Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Brad Childress Embodies Fail

A lot of things can make someone a bad head coach. You can have poor time management skills. You can fail to get respect from your players and subordinates. You can mismanage money and team resources. You might just be bad at calling plays. Brad Childress combines all of the above, and more. The waiver of Randy Moss is a watershed moment, cementing his incompetence.

Vikings fans can be ambivalent about Brad's shortcomings as long as they are mitigated. Last season made him seem halfway tolerable. There were still plenty of weird decisions and awkward moments, but there was also success. For a while it seemed like there was enough talent and skill to minimize his impact. Maybe even enough to get to a Super Bowl. He still would be a bad coach. But Minnesota would have been happy to deal with that hangover, provided we got a ring.

Now, the bottom has fallen out. Things were dire even before yesterday, now they're hopeless. Childress, unilaterally, has jettisoned a superstar he spent a 3rd round pick to acquire. He's attempting to sell the idea that Randy Moss was an impolite man who was rude to a caterer. Awesome! Good to know. Let's recap. Less than professional behavior towards a man serving food: grounds for waiver. Showing your penis to an unreceptive young lady: keep him on the field even when he's past injured.

There's no opportunity to claim the high ground. Childress is hopelessly devoted to a man who's been exposed as a fraud and a pervert. The Vikings, under his direction, have done anything and everything to cater to Brett Favre's whims. They've willfully ignored a seriously troubling and obviously illegal incident. That's why Randy Moss's waiver is so absurd. Sending away a Hall of Famer and getting nothing in return is foolish. Singling him out as the bad apple is stunningly dumb.

The best case scenario is this is Brad's Waterloo. This is the point where his bizarre behavior and destructive influence becomes too obvious to ignore.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Decision Three Months Later

As the NBA season approaches, the biggest story is still the Miami Heat. It has been three months since the Decision, and while it has dropped from the news cycle, the echoes are still ringing. Everyone has an opinion. Everything is studied within the context of his move. Every loss will be amplified as evidence of his foolishness, and every win as vindication. Neither conclusion is correct, but of course, that does not particularly matter.

To the average fan, James is a dick. I am inclined to agree. It was not the fact that he departed his hometown, although that did not help. It was not the prolonged courtship and recruitment process he orchestrated, although that did not help either. It was the intersection of these circumstances, on national television, hosted by Jim Gray, as a phony charity fundraiser. In that moment, the numerous questions about his character crystallized and spread. There is no going back.

The fan has a distance from the issue that enables and disables them. It allows you to take things at face value. You can ignore his undeniable physical and commercial power. An NBA GM does not have that luxury. For a personnel director, whether or not he is a creep matters little. He is one of the best players in the NBA. He has untapped physical potential. He is already an offensive machine, and he improves as a defender constantly. Whenever he plays, the stands are packed and the media froths. David Stern is an economic realist. He believes the NBA must slash salaries to adjust to the status quo. But no matter what happens, the market for all things LeBron remains healthy. Any GM who did not at least examine the chance to have him was not doing their job. Pat Riley loves both risk and attention, and he signed on plenty of both.

But, personality still matters. LeBron, for all he has gained, has lost a great deal through this process. It is no longer possible to sell him as fun loving and easy going. The vitrol produced by is behavior has disassembled the wacky jokester, the prankster. The hometown kid who made good story has been burned and buried. Ohio will never forgive him, nor should they. The business of being LeBron James has become deadly serious. Until he wins a championship, this summer will be his obituary. The stakes of being a Global Icon are appropriately high. Now the Heat must win, or pay LeBron’s debts.

It was particularly poignant to see James so scathingly criticized by Michael Jordan. Jordan was a very different player, but his career is the standard LeBron is attempting to expand upon. His obsession with success above all, combined with his trailblazing marketing has given a generation of players something to aspire to. Michael’s criticism likely chafes at James, but he has remained silent on the subject. This is the wisest choice LeBron has made in some time. This is not because Jordan’s opinion is ill-informed, although it most likely is. Michael has yet to prove to be anything other than terrible at personnel. It is not because Michael is jealous and aches to play again, although he is and does. It is because the content of what Michael Jordan said about the Decision reveals more about himself than LeBron. He did not worry about Cleveland, LeBron’s image, or whether Miami made basketball sense. He merely thought LeBron was a coward for wanting to play with the best. Michael Jordan stands as a pillar of an asshole, and his punditry on James is another moment among many. It is not as galling as telling your children you pity them for living in your shadow, but it is in the ballpark.

Ultimately, LeBron’s fate is in his hands. If Miami wins, that will be the story. Eyes will shift away from the long list of distractions. His enemies list. His choice to deploy the race card. The spiked story on his trip to Vegas. His bizarre, wounded, ad campaign. These things will not disappear. He will still be booed and loathed. But, it will be impossible to ignore his accomplishment. The sooner LeBron is fitted for a ring, the sooner the Decision can begin to fade.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dwyane is the Man Who Will Fight For Your Honor

Exciting news! Today, Dwyane Wade is here to tell you that LeBron James didn't quit against Boston. He drove this home by stating "he's not a quitter". (!!!) Yes, the Decisioneers are in championship form already, talking about all kinds of things. They're happy! The Lakers are good! They've been talking about playing together for a while, but not really! Is it just me, or does it feel like the Decision has been on repeat in your brain for the last week? If there was any justice in this world, all of LeBron's life choices would include an hour long televised hand job in a rich neighborhood. The main failure of my life is that this is not the case.

LeBron is not a very smart man. Demanding national airtime so you can tell a girlfriend that it's not her, it's you: less than savvy. Being surprised at the backlash? Also evidence that you are getting bad advice! But, let's be fair. Dan Gilbert is also not thinking very clearly. He has a lot on his plate: yes. But, in his own suave way he has written another plot twist in Sports Tragedies of Cleveland. I don't even know where to start on the whole Comic Sans issue. He just shouldn't have been allowed on his computer for a week or so. Dan's people, lock him out of his office for a while. he will thank you when the steam stops pouring out of his ears.

Overall, it would be great if we could move on. I think this is a spectacular disaster. I have never seen a free agency period with so much blood letting and self flagellation. Can we let it go? It's over with! We just need appropriate punishments for all parties. ESPN can only run actual sports or SportsCenter. No specials! You have specialed yourself out. LeBron and all involved parties, please be silent. High five in private, just let this peter out until the season starts. Dan Gilbert...I feel for you. But some quiet time will do you good.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The NFL Is Playing Games With My Heart

I couldn't write about the Vikings loss last Sunday. I tried. There was too much aggravation. It would have come out a jumbled mess of dirty words and bald jokes. What made it particularly frustrating was the self destruction. We lost by three, but there were so many opportunities we tossed away. We seemed to be doing everything we could to lose.

Then the NFL admitted they blew a big call in that game. A really big call: one that would have taken an interception of the board if they'd ruled correctly. This is not something I want to know. If I hadn't screamed so much during the game, I'd have yowled like a dying animal. This is not a big hardship. It's a part of being fan that everybody deals with.

But here is a list of preferred NFL announcements:
-They have towed Brad Childress's van and declared his mustache against league policy.
-Because he is so awesome, Adrian Peterson fumbles are a hot potato: if the opposing team touches them, they sit in time out for five plays.
-Bonus points will be assessed for how gritty and earthy he appears in postgame press conferences.
-Free Gucci Mane.
-Prince will be playing every Super Bowl Halftime show forever and ever amen; "Purple and Gold" is cut from the setlist.
-When sacking Aaron Rodgers, Jared Allen is permitted to actually calf rope him.
-Rich Eisen will replace Chris Berman at everything.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Situation Needs Better Management

In a moment of negotiations genius, Jersey Shore's the Situation and Pauly D are apparently holding out for more money. MTV offered a deal worth a total of $125,000: $10,000 per episode, plus a $5,000 signing bonus. These walking stereotypes have decided that they deserve a higher pay grade. I watched the whole season. To their credit, they were the most entertaining guys in the cast; carried some weaker episodes and made for good TV. But, I can't think of a worse idea than what they're doing.

It's hard to make money nowadays. The cost of producing a show continues to rise. More and more actors with a lot of film credits on their resume have their own shows. They don't come cheap. Meanwhile, the internet continues to change the number of entertainment options, along with digital TV. The audience is diversified in a way that the older networks didn't have to deal with. A massive hit show now makes up for a tiny percentage of the US population. Profit margins are razor thin. One of the few cheap and effective options is the reality show.

Need to buy script? No you don't! Just get some attractive idiots, buy them some drinks, and press record. What about their paychecks? Most likely, you won't have to: this is probably their only way to be famous. Don't talented people want to be paid? What a silly question! They're not talented. They're young, fit, and have bad judgment. They can't think three hours in the future let alone ten years. Their definition of success is some kind of bizarre morbid 21st century joke. And there a million people waiting for the opportunity.

Situation, smile and take your $125k. Put most of it away, get a stockbroker, buy some property. Think for the long term. Making salary demands is similar to someone wearing a sheet over their head claiming they can't be replaced. You can be replaced. This is a fact. There are plenty of tanned morons who will step into your shoes, and probably for free. Your best case scenario is that ten years from now, someone pays you to hand out drinks and bus tables at a theme party. For the sake of your GTL budget, listen to reason.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Conan O'Brien Goes Out in a Blaze of Dignity

Conan was the reason I would smuggle a TV up to my room as a kid. My parents had pretty strict rules about TV watching. It was hard enough to get time for any show, so the idea that I'd be allowed to watch something starting at 11:35 was insane. We had a tiny, old black and white set that was probably twenty years older than me. Some nights I'd plan ahead. In the afternoon when nobody was paying attention, I'd take the television from the cedar closet upstairs and hide it under a blanket in mine. Even when I'd get it hooked up I'd have to be careful...but the risk of getting in trouble was worth it. I loved Late Night with Conan O'Brien.

His sense of humor made sense to me. He was a TV star, a celebrity with a lucrative job and a national platform. But, the character he played was a loser. He poked fun at his pale skin, his goofy looks, and his show's limited budget. He was clearly charming and engaging, but willing to depict himself as a goof who couldn't get a date. His skits were simultaneously cerebral and infantile. One of my favorites was the NBC Satellite Dish, where he created 15 second clips of imaginary cable channels. Examples: Not Cool, Zeus, which featured the king of Greek Gods being inconsiderate, and the Battle for Burrito Island, starring Marlon Brando and Roseanne Barr.

His show thrived on this kind of brainy weirdness, which made me wonder whether the Tonight Show would be a good fit. I wasn't lucky enough to watch when it was the kingdom of Johnny Carson; all it had ever been to me was the program for old people. Jokes with no teeth, just a bunch of bland, inoffensive chuckles. How could Conan fit there? But, it was his dream. He'd fantasized about for his whole life: getting the chance to succeed his hero. I watched the first few episodes and was mildly disappointed. But I thought back to the infancy of Late Night, and I felt like he was too smart not to figure it out. It was a new challenge, a new audience, a new coast. Conan loves a challenge.

He turned a graveyard with a tiny budget into one of the funniest shows on TV. When NBA playoff games or the Olympics pushed his show even later, he made devastating jokes about it. He would have figured this out too, but now we'll never know. NBC was too scared, had spread itself too thin, and the truly believed this was their best option. Credit to Conan for not giving up his dream. Good for him for refusing to compromise and roll over for anybody. He will bounce back. He is too smart, too funny, and too determined to let this stop him from sharing his gift. Jokes that make so much sense to you, that you'll watch them on a 7" set and put a hand over your mouth to stop yourself from laughing.