Saturday, December 30, 2006

Duke as the year turns

I saw the McMartin preschool hoax play out for five years in front of me (I lived in Los Angeles, and I told myself, Never again.

The problem is people who say, "Who cares?"

Like, for instance, Lawrence O'Donnell

Caught "McGlaughlin Group" last night. I don't have much use for Lawrence O'Donnell, but what he said was especially hateful. When asked his opinion on "The Most Overrated Story" of 2006, he responded: The Duke Rape Case.

"Let it play out," he said. "There's no need for examining it day to day."

No no no no no. A thousand times no. O'Donnell is a Washington insider who finds the whole affair boring, never mind the effect on these three young men.

This--once a dismissal comes, as it surely will--will be the bloggers' finest hour.

All of you: do not flag or fail. Keep up the pressure. Dismiss, dismiss, dismiss or let the heavens fall.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Thursday, December 28, 2006

North Carolina Bar issues Nifong complaint

About freaking time.

Four steps:

Removal as prosecutor in the Duke Hoax.

Resignation as DA.



Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Yankees get their guy

Now the Yanks have a Japanese pitcher of their own.

Unit to go?

Taylor and Johnson and Duke

A WSJ editorial on Duke by the two journalists most responsible: KC Johnson, whose blog has made mincemeat of the prosecution, and Stuart Taylor, whose August article in Slate helped nudge DA Nifong's misconduct into focus.

Money quote:

The case is now unraveling so rapidly as to be ridiculed on "Saturday Night Live." Mr. Nifong is on his way to being disbarred, unless North Carolina's legal establishment wants to be held up to national scorn. He faces lawsuits and at least a remote risk of federal criminal investigation. As for Durham's black leaders, and many in the media, and much of Duke's faculty, history will mark them down as enablers of abusive, dishonest law enforcement tactics. They will share responsibility for the continued use of such tactics, mainly against black people, after the Duke lacrosse players' innocence has become manifest to all serious people and the spotlight has moved on.

Read the whole thing.

Gerald Ford, RIP

My favorite Fun Ford Facts:

1. Ford's reputation as a klutz was, we all know now, completely false. Ford was, in fact, almost certainly the most athletic President of the twentieth century. Perhaps only Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Reagan, Bush and Clinton come close, and not very. (Taft was morbidly obese; Wilson, Coolidge, Hoover, Truman, Nixon and Carter were all bookworms; Harding was sedentary; FDR was an upper-class dandy; LBJ was a slob; and Kennedy failed to earn his football letter at Harvard and was ghastly, and constantly, ill right up to the invention of cortisone, which in 1960 allowed him to gain weight and fill out that famous face of his, just in time for the first debate with Nixon.) As John J. Miller recounts, Ford was a lineman on two National Champion Michigan teams, this when colleges collected brutes and bullies for the football team, and didn't even require them to put up the appearance of going to class. Five Michigan jerseys have been retired; Ford's #48 is one of them.

2. Ford remains the only sitting President ever to appear before a Congressional Committee. He did so in 1975, to beg Congress to reinstate military aid to the South Vietnamese. However, the Democrats--who in the shadow of Watergate had added 75 seats to an already standing majority--were feeling their oats. Vietnam, which Kennedy had entered, where Johnson had fought and which Nixon had left, had become Nixon's war. No money, no arms--and so we got Boat People and genocide as a consequence. (The parallels to this very moment are clear, I think.)

3. Ford is the only man to become President without first appearing on a national ticket.

4. Ford's re-election was probably the most half-hearted modern (read: television era) Presidential campaign waged by someone who had a decent chance of winning. (Dole's odd little 1996 endeavor vs. the Clinton Machine may be tucked away in history.) He ran reluctantly, only as a means of pushing forward the legislation he thought necessary: whipping inflation and all that. (Anyone remember WIN? Whip inflation now?) He had reason to suspect his wife's difficulties, and--as recounted by his former Chief of Staff, Dick Cheney--ran the last week of his campaign, in a razor-thin match, on cruise control, while Jimmy Carter was putting in 18-hour days to stave of Ford's last-minute rise in the polls.

5. Every President has a legacy. Lincoln: saved the union. That sort of thing. Ford will be remembered for (and this was no small task) restoring some degree of confidence in the Executive Branch after Nixon shattered it. This is the popular myth, and it has the benefit of being true.

The latest on Duke

Mike Nifong has been dishonest, crooked and, at times, just plain weird.

But his dropping of the rape charge, and not the others, is the first action I would describe as "cute."

Drop the one charge--the central charge--on account of its being completely disproven, in the hope of proving the ancillary charges by a preponderence of the evidence?

Drop the rape charge and then say with a straight face that the DNA is "out of play," when the absence of of LAX players' DNA is perhaps even more exculpatory in the ancillary charges?

Cute. Real cute.

On a related note: Will KC Johnson be the first blogger to win the Pulitzer Prize? One can hope. His latesthere.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Texans 27, Colts 24

The biggest upset of the year, we're told.

I'm here to give the devil his due. Mario Williams played well. Ron Dayne, whom the Texans would not have touched had they selected Reggie Bush, was a man on fire: 153 yards, two TDs.

But. But.

Vince Young: two TD passes, one run. The Titans are about ready to make the play-offs after starting 0-5.

Matt Leinart: a brisk, efficient day before being removed for injury: one TD pass.

Reggie Bush: 130 yards, one TD.


And to all a good night

Ted Turner I don't have much use for.

But TBS does air A Christmas Story for twenty-four hours straight, every Christmas Eve at 7 pm CST to every Christmas Day at 7 pm CST.


All is forgiven.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Larry Miller and the Academy of the Underrated

I sometimes think of Diane Keaton and Michael Murphy, and their "Academy of the Overrated" in the Woody Allen movie Manhattan.

F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gustav Mahler, to begin with.

Yeah, okay, I don't listen to classical music, but I've read basically every word still in print from Fitzgerald (The Beautiful and Damned excepted), and, no, NO.

Which is probably what Allen intended. So be it.

What should exist is an Academy of the Underrated.

To whit, Larry Miller.

Miller was a stand-up comedian of several years who was more or less a constant presence in one mediocre movie after another throughout the nineties. To women who say, "Who?" when I mention his name, I always say, "The suck-up boutique manager in Pretty Women, which invariably elicits an, "Ahhh."

Little did I know, pre-9/11, that Miller is a writer as well, of of great profundity. And now, as I albatross around the city, my great pleasure is to read his book, Spoiled Rotten America. This is a book I enjoyed for the first sentence of chapter two:

"I saw Godfather III again last night, and it's still terrible."

Yes, and yes again.

Oh, and happy 500th post.

Pettitte: Clemens to Yankees

Details in the Post.

Pettitte goes to the Astros; Clemens follows.

Pettitte back to the Yankees. Clemens . . . ?

Look, I love them both, but, Christ, get a room, guys.

Nifong drops rape charge against Duke Three

The details here.

If Mike Nifong thinks he has reduced the scrutiny toward himself by dropping the one charge that has been absolutely disproven, he has another think coming.

In future years, the story of the Duke Three will rival that of the Scottsboro boys, the Guilford Four, the McMartin Preschool staff and Steve Pagones, who was the primary scapegoat in the Tawana Brawley hoax.

As always, the estimable KC Johnson weighs in, with at least six sensational posts today. To wit:

There is absolutely no justification for any continued allegations against any of the players; I suspect this is the beginning of the end for the case against them--and the beginning of the ethical and perhaps legal case against Nifong.

Dismiss. Dismiss. Dismiss on all counts. And then go after Nifong.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Hillary Clinton: the political USC?

Don't know what to make of this. From Sully reader JT, Politics as the new BCS:

John Kerry = Alabama, for some reason still thinks he should be considered anelite organization but each season becomes more and more embarrassing.

Barack Obama = Notre Dame, highly touted going into the season and will swayvoters based on name and mystique, but really no one knows if the praise is worthy and ends up unable to beat a quality opponent.

Mitt Romney = BYU, for obvious reasons.

Hillary Clinton = USC, one hell of organization, should contend for the title but could easily get derailed by a dispassionate offense and poor defense. Arouses mixture of loathing and envy from other teams' supporters.

Tryinbg to imagine Andrew Sullivan make sense of college football is half the fun.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Merry . . . ah, screw it

The last time I visited the notion of my workplace, two subjects were at hand:

1. My work environment. As I wrote:

My office was, until recently, a classroom. Now, thanks to the imposition of several portable dividers, none of them reaching to the ceiling, the converted space holds the dean, myself and another chair, the office manager to the dean, the office manager the other chair and I share, my associate chair, and the other chair's intern, and two receptionist/assistants. My desk sits in the center of the room, surrounded on three sides by dividers that lean sideways and, when upright, come up to my chest.

This is, of course, an absurd working environment for a college of 10,000 students. I was never one to hold out for the corner office, but as a chair I listen all day to complaints from students and sensitive matters with faculty, and when I really need not to be overheard (for, say, accusations of harassment) my only recourse is to take either my visitor or my cellphone out to the parking lot. Otherwise, all nine of us can hold a conversation in our normal speaking voices without getting up from our seats.

2. Administrative assistants' day. As I wrote:

Sill, as this day approaches, I have a bit of foreboding. Who gets invited, and who does the inviting? Our solution is that the Dean, the other chair and I spring for the rest of the gang: the associate chair, the intern, receptionists, and so forth. Of course, we leave out the campus receptionists, the work study students, and the adjunct faculty, on the grounds that you have to draw the line somewhere.

The second issue has to do with where we go. My office manager is an intensely private woman in her sixties. As she has turned down all lunch invitations extended by anyone over the past decade-plus--all but two per year, her birthday and today--I suspect that she views this as even more of an obligation that I do. But to point that out out loud--ick.

So we have lunch. But I eschew flowers. An Easterner by birth, in the great Eastern tradition, I give money. Money for everyone. At least that part is easy and (I hope) appreciated.

The two subjects converged quite messily in the months of April and May, and left me elated on the one hand and ashamed on the other.

Let me explain.

In May I moved to a new office, the fourth of the last 13 months and the best one at all. The I had gone:

*from a tiny cubbyhole with a west-facing picture window that, in the bright East Texas afternoons would beam Monetesque rectangles of sunlight on my text, beams so intense they literally burned spots in my computer screen and gave me daily headaches . . .

*to a windowless office opposite my first, something large enough for only one person, and with a computer its previous owner had left with a succession of irremovable porno pop-ups that would explode like Fantasia in the middle of an e-mail I was trying to type . . . .

*to the above-said desk-in-middle-of-the-classroom . . .

*to my present confines.

When, in April, I learned we were moving again, I knew our daily ritual would be rather simple:

9 am-noon: Shove crap into boxes.

Noon-1 pm: Lunch.

1 pm-5 pm: Shove crap into boxes.

The problem (if it could be called that) was that, having moved twice within a year, I had--like the boy in Faulkner's "The Bear"--stripped myself of all non-essentials. And--what do they call it now?, Administrative Assistants' Day?--seemed to fall under everyone's radar.

So nobody got anything. Our Dean (part of the move) was slowed to a state of trying to run the tricky wickets of finalizing the move; another colleague, a department chair like me, was going through a divorce that Mel Gibson should have filmed.

So? So nothing happened after . . . after whatever you what to call Secretaries' Day came and went. Weeks came and went, offices were changed . . . and nothing happened. None of us took anyone to lunch; none of us gave anyone any money. Weeks went by, nothing. Then, more nothing. No one seemed especially upset, but as the weeks went on, I felt worse. Finally, a fulcrum was crossed, a point where any mention of Secretaries' Day was an admission of defeat. To say, "We missed it!" was the worst eating-of-s*** one could imagine. So I clammed up.

I've written this before, and said it countless times. The office manager for humanities--the closest I will ever have to a secretary--is efficient, hard-working, and brilliant. I would--to borrow a clause from Anthony Hopkins in Remains of the Day--be lost without her. It was hellish to watch Secretaries' Day come and go, and do nothing, but that is what happened. So I gave her twice what she deserved this Christmas. I thought of saying, "Sorry about Secretaries' Day!" but I didn't. But she deserved whatever I gave, and twice again.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Lupica on Zeke

The last few months have not been sports columnist Mike Lupica's best. He has been exposed as a thin-skinned bully by more than one "Sports Reporters" ex-colleague. And he has embarrassed himself trying to hang the contempt-of-court citations around President Bush's neck.


Still, he sometimes hits one out of the park. One of the guilty pleasures of Saturday night's Knicks-Nuggets brawl was knowing that Lupica would lay in.

And so he does, for the third day in a row, in what is the best of the three. A sample, in Lupica's pitch-perfect wise-guy prose:

I am standing in front of the Garden on Sunday morning, in front of the famous marquee on Seventh Ave., and remembering what it was like back in the '90s, when it would only say "Michael Jordan Tonight" on that marquee and this was the only place in town you wanted to be. You know when that will happen with Isiah Thomas in charge of basketball at the Garden? Never.

Now, in the aftermath of a fight that everybody but the commissioner of the NBA seems to know Thomas instigated, you wonder what type of further embarrassment it will take for Dolan to tell the guy to go back to Chicago or Indiana, go anywhere and get himself good and lost.

Read the whole thing.

Meet the New Lefty

Yanks get their guy from Japan.

Wang, Pettitte, Moose, Unit, New Guy.

This is a situation where Unit is no better than the fourth starter.

Sowell on Duke

It is now clear that revery day an rape indictment hangs over the three accused Duke lacrosse players is a travesty of historic proportions.

It is a matter of record that the District Attorney, Mike Nifong:

1. Showed the alleged victim a line-up featuring only white Duke lacrosse players, thus diregarding all norms of investigation, and the legal standard in the state of North Carolina;

2. Pursued an indictment against a lacrosse player who has a three-fold alibi (a black cabbie places him miles away from the scene of the supposed crime when the crime took place, and both a time-stamped ATM receipt and a time-stamped video camera place him at his bank);

3. Disregarded results of a negative DNA test against the accused, after assuring beforehand that said tests would demnonstrate innocence if negative;

4. Conspired with a DNA lab to keep from the defense a positive DNA result for three other men, none of whom are lacrosse players.

What is amazing is that, if Nifong could wave a wand and remove these four facts from public purview, there would still be enough to exonerate the defendants.

Thomas Sowell has the latest.

Sowell's conclusion matches mine, to a point. Nifong should be removed from office. He should be disbarred.

I would go further. When all is said and done, he should be caged.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Duke: the beginning of the end?

It appears the Great Duke Rape Hoax may be inching toward its proper dismissal.

Up until yesterday, the charitable characterization of Brian Meehan, head of DNA Security, was incompetence beyond words. That positive DNA matches of three men were found on the person of the alleged victim, none of them Duke lacrosse players, was withheld from defense counsel, would seem to be (in the best light) a huge blunder by a scientist unaware of of the rules of discovery.

Then this moment:

Seligmann attorney Jim Cooney: “Was the exclusion of material the result of a specific agreement between you and representatives of the state of North Carolina?”

DNA Security director Brian Meehan: Yes.

As always, the esteemed KC Johnson weighs in.

"We're Going to Win"

Via Fred Barnes, the first good news on Iraq in months. In short:

1. Iraq Study Group report (aka "Surrender with Dignity") goes into the trash. Good.

2. 50,000 more troops, mostly in Baghdad. Good.

3. The city is taken, neighborhood by neighborhood, house by house. Good, if true.

The joke around the blogosphere this week was that if James Baker headed a commission to save Social Security, his first recommendation would be that Israel relinquish the Golan Heights and enter into negotiations for the partition of Jerusalem. The point is that words do not describe what a farce the ISG turned out to be, and how removed from reality their recommendations were.

It was a Democrat--Missouri's Ike Skelton--who first pointed out the crucial nature of Baghdad in the overall War on Terror. Baghdad is this generation's Marathon, its Saratoga, its Waterloo, its Gettysburg, its Midway. This is the tipping point of history.

Jeff Bagwell retires

Details here.

A Hall-of-Famer?


And consider this scenario:

a) Bagwell goes in on the second ballot

b) Craig Biggio hits number 3,000 this season and retires

c) Joe Torre retires

End result? Bagwell, Biggio and Torre all go in together in 2012.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

How much coolness does Jack Black have left?

Jack Black became cool in the last five minutes of High Fidelity, singing "Let's Get it On."

It was then we heard about Tenacious D, and OH MY GOD, he was a singer all along!

This was followed by School of Rock: very cool.

It started to go bad with Macho Libre.

His Tenacious D performance on "Saturday Night Live": Not good. In point of fact, if you're going to sing a song about Heavy Metal that simply persuades me to look for my Led Zeppelin tapes in preference to you . . . well, what good are you?

Now, his next damn movie.

Jack Black is squandering his coolness faster than anyone since Chevy Chase.

Durham in Wonderland

Ten years from now, an HBO film will detail every inch of DA Mike Nifong's ehtical lapses.

Fifty years from now, books will be written on this scandalous witch hunt.

KC Johnson should win a prize.

Lamar Hunt, RIP

Details here.

Lamar Hunt. Surely one one of the half-dozen most influential sports magnates of the twentieth century.

Both George Halas, who created the NFL, and Pete Rozelle, who created the NFL as we know it, owe Lamar Hunt a debt of thanks.

It was Hunt who brought pro football into regions the NFL would not enter: Dallas, Houston, Denver, Boston, and eventually San Diego and Miami. It was his success that forced a merger, his vision that created the Super Bowl as we know it. (Hunt even thought up the name "Super Bowl," a name much more congenial than the "AFL-NFL World Championship Game."

From Hunt's original idea of the American Football League, we now have the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, New York Jets, San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins, Tennessee Titans, and Denver Broncos.

Seven franchises that sell out every game.

Peter Boyle, RIP

Most of all, I’ll remember him in Taxi Driver.

Watch him in the “your work becomes you, you become your work” scene with DeNiro.

And, in the same movie, the best moment of Boyle's acting career: the cafeteria scene, when a half-dozen half-awake moonlighting hacks sit around a table. The subject of homosexuality comes up. Some Southern cabbie says, “You know, out in California, when two fags break up, the one fag has to pay the other alimony.”

A pause, as the group considers this. Finally, (the expression on his face is priceless) Boyle holds forth:

“Not bad!”

Southern guy: “Yeah, they’re way ahead out there.”

Oh, and one other memory: “Dueling Brandos” with John Belushi on SNL.

I would buy that entire season on DVD just to hear Belushi say, “Get the butter.” And Boyle, in a comic sketch with one of the kings, more than holds his own.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

'United 93' wins New York Film Critics' Best Picture

Via The Irish Trojan.

Well-deserved, as far as I know. I never get to see enough movies in the theatre anymore; the only free time I seem to have is Saturday afternoons, which (thanks to college football) pretty much knocks out August 25th through December 5th. I had to take a personal day off from work in order to see Borat, which, along with United 93, Talladega Nights and Little Miss Sunshine, constituted the best of what I did see.

Just below that fabulous four is The Departed.

What I do want to see: the Bond film and The History Boys. Oh, and Rocky Balboa.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Gretzky v. Orr, part II

Nice quote:

What clearly separates Orr from Gretzky is his on-ice toughness. He fought, sometimes savagely, with a barroom Irish temper. If Gretzky was ABBA, Orr was The Clash. That's not necessarily an endorsement. It's just the way it is.

Orr or Gretzky?

Before I enjoyed any other sport, I was a hockey fan; and before a life's worth of sports heroes (Arthur Ashe, John Jefferson, Thurman Munson, Ron Guidry, Dave Cowens, John Havlicek, Larry Bird--and this brings me only to 1979), there was one who, for me, was first and above all.

Number Four, Bobby Orr. Defensemen for the Boston Bruins, who defeated the hated New York Rangers in 1972. As a six year-old living in the Boston suburbs, I was allowed to watch the first period of each of the final games (my mother explained to me what "best-of-seven" meant) and then had to go to sleep. And so I found out the Bruins had defeated the Rangers the way a six year-old usually does in these matters: I came down to breakfast, and to my mother with the paper--in this case, The Boston Globe.

I was too young even to know what "The Stanley Cup" was. But on page one of The Globe I saw what Bobby and the guys were holding up. And I was damn sure it wasn't the second-place trophy.

(Of course, to this day I wonder why someone didn't wake me up for the last few minutes of the previous night's game, as countless New England parents would wake six year-old sons a generation later, to celebrate the Boston Red Sox. But this is a small matter.)

In those days, there was no question: Bobby Orr was simply the greatest hockey player ever. Bobby Hull was a scoring machine, and some older fans would stick up for Gordie Howe or Rocket Richard.

However, as a complete hockey player--for speed, stickhandling, and a complete scorer's repetoire--no one touched Orr.

Not until Wayne Gretzky.

And now, with the issue of the book Searching for Bobby Orr, as they say on ESPN, let the debate begin.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

On Jimmy Carter: "The man is an anti-semite."

It becomes harder and harder to disagree.

"Global warming is just guff"

Apparently cow farts contribute much more than SUVs. Details here.

My prediction is that, twenty years from now, we will have wondered what all the fuss was about.

I may be wrong.

But I'm not.

Reggie, Vince, Matt, and, er, Mario

Reggie Bush: 125 yards receiving, plus a touchdown. 162 yards of total offense in a thrashing of the formerly hot team of the week, the Dallas Cowboys.

Vince Young: a 39-yard gallop for a game-winning touchdown in overtime. To beat the Texans.

Matt Leinart: Two touchdown passes in a victory over Seattle.

Mario Williams. Three tackles in a losing effort. To Vince Young's Titans.

No: I'm never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, ever letting this go.

Titans 26, Texans 20 (OT)

The Titans score an overtime win, capped off by Titan quarterback Vince Young's 39-yard touchdown gallop.

Mercy, this is where I came in.

Dennis Erickson to Arizona State

Via The Irish Trojan.

An absolute slam dunk for the Devils.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Women aren't funny

Q: "How many feminists does it take to screw in a light bulb?"

A: "That's not funny."

Christopher Hitchens weighs in.

"One move fills many holes"

Re Pettitte:

Jay Sherman of the Post gives his approval.

Filip Bondy in The Daily News is less enthusiastic.

Saturday afternoon

There are greater films than Remains of the Day, but few that run their length without misstepping once.

This is the the sort of movie for which a DVR was invented. Scene after scene, there is nothing to do once you've seen them, but see them again.

One good piece of news from Iraq

Via The Corner:

One of the most coveted jobs in Iraq does not yet exist: the executioner for Saddam Hussein. The death sentence against Mr. Hussein is still under review by an appeals court, but hundreds of people have already started lobbying the prime minister’s office for the position.

Vince Bowl: One day remaining

Simmons checks in, of course.

Money quote:

Hard to believe those reports that the David Carr era is wrapping up in Houston. It seemed so promising there for ... actually, wait, there wasn't a single moment when it ever seemed promising. Scratch that. Anyway, can you think of a worse turn of events for Texan fans than Reggie Bush's fantasy breakout week happening on the tail end of back-to-back "All Vince Young does is win football games!" weeks? Now they're about to get their butts kicked this week by the franchise that ditched them (the Titans) and the rookie QB they passed on (Young). On the bright side, if there's ever a week for somebody to hold up a "BRING BACK CAPERS" sign, this is it. I have my fingers crossed.

If I were at the game, I'd bring that sign

Pettitte to Yankees

For the sixteen million the Yankees were offering all along.

Strange, though. This may be the first free agent signing that hurts both teams. After Wang, the Yankee rotation goes:


A great rotation.

For 1997.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Holy crap!

I mentioned to Astro-Girl the other day, "It's just too bad. Ricky Bobby comes out, and everyone's talking about it. Then Borat comes along and blows off everyone's doors, and--have you noticed?--nobody's been talking about Ricky Bobby lately."

Wait: does anyone know that Frenchy the stock-car driver, aka Jean Girard, is played by none other than Sasha Baron Cohen?

When Talladega Nights first came out, Jim Emerson, filling in for the ill Roger Ebert, wrote this. Money quote:

And the way Sacha Baron Cohen, as Ricky Bobby's gay French nemesis Jean Girard, pronounces his name (something like "Yrikee Bubbee" may be the closest print equivalent) is, remarkably, funny every single time. If Cohen's Borat movie ("Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan") is anywhere near as amusing as this one, a movie star is born. Er, "boorn."

He says it there, it comes out here.

Spooky, bro.

Reggie? Vince? Matt? Er, Mario?

The debate rages on.

Gotta be global warming

A tornado hits London.

Andy Pettitte: Where we stand

Andy Pettitte's agents, the Hendricks brothers, are trying to get him $16 million for 2007.

The Yankees would sign for that today.

The Astros are holding firm at twelve.

Pettitte wants to play in Houston.

He also wants 16 million.

So this is where we stand.

Details here.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Four days to Vince

Outside of the New England Patriots (no front-runner here; I've been a fan since the days of Jim Plunkett and Randy Vataha) and my fantasy team (I benched Reggie Bush this past Sunday, a metaphor for my season), the NFL regular season is something I can take or leave. The exceptions are games that hold a certain intrigue, either of greatness or something else: two undefeated teams meeting in late October, a match-up between an established All-Pro quarterback and up-and-comer (Peyton v. Carson last Thanksgiving, for instance) or a late-season divisional match between bitter rivals (the Giants and Cowboys this past Sunday).

Then there is this Sunday's match between the Tennessee Titans and the Houston Texans.

As all the world knows, last January first, the Houston Texans lost 17-14 to the San Francisco 49ers, enough for a 2-14 record, enough for the worst record in the league and the first pick in one of the most talent-rich drafts in years. At Buffalo Wild Wings, basically the pulse of the Houston sports scene, the reaction of the assembled Texas faithful was unashamed joy, for it had been assumed for months that, with the first pick in the draft, the Texans would select the All-Everything tailback from USC, Heisman trophy winner Reggie Bush.

But a few funny things happened on the way to the coronation . . .

The first was the Rose Bowl, aka the Vince Bowl, in which Texas quarterback (and, by the way, Houston native) Vince Young ran over, around and through a USC team thought by many to be the greatest of all time. This was followed by Young's decision to leave school early and enter the draft. This in turn was followed by a huge groundswell of support for drafting young and jettisoning the incumbent QB, the talented but perennially underperforming David Carr. Young all but begged to be drafted by his hometown team.

What happened then everyone knows. At the apparent urging of incoming head coach Gary Kubiak, the Texans stuck with Carr, deciding to pay him an eight million-dollar bonus rather than let him go. Then, in the far more controversial move, they decided to bypass Bush as well, in favor of project defensive end Mario Williams.

Enter bedlam.

Seventy-five percent of the way through the season, the results are here. Mario Williams, after struggling early, has been a serviceable and improving defensive player. Reggie Bush has been good if not great, and provided what may have been a breakout game: four touchdowns vs. the 49ers. Right now, the edge would go to Reggie, but not by much, my previous huffing and puffing notwithstanding.

But all of a sudden, this is not the comparison/contrast theme of the season.

All of a sudden, we are back to Vince v. David.

The Texans are 4-8. In Carr's last two games, the Texans are 1-1. Carr has zero touchdown passes. Last week, he managed somehow to throw for negative five yards (Astro-Girl asked: "Was he facing the wrong way?") and lose two fumbles--and this was the game the Texans won. The Texans two touchdowns were almost entirely the work of special teams; for both TDs combined, the Carr needed to drive a total of five yards. The word coming out of Reliant Park is of Quarterback Guru Kubiak admitting to himself that he sorely misjudged what Carr was capable of; the rumor is that the Texans may use what will once again be a high draft pick for whatever quarterback will be available (Brady Quinn? Troy Smith?), even if doing so would be a tacit admission that he (and apparently last year's on-the-way-out Charlie Casserly) made a terrible blunder by not selecting Vince Young.

How has Vince performed? He has won one more game that Carr has while starting three fewer. The past two weeks, using both his arm and legs, he led the Titans to two multiple-touchdown comebacks against the Giants and Colts. He became the first quarterback ever to defeat quarterback brothers on consecutive weekends (the Mannings, of course). He has picked up right where he left off in Pasadena, and become a human hi-light reel.

And oh, yes, Young has done all this while playing for the Tennessee Titans, aka the former Houston Oilers. If any team is the Texans' archenemy, it is the Titans, a fact based in the person of Bud Adams, the person so despised that Houston refused to build the Oilers a new playpen in the nineties, almost in the hopes that Adams would take his team elsewhere and allow the city to start fresh with an expansion team. Adams never misses an opportunity to stick it to his old hometown; rumor was, it was spite alone behind Adams's command to GM Floyd Reece to draft Young, despite head coach Jeff Fisher and offensive coordinator Norm Chow's preference for Matt Leinart. (No one in Houston will forget Adams actually flying Young into Houston for a press conference the day after the draft, the ultimate Screw You moment if ever there was.) It the rumor is true, this may turn out to be a classic case of the right thing done for the wrong reason, for at the moment, Young, Fisher, Chow and the Titans offense seem an ideal fit.

And. And this Sunday, Young and the Titans return to Houston--to his home town, to a sea of burnt-orange Longhorn jerseys, to tens of thousands of absolutely furious Texan fans--in order to face the Texans.

Occasionally, a football game has as many subplots as an episode of "Seinfeld," circa 1994. This game is one of them.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Reggie's four touchdowns

Didn't get to this. As posted by The Irish Trojan, Reggie Bush scores four touchdowns in New Orleans's victory over San Francisco.

Meanwhile, Vince Young brought the Tennessee Titans storming back to victory against a second Manning brother in seven days.

At the same time, the Texans defeated Oakland despite the best efforts (negative five yards passing) of QB David Carr.

I counted three kids walking around this city wearing New Orleans number 25 this week.

And Houstonian Vince Young–who basically begged the Texans to draft him–comes home with his new team to play the Texans this Sunday. Reliant Stadium will bleed burnt orange.

Lord, to live in Houston now.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

This doorstop

AS the saying goes, whatever Mark Steyn's drinking, pour me a double. His take on the Baker/Hamilton Comission:

"James Baker's "Iraq Study Group" seems to have been cast on the same basis as Liza Minnelli's last wedding. A stellar lineup: Donna Summer, Mickey Rooney, the Doobie Brothers, Gina Lollobrigida, Michael Jackson, Mia Farrow, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Jill St. John. That's Liza's wedding, not the Baker Commission. But at both gatherings everyone who was anyone was there, no matter how long ago it was they were anyone. So the fabulous Baker boy was accompanied by Clinton officials Leon Panetta and Bill Perry, Clinton golfing buddy Vernon Jordan, Clinton's fellow sex fiend Chuck Robb, the quintessential ''moderate'' Republican Alan Simpson, Supreme Court swing vote par excellence Sandra Day O'Connor . . .

"God, I can't go on. I'd rather watch Mia Farrow making out with Mickey Rooney to a Doobie Brothers LP. As its piece de resistance, the Baker Commission concluded its deliberations by inviting testimony from -- drumroll, please -- Sen. John F. Kerry. If you're one of those dummies who goofs off in school, you wind up in Iraq. But, if you're sophisticated and nuanced, you wind up on a commission about Iraq. Rounding it all out -- playing David Gest to Jim Baker's Liza -- is, inevitably, co-chairman Lee Hamilton, former congressman from Indiana. As you'll recall, he also co-chaired the 9/11 Commission, in accordance with Article II Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution, which states: "Ye monopoly of wisdom on ye foreign policy, national security and other weighty affairs shall be vested in a retired Representative from the 9th District in Indiana, if he be sufficiently venerable of mien. In the event that he becomes incapacitated, his place shall be taken by Jill St. John." I would be calling for a blue-ribbon commission to look into whether we need all these blue-ribbon commissions, but they'd probably get Lee Hamilton to chair that, too."

Don't get me wrong, I like a Friars' Club Roast as much as the next guy and I'm sure Jim Baker kibitzing with John Kerry was the hottest ticket in town. But doesn't it strike you as just a tiny bit parochial? Aside from Senator Kerry, I wonder whether the commission thought to hear from anyone such as Goh Chok Tong, the former prime minister of Singapore. A couple of years back, on a visit to Washington just as the Democrat-media headless-chicken quagmire-frenzy was getting into gear, he summed it up beautifully:

''The key issue is no longer WMD or even the role of the U.N. The central issue is America's credibility and will to prevail.''"

There is also this nugget:

According to the New York Sun, ''An expert adviser to the Baker-Hamilton commission expects the 10-person panel to recommend that the Bush administration pressure Israel to make concessions in a gambit to entice Syria and Iran to a regional conference . . .''

Honestly, that sentence makes me physically ill.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Encouragement from the Desert

From Sundevil Joe. And this from Robbie-Boy, who lives and dies all things Tempe:

". . . Yours is a program the rest of us can only dream of being.

FIGHT ON!!!!!!"

Finally, my brother John called me up. I was avoiding all phone calls, but John kept ringing and ringing (five times) until I answered. He then proceeded to hold his cell phone to his TV while he played the DVD of the greatest "Bob Newhart" episode ever. This was when Bob and his bachelor friends are stuck in his apartment on Thanksgiving, whereupon they proceed to 1) get trashed on Jerry the orthodontist's hard cider, 2) engage in an on-going seminar of the knock-knock joke, 3) fail to thaw out a frozen turkey, 4) watch seven football games, and 5) attempt to order Chinese food while plastered out of their minds.

As I was out on the balcony, brooding over a post-game whiskey and cigar when John called, Astro-Girl's view of my laughter through the glass doors truly convinced her I was having a fit.

No, no, I'm fine, never mind how unable I am to explain the humor in Moo-Goo Guy Pan, or in this exchange:

"Whaddya want?"

"Sweet and sour pork."

"Make up your mind."

To go from the emotional nirvana of Notre Dame, to the despair of today . . . it is always important to remind ourselves, as the great sportswriter Red Smith often did, that these are games little boys play.

Fight on, indeed.

UCLA 13, USC 9

In retrospect, we should have seen this coming.

*The Ohio State-Michigan-USC-Florida debate had held in place for the past three weeks, with USC moving up (as everyone said it would) after a victory over Notre Dame. We'd gone too long without a surprise, and were due one.

*By all apparent evidence, USC is not the number two team in the country. It may not be in the top five. Since falling behind 33-10 to Oregon State, the Trojans had played a few feet above their heads, culminating in a 20-point win over Notre Dame that, it is now clear, emotionally exhausted both the players and the fan base. A let-down was inevitable.

*Something has been up with John David Booty since the first half of the Notre Dame game, something seemingly based in his plant leg that--more important than any physical ailment--sapped his confidence. I lost count of the number of times ABC caught him in a palms-up look of incomprehension aimed toward the sideline. It is hard for me to think ill of a young man barely half my age--he is what he is, and he gave it his best.

*Finally, kudos to UCLA, whose chief advantages over USC--defensive line speed and kicking game--became the stories of the game.


Early observations:

USC's defense looks good; UCLA ballcarriers must sometimes wonder if they have room to fall.

John David Booty, not so hot.

UCLA's first first down: 10 minutes into the game.


Update: Bruin quarterback Cowen in on the sneak. 7-0, UCLA.

Update: After a safety, another punt. AHHHHH.

Update: At last a good drive. Gable in for the touchdown. 9-7, USC, at the half.

Oh, and a weekly Brent Musburger ho-ho-ho. Who is the ONLY Notre Dame coach ever to beat Pete Carroll at USC? Why, it’s Bob Davie, today’s color commentator! Who was such a good coach his ass is up in the broadcast booth! Who was such a good coach that NBC basically ordered Notre Dame to fire him!

Update: After a UCLA fumble, a punt. Then a UCLA lateral gone bad, USC ball . . . and a false start. 10-9, UCLA.

Update: USC stuffed on fourth-and-one, UCLA drives for a field goal . . . and this is GOOD news. 13-9, UCLA.

Update: While driving for the winning touchdown, Booty throws an interception.

Sun, dog's ass, etc.

On to the Rose Bowl.

"One for the Waste Basket"

NRO's judgement on the Report by the Iraq Study Group.

I have to say agree.


Strangely enough, the game seems to have lost much of its allure since the late 1980s, when Rodney Peete (USC) and Troy Aikman (UCLA) squared off at quarterback.

Still enormously important, though.

Norm Chow Arizona State?

So says the Irish Trojan.

I would wish Norm well in any situation, judging him one of the four men (along, of course, with Carroll, Palmer, and Leinart) most responsible for returning the Trojans to glory.

And I would love to see Arizona State (my second favorite team) return to its proper place as at least a second-tier national power (augmented with an occasional Rose Bowl and National Title run).

Something tells me, though, this isn’t the right job for him. The last dozen years have seen offensive geniuses a bit lacking in the charisma department crash and burn when given the reins.

From what I’ve read, though, I think he’s going to have to find this out for himself.