Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Top Five Most Hated Sports Franchises

Sports Illustrated just published a list of the 25 most hated teams in sports history, and that reminded me of my own little mental list, composed as the Lakers and Celtics were sucking all the joy out of the NBA playoffs. A Lakers/ Celtics finals might have been great for the NBA, but to me it just meant that we'd have to suffer between one of those two teams winning a championship again, certainly not something to embrace. Now, I don't hate the Celtics, just dislike them, so I suppose I was pulling for them. But it was a tepid support, kind of like accepting Russia as an ally against Nazi Germany. Sometimes, the fight against evil makes for strange bedfellows.

There's really nothing worse as a sports fan then watching a team you truly despise march towards a championship. I'm sure that every Red Sox fan will tell you that the Curse of the Bambino years were made all the worse by watching the Yankees win some two dozen championships at the time. Yet, somehow, the Red Sox 2004 championship, seeing as it included the Sox vaulting over the Yankees in about the most humbling way possible, somehow seems to even things up. Yankees fans won't admit it, but I think they'd trade at least, oh, five or ten of those titles to get that one back. And this is something Sox fans don't get: to the rest of us, now, you guys are even. That was it, you slayed the dragon. You're not the good guys against the Evil Empire any more; you're both Evil Empires now.

Anyway, back to the SI list for a moment. It's a decent list, though it seems like they, for the most part, chose the 25 most hated franchises (or colleges, or countries, or whatever) and chose their most hated teams. I don't, for example, hate the '92 Dallas Cowboys any less then I do the '93 or '95 Cowboys that also won the Super Bowl, or, for that matter, the 2009 Cowboys. Well, maybe a little bit more. Plus, in the interest of being inclusive, there's things like the 1976 East German women's Olympic swim team, for whom I suspect the venom has mostly faded. There's even an honorable mention for an America's Cup sailing team. But not one Lakers or Celtics team. Nor the Lawrence Phillips-era Nebraska Cornhuskers. Hell, how about the 2010 French World Cup team, that was seemingly reviled by even the members of the 2010 French World Cup team? Now that's hatred.

So while there may be high spots in hatred for certain teams, and there are certain, otherwise harmless franchises that have the misfortune of assembling a truly despicable team (the 2000-01 Trail Blazers is a great call), I think it's really the year-in, year-out hatreds that stick with us. My list, of course, is biased from the perspective of a Philadelphia sports fan. There are teams on here (well, one team) that the average fan probably doesn't hate. Conversely, there are several other teams, such as the aforementioned Celtics, not to mention the Yankees, Red Sox, Steelers, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and Duke Blue Devils that just don't raise my ire like they do others, though I fully accede to them being eminently hatable (the Blue Devils, I must note, get a pass because I married into the family of a graduate). I encourage you to make your own list!

1. Dallas Cowboys. Oh hell yes. If you're a sports fan from outside the southwest, and you don't hate the Cowboys, there's just something wrong with you. They are, without a doubt, the most despicable organization in the Western Hemisphere not named the Tea Party. Though, let's face it, a lot of Tea Party members are probably Dallas Cowboy fans. I hate the Cowboys so much that, when it looked like they were heading back to the Super Bowl in 2007, I found myself desperately rooting for anyone to beat them, even the Giants. Only a team like the Cowboys can inspire mortal enemies to put aside their differences for the greater good. Oh, and don't even get me started about Tony Romo. I want to get some sleep tonight.

2. Los Angeles Lakers. I'm honestly a little surprised that they placed so high on my list, because I care so little for basketball in general and the NBA in particular that it seems odd to so hate an NBA team. Perhaps it's just the glow of their second straight championship, and the public redemption of Kobe Bryant, but the fact is that the Lakers get me stirred up more then just about anyone else these days. My dislike of them stems from the 2000-01, when they cruised through the Western Conference playoffs without loosing a game to meet the Sixers, whom were pretty beaten up by this point. I will maintain to my dying day that the Sixers would have won that series had the Lakers been even remotely challenged at any point along the way to the finals and weren't fresh as daisies. But whatever. Most of my hatred, really, is for Kobe, whom I never did like, but c'mon. He's a rapist. We all know it. He should be in jail right now, not staring back at me with come-hither eyes. You're still a scumbag, Kobe, no matter how many rings you have.

3. Atlanta Braves. This is a bit of a weird one, that I know most people don't share. It comes, mostly, from watching the Braves dominate the NL East for 14 straight years. But it also comes from their horrible, milquetoast fans, that can barely sell out a playoff game, and from years of watching excruciating Braves broadcasts on TBS. Oh, and that !@#$ tomahawk chop. Oddly, they've had several players over the years that I've liked, especially the big three of Greg Maddox, Tom Glavine, and John Smolz, but also guys like Ron Gant and Fred McGriff. But I still can't stand them. This year, I've found my anti-Braves passions renewed once again, particularly on the day they came back from a seven-run deficit in the ninth inning to beat the Reds, punctuated by a game winning grand slam. I think we were all happier when the Braves were also-rans, don't you?

4. New York Giants. My hatred of them has tempered a bit recently, since several of the players that most especially struck a nerve- Strahan, Shokey, Barber- are gone. They do still have Eli Manning, though, so there's that. For a couple years there, when the Cowboys were down and the Giants were peaking, I honestly thought I hated the Giants more. But I can see now that I was mistaken. I can't believe that Eli Manning is a Super Bowl winning quarterback and Donovan McNabb is not, though.

4. New York Mets. This might be a bit stronger if the Mets hadn't embarrassingly collapsed several times of the last few years, to the benefit of the Phillies. It's hard to hate a team when they pratfall into a pie repeatedly. But they are the Mets, our biggest rival, so I can't not hate them. And that 1986 team really was a bunch of scumbags. Not that the 1993 Phillies weren't....

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mad Men Returns

"Mad Men" is a show I like quite a bit, but at the same time think is vastly overrated. While the first season really was quite excellent, the two subsequent seasons have been far less compelling. Much like stylistic forebearer "The Sopranos" (not to mention later issues of The Sandman, in my opinion not widely shared), the show seems to be already resting on its' laurels, having established a standard of impeccable, if sometimes dull, storytelling sure to win awards and accolades.

Last night's episode felt like more of a return to form, at least for one episode. Though last season was often quite tedious (the nadir, in my mind, came in the episode in which the most notable thing was that Pete Campbell and his wife danced the Charleston), it did change the dynamics at both work and home for Don Draper. This was our first chance to dip our toes into the new status quos, and it was mostly successful. Of course, it helps that at least half the episode went by before we saw Betty Draper. She's long been the show's albatross, a vain, vapid nitwit who is impossible to root for even when she's in the right. At least the show finally disposed of the neverending "will she or won't she?" teases that Betty might have an affair by having her have an affair

Of course, my new favorite character to ever appear on "Mad Men is seemingly Henry's mother, who referred to Betty as "Dirt". I hope this means we're not supposed to try and like Betty any more. I still can't decide if January Jones is just a terrible, lifeless actress, or if that's actually part of the performance. Anyway, I'm all for hating on Betty, so keep that coming. I want at least one scathing insult directed at Betty per episode (per scene if possible).

One last thing: It's a really odd tonal shift to go from watching "True Blood" at 9 to "Mad Men" at 10. And when was the last time anyone actually drank any True Blood anyway?

The San Diego Stabbing

Well. This was surprising. A fight at a panel at the San Diego Comic Con ends in one man stabbing the other in the eye with a pen. Looking at the pictures of the assailant being led away in handcuffs made me sad; no one expects their day at a convention to end in a jail cell. Of course, no one expects their day to end with a pen in the eye, either, so I suppose my sympathy should be tempered.

Not to excuse either party in this situation, as violence is obviously not called for, but the convention organizers share a large part of the responsibility here. The hullabaloo about Comic Con panels has clearly gotten out of hand, and little has been done to adjust. At my one and only San Diego Comic Con, I ended up avoiding the panels almost entirely because Hall H, where the panels are held, was chaos. Lines for the big panels are so long, with people waiting in line all day for afternoon panels, that it seemed pointless. I don't really understand this need to attend a panel, to the point that you'd pay whatever the cost of tickets, transportation, and accommodations only to spend a day at the con sitting in a hallway.

One thing San Diego doesn't do that most other major cons do is clear the convention halls after each panel. This has lead to people sitting all day in convention halls, "attending" panels for which they have no interest, waiting for their panel later that afternoon. And that, apparently, was the cause of the dispute this year, and it's surprising, really, that there hasn't been more instances of violence.

This is a monster of the Con's creation. They've spent so much time building San Diego as the event of the year for all things nerd, and the panels as the must-attend for "true" fans of your given property, that people have become desperate to be in the room. And it gets worse every year, even though every panel is extensively covered from several sites, and video of most panels eventually makes it online. Is the need to ask Joe Quesada a question really that great?

The Beat this morning has several suggestions for alleviating the problem. I agree with most of them, but I think the idea of distributing tickets/collectible wrist bands for the panels will just cause more chaos. You'd just be shifting the problem, not solving it, and by creating a new "must-have" collectible, possibly adding on. I think, first off, San Diego has to start clearing out the panel rooms immediately. Also, it's time to start streaming the panels online, and perhaps even take online questions during the panel. Perhaps, if it's clear to all that you'll still be able to participate in the panels even if you're not in the room, some tension will be alleviated.

There's been a lot of talk over the last few years about the con leaving San Diego, with the thought being that the con has outgrown the hall. I wonder if this incident will be the tipping point that expedites the process. That Harry Potter fan may just have stabbed the Comic Con out of San Diego.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Banes of My Existence: Sheryl Crow

So we're in a hotel right now, upstate for my sister-in-law's wedding, and yesterday I caught a little bit of Good Morning America. Just in time to see Sheryl Crow perform her crappy new song. Lucky me! Her performance was, even by the standards of the Good Morning America Summer Concert Series, lame. See for yourself:

EDIT: Okay, that's just the interview. Can't seem to find the performance. Perhaps that's just as well.

I have a long history with accidentally stumbling across Sheryl Crow performances. I remember several years ago watching a Pittsburg Steelers game (either a playoff game or the opening of Heinz Field, can't remember which) and she was the halftime entertainment. At the time, I don't think she'd done anything significant in years (not even Lance Armstrong... badumbump), so I was surprised to see her. She was debuting a new song, which I thought was poor even by her standards... which was, of course "Soak Up the Sun", which ended up being arguably her biggest hit. My opinion often has that effect.

I suppose she's not terrible; she's just so... lame. It's like a word association game. The name "Sheryl Crow" just screams mediocrity passing for something bigger. Like, she's hot, but she's no Shania Twain. And her music's awful, but she's no Shania Twain. This performance yesterday really sums up the Sheryl Crow experience well. The song's entirely unmemorable, her performance bland, the crowd only remotely interested. I imagine a Sheryl Crow concert to be dull beyond belief; even Celine Dion can connect with a crowd.

To balance this out, here's a couple videos from the woman Sheryl Crow desperately wishes she was (though she's probably sold ten times as many records) Neko Case.

The Ultimate Workout Video

I know that most regular readers of this blog are fitness nuts, so I'm pleased to share what (I think you'll agree) is the most comprehensive, challenging workout you'll find. WARNING: this is intense. Don't attempt if you're a wuss...DAVE. This blog absolves itself of all responsibility for any injuries that may occur, kind of like when you leave something in a taxi.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Things That Make You Go Hurrm

A couple months ago, comics rumor monger Rich Johnston reported that DC Comics, and perhaps more specifically parent company Warners, was exploring ways to expand Watchmen-- sequels, prequels, you name it. And this of course caused quite a kerfluffle, and this of course led to then-editorial director (and now co-publisher) Dan Didio to deny that DC would ever do anything of the sort. "Shocked, I am SHOCKED at this outrageous insinuation", I believe he was heard to say. And I meant to blog about it, and then I didn't, and it all went away.

Until this week, when right before Comic Con, Wired released a teaser for an upcoming interview with Alan Moore in which he claims that DC offered him back the rights to Watchmen in exchange for new stories. And he, of course, turned them down, because basically the characters are dead to him. So that was it, right? DC asked, Moore said go fuck yourselves, and we all went on with our lives. Well, here's what now-copublisher Didio told Comic Book Resources yesterday:

"[T]he one thing that we've been saying for a while is that 'Watchmen' is truly one of the premier projects out there, and if we were ever to proceed with [a sequel] the most logical place to start would be with Alan and Dave. For me, it's one of those things that's still one of the crown jewels in comics, and if you ever wanted to approach it, you'd have to do it in that manner – making sure the best talent available and possible was working on it."

So, obviously, they're doing it.

Which, hey, is their right, since they own the characters. And Moore did essentially base the Watchmen off preexisting characters, so there's that. And... it's still pretty shitty.

Thing is, to DC/Warners, Watchmen isn't just a book anymore, it's a tentpole franchise (that's the kind of thing they like to say) sitting around collecting dust because some asshole freak writer got his feelings hurt 20 years ago. And that must seem pretty insane to them. I mean, the book sold a million copies last year alone. A million copies. They'd be stupid not to make sequels! And the only thing stopping them is a guy that doesn't even work for the company any more?

The biggest- perhaps only- drawback for DC will be to find anyone willing to step over Moore's corpse and risk career suicide for this. Because "best talent available" means a lot of things, but if it's "in Alan Moore's league", well, there's basically Neil Gaiman, and he sure as hell isn't going to do it. Then there's the generation of British writers that followed in Moore's footsteps-- Morrison, Ellis, Ennis, ect. On the one hand, they might be intrigued to tackle such a daunting challenge; on the other, well, they'd be insane to do it. Certainly, none of them needs to be the new Watchmen guy, and it's really not worth ruining their careers to be universally deemed an inferior sellout. One guy that makes for an interesting possibility is Peter Milligan, whose just as good (if not better) then the others, but has never received the same kind of public acclaim, mainly because he has no feel for writing traditional superheroes. Would it be worth it to him to try and, finally, make a name for himself, basically going all-in?

Probably not. Try as I might, I just see the name "Judd Winick" floating around in my magic 8-ball. "Best available talent" will mean "the guy under contract that says yes". All we can really be sure of is, no matter what happens, it will not be very good. Because if there's one thing DC Comics has taught us under Dan Didio, it's no matter the project, no matter the concept, they will absolutely, positively fuck it up somehow.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Jonah Hex Makes Me Sad

I didn't see Jonah Hex, which, judging from the box office totals, makes me just like each and every one of you. In five weeks it's barely made $10 million dollars, and is now only playing on 65 screens nationwide. With a budget of $47 million dollars, that's a pretty awful return. It's the type of movie that gets people fired, and will, hopefully, keep director Jimmy Hayward from ever working again. And here's something interesting: I just looked at this guy's Wikipedia page, and he used to work for Pixar. Guess he didn't learn much about storytelling there....

None of that matters so much, except now the character of Jonah Hex will be forever tainted by this mess. And that's a terrible shame, because Jonah Hex is a terrific character, probably the preeminent western character in comics. Moreover, the current Jonah Hex series, by writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray and illustrated by a host of artists, is fantastic, probably my favorite comic book currently being published. It's also a fairly low-selling comic, and it's long been assumed that the book was safe because DC wanted to have a Jonah Hex comic on the stands when the movie came out. That certainly worked out well.

I have no doubt that Jonah Hex would make for a great movie; he's a gritty, complex anti-hero that carries death with him wherever he goes. Hex (especially in the current comic) is basically just a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western; it should translate to the screen seamlessly. Heck, given the character's tragic past and brooding nature, a more serious tone akin to Eastwood's Unforgiven would not be inappropriate.

What is inappropriate is to give Hex some kind of wonky power to reanimate the dead, a Morgan Freeman-style weapons smith, a superweapon right out of Wild Wild West, and, of course, Megan Fox. It's a Jonah Hex movie in name, and scars, only.

What really boggles my mind is how poorly DC Comics have allowed their properties to translate into movies. Even ignoring the success blood rival Marvel has had, DC's track record is astonishingly poor. Seriously, excepting the Batman movies (and even they have the two Joel Schumacher films), what's a good movie based on a DC Comic? The first two Superman movies are fine (and I'm of the camp that liked Superman Returns, mostly). Beyond that... what? V for Vendetta? Well, it was better then Watchmen. Conversely, look at the absolute disasters based on DC Comics' characters that have shamefully made their way into Razzie contention: Catwoman, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and, now, Jonah Hex.

It's particularly appalling because DC is owned by a movie studio, Warner Brothers. Please, don't give me that old "right hand doesn't know what the left is doing in a big company" song- and- dance. DC and Time Warner should want to make the very best films possible, based on the characters that they own, because it's an investment. Now, DC has had success in generating interest in the comics source material (a lot more then Marvel), which is great. But what they don't seem to get is that a poor translation will permanently stain the property. If a movie comes out based on anything- be it a comic, book, video game, whatever- and it's incoherent and asinine, people will assume that the source material is incoherent and asinine. Don't believe me? Here's what Roger Ebert wrote about Jonah Hex: "It's based on some DC Comics characters, which may explain the way the plot jumps around. We hear a lot about graphic novels, but this is more of a graphic anthology of strange occult ideas."

Thanks to Frank Miller, it's going to take years before Will Eisner's work on The Spirit will ever be viewed with anything but skepticism by the general public, and Jonah Hex will probably end up getting the comic canceled and sending the character back into hibernation. Mommas, don't let your cowboys grow up to be in bad movies.

Friday, July 16, 2010

This One's for Dave

So I received a complaint the other day about not updating my blog, which is ridiculous since, as any fool can plainly see, I've updated twice since March, and three times since February. What more do you people want? I need to sleep sometime!

So there.

Now that that's out of the way, here's what's probably going to end up being my favorite song for the year, Sleep Forever by Crocodiles. No, it doesn't look to be "the Crocodiles" and I don't really know why. But this song is pretty great. Longtime followers of mine will say "well, of course you like it, it sounds like the Jesus + Mary Chain". And that's true. But the world would be a better place if more things sounded like the Jesus + Mary Chain, I say. Certainly these assholes could do with a little JAMC in their lives.

Anyway, these guys look to be from San Diego, and their second album is out in September (ooooh, just in time for my birthday! How thoughtful!). I *ahem* acquired their first album, Summer of Hate, which is pretty good, though much rawer then Sleep Forever. Apparently, the first one was just two guys and a drum machine (that's very Jesus + Mary Chain, by the way), and now there' a proper band. How nice for them.

Hopefully, this link will allow you to download Sleep Forever.