My NBA Predictions, Because Who Doesn’t Love Predictions?

26 Oct


Eastern Conference

  1. Cavs
  2. Bulls
  3. Hawks
  4. Heat
  5. Wizards
  6. Bucks
  7. Raptors
  8. Pacers

Conference Finals: Cavs over Heat

Western Conference

  1. Thunder
  2. Warriors
  3. Clippers
  4. Spurs
  5. Rockets
  6. Grizzlies
  7. Pelicans
  8. Jazz

Conference Finals: Spurs over Warriors (Note: the top of the conference is absolutely stacked. Any of those top-five teams could make the finals)

Finals: Spurs over Cavs

MVP: Anthony Davis

ROY: Emmanuel Mudiay

DPOY: Draymond Green

Coach of the Year: Honestly, who cares?

Mel Brooks vs. The Mets

14 Oct


So, I have a problem.

Tomorrow, Thursday, is Game 5 of the Mets-Dodgers series. The winner will move on to face the Cubbies. Players on the losing team will be forced to clean out their lockers, after which they may cry a bit before realizing that they’re mostly rich and mostly really good looking (I said “mostly”) and that their lives are still awesome. But all that’s neither here nor there.

Back to my problem. Tomorrow, Thursday night, I have tickets to “Mel Brooks — Back in the Saddles Again,” which will feature a live screening of Blazing Saddles followed by a Q+A with Mr. Brooks himself. The film starts at 7:30.

First pitch for Game 5 is at 8:06. Hence, my problem.

On the one hand: this is effing Game 5! deGrom-Greinke. Do or die! The life-long Mets fan in me is screaming that I’m crazy for even considering skipping the game. After all, it’s not like we’re the Yankees or Cardinals. Playoff trips don’t come around very often when your team is ran by a nincompoop who saw nothing fishy about handing over all his cash to a dude guaranteeing a 15 percent return every year. And while having a stable of flame-throwing phenoms like deGrom and Matt Harvey and Thor and Matz does seem to be a recipe for prolonged success, if there’s anything we’ve learned about baseball over the past few years it’s that there’s nothing more fickle than a powerful young arm.

And anyway, I absolutely love this group of Mets. I love Granderson and the way he’s completely overhauled his approach at the plate. I love Cespedes and the violence he brings to everything he does on the field. I love David Wright, The Captain, and how he’s embraced his role as team elder statesman while also showing an exuberance usually seen in nine-year-olds in little league. I love everything the rotund Bartolo Colon does and how he redefines the word “athlete” every time he steps on the field. I love the emotions this team makes me feel — the euphoria following a Cespedes bomb, the anger following yet another dirty play from an old nemesis.

Watching this team — the one put together in late July, not that triple-A junk that was being thrown out their beforehand — has been a blast, and I don’t want it to end. But all baseball seasons do — some just last a little later than others. This Mets season is almost over and I want to soak in as much of it as I can before it fades away.

But, if we’re talking about ticking clocks, well, chances are Mel Brooks doesn’t have much time left either. When you get to 89 you’re pretty much on borrowed time. Even if Brooks does make it into his late 90s, the chances that he remains lucid enough to take part in public Q+As are slim.

This is my dilemma. I love the Mets, but I also love Mel Brooks more. Both were introduced to me by my father at a young age.  Space Balls and Blazing Saddles were shown at multiple birthday parties of mine, and I’ve seen both movies dozens of times. 2,000 Year Old Man was the first comedy album I ever listened to. Brooks’ humor killed me a kid and I think I enjoy it even more now. That’s his magic. You can think you know one of his films by heart, then re-watch as an adult and suddenly discover a new joke that previously you didn’t understand.


I remember stumbling upon this scene a few years ago and cracking up — at the joke itself, and also at the fact that it had gone over my head every time I watched Space Balls as a kid.

And now I can go watch a Mel Brooks movie WITH Mel Brook, and listen to him be interviewed after?! This is, likely, an opportunity I will never have again.

And I have no clue what to do.

I could go to the screening, DVR some of the game, and be home by about 10. That would likely be around the seventh inning. I’d get to catch the end, but I’d miss so much of the good stuff — those feelings that flow through you as you watch your team in a win-or-go-home playoff game, which, by the way, as Jets, Knicks and Mets fan, is something I don’t get to feel very often.

I could skip Brooks, just watch the game — but if the game is ugly, or the Mets win, or if the Mets are blown out, I will hate myself for choosing baseball over a national treasure.

I have less than a day to decide. Anyone got any thoughts?

Matt Harvey is a Phony

7 Sep


Excuse me a minute while I dip into my #HotTake chamber and morph into a WFAN overnight show caller. It’s just, well, Matt Harvey is really pissing me off.

You see, it’s been years since I’ve been able to care about the Mets this late in the season, and, frankly, I’m loving it. Summers are better when your favorite baseball team is playing meaningful games. It gives you something to check in on every night, something to follow and get into on nights when Bachelor Paradise isn’t on TV.

Making the summer even better was the fact that this post-Cespedes Mets team has been an absolute joy to watch. They mash, they field and they seemingly have flame-throwing monsters taking the hill every single night, that is except those nights when the jolly circular acrobat known as Bartolo Colon gets the ball, which turns Mets games into a mesmerizing circus where any moment you might see a movement which blows your mind.

But the man at the helm of the Mets’ resurgence has been Matt Harvey. It wasn’t just the perfect mechanics or that heat-seeking missile of a fastball or the dazzling numbers that made Harvey so fun and captivating. It was that look and attitude he brought with him to the mound, the idea that him being untouchable was a fact and one he was constantly reveling in.

Oh, and he also had no problem being the guy to throw at opposing villains when his teammates needed a little protecting.

This was, after all, Gotham’s Dark Knight, words which he engraved into his bats. He was a badass, one who could make an August Tuesday night in Flushing seems like Game 7 of the World Series.

But this is where that narrative, that image of a gangster pitcher blowing away everyone in his path, starts to wash away. By now, if you’re reading this, you’re likely familiar with the recent hoopla surrounding Harvey and the Mets. Harvey is coming off Tommy John Surgery. Someone — whether it’s him, or his agent Scott Boras, or Dr. James Andrews, or someone else, or a mixture of all them is unclear — is worried about him surpassing 180 innings in his first full season post surgery. Right now Harvey has thrown 166.1. He was supposed to make four more starts this year, and that doesn’t include the playoffs.

In theory, I have no issue with a pitcher wanting to protect himself and his right arm. That, after all, is his money-maker, and we know a team would have no qualms cutting a player if he ceased performing at a high level. If Matt Harvey wants to look out for himself first, that’s fine by me.

What is not fine by me is a pitcher bitching and complaining all season every time his organization tries to manage his workload and then waiting until after the trade deadline to send his agent to the media to inform the baseball world that there’s a problem.

Let’s rewind for a second: it bears reminding that Harvey actually wanted to return to the mound last September and was reportedly peeved when the Mets wouldn’t permit it. That became a thing in the tabloids. This season, when the Mets said they would go to a six-man rotation to give Harvey some additional rest, he complained.

That, it turns out, was all a facade, Havey playing up this idea of him being the tough guy who doesn’t want to sit, ever. That’s at least how it seems right now. If 180 innings was really the number, well, Harvey should have been welcoming these days off instead of going all caveman. It also would have been cool if he had, at some point, had a mature, adult-like conversation with the Mets so that, I don’t know, maybe they could have been aware of his plan to parachute away before the playoffs. I’m no expert, but that kind of seems like the sort of info that’s normally useful to have prior to the trade deadline.

Even if you’re of the belief that this hard-cap of 180 inning is something that Dr. Andrews only recently suggested, well, Harvey still handled this whole thing like a primadonna toddler. He allowed his agent to go to the media with this info, then, upon being questioned by reporters repeatedly said, “I’m just focused on Tuesday,” his next starts, which he’ll make against the Nationals. Then he allowed some PR crony to pen a letter for him stating that he will, indeed, pitch in the playoffs, and published it on the Player’s Tribune. Again, there doesn’t appear to be a mature bone in this man’s body. Forget about a badass one.

So here we are, with the Mets holding onto a four-game lead over the Nationals in the National League East and the teams scheduled to kick off a three game series today. Matt Harvey is slated to pitch Tuesday. I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes eight innings and strikes out 14.

But it won’t feel the same as it did in the past. All summer I was telling my then-fiance-now-wife about how I couldn’t wait to take her to a Harvey Night at Citi Field, that even someone like her, a non-baseball fan who finds the sport excruciatingly slow, would have a blast watching Harvey ignite the crowd. Now I think that ship has sailed. Matt Harvey might help the Mets make the playoffs, and maybe even win a few October games. But the era of the Mets’ Dark Knight has come to an end. Looking back, I don’t think it ever really began.

Trainwreck, Reviewed

22 Jul


  • Trainwreck currently has a rating of 85 on Rotten Tomatoes and has gotten favorable reviews from most critics (the great Will Leitch, one of my favorite writers and movie critics, ranked it as the third greatest Judd Apatow movie ever, ahead of films like Superbad and Knocked Up). Amy Schumer is brilliant and funny, as is her co-star, Bill Hader, and Apatow needs no praising from me. Trainwreck is a movie I was expecting to enjoy.
  • The movie goes on for 122 minutes. After about 90 I started yawning and looking at my watch. My fiancé (god, I hate that word), who I saw the movie with, felt the same way.
  • I have many problems with the film. For one, it’s just not that funny. A few bits made me laugh — that most of them involved LeBron James doesn’t speak well for the movie. In fact, James and the exaggerated version of himself he plays — a sappy, cheap, Dowton Abby-watching LeBron James — provides the movie with its best scenes. The only other memorable ones involve Colin Quinn, who plays Schumer’s cranky and racist dad and is also the one responsible for teaching her that “monogamy isn’t realistic.” The scene where this line is delivered, along with an explanation why which involves comparing marriage to playing with just one doll for your entire life, is the film’s strongest.
  • Other than those, though, nothing hits. There are some decent penis and oral sex jokes and Schumer does a walk-of-shame bit that involves her having to take the ferry home from Staten Island one morning, but there’s nothing original about it. I found the one that Jonah Hill wrote for 22 Jump Street much funnier.

  • Oh yeah, Marv Albert is brought in at one point to help dole out relationship advice. Marv Albert once pleaded guilty to assault and battery for an incident where, among other things, he forced a woman to perform oral sex on him and also bit her in the back. This did not seem to bother Schumer and Apatow.
  • So here’s what Trainwreck is: A 122-minute not-quite-comedy about a woman dealing with the scars that a philandering father left her. Will she figure out that all her sleeping around is really just a defense mechanism and eventually give it a shot with Mr. Right? You know the answer is, Yes, but let’s spend two hours taking you on that journey anyway. It’s okay for movies to have predictable endings — Apatow’s best films, like 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up all do — but if you’re going to follow a common trope you better make that journey an interesting one. That means an interesting and complex and, perhaps most important of all, likable protagonist. Trainwreck does not have one.
  • At no point in the film do I find myself rooting for Schumer’s character. At no point did I find myself feeling sorry for her, either. Schumer, who wrote the film, and Apatow, who directed it, also fail to explain why exactly Bill Hader’s Mr. Perfect would fall for this woman. He tells us he loves her but we never see why. She makes him laugh and is different and had sex with him on their first date. That’s all we know. At no point do we see a deeper side to her. Trainwreck does that move where it has Hader and Schumer both apologize to each other and take responsibility for the relationship initially falling apart. But I don’t remember seeing Hader do anything wrong. The last time I felt this way about a popular character in a popular movie was with Kristiin Wiig in Bridesmaids, another film that makes me feel like Mugatu.

  • Maybe I’m kind of a sexist and don’t realize it and just have a problem with female comedy leads. I don’t know. But whether it’s Seth Rogan in Knocked Up or Steve Carrell in 40 Year old Virgin, Apatow’s best movies involve protagonist who I feel empathy for. His worst, like Funny People, usually feature narcissistic wimp who spends most of the film complaining and blaming everyone else. Trainwreck falls into that second category. I was expecting it to be something else.

Me, my Dad and the Dead

6 Jul


White people were everywhere dancing without shame. There were dudes with dreadlocks and armpit hair showing. Some of the dudes with dreadlocks and armpit hair showing weren’t actually dudes. In front of me sat an older man in a white linen suit with fancy black leather shoes and a white hat. To his right sat a man who looked like the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. Smoke was everywhere. Within an hour the open-aired stadium of Solider Field no longer felt open-aired.

My dad is a huge Grateful Dead fan. He’s now seen them around 30 times, he says. I am not a huge Grateful Dead fan. Call me crazy but I prefer my music have lyrics. Bruce Springsteen. John Fogerty. Backstreet Boys. This was my first ever Dead show. I saw Furthur play once, about two years ago. Walking out of Barclays Center that night I figured that would be my last time ever seeing a Grateful Dead-type band live.

Then the announcement came. This summer the Dead would be going on tour for the last time. Two shows in California, three over July 4 Weekend in Chicago. My brother and I decided a ticket would make a perfect 62nd birthday present for my dad. This was a man who had a ticket for Woodstock but had to stay home because he needed surgery on his rear end (story for another time). A couple of seats to the Grateful Dead’s final show seemed like the least we could do. When my brother realized that the concert was the day before his wife’s birthday and that we wouldn’t get back to New York until Monday night, possibly Tuesday, the second ticket became mine (talk about misguided priorities). I may not love the Dead, but I wasn’t going to turn down an opportunity to witness history — and to see firsthand what the ’60s were like, you know, if you take away all the black people and racism and confederate flags.

We arrived in Chicago Sunday morning. By about 4 p.m. we were making our way towards the stadium. Someone offered me a ‘shrooms-for-weed trade. I told him no unless he was willing to throw in a future first round pick and cash considerations. He rejected my counter offer. We went our separate ways.

The scene was something to behold. There were men and women and some who could have been either. The ages ranged from 20-70. Fans asking for tickets were everywhere. The Geico caveman played a banjo. Some entrepreneurs had laid out dozens of pipes; the lawn was their store window. Dead posters and shirts were being sold on the grass along the walkway. I bought a tie-die one, took off my black V-neck and put it on. My assimilation had begun.

Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 4.11.42 PM

All this I expected. I’ve seen the videos and pictures from Dead shows in the ’60s, and while I poke fun, I also admire and respect these fans. Tripping out on acid and going without a shower for a week might not be my thing, but if that’s how someone else wants to prepare for a concert, well, power to them. I wish I was one of those people who could sleep in a tent at festival like Bonnaroo and have the time of my life. Alas, I’m a bit OCD, hate being dirty, and the only drugs I take are prescription and come via my shrink. I don’t think Bonnaroo is the place for me.

Eventually my dad and I made it to our seats. To our left was an attractive 30-year-old woman with dark black hair and ocean-colored eyes. She told my dad that he’s her hero for seeing the Dead live so many times. I think he liked that.

“I just feel at home and comfortable here,” she said, gesturing at the fans slowly filling up the seats and floor at Solider Field. She said one of her life regrets was that she never got to see Jerry Garcia play. “My mom never let me go to [Dead] shows. ‘There’s drugs there,’ she’d say. I’d be like, ‘There are drugs in my room.'”

At about 7:30 the Dead came out. Everyone had a blunt in their hand. The music started. I’ve been hearing the Dead around the house since I was a child and so by now I recognize some of the band’s sonsg. Occasionally I’ll turn to the Dead channel on Sirius or play an album on Spotify. Good writing music. But this song I didn’t know.

China Cat Sunflower,” my dad said. During the elongated instrumental part he told me they often go right into I know you Rider next. He was right.

Little by little I felt my hips getting looser, my feet tapping more and more. The first set lasted about an hour; by the end of it I was dancing like everyone else — except the bare-chested guy down on the floor who was twirling in continuous circles like an airplane. The cool thing about the Dead, and something I had not previously considered: Because they’re a jam band you don’t need to know their music in order to enjoy a show. I love the guitar. The Dead use the guitar a lot. Works for me.

During intermission the women on my right began talking to me. She had tattoos on her chest and shoulders and wore some sort of star-type contraption on her head. She was there with her husband. He was donning a princess crown. They had met at the University of Kentucky 15 years ago and bonded over music. They were in Chicago for the weekend. She thought it was “awesome” that I was there with my dad for his birthday, though only after having it clarified for her that my dad was, actually, my dad. A similar thing had happened earlier in the evening. While waiting on line at the grilled cheese a tall genial man asked me why “my buddy wasn’t very talkative.” He was talking about my father, who’s about 132 years older than me. I guess at a Dead show you never assume how two people might be related.

“Sunday night is usually the mellow show so we decided not to do drugs tonight,” the woman on my right said. She then took a puff from her futuristic looking pipe. An hour into the second set she gave my right arm a tug and pulled me out of my chair. Apparently I wasn’t standing up frequently enough, though, in my defense, a 12-minute drum solo is a lot to get through. Guitars — good! Drums — good, too…as background.

At 11:30 the show began winding down. Guitarist Bob Weir took the lead on Not Fade Away. It was beautiful and moving. My dad and his friend later told me that Weir’s not always the best singer. But on this night his voice was angelic. In his flip-flops and cargo shorts and baggy solid T-shirt he also looked like a suburban dad manning the grill.

“You know my love not fade away,” goes the chorus. The message was clear. People everywhere were crying. My instinct was to poke fun, but I couldn’t. I understood. Spirituality can be found in many different places. For years millions of people have been finding theirs in the music of the Grateful Dead. I think my dad’s one of them. Laughing at that would be a silly thing to do. Who am I to judge something that makes so many people so happy? It certainly made my dad happy, and now I have a great picture (the one above) to remember the night. I think I’m going to frame it and hang it above my desk, maybe put the ticket stub in there too.

“The feeling we have here — remember it, take it home and do some good with it,” drummer Mickey Hart said to the crowd towards the end of the show. “I’ll leave you with this: Please, be kind.”

We filed out of the stadium around midnight and made the long trek out of Solider Field towards Michigan avenue. People everywhere were still singing “You know my love not fade away.” Balloons were being inflated and handed out. Helium hits for everyone. By this point most of the tears were gone.

I Need a New Father

25 Mar


I’m 26 and so I’m pretty sure I’m too old to be adopted, but I don’t care. I need a new father. Even if it’s just a nominal title that someone assumes.

The reason is simple: I don’t think my father is a sane man. Sorry, Abba, but someone has to say it.

This epiphany came to me earlier this week. It was Sunday night and I had just gotten home from a wedding. I left early, meaning I got no dessert. I love dessert. Missing it is not something I enjoy, or do very often. Making this even more painful was the site of a table full of those clear plastic wraps that go around warm cookies right outside the wedding hall’s ballroom that you take on your way home. My problem, though, was that I left before the cookies were put into the bags, which is pretty much the equivalent of seeing a turkey in the oven on Thanksgiving day but then leaving before it’s brought out.

This, as you can imagine, led to a crazy craving. I told this to my dad when I got home that night.

“I don’t really like warm chocolate chip cookies,” he said.

After that he informed me that he also hated puppies, America, Rock and Roll, football, cold beer on a warm summer night, sunshine, Batman, the Fast and the Furious movies, Pat Sajak, ice cream, comfortable beds and Disney World.

OK, none of that really happened. But the part about warm chocolate chip cookies did. I had to know more. How could someone not love something so savory and delicious?

“They’re too rich for me,” he said. ” They make me nauseous sometimes.”

Upon realizing that additional questioning would only further shatter the positive image that I had of my father, I decided to cease with the follow-ups. Enough damage had been done. The man who taught me how to throw a baseball, and how to drive, and how to complain about New York sports team, was no longer a man I could look up to or respect, which is why I need a new father. Anyone up for the gig?

Seriously, though: what kind of man doesn’t like warm chocolate chip cookies?! How is that even possible?

Wraps are a Scam

4 Mar

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Was getting a sandwich the other day and couldn’t decide what kind of bread to get it on. If I was purely going by taste, I’d go club or hero every time. To me, the more bread in a sandwich, the more sandwichy the sandwich, the better the sandwich. But, alas, I no longer posses the metabolism of a 17-year-old. Also, if I make it to the gym more than once in a week I consider that a success.

All this is a roundabout way of saying that taste is no longer all I care about when selecting what to eat.

I approached the counter and told them I wanted tuna on a whole wheat wrap. Lots of veggies. Lettuce, cucumbers, onions, pickles and sweet peppers (try adding them next time. They’re fantastic and bring a different flavor to the whole thing). I then patted myself on the back — metaphorically, of course — for going with the healthy, lighter option and resisting the urge to get hero bread. For sandwich lovers like me, that’s a tough feat to pull off, and one that deserves praise.

And then I glanced up at the board that listed how many calories each type of bread had. A whole wheat hero, it said, had 310 calories. Damn, I thought, that’s a lot of calories. Aren’t I glad that I showed some self control and went with the healthier option.

Curious as to how many calories I had saved by being awesome and healthy and going with a wrap, I continued to look at the board.

A whole wheat wrap, it said, was…

280 calories.

30 calories less than a hero. I had sacrificed the taste of my sandwich for an amount of calories that I could burn in one trip to the bathroom.

How is this even possible? How can a something as thin and flimsy as a wrap be similar from a calorie perspective to something as big and fluffy as a hero? Science is not exactly my thing, but I don’t really get how that happens. What am I missing? And why have I been told that wraps are healthy? What a load of crap. I don’t know who’s at fault here — the Whole Foods Crowd? Hipsters? Dr. Oz? Big Wrap? All of the above? But someone is peddling some B.S.

Oh, and next time I’m getting the biggest sandwich I possibly can.


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