Saturday, September 27, 2003

NOW THAT ADAM IS DONE, I COME TO BURY VETERANS STADIUM, NOT TO PRAISE IT: What Adam left out is that Veterans contained the worst playing surface in professional sports, and that it was the site of possibly the best example of Philadelphia sportsmanship in recent NFL history, the Eagles' fans' reaction to Michael Irvin's collision with the green concrete that passed for turf:
While Irvin lay motionless and teammates knelt in prayer in the first quarter, many of the 66,669 at Veterans Stadium cheered -- first when realizing Irvin was down, then again when paramedics wheeled a stretcher onto the field.

"I know our fans pride themselves on being tough, but that wasn't tough," said Eagles receiver Charles Johnson, whose 28-yard TD reception from Doug Pederson was the game-winner. "That was just plain ignorant. ... I was embarrassed to stand on the sideline."

Ah, classy. Honoring our veterans through devoted fandom.

Friday, September 26, 2003

YOU COULD SEND A BLIND MAN UP THERE, AND MAYBE HE'D DO BETTER HITTING AT THE SOUND OF THE THING: In memory of the late George Plimpton, a man mostly famous for being famous, I point you today to one of the greatest essays ever written: Plimpton's April 1, 1985 piece on Mets pitching phenom Sidd Finch:
The Mets pressed Burns. Was there any chance that Finch would come to his senses and commit himself to baseball?

"There's a chance," Burns told them. "You will remember that the Buddha himself, after what is called the Great Renunciation, finally realized that even in the most severe austerities -- though he conquered lust and fear and acquired a great deal of self-knowledge -- truth itself could not necessarily be found. So after fasting for six years he decided to eat again."

Reached by SI at the University of Maryland, where he was lecturing last week, Burns was less sanguine. "The biggest problem Finch has with baseball," he said over the phone, "is that nirvana, which is the state all Buddhists wish to reach, means literally 'the blowing out' -- specifically the purifying of oneself of greed, hatred and delusion. Baseball," Burns went on, "is symbolized to a remarkable degree by those very three aspects: greed (huge money contracts, stealing second base, robbing a guy of a base hit, charging for a seat behind an iron pillar, etc.), hatred (players despising management, pitchers hating hitters, the Cubs detesting the Mets, etc.) and delusion (the slider, the pitchout, the hidden-ball trick and so forth). So you can see why it is not easy for Finch to give himself up to a way of life so opposite to what he has been led to cherish."

Classic baseball prose.
OUT WITH THE OLD . . . As we Philadelphians prepare to bid farewell to beloved Veterans Stadium in a series of games now (typically) devoid of playoff significance, here's my rough draft of the best twelve games (okay, one's not a game, and it ends up being more than a dozen) that I've attended at the Vet.

(Excluded from the list are things which I either didn't attend, like the 1993 doubleheader against the Padres that ended at 4:40 a.m. or the Switzer Fifth-and-1 game, or that I attended but have no real memory of, like Game 2 of the 1980 World Series.)

In chronological order, then, the dozen:
June 3, 1978: The first ballgame I can remember attending, and that's because Davey Johnson won the game with a walk-off pinch-hit grand slam. Wow.

The 1983 Playoffs: Not because we got to see the Wheeze Kids win two against the Dodgers before getting swept by the O's, but because for some reason we had seats in section 214 downstairs, surrounded by the players' wives and children for each game. Todd and I got to hang out with Joe Morgan's kids and Garry Maddox's kids (and I think Gary Matthews Jr.), who were around our age, and they were just so damn cool and nice.

September 12-14, 1986: The Strawberry/Carter/Doc Mets just needed to win one game during the weekend to clinch their first division title in 13 years, and the crowds are composed of about 15,000 Phillies fans and 30,000 Mets fans, screaming and yelling obnoxiously all weekend long. And just for the heck of it, the Phils sweep the series (1, 2, and 3). Drunken Mets fans are so disgusted that they tear down the seats and start throwing them at the field on Saturday and Sunday.

October 10, 1988: Monday Night Football, Eagles-Giants. Cunningham marches down the field from our left to right. Third and goal on the 5. Cunningham rolls right, gets tilted by Carl Banks, regains his footing, rolls, rolls, finds Jimmie Giles in the end zone. Touchdown. Eagles win, 24-13.

November 12, 1990: The body bag game. Eagles-Redskins. Monday Night Football. Eagles defense knocks out Skins QBs Stan Humphries and Jeff Rutledge from the game, leaving kick returner Brian Mitchell to take snaps for the rest of the game. Eagles 28, Washington 14.

September 3, 1992: U2. Zoo TV Outside Broadcast tour. Todd and I got seventh-row floor seats. Greatest rock spectacle I've ever seen. Overwhelmingly cool.

September 18, 1994: Reggie White's emotional return with the Packers to the Vet. Great defensive struggle. Eagles leading 13-7 late in the game as Favre marches the Pack down the field. Fourth and goal on the five. Favre throws a swing pass to Edgar Bennett four yards short of the goal, and Otis Smith decks him, preventing him from going an inch further. I learn a lesson this day: if you need five yards, throw the ball at least five yards downfield.

December 30, 1995: Eagles-Detroit wildcard game. A curiously warm late-December day as Rodney Peete leads the Eagles in a rout Wayne Fontes' Lions, taking a 51-7 lead in the third quarter and winning 58-37. Lomas Brown cries. Rob Carpenter (who?) catches a Hail Mary TD to end the first half. The pride is back.

November 10, 1997: Oh, the Eagles got blown out on Monday Night Football. 24-6 at halftime behind Steve Young's arm, and most of the place clears out during the third quarter. My friend Ben and I stick around, after our fathers leave, because we're waiting to see Bobby Hoying (pre-ordained Next Eagles Savior) come in for relief work. Before he does, an angry fan shoots a flare gun across the length of the field. Eagles Court is born.

The Wild-Card Wins Over Tampa: On December 31, 2000 and January 12, 2002, the Eagles stomp all over Warren Sapp and the Buccaneers (21-3, 31-9) in butt-cold weather to advance in the playoffs. They weren't just football games . . . they were parties. Which is why last year hurt so much.

December 30, 2001: Eagles-Giants. Winner takes the NFC East. Eagles trail 21-14, then score ten points in the last two minutes, capped by a 35-yard David Akers FG. But it's not over yet, as Kerry Collins works the hook-and-ladder via Tiki Barber to Ron Dixon, who races all the way to the Eagles' six-yard-line before being downed. The most exciting finish I think I've ever seen at a game, and it remains the only Eagles game Jen has attended with me.

April 27, 2003: Kevin Millwood, no-hitter. (Maybe this is the Phillies year, we thought.) Read my recap (with photos) here.

Feel free to add to the list. That's what the Comments are for.
FOR THE FIVE PEOPLE OUT THERE STILL WATCHING 'ER': What bothered you most last night: (a) that they've replaced the sweet, cuddly John Carter you've grown to love with Cold Prick Carter again (and without the interesting Carter's On The Pills shading); (b) that they've given Dr. Gallant the Peter Benton facial hair and, as always, no plot or character development to speak of, or (c) that they did such a shitty job in trying to hide Romano's "missing" arm?

And if you think I'm going to use this as yet another excuse to point you to actor Paul McCrane's then-and-now photos from his long ago performance in "Fame", well, duh.
DOCTOR DOCTOR, GIVE THE MEDIA THE NEWS: Death used to look good to "rocker" Robert Palmer, but now he finds it . . . simply irresistible.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

YES, BUT JAY LENO IS STILL FUNNIER THAN MARTIN SHORT: Is Craig Kilborn still on the air? Apparently. And it's been on the air for four seasons already, but do you know anyone who watches it? It's rapidly becoming the Empty Nest of late night, the kind of longevity without impact largely reserved for the B.J. Surhoffs of the world.

And with that, and in the absence of anything paragraph-long to say, let's bring in the dots:
In all the obituaries I've read of late 'WKRP' star Gordon Jump, not one has focused on his crucial dramatic turn as the guy who molested Dudley on Diff'rent Strokes. Courageous work, the best "sitcom star plays child molester" turn this side of Ted Danson in Something About Amelia . . . Hey, when did Beth Garrett get that haircut, U of C'ers? Just catching her on CNN right now commenting on the California debate, reminding me, yet again, that I could've done a lot better in Taxation of Individual Income . . . Speaking of which, you like saying the word "gubernatorial", don't you? . . . Sure, Isaac, I don't like Billy Crystal either, but who would you suggest? My nominees -- let Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson co-host . . . Why, Doc, why? . . . Worst part of the Emmys? I'm not sure if it was the massive overpromotion of the John Ritter tribute, or the fact that said tribute shafted Fred Rogers into a small corner of the mass necrology, rather than allow him to receive the full presentation he deserved . . . Make sure you read the Johnny Apple profile in the new New Yorker. Mmm, mangosteens. No prawns at this altitude, indeed . . . If you only order one veal dish in an Italian restaurant this month, go old school and make it parmigiana . . . Please don't puke in my Birkin bag . . . In the absence of a better candidate, isn't Alex Rodriguez (.295/.394/.599, 47 HR) the AL MVP? . . . Would it have killed John Wells to have inserted a line in last night's West Wing episode where President John Goodman said "We're talking about unchecked aggression here"? . . .

Time for sleep. Hasta, etc.
I'LL WATCH, BUT ONLY IF HE DOES THE WHOLE SHOW AS THE GAY GUY FROM 'SOAP': If you need further confirmation of the sorry state of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (motto: "easy on the arts, hold the science!"), please look no further than today's announcement that Billy Crystal has been tapped to host this year's show. Science has proven that Billy Crystal is about as funny as getting a spinal tap, thus making the relevant portion of the Funny List read as follows, in order:
Dat Phan
(tie) Billy Crystal
(tie) Getting a Spinal Tap
proofing numerical data in spreadsheets
Jay Leno

Seriously, the only credible reason I can imagine for going with Crystal is that Jon Stewart refused to let Bruce Vilanch sully his oevre.

Or, perhaps, this is just a conspiracy by the five Karl Malden clones who run the Academy.
Bang bang, shoot shoot... So the news yesterday was that Ben and Jennifer finally went to the courthouse to get their licenses... GUN LICENSES!! Presumably to shoot the idiot publicist who thought up this not-ready-for-NASCAR stunt. (I bet it was Ben's, don't you?)

My brilliant and beautiful girlfriend (who refuses to pack heat despite my continued pleading) suggested an admonition from Chekhov for the First Couple of America's pseudo-media. [Scroll on down to the "C"s kids. It's there.] While I have been unable to verify the attribution, I certainly appreciate the sentiment.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

THERE SHE IS: Congratulations to Ericka Dunlap of Florida, your new Miss America.

To me, the most amusing part of the scholarship competition is the part that actually deals with scholarship, the recently-added "Miss America Pop Quiz", a series of eight multiple choice questions for the final five contestants on matters of current events, pop culture and history.

Here's the trick: they need to make the questions easy enough so that most of the contestants will get most of the questions right, so that they don't all look stupid and the organizers aren't embarrassed. If the 'winner' only gets 2/8 right, you're a laughingstock.

At the same time, though, the questions can't be so easy that all of the contestants pretty much get all of the questions right, because in that case the quiz will have no effect on the competition, and the organizers get accused of "dumbing things down", and that ain't right.

Which leaves you with questions that people should get right, but that you know that at least someone won't, and when they don't, you feel embarassed for them. And entertained.

From last night, here's some questions which had at least one wrong answer, and, in some cases, 3-4 wrong:
Which of these women was the first female Attorney General -- Sandra Day O'Connor, Ruth Ginsberg or Janet Reno?

Who said 'Give me liberty or give me death'?

Who was President during the Bay of Pigs affair?

Which Cabinet department does Elaine Chao head?

There was only one question which every contestant got right, and it wasn't "what does the slang term 'bling-bling' refer to?", which only the two African-American finalists correctly answered as 'jewelry' and not 'money' or 'a cell phone'. Cute.

No, the one they all got right was "If the President and the Vice President are unable to serve, who becomes President -- the Secretary of State, Speaker of the House or Secretary of Defense?", which indicates, perhaps, a lot of West Wing fans in the competition.

No contestant got more than 5/8 questions correct last night, and Miss Wisconsin brought up the rear with only three correct answers, which proves, perhaps, that intelligence is hereditary.

You see, Tina Sauerhammer (Miss Wisconsin), was also the contestant whose platform was 'organ donation' because her late father, then suffering from an autoimmune disease, missed his doctor's urgent "Hey, your new kidney's here!" message while attending her Miss Wisconsin Pageant because he left his beeper home that day.

D'oh!, but wait, it gets weirder. Because the "dumbest" of the Miss America final five, Ms. Sauerhammer, was also the one who skipped high school to enroll in college when she was 14 years old and graduated medical school at the age of twenty-two. And she doesn't know what bling-bling is? My mom knows what bling-bling is. Sheesh.

Sauerhammer finished third overall.