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My Final Trip to the Derek Jeter Shopping Mall

Last night I went to what I assume will be my final Yankee game of this season (proud to say I have not yet paid for tickets in the new shopping mall known as Yankee Statdium) and witnessed a boring 4-3 loss to the Tampa Rays. On the plus side the weather was nice and it was definitely great to hang out with my extremely busy brother for a night.  Now I must preface the rest of the post that if you love the Yankees and/or Derek Jeter you will dismiss this as more “hating” by me or something close to verbal half-black on half-black crime, but what Yankee Stadium has become, and more specifically the Derek Jeter farewell industry, is disgusting.  I think the Yankees, Jeter and sports memorabilia pimp Brandon Steiner have turned a storied franchise into a shameless cash engine.

Anyone who has been to the new Yankee Stadium has to have noticed the exponential explosion of gift shops and space allocated to gift shops.  After the fifth inning I accompanied my brother to the gift shop for him to look for a trinket for his kids.  I gladly joined him because baseball is extremely boring. What was shocking was that the store was jam packed.  In the middle of a game the store was jam packed like a Black Friday sale was going on. That is when I realized that the new Yankee Stadium feels more like the Mall of America – a bunch of places to spend money, but instead of an amusement park in the center, an overpriced baseball team performs with accomplished mediocrity.  Contrast this with the open and beautiful feel of Citi Field where the game is always visible as you walk around the stadium and feels like the most important thing going on, which is sad since the Mets suck so bad, but at least the stadium’s heart is in the right place.

At the center of the store, and by center I mean 60% of the store were dozens of shirts, hats, trinkets, used condoms and pubic hairs commemmorating Derek Jeter’s final season.  And then in the next store area a few sections over was the Brandon Steiner store with all sorts of manufactured memorabilia commemmorating Jeter’s career.  And all I could think was how shameless and hypocritical this whole charade was.  For a sport that keeps claiming to be based on nostalgia and creating memories and respect for tradition and history it seems that now this stadium only serves to force feed you manufactured memories and memorabilia, which of course negates the organic development of real history and nostalgia.

People will always praise Jeter as one of the guys who plays the game the right way.  However he was either a little jealous of all the fan fare Mariano Rivera got last year, or he saw dollar signs in his eyes like a cartoon villain, so he announced his retirement at the beginning of his final season.  Plus there had to have been a Yankee-Steiner-Jeter agreement to cash in on the tens of millions of additional dollars of merchadise “commemmorating” the occasion.  I always liked the way John Stockton, a first ballot NBA Hall of Famer, retired. He played his final season. Then he talked to his family and team management and announced his retirement.  No whoring. No self-serving farewell tour. No millions of dollars in merchandising.  And of course it is savvy business decision for Jeter (for a man with hundreds of millions of dollars already), but for a guy always hailed as a great ambassador of the game, it comes off as a shameless money grab.

Then there is the aforementioned explosion of intentionally generated memorabilia.  The whole point was that items gained prestige over time from their unforeseen value and/or personal attachment.  Now thanks to our culture and pimps like Brandon Steiner everything can become memorabilia.  Time and experience should determine the value and meaning of game items.  Someone might frame their ticket the last time they saw Mickey Mantle or Ted Williams, but now we have the Stadium and Steiner telling us that the 19 limited edition t-shirts, signed game jerseys that were never worn and 3 hat set with certificate of authenticity (yes this was offered on the big screen last night) are what we really need.  People often said of comedy that you will love it less when it becomes a business to you and that is sort of true to a certain extent.  Well, memorabilia loses most of its cache when you are instructing me what I need to experience sentimental feelings about an experience, instead of letting nostalgia occur naturally.

The there is Jeter the sports business icon.  Like his idol and business partner Michael Jordan, Jeter has always struck me as cold.  Jordan once famously said that “Republicans buy sneakers too” when he declined to endorse a candidate in North Carolina versus the bigoted Senator Jesse Helms.  Jordan operated with two things in mind – winning and Jordan, Inc. But he was so gifted and successful that we all applauded his accomplishments and never expected him to be a decent human being, as long as he was not a criminal.  I feel like the partnership of Jeter as Jordan brand’s #1 athlete endorsement is a perfect fit.  Jeter has never uttered a charismatic word in his life, he is aloof and is not afraid to whore his image of “playing the game the right way guy” into tens of millions of dollars of shameless merchandising.  But he won and that makes everything great, as long as you are not a criminal.  So congrats to the Yankees and Jeter for turning a hallowed space of baseball into a cheap shopping mall.  I just hope when Jeter gives his hook ups memorabilia bags that he doesn’t charge them since they are “Farewell to the Captain” gift bags.  That concludes this week hate session.

For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on iTunes and/or STITCHER. New Every Tuesday so subscribe for free!

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EXCLUSIVE REPORT: The 10 NBA People Most Likely to…

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.

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Why Lebron Will Never Please You

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!

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Kobe Beef

Last night I watched the Boston Celtics get out-hustled and out-played by the Los Angeles Lakers.  As if it wasn’t enough to see Kobe Bryant have a solid game I was forced to swallow my own vomit several times as I watched Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar make quality contributions.  Rumor has it in the off-season they will be filming a buddy cop flick called Euro Trash and Shrek Ears.  But as much as Kobe has played the villain in my NBA story for the last 4 years, last night it got personal.  Because of the Laker victory, they will now play Game 7 on Thursday, my first night in Atlanta at The Punchline.

Like an insecure girl Kobe prefers to be surrounded with less talented people.

The Punchline is a big club and a chance for me to atone with Southern audiences for a minor debacle in Birmingham last Summer.

Backstory – Last Summer I featured at The Stardome, a huge club owned by some nice people.  6 of the seven shows went somewhere in the B- to B+ range, but one show, the Saturday show led to only the second time I have been boo’d on stage (the other time being Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn – a disgrace to higher education and the Civil Rights’ Leader’s memory, whose student attendees thought it was “boo every comedian that dares step on stage – like Amateur Night at The Apollo, without the credit of The Apollo. To put it in television analogies – if my comedy career was the show Homicide – Medgar Evers College would be Adeena Watson).  I said nothing offensive at The Stardome – I was just neither BET nor rednecky enough for the racially diverse, intellectual bottom feeders that occupied a few of the tables at the club that night.

So going to Atlanta was to be a bit of redemption for me and I actually booked the gig on the strength of my Always Be Funny/Glengary Glen Ross spoof video, which also restored my faith that YouTube was not entirely useless for my career.

But then the Lakers won because they seemed to finally discover that Rajon Rondo has the jumpshot of Shaquille O’Neal.  So that means Thursday night’s show will be empty of just about all basketball fans.  Now my routine has very fewbasketball references in it, but there is a correlation between people who are aware of basketball and people who enjoy my comedy.  Those people will not be there Thursday because Kobe & Co. won.  So who is going to be there Thursday night?  Southern comedy fans who do not like basketball.  Hmmmmmm, I just hope after the show I don’t have to tell anyone, “In New York they call me Missssster Cauvin!” 

Sidney is a bit darker than me, but I hope an NBA-fanless night doesn't lead to this.

But the obvious point is that Kobe Bryant is to blame.  (I just wish LeBron James was at Game 6 and walked up to Kobe a la Maximus to Commodus in Gladiator and said, “The Time for honoring yourself will soon be at an end.” Because Kobe should know that when the LeBron James era will begin the moment LeBron gets a teammate(s) that is/are not terrible or fu*king his Mom…

Kobe and Lebron as envisioned by Ridley Scott.

Sidebar – For those of you that do not know – LeBron James mother is rumored (strong rumors) to have slept with LeBron’s bipolar, shotgun-carrying teammate Delonte West.  However, not a word has been uttered on this by ESPN , which is rather frightening.  My theory is that ESPN has marching orders from Nike not to say another word (what would ESPN be without Nike athletes and Nike advertising dollars?).  The story was discussed all over the Internet and on The Huffington Post, but not a peep from the premier sports news network in the world about one of the 10 most famous athletes on the planet?  Just makes you think if people including “The People’s Sports Reporter” Bill Simmons a/k/a The Sports Guy can be silenced (he gave a token – “absolutely false” comment on the story even though when I was in Cleveland everyone seemed to believe the story) by corporate titans (my friend Mike told me this has all the makings of a Michael Mann sports themed sequel to The Insider), what chance is there that news isn’t corrupted all the time by even bigger corporations (obviously it is).  And if you think this has nothing to do with sports – LeBron James disappeared against the Celtics after the rumors started flying, so unlike Tiger Woods’ Blasian fallace, LeBron’s story actually has sports-related salaciousness.

Jeffrey - did Nike cover up the Delonte West fu*king Lebron's Mom story? I MEAN ARE WE NEWSMEN OR ARE WE BUSINESSMEN?

Back to Kobe- Is there anything more absurd than Kobe’s wife and future stripper daughters (when your Mom is a hot gold digger and your Dad is a wealthy rapist aren’t your employment prospects limited psychologically?) standing in the tunnel at halftime to greet him with adoration before he goes into the locker room?  “Look Nike and McDonald’s I am done with the butt rape and the cheating because here is my family right here.  But at the same time I am so driven to win that I take time out of halftime to greet my family?”  Anyone else’s wives or girlfriends meeting them in the tunnel?  Did Michael Jordan have Juanita waiting at halftime? No – he was too busy thinking about winning and killing the other team.  Now he might have had sex with his opponent’s wife in the tunnel as a competitive advantage, but he would never waste time to kiss his own wife mid-game. 

So now for this horsesh*t I have to see potential fans not show up tot he first show in Atlanta.  It looks like me and the Celtics are going to have to put in a strong effort Thursday to make sure Kobe does not win.  Odds are the Celtics will have a tougher time than me.

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Requiem for the 2010 Utah Jazz

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. 

Go to work, give the fans their money's worth. Repeat for 18 years.

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…

Andrei Kirlienko

Carlos Arroyo

Greg Ostertag

Matt Harpring

DeShawn Stevenson

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.

It has taken time for me to realize this, but more than Malone, Stockton or Williams I beleive Coach Jerry Sloan is the MVP of the Jazz.

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.

I never get tired of being disappointed by the Jazz.
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First Comic Sitting

Well, today I had an audition for Last Comic Standing.  I did two minutes in front of three big time pros: Andy Kindler (very respected comedian), Natasha Leggero (who sort of reminded me of the lead singer of The Bangles – niiiiice) and one of my two favorite comedians, Greg Giraldo (Chris Rock the other).

From the title you can tell that I did not advance and sadly I completely agreed with the judges.  However, there is something profoundly crippling when one of your idols in your business tells you, as nicely as possible, that it wasn’t good enough.  Sort of like how Michael Jordan ruined Kwame Brown’s career by continually berating him and calling him a “faggot” in practice when he was an 18 year old rookie with the Wizards.  Kwame was never a good player after that, though he did his best to dispel the epithet by fathering a starting five and two subs with numerous women (at last check).  None of the judges were mean at all – they were quite nice and refreshingly constructive, but I hope that was not because I am almost the size of Kwame Brown and they are not Michael Jordan’s size.  I must admit though, that when Giraldo went to speak and I could see from his expression that it was going to be a very lukewarm appraisal it was one of the most painful moments of my career. 

I hope I don't end up the Kwame Brown of comedy.

I guess I came prepared with a sort of a generic set that may have worked with producers in the past, but with real, genuine comedians of a high order judging, that was a big mistake.  It seems whenever I audition for something I play it safe, probably because auditions terrify me. 

What is so bitter to take is that this season could be great and come with an extra stamp of legitimacy because of who is judging and selecting.  Of course there are funny people who will not make it, but if Greg Giraldo says you are a good comedian, it carries with it some real street cred that Bobby Baccala from The Sopranos (previous celebrity judge) just does not have.

On a plus, they thought my Obama impression was really good.  But Giraldo thought the premise surrounding the impression was too convoluted (which as soon as he said it I thought – “of course it is – FU-K!”).  As I left Gotham Comedy Club – my brain began to re-work jokes, but not to make a show, but because their advice, even on the two minutes of material, could actually make me a better comedian.  I guess if their feedback can help me make my material better then there is a silver lining.  It might have been helpful if one of them told me to give up also.  Time will tell on that one.

Good luck to Nick Cobb, David Cope, Luke Cunningham, Myq Kaplan and any other friends who have moved on.

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Oscar Breakdown & Predictions

If you read this blog regularly you should know that the first thing I hope (and certainly expect) from the 2010 Oscars is a prominent role for the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling ” in the pre-show hype fueled montage. 

When can we stop having a feeling? Sometime after the Oscars is my guess.

My biggest hope is that during the Oscars someone comes out and says, “By the way, The Blind Side is actually not nominated for Best Picture.  That was a big joke.  And also, An Education was extremely boring and we apologize for nominating that so congratulations 500 Days of Summer and The Messenger – you are actually nominated for Best Picture.”  Not going to happen, but here are my predictions for the major awards and what should occur (within the realm of possibility):

BEST PICTURE

I would be OK withany of the following winning in descending order of preference: District 9, Up In The Air, Inglourious Basterds, Up, Precious, Avatar, The Hurt Locker. 

I think Inglorious Basterds is going to win in what I will call the “Norah Jones Strategy.”  In 2002, the Best Album Grammy went to Norah Jones despite The Rising by Bruce Springsteen and The Eminem Show being nominated.  I think voters split on Eminem and Sprinsgteen leaving a plurality to Norah Jones.

I like Basterds' chances.

The Hurt Locker has a lot of momentum and Avatar is the most financially successful film of all time.  But I think people who put The Hurt locker first would not have Avatar second and I do not think people that vote Avatar first would have The Hurt Locker second.  But those voters who put either of those first could very well put Basterds as their second choice.  And since Quentin Tarantino is a Hollywood favorite and an original I think he could pick up some small percentage that think it is time he won a big prize so I am putting my money on Inglorious Basterds to edge out Avatar and The Hurt Locker.

Best Actor

Jeff Bridges is going to win the Oscar that Mickey Rourke should have won last year.  Jeff Bridges is a really good actor and it will be nice for him to win. 

 I would vote for Clooney for Up In The Air.  It was his best acting job yet and finally fulfilled all the love that Hollywood had bestowed prematurely on his high brow films (which were generally sort of boring  -Michael Clayton, Good Night and Good Luck and Syriana were all overrated, relatively boring movies, but Hollywood loves the high school quarterback who also hangs out with the geeks and that has been Clooney for the past decade).  And the look that Clooney gives his lady friend when he meets her at her house was one of my favorite acting moments of the year.

Best Actress

This is a two horse race.  Meryl Streep was great in Julie and Julia and this is her 134th nomination. She has won twice, but I think it is time she get another win.  She is like the Michael Jordan of actresses – she should win the MVP every year, but doesn’t because some obscure actress did something obscure and artsy or some pretty actress got fat, or naked, or sassy. And with that let’s discuss the other best actress front runner – Sandra Bullock.

The Meryl Streep of basketball.

Sandra Bullock was a B+ in The Blind Side, which was good because the movie was a C/C-.  But other than a benign racism that is sweeping the country (“Hey, we voted for a black guy, we like movies where white people save black people – damn we are awesome white folk!”) I do not understand why Meryl Streep is not guaranteed a third Oscar.  If you need ant other reasons not to root for Sandra Bullock and/or The Blind Side please watch this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_oK6EPc6QA

So I am going to go with what is right and say Meryl Streep over Bullock.

Best Supporting Actor

Christopher Waltz from Inglourious Basterds might be an even bigger favorite than Heath Ledger last year.  What a great performance – he is the front runner and deserves to be.  He was so good that the Academy is considering granting him a Polanski (“a pass for a rape of a minor based on high quality work”).  I enjoyed Woody Harrelson in The Messenger and must admit I did not see The Last Station yet, but am glad to see Christopher Plummer nominated (in my mind his lack of a nomination for The Insider is still the biggest snub I can remember).

Best Supporting Actress

Mo’Nique in Precious. Also a no-brainer.  The most raw performance I think I have ever seen.  Her motivation may have come from the fact that Mo’Nique’s husband has a hairy leg fetish, which probably means he is on the down low.  That would make most women pretty angry, but Mo’Nique took it to another level. The only thing that may detract from this for Academy voters is that the film is very black in both mood and casting.  It is sort of the Anti-Blind Side.

She has an "open relationship" with her hairy leg-loving husband. Keep it on the down low and go win your Oscar Mo'Nique!

Best Director

Without ten nominees to thin the voting, this will be between James Cameron (Avatar) and Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker).  I enjoy the fact that they were married and that I think James Cameron bounced.  That will make it even more painful if she has to lose to him, which I think she will.  The breadth and technological advancements and sheer volume of time spent on Avatar should give it to Cameron.

I might go for Tarantino or Reitman (Up In The Air) with my vote. Which I don’t have.  But Avatar is pretty hard to deny.

Best Animated Feature

Up. 

The only thing that would make me madder than a Blind Side victory in any category would be Fantastic Mr. Fox winning here.  I think Wes Anderson films are incredibly irritating, though Mr. Fox was relatively enjoyable.  But Up’s first 15 minutes alone crush the competition.

A moment of silence for Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, which was ignored and not even nominated.

Best Adapted Screenplay

I think Precious should and will win here because form what I have heard the original text is written in the first person and might pose a challenge to make into a quality film, which they did.  However, the hilarious and extremely clever In The Loop, as well as the most original film of the year, District 9 would make me happy as well.  Fu-k An Education.

Best Original Screenplay

Inglourious Basters should win and almost definitely will win.  Part of me is rooting for Up though. It is about time Pixar got recognized for being the most consistently original and great film studio.

Best Score

I genuinely can’t remember any of the scores, so here is my list of my favorite scores of all time (shut up Star Wars fans):

1) The Last of The Mohicans

2) Brokeback Mountain (the score literally could have been called “sad and lonely cowboy”)

3) Chariots of Fire

4) Hoosiers

5) Rudy

Alright – there it is a comprehensive list of the categories you care about.  If you want incessant humorous commentary by me during the Oscars – check out www.twitter.com/JLCauvin

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Yankee To Philly

Last night was a perfect storm of comedy, sports and the the thing that those two forms of entertainment have served me steadily over the years, disappointment.

At 7 pm I was on stage at Comix as the warm up comedian for 12 Angry Mascots, a fun show that features stand up, sketch comedy and interviews with comedians and local pro athletes.  Last night featured the New York Jets’ Darrelle Revis and the Duke Alum/NY Knicks’ Chris Duhon.  Of course my Jets fan friends (including one who wears a Revis jersey every Sunday), my Duke alum friends and NY Knicks fan friends did not make the show, which moves them ever  closer to my prognostication  that my friends will one day accept an invitation to be gang raped if the only other option left to them is to attend one of my shows (noted for my Michael Jordan-esque Emmy acceptance speech sometime in the next decade).  Sh*theads.

Possibly the only way left for me to get certain friends to a show.
Possibly the only way left for me to get certain friends to a show.

When I went backstage before the show I saw something that was bizarre at the backstage of a  comedy show, attractive women.  Like attractive flies to athletic sh*t, nice looking women just find out where athletes are, even if it takes them to, yikes, comedy clubs.  It dawned on me that for pro athletes like Revis and Duhon, they probably have to actively decide NOT to get laid when they go out for a night.  You know, the way a comic has to decide whether to buy a chocolate milk and walk home from an open mic or save the money for Metro card money and have a pleasant bus ride home.  Same sort of thing.

So I did my set to warm up the crowd.  I have not emceed a real show in a while and I had forgotten how cold a crowd can be when you get out there.  Material went over well – my targets were LeBron James’ oldness (Morgan Freeman going to play him as a high school senior in a biopic), racism in baseball and President Obama (per usual).  I was pretty happy with it, but there was no time to gloat or see if I could hang with Revis because it was off to Philadelphia for a show at the world famous comedy venue, JD McGillicuddys.

If he's not busy playing my dad in my biopic he could probably play LeBron James as a high school senior.
If he's not busy playing my dad in my biopic he could probably play LeBron James as a high school senior.

As I got on my Amtrak I saw that AJ Burnett had staked a 4-0 lead to the Angels.  I furiously munched peanut M&Ms and listen to the angriest Jordin Sparks song I could find on my iPod in response. 

I arrived at JD McGillicuddys in plenty of time before my set so I enjoyed some ice waters and watched the Yankees make an awesome 7th inning comeback.  Fortunately, before I lost my semi-depressed delivery the Yanks gave the lead back to the Angels.  Showtime.

Did about 25 minutes where almost everything worked (including some new bits about yelling at people in elevators and the first prison rapist), but I have never blindsided a crowd more than with a new bit that is simply called “The Terminator.”  Might need some tweaking, but it sort of veers from Greg Giraldo (my favorite comedian and the type I hope to be some day, minus the stint in rehab) into more Jim Norton (comic I really like, but who is a little to the dirty/blue side of me, but who sort of inspired me to take some darker chances with my material).   Then after the set I watched Nick Swisher pop out with the bases loaded I binge drank two beers.

The night ended with the comics crashing at Luke Cunningham’s mother’s house (because comedy, once again, is not rock and roll or professional athletics, which did not stop me from trashing the guest room).  I thought about sleeping in the train station for the night, just so I could truthfully include a The Pursuit of Happyness moment in my biopic, but opted against it.  We all got a solid 4 hours sleep before catching the 7:07 am SEPTA/NJ Transit train from Philly to NY, also known as the “My fu-king spouse insists we live in Philly, even though I work in New York” express.

All in all a very fun trip.  And it was a reminder that I could turn more of a profit if I were a homeless man who alowed frat guys to kick him in the nuts for $20 a pop.

Finally things are looking up for me - I used to be a comedian.
Finally things are looking up for me - I used to be a comedian.

Next week I will have a big show in NYC Tuesday or Wednesday (unknown yet) and then I am in Boston October 30-31st headlining Tommy’s Comedy Lounge – hope you can make it.

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San Francisco Comedy Competition – Round 1, Day 3

Yesterday was a great day for many reasons.  The weather was nice, The Motel Aladdin, where I stayed last night had a great continental breakfast and, obviously, I did not get murdered in my sleep by the drifters that were probably staying at the Motel Aladdin or at least in the wooded areas nearby.  More importantly September 11, 2009 was the day that I officially got over 9/11, thanks to the overwhelming amount of Facebook comments from people who feel they have to let the cyber world know that they will not forget.  Phew, now I can finally sleep again. 

But the two biggest things of the day for me were John Stockton getting inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame and me not performing comedy in front of inbred white trash.

Well, I had a good performance tonight, in front of an extremely good crowd and went over by 6 seconds, thus disqualifying my performance.  Rules are rules and I am not mad about that.  I am actually mad that now that means my casino performance must remain as one of the 4 scores towards my final score (we perform 5 times and the lowest score is kept).  Keeping that casino gig on my record is the comedic equivalent of a rape victim being denied an abortion; I now must carry the shame of that performance for the rest of my comedic life, or at least until Sunday.

I will say now that when I summarize this festival, whenever it ends for me, I will be offering some harsh words, but I don’t want them to be taken as sour grapes, but merely reporting some strange observations about comedy.  Stay tuned – it could be happening as soon as Monday morning.

So with 1 good performance and two stinkers I am down 2-1.  But one of my heroes, John Stockton was also down 2-1 in many series and you know what he did?  He lost to Michael Jordan and the Bulls both times.

Day 4 better be good for me or it could be curtains.  We go to Grass Valley tomorrow, which, naturally, is 150 miles away from San Francisco.  Apparently it is a burial place for old hippies.  Great.

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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.