Thursday, February 24, 2011

How can it be Bad, if it’s so much Fun?

Two nights I got home from meal with my Uncle to find out that all of my favorite sports writers and radio personalities had been saved. There would be no more speculation talk on where Carmelo Anthony would be traded, no write-ups on what he said on Conan last night means where he is going, and no more asking him questions on the sideline at the All-Star game while Kobe ruins Sager’s interview*. This was all over; Carmelo Anthony would be headed to the New York Knicks in a 8 player trade; involving key players, Chauncey Billups from the Nuggets, and Raymond Felton, Willison Chandler and Danilo Gallinari from the Knicks.  From a basketball stand point this is a sure-fire win for both squads; the Knicks getting a top 10 scorer in Anthony and a proven leader in Billups who has been to 7 consecutive conference finals (a streak that broke last year after lasting from the 2003-2004 season) to pair up with a prolific scorer in Amare Stoudemire.  What the Nuggets get is not as exciting as the Knicks, what they get is hope. Not hope that they can bring home the O’Brien Trophy later this year, but hope that through this trade they can stay competitive for years to come.  As we saw through the Cleveland Cavilers and Toronto Raptors this season is that if you put all hope in your team at the reigns of your star player and not attempt to get any assets in return, your team will be in the sewages for many seasons to come. (As we have seen with the Cavs record breaking 26 game losing streak) Carmelo was not coming back next year; are Raymond Felton and Wilson Chandler Carmelo Anthony; of course not, but paired together they will be a playoff team or make for good trade assets.

*Here’s why I would only last one day as a sideline reporter; When Carmelo agreed to be interview and I am there asking the questions that everybody wants to know and Kobe interrupts me, saying nobody wants to know about trade rumors I would look at him and say, “hey Kobe remember in 07 when you so badly wanted out of LA and took every opportunity to tell people that you wanted out? … yeah how’d that work out for you? Now how about you let me do the interview Melo already pre-agreed to while I asked him to questions everybody wants to know his answer to.”
Yeah your rights, I wouldn’t have the balls, but this is just one of those insistences were Kobe really needs to get his mouth out of things.

Two days after the Carmelo was traded I get out of bed I check my morning daily’s (espn and real clear sports) to find out that the Big Russian had finally done something with his millions; acquired Deron Williams in steal with only letting go shot -happy no-defense overrated Devin Harris and rookie Derrick Favors who scouts keep saying he has a ton of upside, but all I see is a above average rebounding Power Forward (he numbers could even be inflated by Brook Lopez giving up on trying to get rebounds anymore) with a difficulty scoring near the rim.  I could be wrong about Favors, but as he is right now he is not a franchise-changing player. 

Deron Williams is as of right know the second best point guard* (you could make the argument to put him ahead of Derek Rose and I wouldn’t call you crazy) in the league and someone who has the ability to make his teammates better, record 15 assist in one night while shooting terribly from the field, scoring no more than 6 points and still take the last shot to win the game. With just Deron’s acquisition the trade puts the Nets as a dynamic and scary match-up in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

*Funny how Deron was always behind Chris Paul and for the past 3 years considered the second best point guard, and now when Chris Paul has fallen off (at least for now, this could be a 2 year injury) Derek Rose has passed him as the best in the league. If the Bulls meet up in the playoffs in a 1-8 or 2-7 (don’t count it out) this would be a fantastic matchup.

Now with all this talk going around, it is sure to make any NBA fans excitement level jump from 2010 Dunk Contest to 1984 Finals.  These new players shifted to the East seem to balance out the power between the Conferences.  The overloaded West now seems possible for good, but not fantastic teams like the Grizzles and Warriors (and the Los Angeles Blakers in the future) know can appear to be competitive and have legitimate shots of making the playoffs.  And now in the East; excluding the Pacers (even though I thoroughly enjoy their style of play) each potential playoff team has a star/franchise player, making for the most anticipated playoffs I can ever remember. 
But these trends that have come up recently seem destructive.  What the league is portraying is that the stars of the league are in control.  If they want out of a certain team, they star will always get what they want. 

Since the begging of this season Carmelo made 3 unofficial demands;
1.     He wants out of Denver
2.     He wants to get paid max dollars
3.     He wants to be a New York Knicks

In most negotiations most players usually get 2 of these demands and some are only left with one. Carmelo could have gone to the Nets and got two of these demands in trade were the Nuggets would have gotten superior players for Carmelo than those they got in the recent trade.  Carmelo let it be known that he had to have all these demands. Leaving the Nuggets who saw the crumbles left of the Cavs didn’t want to let Carmelo go without getting anything in return. 
Deron Williams allegedly forced Jazz coach Jerry Sloan out of the team (again allegedly) telling the front office, “It’s either you or me.”  The Jazz canned their coach of 23 years in return keeping their best player.  A few weeks later he was traded after he publicly announced he was very angry with his teammates play.  Although nothing is confirmed it appears Deron asked for a trade, and he got exactly what he wanted.

But how can it be bad, if it’s so much fun?  These trades are fun; they make for a top-heavy competitive league.  But what is left with smaller market teams where no players want to be traded. If star players get all of there demands, why would someone choose Salt Lake City or Indianapolis over Miami or New York City.  Is it even worth for these teams to be competing*?  If a small market picks up a franchise-changing player, they know they can leave to go to New York if they want, because with the current status of the NBA a star gets anything they want.  We could have another Robert Nutting situation on our hands.  Robert Nutting the current owner of the Pittsburg Pirates took over in 2007.  Nutting saw no need for change for the Pirates in the win column in the future.  He put all of his assets at updating the park and made sure its was a great place for families to come. Nutting put no effort in making the team better, he spent the least he could on salary, knew the fans were loyal and at the end of the season had the 6th most profitable team, even though the had the 3rd worst record. 
*The Houston Rockets tried something different this season. After losing star players Yao and Tracy McGrady to injury (its not leaving on demands, but it has the outcome) they stacked there team with the some of the best role players in the league including Kevin Marin, Louis Scola, Aaron Brooks and Chase Buddinger.  Many thought this team with great role players would be a sure-thing playoff team and had a shot at the Western Conference Finals.  With no key injury’s to date the Rockets are 11th in the West with a 27-31 record.  The Rockets tried to win without stars and that is all they have to show for it.  This is apparently the best a small market can do without stars.

Owners of small franchises may start to wonder if this is the direction they should be going; don’t attempt to win games in a small market that will only backfire, just try to win money.  With the lockout approaching (not debatably there will be no NBA next season) these are the questions that will be answered, how can a small market become profitable, do we need to cut some franchises, how can we keep our star players.  These are questions that they will have a whole year to answer next year, so here’s to hoping they figure it out and for now lets focus on the fun aspect of my opening question and look forward what should be one of the best playoffs ever.

Thank you for those of you who read it all.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Blake Griffin; Or how i learned to stop worrying and love the explosive power forward.

If someone told me that for the rest of the NBA regular season I would be forced to watch to the 4th worst team in the league, with an over weight care-free (in a bad way) point guard, with an racist owner, and a fan base that could care less about the outcome of the game, I would be perfectly fine with that. More than perfectly fine, I would be legitimately happy to watch this team play and this is due to the fact that I get to watch the most exciting player in league; Blake Griffin.  A spot that had been reserved for Chris Paul the past couple of years, Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire during the “7 seconds or Less” era in Phoenix and Vince Carter during his days in Toronto, the position of my favorite player to watch in the NBA is now set-aside for Blake Griffin.  With only 31 games into his young career Blake Griffin has done the unimaginable, drawn my attention away from what was going on in Miami with Lebron and the League of Super Friends and brought it to the blue and red Staples Center to see what amazing highlight Blake Griffin had that night.  If there is a night I did not catch the Clippers game the first thing I do when I enter ESPN’s main page is look for the highlights on the Clippers game, because I know there was at least one amazing highlight I had missed form Blake.  The man is just a highlight machine; he has taken over Sportscenter’s Top 10 Plays faster than (fill in funny expression). 

Let me take you back to the first day of the NBA season, the Boston Celtics where playing the Miami Heat in arguably the most anticipated NBA regular season game of all time.  Well the game was crap, it was close, but the Heat were a mess, looking like a worse set of teammates for Lebron than the 2009 Cavilers and the Celtics looked like the same team as last year, but older.  As the follow up to this game we got the Portland Trailblazers and Los Angeles Clippers. A game I had little interest in, but would still watch. Just 4 minutes into the game Blake Griffin got his first basket,

which resulted in Matt’s first jump out of the couch play of the year and just a few plays later he had a barbaric one-hand put back, where you could tell that he was really capable of doing stuff like this each night of the season

Blake Griffin was pulling out these crazy dunks each and all ready has numerous amounts of awesome youtube mixtapes and highlight pages through 31 games, that any NBA player would love to have over a ten-year period.  But the night that sealed the deal as my favorite player to watch was the Nov. 20 game against the Knicks.

Even in the loss, he had 44 points and 15 Rebounds and the three of the best dunks of the year, in my favorite game to watch of the season so far.  I think 4 of those plays were on Sporstcenter’s Top 10 that night.

Although dunks do not necessarily make a player a great team basketball player, it is not the case with Blake Griffin.  He could have been mailing it by know, playing on a 9 win team in a silent arena, but there has not been a game this year were he has not tried, he has the tremendous dunks on the offensive end ranking 18th in the league in scoring and getting the dirty work on the defensive end, being a tough match-up at the four position, being to strong for the fast players and to fast for the strong players. One of the most phenomenal things about Blake is he is 4th in the league in rebounding with 12.4 a game. The amazing thing about that is, he doesn’t know how to rebound. You can tell by watching him he doesn’t knew where the ball is going or how to box out, but he is 4th in the league just by his pure athleticism and jumping ability.

Right now besides my Bulls being 19-10 and Derek Rose  making the transformation to an elite player, nothing in the NBA brings me more joy than watching Blake Griffin fly through the air and watching a highlight show by him each night.  This may not last long though, because as exciting as he plays, the way he plays is at times stupid 

 nearing an injury it seems each time he dunks the ball. So enjoy it while you can people, Blake Griffin my new favorite player to watch.

A Quick, Why are you doing this post

Why: I don’t do much with my life and I am not that great at anything, but what I do consider myself quite knowledgeable on are TV and sports, so why not write about them and lessen the time I spend on my couch.

What to expect: This will not be a typical teenage blog, where I give you slices of my life and talk about the life of a teenager.  I will try to leave myself out of the picture as much as possible; the main things that will be discussed are television and sports.
I will try not to write like an English major Douche-Bag when I talk about TV. You know those guys always talking about themes that aren’t really there and why if you don’t like this show you just don’t get it, but as I learned through my first post it is hard to do that without just saying “This Show is Awesome”
I will also as write as if a lot of people are reading this, even though I know that are not.  I am not na├»ve; I know there are very few of you that are reading this but that is not fun for me.

Why not just get a Tumblr: I already waste enough time on facebook, don’t want a new way to waste an hour of my life.

How long will you do this: Not sure the first post I did was really fun for me, but I can see myself getting bored with this kind of quickly.  I think the over under for how many post I do before I quit is probably 8.5.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Top 10 TV Shows of 2010; It's Time that Matt finds a new way to waste his life.

Yes all the crazy rumors you guys have been spreading are true, I decided to start a blog, I will post later on what drove me to this point in my life, (spoiler alert: boredom) but as my first post I wanted to do something exciting that people can easily skim through without actually having to read anything. I have made a list of my top ten favorite TV shows of 2010. So here you go

List to Touch on Before “Best of” List
Shows I have failed to watch due to lack of HBO that had potential to make list:
Boardwalk Empire
The Pacific
Eastbound and Down

Failed to watch due to Stubbornness: There are lots of these, but we will just touch on a few
Fringe: Quit in the middle of first season, but from what I have heard the third season is on par with some of the upper-tier cable shows.
Cougar Town: From what I have heard it is the most enjoyable show on television, but the name really turns me off.  I am not sure I will ever be able to tell my friends “Hey did any of you guys catch Cougar Town last night, it was fantastic”.  It is soon going to be canceled so I will probably catch back with it on DVD soon.
How I Meet Your Mother:  The episodes I have seen I am not that crazy about, but people who watch the show praise by it, it might be my summer DVD project next year.

Most Difficult Shows to Cut From List:
Archer:  This incredibly raunchy and well-written comedy that quickly became my favorite animated show on TV.  
Modern Family:  Nothing more than just a extremely enjoyable shows.  It may night seem that way at times but the show is just as smart as The Office and 30 Rock, but it also is able to appeal to a broader audience due to some slapstick comedy and Sofia Vergara's breast.
Friday Night Lights: One of my favorite shows of the past decided had a hard time getting its footing with Coach dealing with a new school, most of the characters off to college and still trying to find a way to use Tim Riggins so they can have their lady viewership up.  But with those struggles emerged Michael B. Jordan (Wallace from the The Wire) as a great new addition to the cast list and Matt Saracen having his best story arc of the show to date. 
Better Off Ted: A fantastic short lived comedy about the wackiness of the inner workings of an office.  What separated from all the other 100 shows that have appeared since The Office, is that it did not try to make it realistic; there are no little head shots of characters opinion, it just has great written characters trying to deal with each other.
Lost: I was a big fan of the first two hours of the finale and the show had some great stand alone episodes for characters especially the ones for Locke, Ben and Richard, but it also had the worst episode of the series with "Across the Sea".  The last season had its moments, but appeared to drag on in spots (especially with the Temple story line) and at times threw me off because even though I knew the creators didn't have a plan from the beginning, all I wanted was them to make it plausible that they did. 

Best Shows of 2010
Once again I believe 2010 showed why from a story telling stand point that TV shows are superior to movies, it has fantastic writing, acting and can do so over a long period to help with character developed and makes you become attached to characters far more than you can ever do with a movie. 2010 was a great year for TV, these are my opinion about the best, but there will definitely be some you will get mad at me for leaving off, but that is okay as long as you love TV and are wasting your life like me we can still be friends.  So without further ado here you go,

10. Party Down
Party Down came out unexpectedly last year as one of the best gut-renchingly funny TV shows on the air.  It tells the story of a group of people (rather it be a hard sci-fi writer, a actor or a man whose main goal in life is to open a Soup and Crackers factory) who are trying, but are all failing to achieve there dream so they have to take a job at a catering business to make ends meet. The show took a bit of a step back with the loss of Jane Lynch to Glee who was the funniest character last year, but it still had Adam Scott leading the reigns and had Martin Scott and Ryan Hansen havibg the most bitter-hateful and funniest rivalry on TV. The comedy has been the most blistering funny since Arrested Development and it showed true humanity with its characters. At the end of the year Adam Scott decided to leave the show for Parks and Rec and the show was canceled not much later.  It had a great two season run, that i will throughly enjoy looking back with my DVDs.

9. Rubicon
When people get angry at me for recommending Mad Men to them because they said it was to slow I have made a mental note to myself to never even mention the word Rubicon in front of their face. Telling the story of a group of intelligent analyst who come across a conspiracy that involves the think tank in which they work and political mobsters from the Middle East, which slowly began to untangle throughout its 13 episodes. Rubicon was probably the slowest paced show I have ever seen in my life, but what came with that was an excellent plot points through the last third on their episodes where everything came to together perfectly. This is another show that was canceled after its first season run (sorry this is getting depressing), but will once again forever live on my DVD shelf.

8. Men of a Certain Age 
I had no interest in this series coming in. It had Ray Romano (whom all I knew him from was a very generic sitcom) taking the wheels as a producer and head writer of show about middle aged men  getting older. What I did not know is how terrific of an actor Ray Romano was and is able to carry the dramatic segments of the show with such ease.  The show is also so great with its little moments, the show could have easily been about grown men growing tired with their life and they decided to start a life of crime, but it lived on these little moments of Ray and his friends sitting at a dinner and discussing the dreams as a child have failed to live up to their expectations. Even with these dramatic moments the show is still very funny and the three best friends is perfect casting, you can tell that these guys were friend in real life and there banter rings very true to real life conversations.  And to derail from the sadness of the last two shows, the show was on the brink of a cancelation has gotten a second season.    

7. Parks and Recreation
One of the biggest mistakes in my life is not jumping on the Parks and Rec bus soon enough. The show was extremely weak in its first season and I was justified for not wanting to watch once season 2 came around. But my biggest fault was not given it a chance once people around telling me it was great. I crammed through the episodes in about 3 weeks and i can safely say it is the funniest network comedy on TV. The cast had fully developed into real drawn out characters that are now far fresher,  more original and deeper than any character on The Office. (I would take Tom, Andy and do I even need to mention Ron Effing Swanson over Jim, Dwight and Michael any day)  What is great about Parks and Rec is that is not cynical.  It would be so easy to do a show about the inner-working of politics and be cynical, but it is more a show with hope and determination of how to get things done.  The show will be back in January with Adam Scott and Rob Lowe and I will definitely not be missing it this time around.

6. ESPN 30 for 30
This was a great effort by ESPN who tried to put themselves on the map and replace HBO as the go to place for sports documentaries.  They gave 30 different film makers a chance to tell any story they wanted within the last 30 years.  This year ESPN concluded with what it began  with last year and aired the final 23 documentaries of the series.  And although it was not as consistent as it was last year (well thats what you get when 7 goes against 23) and it had some true duds (Silly Little Game, Marion Jones: Press Pause and Jordan Rides the Bus) it also had some of my favorites (No Crossover, Winning Time and Once Brothers).  This series also pulled off one of my favorite documentaries in The Two Escobars. I am a big sports documentary fan and this series was incredible and all props go to ESPN for not interfering to put there own inputs in and just let great film makers tell unique and fascinating stories.

5. Community
Remember when I said that Parks and Recreation was the funniest show on network television, well that is still true, but no show makes me happier than Community. Although it is no where close to the same level as this show, but Community is the closest show I have had since The Simpsons Seasons 3-8.  The show can range from the completely zany and over the top (the Zombie episode), to the deeply emotional (last weeks episode at the Bar) and the perfect mix in between the two (the classic Christmas episode). And even though the show does not rely on its consistency, there is no other comedy where I can care about the characters as much as I do with Community.

4. Louie
Louie C.K is probably my favorite comedian of my generation. I was excited to hear he got his own TV show i thought i would finally get a Seinfeld back in my life (a stand-up comedian who adapts a show that will feature his stand-up material and stories from his own life). I did not get Seinfeld and according to C.K i did not get a show, but a series of short films. The show wavers from week to week and sometimes from commercial break to commercial break on what its tone is.  His stand-up was the funniest thing on TV this year, especially when he totally berated a heckler on stage and completely gut-renching, like when he told the story of himself as a kid and why he was turned off from religion.  I talked about how Community does not care about consistency, well Louie took consistency out of the equation having an actress play his girlfriend in one episode and his sister in another, Louie  is something completely unique on television and it is also one of the funniest.
3. Terriers
Was it the terrible ads that ran on FX, was it the name that some people for a show about dog fighting, was  it that it didn't fir the bill for most of the FX shows, whatever it was for this gem of a TV show, all I can say is that for those of us who watched it will be sorely missed. Terriers was cancelled after its glorious first season of television.  A show about two underdog private detectives who like to sink their teeth in to their cases (like a terrier if you will) gave us different dimensions of what each character is capable of.  The show is like a rock album, it may appear to be rough and cold, but once you look closer into these characters you will find the heartbreak of what they have been through as we saw with Hank during marriage his stint with alcohol something that happened before the show and told in flashbacks and as we saw with Brit and his heartbreak he had with his girlfriend.  The continued with the theme that these guys are the bottom of the food change (as was clearly evident in the finale) and they cannot win.  And even though the guys could not win they always had each other.  Their relationship is my favorite guy-guy friendship ever told on television, with their sharp dialogue and how at the end of the day you can tell that these guys truly care for each other. (The two actors shared an apartment during shooting and are close friends in real life).  The show is placed second on my one and done seasons behind Freaks and Geeks and even though I will never see another episode I am glad I at least got to have this journey with them.

2. Mad Men
We have now reached the mid point of the 60s in Mad Mens with its best season to date.  With the company in a new office and what appeared to be great opportunity for new beginning turned into the downward spiral that was Donald Draper.  The divorce with Betty brought out the worst side of Don (but you could argue it brought out the best in the show because that means less screen time for January Jones) who was living by himself in the city.  The season still had the same sharp look and feel to it as the other seasons, but brought out characters that had long history between each other, weather it be with Peggy giving Pete a look telling her  we are fine now, Don finally accepting Pete as a co-worker or Peggy finally confronting Don about what their relationship truly is or what he expects out of her in one of the best episodes I have ever seen in "The Suitcase".  The gave Jon Hamm his best work and after having him deal with a pathetic lifestyle, he finally got the new beginnings that we thought he would find in the start of the season in the finale.  What separates Mad Men from any other show on TV is its writing and once again Matthew Weiner and Company delivered.
1. Breaking Bad
With Mad Men having its best season yet and being the best show of last year, it goes to show how fantastic this season of Breaking Bad really was.  I don't think I have ever seen a season of TV (excluding The Wire) that was as tightly constructed, suspenseful and heartbreaking as the third season of Breaking Bad.  It was great to see how it flew away from its original formula to create a season that was completely different from anything we had seen from the season before. It did not begin with Walt cooking meth as he did in past season, but was more of a soul searching experience in Walt and when  he finally got back to doing what he does best the stakes were never higher and the outcome never more devastating.  The suspenseful moments were better than anything o television ("One Minute), it had a bottle episode that was the greatest bottle episode of all time ("The Fly") and it had the most dramatic outcome of any show on television ("Full Measure").  I have not even mentioned Aaron Paul who is giving the best supporting performance of all time (lots of all times in this paragraph, I promise I am not overreacting, it really was this good) in a transformation where he was once a character who was there to add elements of black comedy to the show, has now turned into the moral compass of the show.  Where once  that wasWalt's role, he has no lost it, there is no question in my mind now that Walt is a bad person.  In years past the only aspect Breaking Bad had over Mad Men was its visuals, that have a Coen-Brotherts (Specifically No Country for Old Men) like vibe to it, is no superior to it in ever way besides dialogue.  With the way the shows is continuing it could become one of the greatest shows of all time.

Well that was rather long, kudos to anyone who read all of this, going further I will probably get better at trimming this stuff down. So there it is my list and my first post, comment if you agree or disagree with the list, to tell my a show i missed or to tell him to quit doing this while I'm ahead and that I am no good at this.