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Updates – My Book, the Utah Jazz & Miami

1) 25,000 words into my book, which makes it the equivalent of one-third of a New Yorker article.  It is coming along nicely and I think I will reach my preliminary writing goal of having a first draft done by the end of the Summer.  The scorched earth sections of the book have not been written yet, but rest assured they will be in there.  I must say though, reliving deeply personal moments both in life and comedy is a pretty interesting experience.  Just remind me not to pop pills with any Olsen twins until it’s finished.

4 months left on my self-imposed book deadline. Here is an artist's rendering of what I will look like on September 1st.

2) The Utah Jazz are in the Western Conference Semi-Finals.  I do not think they will win simply because the Lakers resemble a team of kids that has all the tall kids and no matter how good the little kids are they cannot compete with the height issue.  So my strategy is simple for the Jazz. In the first quarter of tomorrow’s game 1, when Kobe Bryant, or better yet, Ron Artest goes in for a layup – lay them out.  Playing basketball against Ron Artest, which I did once at a Summer camp when I was a high school senior, is a lot like prison – you find the baddest guy and you stab him in the throat.  Assuming there are no shanks on the Jazz bench I recommend getting someone either desperate enough or crazy enough to attack Artest and you lay him out.  The message is, we don’t fear you.  Real message – you should be scared playing basketball against us.  If he was not so old I could see Coach Jerry Sloan doing it himself.  I would like to see the Jazz win obviously, but the Lakers height is such a bad match-up.

Artest and Kobe - I'll show you who's tough!

And people who like the Lakers generally suck.  Celebrities, fans of glitz and fair-weather chumps are the main form of Laker support.  Anyone else in their fan base?

And the Pau Gasol trade is still the biggest theft/sweetheart arrangement in NBA history.  Shame on you NBA.

3) Going to Miami for a week on Monday.  I will try to write from there, but I will probably be too busy placing sunglasses on right before someone plays We Won’t Get Fooled Again.

Looks like J-L won't be doing any mics for a week... YEEEEEEAAAAAAAH!
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Can Skin Color Be An “Image Problem?” The NFL…

Yesterday on ESPN.com there was a poll asking, “which sports league is has the most damaged image?”  The poll results of over 60,000 respondents were as follows:

  • NHL (hockey) – 2%
  • MLB (baseball) – 6%
  • NBA (basketball) – 33%
  • NFL (football) – 60%

Now I agree that football must be number one, but the 33% that selected the NBA make me curious, especially when compared to the 6% that thought baseball had the worst image.  Baseball is of course the sport that has been/is rife with drug abuse and performance enhancement that prompted congressional hearings.  But perhaps people just don’t care that much anymore, but having your entire league called dirty would seem to be pretty damaging.  And it cannot hurt when 90% of your league is Latino and White (a/k/a not black).

Hockey can be dismissed as statistically insignificant since the only people who picked it had to have been hocky-only fans or people just goofing around.

That leaves the NFL and the NBA accounting for 93% of the image problems.  The NBA has had its image problems, but only two incidents stick out in the last decade – the Kobe Bryant rape allegations and the melee in Detroit a few years ago.  Both bad, but the Bryant allegations stemmed from a willing sexual partner, who went to his room and then alleged unwanted forms of sex.  If true, then Bryant is still a rapist, but there is a boatload of reasonable doubt there.  As for the melee in Detroit, Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson are batsh*t crazy, but they were assaulted first (via soda cup).  And who can forget Jermain O’Neal’s sliding punch during that melee – it would have made Jackie Chan proud!

But that is really all that has made headlines for the NBA recently.  Sure 10 years ago there was the “Who’s My Daddy?” story in the NBA about paternity issues and that still is a major issue, but is it more prevalent than the NFL?  Other stories from the NBA recently have been aboutgreat superstars playing great basketball.  Allen Iverson struggling with alcohol addiction would probably seem sadder if did not look like people’s image of a gangbanger. 

Now I am writing this not about the 40,000 people that answered that football was having the biggest image problem, but the 20,000 random ESPN.com visitors who picked the NBA.  How can you pick the NBA as having a worse image than the NFL (and with the recency effect I would expect these numbers are actually higher, given that the NFL has the more recent scandals, than they would be if the timing were equal)?  Here’s some “evidence”:

Who’s My Daddy

The reigning king of paternity is Travis Henry with 9 kids by 9 women by the age of 28. The New York Jets new cornerback  Antonio Cromartie had to get an advance on his salary to handle several alimony payments.  Even if the leagues have identical problems, the NFL’s have made the more recent headlines.  And while we are here, Tom Brady seemed to avoid any scrutiny for knocking up his girlfriend and then leaving her for a model.  I guess it’s cool if you are Tom Brady. Perhaps because Tom Brady is a ladies’ man.  If he were Donovan McNabb he might be “shirking his responsibilities.” Or maybe not, but that is just one case. Let’s continue looking at the total body of information.

No real image problem here. Why?

Rape & Pillage

Ben Roethlisberger has turned out to be a possible serial rapist.  Even if he and Kobe did nothing wrong – what is more lacking in character from comparable stars – consensual sex in your room that goes too far, or banging drunk girls in bars while your bodyguards prevent the girl’s friends from entering?  You’re right – being black. (I am not defending Kobe, obviously).

If you'd been arrested in Georgia then we'd have a really interesting debate.

Murder Was The Case That They Gave The NFL

Murderers – Ray Lewis, Rae Carruth, Donte Stallworth (this season) – one alleged, two convicted – all NFL.  And on a related, but lesser note – Dog killing – Michael Vick, the ASPCA’s Hitler.  I don’t think it is the same level as the things above, but let’s not pretend that it did not tarnish his image and the NFL’s a little.

Male Enhancement

Performance enhancing drugs – I only know that Rashard Lewis was suspended for an over the counter (allegedly) substance.  There have been a lot more Shawne Merrimans and Bill Romanowskis in the NFL.

Two Tickets To The Gun Show

Pac Man Jones – punches strippers in the face – his entourage paralyzes a bouncer at a club with a stray bullet – he is the poster boy for bad character in sports.  Marvin Harrison – gun incident.  The worst the NBA has had – Gilbert Arenas – who turned out to be the worst practical joker (or the best if you think like me).

My favorite picture, perhaps of all time. A jerk? Yes. A criminal? Yep. As bad as Pac Man Jones or Marvin Harrison? Not even close.

So the NFL has the NBA trumped on felonies, paternity superstars, animal abuse and performance enhancement drugs, so the question is, what does the NBA have that the NFL doesn’t:

A higher percentage of black men. And those black men have lots of visible tattoos.  In the NFL the only black divas are the wide receivers, but in the NBA they are all divas, except for the occasional smart, hard working, scrappy white guys.

Give me a break.

Isn’t it clear that the 33% are either stupid or prejudiced?  This is the response I got on Facebook to that question:

So wait, nothing even resembling a majority number in a bullsh*t espn.com poll is supposed to make a statement about what people think about black people?
Travis Henry? Sheee-it Shawn Kemp invented that shit.
As far as I know, Ben Roethlisberger’s accusers aren’t fairing too well…and lastly, I actually happen to agree that football players in …
See MoreAmerica in a lot of cases are frakking animals (whte or black) and most hoopsters aren’t…buuuut football is a sport that has a much stronger team identity of hardworking guys who get paid SUBSTANTIALLY less than their NBA primadonna counterparts. This stix in the craw of the white people who might-MIGHT be responsible for this socalled 33%
 
Now I agree that the poll has no scientific merit, but I have no reason to believe that it is not an accurate snapshot of the average sports fan in America.  But the person who commentedhas always commented whenever  have made disparaging anti-Republican/Joe Lieberman comments so I am guessing his political leanings are to the right, even if not far right.  And this is instructive – look at the immediatetly defensive tone as if I was calling him out.  Some quick counters:
  • So if racism is not in a majority it is not worth calling out?
  • All People? – no just the 20,000+ average sports fans who see the NBA as a bigger image fu*k up than the NFL
  • “Hardworking team identity” – sounds like Hilary Clinton appealing to the Western PA voters in the 2008 primary
Now I am not casting any aspersions on the commenter, but I do feel the language of the debate is telling (after all he eventually agrees with part of my point that the NFL is worse than the NBA). And I understand not wanting race to be infused where it does not belong because it is such an inflammatory topic, but sometimes it has to be. For every Tawana Brawley there’s a Rodney King; for every Duke Lacrosse Team, there’s the four cops who shot Amadou Diallo.  Just because racism is damaging and touchy does not mean that it can’t be easy to see sometimes.
 
I honestly believe there is no way to say that the NBA has a bigger image problem than the NFL without being prejudiced or stupid.  Image is made by headlines and superstars.  The NBA has almost all black superstars.  The NFL has several white superstars and they are basically the front men for the band that is the NFL (Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Brett Favre).  Now the negative headlines are overwhelmingly with the NFL, but the well known white faces are overwhelmingly with the NFL as well (sorry Dirk Nowtizki and Steve Nash).  And apparently for 33% of sports fans (I’m willing to make that extrapolation, even though the poll does not probably reach more low income, non-computer having sports fans) the faces trump the crimes.
And if you asked me, is 33% of America at least a little racist, I’d probably answer yes, so the poll only shocked me because I thought sports fans would see beyond that in greater numbers.  But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised – after all I sat next to a white  guy at a Steeler game last year who called an opposing team’s player a Nig*ger, all while wearing the jersey of a nig*er named Santonio Holmes.  I’d hate to see that guy at a basketball game, but I’m pretty sure how he would answer that ESPN poll. 
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Big Ben, Michael Wilbon & Why I Have To…

It is has been an up and down month in sports for me.  First there was my NCAA bracket and having to root for Duke.  Well, Duke made the Finals and all I need was for them to lose for me to win $1400 and 1st place in my pool or, if they won, they could still help me by scoring a lot of points which would have earned me over $100 and 3rd place in my pool.  Instead Duke, in classic Another-Reason-For-Me-To-Hate-Duke-Basketball form managed to win AND score just enough points to win a WNBA playoff game, causing me to lose the 3rd place tiebreaker and walk away with no money and the pain of a Duke Championship.

Baseball season has also started, with my usual apathy for Goldman Sachs, a/k/a The Wall Street Bombers, a/k/a The New York Yankees.  I’m sure by August I will care again, but right now I just get annoyed at all the people waxing nostalgic about the opening of baseball season like it’s still a team of neighborhood boys made good. 

Then the Utah Jazz caused me great joy and frustration.  My favorite team since the age of 7 provided me with the greatest live sporting event I’ve ever attended with a thrilling 140-139 OT victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.  Kevin Durant of the Thunder had 45 points, but the Jazz won with  just over one second left.  Then, in classic fashion, the Jazz proceeded to lose their season finale (thanks in part to the sensitive, free agent contract-conscious, former Duke Blue Devil Carlos Boozer’s abdominal strain – never trust a Duke Blue Devil) going from a cozy 3 seed at home against the maligned Trailblazers and a second round match-up with the paper tigers known as the Dallas Mavericks, to a 5 seed on the road with match-ups against their two toughest opponents (if they win in the 1st round) Denver Nuggets and then the Los Angeles Lakers).  The Lakers’ Lamar Odom might as well call the Jazz Khloe he fu-ks them so shamelessly.

But all these highs and lows have taken a backseat to the biggest story affecting a team that I am a fan of – The Pittsburgh Steelers.  Their star quarterback, two-time Super Bowl champion Ben Roethlisberger, and soon-to-be-played-by Peter Stormare in a Lifetime movie has turned out to be at best, a man with a rich frat boy’s sense of entitlement or at worse, a serial rapist.  It of course brings to mind Kobe Bryant, who I think was the last comparable athlete, to be charged with a sex cime of this magnitude.

At best - a rich frat boy sense of entitlement. At worst - a rapist. Either way - not a fan.

Now the Kobe Bryant case seemed to go much farther through the legal system than the Roethlisberger case has.  The rumors around the Kobe case were that he attempted to and may have successfully forced a back door slam dunk on the woman in Denver.  Now I have only met one woman who reacted with good humor (disturbing on many levels when pondered) at unexpected anal penetration, but this is not the time to re-hash my routine, so even considering that the woman went to Kobe’s room of her own free will, her back door is her back door and no is still supposed to mean no.

But Ben Roethlisberger does not even have that benefit (which of course raises the possibility that this is an incident representative of that time honored tradition in America which is the only crime worse than raping a white woman is being black and raping a white woman – not looking to address that here).  He seems to have, in the very least, acted aggressively and inappropriately towards this young woman and with the assistance of security guards.  I am not as troubled by the allegation that his security guards prevented her friends from getting to the alleged victim, because let’s face it – rock stars and athletes have had sex in all sorts of places and she could have been consenting to sex in a VIP lounge with a famous athlete.  Of course, she could have also been raped, which would make the bodyguards unknowing (or knowing) accomplices.

If this were a one time incident, the benefit of the doubt would be with Roethlisberger, but he has been accused of sexual assaults before.  Normally I don’t condone prostitution, but in Ben’s case it is better than the alternative.  Roethlisberger, in the very least, is placing himself in unsavory and compromising positions and deserves to be suspended by the league.  The Steelers have already said they will be suspending him because the organization, maybe worth a billion, still operates with a family business mentality and that is commendable.  It is even more troubling when you consider some of the “offended” fan base of the Steelers (after all, at Heinz Field last year was where I heard Joshua Cribbs of the Cleveland Brown get called a “Nigger” by a white Steeler fan and no one seemed to bat an eye). (Click below link for that Heinz Field tale)

https://jlcauvin.com/?p=1212

So if that fan base is troubled, you know Big Ben is in big trouble.

But as I was saying before, Roethlisberger has a few options to sex crimes – he could have girlfriends in every city, so that he has variety, but with women he can trust a little better than strangers at a bar.  He could hire prostitutes.  Let’s face facts – these high end services cater to men like him and convicted of using a prostitute is a preferred alternative to even the social stigma of being acquitted of serial rape.  Or he could have a meeting with Derek Jeter and forge a discreet vaginal domination mentorship where he learns how to have successful sexual relations without crimes by him or extortion by her being committed.

But with these options available to a man of Roethlisberger’s stature, as well as previous incidents that should have been warnings, one must wonder, perhaps this is what Roethlisberger wants.  Rape after all is a crime of power, not sex.  So if Ben, given his competitive success, is into power and domination, then sexual gratification would not satisfy this lust.  Michael Jordan exhibited his OCD level competitiveness through excessive gambling, Tiger Woods through excessive relations with menstruating waitresses and perhaps Ben really is a man whose drive for success has a criminal and vile manifestation away from the playing field.  I am not a psychologist, but it makes sense to me. 

I think the Steelers’ reaction has been appropriate, especially if they decide to trade Big Ben.  Even if Roethlisberger is innocent of all charges, he is obviously conducting himself in an embarrassing fashion and that alone gives the Steelers and the NFL a right to punish him to protect their corporate image.  But rape is in my opinion the worst crime there is, but perhaps that is why condemnation is coming more cautiously.  I am still surprised that allegations (and subsequent criminal conviction) of abuse of dogs by Michael Vick seemed to generate more outrage than Ben Roethlisberger’s alleged sexual assaults on women. 

And on a side note, as a fan of Pardon The Interruption on ESPN, I have also found Michael Wilbon’s defense of Ben Roethlisberger reprehensible.  I am a big fan of PTI and a big fan of Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser.  But it seems Wilbon, unlike the curmudgeon Kornheiser, has spent too much time cultivating a hybrid existence of serious journalist and Ahmad Rashad-buddy relationships with superstar athletes that he now sees fit to defend, or at least omit criticism, of athletes he favors.  Tiger Woods is a glaring example.  Gilbert Arenas was another to a much lesser extent, but Wilbon’s Roethlisberger commentary has been awful.  He said flat out that he does not think Roethlisberger should be suspended.   He is clearly a Big Ben fan and that is fine, but the lack of a criminal conviction cannot be the only acceptable standard for allowing a player to continue business as usual.  And Wilbon scoffing at Roethlisberger’s loss of a beef jerky endorsement at the end of a show this week was equally insensitive.

Michael Wilbon's commentary has been a huge disappointment during the Roethlisberger coverage.

All in all, it seems like it will be impossible for me to don a Roethlisberger jersey again.  To be fair I do have a Karl Malone jersey and he has not always been a model citizen, but he is a far cry from serial rapist (not to mention my inspiration for pursuing basketball).  And even if Ben is innocent of all criminal liability I’d still rather be associated with a black, redneck power forward than a jerk with a rich frat boy sense of entitlement.

I think I've retired this jersey. And not in a good way.
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LeBron James Must Stay In Cleveland

I went to see LeBron James in person on Tuesday night at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.  It was awesome.  As I have joked with crowds all week, “I want to see him in Cleveland before he follows me back to NY.”  In all honesty I hope LeBron does not go to New York or any other city.  He belongs in Cleveland and as much as any athlete can, he belongs to Cleveland.

The Christ-like worship of LeBron is a bit much in Cleveland, but only a bit.

The people in this city may have already crossed into disturbing hero worship, bordering on something out of the film The Man Who Would Be King (look it up), but it is clear that the Cleveland Cavalier fans have a unique and special relationship with LeBron James that has all but been lost in sports.  Derek Jeter has it with NY, but if he had merely performed well, without winning a title he would not have it.  LA Fans love Kobe, but more because of their star worship.  But LeBron is from Ohio. He has yet to win anything, but the Cleveland area loves him as if he is family.  They get angry when you suggest he may leave for NY because they don’t believe he will do that.  If he were never to win in Cleveland they’d be disappointed for him. If he were to never win a title in New York, the fans would feel bad for themselves.

Speaking of New York, LeBron should not go to NY because NY doesn’t deserve him.  Patrick Ewing was the last hoops superstar in NY (and he does not compare with LeBron’s star power), but many Knick fans (especially the corporate douchebags that flood the Garden during times of success as if they were having an auction of 20-something blond Midwestern transplants) consider Ewing a failure, a choke artist and do not recall the fact that he gave everything he had for 15 years to try and get a title to NY (literally millions of gallons of sweat) .  Utah does not treat Malone and Stockton as failures, but many Knick fans still consider Ewing a failure first, a great Knick second. 

In fact the Knicks this year have played above expectation (thanks in part to the exceptional play of David Lee – a rare white American star in the NBA – but who the Knicks have continued to portray as a scrappy hustler, in line with typical white stereotypes), but many Knick fans are waiting for next year to show their support when they get star power (seriously NY is starting to feel more like the stereotype that LA has owned for so long – the sporting event is not as important to people as the event surrounding the sport).  That is what the Yankees organization banked on when they started selling $2500 dollar tickets to Yankee Games: that New York, a city renowned for its grit and character was actually just becoming another Los Angeles (it is – if I see one more salad place open up with a one word name – “chop’t,” “toss’d,” “crisp” I am going to go postal.  These places may very well be in other cities, but they are starting to feel uncomfortably appropriate in NYC).  Well, thanks to the economy it turns out NY was not quite ready for $2500 tickets, but $1250 tickets were not so bad.  And the addition of LeBron will just further push out many Knick fans who can probably barely afford pre-LeBron ticket prices.

However, Cleveland is the real reason for LeBron to stay.  He is to Cleveland what General Motors is to Detroit.  If he starts to pack up I feel like it will devastate the city.  The pre-game theatrics at the Cavs game included incredible movies and pyrotechnics for God’s sake!  I have been to 6 NBA arenas (not yet to Mecca in Salt Lake City) and these were by far the best I have ever seen (though the Bulls’ intros in the 90s are untouchable, as far as I am concerned, for theatrical originality, culminating with the 6’6″ guard from Nooooorth Caaarolinaaa…” 

There have also been rumors that Nike, in light of Tiger Woods’ sexscapades, was encouraging LeBron to go to New York so that they could have Kobe and LeBron on the coasts and build up that campaign further to stem some of the losses that Tiger may/will incur.  It is bad enough that politicians are all owned by corporations, but now athletes are being dictated to by them as well?  I would love to have LeBron tell the owner of the Knicks and any other big market team a la Michael Corleone in Godfather Part II: “We are all part of the same hypocrisy Mr. Dolan, but don’t think that that extends to my family.”

Because Cleveland is like LeBron’s family.  In fact, Cleveland is like LeBron’s wife and children that have stood by him as he built his reputation and skills and career.  They have done everything to make him happy.  If he goes to New York it will be like he is leaving his family for the hottest of the many of the gold digging tramps that roam the clubs and high society functions of New York.  Although Bill Simmons, ESPN’s “The Sports Guy” likes to call Baron Davis Teen Wolf, for this discussion I would like to call LeBron Teen Wolf.  And he has a choice – he can date Boof, the cute, loyal and real person and be a success in life and as a person, or he can go for Pamela Wells, the blond who has emerged only after the onset of Teen Wolf’s new found success.  NYC has enough guys that would go for Pamela Wells – LeBron should do the right thing for everyone and stay with Boof.  But if he leaves, it falls on his doorstep and he will have killed one of the last real fairy tales in sports.

LeBron in NYC. The lesson from Teen Wolf - stay with Boof, stay in Cleveland.
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Mr. Cauvin’s Opus

This morning I spoke to three high school classes in Brooklyn about civil liberties and related issues joining the ranks of Mr. Holland, John Keating, Dewey Finn and Dana Marschz (Hamlet 2 – an underrated gem of a comedy).  At least that was the plan.  As a former prosecutor and person who now currently makes a “living” at speaking/entertaining strangers, a law school classmate recommended me to a friend of his who is a teacher in Brooklyn.  In other words I would finally be given an opportunity to crash and burn at the three professions that have ever crossed my mind in one morning(law – former profession, teaching – thought about seriously and comedy, the one that has made me turn to Crumbs cupcakes the way Nicholas Cage turned to booze in Leaving Las Vegas).

Replace those bottles with some Crumbs Cupcakes and you have the story of my eventual self-destruction: Leaving Turtle Bay
Replace those bottles with some Crumbs Cupcakes and you have the story of my eventual self-destruction: Leaving Turtle Bay

When I woke up this morning at 620 am I had flashbacks to what it was like to be a normal human being and I did not like it.  Then I started to feel anxiety with the knowledge that I would be doing law related stuff.  It genuinely made me tense and uncomfortable, which would manifest itself on the stairs down to the V train.

As I walked down the stairs, a narrow stairway, I was blocked from going down as quickly as I wanted because of a father who thought 815 am in midtown Manhattan was the perfect time to teach his 3 year old son how to walk down approximately 50 stairs.  I felt tension build up, but then eventually it began to recede.  Just at that moment, like two-thirds of the way through a science fiction or horror movie where the villain appears dead, but you look at your watch and go, “but that is so soon, uh oh…” a twenty-something bitch basically shoved me out of the way with about ten stairs to go (and no train in sight since the platform was visible at that point).  Although I wanted to send her the way of the Priest in The Exorcist down the rest of the stairs I settled for “Excuse you cu-t!”  Not my finest moment, but a truthful moment nonetheless.  Naturally I blame morning and the law for my poor attitude.

When I arrived at the school I was greeted by the following sign:

 

"No Weapons Allowed Beyond This Point" - Do you think there's money is establishing weapons storage facilities near schools so that kids can keep their guns safely and conveniently near school without violating pesky school rules?
"No Weapons Allowed Beyond This Point" - Do you think there's money is establishing weapons storage facilities near schools so that kids can keep their guns safely and conveniently near school without violating pesky school rules?

I then went through the metal detectors and waited to speak to kids about the 4th Amendment.

They say that when a lawyer speaks before the Supreme Court he/she is lucky to speak for a minute before being interrupted incessantly by questions from the Justices on the Court.  Well, the same is true for speaking in front of 11th grade classes in Brooklyn, NY.  But overall, they were a great bunch of kids (it is amazing how childlike 17 year olds look to me now, which makes LeBron James’ old mug when he came into the league at 18 even more astounding) and here are the highlights of the experience:

  • These kids have a really bad perception of the police.  Not unanimously, but for most it seemed as ingrained as religious or sports team affiliations.  But many were very thoughtful and open to new points of view with respect to what constitutes a reasonable versus unreasonable search. 
  • Reviewing the 4th Amendment for three hours led me to say the word reasonable more than that short, bald guy had to say inconceivable for The Princess Bride.

 

But was the search REASONABLE?!
But was the search REASONABLE?!
  • I got into a friendly argument about Kobe Bryant in the elevtor with two young men.  All was resolved when one of them told me he thought Utah’s Deron Williams was the best point guard in the NBA.
  • Kids find it as funny as comedy audiences when you refer to them by articles of clothing.  Which is very funny.
  • I am now being offered a movie deal called Reasonably Safe Minds.
  • And here’s a photo of the bathroom at the school – the bathroom was really the only thing that reminded me of the Welcome to The Jungle montage from Lean on Me (the school was quite safe in Park Slope, but the concentration of minority students is, I am sure, what generated the metal detector need that is miraculously not present at other Park Slope area high schools, something which the kids were quite aware of):

 

See kids, this would be an unreasonable use of toilet paper
See kids, this would be an unreasonable use of toilet paper

A very worthwhile time in Brooklyn.  Hopefully the kids got something out of it since I only addressed about 5 of 14 points I wanted.  Time flies when you are having fun I guess.

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Another Michael Jackson Is Impossible

Muhammad Ali, Barack Obama, The Pope, Michael Jordan, Bill Clinton.  This is the group of people’s whose deaths could rival or exceed Michael Jackson’s in terms of worldwide newsworthiness and cultural impact (and Jordan is very iffy).  That is really it in my opinion.  (And it happened a few hours after I was complaining that Farrah Fawcett’s death, though sad for her family and friends of course, did not warrant huge media attention.  Jackson’s did and does. )  And notice there are no music people on the list.  Sorry Justin Timberlake, Usher, Ne-Yo and any other people who they are already trying to figure out who could take the mantle.  That sounds like a bad joke. 

Talent? Absolutely.  About 25% of MJ combined.
Talent? Absolutely. About 25% of MJ combined.

There is no “next” Michael Jackson.  There are a few reasons for this:

The Cultural Gap

Michael Jackson had an incredible talent and an abusive parent willing to beat it out of him (I had parents willing to do the latter, but quickly persuaded them against hitting me a lot with my “I don’t have much talent” defense).   Acrucible this toxic, but which generates such prodigious, one-of-a-kind genius could never occur in today’s over-exposed culture, where every other as-hole can actually become a star.  He’d either be scooped up by a reality show or taken away from his parents (unlikely if he’s famous since we revel in the exploitation of children every day on shows like Jon and Kate plus 8).  So there’s no sense talking about a “next” MJ because it is not really possible given our cultural landscape of low standards and quick fix need for new celebs.

The Innovation Gap

There is nobody with his talent for innovation in the music business.  His closest musical counterpart is Madonna and she’s not really close.  Today there is more imitation than anything else.  Not to draw a comparison, but that is one of the reasons Adam Lambert was so good on American Idol – he seemed to be somewhat original, but still he lived in the shadow of men like Steven Tyler and Freddie Mercury.  The best analogy I can come up with is sports related. The shadow Michael Jordan cast on basketball is so great that players like Kobe and LeBron are trying to be free of it today and cast their own legacy.  Now imagine Michael Jordan were put in a time machine and played in the 1960s instead of the 1980s and 90s.  Now imagine how much more incredible and awe-inspiring he would have been if he was in that era.  That is what Michael Jackson did for music.  And his breaking of major racial barriers goes without saying.

King of Pop
King of Pop

The Class Gap

As ironic as it may sound Michael Jackson is lucky to have lived until 50 with the media pressure and voyeuristic celebrity hunting that now goes on.  He was fortunate enough to be a fully grown man by the time people were really going psycho for him.  Nowadays with this exponentially growing blood lust we have for celebrities wouldn’t he be more likely to suffer a fate like Britney Spears?  Breaking down right before or after Thriller, thus denying the public of several years of quality music afterwards?  I even like You Rock My World, which he released 19 years after Thriller.

The child molestation charges and odd behavior of Michael Jackson will forever be linked to his legacy.  I have a friend who believes child molesters should be castrated.  I am one of those people that hopes that Michael was just strange and never did anything sexual to the children, but that feels unlikely.  But I look at a guy who was abused by his father, and lived a public life for 40 years that no one besides Obama over the last 2 years can even relate to I think.  I feel bad for him.  People feel bad for victims of abuse when it occurs, but when they turn into monsters themselves, no one cares anymore.  This is not a defense for his actions, if he did abuse children, but just maybe a moment of compassion is warranted, even if you do find him despicable.  When you look at pictures of this cute talented kid and then at the recluse alien he became you have to know this was a deeply troubled person not in full control of what he became – his family exploited him and society smothered him.

So I am happy to own a bunch of Michael Jackson records and in a show of class I only told one Michael Jackson joke (it was the entertainment elephant in the room) last night (at one of the most difficult shows of my career – nothing compared to the massacre at Medgar Evers College a few years ago, but bad):

With Ray Charles, James Brown and Michael Jackson dead I’d be scared sh-tless if I was Stevie Wonder.  If diabetes doesn’t get his chubby ass, then apparently the ghost from Final Destination will.

The good money in your legendary black musical figures death pool.
The good money in your legendary black musical figures death pool.

I will write some funnier stuff on Sunday or Monday about my Florida trip (let’s hope the worst is behind me), but I wanted to write something about the biggest entertainer in the world.   And at least “kids these days” can see that there was something just a tad bigger than The Jonas Brothers and Lady Gaga.  After all, even I had a Michael Jackson figure – I believe it was the Billie Jean one (modeled on the 1983 Motown Special).  Music didn’t just lose a giant.  It lost THE giant.

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Jordan is still better than Kobe, but what is…

Before I start what I wanted to be the subject of this post I have received some e-mails of a most disturbing nature.  Some fringe element out there (I group this element just below radical islamists, white supremacist militia groups) is claiming that Kobe Bryant is the better player than Michael Jordan.  Here very quickly (or not so quickly) is why he is not:

Kobe Bryant

2009 Finals MVP – 30 pts per game, 43% shooting, 7.4 assists, 5 rebounds per game, great numbers, slightly less impressive than Dwayne Wade’s stats in 2006 when he played with Shaq at his low point in his career

3 Titles early in his career when he was playing with Shaq at his peak.  Kobe was Scottie Pippen-esque at this point in his career – already a great player, but not capable of winning any of those titles if not paired with the game’s most dominant big man at his peak.  Shaq on the other hand could have one those 3 titles with any of the top 30 players in the league as the Robin to his Batman.

My parents conversation about Kobe:

My Dad: That Kobe is amazing

My Mom: I don’t like him.

Michael Jordan

1991 Finals – 55% from the field, 31.2 pts per game, 11.4 assists, 6.6 rebounds per game

1992 Finals – 52.8% from the field, 35.8 pts per game, 6.5 assists per game

1993 Finals – 50.8% from the field, 41.0 pts per game, 8.5 rebounds per game, 6.3 assists per game

And then we won 3 more titles after retiring for two and a half years in his prime. 

If he had played with a Shaq caliber player during his most explosive time (mid 1980s) and had not retired he would have 8-12 titles. 

He scored 50 pts at the age of 39 and is the only 40 year old to ever score 40+ points in an NBA game (after his second retirement).

My parents conversation about MJ:

My Dad: Wow Michael Shordan (that is how pops pronounces it) is amazing!

My Mom: Shut the fu-k up!

Frustrating Hall of Famers and The Cauvin Family from 1984-1998
Frustrating Hall of Famers and The Cauvin Family from 1984-1998

I think the evidence is clear that based on stats, facts, our collective gut instinct and my Mom’s visceral reaction to the Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley and Karl Malone killer that he is the superior player and actually appears likable compared to Kobe.  There is only one player on the horizon who may supplant MJ and that is LeBron James, simply because LeBron’s physicality is the the first to transcend NBA generational evolution since… Michael Jordan.

But I will give Kobe and the Lakers credit – they gave me something to watch.  Like Armand Assante said in the terrible HBO film Gotti, “They’ll miss John Gotti when I’m gone.”  That is how I feel about Kobe right now – I watched him hoping he’d lose, sort of like my own reality show, that was actual real, instead of manufactured for the consumption of dumb people.  I even caught some of the Stanley Cup Finals Game 7, which is right up there with Big Foot with regard to the frequency with which I have seen it. 

Was he known as the Kobe Bryant of The Underworld? ("Sure he's ruthless, but he's no Michael Corleone!")
Was he known as the Kobe Bryant of The Underworld? ("Sure he's ruthless, but he's no Michael Corleone!")

 But now we are in the Summer of 2009 – no Olympics, no World Cup, no more basketball, a month until Wimbledon, no more hockey.  So what are we left with – America’s corporate pastime, baseball, Major League Soccer and the WNBA.  I am even afraid to watch one of my favorite shows, Pardon The Interruption, because I feel like sports have nothing right now.   So if you have any sports ideas for the Summer let me know.  Although my entire Summer of road gigs will probably revolve around doing comedy in minor league baseball team towns so maybe I can learn to appreciate the feature acts of sports as I feature at clubs.

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Two Big Basketball Victories

Last night was a night dedicated to basketball for me. My corporate league team (I am know as corporate emeritus on the team) had a game at 7 pm and the Magic-Lakers game at 9.

In the corporate league game I was playing like crap (which considering my pregame meal of a Crumbs cupcake is a huge shock).

Not a good pre-game meal.
Not a good pre-game meal.

 

We we were losing by double digits with 14 minute left, but then two things happened that have always helped me compete: I got into an argument with my teammate and then got into two scuffles with the other team.  After that, despite not liking Kobe Bryant I turned into an out-of-shape, back to the basket version of Bryant, complete withscowl.  We ended up winning by one point, but the end of the game was the best.  With 3 seconds left a player on the other team drove the lane and missed a layup.  The other team believed he was fouled, which was true if you believe a foul occurs automatically when you miss a layup (also known as NYC playground rules where every missed shot requires a debate that begins with “YOU FOULD ME!  I DIDN’T FOUL YOU” and ends with “FU-K YOU NIG-A!”).  Well, this one was no different, except for one player on the other team.  He was built like Mike Tyson in The Hangover, muscled, but also fat and ugly.  He took special offense at the non-call (he was not the one who actually took the shot – the guy who missed was not very upset) and said to the ref in what a nursery school teacher might call his “felon voice”:

YO! CALL THE FU-KING FOUL MOTHER FU-KER!  YOU BITCH ASS NIG-A!  YOU BEEN A BITCH ASS CHEATIN’ NIG-A ALL GAME!  FU-K YOU YOU AIN’T A REF NO MORE!!  YOU SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU GET OUT OF THE GYM!!

He may look melancholy, but he may try to kill a coporate hoops league referee
He may look melancholy, but he may try to kill a coporate hoops league referee

The first thought I had was, what corporation are you guys from?  I am pretty sure whatever it is would not be ok with misdemeanor menacing charges.  Secondly I thought, this is the first time since watching a black cop harass Cuba Gooding Jr. in Boyz In The Hood that the N word sounded just as racist coming from a black guy as a white guy.   My third thought was let’s get the fu-k out of here.

Well, after that it was time to watch the Lakers versus Magic game 3.  I was very happy to see Kobe and his band of underachievers and Eurotrash lose to the Magic.  The game was a little too close for my comfort, but it was still a win for the good guys.  Although there was a foul late in the game called on Dwight Howard, the 18th bailout call for Kobe Bryant in 3 games (Kobe is like a large financial institution – unlikeable, full of douchebagginess and getting bailed out by the establishment) that upset me greatly.  I think my exact words were:

YO! CALL THE FU-KING FOUL MOTHER FU-KER!  YOU BITCH ASS NIG-A!  YOU BEEN A BITCH ASS CHEATIN’ NIG-A ALL GAME!  FU-K YOU YOU AIN’T A REF NO MORE!!  YOU SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU GET OUT OF THE GYM!!

That's right, don't mess with me - HELP! CALL SOMETHING REF!
That's right, don't mess with me - HELP! CALL SOMETHING REF!
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Sports Tragedies

This week I was treated to not one, but two great cinematic experiences.  Up, the new film from Pixar, is incredibly touching and fun and, in my opinion, is only second to Finding Nemo in the Pixar universe.  I then, bolstered with confidence form strong reviews, went to see Drag Me To Hell, which like Crank 2, is a deceptively, but completely intentionally funny film, while at the same time delivering creepy and scary moments.  But apparently the entertainment gods believed me greedy because what the Movie Lord giveth, the Sports Lord taketh away.

You think I'm scary - wait until Kobe gets in the NBA Finals
You think I'm scary - wait until Kobe gets in the NBA Finals

First was the elimination of the Denver Nuggets Saturday.  I need to give the devil his due.  Kobe is immensely talented and clutch and he demonstrated both characteristics during the Denver series.   However, I cannot ever be a fan.  He and the Lakers are like Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees are in baseball – an obssessively and obviously media-savvy star on an unlikeable franchise.  The talent is great, but it is overshadowed, to anyone who is not a fan, by the need to look and act the part of the star.  And the way Kobe speaks sounds like he bought the Rosetta Stone “Michael Jordan” immersion program because his speech, along with his fadeaway jumpshot, have become more and more Jordan-esque as his career has gone on.   Kobe is the most Jordan-esque player since Jordan, which is one of the non-rape reasons why some people don’t like Kobe.  Dwayne Wade has adopted a more quiet persona that seems unique to him, while LeBron has been the more engaging superstar, Magic-esque, but clearly free of plagiarism of Magic.  Kobe seems to have attempted a re-make of Jordan, and like someone who dares re-make a classic (think Sheryl Crow doing Sweet Child O’ Mine for the Big Daddy soundtrack) it ends up being less likeable than it might have been if it was at least original.  So now I am forced to root for the Orlando Magic.   I actually think the Magic can win, but would not bet on it.  Here’s my matchup breakdown:

  1. Battle of Superstars – Kobe vs. Dwight.  Dwight Howard has proven to be unstoppable in these playoffs, due almost entirely because of his size 72 shoulders and sick vertical leap, because he still does not seem to have a discernible vertical leap.  Kobe has been better.  Edge – Kobe
  2. Eurotrash matchup – Hedo Turkoglu vs. Pau Gasol and Sasha Vujacic.  Because Pau will be marginalized by Dwight Howard and because Vujacic sucks the edge goes to Hedo “I push off every single time I dribble” Turkoglu.
  3. Tall, underachieving black guys who randomly show up and disappear: Lamar Odom vs. Rashard Lewis.  Odom tends to disappear like a pit bull at Michael Vick’s house.  Rashard Lewis can do the same thing, but has been playing with more and more confidence.  However, in his first trip to the finals I expect to see him piss down his leg at least once.  Edge – Odom.
  4. Coaches: Lurch versus Ron Jeremy.  Phil Jackson is “the Zen master,” which is enough of a reason to root against him, but Stan Van Gundy was screwed out of a title by Pat Riley and Shaq, but has still managed to come back with a vengeance with a new team, all while looking like a less athletic Ron Jeremy.  So in this one I have to give the edge to Stan.
Coach of the Orlando Magic: Stan Van Gundy
Coach of the Orlando Magic: Stan Van Gundy

So it looks like a draw, which means if the Lakers win I believe it will be because of a great effort by Kobe and I will have to acknowledge that.  But hopefully the Magic win.

But as if the Lakers win was not enough of a reason to step in front of a bus, Rafa Nadal lost yesterday in tennis.  Nadal-Federer has become my 2nd favorite sporting event after a Utah Jazz hoops game.  Mainly because I watch their matches in awe and I probably change who I am rooting for 3 or 4 times during the match.  Insult to injury for Nadal: the French were cheering on the challenger during the match which seemed a little doucheconsidering Nadal is one of the two greatest champions they’ve ever had.   I think I just heard Nadal order some Freedom Fries.

Well this week I have two more movies to consider and two NBA finals games.  The Hangover (sneak preview tonight), which along with Transformers 2 is my most anticipated film of the Summer, and Land of The Lost, which looks potentially funny, but also potentially awful.  Looks like odds are that The Finals will be 1-1 headed to Orlando by the end of this week.

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Lambert vs. Lakers

The last night of American Idol has arrived.  Last night Adam Lambert did what he had to to defeat Kris Allen (i.e. prevent the release of compromising gay sex photos, which is the only thing that could hold off Adam last night).  His version of A Change is Gonna Come was great, with the exception of a wailing part where he looked on the verge of awwkward tears (phew – just his musical theater acting chops shining through).  Kris Allen did well, despite the John Mayer/Muppet faces he made while singing.  However, the deciding factor was the final big “I can do it, I can beat the odds, I am a champion” song that both contestants have to sing (why does American Idol insist on the first single from every season being something that sounds like it belongs on the Karate Kid III soundtrack?). Not only did the scope of the song better fit Lambert’s big voice, he also provided the best unintentional comedy for the season this side of Scott McIntyre’s fangs when he sang the lyric, “You can go deeper; there are no boundaries.”  Was this song written before or after Glambert was voted a finalist?

Speak up - I did not hear that last part.
Speak up - I did not hear that last part.

So I voted for only the second time in an American Idol finals (the first was for Carrie Underwood) and it took me 75 minutes to get through, which I did in between two of the harshest sets I’ve performed (I have officially eliminated every possible topic from my “off limits” comedy folder).  What is amazing is that I had to wait 90 minutes to vote for Obama.  So for the first time in 8 years we have a president who is more popular than American Idol.  Take that cynics.  Although I guess the true test will be when the American Idol front runner is a handsome black man (interestingly enough the only black man winner is one of the least popular, but probably because he is fat and sweaty).

But all the good vibes from American idol and infanticide jokes wore off late last night when I watched the Los Angeles Lakers eke out a two point victory over the Denver Nuggets.  Normally I would root against a team with as many tattoos as the Nuggets (JR Smith looks like he has a skin condition and Chris Anderson, Carmello Anthony and Kenyon Martin look like members of the world’s best prison basketball team – especially Carmello who sports a Warna Brotha (WB)” tattoo encouraging kids not to cooperate with law enforcement – the NBA, where caring happens.

Remember kids - if a cop needs your help tell theat motherfu-ker to go fu-k himself.  The NBA where caring happens
Remember kids - if a cop needs your help tell theat motherfu-ker to go fu-k himself. The NBA where caring happens

But the Nuggets are playing Kobe, Sasha and the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers.   To put it in perspective I look at the Nuggets like Sunni insurgents and the Lakers as Al Qaeda.   Sure I don’t like either team, but am willing to make a deal with the insurgents to defeat Laker Qaeda.  To continue this ridiculous, and possibly offensive analogy, I will now refer to Kobe Bryant as Kobe bin Laden. 

So hopefully Lambert wins tonight and the Nuggets can get ther sh*t together and defeat the evildoers tomorrow.

You are either with us or with the Lakers.
You are either with us or with the Lakers.