Tuesday, December 31, 2002
However, both series had their flaws. "March Madness" had the great graphics and gameplay, but only selected teams. "Final Four" had almost every Division I team with accurate rosters, but the gameplay was weak and the graphics were horrendous.
Now, there's a third entry in the field, and Sega Sports' "NCAA 2K3" is already the top player.
This really isn't surprising, given that NCAA 2K3 is built on the NBA 2K series engine, and uses the same gameplay functions and graphics. Yes, "March Madness" is still a little better in this regard, but 2K3 is close, and might even be better when the AI is cranked up to a more difficult mode.
The only gameplay annoyances are that it seems to be too easy to steal the ball and when you drive to the hoop, to often your player pulls up for a short jumper rather than taking a lay-up.
As for depth of the game, 2K3 is unchallenged. While Final Four may still have more teams, 2K3's rosters are more accurate. A sampling of teams found that UConn and Arizona had exact matching rosters, while North Carolina was one player off. Even my alma mater, Towson, was close, missing two late signing freshmen while failing to eliminate two transfers.
And thanks to the game's detailed "create player" mode, you can fix these mistakes easily, before ever starting a season.
I haven't gotten through a full season in dynasty mode, but the schedules are accurate and the statistics from computer played games match the stats in user games fairly well.
This year's crop of college basketball games is the first to support online play, but it's still inconsistent.
Playing online with NCAA 2K3, I experienced an unusual number of dropoffs, or more accurately, failure to connect. There were some firewall issues that needed to be worked through, but the documentation was very weak on this. The same setup that worked with Madden 2003 and March Madness 2003 didn't work with NCAA 2K3.
Once I did get through and get a game started, the gameplay was identical to playing an opponent in the same room.
The other big problem was that there are usually very few people online, though that should change as more people buy the game.
NCAA 2K3 isn't a complete product by any means. The steals problem is frustrating and there's no smooth way to enter in player names (the game doesn't support USB keyboards). Still, it's definitely worth of an 8 out of 10.
I agree that Eminem has a good shot at earning an Oscar nomination this year, but it's not for his work playing Jimmy Smith, Jr. in what basically amounted to his life story. His real shot falls with the theme to "8 Mile," "Lose Yourself" which is, in my estimation, the 2002 Song of the Year.
Eminem has had some good songs int he past, and even earned a Record of the Year nomination for "Stan," but nothing had the ultimate crossover appeal of "Lose Yourself," which captured the feelings of a generation.
Just sit back and listen to the lyrics in your head:
His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy / There's vomit on his sweater already, mom's spaghetti / He's nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready / to drops bombs, but he keeps on forgetting / what he wrote down, the whole crowd goes so loud / He opens his mouth but the words won't come out / He's chokin, how? Everybody's jokin now / The clock's run out, time's up, over - BLAOW!The song has the perfect setup for the perfect audience. Everyone, even the most successful people, have had a time when everything was laid out in front of them, but they just couldn't take the first step to taking a chance.
Snap back to reality, OHH - there goes gravity / OHH - there goes Rabbit, he choked / He's so mad, but he won't / Give up that easy nope, he won't have itThere's a reason "Rocky" was one of the most successful sports movies, and movies in general, of all time: Americans love underdogs, and even more, they love underdogs who don't know when they're beat and just won't give up. Remember the scene in "Rocky" where Micky is telling Rocky to stay down, but he gets up and keeps fighting, eventually turning the tide in his favor?
That's what "Lose Yourself" is, in song form.
You better - lose yourself in the music, the moment / You own it, you better never let it go (go) / You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow / This opportunity comes once in a lifetimeBut what makes "Lose Yourself" transcend from just being a good song, a great one, to song of the year? Well, there are a few other contenders. P Diddy and Fabolous were good on "Trade it All (Part II)" and the song made you dance, but it doesn't stand out from other similar songs. Christina Aguilera's "Dirrty" got a lot of pub, but it's already forgotten. Avril Lavigne's duo of "Complicated" and "Sk8er Boi" were the catalyst for a rock revolution, but strip away the guitars and you basically have a teen pop song.
Then there's "Lose Yourself." Everyone can enjoy it. Rock fans like the hardness of it. Rap fans like the quick flowing lyrics. Pop fans like the mainstream themes and the same things they've always liked from Eminem.
Plus, the song has amazing live appeal, can get any crowd fired up, and goes perfectly with sports highlights. "SportsCenter" has used it for year-end packages, and with all the recent NFL nothing-to-champion turnarounds, don't the song's lyrics fit perfectly?
has gotten me to the point, I'm like a snail I've got / to formulate a plot, or end up in jail or shot / Success is my only motherfuckin option, failure's not / Mom I love you but this trailer's got to go / I cannot grow old in Salem's Lot / So here I go it's my shot, feet fail me not / This may be the only opportunity that I gotWhen you put it all together, you get a song that'll be playing all over the place for years to come. And what other song from 2002 can claim that distinction?
Well, another year is gone and I'm not sure what to write. You'd think I'd be more profound, what with my writing background and all, but I don't have much to say.
-I got a new SportsBytes up, as well as the song of the year feature and a review of NCAA 2K3. I'll work on those DVD reviews tomorrow after work. Maybe, if I'm feeling up to it, I'll get one done tonight.
-Adios por ahora y feliz ano nuevo.
Monday, December 30, 2002
A lot of sports outlets are trying to play 2002 off as "The Year of the Underdog." The Patriots started it off with a big upset in the Super Bowl, the Angels overcame years of bad karma in the World Series, and... well, that's about it.
That's right. The big "Year of the Underdogs" had two surprise winners. Oh yeah, and that 46-1 long shot that won the Belmont, and has already been forgotten. Other than that, we saw Tiger Woods win two majors and Ernie Els triumph in another. Rich Beem's PGA win was an upset, but he did win another tournament in 2002.
Oh yeah, as for more non-underdogs, we had the Lakers winning their third straight title, the Detroit Red Wings skated to victory in the NHL, Serena Williams dominated women's tennis, Annika Sorenstam dominated women's golf and Lance Armstrong dominated the Tour de France.
Tony Stewart, a perennial contender, won NASCAR's points title, so he's not an underdog. Maryland, a preseason favorite, won the NCAA men's basketball tournament. The UConn women steamrolled to an undefeated national title. Oh, and I can't forget the Miami Hurricanes, who won the Rose Bowl in January and then went undefeated this year to qualify for its second consecutive title game.
I could go on, and this is a rant, so I should, but I won't. It just seems ridiculous to call 2002 "The Year of the Underdog," when it was just about the opposite.
• With Pat Summerall in semi-retirement, those of us who want to rid the world of over-the-hill announcers are now left to focus on Dick Enberg, who continues to prove his senility on a weekly basis. It's bad enough that Enberg can't get names straight or even do consistent play-by-play, but he never corrects himself. In this week's game, there was an obvious 3rd-and-6 situation, and it might have even been closer to seven yards to go. Enberg said, defiantly "It's not 3rd-and-6, it looks more like a short four." If he can't get things right, and can't trust his spotters, why is he still in the booth?
• Kevin Fraizer, formerly of Fox Sports, now on ESPN, scored major points with me on last night's SportsCenter. Leading into the story about Mike Davis's 1-game suspension, he told a store of his father doing a similar thing while a coach at Morgan State. The reason Fraiser made me happy? He mentioned, on air, MSU's opponent in that game -- Towson. Yes, Fraizer did call the school Towson State, but that's what it was back then. Any Towson mention on SportsCenter is a good thing.
• Of course, if the basketball teams at Towson keep playing as they have been, there won't be many SportsCenter mentions forthcoming.
That said, I'm going to change gears and talk about one of my favorite Towson teams, the gymnastics squad.
Dick Filbert's team had one of its worst seasons ever in 2002, culminating with the suspension of star Jenn Baierlein. However, if Filbert's proven anything in his time at Towson, it's that he knows where to find talent.
There are four freshmen on the Tigers' roster this year, including Liz Rothbard, who comes from the same program as Baierlein, and could put up numbers like Baierlein did in 2000.
Then again, no matter what happens in the season-opening meet, the Tigers will enjoy themselves -- they're going to the Bahamas.
eBay Item of the Week
• A Shaquille O'Neal game-used rookie season jersey. Orlando Magic No. 32 White, size 52+. Current Bid: $1,998. Buy It Now Price: $15,000. Ends Jan. 2, 2003 6:15 a.m. PST.
• With the NFL Playoffs starting, I guess I should make a Super Bowl prediction: OK. Steelers vs. Falcons, Steelers win in double-OT.
Wednesday, December 25, 2002
So I didn't get everything done that I said I would. Are you surprised? I never get website stuff done on time. At least not my website stuff.
-Along those lines, there is a sort-of new issue of SportsPickle.com up. It's a best-of/year-in-review type of thing, and I really think it covers the best stories (especially the Bin Laden fantasy football team).
-I spent some time with Phil today, after hanging out at Dave Moore's apartment last night. Phil and I renewed our long-standing video game rivalry, and I learned something: Michael Vick is the greatest video game player ever. Playing "Madden 2003" against another person, you can just line up in a five-wide formation and send your slot left receiver on an out route. Then run Vick that way, and the DB has to decide -- cover the wideout, or stop Vick. Either way, you get a big play. The amazing thing is that Vick isn't even rated that highly. In Madden 2004, he'll be unstoppable, surpassing Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl.
-In other news, I did managed to finish my review of "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers." Eventually, I'll get around to reviewing "Minority Report" and "Back to the Future" and doing the "Song of the Year" article -- I've got to finish that one before 2003.
-I'll try to have some of that stuff done before the weekend, but I am working from 8-5 the next two days, so I'm sure I'll be tired.
-Adios por ahora and Merry Christmas.
Tuesday, December 24, 2002
After talking with them for some time, Jackson was asked if he'd be willing to undertake the task of instead converting Tolkein's masterpiece trilogy "The Lord of the Rings" into the greatest epic the film world has ever seen.
After the first film, "The Fellowship of the Ring" came out last winter, only one question remained: Could Jackson possibly keep up the momentum, or would the subsequent films collapse under the resounding pressure of mounting expectations?
After seeing "The Two Towers," the difficult middle film, which seemed to be the most likely to drag on screen, the question has been answered and Jackson once again has a resounding success on his hands.
"Towers" surpasses "Fellowship" in almost every category: it's longer (by one minute), louder, darker, and -- most importantly -- more action packed. But in reality, the movie, and what makes it better than the first one, can be summed up in two words: Helm's Deep.
But first, the particulars. "The Two Towers" picks up where "The Fellowship of the Ring" left off. Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) are left to make their way to Mordor and destroy the Ring of Power. Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) have been captured by orcs who are bringing them to Saruman (Christopher Lee) at Isengard. They are tracked by Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom), who hope to save their friends, then defend the world of men.
Frodo and Sam's quest is the meat of the story, but it is not the most intriguing part of "The Two Towers." However, it is their story that brings us Gollum -- the first truly dramatic CGI character. Everything that George Lucas was hoping Jar Jar Binks would be, Gollum is. Most noticibly, he is believable. His skin looks real. His eyes show pain and hope. And his inner conflict is a microcosm of the struggle for Middle Earth.
However, despite his scene stealing and unforgettable qualities, Gollum is not the star of the film. Nor are the Ents, who do make quite an impact in the movie's final moments in addition to saving Merry and Pippin. The true star is Aragorn, who begins to embrace his destiny as a leader of men. He goes through a change in this film, from the leader of a fellowship to a leader of the free world, and Mortensen should probably earn an Oscar nomination for his outstanding work.
Aragorn's transformation comes to a head at Helm's Deep, the fortress of Rohan, where the people of Rohan flee to when Isengard's army of orcs is unleashed. When Théoden, King of Rohan, arms his men, you can feel the tension in the theater build. When Haldir (Craig Parker) shows up with his Elf army, you can hear the music swell and sense the dam of war ready to burst.
Then, when the action begins with a single arrow shot, you get to witness the greatest battle in movie history. The final battle in "Braveheart" was an epic. Pickett's Charge in "Gettysburg" was historic. The Jedi-Droid battle in "Star Wars, Episode II" was an amazing film event fans had been awaiting for years. Yet none of them even come close to Helm's Deep. From Legolas sliding down the staircase on a shield he turns into a projectile weapon, to Gimli and Aragorn guarding the gate and holding the defenses, to the motivational words from Aragorn to Théoden that lead to the final stand, everything in the battle is larger than life.
The battle comes to conclusion with the arrival of Gandalf the White (Ian McKellen) and the Rohirrim (Riders of Rohan) arrive as reinforcements, blinding the orcs in the process and ending any chance the orcs have of completing their mission to destroy Rohan.
Surely there are other special moments in the movie: the first meeting with Treebeard, the return of Gandalf and later, his freeing of Théoden from Saruman, the destruction of Isengard and especially the battle of Gondor, where Frodo almost gives up the ring. But none of them compete with the grandeur of Helm's Deep.
Now, of course, with the original question answered, the new one is this: Will "The Return of the King" be everything we expect it to be? The good money is on yes.
The film adaptation of the popular play, "Chicago" is the tale of two murderesses in prohibition-era Chicago set to music. It's not a guy film. Not by any measure, but I did end up enjoying it.
Renée Zellweger plays Roxie Hart, who is put on trial for killing her lover and trying to get her husband to take the rap, when all she really wanted to do was perform on stage. While in jail, she meets Velma Kelly (played by Catherine Zeta-Jones), and the two become rivals when Hart steals Kelly's lawyer (Richard Gere) and her thunder at the same time.
The movie does a good job of interspersing the musical fantasies with the live action, something that doesn't come across as well on stage. This mixing of scenes also helps keep the movie's pacing brisk, which helps keep audiences from tuning out any parts they may deem less interesting.
While the stars are clearly Zeta-Jones and Zellweger, the supporting cast is strong, with Gere and Queen Latifah stealing their share of scenes. John C. Reilly is strong as Roxie's loyal husband Amos, but his one musical solo "Mr. Cellophane," falls flat.
Overall, "Chicago" is strongest in it's big musical numbers -- "Cell Block Tango" and "Razzle Dazzle" stand out in this regard -- and rarely leaves you wondering why you're in the theater, which may be a bigger accomplishment than the 13 Oscar nods it earned.
My Grade: A-
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers [Limited Edition]
Do yourself a favor, if it's not already too late. Before going to see "Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," pickup the soundtrack and listen to it the whole way through. I did, and it increased my appreciation for the movie even more than I'd expected.
The movie's score is outstanding, building tension where necessary and holding back when the focus needs to be on the dialogue. This translates very well to a CD, with ebbs and flows making it an easy listen from start to finish.
Sitting back and listening to the album, people who've read the book can actually envision how the movie will play out. From Frodo's internal struggle with the ring to the massive battle at Helm's Deep, everything seems larger than life with Shore's composition, which surpasses the work on the original theatrical release of "The Fellowship of the Rings" and might even be better than the re-score for the extended DVD.
All that said, the "Limited Edition" is a disappointment. The extra song doesn't distinguish itself from the rest of the album, and the special features mostly consisted of a website that as of last week was only partially live.
So, get the regular version of the soundtrack and use the money you save to go see the movie again -- but not before you listen to the score.
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5
You've got updates!
-I posted a review of the new 2Pac album as well as the soundtrack for "The Two Towers." I also decided to post a review archive page, just to make it easier to find stuff like that.
-And I am aware that this is Christmas Eve Day, but because my family is in Florida and I'm here in Connecticut, I won't really be doing much. In fact, I'm actually getting ready to go see "The Two Towers" again, and I'll review it after I get home.
-I'll also have those other reviews I promised, as well as my "Song of the Year" feature. I might even do some sort of "My Year in Review" type thing.
-Adios por ahora.
Monday, December 23, 2002
Then the number of pre-Makaveli songs dwindled and principles were put aside in exchange for money, resulting in the release of two double albums from 2Pac's Death Row recording sessions.
The only problem is that many of these songs shouldn't have seen the light of day -- not because they were too violent and hate-filled, but because they weren't very good.
Well, actually, the lyrics are good, just not great. Some songs are outstanding lyrically, such as "When We Ride on Our Enemies" and "Ghetto Star," but these have long been out in the world in bootleg form, and in most cases, the bootleg production surpasses the beat selection on this "studio" album.
Additionaly, one song is so jarring that it ruins the entire first disc. For fans who know 2Pac's Makaveli era, hearing Nas on the acoustic version of Thugz Mansion makes no sense. Two songs on the "7 Day Theory" album make specific disses at Nas, as do multiple unreleased tracks. Adding on a verse by the Queens rapper is disrespectful to 2Pac's memory, and actually only serves to show how far Nas lags behind 2Pac when the late rapper was at his best.
Really, what it comes down to is that two double-albums of Makaveli material was too much. One double album, with the best songs off this collection and the previous "Until the End of Time" would have been more than enough. And more than Afeni Shakur ever said she'd allow.
-Once again I have to make this quick, since I'm bumping up against work.
-I posted a new SportsBytes - that makes three weeks in a row! I hope this weekly feature thing will keep up.
-I've got some new reviews coming over the next two days -- 2Pac's "Better Dayz," the soundtrack to Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, the actual movie, and a couple DVDs: Minority Report and Back to the Future.
-As for now, I got my lyrics page completed and my "Yes" short story up. I'd do the poetry page, but I don't actually have any of it saved in digital form, which means I need to retype it. I'll try to have it done before January.
-Happy holidays and adios por ahora.
The Minnesota Vikings have been star-crossed ever since the 2000 NFC Championship game and until two weeks ago, there were no signs of things getting better.
They lost that championship game to the Giants 41-0, and that was the first time Randy Moss's critics really noticed the whole "I play when I want to" attitidue. Then, in the training camp that followed, Korey Stringer died, setting the tone for a season that fell apart before it ever got started -- with a Week One loss to Carolina, the Panthers' only win of 2001.
After the season, Cris Carter retired and Moss said he didn't think he'd ever win a title. Oh, and Dennis Green got fired, and offensive line coach Mike Tice basically ended up with the job by default, because no one else wanted to deal with Moss.
It got worse when first-round pick Bryant McKinnie, Stringer's successor at left tackle, held out this season and then struggled when he did sign.
Then, with one play call in last week's game against the Saints, everything turned around. Tice's gutsy decision to go for two, and the win, was more based on his lack of faith in his defense in overtime, but it ended up motivating the Vikings to play harder.
This week they pulled off a huge upset of Dolphins, possibly knocking another team out of the playoffs. Moss had seven catches for 110 yards, numbers everyone expected him to put up all season, and even threw a touchdown pass.
If the Vikings can win next week and finish the season on a three-game win streak, they could end up laying the groundwork for a big run in 2003. They've always had the talent. Now it looks like they have the heart too.
• Having worked at a college newspaper, where the editors have to do everything from writing to editing to photography, I know how hard it is to write headlines. I also know the easiest way out is a stupid pun. That's why I cringed when I picked up the Hartford Courant today and saw this on top of a sidebar to the Jets-Pats game recap: "Chad leaves Patriots hanging." The presidential election was two years ago. Hanging Chad jokes were supposed to have been retired. Jeff Otterbein, you're better than that.
• How amazing is it that the two biggest stories in the NFL this weekend weren't about players on the field but instead about people in the studio? Both Bill Parcells and Deion Sanders made big news by discussing potential comebacks live on the air during their respective pregame shows. Parcells was evasive on ESPN's NFL Countdown, saying he'd come back "in the right situation." Deion, as is his style, was more direct, saying he'd actually been in discussions with the Raiders. Normally pre-game shows are quite boring, but these revelations made them great to watch. Thank God for picture-in-picture.
• Towson suffered a setback this week, losing to Morgan State by three. It continues to amaze me that this team could stay within 10 points of an A-10 team like George Washington -- and be even with them in the second half -- but lose to Morgan State, a team they'd beaten earlier this season.
The simple fact is this: Michael Hunt's team turns the ball over too much. Starting guards Brian Allen and Jamaal Gilchrist are combining to average close to nine turnovers a game. This is sadly a huge improvement from early last season, when Allen had close to seven per game himself, but it's still unacceptable for two experienced guards.
Of course, nothing the men's team does could possibly match up with the women, who also lost to Morgan State last week, snapping MSU's 19-game loss streak. Towson is now working on quite a streak itself, having lost all six games this year, and 11 in a row overall.
One of these teams will have to turn it around soon, or it's going to be a long wait until lacrosse season.
eBay Item of the Week
• A Washington Redskins Christmas Ornament. Probably too late for this year, but it's never to early to prep for Christmas 2003. Ends Dec. 26, 2002 11:35 p.m. PST.
• The AFC playoff picture is amazingly crowded, with the potential for eight teams to finish tied at 9-7, and only have two of them make the playoffs. If the Steelers win tonight against Tampa Bay, they clinch the AFC North at 9-5-1, with the possibility of finishing no worse than 9-6-1. Meanwhile, New England, Miami, New York, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Denver, San Diego and Kansas City can all still finish 9-7. I predict that will happen. New England will beat Miami. The Jets will upset Green Bay. Cleveland will upset Atlanta. The slumping Colts will fall to Jacksonville. Denver destroys Arizona. KC kills an unmotivated and banged-up Oakland. And finally, San Diego slams Seattle. If this happens, I have no clue who makes the playoffs. None at all.
Monday, December 16, 2002
LeBron James made his national television debut last Thursday, and the big question on Friday was, "What did we learn about 'King James'?"
Well, to be honest, not much. Those who've followed James for the past couple years knew exactly what they were getting from the likely No. 1 overall pick in the June draft. They saw him have an off shooting night, but he was explosive going to the hole, he made some ridiculous head-turning passes and, most importantly, he lead his team to a blowout victory over the consensus No. 1 team in the nation.
Still, it wasn't all good for LeBron. His defense was atrocious --- even his huge windmill slam came after he failed to get back on the other end -- but, to listen to most experts, that was to be expected, and I agree.
Imagine doing what you do best, but being forced to do it among people who are much worse at it than you. Human nature would dictate that you wouldn't try as hard, because you knew you didn't have to. To find out how good LeBron James truly is, we'd have to get our hands on some secret tapes from Michael Jordan's workouts a couple years ago.
Or just wait until he suits up as MJ's replacement for the Wizards next year.
• Last week was my week to bash ESPN, so this week I, of course, reverse field. "The Junction Boys" was just as hyped as ESPN's previous movie effort, "A Season on the Brink," but this movie actually delivered. Perhaps it was because this time we were more separated from the subject -- the Bobby Knight-like "Bear" Bryant -- or maybe it was because Bryant actually showed remorse over his ways in the movie and in real life. Or perhaps ESPN took what they learn from "Season" and used it in "Junction" to end up with a better product. Hopefully they'll consider making more movies, ones on par with "Junction," not "Season."
• The best thing on ESPN this week, however, wasn't "The Junction Boys" or even the LeBron James game (which technically was on ESPN2). It was the highlights of the Denver-Kansas City game on the Sunday night SportsCenter. Every move looked like something out of "Madden 2003." Did you see Clinton Portis hitting L1 and leaving a KC defender in the dust with a sick strafe. Or how about Dante Hall using the backwards spin-move to perfection on one of his touchdown receptions. Whenever I play Madden, I complain that some of the moves are just too unrealistic. Then I see something like that during a real game and wonder if Madden isn't too stale. You have to love the NFL.
• The Towson men's basketball team is now 3-3 with three games left before the conference season begins. A 4-5 record heading into CAA play can be expected, but if the Tigers can pull off an upset of either George Washington or Virginia Tech, it would go a long way to establishing them as a force to be reckoned with in CAA play.
One player who could help make that happen, surprisingly, is sophomore center Tony Dixon. Last season Dixon was a gangly freshman who looked totally lost in college basketball. This year he's playing with much more confidence and a little more bulk, and it's making a big difference for Towson. His eight blocks were probably the only thing that separated the Tigers from a loss against Norfolk State.
So far Dixon has started every game, but he's only averaged about six points and five rebounds. If he can get those numbers up to 10 and eight, and keep playing strong defense, he'll go a long way to helping Towson go a long way.
eBay Item of the Week
• An authentic white (home) Hartford Whalers jersey ready for customization. Size 48. Buy it now price: $175.00. There are 54 available. Ends Dec. 21, 2002 10:35 a.m. PST.
• As I alluded to earlier in the column, LeBron James will end up with the Wizards. The Cavs won't have lottery luck, and Stern won't put the fix in for the Knicks (too obvious). Washington will be a natural for the King.
-I finally got a day off, so I was able to get some more work done here. I posted this week's SportsBytes, with my takes on LeBron James, "The Junction Boys" and the Towson men's basketball team.
-I've also got a writing section up with my novel and my screenplay. I'll get the poetry, lyrics and short story up later today, I swear.
-Oh, and if you get a chance to, swing by CNN/SI and read Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback. He always does a great job with it, and I just wanted to send a shoutout.
-Also, Bill Simmons from Page 2 has a great column about pulling off fantasy football trades. He left out one thing: a great way to get a steal in a trade is get a steal in the draft. If you draft a player in a later round that someone was targeting as a sleeper, they'll usually be so irrational that they'll offer you super value for the player.
In this year's draft, I got Jeremy Shockey, who'd just been added to the Yahoo! draft list, in the 15th round. Someone else in the league wanted him badly, but didn't know he was on the list. After the draft, he offered me Eddie George and Frank Wycheck for Shockey. Every draft guide had Wycheck and Shockey right near each other in tight end ratings, and I was picking up a Top-15 running back. If I'd made a counter-offer, or waited a day, rationality would have set in, and I would have missed the chance.
You have to know when to pull the trigger.
Friday, December 13, 2002
-I'm gonna make this quick since I don't have a lot of time before I have to be at work.
-I've got the start of a music section up. I have a review of the new Mariah Carey album up, as well as my iTunes music library.
-I taped the LeBron James game last night on ESPN2 and got a chance to watch it. I'll have more thoughts on LeBron in SportsBytes on Tuesday, but I was very impressed with his passing. Just like Charlie Rosen on Page 2, I was disappointed with his defense, but I got the impression that he wasn't really trying on defense because he thought he didn't need to.
-I'm going to try to have the start of my PS2/PS2 Online section up this weekend, with a review of NCAA College Basketball 2K3 from Sega Sports to start things off.
-Adios por ahora!
Monday, December 09, 2002
Well, I can assure you that the movie itself was much better than my feeble headline writing effort.
Sequels aren't necessarily great ideas, but with the way "Analyze This" ended, it was actully well set up for an interesting follow-up. The story for "Analyze That" is well written, featuring just enough of the mob boss-in-therapy conceit that made the original -- and the unrelated "Sopranos" television series -- so successful.
The star of the movie isn't Billy Crystal or Robert DeNiro, but instead the comedic relationship between the two. DeNiro is extremely funny, more so than in the first movie, mostly because he doesn't press. Ignore the trailer, which has DeNiro's Paul Vitti singing showtunes and drooling like a mental patient. The real comedy comes when DeNiro is simply acting like a mobster and trying to keep Crystal's Ben Sobol from going insane, no pun intended.
The movie does drag in the story category when it focuses on the fish out of water aspects of both main characters lives, whether it's Vitti trying to go straight or Sobol assisting in a mob scheme. These scenes are easily offset by the strong plot points, the main one being Vitti trying to get back into his old life without Sobol or the FBI finding out.
If you're a Lisa Kudrow fan, don't bother seeing the movie. She's in this one even less than she was in the first one, and she basically serves no purpose, other than to nag Ben about the fact that Vitti is dangerous, which we as the audience already know. In fact, her part could have been more of a drag on the film, had she not been in it so infrequently.
Overall, "Analyze That," probably isn't going to surpass the original in anyone's mind, but it isn't going to tarnish it either.
My rating: 3.5/5
Rant off the bat...
Last week, everyone in sports was proclaiming Atlanta Falcons QB Michael Vick the next big thing -- the new MJ, Mays and Montana all rolled into one -- and he was going to revolutionize football.
This week, after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Falcons 34-10, those same people are saying there is now a "blueprint" for stopping Vick, and he's never going to be the great superstar of the NFL until he can "solve" the Bucs.
So which one is right? (I think you all know where I'm going with this).
Neither side is right. First off, Vick is not going to revolutionize the NFL, because there just aren't enough people like Vick. Maybe if Randy Moss could throw the ball 70 yards -- and maybe he can, but he just doesn't want to -- he could be another Vick. Or if Peyton Manning was somehow fused with Edgerrin James and could suddenly run, he could match Vick. But right now, there isn't another Vick (saving his younger brother Marcus, who I think is destined to be a Brent Gretzky to Michael's Wayne), and there won't be for some time.
As for Tampa's "blueprint"... well, let's just say that it's not quite Jay-Z material. Sure, the Bucs can slow down Vick, but most other teams simply don't have the talent to copy Tampa's scheme. The Ravens have the linebackers and the safties, but not the ends. The Redskins are in the same boat. The Packers have the talent in the front four, but their LBs are inferior (by Tampa standards).
So what are we left with? Only one thing is certain: the Bucs-Falcons rivalry will be very good for a very long time.
• This has been said many times before, but I have to say it now: ESPN's pre-game NFL coverage is too damn long. It starts with "Edge NFL Match-up" (individually, a great show) at 8:30 a.m. Then there's a half-hour "SportsCenter," followed by "Outside the Lines." That's really the last hour that's fairly football-free for the day. "The Sports Reporters" always has something to say about the NFL, as does the 10:30 "SportsCenter." After that, it's a 2-hour "NFL Countdown." Do we really need two hours?! That breaks down to almost eight minutes per game. Compare that to the fact that your average "SportsCenter" feature is closer to three minutes, and a highlight package checks in at around 30-45 seconds. It's just too much football leading into a day of actual games from 1-7:30. Of course, I could always watch "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."
• I know that in the media, you're not supposed to speak ill of your competition, but I'm not really "in the media" per se, and this site isn't the site that competes with this guy (and "competes" is probably the right term, since I don't think he even knows about SportsPickle.com), I'm going to go ahead and say it -- I really can't stand Nick Bakay's betting thing on the Monday night "SportsCenter." He makes the same jokes every week, and they're jokes that don't take much thought to come up with. I can look at the scores on Monday, compare them to the betting lines, and make some weak one-liners about the closest games. Most football fans can. For some reason, Nick Bakay gets to do it on "SportsCenter." D'oh.
• It looks like it's going to be another dismal season for my alma mater's women's basketball team. Towson is off to an 0-4 start after blowing a big lead in the final minutes against Duquesne. The Tigers are down to 10 active players, and only eight are truly healthy.
That said, I have faith in Joe Mathews. My vote of confidence doesn't really count for much, but Towson has to give Mathews time -- much more than just one or two seasons. Three players left the team from last year, so he's basically putting out a skeleton team right now, one that can barely go 5-on-5 in practice.
When it comes down to it, you're not going to be able to rate this team based on the likely final scores in games against Old Dominion, or even Delaware. The team may not even win a game. But what the players, and the program, go through this year will make them that much stronger for when things turn around.
eBay Item of the Week
• A Dave Meggett autographed New York Giants mini-helmet. Minimum bid: $25.00. Buy-it-now price: $30.00. Ends: Dec. 20, 8:20 p.m., PST.
• The Rams will keep Kurt Warner this offseason, and trade Marc Bulger to the Redskins for Washington's first round draft pick this year, and a future conditional pick. I have no inside information here, I'm just guessing. That's why it's called "random prediction" and not "prediction based on research and knowledge."
Island Def Jam
Mariah Carey has had a tough couple of years, being dumped by Derek Jeter, watching her movie flop, suffering a near-mental breakdown and then being bought out of her $100-million dollar contract by EMI.
A little more than one year after releasing "Glitter" and the accompanying soundtrack, Carey has released what her new label, Island Def Jam, is calling her "comeback album," "Charmbracelet."
Carey does make a concerted effort to go back to the ballads that brought her so much early success in the 90s. Songs like "Through the Rain" and "Saving Grace" are simple and powerful, like her earliest hits. "Sunflowers For Alfred Roy" has the chance to be Mariah's biggest hit since her pre-"Butterfly" days.
Unfortunately, the album suffers from the same maladies most of Mariah's recent albums have been afflicted with: too much "MC," not enough "Mariah."
Despite her claims that she wanted to get back to what first made her a success, Mariah still clings to her hip-hop desires on this album. The low point is "Boy (I Need You)" a remake of Cam'ron's "Oh Boy," featuring none other than Cam'ron himself. There's also a track with Jay-Z, and a "Through the Rain" remix featuring Kelly Price and Joe. Fortunately, these tracks are the exception, not the rule.
If Carey can build on the success that this album's stronger songs are likely to achieve, she could truly be on the road back. Just so long as she doesn't make any more appearances on DJ Clue mix-tapes.
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
I debuted a new web site (finally!). I started work on "AdamReisinger.com" way, way back in July of 1999, and yet, it didn't really take off until September of 2001.
-OK, maybe "take off" isn't the right term. I started a site design that turned into my first incarnation of my résumé CD. Then, I started a new site design that I wanted to become this site, but it ended up being a redesign of my résumé CD.
-Then, school got in the way, then my job search, then my job. So, I just told myself, "self..."
-Actually, I don't have conversations with myself. That would be weird. I just decided I needed to sit down and do this. Sure, there's a lot of stuff that isn't here yet (like basically every weekly feature, and most of the stuff I want up), but there's a framework, and that's a start.
-For now, check out "SportsBytes" for some sports commentary, and my movies section, for a review of "Analyze That" and, of course, my DVD collection.