Archive Page 2

Joakim Noah is garbage.

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 Something happened recently regarding Joakim Noah that prompted me to join an anti-Noah facebook group. Looking for one, I was overwhelmed with possibilities. There were just so many groups. Groups like “At Least I’m Hotter Than Joakim Noah”, or “Joakim Noah Is About As Cool As AIDS” or “Joakim Noah is a BITCH”, which was the front-runner for me, until I spotted (and chose, despite the grammatically miserable name) “If I Was Joakim Noah, I’d Kill Myself”. Clearly I’m not alone in my assessment of this guy’s human value.

He’s garbage.

We can take a trip back through time, starting with his recent tantrum in practice, where he mouthed off to Chicago Bulls Asst. Coach Ron Adams.  The incident was severe enough (and compounded by Noah’s frequent late arrivals to practice and team meetings) to warrant a one game suspension, doled out by interim Head Coach Jim Boylan, followed by an unprecedented extra game suspension given by his own teammates. Yes, even Noah’s teammates can’t stand him. Before his prima donna fit of retardation, Noah was averaging a paltry 4.5 points per game, 3.4 rebounds and 0.6 blocks, entrenching him firmly among the league’s least productive rookies, or players in general so far this season, despite drafting high (9th overall) and taking in more than $2.1 million dollars.

Here is a picture of Noah on draft day.

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 No one in the Bulls organization could’ve been happy to see that. I mean, look at that. He looks like a velociraptor dressed-up as Snoop Dogg.

Despite the fact that Noah was touted for having tremendous potential and athleticism as a member of the Florida Gators, he had weak showings in both the regular season and tournament play. One notable regular season Noah flop happened in December of 2006, when the eventual National Champion Gators lost to my Florida State Seminoles, 70-66 (this game prompted another classic Noah-themed Facebook group, entitled: Al Thornton Made Joakim Noah His Biatch). Even with a considerable size advantage, and stronger teammates, the 6’11” Noah was pushed around all night by FSU’s 6’9″ Al Thornton*. Noah finished with just 11 points and 4 rebounds, while Thornton finished with 28 points, 9 rebounds and 1 monster block. Noah would go on to embarrass himself in the 2007 Championship game against Ohio State, where he was once more outplayed and outclassed, scoring just 8 points and 3 rebounds.

To be fair, Noah was voted Most Outstanding Player of the 2006 NCAA Tournament, certainly due to a decent all-around showing in the championship against UCLA, anchored by a record six blocks. Here’s the thing. When you’re 6’11”, you’re going to block some shots, particularly against a smaller, guard-focused offense like UCLA’s. See how the numbers dropped against Greg Oden and Ohio State one year later, and further still in the NBA, where some of the small forwards are taller than he is.

You know who else was 6’11”? Bill Laimbeer. And Bill Laimbeer, despite a total lack of athletic prowess or coordination, was a four-time all-star, maintains the Pistons’ all-time record for rebounds, and scored more than 10,000 career points. Laimbeer also brought us Bill Laimbeer’s Combat Basketball for Super Nintendo.

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 Bill Laimbeer today, at 51-years-old, could outplay Joakim Noah in the post and, short of that, could knock the kid’s face around until it came out looking halfway presentable. Point is, having a natural height advantage often opens the door to the NBA, even for players without much natural athleticism or basketball talent**.

No one can question Noah’s athleticism. The kid is tall, has incredible reach and moves up and down the court as fast as anyone. The thing is, and this is perhaps the root of everything that’s wrong with Joakim Noah, he’s had every natural advantage a kid could possibly have and turned out the way he has. He’s a natural athlete. Okay. It probably helps that his father, Yannick Noah, was a world-class tennis player who won the 1983 French Open. Archie Manning’s kids have gone on to become two of the best quarterbacks currently in the NFL***. Grant Hill, son of 4-time Pro Bowl running back Calvin Hill, is putting the final touches on an incredible (though injury-riddled) career in the NBA. And Noah, despite his roots, coming up in one of the top prep schools in the country****, and spending two years as part of a phenomenal college basketball program, brings little more to the Chicago Bulls than a propensity for acting like a spoiled little bitch. Even Aaron Gray, the Bulls’ second round pick and third-string Center, has slightly better numbers than Noah.

Noah’s mother, Cecilia Rhode, is a former Miss Sweden (1978), and was also third runner-up at Miss Universe that same year. Despite his mother’s internationally-recognized beauty, Joakim came out looking something like a giant shaved pekingese dog. Granted, he does take after his father in looks, but he looks like his father after something went terribly wrong. Something involving a pekingese.

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So Joakim Noah is garbage. He’s been given more opportunities and natural gifts than most and done little more than suck at life, suck worse at basketball, and inspire countless hate-driven facebook groups (and, now, a hate-driven blog entry). I’m happy to know he’ll more than likely fade swiftly into NBA oblivion, play overseas for awhile and never be heard from again. But I haven’t given up hope that some day, a day not far from now, I’ll be fortunate enough to stumble upon a news report about Joakim Noah clinging to life at some University Hospital after being attacked by a pack of wild dogs in an abandoned pool.

*Al Thornton was drafted 14th overall by the Los Angeles Clippers and, despite struggling to find a place in their rotation, recently dropped 25 points on the NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs.

**Other noteable talentless big men include: Greg Kite, Shawn Bradley and Eric Montross.

***Eli remains to be determined, but looks great for now.

****The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey. Noteable alumni include former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, Malcolm Forbes of Forbes Magazine and Huey Lewis of Huey Lewis and the News.

This Just In: F*#!, We’re dumbasses.

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Turns out Citigroup, America’s largest private bank, is in big trouble thanks to all those unpaid sub-prime mortgages, losing billions and billions of dollars in its last quarter ($10 billion, give or take) which means big trouble for thousands of their employees who will soon be without jobs, and for Citigroup, taking a que from others like Morgan Stanley and Merrill-Lynch, a monstrous international bail-out, involving Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Singapore. Meanwhile, the dollar is shedding weight like it’s on NutriSystem, foreclosures are rampant, credit card debt is stagnant and festering on a national level and oil prices are blowin’ up, y’all. It all amounts to our out-of-control economy spiraling toward unthinkable catastrophe, which is why CNN.com’s top story is the soon-to-be Lifetime Network movie about the murder of pregnant Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach (as well as a special Live link to the Congressional Hearings on steroid use in baseball). FOXNews.com’s top stories include a virulent staph infection spreading among gay men and the happy killing of a terrorist leader’s son by Israeli tanks and helicopters.

Both sites have links regarding President Bush’s efforts to pursuade OPEC to lower skyrocketing oil prices, and something about a US Embassy vehicle exploding in Beirut, sandwiched between links to the ongoing Britney Spears custody saga, a UFO sighting in Texas and a real live turtle who can not only shake hands, but also play dead. The 2008 Presidential Race has some coverage at CNN, including a commentary on whether some candidates are “too good-looking for their own good”, and the volleying of sort-of-racist-but-not-really comments between the Clinton and Obama campaigns, while FOXNews covers the Republican candidates as they “Cruise the Detroit Auto Show”.

Also: American Idol premieres tonight.

Why I picked the Jags and Can’t Figure Out Bret Michaels…yet.

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I kicked off this blog with an entry touting the Jaguars, explaining how and why they would, without a doubt, crush the New England Patriots under their cleats. Wrong. Wrong again*. Though I take a little comfort in knowing that just about every sportswriter and the guys in Vegas were wrong about at least one game this weekend (I mean, come on, which Manning brother were you banking on playing next Sunday?) Tom Brady and the Patriots juggernaut rolled on, like everyone, myself humbly excluded, knew they would. Pulling for the underdog is not a unique trait, but it seems rare in the face of bandwagon powerhouses like the Patriots, the Shaq-era Lakers or the whenever Yankees, before the Pats and BoSox and Celtics, or Boston in general, became the fashionable team to root for.

Competitive reality shows are the same way, like my new favorite (as of last night) “Rock of Love 2”. These shows tend to provide their audiences with  clear favorites and clear, often more likeable longshots. I got in on the first season of “Rock of Love” late in the game, only seriously watching the final two episodes, and as far as I could tell, Heather, the raggedy washed-out stripper had the game locked down while Jes, her far younger, far more attractive opponent, was facing an inevitable elimination. Bret chose Jes and my world flipped upside down.

Unlike professional sports, reality television is controlled, edited to provide the viewing audience with certain ideas and feelings about the people involved, a sense of escalating (and often misleading) tension and inevitable conflict. It’s similar to the machinations of a whodunnit thriller. The outcome may not be fixed (and who cares anyway?) but the season’s narrative structure fixes our perceptions of the game as it plays out. 

With sports, I’m not always wrong. I picked the Pistons over the Lakers in 2004, and even predicted the series would go only five games (which it did). I picked the BoSox that same year, while the rest of America cheered the Yankees. But then I also picked the Jazz over the Bulls (and thus, Michael Jordan at his best) in ’97. You don’t bet against Jordan. Ever. And as far as I could tell, Heather, with her coarse and dried-out blonde hair, her puckering first-or-second-generation breast implants and haggard tan skin seemed like the Michael Jordan of “Rock of Love”. But in the finale it was anyone’s guess. One minute, Bret and Jes seemed absolutely in love, but the next, Heather looked too strong, too perfect-for-Bret to ever be denied.

I picked Heather. I was wrong. But being wrong about reality television, given the nature of the thing, is hard to take. Because the machinations, both those of the contestants and those in the editing room, are so apparent, it’s hard not to want to see them coming and figure them out. Where professional sports betting utilizes statistical probabilities, audiences appeal to their knowledge and experience of human behavior and dramatic structure. It’s armchair anthropology and, to a lesser extent, literary criticism.

The bigger question of why we (or at least I) watch is still impossible for me to figure out. When it comes to pro sports, I watch to marvel at the peak athleticism and the thrill of competition and, in many cases, the subtleties of the games: the perfectly executed play action pass or fast break, the broken tackle, the 5-4-3 double play. But the appeal of reality television, my motivation for watching, is elusive. The best explanation I have is that people love to watch people (and reality show contestants tend to be terribly fascinating) and, more than that, people love to be right about things.

I wanted to be right about the Jaguars. I wanted to believe that with the level of talent in the NFL, on any given week any team can beat any other and arguably the Chargers and Giants proved this. Yet the Pats remain undefeated. It just doesn’t seem natural. They are too dominant. Belechick is too untouchable. Brady, in just about every conceivable way, is too perfect. It feels scripted in the unscripted way of reality television. And yet I can’t figure the scripting out in either medium.

I was wrong time and time again last night during “Rock of Love”. When a particularly skanky contestant would throw herself at Bret, interrupt his conversation, shove some flesh in his face, I’d think, wow, how irritating. She’s gone. And yet, his reaction was always positive. When one of his VIPs (contestants he singled out in the beginning based soley on looks) opened up to him about her life, her career, her ambition, he seemed put off. This contestant was among the four to be eliminated. The thing is, she reminded me of Jes. Jes showed some genuineness, some heart, some focus in her life. And maybe that’s what turned Bret off, this time around. Didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. Or maybe Bret and the producers are simply throwing their audience a curve, trying to keep things interesting.

I’m not sure if interesting is the word. And yet I’ll be watching again next Sunday, trying to figure things out, to spot the budding favorites and, as early as possible, who will be eliminated that night, all the while wondering why I ever thought (or at least hoped) the Chargers had a chance, and whether or not the inevitable good versus evil Super Bowl matchup between New England and Green Bay is as fixed as a show like “Rock of Love”.

For the record, This Week: NE 38 – SD 17  and GB 31 – NY 21

*I did admit that Tom Brady has been earth-shatteringly impressive all season, and throwing 26/28 (92% percent) against Jax pretty much tells me I wasn’t generous enough.

Yeah. Juno is a pretty terrible movie, actually.

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Here’s a movie that isn’t just aggressively hip and quirky, but makes sure you’re paying attention to both with a pre-teen’s persistence. Like in the beginning, after discovering her pregnancy (and thank god for Rainn Wilson’s cameo; I mean, who else could’ve uttered those immortal words, “this is one doodle that can’t be un-did, homeskilliet”?) Juno McGuff* is carrying on flippant and sarcastic conversations with both friends and abortion clinic receptionists, discussing her unwanted unborn child like a zit or a dumb thing she said to a boy she likes. These conversations are held on a telephone shaped like a hamburger, hinged on the side so it opens up to the inner beef patty. The hamburger phone is irredeemably gay to begin with, and yet Juno doesn’t merely talk on it, she talks about it, making sure we, the audience, are paying attention to how damn cute and quirky she is. This happens after another inspired scene where, lugging around a jug of Sunny D, Juno comes upon a curbside living room set with vintage-by-way-of-Hot Topic appeal, which she decides to haul to her baby daddy, Pauly Bleeker’s house (with names like these, my god, how can the movie not be quirky as all get out?), arrange in his front yard and lounge in when she tells him that the grey clump of cells growing in her belly half-belongs to him.

Juno appears to be the girl screenwriter Diablo Cody wishes she had been at sixteen, with the apparent maturity of a thirty-year-old, the wit of a far more intelligent person, a loaded bank of pop culture references to sling and, of course, a hamburger phone. Unfortunately the yearnings of the screenwriter do not automatically translate into the yearnings of her characters, which is why those in this film feel more like the tin ducks and pellet guns of a carnival game, firing or being fired upon with air-powered quips and phrases.

 I get it. Believe me. Juno’s affectlessness is supposed to be a character flaw, a defense mechanism, whatever, and that she ultimately learns to express herself, to love and to let others in, blah, blah, blah. Unfortunately, a jarring breakdown scene in the family’s minivan, a note scribbled on a discarded oil change receipt and an orange tictac-laden finale with the elusive Pauly Bleeker (Michael Cera, who delivers the most genuine performance in the whole film and gets maybe two scenes, three tops) do not amount to character maturation. These scenes, and a handful of others, only suggest that Cody had enough of a grasp of story structure to realize that she couldn’t have ninety minutes of name-checking bands and cracking Thundercats jokes.

Two scenes stand out in memory,The first involves Juno and the ex-rocker (of course!) yuppie, played by Jason Bateman. After interviewing the yuppie couple (Bateman and Jennifer Garner), and agreeing to let them to adopt her child, Juno forms a friendship with the husband, drawn to his youthful attitude and, wouldn’t you know, exhaustive knowledge of the coolest bands, comics and horror films. Once Juno starts hanging out with this ex-rocker, an inevitable and epic volley of punk and alternative grunge bands ensues, followed by a longwinded discussion of who, between Dario Argento and Herschell Gordon, is the better goremongering horror director. Here is Diablo Cody at her most obvious, letting the audience know that she knows a lot about a lot of subculture, stuff she wishes she’d known so authoritatively at sixteen.

The rest of the plot just sort of happens. Juno gets pregnant and her family just sort of goes along with, you know, whatever. The suburbanite marriage just sort of falls apart, with Bateman, who in the beginning is oppressed by his domineering and anal-retentive wife, becoming selfish and childish, while Garner, who starts off cold and inhumane, becomes sweet and maternal. The baby is just sort of born and given away, and it all wraps up in time for Juno and Bleeker to just sort of fall in love (he is the mac to her cheese, as she says) culminating in an agonizingly long scene of them singing and playing guitar together.

There are a handful of genuine scenes. When Bateman shares his guitars with Juno (before the epic bout of hipster name-checking), he opens up to her about unmade dreams of “making it” as a musician, settling for the comfort and stability of suburbia. Though not particularly complex or impressive, this scene is at least relatable, and offers some authentic humanity. Also, when Juno finally, and inexplicably, realizes that she loves Bleeker, she says to him, something to the effect of, “You’re just so cool, and you don’t even try.” Bleeker response with, “I try really hard, actually.” This, unlike maybe 98% of the remaining dialogue, offers genuine and character-driven wit.

This is the problem with most recent comedies. The concept of wit has been reduced to the ability to reference something obscure or culturally relevant. A deeper connection to the story or the characters isn’t necessary, so long as the audience gets the reference, and the reference is hip or, at the very least, popular. Juno sticks to the former, like when Juno’s water breaks, she responds by shouting, “Thundercats go!” At this line, the theater I was in erupted with laughter, because, hey, we’ve all seen Thundercats, or at least clips of it on “I Love the 80s”, and, you know, they say that too! It’s not so different from the recent slew of dick-bitingly nauseating “spoof” comedies, like “Date Movie” or “Epic Movie”, which elicit laughs by putting caricatures of pop figures or recent films on screen. There is no method to it, or commentary in the subtext (think “Airplane!” or “Shaun of the Dead”), or subtext to begin with. Put on a cartoonish likeness of Britney Spears, or Rocky Balboa as an escaped geriatrics patient, complete with a walker and IV bag , and you have yourself a laugh riot.

This isn’t to say that true comedies aren’t making it into theaters. Jason Reitman’s last film, “Thank You For Smoking” was lights out, as was last year’s character-driven indie darling, “Little Miss Sunshine”.  Then there’s anything Will Ferrell is in (for the most part), or anything Judd Apatow is attached to (“40-Year-Old Virgin”, “Knocked Up”, “Superbad”, etc.) But Juno is evidence that, even in the indie universe, the line is blurring between genuine humor and pop culture reference-blasting. Now, a little bit is okay, or even a lot, so long as it’s handled well and balanced with human characters and a strong sense of the story. Over the years, Kevin Smith and Adam McKay have shown an ability to find this balance, and as I’ve said, at times, “Juno” does as well. These times are simply overshadowed by the rest of the film, and its Sixth Grader attempts to be cool and make sure you pay attention. Side note: the soundtrack, for the most part, is unbearable. I know inexplicable lyrics and off-key vocals sung over detuned acoustic guitar is pretty damn hip, like the Moldy Peaches crap that plays throughout almost the entire film, but it sucks nonetheless. It sucks like none other. And suits this film just fine.

 *Even the name Juno is a reference to the cruel and antogonizing Roman goddess. Don’t worry, though. Cody made sure to put in an entire monologue to explain this.

Jaguars Beat Patriots.

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This is headline news over at ESPN.com, and I’ve been saying it since the end of the regular season: the Patriots will not make it past the Jaguars. I know this is unfathomable to all the toady Patriots fans, as well as most of their true fans (the ones who remember a time before someone with the Raiders gave their kneecaps and two fourth round draft picks to Belichick for Moss, before Tom Brady and and three super bowls and running down the last eight minutes of a game to let Vinatieri kick the game winner, before those sleek new colors and unis, i.e. before they were fashionable and a safe bet to win) but it is nonetheless true.

 First let me start off by saying the Patriot’s regular season was not earth-shatteringly impressive*. Two wins over the Jets (one by just ten), two over the Bills, two over the miserable Miami Dolphins, and close calls with the underachieving Eagles and Ravens in back-to-back weeks, amount to half of this “perfect season”. Throw in another meeting with the Colts, or the average-at-best Giants (a team the Patriots needed a miracle to beat), and just one against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and we might see some etchings in the L column.

 Saturday should be the day. Jacksonville can run for days, and the Patriots’ aging linebackers can’t. Bruschi, Seau, not even Colvin can keep up with Jones-Drew, Taylor and the juggernaut-who-is Greg Jones. Not on their best day. Even though the Patriots have a stellar passing attack, and the Jaguars secondary is young and somewhat prone to screw their coverage, it’s also chock full of explosive talent. We’ll see some big plays. I still think Tom Brady will find the holes, and New England will score some points, but they won’t be alone in either regard, and they wont be able to run the ball. Not against Jax. And with the Jaguar’s phenomenal clock management, the passing game wont see enough of the field to inflict any fatal blows. 

Bottom line: The Patriots are the team to beat, and the Jaguars want it more than anyone else has all season. They want, and maybe deserve the recognition (hell, Fred Taylor only made the Pro Bowl this season because Willie Parker has to sit it out) and Saturday will be the day they get it. 

 I’ll go on the record now, final score: Jax 24 — NE 17

*Tom Brady and Randy Moss have been earth-shatteringly impressive.