Baseball is reeling from its latest performance enhancing drug (PED) scandal, but if there is a silver lining to it is that baseball gets to use Alex Rodriguez as a scapegoat and effectively try to punish him for his own failings as well as those of Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and everyone else they failed to catch because baseball was awesome when those guys were killing the ball. Also, a bunch of people who cheat on their significant others, their taxes and are generally of mediocre character – AKA the American people – get to crucify Alex Rodriguez for a deluxe serving of schadenfreude. But this seems useless on so many levels. A-Rod is clearly not a great player anymore anyway and baseball is a sport no longer suited for our times – it is long, boring and thanks to a crackdown on PEDs, not exciting anymore, except when the latest fraud is exposed. However, my favorite sport, basketball, is at Jordan era-level popularity, so it should come as no shock that an unnamed NBA player has been linked to the Biogenesis clinic in Coral Gables, FL. After racking my brain I have come up with 10 NBA people who are most likely to be the unnamed player. Some of these names hurt me to put on the list; some delighted me, but this is it:
10. JJ Reddick – any guy with a contract with a woman to get an abortion is of suspect moral character. Combine that with a Duke pedigree and you have a certified piece of sh*t. As baseball taught us – it is not always the star who becomes great through PED usage, but rather the marginal player who secures his marginal place through drugs. He also played for the Orlando Magic who had both Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu who were busted for PED.
9. Tony Parker – any guy who bangs his teammate’s wife is always on my list for bad stuff. Sure, he is not buff, but he is an Energizer bunny of energy and facing increasing pressure to carry the load for the Spurs.
8. Amar’e Stoudemire – constant injuries, a big contract to live up to and most likely Jewish relatives in Miami all give Amar’e a reason to go down to Coral Cables for some anti-aging medications.
7. Lebron James – The man plays in Miami, is a physical freak and is the greatest athlete on the planet not named Usain Bolt. As much as it pains me to have him on the list he has to be considered a suspect. However, even if he is linked to the clinic he may very well have been picking up anti-aging materials for his long lost father Greg Oden, who recently joined the Heat as part of a Father-Son program.
6. Serge Ibaka – look at the picture. No further discussion.
5. Derek Fisher – a man who duped two cities so he could join championship contenders cannot be trusted. Plus he is old. Plus an ex girlfriend of mine once referred to him simply as “arms.”
4. Dwyane Wade – plays in Miami like Lebron, but a friend of mine whose cousin is a starting small forward in the NBA told me that Wade was an HGH user. Gave his wife an STD. The only reason he is not higher on the list or #1 is because of the incredible cases to be made for the top 3.
3. Dwight Howard – the greatest shoulders in the NBA may be fake. Dwight is sort of a petulant bitch, vain (wanted to be a Hollywood star more than the Lakers center) and, like Reddick, was a member of the PED tainted Orlando Magic.
2. Kobe Bryant – the Mamba. Played some of his best basketball in his 17th season, has offered A-Rod advice in the past, goes to Germany for magical knee treatments in the off season and is saying he may be ready many months ahead of schedule from an achilles tear. The only thing Kobe is missing is a Dominican cousin carrying his luggage to be guilty of PED usage. But like many things about Kobe, he cannot surpass his master.
1. Michael Jordan – He is 50 years old, bitter and angry about his failings as a GM and is always fueling rumors that he could still play in the NBA at 50. MJ would take PEDs to win a shooting drill against players on his Charlotte franchise and he would never let Kobe be more famous or successful than him, even if it was for a sports scandal.
For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on Podomatic or iTunes. New Every Tuesday! This week’s episode is all BREAKING BAD so subscribe or follow today.
The question of who is the greatest basketball player of all time is not historically settled, by the very nature of History – people are always making it and adapting from and surpassing the past. It is of little debate that at the present moment, by almost any standard one can apply that Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time. He has the stats, championships, individual and team accolades and perhaps most importantly, a series indelible marks left upon the imaginations of millions of Americans. Jerry West may be the logo of the NBA, but Michael Jordan is its most shining symbol of glory. Others who have tried to lay claim to the throne have fallen short, most notably Kobe Bryant, the closest approximation to Jordan in style (if not in success) to the point that if Kobe could have killed Jordan on a boat, assumed his identity (along with press conference cadence, fadeaway jumper and gum chewing) and called himself The Talented Mr. Jordan, he might have. But the danger in replicating a great is that no matter how great you are, unless you surpass the original in every way you can never be considered greater. And this goes beyond stats and number of titles, but also the spirit of the legend. Which is why I have found Lebron James so damn intriguing.
Lebron James, I have always said, is the only modern player with a chance to surpass Jordan (read the words haters – a chance – not a declared certainty or a present-day fact) because he is a different model. Kobe challenged Jordan on Jordan’s turf. Lebron’s eventual legacy will challenge Jordan from a new template – a point guard mind- power forward body phenom. He will never score as much as Kobe or MJ, but he impacts the game in a way I have never seen. He is a defensive force and only Scottie Pippen has been as versatile a defender in my life. What other player in NBA history goes chest-to-chest with Tim Duncan and rejects his post shot and then resumes guarding Tony Parker out on the perimeter? Defensive player of the year Marc “Hodor” Gasol?
To watch the San Antonio defense you would think no one on the court exists except Lebron They guard him with multiple players, a layered scheme and are only willing to concede the worst shot statistically in basketball – the 17-19 foot range jumper. He is a gifted passer, a savant of the game and a physical freak, but he has only shown glimpses of an assassin’s mentality on the court and because Jordan set the framework and Kobe followed it, the fact that Lebron does not adhere to that model means in the hater/hoops-simpletons’ minds that he can never be as good or better than those who operate with that mindset.
And yet, Lebron is one game from winning his 2nd NBA title a year before Michael Jordan won his 2nd NBA title. He has collected 3 triple doubles in his last 7 NBA Finals games. He has thrived offensively in a league that, although not as physically dirty than the one Jordan played in and that Kobe began in, is much more sophisticated defensively and the statistics bear that out. Better athletes, more zone defense and more complex stats and schemes make scoring a bigger chore in today’s NBA (not necessarily individually, but the game is a lot slower than in the 80s). Am I in any way suggesting the MJ would not thrive in today’s NBA? Of course not. I think he would excel. But this is more to defend Lebron.
Lebron is playing under a microscope that no other NBA player has ever played under. Jordan felt the glare, but that was the glare of an adoring spotlight for most of his career. He was a Madison Avenue darling very early on and became the toast of the league for the second decade of his career. Once MJ broke through, he was never questioned again, at least not pejoratively. This has not been the case since Lebron won. Lebron has had the spotlight, but much of it has come from the ever present 24 hour news cycle and the 200 foot troll of a magnifying glass known as social media. Every game Lebron plays is not specific enough evidence of greatness or failure – he has every play dissected. After willing the Heat back from the brink of destruction all 4th quarter in Game 6 last night, the instant reaction from haters was that Ray Allen had “bailed Lebron out” with his incredible three pointer. What is Lebron Moses? He gets to lead his team to the Promised Land, but not get to experience any of it?
The problem for Lebron is not that he is not talented or clutch or great. He is all of those things. The real problem for Lebron is that he is the greatest athletic specimen we have on the planet, other than perhaps Usain Bolt, and that shames a lot of the public. See, we live in a society now where everyone’s opinions, thoughts, pictures and mundane activities are on display making us all feel like important celebrities in our individual, mundane circles. Mediocrity has never been more famous and self-important and Lebron has been reminding us for the last three years that he is better than us.
We were OK when he was a nice kid from Ohio, toiling away, earnestly failing to achieve his profession’s highest goals. But then he made THE DECISION. I did not like it, but I got over it, mainly because I enjoy watching him play so much. But what Lebron said is “watch me America – I am important and you will watch me.” And we did watch and then we hated him for showing us how much we cared and how shallow we all felt (THE DECISION was a huge ratings success). We became champions of Cleveland’s dignity, even though many people watching were just hoping their team would be the one to break Cleveland’s heart (Hello Knicks and Bulls fans). Rather than apologize for our own hypocrisy we turned Lebron into a massive villain.
But don’t forget he was arrogant at a free pep rally fgor Heat fans!
And then he lost in the Finals to Dallas and it proved that he was being punished for his hubris and we could all feel good. It was a text book case of schadenfreude. We determined he deserved a comeuppance, he got it and we delighted! Good riddance King James! Except rather than fade away into the Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter wing just outside of the NBA Hall of Fame for underachieving athletic freaks he bounced back and destroyed his rivals en route to his title in 2012. Yes he played with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, but only a truly delusional hatred could ignore that Lebron was the Sun that the other Heat players revolved around. And he never had that iconic moment in the NBA Finals last year because he destroyed the OKC Thunder so thoroughly. So other than Boston Game 6 (and Indiana Game 3 if you paid attention), his 2012 playoffs did not give us Jordan over Ehlo or Jordan (shoving) shooting over Russel. Another strike against Lebron!
So we arrived at 2013. The Heat win 66 games, 27 in a row and Lebron puts together the most or oneof the most efficient seasons in NBA History. And then the playoffs happen and it appears that by the Pacers’ series Lebron is no longer part of a big three. He is the Big One and is alternating between dragging his teammates and creating for them. He single handedly vanquished a very tough and balanced Pacers team that specifically were strong where the Heat were weak.
And now the Finals. Standing in Lebron’s way are a 4 time champion player and coach, a team with size and a team with a devastatingly good point guard – all weak spots for the Heat. And with some help, finally, Lebron is one game away from defeating the team that swept him when, like a Mozart of basketball, he took a terrible Cavs team to the Finals in 2007 with only his individual natural brilliance. But now Lebron has mastered basketball. Does that mean he is perfect? No. Did Jordan shoot below 33% in the final game of the 1996 Finals? Did Kobe go 6-24 in Game 7 of the 2010 Finals? Yes and yes. Does that diminish their legacies? No. Yet Lebron for that he has accomplished before the age of 30 and the brilliance with which he plays is still having every dribble examined with heightened scrutiny. So if he were to score 40 and go 15-15 from the field on Thursday, but Tony Parker hits a buzzer beater to win Game 7, this will somehow render Lebron’s admission to the upper elite of the sport null and void. He cannot please these people because they want him to fail. They need him to fail.
Lebron James has shown us that he is great. Greater at what he does than we will ever be at what we do. He has also shown us that he knows he is great and better than us. Not in a brash Terrell Owens sort of way where it feels cartoonish. Rather, Lebron was blessed by God, fate or nature with incredible potential for greatness. He was not born Peter Parker or even Bruce Wayne – he was BORN as Spider Man and Batman. And what is worse is that he is fullfilling that great potential and enjoying it in beautiful Miami. Lebron is better than us, knows it, but what really stings is that we could never be him. No matter how hard we work and dedicate ourselves he was always going to be better. Kobe and MJ gritted their teeth, yelled at and in MJ’s case, punched, teammates – they had the gifts, but they also exhibited the grit that made us feel better about them being better. Lebron is just enjoying a game he has mastered and fullfilling his promise, but with something closer to a child’s enjoyment than a mob boss’ ruthlessness. And in an age where we all think we are so important and special he has shown us that we are not. But that he is.
Good luck in Game 7 Lebron. And get ready to hear “but MJ and Kobe threepeated” or “now Tracy mcGrady has as many titles as you” right after. And then have a hearty laugh.
For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on Podomatic or iTunes. New Every Tuesday!
With 2011 coming to a close I thought I would give fans, friends and new readers a Best of 2011 of my blogs. I have divided them into 5 categories and the following blogs represent both my favorites and the ones that got by far the most web traffic. The five categories are:
The Comedy Business
Road Gig Stories
If you are a fan of the blog I’d appreciate you passing this along (or you can always pass along your favorite individual posts from within this blog) through Twitter and Facebook. This is really a collection of mys best stuff so sending it to people could turn them into fans. Thanks again for reading. 2012 will be a big and new year for my on-line content and I hope you will:
become a fan of “Righteous Prick” on Facebook and
follow @RPrickPodcast on Twitter
Every Monday starting in January I will post my movie reviews to www.YouTube.com/JLMovieLife (subscribe today even though the page is not finished), and
look for my new podcast every Tuesday starting January 3rd on iTunes (Righteous Prick) and
and please continue to come to this blog on Wednesday and Fridays for new posts.
A picture of me reading makes sense since this post is caled the J-L Reader.
THE COMEDY BUSINESS
How To Fail In Comedy While Really Trying – A Breakdown of the Breakdown of the Traditional Path to Comedy Success (with an epic battle with “Bob Hellener” – https://jlcauvin.com/?p=2304
In Re Bob Hellener – Comedy hack and all around douche Dan Nainan is revealed to be the coward behind Bob Hellener – https://jlcauvin.com/?p=2596
Yesterday I experienced a joy from an NBA game that I had not felt since seeing Paul Millsap drop 46 points on the Miami Heat In November. I watched Kobe Bryant and the LA Lakers get torched by the Dallas Mavericks, effectively ending the Kobe Bryant, a/k/a Diet Jordan, era in the NBA. The first joy was in seeing the Lakers lose badly. If we cannot see video of Seal Team 6 invading Bin Laden’s compound, then I suppose seeing Jason Terry, Peja Stojakovich and Dirk Nowitzki (“an international coalition of the willing” if you will) destroy Kobe and Company is a good second best. But the other part of the defeat that was so great was seeing the increasingly dirty and frustrated play of the Lakers as the game wound down. First was Lamar Odom’s cheap shot on Dirk Nowitzki, a clear boiling over of the frustration of being the third Laker married to the third Kardashian (oddly, psychologists say that bronze medalists are often happier than silver medalists, but that wannabe Christian Bale, Scott, who is married to Kourtney, seems happier than Lamar). Then there was Andrew Bynum’s mid air takedown of JJ Barea that will earn Bynum a suspension next season and a prescription of P90X, based on his jersey removal while leaving the court. I was actually convinced that the game would end with Ron Artest running down the court on a fast break shooting Dallas Mavericks with a handgun like the opening scene in The Last Boy Scout.
Before analyzing the Kobe Era, a moment to reflect on Phil Jackson, the greatest coach of all time in professional sports (to never coach without 2 of the top 5 players in the NBA). Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen never won without Phil Jackson. They also entered their prime as basketball players as Phil Jackson showed up. Ditto for LA. Shaq, from 2000-2003, was the most dominant physical presence since Wilt Chamberlain and by the third title, Kobe had emerged as the best wing player in the NBA. They also had Robert Horry, the most clutch role player in NBA history. But by sheer volume of winning he has to be considered one of the greats.
But now onto the eulogy for the Kobe Bryant era because make no mistake, he is done being the top dog on a title team. So if in the 2012-2013 season Kobe Bryant is playing with Chris Paul and Dwight Howard or some combination of star power like that, Michael Jordan’s legacy as the single greatest player/winner (all due respect to Bill Russell) is under no threat. If Michael Jordan had joined the San Antonio Spurs instead of the Washington Wizards in his third career, those would have still been Tim Duncan-led titles. But let’s not talk about Kobe’s inevitable and impossible quest to pass Michael Jordan. Let us examine the Kobe era, which Kobe fans would have you believe spanned from 1999 until the day Kobe Bryant dies. I would argue that, if I were generous, the Kobe Era int he NBA was from 2003 to 2009. But whether you agree on these years or not, a reasonable person should agree that it is over now.
Kobe – The Early Years
Everyone knows about Lebron’s “Decision” but have people forgotten how Kobe refused to go to Charlotte and said he would only play for the LA Lakers? Kobe fans like to mythologize or lie and pretend that teams “passed” on Kobe, but most teams were scared off by the threat of a petulant 18 year old to not sign with anyone besides the Lakers. Lebron told Cleveland to fu*k off after 7 seasons. Kobe told Charlotte to fu*k off on day 1.
Kobe – The Shaq Years
One of the keys to making the Shaq-Kobe alliance was Phil Jackson’s admission that he needed to handle Kobe with kid gloves for the early stage of his career. That nursery school treatment of his fragile ego (ahem, I mean competitive fire) plus playing alongside the most physically dominant player since Wilt Chamberlain allowed Kobe to get three titles. Shaq collected three Finals MVP trophies, deservingly so, but I will admit, that by the third title they had gone from 1, 2 to 1A, 1B. But Kobe, like any Shakespearean or Disney villain, decided that after 4 straight trips to the NBA Finals it was time to make the Lakers decide between Shaq and Kobe (team first, right?). So the Lakers picked wisely in the long run (I will admit) by sticking with the younger player less likely to pack on pounds.
The Kobe Only Years (a/k/a What Lebron took the Cavs to the Finals with in 2007)
2004-05 – 37-45 (missed playoffs, but beat a rape charge)
2005-06 45-37 (1st round loss to the Phoenix Suns)
Let’s not forget that the series against the Suns went 7 games and Kobe quit during the second half against the Suns (taking 3 shots the entire second half, apparently to prove that a shi*ty team would lose without it’s best player – very Jordan-esque).
The Pau Gasol Years (2006-2009)
Kobe finally got an All Star big man to compliment him again (but fortunately not to overshadow him). Three trips to the finals (with another memorable quit performance when Paul Pierce took Kobe’s will and the decisive Game 5 in 2008. By the way that same year Lebron led Mo Williams and Anderson Verajao 7 games against the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals). But then Kobe took the title in 2009 and 2010, but taken in the context of 2011 there are a couple of reasons why I think the Kobe era (as individual best player) cannot be reasonably extended beyond the 2009 victory (even though I personally think it ended the year LeBron won his first MVP in 2008-09).
First, look at the box scores of the 2010 Finals. Kobe averaged 28 pts per game on 40.5% FG shooting. Meanwhile, Pau Gasol, who led the Lakers in minutes that series and had to do battle with Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins inside led the series in rebounding, blocked shots, was second on the Lakers in scoring and shot 48% from the field. Not to mention that Kobe shot 6-24 from the field in the decisive Game 7. Meanwhile Lebron, who was leading the squad of diabetically-fat Shaq & Co. had just had back-to-back Jordan-prime level seasons. (Yes he got blasted from the playoffs by the Celtics and yes he appeared to quit on his team in the final game – making Kobe the 2-1 split decision winner in games quit), but based on many trips to Cleveland there really appeared to have been truth to the “Delonte West, or one of his personalities, fu*ked Lebron’s crazy mom” rumors. Imagine Karl Malone had fu*ked Kobe’s wife in 2004 when he was “hunting little Mexican girls.” I bet Kobe would have more than 2 quits under his belt.
But the Mavericks series that just ended really exposed the end of the Kobe era. Admittedly his supporting cast played terribly. But there was not even a fight. The lesson – when Kobe has the supporting cast he can be a champion – this is true of any champion, so this is not a shot at Kobe. But when Kobe has had underperforming supporting casts (2004-05, 05-06, 10-11) he lies down with the rest of his team. He may get his stats, but unlike Magic Johnson or LeBron James, or obviously Michael Jordan, his stats do not necessarily make those around him better.
2009-Present – The Lebron James Era
I believe LeBron James is the most dominant player in the NBA and has been for the last three years. The same way from 2000-2003 Shaq may not have been the “most skilled” player on his tea or the league, he was the single best player in the league during that span based on the simple criteria “no one can guard him or stop him.” It cannot be understated how awful LeBron’s supporting cast was. He took the equivalent of Kobe’s 2004-06 team (yes Smush Parker and Chris Mihm, but also Lamar Odom was on the team too) to an NBA Finals appearance and twice had the best regular season record in the league. He left Cleveland ringless and in a poor fashion to say the least, but remove Kobe from the 2009/09 Lakers you have a 50 win playoff team (in case you doubt me from 2004 to 2006 Pau Gasol won between 45 and 50 games each year as the star for the Memphis Grizzlies). Remove LeBron from a 66 win Cleveland Cavaliers team and you have… well you have the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers.
Now LeBron decided to take his talents to South Beach, probably for two reasons. One is that many people refused to acknowledge his greatness without the currency of championships. Fair enough I suppose. The other is he wanted to play with his friends. Sort of lame in the Michael Jordan model of champions. But neither of these things stop LeBron from being the single most impressive force in the NBA today. And for the next several years it will be his league, no matter who they give MVP trophies to.
To put it into James Bond terms – Michael Jordan is Sean Connery, Kobe Is Roger Moore and LeBron James is Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig (in Casino Royale only) combined. And yes, I think we need to acknowledge Tim Duncan here as a 4 time champion so he is George Lazenby.
Why Kobe is Diet Jordan
With the passing of the Kobe Era I feel it is time for me to acknowledge something out of Kobe’s control. He grew up in the shadow of the NBA’s greatest player, playing the same position as MJ. If he played small forward, or point guard or power forward there would have been room for him to carve out his own image and transform the position. But playing shooting guard he just played out as the greatest Michale Jordan cover band of all time. For example, if someone was a Whitney Houston impersonator in Las Vegas, they would have to have incredible vocal talent. But they would still not quite be Whitney Houston. That is how I look at Kobe. He is better than almost anyone in NBA history (but I would have him behind both Jordan and Lebron), but his comparison is to the greatest and he is wanting. Fewer titles, fewer Finals MVPs, fewer regular season MVPs (I am making this comparison because they have had equal career totals – comparisons with LeBron on career statistical measures is not realistic yet) more games quit and lower career averages. Plus, all his copycatting of MJ and most awfully the “Jaw Face” is far inferior to “the tongue.”
So Kobe had a great career and was the closest thing we had to Jordan since Jordan. But LeBron is a new mold of player – a sort of genetic hybrid, evolutionary step forward of Karl Malone and Magic Johnson. Kobe was a descendant of Jordan and a worthy heir, but not quite as good as the original. That said, if Kobe’s Hall of Fame speech is a list of people he didn’t like I will start booing and chanting “MJ!”
But in case you forgot, there is one other reason Kobe can never be as great as Michael Jordan…
I would admittedly never pass up an opportunity to say something bad about Kobe Bryant, and his usage of the word “faggot,” which was caught on camera during a Tuesday night basketball game gave me a good opportunity. It was a heated moment for Bryant who had received a foul call and speaking about a referee said “Fucking faggot.” On a somewhat related note, Nick DiPaolo once said, “Any white guy who claims to have never said nigger is either lying or never bet $1000 on an NBA game.” So passion and poor words are not a novel connection in sports or comedy. In response to the incident Bryant said:
“What I said last night should not be taken literally. My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period. The words expressed do NOT reflect my feelings towards the gay and lesbian communities and were NOT meant to offend anyone.”
Like many a rapper and athlete before him, the common defense was, “I did not mean gay people or to offend gay people.” But how is that any different than using the word nigger to describe someone’s conduct or appearance or using Jew as a verb to describe someone’s thrifty actions and then claiming that you were not trying to disparage those particular groups of people. The word faggot is a word of hate. Even if it is not used to describe a gay person, it is used as an insult because the connotation it carries is that you are less of a person because of what the word references. Just because we have been comfortable with a particular piece of hate speech does not mean it should be allowed in regular conversation under some sort of grandfathered-in homophobia. Even Chris Rock, my favorite comedian of all-time, failed on his last HBO special, in my opinion, to make a joke validating the usage of the word faggot.
But in our society, there is not the widespread guilt and shame over the word “faggot” as there is with “nigger.” Therefore, defenses of the F word are what I imagine a defense of the N word would sound like in 1880 or 1960.
My stance on gay rights in this country is simple and has two basic parts. I don’t believe any institution should be required to accept or acknowledge or conduct gay marriage, except for the government. In my opinion, the government has no place in marriage. If I ever get married I want it to be in a Catholic Church and that is where the value for it will be for me, not from a state certificate or tax forms. BUT if the government feels that certain rights and privileges should be accorded to married people then it is completely absurd to exclude people from that.
Secondly, people may have the Constitutional right to say hurtful, ignorant and insulting things, but we should not tolerate it. Our society’s general acceptance of the usage of the words “gay” or “fag” and “faggot” is deplorable. Glee and Modern Family may have people “loving” gays (the same way music and sports have America “loving” black people), but we are still too lenient when it comes to condemning this hate speech. In fifty years I may have views that make seem like some sort of closed-minded bigot, but fairness from the government and from fellow human beings doesn’t seem to be too much of a leap, except that it still is. I think the NBA was right to fine Kobe because it was an embarrassing thing to have been observed. And to those that may say, “Hey, lots of people say hurtful things and don’t get ostracized for it” that is the price you pay for getting $20 million a year to play a game for your job.
I remember nine years ago getting into a pretty heated discussion with friends of mine. We were watching a movie and one of my friends called someone a “fag” (for doing something like eating a certain type of sandwich or something mundane like that (and it was not a penis sandwich). I then made a pretty strong point (thanks in part to Williams College – where I entered as someone who would occasionally use the word “fag” or “gay” to describe things, but left finding those words detestable.) that the word was hateful and I did not want to hear it. The two responses from my friends were to ask “what the fuck had I learned up at Williams?” and “Was I gay?” I would never make the claim to be mature, but hopefully at this point my friends have caught up to me at least on this point. You needn’t be gay or a bleeding-heart liberal to defend decency towards gays.
Kobe would have done better to issue the following statement: “I apologize for the hurtful slur I used. There is no place in decent society for that word or the sentiments it evokes. I did not mean to offfend anyone, but I know that even the mere utterance is hateful, even if not said with any literal intention.”
Besides, with the amount of jewelery, fashion-obsession and dougie dancing in the NBA, Kobe may have offended deeply more of his peers than he realizes.
I was greeted with silence for 15 minutes for show #1 last night so after losing home court advantage Thursday night when I made them laugh quite a bit, Clevelanders came back with a vengeance giving me apathetic stare after disapproving moan. Show 2 was a blowout, but I quickly re-grouped with Coach/Improv Manager Lee Herlands, who sadly, with the recent passing of James Gammon (a/k/a the Manager Lou Brown from Major League), lacks a clear cut favorite for casting when my book is made into a Lifetime Original movie.
He gave me a quick pep talk to be more fun and lively and to forget about the curveball and give ’em the heater ( he had already thoroughly disparaged my act earlier in the day). I went out int he second show and won a decisive victory over the crowd, closing with a “if 9/11 rallied people around George Bush, then Cleveland is probably rallying around Kobe Bryant” bit. Lee said to me, “now that was a good set.” In 3 trips to the Improv this year it was the first full blown compliment I got from Lee which either meant he was drunk (very possible) or that it was a moment as touching as the janitor watching Rudy play his final game for Notre Dame. He did follow it up saying I won’t be a headliner for ten years, so it all evened out.
So I now hold a 2-1 lead over Cleveland Improv audiences with two big shows tonight. I can close out the series tonight with two wins because I do not want to leave my fate up to Sunday night audiences (after Church is a terrible time to hear jokes ending with tag lines like “cum dumspter.”).
Now on to the task of today as promised on Twitter, so you know I must honor it:
I am in the habit of declaring things “the worst ever.” For example, just based on a preview I believe I successfully called Valentine’s Day the worst movie of all time. I still have not seen it, but I am confident in that designation. Well, I am now ready to declare the worst song I have ever heard: California Gurls by Katy Perry featuring a shell of a man named Snoop Dogg.
I must disclose I am not averse to pop music or female pop artists. For God’s sake I have two Shania Twain albums, 4 Lady Gaga songs on my iPod and an Adam Lambert album. And I enjoyed Katy Perry’s jingle Hot N Cold – it is a great pop song. So I was intrigued when I saw Katy Perry’s new song, California Gurls had reached number one on the pop charts. Now if Paul Blart: Mall Cop and George Bush’s first election in 2004 taught me anything it is that the American people can get it wrong and they can get it wrong horribly. But Katy Perry had not yet done anything wrong on the scale of I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry or trading Sammy Sosa, so there was no real warning (though her engagement to insect Russel Brand raised both of my eyebrows).
So this week, before departing for Cleveland I turned on VH1 in the morning to see what the kids are listening to (and by kids I mean women in their 30s) and to my excitement California Gurls was coming on.
Now Katy Perry is, in my non-humble opinion, very attractive. Perhaps that is because Lady Gaga’s mug is the only other omnipresent female pop presence at the moment, but I think she is quite awesome. So the fact that she is about 90% naked throughout the video would only enhance my enjoyment of the video. But then the music began. Here are the lyrics for you:
Greetings loved ones
Let’s take a journey
[Katy Perry – Verse 1]
I know a place
Where the grass is really greener
Warm, wet and wild
There must be somethin’ in the water
Sippin’ gin and juice
Layin’ underneath the palm trees (Undone)
Break their necks
Try’na creep a little sneak peek (At us)
You could travel the world
But nothing comes close
To the Golden Coast
Once you party with us
You’ll be falling in love
Oooooh oh oooooh
[Katy Perry – Chorus]
Bikinis on top
We’ll melt your Popsicle
Oooooh oh oooooh
Fine, fresh, fierce
We got it on lock
Now put your hands up
Oooooh oh oooooh
[Katy Perry – Verse 2]
Sex on the beach
We don’t mind sand in our Stilettos
In my Jeep
Snoop Doggy Dogg on the stereo (Oh oh)
You could travel the world
But nothing comes close
To the Golden Coast
Once you party with us
You’ll be falling in love
Oooooh oh oooooh
[Katy Perry – Chorus]
Bikinis on top
We’ll melt your Popsicle
Oooooh oh oooooh
Fine, fresh, fierce
We got it on lock
Now put your hands up
Oooooh oh oooooh
[Snoop Dogg – Verse 3]
Fit and ready
Turn it up ’cause it’s gettin’ heavy
Wild, wild Westcoast
These are the girls I love the most
I mean the ones
I mean like she’s the one
Squeeze her buns
The girl’s a freak
She drives a Jeep
and lives on the beach
I won’t play
I love the Bay
Just like I love L.A.
And Palm Springs
Summertime is everything
All that ass
Bikinis, tankinis, martinis
Just a king
And a queen-ie
Katy my lady
You’re lookin’here baby
I’m all up on you
‘Cause you representin’ California
[Katy Perry – Chorus]
Bikinis on top
We’ll melt your Popsicle
Oooooh oh oooooh
Fine, fresh, fierce
We got it on lock
Now put your hands up
Oooooh oh oooooh
California girls man
I wish they all could be
I really wish
You all could be
And the beat to the song is equally awful. And this is America’s #1 song? Never have I heard a song that made me long for the melodic and lyrical genius of Summer songs like LFO’s Summer Girls (previously a contender for the worst song I’ve ever heard, but they came back strong with Girl On TV – very underappreciated). I do understand Katy spelling “gurls” with a u so perhaps no one confuses the song with the Beach Boys’ California Girls, a song that is not only infinitely superior melodically, but also reads like Dickens compared to these lyrics.
And Snoop Dogg – what a bitch! Perhaps rap stopped being authentic and hard years ago, but he managed to dig up the corpse of street cred and sodomize it with this song. Or did he already do that when he wrote and performed an atrocious ode to Sookie Stackhouse in a video following a True Blood episode this season.
So in other words, California Gurls – congratulations! You made Katy Perry a little less attractive to me than even the thought of Russel Brand grinding his heroin-riddled pelvis into her. You are the worst song I’ve ever heard. And you may very well go down in History, along with George W. Bush, the Twilight series and ringtones as one of the things that signified the end of America’s status as the World’s leader.
And if you have this song as your ringtone I think you should consider ending your life.
For every sports fan or fan of athletic black men, for whatever reason, the LeBron James Reality Show is set to end tomorrow night when he announces on ESPN at 9pm where he will play next year. I’m just surprised he did not select the Bravo Network to make his announcement.
Thanks to magazines like Maxim, men began slowly creeping into women’s dominion over fashion, grooming and sexual insecurity over a decade ago. In the interest of full disclosure I occasionally get manicures and do tear up at the movie Dead Poets’ Society, but it is starting to feel like there are no differences between women and men. I think in work and other areas where equality is needed that is great, but in general society I think it is important to have differences and embrace and enjoy them. But thanks to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the impressively annoying Chris Bosh, the differences have been obliterated. LeBron, Wade and Bosh are supposed to be alpha males and caricatures of male virility as elite professional athletes; so why have they become The Real Housewives of Miami?
First let’s start with Bosh. Has a man ever sent more mixed messages? His hair and imposing presence make me think he is hunting Arnold Schwarzenegger in a jungle, but his Tweets make me think he is one Cosmo from tweeting, “Miami is totes fab, having a quick vacay before heading to training camp with the ladies!” Thank you Twitter for taking the position made famous by Kevin McHale, Karl Malone and Kevin Garnett and turning it into something Joel McHale can discuss on The Soup! And if you think this is overblown, Bosh does have a documentary crew following him around. I guess so future generations can actually witness the moment when a guy who looked like Predator became Bethany Frankel (even that I know who Bethany Frankel is is a personal crisis for me). And all this for a player who has no business being considered a top 3 free agent.
Then there is Dwyane Wade, who has the man street cred of having given a woman VD (not his ex-wife), but who also has a documentary crew following him. Seriously is Oxygen or Bravo going to pick this up? This has been like a bizarre romance between D-Wade and Bosh. I can see them doing Real World confessionals with Wade saying, “If Chris wants me he can come to me,” and Bosh tearing up, “I just want him to want me.” Oh wait, they may have already done that in their respective documentaries.
Then there is LeBron. The alpha male of alpha males. He is announcing his decision tomorrow night on ESPN. I’m pretty sure that gay guy that does the Housewives reunion shows will be hosting it. Where is Simon Cowell to call this “incredibly self-indulgent?” Even Alex Rodriguez had a standard press conference when he came to the Yankees (Derek Jeter probably required it) and that guy is a cologne ad and a Men’s Health cover all in one (as in Metrosexual to the point of occasional exploration). And A-Rod fu*ked Bethany Frankel, he did not become her. But LeBron (and the media circus which have been willing co-conspirators) have turned this into drama that only reality show dregs can match.
And what reality show would be complete without tears and tomorrow night I expect them to be flowing from LeBron. He can stay in Cleveland, which is his home, where he is the favorite son or he can go to one of the bigger glamorous cities. Wait, wasn’t that the “plot” of The Hills? See, I hate these shows and yet I am so inundated with the crap that I think I know what they are. But I never expected the NBA to be this. Now I may have to watch the WNBA for a more masculine version of the NBA, albeit, one with lots of layups.
But LeBron’s other options are New York, Chicago and Miami, all great cities. If he goes to Miami I hear that Natasha Bedingfield has been commissioned to write a theme song.
I hope he stays in Cleveland because I don’t think those other cities deserve him or will genuinely appreciate him the way that Cleveland will. But this process has already done it’s damage. Not just because it has turned NBA stars into trite starlets, but because it has forced me to further respect a player I do not particularly like: Kobe Bryant. Hey, at least he’s still a man. And if LeBron leaves Cleveland to form the Spice Girls in Miami I will do something I have never done – I’ll be rooting for Kobe in the Finals.
The first obvious pleasure of my trip to Atlanta was the 25 minutes of turbulence flying down from NYC that required the flight attendants to sit. That is always a reassuring moment for someone who dislikes flying. “We know you are nervous, but don’t worry – you are not alone because the trained professionals are uncomfortable as well.”
Arriving in Atlanta’s airport, which is apparently in the city next to Atlanta because it is a 4 hour journey to baggage claim, which looks like something organized by someone from the 3rd World afflicted with ADD.
Got Wendy’s as my first meal in Atlanta’s airport and was asked by the woman if I would like a Coke to drink with my meal. If Coca Cola were any more insecure they’d be Kobe Bryant’s daughters after Game 7 in front of the national media (one last shot before the off season). Coca Cola – you are one of the most well known brands in the world and Atlanta is your home. We get it. You don’t have to force it on us like some athlete whose glory days were in high school, but still forces you to watch highlight tapes and look at his trophies fifteen years later. Perhaps managers of restaurants in Atlanta are required to bitch slap employees who don’t properly pimp out Coca Cola.
I took the MARTA train, presumably named after the little blond girl in School of Rock and had only an 10 minute walk to the hotel. Unfortunately Atlanta is very warm and that ten minute walk of dragging a suitcase in blue jeans transformed me into Patrick Ewing at the foul line by the time I arrived at check-in.
The first show at The Punchline was interesting. The emcee was half Jamaican, half white, from Canada. Obviously, the crowd might have sensed some redundancy when a half-Haitian, half-white guy with a French name took the stage fifteen minutes later. But I felt like I had a good set (B+), until the headliner Dale Jones got on stage and absolutely murdered. So for the rest of the night I just kept repeating my mantra for Southern shows, “At least you are not getting booed at The Stardome, at least you are not getting booed at The Stardome.”
My favorite joke of the night, for the sole reason that it was the first time I’d told it was, “I’m 31 and HIV-negative, which means I have only a year left til I break Magic Johnson’s record.”
After the show was done I watched the rest of the Lakers-Celtics game a few people from the club, the result of which obviously pleased me to no end.
Aiming for two A performances tonight. 8 pm and 10 pm tonight.
(My epic gripe/concern about Twitter & Facebook must be delayed)
Last night I finished second in the New York Comedy Contest. I am automatically entered into the Boston Comedy Festival, which I have been accepted into5 times in the last 5 years so you can imagine my relief. In terms of tangible benefits I do not have to pay the $35 entrance fee, which is good, except I did pay a $35 entrance fee for the New York Comedy Contest so I sort of break even.
The Finals took place at the Times Square Arts Center in front of a packed crowd of 60 people (including the 6 judges, 12 comics and waitresses, one of whom looked like she still thought the location was a strip club, much to the chauvinistic amusement of the all male lineup of awkward comedians, a/k/a me).
I had a good set last night and I caught a glimpse of the winners list before it was announced. My first reaction was: “Oh sh*t! I saw my name!” My reaction 1.5 seconds later – “Fu*k there was a name above mine.” That name was Jim Tews, who oddly enough I met for the first time a few weeks ago in Cleveland, where he hails from.
When I saw him before the show I told him I did not remember his name and he said likewise. After the show he came up to me and said, “Now you’ll remember my name motherfu*ker!” (That’s not true, but that is what I would have done to him if I had won). Jim won $2500. I won a $35 coupon for the Boston Comedy Festival, which I paid $35 for.
Oddly enough I did not feel angry at all (and still don’t, which either shows an increasing maturity or apathy on my part). And making me feel even better was seeing the Lakers lose to the Celtics when I got home last night. A loss always feels better when you then see Kobe Bryant lose. I am sure when Kobe got back to his hotel and checked Twitter he was equally pleased to see me lose.
Being a Utah Jazz fan is starting to feel like being one of those monks that lit themselves on fire to protest Vietnam (isn’t that what’s on the cover of Rage Against The machine’s first album? – well one of those); it is a painful exercise that feels righteous. The Jazz are on the eve of destruction – a possible sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers, an excellent (I won’t say great) team led by Kobe Bryant (Diet MJ) and Pau Gasol (the principle in the single biggest case of collusion I have ever seen in the NBA – as a recap The Lakers obtained Pau Gasol, a/k/a “The Big Llama” (my nickname) – a top 20 NBA player and one of the two most skilled low post scorers in the league – after Tim Duncan, from former Laker great Jerry West, then GM of the Memphis Grizzlies, who passed on basically getting every good player in the Chicago Bulls’ possession at the time, to accept, essentially, Kwame Brown’s expiring contract and Javaris Crittendon – now known as the Wyatt Earp to Gilbert Arenas’ Doc Holliday.).
But I digress.
This post is about the bittersweet joy of rooting for the Jazz. The truth is the Jazz should lose to the LA Lakers. The Lakers have the second best player on Earth right now, and terrific big men, which is the weakness for the Jazz defensively (with the exception of Michael Jordan it always has been). The Jazz counter with one lottery pick on their roster, two other first rounders (one of which, Kosta Koufus, is a project) and then a boatload of second round picks and NBDL refugees.
But that is the greatness of the Utah Jazz franchise. People snicker and try to insult the Jazz franchise by making derogatory comments about Mormonism or the politics of the state of Utah, but to me there is no more inspiring and “only in America” embodying franchise in sports than the Utah Jazz.
Their legends are Karl Malone and John Stockton, two somewhat overlooked players when they entered the league, became Hall of Famers through sheer work ethic and basketball intelligence (and large hands in Stockton’s case and broad shoulders in Malone’s case). The almost never missed games, they played hard and they excelled at the game. The fact that they never won a championship is very bittersweet, but unlike other franchises, they never really gave Jazz fans reason to lose interest. They provided great basketball and great effort for almost two decades.
After Stockton and Malone’s departures for retirement the Jazz endured a short dark period. In fact the most remarkable season as a Jazz fan for me may have been when the Jazz missed the playoffs by a game or two with a record of 42-40 in the 2003-04 season with a starting lineup of… brace yourself…
And the player with the next highest number of starts was Jarron Collins
In other words, in what should have been the dark days for the Utah Jazz with a starting lineup of one versatile, non-scoring all star (Kirilenko), a solid 6th man type player (Harpring), a serviceable point guard (Arroyo), an underachieving soon-to-be journeyman (Stephenson) and two big men who had no business in the NBA (especially the atrocious Collins) the Jazz still delivered a season that came down to the last game of the season. And in traditional Jazz style, it ended with a loss.
But the dark times gave the rare opportunity to the Jazz for a franchise-changing pick, with which they took Deron Williams, who has blossomed into the best point guard in the NBA (which I have been mocked for claiming for the last 3 years because I thought unlike most point guards he was both a playmaker and a system manager and thus I found the completeness of his game, not necessarily his stats, made him the best). Along with him came the rare free agent coup for the Jazz in Carlos Boozer (though like any omen in good fiction, the fact that Boozer screwed over the blind former owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers has come back to bite them in Greek tragedy form since Boozer is exceptional against every team in the league except the one team that prevents them from chasing a championship – the Lakers).
Well now the Jazz have found themselves down 3-0 to the defending champion Lakers, but no one will confuse this with an Atlanta Hawks/Orlando Magic 3-0 series. The Jazz have played tough, made adjustments and had late game leads in two of the three games. Unlike previous seasons, at least one of these games should have been a blowout. And watching guys like Paul Millsap and Wesley Matthews, the former a second round pick, the latter an undrafted rookie, play so balls out tough that it almost feels like it really is “how they play the game” that makes it a joy to watch.
The bottom line is the Jazz will not win this series with the Lakers. If they get swept then it will be the most competitivve sweep in NBA history. But I will have no problem tuning in to watch the Jazz next year because as a basketball fan I love the way the Jazz play. Throughout my life I have had people tell me that the Jazz are “boring.” Those have to be people who enjoy the dunks and the flash of the NBA, but do not love the sport of basketball. To watch the Jazz play the game is like watching a hoops symphony. The execution, the timing, the effort and the way players who play for the Jazz accept roles and work hard at them are all beautiful to watch. And the architect of all this is Coach Jerry Sloan.
In 1998 when the Jazz lost their second consecutive finals to the Chicago Bulls I was crushed. The guy who made me feel better was Jerry Sloan. When he came to the press conference after Michael Jordan’s game winning shot he had such a matter of fact, “we’ll be back next year and don’t expect me to cry over this” attitude that I figured if Sloan could bounce back, I surely could. And watching the Jazz play for Sloan’s tenure (over two decades – the most tenured coach in pro sports) has been a pleasure. He takes players with high effort and high basketball intelligence and toughness and makes them good NBA players. Watching Williams or Boozer blossom is not as big a thrill as seeing guys like Millsap. Matthews, Ronnie Price and Kyle Korver reach their max with Utah. The Utah Jazz is the ultimate American meritocracy – if you can play the game and you work hard, you can have a successful career for Jerry Sloan and be appreciated by the fans.
But Jerry Sloan has not won a Coach of the Year (seriously 2003-04 should have been his) and the Jazz have not won a title. Therefore the franchise and its players do not get the respect they deserve. And every year I get to hear from my friends who either shift loyalties from week to week or, in the case of Knick fans, sit quietly waiting for their team to purchase big name talent (looks like their wait is finally over this Summer).
I obviously want the Jazz to win a title, but the truth is they have made my life as a fan really enjoyable. They always put a good product, not just in talent, but in work ethic and execution out on the court. I am honestly scared of the day Jerry Sloan decides to retire because I think that he may be the most valuable player of all to the Utah Jazz. His system and his culture may be a bigger imprint on the Jazz franchise than any one player they’ve ever had. A championship would be great, in fact it is part of my top two things I would like to see (along with a Guns N Roses reunion) in popular culture, but the kind of sustained excellence of the Utah Jazz, and the character in which they achieved such sustained quality may be even rarer than a championship.
But since I still want them to win a title and I don’t want to end this on too sentimental or gushy a moment – here are some things the Jazz must do.
1) Get a bona fide 6’10″+ center who can be a shot blocking and defensive force. Cole Aldridge may be the only player in the draft who may be able do this (and he may be right around where the Jazz draft). I’d avoid Greg Monroe if I’m the Jazz because his passing skills make him an enticing big man for the Jazz, but he will not be a defensive force and the beating his Georgetown team took from Ohio U makes me think he won’t help bring additional winning intensity to the Jazz. As far as free agents Brendan Haywood is a free agent this season and I think the Jazz would be wise to see if he is the kind of character that could thrive in Utah. However, if the Jazz have a chance at Evan Turner then you take him. That is the only way I change this approach.
2) Try to keep Boozer, but not too hard. The bad news – if we lose Boozer, Millsap fills in fine, but we lose Millsap off the bench so overall win total will be down 5-6. The good news is that if that money goes to decent center play then we have a better chance against the Lakers. Pick your poison – slightly worse against the rest of the league or better against the Lakers.
3) Re-sign Wesley Matthews and Kyle Korver. Hard working people and the women of Utah will not forgive you otherwise.
4) Play as well and as hard as in 2009-10 and good hings will probably happen. Until you lose. Then look forward to 2011-12. You know the drill.