back any of the over $20 million prorated bonuses Vick received in his 2004 extension.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Quote of the day

Merrill Hoge, one of the NFL's all time leaders in concussions, called Roger Goodell "Just, but fair." That's the same thing! You don't need a conjunction! That's like me calling Jessica Alba hot, but attractive.

The Dark Knight teaser trailer leaked!

I had heard a rumor that the first The Dark Knight teaser trailer was to air before The Simpsons Movie. Well I say, fuck that, that's what Youtube is for! (Edit: Yanked from Youtube but that wouldn't stop someone like me.)

It doesn't really show anything, but it still was the greatest minute of my day.

Everyone will watch the Watchmen

Some people would take John Elway over Joe Montana. Some people think Bill Russell had a better career than Michael Jordan. Some people prefer The Godfather to Citizen Kane. But Alan Moore's 80s masterpiece Watchmen is universally recognized as the greatest comic of all time. For 20 years it's been many a director's Medellin, with Hollywood giants Terry Gilliam (Monty Python movies, 12 Monkeys), Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream), and Paul Greengrass (United 93) being attached at various times. But thanks to the success of 300, Zach Snyder is finally going to bring it to the screen. But maybe this was Snyder's plan all along: the above image is visible for a fraction of a second during the 300 trailer.

Much of the highly anticipated casting was announced yesterday: Billy Crudup (Almost Famous, Big Fish) as Dr. Manhattan, Patrick Wilson (Raoul from Phantom of the Opera) as Night Owl, and Matthew Goode (Chasing Liberty, Match Point) as Ozymandias. Previously announced casting included Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the Comedian (Denny Duquette on Grey's Anatomy), Malin Akerman (Sloane's friend Tori from Entourage, Freakshow's wife Liane from Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle) as the Silk Spectre, and Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children, Kelly Leak from The Bad News Bears) as the much sought after role of the above-pictured Rorschach (the inspiration of my pseudonym). Kerry Washington (Ray, Last King of Scotland), Thomas Jane (The Punisher, The Sweetest Thing), and Gerard Butler (Phantom of the Opera, 300) are also rumored to have been promised roles.

I cannot overstate how anticipated this movie is. I've been reading fanboy magazines since the 80s with casting suggestions, but since 9/11 I had given up on ever seeing it brought to life. There are parallels to the attack, and the context of the attack in the movie also calls into question the U.S. being in Iraq, although that isn't as obvious. Keep in mind, this was written in 1986, and it isn't overtly anti-American, it's just that timeless works can refer to current events in any era.

The best player in baseball

I've been waiting to write this entry for a few weeks. I keep thinking if I wait too long it will no longer be true, that I will no longer be able to say Erik Bedard has been the best player in baseball over the last month. (5-0, 1.71 ERA, league high 54 Ks) Instead, the timeline keeps getting longer, to the point I can say he's been the best player in the baseball over the last two months, (7-1, 2.08 ERA, league high 92 Ks) or even three! (7-2, 2.30 ERA, league high 144 Ks) Over the last three months Alex Rodriguez is hitting .292 with 21 HRs and 68 RBIs, good but not eyepopping numbers.

I still probably haven't convinced you he's better than ARod, but by every statistical measurement at ESPN and Yahoo Bedard is the #1 player in fantasy baseball since April 28th. "Yeah, maybe in fantasy," might be your response, but how is that so much different than reality? Baseball is a game of statistics, unlike football where everything is based on the team and system. Or you might point out how shitty the Orioles are, and my response to that would be that they're as close to the Yankees as the Yankees are to the Red Sox, and Bedard is the only plus player the Orioles have.

Maybe it's a stretch to call Bedard the best player in baseball already, but do believe if everyone in baseball were a free agent right now, Bedard would draw the third richest contract, behind ARod and Johan Santana. So it's only a matter of time before he ends up joining ARod on the Yankees.

Introducing: the Vick defense team

Deion Sanders is the latest former or current NFL player to defend Michael Vick's, ahem, love of animals. In the Fort Myers News-Press, the aspiring journalist wrote:

"What a dog means to Vick might be a lot different than what he means to you or I. Hold on, don’t start shaking your head just yet. Listen to me.

Some people kiss their dogs on the mouth. Some people let their dogs eat from their plate. Some people dress their dogs in suits more expensive than mine, if you can believe that.

And some people enjoy proving they have the biggest, toughest
dog on the street."

Last week Emmitt Smith implied that he thought Vick was being unfairly targeted:

"Now, granted he might have been to a dogfight a time or two, maybe five times, maybe 20 times, may have bet some money, but he's not the one you're after. He's not the one you're after, he's just the one whose going to take the fall -- publicly."

And of course Clinton Portis didn't think it was a big deal:

"I don't know if he was fighting dogs or not, but it's his property, it's his dog. If that's what he wants to do, do it. I think people should mind their business."

These guys are all active or current NFL players, are all African American, and are all from the deep south. The deep south isn't like east coast major metropolitan areas. I drove through Mississippi on the way to Mardi Gras one year, and it looked more like a third world country than part of the United States. Things go on there that we can't imagine: entire cities living in abject poverty with a high school football stadium that put any in the affluent Montgomery County, Maryland to shame. Unspeakable hate crimes. And perhaps rampant dog fighting. Before Vick's trial is done, we are all going to go down the dog fighting rabbit hole and find that it's much more common than we had ever thought.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tough talk from a small man

Yesterday morning David Stern detailed the NBA security network set up to prevent game fixing and other armageddon scenarios. But these guys aren't exactly Elliot Ness because some of the numbers that have come out are staggering. Last season, games Donaghy reffed went an average of 13.5 points per game above the over/under. People don't realize how good Vegas is at setting lines: it's the foundation of the argument to not gamble. They're so good that the lines usually don't change unless there's new information such as a major injury, so the late money mostly goes for one side.

Now here's the thing that should have set off alarms to any moron whose job is to look for signs of point shaving: the point spread moved a point and a half or more the first ten games Donaghy reffed in 2007, and in each of those games the team where late money went covered. So what exactly was this security team looking for? This isn't a rhetorical question; I really can't think of another method to prevent point shaving besides examining point spreads and the over/under.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Breaking news! Lohan drunk! Pope Catholic! And shit smells!

Lindsay Lohan was so close to making it two months without at drunk driving charge. Her May 26 encounter with a shrub is what brought on here memorable stay in rehab. I thought she was really committed this time, that she was leaving the booze and blow behind; that the ankle bracelet was more than a conversation starter. (I bet the conversation would go something like "Nice ankle bracelet. Wanna fuck?") But it was all a clever ruse. She's back in jail after blowing a .12 with another kind of coke chaser in her pocket. I don't know who I trust less: Lindsay Lohan behind the wheel or Pacman Jones at a strip club.

But on the bright side, a Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan reality show would break all kinds of records, or even a Switchblade Sisters remake! And as mugshots go, you have to admit she doesn't look bad.

The easiest job in sports

I just heard Jalen Rose refer to being an NBA referee as the hardest job in sports. Excuse me? How hard can it be? You're never really wrong because you can call a foul/charge/travel/palm on every play or never if you want, you have carte blanche to throw anyone out of the game, you never have to give interviews, you fly first class everywhere, and you get paid to watch basketball. Apparently a great deal of money: in Tim Donaghy's case $260,000 yearly. NFL referees aren't even full-time employees!

Speaking of Meth

Zhenli Ye Gon, one of world's biggest traffickers of pseudoephedrine, the main ingredient in methamphetamine, was arrested last night in Wheaton, MD. at P.J. Rice Bistro, on Viers Mill Road. He is currently being held at the Montgomery County Detention Center in Rockville. I've never heard of P.J. Rice Bistro, but the place has to be good if this guy comes down from New York to check it out. Mexico is pushing for extradition, but if he's tried in Wheaton, it's basically the same thing.

Can Beckham Pack them like Pele?

Now that we've reached the dog days of the baseball season and the quietest portion of the football season is reaching an end, it's the perfect time for MLS to roll out their pricey new arrival: David Beckham. Of course, no one should expect MLS to reach to level of the big three leagues, or even NASCAR, but maybe they can match tennis' or the NHL's level of popularity. In order to truly become mainstream, they would need someone transcendent, a singular talent on the level of a Gretzky or Jordan. They need Pele.

This weekend I watched Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos, and it was fascinating. In the late 60s, Warner Bros. acquired Atlantic Records, where Ray Charles rose to stardom under the direction of Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun (featured in Ray). As a favor to Nesuhi, Warner head Steve Ross helped the Erteguns found the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League (hereafter referred to as the NASL) in 1971. The team and the league floundered along until 1975, when they were able to lure Pele to New York. Pele is not just the greatest soccer player of all time, he's probably the greatest athlete. He scored more goals than Gretzky in fewer games, along with a record three World Cups.

Cosmos attendance skyrocketed
from 3,578 a game in 1974 to 10,450 a game in 1975, 18,227 in 1976, 34,142 in 1977, and 47,856 in 1978. On August 14, 1977, the Cosmos sold out the Meadowlands drawing more than 77,000. Howard Cosell said soccer was here to stay, Cosmos players were fixtures at Studio 54, and soccer reached it's unquestioned peak of popularity in the United States.

The NASL was able to withstand Pele's 1977 retirement, but not an attempted hostile takeover of Warner Bros. by Rupert Murdoch, along with a collapse of Warner owned Atari. The Cosmos were sold to Pele's second fiddle Giorgio Chinaglia, who couldn't afford to keep the team afloat. 1984 was their last season.

So soccer has been been successful in this country before, but it remains to be seen if Beckham can bring the same level of sizzle that Pele brought as a soccer ambassador. But those that say soccer is doomed in this country need only look back 30 years ago to the Summer of Sam, Reggie Jackson, Billy Martin, and Pele.

Monday, July 23, 2007


In order to win a contest, I wrote a brief essay on why I believe Method Man is the greatest rapper of all time. Yes, I am a dork. Here is that essay:

Method Man is the greatest rapper of all time. No one has ever had beef with Meth; when the east coast/west coast sh*t was at it's deepest he was rapping on All Eyez in Me. His biggest beef was with Diddy, but Meth is such a badass Diddy agreed to work on Tical 0: The prequel anyway. Mary J. Blige has been relevant for over 15 years but her biggest hit was her duet with Meth, winning a Grammy and reaching #3 on the pop charts. Meth is so respected he was the only [guest] rapper to appear on Ready to Die. Meth is a showman: when he introduced Roy Jones, Jr. at Radio City Music Hall it was the coolest thing I've seen in the history of boxing. Meth can act: outside of Ice Cube he's had probably the best acting career of any rapper, appearing in stuff as diverse as How High, The Wire, (where he played Michael Vick) and Garden State.

And Meth can put it down. From funny rhymes (Boogie, represent this sh*t fully, Like I'm constantly at war with the town bully, Who want that pressure, about to get smacked silly, Like a fat b*tch in Spandex, free Willy!), quoting Balzac (Sign of the times, conspiracy to overthrow the mind, Behind every fortune there's a crime, This technique is tech-9), to the sublime (Quick on the draw with my hands on the four - nine three eleven with the rugged rhymes galore) no one can rhyme like him.

The scandal to end all scandals

Last Friday maybe the biggest sports story of all time broke: veteran NBA referee Tim Donaghy was being investigated by the FBI for point shaving. When we were listening to David Stern's statement my girlfriend scoffed when he said Donaghy "betrayed the most sacred trust in professional sports." I responded with "That it's not wrestling. That the games aren't fixed."

It's the basic premise of sports. If you want to watch something where you know how it's going to end, there's a romantic comedy on TBS at 8:00. With the NBA, that is often the case as well (see Lakers v Trailblazers, 2001), which is why this is absolutely the worst news possible for the less and less significant NBA. Once CNN, Court TV, and ESPN start showing clips of big games that are decided by a Donaghy call, that stench will cling to the NBA forever. People still refer to the 1919 Black Sox scandal as the measuring stick, which was never proven and no other games besides the World Series were alleged. This could cover dozens of games over 13 seasons.

To sit or not to sit?

New NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has been doling out punishment like Pacman raining money on strippers since taking over last fall, most notably suspending Jones 16 games without a conviction against him. But with double digit run-ins with police, he clearly qualified as a repeat offender, leaving Goodell with discretion as to punishment. With Vick, although he had an incident at an airport with a water bottle that smelled like my frat house, he was never formally charged. So with regards to his involvement with dog fighting, Vick can make a pretty good case in an appeal of any suspension he would receive. But the indictment also speaks of Vick gambling at the dog fights, and here's where Goodell gets some carte blanche to suspend.

Now Atlanta will miss Vick on the field if he's suspended but every day he's not the players will have to deal with the enormous distraction of PETA protests, literally 50 or 100 times as many reporters from their training camp, facilities, and practices. And whether or not Vick is suspended he will miss practices with court dates; he's already scheduled in court the first day of Falcons training camp, July 26. The Collective Bargaining Agreement, hereafter referred to as the CBA, only allows for a team to suspend a player four games, (The T.O. Rule) so either the NFL suspends him, he takes a leave of absence, the Falcons cut him, or he plays.

I either want to see him play or for the Falcons to cut him. I love the drama of having him in court on Monday, practice on Tuesday, flying around the country, every night on Sportscenter watching him walk through throngs of PETA protesters at airports. Or for the Falcons to cut him so any suspension(s) will be served in 4-6 when he gets out of a Federal Prison and is completely radioactive to prospective teams. I don't want Goodell to suspend him and have to listen to the sycophantic Len Pasquarelli spouting off about due process or for him to get paid to ruin the Falcons season.

Make no mistake, whatever happens before the trial anything other than a not guilty verdict will result in the most significant punishment in the history of American sports. Two years at least, maybe a lifetime ban. If he's guilty, and he sure looks guilty, he will get his. What's the point of suspending him four games now by the Falcons, four more by the NFL, just to punt on dealing with the bad press? Let it play out, and then drop the hammer. Until then, enjoy the circus.

Friday, July 20, 2007

EW hates Two and a Half Men

EW listed their cheers and jeers for Emmy nods, and they jeered Two and a Half Men receiving nominations. What they cheered was the nomination of the funniest thing on television in years, Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake's Dick in a Box, for best original music and lyrics. I'd post a Youtube link for it but NBC has been vigilant in keeping them off the internet, which is myopic because no one is watching SNL and they should use every avenue available to promote their dying comedic flagship.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Also known as "Ookie"

Reading legal documents usually puts me to sleep, but the Vick indictment is riveting stuff. It details the careers of some of the dogs he sponsored, lists some of the dog fighting equipment on page 18, and details how Vick and his associates executed dogs that they considered not "game" enough on pages 6, 12, and 14. Apparently it was frowned upon to call Vick by name; from page 15: During the fight, C.W. #3 was criticized by a person unknown to the Grand Jury from "Bad Newz Kennels" for C.W. #3's having yelled out VICK's name in front of the crowd during the dog fight." Apparently, Vick is "also known as 'Ookie.'"

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

My dad weighs in

According to theskinnypost's legal analyst, my dad, who is a lawyer, regarding Vick: "He will get a substantial jail term. If I was pressed I'd say three to five. When you go up against the federal government it is hard to win; ask Scooter Libby. And apparently, in this jurisdiction, they prosecuted Ralph Sampson for not paying child support and put him in jail."

How many tackles can he break in the shower?

I've been all over the Vick dog fighting story since it broke nearly three months ago, bringing you exclusive footage from the mansion, and the official music video of Vick's agent, Joel Segal. When supposed Atlanta-based NFL expert Len Pasquarelli (Segal's BFF) was guaranteeing that Vick would skate and defended Vick at every turn, I laughed my ass off. I watched Vick's denial at the NFL draft and sighed at the perversion of the NFL's remembrance of the Virginia Tech shooting victims. And now, with Falcons training camp set to open in about a week, Vick is set to simultaneously appear before a federal judge.

At about the same time as Vick's Virginia mansion was first raided, the Falcons were finalizing a trade of backup QB Matt Schaub to the Texans for two second round picks and a swap of first round picks, with the Falcons moving up two spots. The Falcons reached a little on Arkansas DE Jamaal Anderson, and from what I read he would have dropped to 10 if the Falcons hadn't traded up, rendering the first round pick swap inconsequential. They finalized the deal, essentially trading the premier backup quarterback (26 years old) in the NFL for two second round picks, two weeks before raid. In hindsight, of course they should have held on to Schaub, but Schaub was in a contract year and with Vick uncuttable due to his huge signing bonus it was a sensible move.

Looking back, the Falcons never should have made Vick the highest paid player in the NFL. He'd had some injuries, he'd had some minor problems off the field, and, most notably, he wasn't the best player in the NFL. A question I haven't heard asked is whether or not the Falcons can try to go after some of the $37 million guaranteed money Vick received in the megadeal. The team could pursue over $20 million, the prorated portion of the signing bonus not yet earned, but it would be tough unless there was specific wording in his contract. For example, when Kellen Winslow, Jr. and Jay Williams were involved in career threatening motorcycle accidents, their contracts specifically said the couldn't ride motorcycles so their clubs could recoup guaranteed money. If the Falcons could get this money back so they won't have to eat the cap hit for cutting him, then they absolutely should. You can't have a QB facing federal charges, let alone in the new NFL where a DUI could draw a two game suspension.

The next big show

I saw an extended preview for NBC's Bionic Woman and I think it looks like it could be a winner. The original show was before my time so I don't know how the origin compares to the original, but I doubt there are too many Bionic Woman purists out there to be offended. But what I saw reminded me of the classic series The Fugitive, because it seems she'll be on the run constantly during the series, at least until they jump the shark.

The imagery of the preview is meant to evoke The Matrix, which is a good way to get my attention. Also, it's good to see Battlestar Galactica's Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck) with a role, because this upcoming season of BSG is rumored to be the last. I don't recognize anyone else in the cast and imdb.com only lists Michelle Ryan as the cast.

And you call yourselves the master race?

Here is a classic viral video of some German kid who takes the video game Unreal way too seriously, and here it is translated.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The over/under for wins for every team in the NFL

These are the Las Vegas over/unders for NFL team wins.
NFC East
Dallas 9 - Who knows if we'll get the early season Romo or the late season Romo, but they're taking a big step back in terms of head coach. I'll take the under.
Philadelphia 9 - If McNabb never got hurt last year they could have challenged for the Super Bowl. I like them to get more than 9.
New York Giants 8 - Brandon Jacobs could start for a lot of teams, and Tiki was a devisive figure in the locker room. I actually like them to win 9 or 10 games.
Washington 7.5 - I've heard great things about Jason Campbell this offseason, but I still see them going 7-9.

NFC North
Chicago 10 - Year after year the rest of the division gets worse with idiots calling the shots for small market teams with less margin for error. I like the Bears to win 11 or 12 games.
Green Bay 7.5 - Finished the year with some momentum, I see them winning 8 games.
Minnesota 6.5 - It's possible Travaris Jackson matures quickly and they ride a strong defense and running game to the playoffs, but unlikely. I see them going 5-11.
Detroit 6 - Wow, Vegas doesn't take Kitna seriously. I see them pushing at 6-10.

NFC South
Carolina 9 - This team is always stacked. I see them winning 10 or 11 games.
New Orleans 9 - They'll have a tough time matching last year's dream season, when they won ten games. I see them winning 8 or 9 games.
Atlanta 7.5 - No way they go .500 with the zoo they have right now. 5-11 or 6-10.
Tampa Bay 7 - They've revamped their QBs but not much else. I'll say 6-10.

NFC West
Seattle 9 - The rest of the division looks tough, 9-7 sounds about right.
San Francisco 7.5 - This is my NFC Super Bowl team, 10-6 sounds about right.
St. Louis 7.5 - Bulger is going into his contract year, but I don't see three teams going over .500 in this division.
Arizona 7 - The worst franchise in sports? Maybe. Whisenhunt should have waited for a job at a place he can win. How about 5-11?

AFC East
New England 11.5
New York Jets 8
Miami 7
Buffalo 6

AFC North
Baltimore 9
Cincinnati 9
Pittsburgh 9
Cleveland 5.5

AFC South
Indianapolis 10.5
Jacksonville 9
Tennessee 7
Houston 6.5

AFC West
San Diego 10.5
Denver 9.5
Kansas City 7.5
Oakland 5

The sot has spoken

It looks like Mandy Patinkin has quit CBS's Criminal Minds. I know he's had a nice career, winning an Emmy on Chicago Hope, presiding of Lisa's wedding on the worst. episode. ever. of The Simpsons, starring opposite Streisand in Yentl, and carrying a few seasons of Dead Like Me. But he as well get his name legally changed to Inigo Montoya because that's what I call him when I see him in allergy medicine commercials or other random crap.

Does he fight anyone other than Lex Luthor?

Kevin Spacey is officially in the sequel to 2006's Superman Returns. Superman: Man of Steel should be out in 2009 and follows the nomenclature of the Batman movies (the sequel is called The Dark Knight).

Friday, July 13, 2007

Celebrities blog too - so like us!

EW (AKA Entertainment Weekly) posted their 20 best and worst celebrity blogs. They say Jenna Fischer's blog is surprisingly candid (although it may contain spoilers) and Avril Lavigne's blog is mostly schilling for her albums.

Freeney gets $30 million guaranteed

The Colts have locked up their franchise player, pass rusher Dwight Freeney, to the tune of six years, $72 million, which includes a $30 million signing bonus. This megadeal makes Freeney the highest paid defensive player in the game by a wide margin Beamoning past a group including Champ Bailey, Nate Clements, Charles Grant, and Adalius Thomas. This deal will officially set the market for stud pass rushers Julius Peppers, Terrell Suggs, and Will Smith. Charles Grant was the first lineman to sign this offseason for beaucoup bucks, but he isn't the perennial Pro Bowler that Freeney and Peppers are, and he doesn't have the upside of Suggs and Smith.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Yankees look to play hardball softly

The Yankees recently announced they would break their policy of not negotiating extensions during the season for Alex Rodriguez, as long as ARod doesn't opt out of his contract after the season. ARod is owed $81 million over the next three seasons, over $30 million of which the Texas Rangers will pay. That is, they will if ARod doesn't opt out. So let's say the Yanks sign him for a completely insane $80 million over two years (2011 and 2012). That would double what any athlete but ARod makes on the field annually. Then the Yankees would owe about $130 million for five years - $26 million annually, not a bad value for the best infielder of his era in his prime. ARod would make $161 million over five years - $32 million annually, a figure that he'll have a tough time getting in the open market. The Rangers would get absolutely screwed in borderline collusion. But if ARod doesn't mind playing in New York, this seems like a logical scenario.

DeShawn Stevenson resigns

According to The Washington Post Wizards Insider blog, DeShawn Stevenson has resigned with the Wizards. The same blog mentions the Wizards were offering $15 million over four years and that Stevenson was looking for $18 million over that same span, and any time a team is that close to resigning a guy it usually gets done.

Supplemental Draft Update

In an upset, Georgia CB Paul Oliver was the first pick in today's Supplemental Draft, going ahead of Maryland OT Jared Gaither, (check him out in the weight room at the 4:23 mark) who at one time was a projected top 10 pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. In the Supplemental Draft, teams can choose to take a player in a given round, sacrificing their pick for the following year. There's probably an average of about one player selected a year, off the top of my head. The draft order is based on a lottery, where the teams that had the top 10 picks in the draft are jumbled, the teams with the next 10 picks are jumbled, etc.

Oliver went late in the 4th round to San Diego, who are perennially weak at corner, largely due to top 5 pick Quentin Jammer never really panning out. Jared Gaither went late in the 5th round to Baltimore, which has to be considered a steal. At 6'9" 325 lb, he might be the biggest mammal ever to break five seconds in the 40. If he gets one start at tackle in the next two years, then he provides 3rd round type value. A lot of NFL GMs get more ink than Ozzie Newsome, but year after year no one gets more out of 2nd day picks: Adalius Thomas, Chester Taylor, Jermaine Lewis, Brandon Stokley, Edwin Mulitalo, Tony Pashos, Dawan Landry, Jason Brown, Casey Rabach, Edgerton Hartwell, their punters (Dave Zastudil and Sam Koch), even Steve McNair in a trade; that's a pretty good track record.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Vincent Chase Effect

I'm a fan of the show Entourage, which is based on the experiences of Mark Wahlberg. My favorite part of Entourage is when they show clips of what are supposed to be movies or shows starring the characters. They're brilliant satire of Hollywood conventions and are always good for a laugh. But now every Mark Wahlberg movie I wince at every hackneyed cliche, and for the latest Wahlberg vehicles are so completely average that they're built on cliches.

Last night I was watching Invincible, there was a completely unnecessary slow motion mud football scene, and I couldn't help but thinking of Vincent Chase running down the pier in Aquaman for about a minute and a half. And in Shooter, without ruining anything for you I can say there are a few scenes with Wahlberg walking in slowmotion in front of something that just blew up, much like every scene from Medellin. He's got some interesting projects in development, however, including M. Night Shyamalan's next movie, an Italian Job sequel, and a Micky Ward biopic.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The non Hall of Famer 500 Home Run Club

Watching the brutal three and a half hour Home Run Derby was made a whole lot more enjoyable by the Special Olympics kids in the outfield booting flyballs, but it also served as a reminder of exactly how devalued the 500 home run mark has become. Vladimir Guerrero won it, and we were reminded that he has 352 career homers. He's listed as 31, so if he averages 25 homers a year the next six years he'll reach 500. He'll join active juicers, I mean sluggers Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Ken Griffey, Jr., Frank Thomas, and probably Alex Rodriguez (494 career homers), Jim Thome (486), Manny Ramirez (481), Gary Sheffield (476), Carlos Delgado (421 and age 35), Andruw Jones (357 at 30), and Albert Pujols (266 at 27). Adam Dunn (222 at 27) is the next most logical candidate. So I'm saying there are 12 active players that will join the 500 home run club, compared to 17 retired players that are of a part of it, including of course recently retired Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire.

Every eligible member of the 500 Home Run Club is in the Hall of Fame except for Mark McGwire. I'll tell you right now that Palmeiro, Thome, Sheffield, and Delgado won't make the Hall of Fame, nor will Fred McGriff who has 493 homers of his own (the same as Gehrig). So a third of the active guys I project to have 500 homers have no shot at the Hall. 500 is such a small deal now that hopefully we don't have to worry about ESPN breaking in to The Bronx is Burning to see ARod's 500th.

Monday, July 9, 2007

I bought a PS3

It was $412 for thanks to combining a $40 off $199 coupon, the free controller promotion currently running, and a sudden $100 price drop. I also have about $250 worth of Sony Points that I will be reimbursed by my credit card company. Tomorrow I will go back and try to price match with this coupon:

Friday, July 6, 2007

PS3 dropping like it's hot

As was first reported by bargain site superstar speedy1961 on DVDTalk and Cheapassgamer, Circuit City will be carrying the PS3 for $499.99 the week after next. From 7/1-9/30, Sony is also running a promotion where you receive five Blu Ray movies with the purchase of a PS3. This is huge news. I'm getting more and more tempted to buy a PS3, especially since I have about $215 of rewards from my credit card that must be used on Sony products. The problem is there's like three or four games I want, so how much do I want to spend on a Blu Ray player? But if anyone out there is thinking about buying a PS3 in the next week or so, wait until at least 7/15.

Fish goes with chips, says Brits

The Oxford Press went to the man on the street to see how well they knew the NFL and got some pretty funny answers. One guys said the only player on the Dolphins he knew was Joe Montana, another said The Rock. To be perfectly fair, I can't name a single player on Manchester United to save my life and I doubt the average American can either. Soccer ain't our sport, and American Football isn't theirs.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The top 25 players NFL players over the last 25 years

USA Today is compiling a list of their top 25 players of the last 25 years, revealing a new name each day. It's amusing that they include Terry Bradshaw on the list, considering his last season was in 1982, so he hasn't played in the last 25 seasons. It's sad that Darrell Green isn't on the list, because he was the best player over most of 8 year period for arguably the dominant team in the NFL over that stretch.
1. Joe Montana QB
2, Jerry Rice WR
3. Walter Payton RB
4. Lawrence Taylor OLB
5. Reggie White DE
6. John Elway QB
7. Emmitt Smith RB
8. Ronnie Lott SS/CB
9. Tom Brady QB
10. Barry Sanders RB
11. Dan Marino QB
12. Peyton Manning QB
13. Anthony Munoz OT
14. Brett Favre QB
15. Bruce Smith DE
16. Deion Sanders CB
17. Mike Singletary ILB
18. Ray Lewis ILB
19. Marshall Faulk RB
20. Troy Aikman QB
21. LaDainian Tomlinson RB
22. Rod Woodson CB/S
23. Terry Bradshaw QB
24. Steve Young QB
25. Eric Dickerson RB

Profootballtalk is making a list of their own, and I'm finding it disappointing. Get this: #25 is a kicker!
1. Jerry Rice WR
2. John Elway QB
3. Joe Montana QB
4. Brett Favre QB
5. Barry Sanders RB
6. Lawrence Taylor OLB
7. Reggie White DE
8. Emmitt Smith RB
9. Dan Marino QB
10. Ronnie Lott S/CB
11. Bruce Smith DE
12. Marvin Harrison WR
13. Deion Sanders CB/PR
14. Mike Singletary ILB
15. Peyton Manning QB
16. Anthony Munoz OT
17. Tim Brown WR
18. Marshall Faulk RB
19. Darrell Green CB
20. Junior Seau OLB
21. Steve Young QB
22. Cris Carter WR
23. Willie Roaf OT
24. Shannon Sharpe TE
25. Adam Vinatieri K

So I decided to make my own damn list, and it's way better than either of these lists. My criteria is simple: if I had to vote for one guy for the Hall of Fame, who would I vote for. So I think I'd vote for three time Super Bowl MVP Joe Montana over anyone, I'd vote for Favre over Elway if push came to shove because Favre had so many more monster seasons statistically, and so on. Also they had to be playing at their peak in the last 25 years, knocking off Walter Payton, among others. The hardest part was where to put active players, because who knows how many more championships are in Brady or Manning, if any. I'm predicting 1 or 2 more for Brady, probably none maybe 1 for Manning. For Ray Lewis, Tony Gonzalez, Manning, and Tomlinson, I'm saying they're past their prime in that order, and Ogden could retire any year. I couldn't stop at 25 but I did stop at 27. It may appear to be skill position heavy as well it should be.
1. Joe Montana QB
2. Jerry Rice WR
3. Tom Brady QB
4. John Elway QB
5. Brett Favre QB
6. Peyton Manning QB
7. Reggie White DE
8. Dan Marino QB
9. Barry Sanders RB
10. Emmitt Smith RB
11. Deion Sanders CB/PR
12. Ray Lewis ILB
13. Lawrence Taylor OLB
14. Steve Young QB
15. Marshall Faulk RB
16. Bruce Smith DE
17. Anthony Munoz OT
18. Rod Woodson CB/S
19. Marvin Harrison WR
20. Ronnie Lott S/CB
21. Darrell Green CB
22. Cris Carter WR
23. Tony Gonzalez TE
24. LaDainian Tomlinson RB
25. Jon Ogden OT
26. Troy Aikman QB
27. Larry Allen OG

How I spent my summer vacation

I am finally back from the most badass vacation in the history of man. Even Mountain Dew guys would look at some of my pics and say "Whoa. That's intense!" The trip got off to a bad start when I got into Oahu late on Saturday, June 16th, when either Airtran or Southwest lost my luggage, which left me clothes and toiletry free for the first few days. We crashed at our spectacular apartment, with a scenic view of Ala Wai Golf Course and a 42" Plasma HDTV.

Sunday we explored Waikiki, enjoying the Father's Day brunch at Sam Choy's, then returning to the apartment to catch the end of the U.S. Open at my insistence. We unwound at the pool, which was on the roof of our building, before picking up the rental car. Then we drove to Walmart and picked up groceries for the rest of the week.

Monday we woke up at 5 AM , drove an hour to the other side of the island (the North Shore), and went shark diving. Cage goes in the water, we go in the water. Shark's in the water. Our shark. A Galapagos shark, about 10 feet. We were disappointed that is was the lone shark we encountered, but it swam incredibly close to the cage - like two or three feet away from me. After that adventure we went swimming with sea turtles on the appropriately named Turtle Beach. We topped off our North Shore trip with lunch at the renowned shrimp truck Giovanni's. Exhausted, we ended up falling asleep around 7 PM.

Tuesday we woke up around 5 AM again, so we decided to hike Diamond Head Crater. The 271 steps kicked our asses, to say nothing of the steep rock path. We celebrated our accomplishment with malasadas (Portuguese doughnuts) from Leonard's, and then set out for Tantalus Road, also known as Round Top. Within 20 minutes, we're looking so far down on Diamond Head that I feel foolish for expending all my energy on it. I see some random sign for a trail at one point - Manoa Cliff Trail, and of course I want to hike it. For nearly half an hour we're hiking up enormous mud steps that have been savaged by rain delineated by planks that are over a foot high, walking along the edges of cliffs, without any indication that this is going anywhere worthwile, especially since there isn't any sign of anyone else ever having been here. Suddenly the view opens up on Nuuanu Valley and our jaws drop. We see the mountain range over the tiny city below and are inspired to continue. Eventually we come to a bench we assume marks the highlight of the trail and rest to take it in. This bench and a minute tower on one of the mountains is the only indication of humanity anywhere we can see. Absolutely inspiring. Finally we stopped at Pu'u Ualakaa Park for a final lookout. We drove back and could barely move the rest of the day.

Wednesday we snorkeled at the legendary Hanauma Bay for about four hours. I got as burnt as a Richard Pryor and still am on my Achilles. It was worth it, or at least almost worth it. We saw a number of exotic looking fish; my favorite was purple with orange U's on their side delineating scales. After swallowing more than my fill of salt water, I was dying for some good old fashioned fast food. We pulled into a strip mall and stopped at an intriguing fast food place called Loco Moco, which I wanted to go to since I had just beaten a video game called Loco Roco. The house special of the same name consisted of two hamburger patties, fried eggs, and gravy over rice and a seafood salad. It was pretty insane.

Thursday was our last day with the rental car and we started out by going to the windward side of the island to take in Lanikai and Kailua beaches, which are the two most picturesque beaches I've ever seen. I was particularly impressed with Lanikai Beach: the sand was so fine it was like walking in powdered sugar. We then took a quick stop at Pali lookout, although at this point we were completely jaded when it came to lookouts. We visited the Byodo-In Temple, a replica of a 900 year old Buddhist Temple in Uji, Japan, and then moved to the Hilton Hawaii Village and returned the rental car.

Friday was Rachel's first day at the conference, so I spent my time shopping around Waikiki, most of the day at the Ala Moana Shopping Center, where I bought a few T shirts.

Saturday I woke up around 7 AM and took the bus to Pearl Harbor, where I visited the USS Arizona Memorial. That was pretty intense. My favorite display was that of Midway, where briefing information, models. and a timeline were displayed. A large rusted cylinder is the most visible part of the Arizona, and you get a ticket to see a brief documentary then ferry out to the memorial that spans the sunken battleship. That night we went to a luau. which was crap until the fire dancer came out.

Sunday I lounged around the Hilton, listened to a time share presentation for a $100 gift certificate, and used some coupons for some freebies. That night we had a larger luau with an open bar (finally!) where after some heavy drinking I decided to bite the bullet and go skydiving the next day. We topped the night off with a very nice sushi buffet.

Monday morning I called and scheduled a shuttle to pick me up and make the hour drive to the other side of the island to go skydiving. When pulling up to the airfield I couldn't help but notice a flower memorial with what appeared to be a grieving mother. Before signing the waiver, which was covered with the warning "YOU COULD DIE," I had to ask the cashier what was the deal with the memorial. As soon as she said "drunk driving," I said "Thank God" and signed the waiver, and my heart really started pounding. I met the guy I was going tandem jumping with, and gave me some brief instructions - basically to arch my back during free fall so we don't spin out of control. We go up, and I was reasonably calm until the first group jumped, although to the untrained eye it sure looked like they were sucked out. We jumped third, and when you realize there's nothing holding you up, it's a whole new level of fear. I tried to enjoy the view as my cheeks started flubbering like I was listening to a Memorex tape with the volume set to 11. When he straightened us up I knew the chute was about to open, and when it did it felt like both of my inner thighs were hit by a 2' x 4' swung by Gary Sheffield. You're basically going 100 mph or however the hell fast you're going and land on these two straps on your inner thighs, so it really kills. I was so concerned with twisting an ankle when we landed that I held my legs up so long I landed on my tailbone, which is still incredibly sore. After I got back to the hotel, I was thrilled to learn that I could just make happy hour at the conference, so I hoofed it over there for a few beers.

Wednesday I went golfing at Ala Wai Golf Course, where I played nine holes for under $40. The highlight was the sixth hold leading back into the clubhouse, with Diamond Head crater creating an incredible backdrop.