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Archive for June, 2009|Monthly archive page

Confed Cup Final: Brazil 4…er 3, US 2

In Uncategorized on June 29, 2009 at 5:39 pm
Even Nike can't help US soccer at this point

Even Nike can't help US soccer at this point

With yet another chance to put soccer over in America and back up years of “No, really, soccer is really cool and fun to watch!” talk, the US Soccer team blew a 2-0 first half advantage to Brazil on Sunday in the Confederation Cup finals and in doing so, wiped itself – and soccer – off the front page of the American consciousness.

For a minute there at the end of the first half, I really thought soccer might finally explode on the scene, the way it certainly has in what seems like every other country in the world. I mean, even I – a devoted soccer naysayer – was watching this Final. After the huge win over Spain, soccer was on the verge of becoming something people talked about around the water cooler in offices across the country. I thought, “Hey, if the US can hold on to this lead and beat the Brazilian Giants, then maybe soccer really will break through.” But alas, it was not to be. The US lost and in the process set soccer in this country back another couple of years.

I’ve thought a lot about why Americans don’t really like soccer. I mean, for a country where every little kid grows up playing Kinderkick, America is shockingly bereft of passionate soccer fans. I’ve heard the arguments that soccer doesn’t have enough scoring, that it’s not physical enough, and that it’s – well, a little boring. But at the end of the day, I really think it comes down to this:

America is a country of Best.

We like the best food, the best music, the best movies, the best athletes. And unfortunately, at this point in time, America cannot offer the best soccer in the world. The MLS is an inferior league with inferior players. Period. Until the US can claim a legitimate bankable soccer star – a player of true greatness – the sport will remain on the American periphery. This is the same reason no one watches the WNBA, and it’s the fundamental flaw which dooms each new football league (see: the XFL, Arena Football, the upcoming and sure-to-fail United Football League) that seems to spring up every few years or so. Americans only want to watch the best athletes in the world compete, regardless of the sport, and if a certain league can’t produce that, it might as well close its doors.

American soccer needs a native superstar – and I’m not talking about Landon Donovan – and a truly competitive team to put it over the top. Seems like an easy enough thing to solve, right? America is chock-full of tremendous athletes. It’s only logical to think that at some point one of them will choose to play soccer.

But it’s not as simple as that.

Soccer in this country is a niche sport. It always has been. The US was late to the soccer party, and we have yet to catch up to the rest of the world. There’s no money in the game here, thus there’s no reason for Jimmy Athlete to lend his skills to soccer instead of, say, basketball or football, where there are gobs of profits just waiting to be made. You’re not going to become rich or famous as a soccer star in the current American sports climate – it’s just not going to happen. So the other major sports siphon off all the best athletes, leaving soccer to scrape the blue chip dredges, the leftovers who couldn’t hack it on the football field or the basketball court.

But it’s not like we don’t have the athletes.

America isn’t genetically soccer-deficient, foot-challenged or something. It’s just that the LeBron’s and the Jeter’s and the Moss’s follow the money and the fame elsewhere, abandoning soccer for sports that offer some semblence of, you know, a future. At its core, our soccer inferiority is a money issue. Flood the MLS with dollars and you’d see a soccer surge, I guarantee it. But until something is done financially – until it becomes profitable, and thus worthwhile, and thus cool to play soccer – the sport will remain on the backburner in America.

Until then, I can tell you one thing for sure – Pele is not walking through that door.

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Thriller: The Greatest Music Video of All Time

In Uncategorized on June 28, 2009 at 9:09 pm

“Smooth Criminal” Live in Denmark, 1997

In Uncategorized on June 28, 2009 at 8:57 pm

MJ’s Halftime Performance at Super Bowl XXVII (’93)

In Uncategorized on June 27, 2009 at 7:19 pm

MJ at the 1995 MTV VMA’s

In Uncategorized on June 27, 2009 at 7:13 pm

MJ Tribute Weekend Starts….Now

In Uncategorized on June 27, 2009 at 12:09 am

Throughout the weekend, Game Six will be honoring the King with a classic lineup of MJ video clips, featuring the very best of his meteoric career. Say what you want about the guy, but one thing’s for sure – he’s in Cooperstown. In fact, MJ very well might go down as the greatest of all time.

What better way to kick this off than with the performance that started it all – MJ singing Billie Jean at the Motown 25th Anniversary show in 1983. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the first ever appearance of the moonwalk. Enjoy.

Beat it, Haters

In Uncategorized on June 26, 2009 at 5:16 pm

I am a Michael Jackson fan. Always have been. I’m not the least bit ashamed to admit that, and I shouldn’t have to be.

He was a brilliant talent, a shooting star of epic highs and terrifying lows, and now he’s gone.

His death is only the second celebrity death of my lifetime – Princess Di being the other – where I will forever remember exactly where I was when I heard the news.

I was sitting down at my gym cafe, in fact, when I saw that Michael Jackson had died. In front of me were 3 flat screen TV’s, each showing a different station. The MJ news was on all of them. I was surrounded by ten or fifteen people, all uttering variations on the same theme: No way! I can’t believe it.

Michael Jackson is dead?

The reason for the disbelief is obvious – Michael Jackson was a significant part of our cultural fabric. He was bigger than life – a star the likes of which we’ll never seen again, anywhere. When someone like that suddenly disappears, it’s surreal; it’s as if a giant hole has been blown right through the American landscape, leaving a flapping, empty void. We’re talking about a guy who put MTV – MTV! – on the map, a guy who defined popular culture for close to four decades, a guy who made it possible for black entertainers to enjoy crossover success in a white world.

Sure, in his later years Jackson was a complete freak show, a circus act borne out of childhood abuse and the isolation of immense fame. But there are countless famous freaks in the world and when they die, they’re not going to receive the MJ treatment. They just won’t. We won’t see anything like this again for a long, long time. Why, you ask? I’ll tell you:

Because Michael Jackson was the single greatest entertainer of all time. Period.

People can argue all they want about Elvis, or Sinatra, or John Lennon, but it’s useless. MJ trumped them all. He was, before his tragic psychological decline, the most famous person in the entire world. His live concerts were a marathon of screams and fainting seldom seen since the Beatles’ European Invasion. His albums are absolute classics, Thriller maybe the greatest of all time. He influenced every single major popular music artist that came after him – Justin Timberlake, Usher, Chris Brown, Britney Spears, Beyonce, Kanye West – none of them would exist today in the same way if Michael Jackson had never made Off The Wall, Thriller, and Bad. Michael Jackson was, inarguably, the defining musical talent of the 80’s generation.

I should know – I grew up listening to his music. “Beat It” was the first song I remember loving. When it would come on the radio, I’d run to my stereo, cassette tape in hand, ready to record. His songs were innovative, they were genre-bending, and they were brilliant. And they are equaled in force only, really, by his dancing. Jackson’s dancing was otherworldly, his feet a blur of activity, impossibly smooth and quick. I used to practice his moves in the mirror, trying endlessly to master the moonwalk. I tried dress shoes, socks, bare feet – nothing worked. To this day, if someone guaranteed that he could teach me the moonwalk, I would gladly hand over a considerable check. Who wouldn’t? It’s only the coolest move ever.

My childhood is dotted with MJ moments. I distinctly remember watching his halftime performance at the 1993 Superbowl. It was an infinitely bigger deal than the game, even at the time. I remember his performance at the MTV video music awards in 1995 when Slash came out and shredded the “Beat It” guitar solo. And I remember wondering later, when the child molestation accusations emerged and MJ was thrown into a very different spotlight, what it all meant and why this huge star that I watched and listened to would do such horrible things.

And, at the end of the day, MJ never really did escape the scandal that trailed his every move and sullied his reputation. He was the Barry Bonds of child molestation – never proven guilty, but as far as the public was concerned it didn’t matter. So I’m not going to sit here and pretend to be all broken up about his death. I didn’t know the man, no one did – not even his family. Frankly, by the end even I – huge fan that I am – couldn’t ignore his overwhelming weirdness and the mounting criminal evidence against him.

But I’ll mourn his music, and I won’t apologize for it.

Michael Jackson’s death jolted me – it felt like the door swinging shut on an era. And I think it’s the fallout from that jolt that we’re all seeing today. His death and the coverage that followed is, at its essence, an epic manifestation of America’s disturbing fascination with celebrity. Jackson, at his peak and during his decline, represented both the best and worst of what we have to offer here in this country. Now he’s gone, and his level of superstardom won’t be attained again.

Michael Jackson was, really, the last true legend we had. There will never be anyone else like him. For that, and for all the music we’ll never get to hear, I’ll miss him.

Throwback Thursday: The Jerky Boys

In Uncategorized on June 25, 2009 at 4:55 pm
Back in the 90's, there was nothing funnier than Sol Rosenberg

Stop yelling at me!

Today’s edition of Throwback Thursday features one of my all-time favorites from back in the day – the Jerky Boys.

The original – and still funniest – prank callers, the Jerky Boys were the best thing going at their peak in the 90’s. To this day, nothing gets me laughing harder than a good dose of Sol Rosenberg. If you’ve heard them before, you know what I mean. If not, head on over to YouTube and check ’em out.

Guaranteed to make your day, or your next month of Game Six is free.

Clear the Mechanism

In Uncategorized on June 25, 2009 at 4:43 pm
John Smoltz will finally pull on a Red Sox jersey tonight

John Smoltz will finally pull on a Red Sox jersey tonight

42 year-old John Smoltz will bring 210 wins, 154 saves, 3,011 strikeouts and a career 3.26 ERA to the mound with him tonight when he makes his Red Sox debut against the Washington Nationals.

Every single thing you need to know about John Smoltz can be found in those numbers I just listed above. Yeah, the age is a bit of a red flag. 42 is pretty old, but look at those other numbers. Throw in 8 all-star selections and a Cy Young and the picture that emerges is that of a guy with his ticket punched for Cooperstown. Smoltzie’s legacy is intact and what he does here in Boston can only add to it.

Regardless, the fact is this: Smoltz has succeeded at everything he’s done in a major league baseball uniform. He’s been a 20 game winner, a 50-save guy; a power pitcher, a knuckleballer; a young fireballer, and a graying, middle-aged Billy Chapel looking for one last shot. I, for one, am damn glad the Red Sox gave it to him (and the Braves should be ashamed that they didn’t).

There is no reason whatsoever to believe that Smoltz won’t succeed now as a member of the Sox. His 20 years with the Braves are that impressive. He’s just too good to fail. I don’t care if he is 42 years old. With Daisuke Matsuzaka on the DL after pitching himself out of the rotation, the time is now to see what Smoltz still has left in that golden arm.

(Hell, even if Smoltz does flame out in Boston, the guy’s a scratch golfer with a legitimate shot at qualifying for the Senior PGA Tour. Not a bad backup plan.)

Shaq to Cleveland: Does it Matter?

In Uncategorized on June 25, 2009 at 4:01 pm
Shaq and LeBron will team up in Cleveland next year

Shaq and LeBron will team up in Cleveland next year

ESPN.com is reporting that the the Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns have agreed to a deal that will send Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic, plus the 46th pick in this year’s draft and $500,000 to Phoenix for Shaquille O’Neal, providing a dominant inside presence for the reigning MVP, LeBron James.

Shaq and LeBron? Whoa.

On paper, this trade is a blockbuster, an absolute game-changer. On paper, Shaq gives LeBron the force down low he has been sorely lacking thus far in his title quest. On paper, the Cleveland Cavaliers just won the 2010 NBA Championship.

But in reality, what does this deal really mean for a team and a city desperately trying to hold on to soon-to-be free agent James, their homegrown franchise face and future Hall of Famer?

It means…well, nothing, at least in the long run as far as I’m concerned. Sure, it’s a huge deal, one that – if O’Neal stays healthy and rested during the regular season – can potentially carry the 2010 Cavs team deep into the postseason, maybe even to a championship. But even if Shaq can somehow manage to get in shape, regain his former dominance, and help lead the Cavs to a title – and that’s a HUGE if – what happens after the season? In the summer of 2010, regardless of what happens during the season, both Shaq and LeBron will be free agents. Say the Cavs win the title – Do Shaq and LeBron reunite for another run at a ring in 2011? Or is it more likely that Shaq, wanting to retire on top, calls it a career and leaves LeBron to shoulder the burden of a woefully weak Cavs team?

Doesn’t it sort of feel like this trade is a little…well, desperate?

I mean, the Cavs just traded for a 37 year old overweight Big Name well past his prime. Sure, the argument can be made that Shaq gives them a shot at the title this year (true) and that when his contract expires next year, the Cavs will free up a lot of money to sign LeBron and go after another big free agent (Chris Bosh?) in a loaded FA class (also true). But, at the same time – the Cavs have had 6 years now during which to build a solid team around LBJ and, before today, the second best young player on the team was….Mo Williams. That kind of growth doesn’t exactly inspire confidence and it won’t go a long way towards ensuring that LeBron stays in Cleveland after next year.

Neither will this trade. What the Shaq deal does do, however, is 2 things: It makes the Cavs an exciting team to watch next year and it serves as a “Look how hard we’re trying!” gesture for LeBron. But when the final NBA whistle is blown next June, Shaq will be gone and LeBron is still going to be forced to choose between the loyalty of his home town and the bright lights of a big city.

If I were him, I’d go hang with Jay-Z. But that’s just me.