Archive | January, 2014

Super Bowl Boulevard

30 Jan

Super Bowl XLVIII - Preview

Time to pimp some more of my work. I spent Wednesday walking around Super Bowl Boulevard and freezing my ass off. Here’s what I wrote about the experience, and here are some of my favorite pictures from the day. Hope you enjoy.

Zane Beadles and Interviews

26 Jan

AFC Championship - New England Patriots v Denver Broncos

Last week I spoke to Broncos starting left guard Zane Beadles for TDdaily. The Q+A went up on Friday so, if you get a minute, go check it out.

Usually I feel pretty confident in my interviews and the questions I ask subjects. I try to stay away from cliches and have fun with them. This time, though, I’m not so sure. On the one hand, I would love to have just talked football with Beadles, and about the Seahawks and on the field stuff. The problem—which you’ll be able to see by reading his answer to the first question I asked him—is that Beadles clearly had no interest in discussing anything real about the Seahawks. The answer I got was one that it sounded like he’s used every week this season.

Then again, that’s also where it’s on me to figure out a way to break down that wall. Instead of going for it, though, I decided to pivot and ask him more light-hearted questions. Normally, I prefer this strategy, but this time, with the Super Bowl coming up, well, not so sure I made the right call.

Anyway, just some rambling. What’s done is done–and Beadles was a cool guy and gave me some good stuff, so I hope you enjoy.

Long Movies and Bathroom Breaks

24 Jan


As I wrote yesterday, I saw American Hustle on Wednesday night, a movie that is OK but also wayyyyy to long. This, unnecessarily long movies, is something that drives me crazy. How am I supposed to enjoy a movie when I spend the last hour of it desperately trying to hold off on a bathroom trip? It just doesn’t make sense.

Think about this: how many leisure activities force you to partake in the “fun/relaxing” activity while having to go to the bathroom? Off the top of my head I can’t think of anything. Sports games have TV timeouts and halftimes. When you watch shows you can click pause. Bars have bathrooms, though some might make you pass on taking care of your business but that’s a whole separate discussion. I guess skiing and ice skating, things that I haven’t done in years, are “fun” activities that might tempt you to postpone a bathroom trip, thus making you partake in the “fun” while having to go to the bathroom, but the difference is you’re not missing anything crucial by taking a time out. In a movie you might. The only event I’ve ever been to where I felt a comparable feeling is a Bruce Springsteen concert. There, though, I just waited for Jack of All Trades.

Of course, this problem doesn’t apply when watching a movie at home. There, give me as many hours of plot as you want. As long as it’s good stuff, and I have the ability to click pause on a remote, I really don’t care how long the movie is. Movies in theaters, however, should be always kept under two hours, unless America adopts a practice that I know is used in Israel, and maybe is one you can find in other places around the world.

Intermission. That’s right, at one point, about midway through the movie, the screen goes dark, the lights go on, and everyone goes sprinting for the bathroom. Except for those people who go out for a quick smoking break, which I’m pretty sure is why Israel, a country not exactly lacking in chain smokers, has this rule. We get intermission on Broadway and at most concerts. Why not in movies? The only issue might be where to pause the movie, a decision which, yes, could hurt the film’s flow, but that’s a tradeoff I’m willing to make. Because I’m sick of paying $14.00 (Manhattan is crazy) to spend 90 minutes watching a movie, and then another 60 holding in a piss.

American Hustle

23 Jan

Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 9.15.01 AM

I’m a few weeks late, but I saw American Hustle last night and thought I’d share some quick thoughts because in our hearts, we’re all movie critics. In fact, I imagine being a movie, excuse me, a film critic, is one of those jobs where, even though you are an “expert,” no one treats you like one and everyone assumes they know just as much as you. Probably gets frustrating. Anyway, I digress. Here’s my “review”:

  • I’m sure I’m not the first one to make this joke, but Amy Adams’ boobs—specifically, the inner sides—deserve their own credit line (is that the proper phrase?) and probably a Best Supporting Actress nomination, too. The rest of Adams was also really good, and also looked great. And this is coming from someone who is not a huge Amy Adams fan, I think mostly because of Trouble with the Curve, a huge pile of dung that might infuriate me more than any other movie.
  • Jeremy Renner—not really sure what to make of him. He’s always good, or good enough, and this Esquire story about Renner’s work as a contractor makes me like him even more. That being said, he is not a Movie Star, which is something I’m pretty sure many people thought he might become after The Hurt Locker. He just doesn’t do it for me.
  • The movie was good. Not great. Not very good. Not bad. Just good. It could have been better, perhaps if it were an hour shorter and also if I were able to have any clue what the hell was going on. I still don’t understand what the con was that Christian Bale and Amy Adams were originally running. All I picked up was that guys with financial issues would come in, give Christian Bale $5,000 with the expectation that they’d be getting $50,000 from Bale in the future. Why—I have no idea. Same goes for how Bale was able to make these deals and never fulfill his end. Maybe this is the result of my 3rd grade understanding of the financial world, but I just didn’t get. Also, how did Bale get (SPOILER ALERT) Big Mob Boss Robert De Niro to leave him alone? He gave him the $2 million they stole? But I thought that $2 million was used to get the government to give Mayor Jeremy Renner a shorter sentence. Like I said, very confusing.
  • I’m not a movie buff—I love them, but it’s not like I know every director’s filmography— but I read a couple reviews on American Hustle and apparently the film’s director, David O. Russell, has a problem telling stories when they involve convoluted plots. I see the point. Take, for example, Silver Lining’s Playbook, an excellent movie that Russell made last year. In Silver Lining’s Playbook, the world is a small one—and the story that Russell seems to want to tell is one that can be told in this small world, and mainly through the movie’s two main characters, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence.  American Hustle, on the other hand, is a movie that takes place in huge world with tons of important characters, all dealing with different issues in different ways. I guess you could say the overriding theme of the movie is “conning,” or “identity,” but there’s just too much going on to even think about this stuff. In Silver Lining’s Playbook, all you’re doing as a viewer is thinking about the characters and how you may relate to them. In American Hustle you’re just trying to follow the crazy plot.
  • All that being said, I’m a sucker for crazy plots and films taken from FBI and CIA files. Like Argo. This is far from Argo, but it’s also a fun movie, that, once the plot starts rolling, you begin to enjoy. If I had to give a letter grade, I’d say a solid B, which is much better than a shaky B. Also, did I mention Amy Adams’ boobs?

Viacheslav Kravtsov

15 Jan

Note: I wrote this Monday night after attending the Knicks-Suns game at the Garden, but, as these things sometimes go, the story fell through some cracks and never made it online. It’s a quick piece of Viacheslav Kravtsov, who Monday night was chosen by the Knicks to replace the ejected Markieff Morris on the foul line (you can see the play in the video above). Apparently, this is the fourth time that an opposing coach has chosen Kravtsov, a player in his second NBA season, in a situation like this. Anyway, I spoke to Kravtsov about this after the game and figured I’d use this space to share what he said. Here’s the story I wrote. 

There might not be a person in the NBA more familiar with this specific rule, and so Viacheslav Kravtsov had a feeling that his name was about to be called.

There was 9:07 remaining in the second quarter and the Suns trailed the Knicks 34-21. Phoenix forward Markieff Morris had just been fouled near the basket by JR Smith and was headed to the line for two shots. Or he was supposed to be.

Instead, Morris decided to retaliate by shoving Smith in the chest, a blow seen by the refs. The whistle blew and a technical foul was called. It was Morris’ second of the game, triggering an automatic ejection and leaving, as stated in NBA rule No. 9 Section II, the choice as to who would shoot the two foul shots for the Suns up to Knicks head coach Mike Woodson. The Knicks’ coach smiled, licked his lips, checked with his assistants and then made his choice.

“I’m one of the bench guys,” Kravtsov would say from Madison Square Garden’s visitor’s locker room Monday night following Phoenix’s 98-96 overtime loss to the Knicks. “So it was a high percentage that he (Woodson) was going to choose me.

“Also, it’s the fourth time this has happened to me so I was kind of expecting it. I’m an expert at it now.”

Kravtsov’s first experience with this seldom-applied rule came last year, his first in the NBA. It was late December and the Pistons, who had signed the 6-11 Ukrainian that off-season, were playing the Wizards. Detroit guard Rodney Stuckey drove left towards the baseline, got to the basket, took off towards the rim and was then smacked in the face. He was injured and unable to go to the line, handing Wizards head coach Randy Whitman the same choice that Mike Woodson was given on Monday night. Like Woodson, Whitman wanted Viacheslav Kravtsov, then a rookie who had yet to appear in an NBA game, to take the foul shots.

After spending 28 games watching from the bench, Kravtsov’s NBA debut had finally come—because an opposing coach had decided to sub him in.

“Guys on the bench were yelling, ‘Hey Slava, be ready,’ and I was very confused,” recalled Kravtsov. “In Europe, we don’t have this rule. So I’m just sitting there on the bench and then I hear my name called.”

Kravtsov would go on to make one of two. He would finish the season, though, as a 30 percent foul shooter, hitting just 11 of his 37 attempts. Twice more he would be called upon by opposing coaches to take foul shots for injured or ejected players. Monday night at the Garden, Mike Woodson would become coach No. 4.

“It’s hard, you’re just sitting there, not warming up,” said Kravtsov. “It’s not that it’s so bad, but I’m not so comfortable (doing it).”

Monday night against the Knicks, though, he certainly looked it. Upon being singled out by Woodson, Kravtsov energetically headed towards the scorer’s table, past Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek—who gave him a quick pep talk—and then made his way to the line.

“Go make two of them,” was what Hornacek, a 90 percent foul shooter during his 14-year NBA career, later said he told Kravtsov, adding upon being asked if Kravtsov appeared nervous: “No. Slava is a very good free throw shooter. I think it’s happened before and he’s made them.”

Kravtsov stepped up to the foul line and the Garden crowd, very much enjoying the moment, roared. He fielded the pass from the official, took a breath and let the first shot go. It bounced around the rim and in. The second attempt was too strong. On the next dead ball, Hornacek subbed Channing Fyre in for Kravtsov, who jogged off the court to a standing ovation from the Garden crowd. On the bench, his teammates gave him hero’s welcome. It was not the first time in his NBA career that Kravtsov received one for splitting a pair of foul shots.

Concussions, and Why Football Players Are Insane

7 Jan

The alarm goes off. You roll over—you always sleep on your back—to check the time on the alarm clock sitting on top the night table to your right. This seems like a fairly silly thing to do given that you set the alarm the night before to go off at the time it just did—7:30 am—but you do it anyway. You then lie in bed for a minute, half-asleep, half-awake, preparing your mind and body for the arduous task of pulling the blankets off your limbs and rising out of bed. Before this, though, little by little, you slowly regain consciousness, thoughts, feeling, memories.

Today, you say to yourself, is going to be the day. Today, you say to yourself, there will be no headaches. 

It’s been like this for the past 18 months. Every day, a mixture of headaches that, like snowflakes as the saying goes, are never alike. Sometimes it’s a throbbing in the forehead so bad that no amount of Advil can help. Sometimes it feels like someone with the Rock’s strength is using both his pointers to squeeze each of your temples as hard as he can. Sometimes it’s a numbness in the head. Occasionally you get dizzy and lightheaded. Nauseous, too. It’s like you’re suffering from all the side effects that those TV commercials for “enhancement” pills warn you about. But at least in those cases these symptoms come—hopefully—along with some pleasure. In this instance, not so much.

For the first six months, you were extremely sensitive to light. You couldn’t read or watch TV or look at a computer screen for extended periods of time. When you did it felt like there was pressure building up in your head. Sort of like being on an airplane, except  worse. Quickly averting your eyes became something your brain forced you to do. It provided a relief, like pausing for a minute in the middle of a five-mile run.

Everyone would always tell you to remain positive, to keep your head up. What most didn’t realize is that getting out of bed in the morning was actually the most optimistic thing you could do. Because if you woke up and immediately felt the way you often would an hour later, after the brain had some time to start working, and, subsequently, tire, you would never have gotten out of bed.

It happened while playing basketball. The guy I was guarding drove to his right. The bottom of my chin took an upper cut from his left shoulder. Not the softest of hits, but not the most violent strike you’ve ever seen on the hardwood, either. Watch any game of basketball and you’ll see this happen to defenders multiple times. For some random reason, though—and here’s the crazy thing about concussions: we don’t know shit about them so why mine was “worse” no one can say—this specific blow happened to have a major impact on my brain. It has changed my life and lifestyle. I still get headaches. Not as bad as I used to but I still make sure to bring Advil with me anywhere I go, and I still ingest more of it in one month than most people do in a year. Now my doctors think that the concussion may have unlocked a sort of migraine syndrome in my head. I’m taking medication for that now, too. All this because of one errant shoulder.

I bring this up because I’ve been reading about Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker, who missed the final three games of the regular season after suffering a concussion for the third time of his career—at least that’s the official number; he’s probably suffered at least twice that many, if not more—and yet is still going to play this week against the Chargers. This coming after three Kansas City Chiefs players were forced out of their Wild Card game Saturday night due to concussions. I have no doubt that, if left up to them, every single one of those players would have chosen to step back onto the field.

And every single one of them is out of their effing minds.

My concussion was a one-time occurrence, and it happened while playing basketball and on an inadvertent hit. These guys have all, most likely, been concussed multiple times, and all play a sport where the object is to knock another guy to the ground. There is no chance that Wes Welker’s brain is not reacting to the violent blows that have caused his multiple concussions in a worse way than mine did to the benign shot that shook me. And yet, come Sunday night, Welker will be on the field, sprinting over the middle of the field, shifting around in an effort to avoid getting viciously knocked off his feet. It’s a task he won’t succeed in. Most likely Welker will wind up with having his “bell rung”—a horrible euphemism meant to cover up the true damage that such hits have on the brain—at least once, if not more, and most likely, we won’t hear a word about it.

I hope that I’m wrong about what I assume to be the mental and physical troubles that football players are forced to deal with every day, but I doubt I am. I love football and the NFL, but sometimes, you can’t help but question all of it. Of course, not enough to keep me from being glued to the TV this weekend. Maybe I’m as much to blame as anyone. I don’t know.