Thursday, September 28, 2006


I don't want to give the impression that I hate ESPN--I don't. I hate what ESPN has become. So here's a little reminder of the good old days. Note the genius of Kenny Mayne.

ESPN Mobile: Dead!

We've been waiting for this news for what seems like ages and now it has finally arrived: ESPN Mobile is dead.

How satisfying is it? Plenty, but you have to follow the link to see the internal ESPN memo describing the news:
we confronted a very competitive sales environment for our MVNO while at the same time attracting significant interest from others to license distribution of Mobile ESPN. Taking all of this into account and after careful consideration, we have decided to change direction and turn Mobile ESPN into a licensed wireless application to be offered by one or more major national carriers. This shift will allow us to get Mobile ESPN's critically acclaimed content to many more fans much more quickly.

It's not a failure, it's an advance!

And if you really, really want to wallow, keep scrolling down into that comments thread. It's priceless. Samples:
Bort says:

ESPN shouldn't kill ESPN has 150 million reasons to be alive.


DirtyJersey says:

I heard they had to pry the last two out of Jason Whitlock's mouth.


Mitch Comstein, my roommate says:

kim etheridge had this to say:

'espn mobile is not closing down operations... it had an allergic reaction to the reality'


Dr.Venkman says:

I heard that ESPN Mobile "inappropriately vibrated" on an assistant at an Outback Steakhouse.

Go read the rest. It's classic.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Tasteless T.O. Update

Galley Friend L.B. sends this snippet from Bill Simmons's chat today:
Jim (NJ): Over/Under: The amount of pill bottles throw on field by Philly fans: 30,000.

Bill Simmons: (3:52 PM ET ) 30,000???? Come on, that's low... each fan will be good for four bottles, 60,000 people, I'm saying the over/under is 200,000.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Best News Ever?

Buy a Nintendo Wii, play Tecmo Bowl on the big screen.

Any questions?

Opera for Dummies (Parte Due)

Last night the Mrs. and I caught the double-header of Duke Bluebeard's Castle and Gianni Schicchi at the Kennedy Center. First, Gianni Schicchi. Puccini debuted this one-act as part of a "trittico" of three short operas, though this was by far the best and the only to survive. It's a screwball comedy with a simplistic premise: A family in Florence is arguing over a will of a recently deceased uncle and decides to forge a new one with the help of Schicchi, the father of a girl intent to marry into this scheming family. Schicchi is performed by veteran bass Sam Ramey (not to be confused with Spider Man director Sam Raimi). But the star of the evening was soprano Amanda Squitieri, who plays the daughter Lauretta and sings one of opera's most famous arias, "O mio babbino caro." Squitieri, despite her small size, soared in her performance. She is a recent Rutgers graduate, has olive skin, big, bright eyes, and reminds me of a young Teri Hatcher. Yes, I am in love. With the opera!

Duke Bluebeard's Castle is a cautionary tale. It's dark and creepy. It's Hungarian (Béla Bartók's only opera). Bluebeard (played once again by Sam Ramey) brings his new bride Judith (the always alluring Denyce Graves) to his castle--a spacious but forbidding abode. I'm sure Judith figured this place is a fixer-upper, but assuming the market will rebound, she could flip it in a matter of months and move into a nice condo. Bluebeard hesitates, however. He tells her there are seven doors which must remain forever closed.

Nevertheless, Judith demands each one be open. Bluebeard resists but, one by one, allows his bride to see what lurks inside. It's not good: The first door opens to a torture chamber. The second leads to a blood-soaked armory. The third and fourth open to blood-soaked treasure and a blood-soaked secret garden. But the fifth door conceals a magnificent view of the kingdom. Still, Judith is disturbed by the dark clouds (a real shock considering this is Central Europe). The sixth door opens to a placid lake, though the water consists of tears. Prior to the seventh and final door's opening, Judith asks Bluebeard to tell her about his past loves and were any of the women hotter than she (the answer being yes if her name is Amanda Squitieri). OPERA SPOILER: The seventh door is unlocked and out come the ghosts of his past wives. And guess who is about to join them?

Two final thoughts: I guess it could have been worse. The last door could have led to Bluebeard's porno stash or his collection of snuff--very embarrassing. Secondly, the moral of the story is quite clear: There is no need to learn about your spouse's past, so don't ask!

P.S. Interestingly, both operas were directed by William Friedkin, the director of The Exorcist and The French Connection.

Friday, September 22, 2006

I know you have all been anxiously awaiting the season premiere of The Ghost Whisperer. In the first episode, Melinda realizes she can communicate much better with the spirit world by exposing her paranormal radar located in her navel.

The Pattern Is Full

A moment of silence for the F-14, which the U.S. Navy retired today in Virginia. The Skystriker, er, um, I mean Tomcat, was a tactical fighter jet meant to protect carriers from Soviet bombers. And only few other aircraft shared its swept-wing design (I can only think of the F-111). One of the more impressive stats about the F-14 Sky--I mean Tomcat, was its ability to track 24 targets simultaneously. This especially became useful when, in 1986, a squadron of MiG-28s confronted several F-14s over the Indian Ocean, leading to one of the only occasions where the United States actually engaged in air combat with the Soviet Union. Luckily, our side won though the Soviets denied the entire episode.

Get Your Geek On

An enterprising Florida State professor has done a little web presentation where he zooms from 10 million light years away from earth to the a single oak leaf on the FSU campus to the quarks making up that leaf. It's all here. Just click on the page and watch, you don't have to do anything. Somewhere, Bob Zemeckis is smiling.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Wii World

This is the most comprehensive piece I've seen on the Wii. If you have a question that it doesn't answer, then there's something wrong with you. And that's coming from someone with a complete collection of Super Friends Underoos and gem dice.

Trailer City

Galley Reader S.B. sends us the link to the New Hotness trailer for 300.

Law & Order: Artistic Intent

What's better than slash/fiction? Totally ernest fan art dedicated to Law & Order.

Geeky? Yes. Awesome? Very.

What's that? You were expecting an Eagles post? Well I have a witness that when the Eagles went to halftime up 17-7, I said that something very bad was about to happen. They should have been up 31-7. You can't leave points on the field.

Let's just leave it at that, shall we?

Bonus: That would be 0-for-7 in their last seven division games. (And I can't remember the last time they covered.) Get ready for all the happy-talk when they rebound against weak teams for the next month. After that, the deluge.

Friday, September 15, 2006

More Wii

I'm more and more convinced that this generation of videogame consoles is going to be a b-school case study for a generation. It features three giant companies all converging on the same space with completely different agendas, and these agendas are what shaped their offerings to the market. As this essay makes clear, Sony is using the PS3 to launch a video format, Microsoft is using xbox 360 to get into the videogame console market, but Nintendo is using the Wii to make money:
Nintendo will make money from every unit of Wii hardware and software sold, according to Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime.

"We will make a profit on the entire Wii proposition out of the box--hardware and software," Fils-Aime told Reuters.

"That really is a very different philosophy versus our competitors. We are a company that competes only in the interactive entertainment space, so we have to make a profit on everything we do."

It's fascinating, really.

On a side note, it seems that there is an argument for bundling a game with the Wii console, even at the expense of the price point.


As my colleague Mr. Last mentioned, we were graced yesterday by the presence of Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey who told us about Unmet Needs, a very worthy cause. But after all was said and done, I couldn't resist asking two questions. One, considering the various rumors surrounding his landing the role of the drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket, what exactly is the truth behind his getting cast?

"I was a technical adviser on the set," said Ermey, who in fact wanted the role for himself, despite director Stanley Kubrick already having someone else in mind for the part of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. And so Ermey waged a behind-the-scenes campaign of auditioning and interviewing until it came to Kubrick's attention. The director relented, gave Ermey a shot, and was easily won over. (Ermey does not reveal who was the original actor cast for the role.)

As for the dialogue, Ermey wrote most of it himself, "taking lines I used when I was a drill sergeant in San Diego and taking a few other lines from other drill sergeants as well." It was all written down ahead of time, he explains, except for the "reacharound" line. "I don't know where that came from," he admits sheepishly, "and it sort of threw me off, but Stanley liked it and kept it in."

Ermey had argued forcefully with Kubrick over the instances of Hartman striking a recruit. "That would never happen," he insists, except for the occasional subtle jab in the solar plexus.

Now at 62, Ermey is still lean at around 6-feet tall. He came to our office wearing fatigues and boots and has visited Iraq and Afghanistan three times. He looks pretty much the same as he did when he starred in Full Metal, though his eyebrows have gone wild.

My second question was how much he benched. "At my age, I stick to mostly lightweights and work on repetitions, nothing too heavy. I bench about 125."

A Trick Is Something a Whore Does for Money

Matus is too modest to note it, but he has a fantastic piece in the WSJ today on the history of magic and its place in today's culture landscape. Any excuse to write about Ricky Jay is a good excuse.

Bonus tidbit: Who would have thought that Doug Henning gets credit for reviving magic in the '70s?

Wii to Microsoft: Drop Dead

Eagle-eyed Galley Reader P.G. notes a lost detail inside yesterday's Wii announcement:
The Wii is going to let users browse the internet from their TV with Opera! How frickin awesome is that! Why didn’t they just call the console the Nintendo “FU Microsoft”, or “FUMS” for short. Refresh my memory, the Xbox360 still requires connectivity to a media center PC to browse the internet, it’s got no built-in browser, or so I thought.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I just had lunch with this guy, which was about the fourth coolest thing I've ever done. (Warning: Do not click that link if anyone within earshot will be offended by very, very bad words.)

He talked about a charity which is worth your valuable time, it's called Unmet Needs.

Unmet Needs is an offshoot of the VFW and it helps the families of servicemen and women who, with their spouses off fighting our wars, have been left in the financial lurch.

Besides the fact that this is a noble and important cause, it's also one that both sides of the political spectrum should be able to get behind. Conservatives should help because this is crucial to the war effort and liberals should help because the necessity of Unmet Needs is a testiment to the failure of our government to take care of the best among us.

If you can, please help, by either donating money, or volunteering your skills and time. Just click here.

All Hail Lisa de Moraes

She recaps the new Today show:
"I haven't been more excited to come to work since the day Bryant [Gumbel] announced he was leaving!" Matt Lauer replies, and you believe he really means it. If you close your eyes and try to imagine it's still 1991, it's almost as if Katie Couric never happened to the show.

Today it's all about Meredith, starting with carefully orchestrated, good-natured ribbing between the two hosts.

It's still 'Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira,' " Meredith says of their billing on the morning infotainment show.

"I don't think that's going to change," Matt says.

Is the joking over already?

Wii Launch Details

It turns out that the rumors of a $170 Wii were somewhat exaggerated. The official report is now out with Wii launch details and the price point is $250--but that includes a controller and a game--Wii Sports.

The console will hit stores on Nov. 17 and Nintendo says they'll have 4 million units shipped before the end of the year.

Wii will also let you download classic Nintendo games through Wii Channels. You buy 20,000 Wii Points for $20, and then download games that cost: 500 pts. for NEW; 800 pts. for Super NES; 1,000 pts. for Super Nintendo.

There's more. Follow the link and scroll down. Holler if you still live with your parents.

The New Wonder Woman

Blog Crush is reporting that Rachel Bilson is Joss Whedon's Wonder Woman. For those of you who care, here's a clip of her modeling the costume.

That's just for you, M.G.

Celebrity Voiceovers (cont.)

Continuing our discussion of celebrity voiceovers, last night I saw an ad for "The Coca-Cola Companies" featuring the four-pack-a-day perfection of Angie Harmon.

I can't find the ad online, but I think it was part of Coke's new "Make Every Drop Count" promotion, which seems to be an effort to head off a coming Morgan Spurlockish anti-soft drink campaign. It's kind of creepy: Coke has even launched The Beverage Institute for Health & Wellness, which sounds like it was founded by Nick Naylor.

Still, Angie Harmon's voicework is so good--really, she could make an entire career with those pipes--that I found myself yearning for any number of products from the Coca-Cola Family of Beverages.

Monday, September 11, 2006

NFL Week 1: No Gloating Here

Hail to the Redskins . . . Hail Victor-oops

I kid because I love. The Eagles sit today alone in their rightful place atop the NFC East. They have a real chance to start the season 5-1. And to finish the season 1-9. If you've never been to Philly in the middle of a 9-loss, three-month period, then you haven't lived, really.

Galley Brother B.J. sends in this week one post-mortem:

The Eagles avoided their typical “crisis mode season opener." The offense looked pretty solid and Stallworth looks to be a great pickup. The Eagles run defense was fairly fantastic and they got a lot of pressure on the QB.

But, it wasn’t all scantily clad Tricia Helfer. The Eagles continued last year’s trend of getting off to a slow start by giving up a really nice touchdown drive on the Texans first possession. despite a few chances to stop the drive early. And the secondary was underwhelming. Granted the Eagles only gave up 10 points and got better as the game progressed, but they’ve got to stop spotting other teams 7 to 14 points in the first quarter. Also, they were playing the Houston Texans who are known for having no offensive line which, mitigates the defense’s accomplishments against the run and pressuring the QB.

Thoughts on other teams:

Houston – I can’t tell you how unhappy I’d be if I was a Texans fan right now. Their passing game looked solid, but it doesn’t look like they have any running game. Passing on Bush looks like its going to haunt this franchise for years.

Indianapolis – Things look bad. Peyton’s accuracy wasn’t the best (the Giants dropped 3 interceptions inside the 5. But, on the plus side the lack of an effective running game gives Peyton his scapegoat when the Colts lose in the playoffs.

Patriots – After the Pats vs. Bills game, a Buffalo fan was talking about how the Bills had exposed the Patties' inability to pass block and given teams a blue-print on how to beat them. I agreed. The Patriots need to prove they can keep Brady vertical and letting Branch go looks like a mistake: Who will Brady throw to?

Cowboys – Exact opposite of Eagles. Got out to a fantastic start going up 10 and it looked like they were going to win by at least 17. They didn’t score again until they were down by 14 very late in the 4th quarter. Who else is smiling?

And how about ESPN's new MNF broadcast? They've clearly pulled out all the stops in trying to make it their own. I'm not sure how well some of it works. The large, bottom-center score board looks like it was designed for bar patrons, not home viewers. When we see highlights from this season five years from now, it's going to look dated.

Mike Tirico is fantastic. He's always been a huge talent and it's good to see him in a high-profile gig. He deserves it. Theisman and Kornheiser may have actually subtracted value from the telecast. Maybe they'll improve.

But maybe not, actually. The team running MNF is in the perfect position because everything they do will look like success--MNF will be the highest rated program in the history of ESPN, no matter what. And there is no way to measure failure: Because this is a first-of-its-kind moment for cable, there's no measuring stick for it. MNF will do a much smaller number than it did on ABC and no one can reasonably blame the staff. And it will do a much bigger number than World Championship Dominos, for which the staff must get credit. It's a no-lose situation for all involved.

Except, potentially, for viewers. Even if the broadcast team doesn't improve, it's hard to see why management would have any incentive to change it.

Bonus: If you don't want to spend the $$$ on an NFL package, this site will help you figure out what games you'll get on broadcast.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Federer Moments

James Blake is my hero for his effort last night. It was the best tennis of his life. The problem with Federer--watch carefully and watch the replays--is this:

Backyard Wrestling

Do you ever watch wrestling? Do you ever notice the warning that airs before the show where they caution viewers that the following actions are performed by highly-trained professional athletes and should not be attempted at home? I never really understood why they had that disclaimer.

Until now. Check out this backyard wrestling. These guys have entrance music and championship belts and everything. If you want to, jump right to the 4:20 mark, where "Joey Gunns" gets "Rage" on the roof of a garage and knocks him off of it--with some sort of flaming club.

If you turn up the sound right before that happens, you'll hear the cameraman muttering, "Somebody's dying tonight."

This is going to make your weekend.

Bonus: If you're as fascinated by this as I am, you can see how Rage won the title in this classic match.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Dunkin Heaven

This wonderful news goes out to Galley Friend R.K.A., the original OBG:
As part of its plans to expand from ubiquitous New England doughnut chain to ubiquitous American coffee chain, Dunkin' Donuts will announce plans today to add 325 stores in Washington and Baltimore by 2010, marking the region as a focal point of its effort to open more than 10,000 new stores around the country by 2020.

Sic semper arabicus. Bring on the light and sweet.

Bonus BSG!

I'm way, super late to the BSG party, but like all converts, I'm a zealot. Now Pajiba tells us that the SciFi Channel is running a web-only BSG maxiseries called The Resistance.

So say we all.

U.S. Open Notes

This has been one of the best U.S. Opens in recent memory. It's had everything: thrilling five-setters, improbably come-backs, a brilliant champion, and compelling, historical moments. In no particular order, some thoughts:

* The USA network's broadcast is so vastly superior to CBS's that it's embarrassing. When glamour players aren't on court, CBS will go to the studio for video packages about Roddick or Agassi instead of showing us the action.

* How great is Richard Gasquet? His marathon 4th round match with Lleyton Hewitt was one for the ages. Gasquet is a stud athlete and has all the tools to be great. If someone besides Nadal is going to emerge to challenge Federer, Gasquet might be the guy.

* I can't remember ever having so many former champions in the tournament so late: Agassi, Hewitt, Safin, Federer, Roddick, Kuznetsova, Henin-Hardenne, Serena, Davenport, Hingis. That's pretty great.

* Wouldn't it be nice if James Blake became the new future of American tennis? Could it happen to a better guy? No way.

* Let's hope that Federer pulls a hamstring right before Wimbledon next year so that Andy Murray will have a shot at winning the title before the weight of patriotic obligation crushes him the way it did Tim Henman.

* Vince Spadea = awesome, with a capital AWESOME. Reihan must love his flow.

* A word about the advertising:

-Sharapova's Nike ad is beautiful and clever, but has really, really low repeatability. By the third go, I was hitting mute.

-The Pay It Forward Liberty Mutual ad is so effective in its emotional manipulation, that I dare you not to cry when you watch it.

-Some companies make very strange choices for celebrity voiceovers. Financial companies have made good use of actors such Sam Waterston and Steven Hill. But why in the world would AIG hire Stockard Channing? Do you want to trust your money to Rizzo?

And ever worse than that is TIAA Cref's use of Fisher Stevens? This is not a voice, or a body of work, which inspires fiscal confidence. I just don't get it.

Rocky, Come Home

Is Philadelphia the greatest city on the planet not named London? Yes. Yes it is.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

More Bad News for the PS3

Reports now say that Sony will be shipping 2 million PS3 units to the United States and Japan by the end of 2006--down from the company's promised 4 million units. That means 400,000 PS3's in the U.S. at launch.

How bad is it? Sony has decided not to launch in Europe until 2007--after the Christmas season.

It's shocking!

The game industry is not amused--particularly not by the most recent demonstration of Sony's willingness to publicly maintain positions which are clearly untenable until the the last possible moment:
We simply felt that for the giant corporation to slip the European launch - after standing on stage and telling the whole world that it was committed to November 17th - would be so embarrassing for the firm as to be inconceivable. The very fact that the firm's own track record contains a similar embarrassment in the form of the PSP launch - which eventually slipped a massive nine months in Europe - seemed to stand as a stark reminder that Sony had learned a hard lesson and would pull out all the stops to prevent a recurrence.


Hercules has Season 3 spoilers, but the really good news is that BSG episode 3.10 is written by . . .

Galley Hero Jane Espenson. Total hotness.


Over at AICN, Quint has an open letter to Fox about Mike Judge's Idiocracy. This movie has been sitting in the can for a long, long time and now Fox has released it on 130 screens in 7 cities with no--and I mean zero--ad support. Go to the various Fox studio websites and the movie isn't even mentioned as being in production, let alone coming soon, let alone in theaters. In fact, so far as I can tell, Fox may not even have released a trailer for it.

Again, this is Mike Judge we're talking about. Maybe the movie stinks; I don't know. But shouldn't having made the funniest movie of the decade count for something? Actors work for decades on smaller accomplishments.

LiLo Goes the Full Hilton

And Jenny is there.

Overheard from Galley Friend M.G.: "Not that I'm even remotely surprised she's shaved, but it is a little bigger than I expected. It looks like that thing could hold an elephant tusk."

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Kickoff Week for the NFL

Obviously, this isn't funny, particularly not for Chargers' lineback Steve Foley:
About 3:30 a.m., the off-duty officer started following a suspected drunk driver in the area of northbound Highway 163 and Highway 52, Brugos said. The vehicle was described as weaving and its speed ranged from 30 to 90 mph and nearly hit several vehicles, he said.

After stopping at a red light, the off-duty officer pulled beside Foley, identified himself as a police officer, and ordered him to pull over, but Foley drove away, Brugos said. Foley stopped again, and got out of his car, approaching the officer, according to police. The officer again identified himself, pulled out a gun, and ordered the suspect several times to stop, Brugos said.

“However he continued to walk toward the officer, making the statement, 'That's a bb gun',” Brugos said.

Foley then got back into his car and the off-duty officer followed him to a cul-de-sac in Poway, where Foley lives.

Foley got out of the car and started walking toward the officer, while his female passenger drove the car alongside him, Brugos said. The officer identified himself again and then fired a warning shot into the bushes, Brugos said. Brugos said the female then revved the engine and drove directly at the officer, by then out of his car; the officer fired two shots at Foley's vehicle. The officer was not hit by the car.

Foley reached into his pants with his right hand as he approached the officer and the officer fired at the suspect. Foley acknowledged he'd been shot, Brugos said, but continued to move toward the officer, who fired again. Foley then fell to the ground.

But it is weird.

Great Moments in PR

Galley Friend B.W. sends the link to this WSJ story on declining DVD revenue for Hollywood. It's a great story, but check out this hidden gem:
Recently, for example, the major studios opened negotiations to provide movies to be played on Apple Computer Inc.'s video iPod -- an important step toward Hollywood's digital future. Then Wal-Mart, the biggest seller of DVDs, disrupted the talks when it delivered a pointed warning to the studios not to give Apple a better deal for digital movies than the retailer gets for physical copies.

"Our conversations with the studios are about what Wal-Mart has always been about -- giving our customers the best value and selection," said a Wal-Mart spokeswoman in an email response.

Wal-Mart = slightly evil

But also of note is the Katzenberg's somewhat iffy pronouncement on the future of Hi-Def DVDs:

"DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg says while the new format will be a high-margin business, 'it's not clear whether it will grow into a mass-market platform.'"

That's not a ringing endorsement of the medium. Could it be that Sony loses big even if Blu-Ray wins the war?
This past Labor Day weekend, my wife and I were in Boston visiting friends. We were staying at a hotel and, before we went out, I happened to flip on the TV and catch bits of Superman II. I enjoyed the original (except for the last ten minutes, when Superman decides to fix things by reversing the earth's rotation, thus allowing for reversal of time). But just a few thoughts/questions on the sequel:

1. Did you know the story and screenplay are attributed to Mario Puzo?

2. Or that General Zod is played by Terence Stamp?

3. Superman's mother warns her son that once he chooses to become a human being, there is no turning back. So how was he able to turn back?

4. Did the Fortress of Solitude really come equipped with those silver satin sheets for superconsummation?

More Hollywood Bravery

I got this summary for the movie Driving Lessons from the PR company handling it's local release:
We first meet Ben (RUPERT GINT), a shy, bookish 17-year old, as he begins a very unpromising summer vacation. While the other kids are out having fun, Ben spends these precious few weeks attending Bible classes, having driving lessons with his overbearing and overly religious mother (Laura Linney) and helping out at a local old people's home. It's certainly not his ideal summer but, with a demanding, vigilant mother and a passive vicar for a father, Ben is anything but in control of his own destiny. Ben's absurdly straitlaced world is turned upside down when he gets a job assisting Evie (Julie Walters), an eccentric retired actress. . . . What follows is a journey in which Ben and Evie help each other move forward in their radically different lives, as Ben is forced to confront how he was brought up and who he wants to be.

How some people in Hollywood find the courage to stand up to the Christianists again and again is one of the great and beautiful mysteries of our culture. All across the globe, Christians are perpetrating terrible crimes right now: blowing up buildings, bombing hotels and markets, kidnapping and decapitating prisoners, stoning homosexuals and sexually active girls, forcing heathens to convert at the barrel of a gun. The fortitude it requires of our artists to take these people on . . . well, what more can you say?

Only this: You may understand the personal bravery it takes to make a movie which exposes the oafish hypocrisy of Christian zealots, but what you may not fully appreciate is the professional courage involved. Writer/director Jeremy Brock is risking his career to tell an unconventional story like this. The religious nutcases who run the entertainment industry squash nearly every attempt to portray believers as anything but saints.

Mr. Brock might never be able to work again. Hero just isn't a big enough word.

Rupert Everett, Sharon Stone, The Onion?

Surely this Rupert Everett essay on "My Life with Sharon" has to parody. Don't you think?
She ignored me. "The first time was on the film Casino." Now she was speaking so softly that I could hardly hear and had to crane forward.

Always speak as quietly as possible. It draws the listener in and makes you look riveting as well as beautiful to the onlooking fans.

Because, make no mistake: Sharon's career was a 24/7 affair. She didn't have to be on a sound stage to be filming. The world was her camera and her alarm clock was the clapperboard.

It was legendary stuff and I adored it. "Marty left the mad scene for last," she continued. "You remember, when my character has that total meltdown?" "How could I forget? It was brilliant," I replied, thinking back to Martin Scorsese's mobster film.

"Well, she came inside me while I was in the trailer before the scene." I giggled awkwardly. Sharon gave me a withering glare. "I was, like, completely possessed. She was right there. I was her. Bobby could tell straightaway. He said to Marty, "How much film do you have?" And Marty said, "We got a full mag!"

"So just keep rolling," Bobby told him. "Trust me." He knew. Bobby knew. "And when Marty said "Action", I blacked out. I have no recollection. She took over. At the end of the scene I was on the ground. I couldn't move and Marty said: "Don't touch her. Leave her for a few minutes." . . .

"There was a pinkish mist over me" Sharon continued. "Everyone saw it. And it's happened again on this film. This could be the last time we speak, you and I."

And all of that is without Everett's suggestion that the sex he had with Stone on camera was not, shall we say, simulated.

But that's not what suggests the parody. It's this too perfect exchange:
"You know what I say when I'm f*** ing a guy?" said Sharon.

"I say, stop. Look at me." I looked at her. "Now. Talk to me." "Talk to you?" I asked, incredulous. "Communicate," she said. "What? While we're - ". "And now… go in and out real slow." "Oh my God, now I know why I'm gay." . . .

"I can turn a gay man straight in five minutes!" "Two bells!" shouted an assistant. Our lips were nearly touching. Our groins locked.

"How long does it take you to turn a straight man gay?" I whispered. . . .

"About ten seconds in some cases," murmured Sharon.

Friday, September 01, 2006


You know how SI offers those special commemmorative DVDs after championships--"Relive the Buckeyes' glorious championship run!"--well how about this XL Super Bowl Opus. I'm not sure exactly what it is--it comes with 400,000 written words about the Super Bowl.

But it costs $4,000.

The MVP edition is $40,000.

Rich people scare me.

Agassi, Baghdatis

Losing equals death. That's the subtext of playing the final tournament of your career. Even if you have a life outside of the sport--a good marriage, a family, other goals--when you have been a professional athlete for more than half of your existence, retirement is the death of the only life you've ever known as a man.

Twice this week, Andre Agassi stared down death. Faced with a punishing draw at the U.S. Open, Agassi saw Adrei Pavel in the first round. Agassi lost the first set and endured a set point in the second. Pavel is no joke. He's a journeyman, a quality player with a well-rounded game. There would have been no shame in losing a tightly-contested match to him. It would have been a good death. Agassi fought back, winning in four sets. It took over three hours.

Last night, Agassi faced Marcos Baghdatis, a 21-year-old tiger, seeded 8th, runner-up at this year's Australian Open and semi-finalist at Wimbledon. Much has been made about how cruel Agassi's draw is, and it's true--he has a rough road. But imagine how dispirited Baghdatis was about his draw? I'm in the #8 seed and in the in second round I get Andre freakin' Agassi?

Agassi won the first two sets in workman-like fashion. He had Baghdatis on the ropes in the third, but lost a critical break and dropped the set. Agassi began the fourth like a ripsaw, going up 4-0. Baghdatis was lost. But then, on two improbable points, where Baghdatis fought off overheads from 15 feet behind the baseline, he found himself. He evened the match at 7-5 and broke Agassi to start the fifth.

It would have been a good death. Baghdatis is a wonderful player. Agassi had given everything he had. They had gone the distance. But for Agassi, nothing is ever easy. Not winning; not losing. He broke back. They traded service games; Baghdatis holding easily, Agassi struggling for every point. And then, midway through the deciding set, Baghdatis's quadriceps cramped up.

I believe in divine intervention in sports. But not in the Michael Chang I-love-Jesus-so-God-let-me-beat-you way. After Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS, Curt Schilling explained that he had prayed a great deal. He did not ask God to deliver him a victory--he simply asked that God help him do good. That's all any of us can ask. That we be given what we need; that we be helped to do our best; and let the chips fall where they may.

Agassi needed a lifeline. He got it. Nearly three hours in, the cramps slowed Baghdatis enough for Agassi to come back to life. And Baghdatis, to his eternal credit, found the strength to come back, to hold serve when he could barely stand. By the 12th game, both men were whole and able to give their best. And in the 188th minute, Agassi broke Baghdatis to win the match, to stave off retirement, to live for one more day. This was a match for the ages.

It's impossible to say how far this train goes. Certainly not to the end of the line, certainly not to Nadal or Federer. Agassi could barely walk to center court to take his bow last night. But however it ends, we have these two matches to remember him by. Even if he loses to young Benjamin Becker in straight sets, Agassi has now given himself a good--a very, very good--parting.

It's all any of us can ask for.

Note: If you're not in love with Marco Baghdatis after last night, there's something wrong with you. Here's hoping he wins five majors before he's done.

Update: James Blake, who was on the other side of the net in Agassi's quarterfinal masterpiece last year, showed up at Arthur Ashe today wearing Agassi's duds from 1991 (or'92)--the Nike polo top with the hot pink rectangles. This sort of respect and adulation is heartwarming. It reminds me of Gustavo Kuerten at the trophy ceremony after winning the 1997 French Open. When he saw that it was Bjorn Borg doing the presenting, Kuerten dropped to his knees and did the Wayne's World "I'm not worthy" bow.

It's great to see that sort of appreciation from the kids.