Monday, April 30, 2007

Off Day

So: the 'Stros and Yankees have, between them, provided one blissful day in the past nine: this past Saturday.

Joe Torre was going to be fired, or not--an act that might have made sense last October, but would make none now. You fire a manager for one of three reasons:

1. His managerial skill set (judgment of talent, analysis of statistics, and game strategy) is suspect;
2. His personality has become either a distraction or a non-factor, meaning the players are tuning him out;
3. Some better candidate is available.

In the case of Joe Torre:

1. He has always been solid in the first two categories and passable in the third. These things don't change.
2. By all accounts, the players (read Jeter) love him; his best asset as a manager (providing cover for the players while not allowing them to slacken in their duties) is as sound as ever;
3. Who is out there? Lou Piniella would have the stature to flog the team into a stretch of intensity, but he's taken; Mattingly and Girardi are miniature Torres, comforting presences, minus four World Series rings. (As a manager, anyway.)

So, what? Torre can't go out to the mound and pitch. He can't bat for his players. Fire him, fine. But don't think that Girardi or Donnie Baseball will catch Boston with a rotation that belongs in Triple-A.

What comfort I could take in the weekend was found in the New England Patriots, a team so loaded heading into the fall that I would be happy to forgo what is shaping up to be a dismal summer and head into the fall. The Patriots, who were one first down away from the AFC Championship (and an almost certain win over the Bears), have added three wide receivers, all better than any of the receivers they had last season. The true test of the Randy Moss acquisition was that the Pats were Super Bowl favorites before the draft. Now, adding the kid from Miami, along with Moss, was simply a bonus.

Perhaps only a lifelong Patriots fan could appreciate the team as now composed. I awoke this morning to "Mike & Mike," heard of the Moss trade, and said, out loud, "Um, what?" And all day, heading from office to classroom to car to campus to classroom, kept thinking about the trade as if remembering the three hundred I'd won the previous night at Blackjack (for instance). Never has a gamebreaker come into a situation with less screw-around room.

Repeat: The Patriots were overwhelming Super Bowl favorites before the past weekend. Meaning: if Moss messes up once, the Hoodie will cut him loose.

It didn't hurt that Miami made a hash of its draft day, that Buffalo seems at least a year away, that the Jets will have to play a second-place schedule in 2007.

Rain today. Saturday was a million miles away.

Red Sox . . . . ahhhhh.

Didn't have the strength.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Yankees 3, Red Sox 1

Igawa. Mo. We need them.

Not every day is a great day . . .

What made me fall in love with my Saturdays was my decision, in 2001, to spend much of the day jogging, sometimes twelve or more miles. I am slow, slow . . . there is no getting around this; these long jogs would consume three hours, four if I drove somewhere and parked, then drove home.

Slow. But very cathartic.

I attempted such a run today, the second or so in a few months, and I wondered: how could I have let this routine escape me? For absolute bliss, the pieces must be in place. I must jog:

1. at least twelve miles
2. on a Saturday
3. when the sun is shining

Mess with any of these elements (or have God mess with number three, I suppose) and bliss is avoided. Do all of these . . . and, well . . .

Headed out around noon, having seen the first few picks of the NFL draft, and with Astro-Girl ensconsed on the sofa, nursing a sore knee, and promising to call with developments. Love that Astro-Girl, cranky knee and all. (Or is it more of a balky knee, as she hyperextended the joint on a treadmill? George Carlin was right: sports injuries somehow involve rhetoric that is never used elsewhere. Who besides an athlete is hobbled by an injury? Do you trip and fall, sprain your wrist, and describe your injury as merely a wrist?) In any case . . . with Cleveland, at number three, having chosen offensive tackle Joe Thomas over Notre Dame quarterback Brady* Quinn, the day bristled with possibility.

Last year the big story, after the Mario/Reggie/Vince saga, was Matt Leinart sliding all the way to tenth, after being rated as high as third. That slide would have nothing on Quinn if Minnesota (seven) or Miami (nine) didn't pick him. Off to jog.

Down Westpark to Kirby, then a right on Kirby down the business district, then a left on Bissonet and a stretch through a residential district known as Southampton (south of Hampton Street; no private beaches here). A right down Hazard. Ring.

"Tell me something," I said. "Minnesota took Quinn."

"No," she said. "Adrian Peterson."

"Why Peterson? They already have Chester Taylor."

"That's what the guy said."

"Well," I said, "Miami for sure."

Occasionally, at a poker table, the best hands are those I have no participation in, having thrown in my 3-7 off-suit and paid no money, and thus reduced myself to a spectator as the pile in the middle of the table rises and one person (the cranky old guy with the Budweiser hat, say) will suffer humiliation in the presence of nine other players. Today was such a day, even as I was twice removed, my Walkman having gone missing months earlier.

Miami was Quinn's flush draw. Dolphins or bust.

Rice University, turn left. The dirt track is a shade less than three miles around, or so I'm told. Ring.

"Miami," I said.

"No," she said. "Miami took Ted Ginn, Jr. Who's he?"

"The guy who scored the opening touchdown against Florida in the BCS. Then his teammates piled on him and hurt him and he left the game."

"And they picked him over Quinn."

"That's what you're telling me."

"Quinn doesn't look so good. He was talking about how he knew the Dolphins' playbook and their coach, and then when the announcement came he kind of hid his face. How can you feel sorry for a Notre Dame quarterback?"

"Life of the green room."

Adult athletes--paid hugely, with access to the best restaurant in town, a meal ticket through life, and incredible tail--are subject to very few off-the-playing-field humiliations. One is this: The Last Man in The Green Room, subject to the classic ESPN medium-wide shot, just enough to take in the spread of empty tables around him. In the past, it used to be worse: no family, agents, or friends. Just one solitary soon-to-be millionaire looking like one of the unicorns Noah left behind. Now, help is other people. I wished I was there.

A cut through Rice, a drink at my favorite fountain, the one attached to a building that probably goes by a different name but is certainly the computer lab. Into the quad. Ring.

"The Texans," she said.

"Not Quinn."

"No," she said, "Amobi Okoye."

A good pick, at tenth, with Okoye having three hundred pounds and about as many IQ points. Good Will Punting is nineteen, the youngest NFL draftee ever, by virtue of graduating from Louisville at such an age. (Sniff--Louisville. Save it. Okoye was accepted to Harvard.) His family emigrated from Africa, he spoke no English, but a few years later, at twelve, was begging the local high school principal to let him enroll. Two months, he said. If I can't do the work I'll leave. Instead of leaving, he finished high school at fifteen.

Wonderful story. Now if he can use all those brains and motivation to placing Peyton, Vince, and Byron on their collective asses.

"So," I said. "I almost hate to ask. Quinn."

"He's still there," she said. "He's got a hot girlfriend with him."

"She's about to go sit with Ted Ginn."

"That's mean."

"Who's next?"

"San Francisco," she said.

"They've got Alex Smith. Next."


"Maybe. But I think they'll stick with Losman."

"St. Louis."

"Bulger. Next."


"Carr backing up Delhomme. Next."

"Pittsburgh," she said. "Would Pittsburgh take him?"

"Ever hear of someone named Rothlisberger?"

"Yeah. Okay. Next is Green Bay."

"Aaron Rogers backing up Favre. Next."


"Byron Leftwich."

"Then Cincinnati."

"Carson Palmer. Don't think so."


"Vince Young."

"Yeah, don't think so. Then the Giants. Oh, Eli Manning." She ponders this. "So in other words, he just slid out of the top 20. I mean, we're getting to the good teams. And good teams are usually good because they have a good quarterback. So like the lower he goes, the lower he goes."

I wondered: who, in the twenties, would take him? The draft was face approaching the realm of the elite, the territory of Rivers, Brady, and Peyton.

Would Chicago, at #31, dump Rex Grossman?

I concluded my jog an hour later. She met me at the door. "They're up to 22," she said. "They took Quinn out of the Green Room and into the Commissioner's private room."

Hey, I thought, not fair. This kid (who by the way is 2-8 vs. USC, Michigan, and bowl opponents) gets to run and hide from ESPN when the going gets tough? Is he saving his gumption for Ray Lewis?

On TV, someone announced that Dallas was shopping #22.

"Oh," I said, "That's it. Probably to Cleve--"

I said it here, it came out there. Magic. And out came Quinn, with the expression of a latter-day Willie Loman who had just been told that the head buyer will see him, after all.

Then it was off to the ballpark, to the Astros, and to the newest discoveries at Minute Maid Park:

1. Really, really good fajitas that cost less than hot dogs, and
2. Hunter Pence.

Sportswise, it is hard to endure the week I just endured. My first team, the Yankees, and my second team, the Astros, lost an aggregation of fourteen games in a row. As Robbie-Boy pointed out, the best Yankee game all week was the rain-out. The Yankees followed form by leaking in the press that Torre might be gone by Sunday sundown, should the Sox sweep. (For whom? Girardi? Mattingly? Is this a team that will respond to Torre lite? Mount Piniella was the only logical replacement if Torre had to go, and Sweet Lou--by virtue of so many years in the American League--is slowly discovering that the Cubs are less a ballclub than an excuse to drink in the afternoon. Piniella is taken.) The Astros, fully used to falling behind and mounting a cavalry charge late (it worked in '04 and '05, not so much in '03 and '06), simply brought up centerfielder Hunter Pence, aka, Brightest Everyday Prospect Since Berkman.

Arrived at the park at four. (Beach blanket day, first ten thousand.) Roof open. Let us take the scene as read: Long shadows chiseled against the bright green grass, etc. Astro-Girl went off to look for t-shirts, I went down to watch home batting practice.

At the cage, there were the guys: Bidge, Brad, Berkman, Lee. The new guy, Loretta.

I decided to be cynical. No one pretends to mountains of knowledge like the batting practice crowd--the people by the cage, that is, not the minions out in the bleachers shouting, "Here! Here!" every time a ball makes the warning track. These were serious people. And this was serious business, aided by dialogue inspired, it seemed, by Kiss Me Deadly.

"Puma looks good."

"Needs to go the other way."


"Should stay in his shoes."

"He'll get going."

Okay, I thought. Here's my chance. To everyone and no one I asked, "Where's the boy wonder?"

Silence. Finally, painfully, a woman asked, "Who?"

"Pence," I said, feeling an onslaught of ass-sweat.

"Oh," one guy said. "He's busy throwing up in the dugout."

Ah. smiles all around. A look to the outfield scoreboard: 2-0 Yanks. Yes, but for how long?

Then, to my seat, and to the Astros-Brewers game:

Second inning, 0-0. Up comes our boy: lanky, with the classic hiked-up pants leg look. First major-league at-bat. Pence goes to two strikes, fouls off about a thousand pitches, then takes called strike three. First time I've ever seen a hometown player get a standing O for striking out.

Up again a few innings later, he's hit by pitch. Pence trots to first. One batter later, breaks up a double play. Cheers.

Few innings later: There now, his first hit, a clean single. Then a call for the ball, one of the all-time coolest sports traditions (rivaled by, top of my head, buying a round for the house after a hole-in-one. And maybe Midnight Madness. And that USC plays Notre Dame every year).

Now, the really good part. Batting behind Pence, Adam Everett, the Doctor of Leather, gets one of his two doubles of the night. And . . . here it comes . . . Pence flies around the bases . . . no, he glides around the bases in huge, effortless strides that recall Dave Winfield in pinstripes, or perhaps Bernie Williams circa 1998.

"Good Lord," someone says.

Imagine this: From the crack of Everett's bat, 40,000 minds were as one: second and third. No. Left field in Minute Maid is the smallest in the National League, the smallest in all of baseball save Fenway's. Three-fifteen to the foul pole, and it damn well stays three-fifteen until the scoreboard gives out, at the power alley. Everett's double, then, travelled 315 feet on the button. Not an inch further. Length of one football field, plus half of one end zone. And by the time Geoff Jenkins had collared the ball . . . done deal.

Pence scored standing.

From first.

Didn't even draw a throw.

There were other hi-lights--a great running catch here, some clever Berkman baserunning, good pitching from Sampson and Lidge--but really, this was the game.

10-1 Astros.

Along the way I saw: 3-1 Yanks. Torre keeps his job for another day.

Both losing streaks over.

Oh, it got dark eventually, without my noticing.


And this:

Not every day is a great day.

But today was a great day.

(*Corrected by Anon.)

One year ago today . . .

It hardly seems worthy of anyone's attention now, but last year marked one of the most notorious mornings in major-sports draft history. This was the day that the Houston Texans took Mario Williams over Reggie Bush--or, for that matter, Vince Young. I wrote of the event thus:

There is no better place to measure the pulse of the Houston sports scene than the Buffalo Wild Wings sports bar in Rice Village. BWW had been planning its draft party for weeks. Special “Vince or Bush” pint glasses were made up. An ad read that “parties of 8 or more” would receive specials on wings.

For a big event–-a UT football game or an Astro post-season game–-you can barely get in the door there. Clearly a mob was anticipated for today. Instead, the place was a graveyard; only ten people in the dining area, maybe double that in the bar. The bar itself should have been three deep; today, two people sat silently and stared ahead.

Back in the dining room, the extra staff lined against the wall and looked at rows of empty tables. When Mario Williams’ name was called, the booing was half-hearted, almost obligatory. Why pick on the kid? Some cheering from the Longhorn faithful when Vince was chosen, some “Oooh”ing for picks four through nine (translatins: Matt’s still on the board!), then when Matt went everyone turned their attention to the Astros game.

Houston has become a baseball town, and pro football here is officially a joke. I honestly didn’t think that was possible.

This year, I couldn't even rouse myself to leave my apartment. I'll watch the first few picks, then go for a run.

The Houston Texans aren't even worth my anger.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Devil Rays 6, Yankees 4

I was too depressed even to type the above.

The Yankees are currently in their "give up one lead and they're dead" phase.

Wang comes out, 3-2 Yanks. Crawford hits a grand slam to make it 6-3 . . . and the ballgame basically ends right there. What's worse, Yankee fans everywhere know it.


Monday, April 23, 2007

The New York Times Again betrays its ignorance

Sometimes I wonder: does the New York Times even bother to check its own stories?

Or does it even care, so desperate is its editorial DNA that every story between the Hudson River and the Los Angeles Resevoir has to be placed in the big picture, the notion of What it All Means?

Because every foray into flyover country has been a disaster.

There was a murder/suicide in Houston Monday. This was bad. What was--well, let's not say worse so much as disgraceful--was the thumb-sucking story in the Times, which somehow linked the shooting to the murder/suicide at NASA, as in third murder/suicide in Houston in four days.

Now, leaving aside the monumental stupidity of implying a trend between three completely unrelated murder/suicides within one geographical area--can it be too much to ask that when you make the connection, you make sure the pattern you're claiming is confined to a certain geographic location is actually confined to a certain geographic location.

They call Houston "Space City," sure, and everyone knows "Houston, we have a problem," but anyone who knows Southeast Texas knows NASA is located thirty miles to the south of Houston, in the area including Kema and, especially, Clear Lake. To a head-scratcher in Manhattan, the distance must seem negligible, but imagine if, on the night John Lennon was gunned down outside the Dakota in Midtown, another person had been killed 30 miles away, down the Jersey Shore, imagine if the Houston Chronicle had run with "Lennon, one other gunned down in New York City."

Cost of living in flyover country, I guess.

D-Rays 10, Yanks 8

As inevitable as the dawn.

Some thoughts:

1) Years from now, as historians talk of A-Rod's historical April, the fact will emerge that, through it all, the Yankees lost more games than they won.

2) Is Philip Hughes the next Rober Clemens? Or the next David Clyde?

3) Ahhhhhh . . . this is the sort of game that comes out out a Yankee-Red Sox tilt. Blah blah blah.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Red Sox 7, Yankees 6

Not as bad as we thought it would be . . . and yet worse than we feared.

This is a loss Yankee fans put on the board three days ago. At 3-0, we thought, Maybe. At 5-4, we thought, Maybe. When Phelps came to bat, at 6-7, tying run at third, and Phelps hit the ball on a rope, we thought, This is it.

Snagged by the second baseman. Then Papelbon in the ninth.

So the Yankees, at their weakest, get outscored 21-17 and lose three games to a Red Sox team at its strongest. Sixty percent of the Yankee rotation is down, the bullpen (read: Proctor) is incredibly overworked or (read: Kardiac Kyle) devoid of reliability. A-Rod is visibly worn out from the strain of playing one-aganst-nine. Giambi and Jeter are just now coming around.

This weekend was awful. But not as awful as it might seem.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Red Sox 7, Yankees 5

Earl Weaver had a saying about momentum in baseball.

"Momentum?" he said. "You take momentum. I'll take Jim Palmer."

In the end, I was happy the Boston-New York tilt was blacked out in Houston, so we might watch the notoriously underexposed Cubs take on the Cardinals. I actually had some business to attend to early. To wit:

Over a space of time extending from a little over two years ago to a little over a year ago, I was hired to craft a narrative for a documentary having to do with a Local Figure. This, I think, is as far as I can go; my employer is fanatical about non-disclosure, and he and Local Figure have been snarling at each other since before I came on.

There is some metaphor in the military--Mutually Assured Destruction, maybe--to describe what goes on between two people who might sue each other, but don't, because both know that if A sues B, B will counter-sue A, and maybe C will sue both A and B, and nothing will be resolved except that a few lawyers will get rich. The way it sometimes works today, A and B and C will refrain from suing one another, nothing will still get done, and everyone will keep their own money. This is the state that A (my employer) exists in, not suing B (Local Figure), while C (Third party) goes as the wind.

I'm trying not to be cute here. Local Figure used to have events that attracted multiple TV stations, plus a reporter from the Houston Chronicle who served almost as his Bosworth, plus a healthy collection of acolytes. Today's event attracted a freelance video cameraman intent on selling his footage to five different TV stations, maybe 30 acolytes, and nobody from the Houston Chronicle. I did get my ear bent by one of a tribe who seems to albatross around Houston, the big talker with the universal theories of the world (Short answer: The Knights Templar own half the world, the Catholic Church owns the other half, dog is God backwards, Enoch explains everything, and the truth can be found in a story that is half Catcher in the Rye, half 2001. He asked me: what did I write?

I gave him my stock answer: "Anything." As a screenwriter, I've plunged into the life of Local Figure. I've written sports, entertainment, politics; I've been lucky to sit across a desk from David Lynch, to sit in a hotel room with Woody Harrelson, to interview Michael J. Fox, John Lithgow, Joan Collins, Rhea Pearlman, and the writing staff of the Letterman show. I've shared breakfast with Scorsese. On a lark, I called Congressman Hyde at his hotel room during the '92 convention, and ended up with a solid, ten-minute interview. I've done criticism, think pieces, fiction--everything but poetry.

"So let me call you," he said. Fine. I'll do anything if the money's green. What one needs is a shock-proof BS detector; money talks, etc.

Afterwards, my employer bought me lunch and drove me home. I slept the nap of the saved, the awoke at four--highly propitious, as the Boston-New York score was 4-4. Lay back for another snooze wake up . . . 7-4 Boston.

Ballgame, I knew.

With Dice-K going tomorrow.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Red Sox 7, Yankees 6

Let's all have a seat, people.

And let us consider what we don't have to worry about, in roughly ascending order:

1. Mo. Does anyone remember two seasons ago, when Rivera was fresh off the Red Sox's historic comeback, when he was served up a Standing-O at the Sox's Fenway ring ceremony because, supposedly, the Sox had ruined him? Remember the expert analysis on "Baseball Tonight," when Kruk demonstrated how everyone had figured Mo out, how all any batter needed to do was to drop his front foot back and anticipate the cutter?

Remember how Mo was finished?

Oh, really.

When Mo goes down, he goes down freakishly. Dave Roberts beats Georgie's throw by a thousanth of a second. A homer hits the screen of the foul pole.

Or tonite. A flare is followed by a freakish hit down the right field line, which, when hit just so at Fenway, resembles a ball spun in a Roulette wheel.

Then, a flare over a drawn-in infield. Gonzo II.

Don't worry about Mo.

And, by the way, with a 6-4 advantage, why wasn't Menk guarding the line? Coco's bounding five-hopper would have been dead meat that way.

2. Yankee Relief. In general. Viz screwed up by walking Man-Ram. He'll learn.

3. Yankees in General. The Yanks scored six runs tonite. A-Rod scored three and drove in four, which doesn't compute.

It's a long season.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Yankees 8, Tribe 6

A-Rod heroics all over again.

Two walkoffs in a week.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Yankees 9, Tribe 2

Details here.

A-Rod, looking like player of the month. Still and all, it comes back to the pitching, the pitching.

Can the kid, Wright, pitch?

And can Igawa?

Can Pettitte stay healthy?

If so, in all cases, you may have a rotation to match the Yankees' patchwork outfield of last year.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Yankees 10, Tribe 3

A-Rod, yes of course. But we'll need a lot more games like this until the starters get healthy.

And we await Igawa tomorrow.

A dose of sanity

When I was an undergraduate at USC, and the issue of campus security came up, the administration held fast to three Nos: No fence, no wall, no gates.

Understand, this was the University of Southern California, a school catering mostly to middle- and upper-middle class suburban kids, located adjacent to one of the most economically depressed neighborhoods in urban America. We lived in South Central Los Angeles, which at the time did not have the ghetto cache of Watts (which, counter to the popular notion of 'SC, is actually located twenty blocks to the south), but was certainly not the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This was far from a benign environment, plus crack was making its first foothold, and there were always stories of break-ins and car thefts, though very few muggings. For those individuals who felt they needed it, an (unarmed) escort service was available to accompany one from place to place after dark. Beyond that, USC security reserved the right to demand a student ID from any suspicious character (and since the surrounding neighborhood was 95% black and Hispanic, that inevitable meant that the overwhelming number of people stopped by security were from a minority, which led to accusations of racism and comparisons to apartheid, quite the thing at the time).

Still, the university refused to seal off the university from the surrounding community, on the grounds that doing so would cause more harm than good. As it happened--and for whatever reason--the physical university survived the King riotof 1992 entirely unscathed, even as whole neighborhoods to the north and west burned to the ground.

Still, deciding to leave the campus open brings with it some certainties, one of which is: Nothing, nothing is in place to prevent whoever should desire to bring a weapon on campus. Nothing exists to prevent said person from opening fire on whoever he or she decides to shoot.

And finally, no mechanism exists--none--to alert a sprawling campus of 26,000 students and 2600 acres as to a "lock-down," evacuation or whatever.

In Godfather, Part II, Al Pacino put it well: "If history has proven anything, it's that you can kill anyone."

Lee Strasberg, as Hyman Roth, put it better: "This . . . is the business we've chosen."

Jack Dunphy (a nom d' cyber of an LAPD officer writing for NRO), puts his expertise to good use:

Let us suppose that the police had indeed shut down the school at 7:30 A.M., just after the first shooting. The Virginia Tech campus has scores of buildings spread across 2,600 acres, and there are 26,000 students enrolled there. There aren’t enough police officers in the entire state of Virginia to seal the campus off completely. But even if it had been shut down, then what? How long does it stay shut down, and how do you know when it’s safe to open it up? Do you strip search every last person on campus before letting them leave? And if the suspect is contained within one of the buildings, what’s to prevent him from killing the people he’s contained with?

The rush to blame the school’s administration and police is a reflection of a society that believes any and all misfortune can be averted by the proper application of government will. At this very moment, politicians in Richmond, Va., and Washington, D.C., are exerting their tiny brains trying to be the first to propose legislation that will “prevent the next tragedy.” The number of laws the killer broke on Monday will probably run to more than 20, but there are those who actually believe he might have been deterred by a few more strokes of a legislative pen. I can’t put it any more simply than this: There are evil people in the world, and no amount of laws will make them any less so.

There may be a level of security that would deter a suicidal maniac from carrying out the kind of horrors seen on the Virginia Tech campus Monday morning, but I doubt anyone would want to attend the school that implemented it.

Va Tech killer: Cho Seung-Hui

A day later we find out.

There is something more to this.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Headline: "Global Warming rally cut short by cold weather"

And to think I didn't think I'd get a laugh at the end of the day.

Va Tech

Some thoughts, on officially the next day.

1. I've written on Irish Trojan and elsewhere, there's something fishy about how long it is taking to release the name of a deceased suspect.

With every passing hour, the chance grows that this kid is a) Muslim, b) connected to terrorist groups, or c) both; and no one wants to cop to it.

If there';s another explanation, I'm listening.

2. I always tell people a story (probably apocryphal) that I've heard about the USC Film School. Thanks in no small way to the largesse of Messrs. Lucas, Spielberg and Carson, USC, two decades ago, opened a film school that was essentially a small studio plunked down in the middle of campus. In the intervening twenty-plus years, thousands of students have passed through, hoping to make a sufficient enough mark to find their way in Hollywood--producer, director, screewnwriter, studio exec. Some, like my friend Cinco Paul, have succeeded.

The old saying goes: a writer needs his pen and paper, a painter his brush, canvas, and oils--and a filmmaker needs his army. As someone who has seen the effort involved in producing so much as ten seconds of usable film, and then sat in editing rooms watch directors and editors work for five and six hours at a time so the punch will coincide with the sound of the punch, I can attest: making even a fifteen-minute student film requires mental and psychological patience and strength that most people simply do not have. Making a film is tough--not like how studying for physics is tough, but like how shoveling coal while reciting state capitals is tough. The strain can be enormous.

So it was in 1992 that a group of seniors struggled to bring in a Cinema 480 (read: major senior project) in on time. As the deadline approached, they abandoned their living spaces, brought blankets and pillows to their work space at the film school, and literally lived in the post-production room, living on two and three fitful hours of sleep at a time. They ate out of the vending machines, or sent some underling PA across Jefferson Boulevard to Burger King. They slaved in this fashion for a week, and then finished. And . . . in a scene one of them might produce on celluloid one day, the director and his editor went out to the mini-bungalow to the long, motel-style balcony. It was late afternoon. Exhausted, elated, they stood there for a moment. Then the editor turned to the director.

"Uh," he asked, "do you smell smoke?"

A few hundred yards away, the Rodney King riots had been raging for three hours.

The points here are three:

*The notion that the university could have warned the studentry harkens back to the "Why didn't Bush leave the classroom" question on 9/11. Well, yes, he could have, but to what end? This past afternoon, a woman on CNN, here presented as an expert, wondered why no email was sent to students--a email that would have been helpful to those students who were online, checking their e-mail, and refreshing the page at precisely that moment. As a tool for instant communication, e-mail is wildly overrated, to be hardly worth the effort. Ninety percent of the students at that time were in class, having breakfast, or asleep.

*Colleges of any substantial size (anything over 10,000 students) resemble wholly contained communities more than any other entity of learning. Outside of cable news (which is available to anyone in America with a TV and fifty bucks a month to spare), there simply is no instant distributor of campus information on the order of a town crier or Paul Revere, electronic or otherwise. Those film students are metaphors for the college community. There are very few places of public access more given to isolation than a library's stacks. Or a field house locker room at 10 am. Or the elaborate grounds and interiors of a building heavily endowed, but housing an unpopular major. (There is no finer building on the USC campus than the Philosophy Building, and as far back as when I was a freshman, in 1983, its library had long since been given over to evening faculty receptions and to rent by movie and television enterprises wanting to evoke the Ivy League. Certainly there were few enough students to inconvenience.) Were I a college student, I would no more expect university security to alert me of a problem on campus than, as a citizen out in the real world, I would expect the Houston Police Department to bang on my door with news of a double homicide committed five blocks away. And as for Va Tech's warning horn--to what end? To draw students from the very classrooms that provided their safety? Suppose UT had employed a horn in response to Charles Whitman. How many more students would have died?

This is the frustration people face when other people--with no notion of what they write about--write anyway.

Red Sox 7, Angels 2

Filed under my "One time until I die" list is attending a Red Sox game on Patriots Day, then rushing from Fenway to catch the last of the Boston Marathon.

But that's not why I note today's game.

Josh Beckett is 3-0. Dice-K should be 2-0, save for the best-pitched game of the year by Felix Hernandez. If Curt Schilling figures it out . . . if the Sox have Beckett, Dice-K and Schilling in the rotatin, with Papelbon to close . . .

. . . if JD Drew stays healthy enough to bat behind Papi and Manny . . .

Oh, crap.

Look. The Hell. Out.

This with Moose and (knock me over with a feather) Pavano headed to the DL.

And Pettitte (and really, what are his chances of pitching so much as 200 innings this season?) not due to pitch until Friday.

Look, I know the Yankees are famously ginger with their pitchers, on the theory that since they'll be close in September anyway, why not sit someone who's not right?

I've not felt this since 1995, when the Yanks saved their season by acquiring David Cone for the September run. Not when they started 11-19 in 2005. Not when Jeter separated his shoulder on Opening Day, 2003. I didn't think what I think now.

This season could be trouble.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Yankees 4, A's 3 (13)

Details here.

So this is how the visting teams win: late-inning, top-of-inning home run.


Sun-Devil Joe reports that Kardiac Kyle is trade bait. (What, for a first baseman who can hit? Maybe/ Please?) Now, Myer, Bruney, Viz, Henn, Proctor, and--hold the presses--Mo keep truckin'.

Shall we party like it's . . . 1996?

USOC awards Chicago the right to bid for 2016 Summer Olympics

The story is here.

The question is: why?

Anyone who has watched Cubs games on WGN over the years knows this thing to be true: Chicago, between the Fourth of July and Labor Day, is the most miserable place on Earth, outside of Mississippi and Alabama.

Heat, humidity. I mean, awful. Visiting players dip towels in ice water and drape them over their heads in the dugout. In the stands, Bobby Backlava look-alikes strip to the waist in Wrigley Field--not a pretty sight.

In July and August, Chicagoans with money and sense escape to Michigan's north peninsula, to Canada, to--don't deny it--Southern California. Those stuck stay stuck--as in, the bus seat, the El seat, the office chair, the bleacher seat.

Conversely, the same slate of time Southern California is Heaven. Seventy degrees, no humidity, no rain, cool breezes off the Pacific.

What were these people thinking?

For people with enough money, geography influences behavior. Washington empties out in August, Paris in July and August. The Hamptons are a graveyard between Halloween and Easter. P-town is a ghost town after Labor Day. Houston's restaurants literally close down on Memorial day weekend. And the Arizona snowbirds go home at Easter, and come back at Thanksgiving, just in time to give us all a picture-perfect view of a powder-blue Cadillac El Dorado going 35 miles per hour on the Squaw Peak Parkway.

Given all that, it mystifies me why great entities with unfathomable money would go out of their way to create such misery. In 1988, the Democrats held their National Convention in Atlanta, the Republicans in New Orleans, and from my vantage point in upstate New York, all I could ask was: Why? Why torment yourself with 90-degree weather and 95-percent humidity, when the weather is so great in Vermont, in Montana, in Southern California?

I thought the same thing four years later, as a nascent journalist covering the Houston convention. There was much to complain about in Houston, but the weather wasn't one; it rained for a week before anyone showed up, and the cool breezes blew. But still.

So. So I can reconcile myself to the notion that Georgia and Louisiana were important state in 1988. What was to prevent the GOP from meeting at the basketball arena in Syracuse, NY, or the Minneapolis Metrodome?

So, Chicago, 2016. Peter Ueberroth is supposed to be in charge of all this. Doesn't he remember that the Los Angeles Olympics, circa 1984, were the greatest in history, that those were the games that signalled the modern Olympics as we know them?

Guess not.

A's 5, Yankees 4 (11)

A game that fits into a nice template: one of those West-Coast, late-night, extra-inning road affairs you keep following (me: internet) even though you're pretty sure how it will end.

In extra-innings, when you're the visiting team, it's awful, because if the other guys score first, the game is over. If yours is the home team, it's awful, because you're pretty sure the other guys will score first, then bring out their closer.

And the win either happens 1) with a home run to the upper-deck, or 2) some bloopy little thing. So rarely in between.

Sure enough: 11th inning, bases loaded, one out, grounder to Menk. Ball game.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Twins 5, Yankees 1

Just when you thought it was safe . . . .

Mose hurt. Okay, in the great tradition of Spahn and Sain, we're now Pavano and Pettitte, and then forget it.

Also, Kardiac Kyle makes his first appearance. Sent in to hold the line for one inning, he goes walk, steal, strikeout, single, single, double, double for a quick 4 runs in one-third of an inning. Lovely.

Durham LAX: All charges dropped

Attorney General Roy Cooper: "Innocent."

I doesn't get more definitive.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Yankees 10, Twins 1

Pettitte, now we hope, is better.

Once Wang comes back, do we have a rotation?

Oh, and A-Rod. Another homer.

Continuing: Duke LAX charges to be dismissed

The link here.

Surely there have been greater cases of prosecutorial misconduct in recent years.

But none so brazen in the face of the truth.

Duke LAX Case: All charges dropped

ABC news is reporting that all charges have been dropped in the Duke Lacrosse case.

Ongoing . . . .

GOP blowing it?

It is time to face facts:

If the Democratic New Hampshire primary were held today, Hillary would win.

If Democratic Super-Duper Tuesday were held today, Hillary would win 75% of the states.

If the general election were held today, Hillary would beat anyone on the GOP side.

In part, this is a matter of external events. Neither Rudy nor Romney nor Thompson (nor, really, McCain) should have to answer for Bush's missteps in Iraq. But Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid (for all the ridicule directed at them) are not stupid people, have--for all their overreaching--framed Iraq as the GOP's war, seperate and distinct from Afghanistan, Iran or anything else in the world.

Their characterization of "The War in Iraq" as a stand-alone enterprise happens to be wrong, of course. But politics is the art of persuasion, and right now the Republicans are having a hard time persuading 60% of the electorate.

Just to turn on the news is depressing. John McCain has inserted himself, foolishly and unnecessarily, into the Imus kerfuffle. And what plagues Giuliani has, until this morning, something I couldn't quite fathom.

Now I get it. What plagues Rudy is a kind of intellectual laziness that is, first, uncharacteristic of the man, and second, deadly to a Presidential candidate.

Rudy is travelling down the same road as George Romney (as in "Romney later explained") in 1968 and Ted Kennedy (last seen looking for his verb) in 1980.

John Podoretz has more.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Yankees 8, Twins 2

Significant for two reasons:

1. No Yankee--not Babe Ruth, not Joe DiMaggio, not Mickey Mantle, not Reggie--ever hit five home runs in the first six games of the season . . . until A-Rod did so as of today.

2. Pavano, Pavano. With everything patch, patch, patch, this was a good sign. Now, let's see, if Wang comes back, Moose warms up, Pettitte does whatever, Igawa can throw a breaking ball for a called strike, then we got something.

3. Aside from A-Rod, the bullpen has been the team strength. Assuming the starting pitching gets figured out somehow (which may entail a trade, with teams lined up around the block to grad Hrubey or Viz, and Cashman looking more for a salary dump), and we know the hitting will be there . . . okay. No panic.

4. Don't tell me that they're playing well 'cause they're out of the cold. What good is clustering wins in warm weather if presumptive October baseball might be played in Detroit, in Boston, and certainly--duh--in the Bronx?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Orioles 6, Yankees 4

This first week has been disheatening without being catastrophic (for that, see the Astros).

Tomorrow or the next day, Mike Lupica will write that the Yankees are "one A-Rod blast away from being 1-4." That is true enough, but rather irrelevant, when one considers that the Yanks are one A-Rod pop-up away from being 3-2, plus one Josh Phelps fly-out away from being 4-1. Almost every game has been a close-run thing.

What, heading into week two, must Torre attend to?

1. The starting pitching.
2. The starting pitching.

No--really, that's about it. Teams go through bad hitting patches all the time, situations where they fall behind two runs after the fifth and a kind of ennui takes over. Offensively, the Yankees find themselves in this kind of trough. When it happens at the start of the season, it is all anyone can talk about because there's nothing else to measure it against.

It is hard to remember but well to remember that the 1998 Yankees started the season 0-3. These were the Yankees still stinging from a shocking 1997 Divisional Playoff loss to the Cleveland Indians, and starting the season as they did--no kidding--churned the rumors that Joe Torre would be fired soon, if the Yankees did not turn things around. So . . . the Yankees went 125-47 the rest of the way, won the first of three consecutive World Series, and paved the way for Torre, Jeter and Mo to ascend, one day, to the World Series.

The defense will be helped by Matsui's injury. Melky will be an upgrade.

The bullpen, right, now, is the team's biggest strength.

So? So we'll see.

Yanks 10, Orioles 7

New drinking game: every time A-Rod gets the game-winning hit, take a shot everytime someone says, "The only thing that matters is what he does in October."

Yankees 10, Birds 7

Just another installment of: you don't know nothin.'

'Cause nobody does.

A-Rod's homer?

A start.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Bird 6, Yankees 3

Ahhhhhhh . . . I no sooner dedicate myself to the whole season than the chaos of Thursday night intervenes, and I miss Andy Pettitte's, ah, glorious return.

Now this. I saw the game unfold in the most painful way possible: the manual, inning-by-inning scoreboard at Minute Maid Park--where, by the way, I paid witness to another undoing of the Astros, and this during Jeff Bagwell Appreciation Day (not to be confused with Jeff Bagwell day, the retiring of the uniform number and all of that, set for August 26th).

From seeing one game and reading about two, from hearing what people say, I think we know the following:

1. The Yankees have had two tipping points in their history: 1965 and 1982. These were the times when everyone became old and slow. Are the Yankees there yet? No, but warning signs are everywhere. Their pitchers are fragile. The talent core-minus-A-Rod-and-Jeter (call it Georgie, Mo, Giambi, Matsui, Moose, Andy and even Damon) are all a year further away from their prime. Unless Cashman's wizardry has has re-stocked the minors with players not just ready to contribute and play well (Robbie, Melky) but to be out-and-out dangerous, the third Bronxian Dark Ages may be closer than we think.

2. That said, we can't worry so quickly. When a team stops hitting in the clutch for awhile, when a few errors mount up, the entire season can look hopeless.

3. Matsui's throwing arm has come seriously close to disqualifying him from the outfield.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Yankees 9, D-Rays 5

So here it is, a day late: my attempt to capture every single Yankees game of the 2007 season.

A day has passed. What do we think we know?

*The two most important (by important, think tipping-point important, think Malcolm Gladwell) members of the Yankees are going to be Hrubey and Vizcaino--if they stay healthy and if they don't suck. Unless the Yankees starting pitching is much, much worse than I expect (the Yanks are notoriously safe with injuries, especially pitchers), this edition of the Yanks are good for 93 wins, easy. Since 2000 they've been looking to re-do the bullpen that gave them three consecutive World Series Championships; they've done it all kinds of ways: various Witasicks and Wohlers; a return, in turn, of Stanton, Nelson, and Mendoza; big bucks to Flash Gordon (which worked as far as it went, until the 2004 ALCS, when Flash, undone by a season of exhausting work, could barely play catch with Georgie, and the season went down the tubes); and finally, last year with Sturtze, Proctor, Kardiac Kyle and Mo--more thrills and chills. In the immortal words of Guido the Killer Pimp, this is getting boring. Is finding two or three relievers who can get through the sixth and seventh without resembling carnival sideshows really that impossible? Will we see Proctor make it to September and still be able to open his front door without wincing? Are Hruby and Viz for real? Just asking. The answer is the season, long term.

*The Yankees will have to win games like yesterday's, if only because they may find themselves behind in the sixth and seventh more than they would like to be. Still, we can talk about the great Yankee rotation of Rocket, Wells, Lefty, and Moose in 2003 . . . and then remind ourselves how many times the Yankees found themselves behind first the Red Sox, then the Mariners. The freaking Mariners.

*A-Rod is fine. Still, though: A-Rod at short, Jeter at second, Cano at third. How many extra wins? Three, four?