Starting Five

1. Many Rivers To Cross

Did Bill Simmons become a TV star last night? Yes. Yes, he did.


“The truth keeps changing.”
With those four words Bill Simmons, the erstwhile Sports Guy, vaulted himself to television stardom last night during the 2013 NBA Draft. In fact, his on-air skirmish with Doc Rivers overshadowed every single draft pick.

Earlier this week Rivers, who for years coached the Boston Celtics (the object of Simmons’ lifelong fandom), became the new head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers (the team that Simmons chose to support upon moving to Los Angeles). Simmons accused Rivers of “quitting on the team”, a comment that Shelley Smith passed on to Rivers during an interview last night.
“I would like to call him an idiot, but I’m too classy for that,” said Rivers, a quip that for some unknown reason elicited a chuckle from Smith (who is so famously out of her league doing anything that does not involve USC public relations). “I mean, that’s just his opinion. That didn’t happen and he needs to know the whole truth, which he doesn’t.”

The camera shifted back to the Barclays Center set of host Rece Davis (the best ESPN has), Jay Bilas, Jalen Rose and Simmons. Davis went directly to his nascent on-air colleague. “What’s your reaction to that?”

Simmons, confident and defiant, replied, “The truth keeps changing. I mean he’s given different answers to this…. When he sticks to a story, I’ll believe the truth.”

It’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong (of course Rivers knows the whole truth; whether he is being transparent about it is the issue). It’s about an ESPN on-air talent having the fortitude to challenge a player or coach who is not already on the wrong side of public opinion. Earlier (or was it later?) in the evening the crew did an interview with new Net coach Jason Kidd, and by way of salutation Rose slobbered on about how he and Kidd were both “class of 1994 NBA Draft alumni.” So how incisive or probing do you expect the subsequent questions to be?

The problem is that we live in an age where an entire generation has been raised on ESPN. Men–and ladies– who are not old enough to remember an earlier time when truth was more important than celebrity…or being friends with a celebrity.

Simmons, who’s about my age, remembers that time. Remembers a man named Howard Cosell. What he brings –and what he brought to a lesser extent during the NBA Finals — is the point of view of someone who has not been corrupted by the vortex of celebrity. He may be a celebrity himself now, but he still approaches these things like the outsider the rest of us all are.

Except for his own hair line, Howard was all about the truth.

Michael Wilbon does not do that. He’s too busy being buddies with all the athletes and coaches he’s supposed to be covering.

Magic Johnson? He is the antithesis of Simmons.

Jalen Rose? You can see that he and Simmons enjoy one another’s company, and Rose can be candid. Just not often enough.

For me the most fascinating aspect of last night was watching Simmons blatantly seizes Jay Bilas’ scepter. Bilas, intelligent and informed, was the closest ESPN had to someone who would endeavor to find the truth in any situation. Like you, I was intrigued to see the two men share a set for the first time. But Simmons just blew Bilas out of the water here. This was the evening in which Simmons finally found his TV voice. He long ago found his columnist’s voice.

Later in the evening Rivers’ son Jeremiah took to Twitter to stand up for dad. The keeper in this harangue is the final tweet, in which Rivers ends his rant by saying, “Good day, sir”. It’s 12;31 a.m. when he types that.

Finally, as terrific as Simmons was last night, we long-time fan boys truly missed his real-time NBA Draft diary. Is it too much to hope for that he still provides u one, with the fascinating meta-aspect of his discussing the character of Bill Simmons on TV? We’d all love to read that, no?

2. Bail Denied

A judge denied Aaron Hernandez bail yesterday and it is reasonable to assume that the former New England Patriots tight end has seen his last day outside of an institutionalized life. Hernandez, just 23 and a former Pro Bowl tight end, is now also being investigated in connection with a double homicide that took place in Boston last summer. The circumstances involve Hernandez being involved in an altercation in a nightclub last July 15 and a drive-by shooting taking place a short time afterward.

Allow me to go out on a limb here: Is it possible that Lloyd either knew about this earlier incident, was involved in this earlier incident, or that Hernandez had confided in him about it? And is it possible that Hernandez learned that Lloyd had opened his yap about it to someone else? Pure conjecture here, but it’s something to consider. Apparently, it’s not that long of a limb. I just found the Boston Globe story that suggests the same thing.

Also, it appears that this case may hinge on a “smoking gum”: a pack of blue Bubblicious cotton candy gum may be a critical piece of evidence for the state. Prosecutors can tie Hernandez and Lloyd stopping at a gas station on the night of the murder to purchase a pack of it, and there was a discarded piece of the gum –conveniently located next to a spent .45 shell casing –under the driver’s seat of the rental car that Hernandez was driving.

The victim, Odin Lloyd

Finally, this quote from former Patriot teammate Matt Light speaks volumes. VOLUMES. A three-time Pro Bowler himself at offensive tackle, Light told the Dayton Daily News, “I never talk about other guys, but I will say I have never embraced — never believed in — anything Aaron Hernandez stood for.”

I added the italics. That’s a devastating comment from a guy who shared the huddle with you, and often lined up literally next to you, for your two NFL seasons.

3. When Howard Met Jerry

An absolutely captivating and often hilarious 90-minute interview took place earlier this week between two of my Upper West Side neighbors, Howard Stern and Jerry Seinfeld. The former is the best interviewer in the business, because he is so direct, such a good listener and his own candor invites honesty from his guests. As for Seinfeld, I worship at his altar and this interview reveals why.

At one point Howard is absolutely fascinated, and concerned, that Seinfeld is continuously observing life and conjuring jokes and bits in his mind (“I’m never NOT thinking of material”). Like a shark that cannot help but keep moving forward. Howard seems worried that this obsession, that Seinfeld’s inability to ever stop “working”, must be brutal. Jerry’s reply, “What fun is life if I’m not making jokes all the time?”

Seinfeld, when Howard asks him how he memorizes all his material: “Howard, what else do I have to do?”

On his being addicted to conjuring bits: “The blessing in life is finding the torture you’re comfortable with.”

On people teaching comedy classes: “It’s like pirate school. You can’t really go to school to learn this stuff.”

On Chris Rock’s transformative “Bring The Pain” set, where he finally found his voice: “You know who the first person who called him was? Me.” Howard: “What did you say to him?” Jerry: “You did it.”

And here’s Seinfeld’s latest episode of “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee” with David Letterman. I’d like to see Jerry go for a spin with Seth Meyers next.

4. Do You Feel A Draft?

Quick riffs/review on the NBA draft:

1. Anthony Bennett: How does a guy named Tony Bennett get drafted No. 1 overall and nobody at ESPN has the keenness of mind to make a “Rags To Riches” reference? Or play the song in the background?

2. Victor Oladipo: Love this pick. LOVE LOVE LOVE him. Orlando, at No. 2, didn’t try to be cute or overreach. He may not be the next Dwyane Wade, but you know with Oladipo that you are getting a winner, a guy with tremendous heart. Some dudes have more talent, but don’t have the competitive gene. MJ had it. Kobe has it. Oladipo appears to have it, too.

3. Otto Porter: You could go from Georgetown undergrad to Georgetown Law School and you’d have a farther commute than Porter, a Hoya, will have from his own undergrad days to his job at the Verizon Center.

4. Cody Zeller: He’s a seven-footer who runs the open court like a deer. Another pick I like.

5. Alex Len: The Suns already had two Eastern European starters –Goran Drajic and Marcin Gortat –and added another last night in Len, a Ukranian seven-footer from Maryland, and guard Nemanja Nedovic (last pick of first round).

6. Nerlens Noel: The “New Orleans Noel” era lasted scant minutes, as the Pelicans selected him and then promptly traded him to the 76ers.

7. Ben McLemore: A lot of people, myself included, think he has the most All-Star potential of anyone in the draft. So why did this Kansas one-and-done dude falls so far? Somebody know something?

10. C.J. McCollum: The Trail Blazers have now cornered the market on mid-major point guards who are destined to surprise us. Remember that former Damian Lillard of Weber State was this season’s Rookie of the Year.

13. Kelly Olynyk: The Celtics jettisoned their past and are going with a Canadian seven-footer who only a year ago red-shirted because he couldn’t get any playing time at Gonzaga? Hmm. I like watching Olynyk –and I love that his last three letters are the abbreviation for Boston’s rival — but I think he’s no better, if not worse, than Gorgui Dieng.

15. Giannis Antetokounmpo: Someone in the Bucks’ p.r. department needs to coin a nickname for this 6-9 Greek and pronto. I

22. Mason Plumlee: Like you, I’d pay to watch the scrimmages in which he goes up against Kevin Garnett.

31. Allen Crabbe: Cleveland may wind up liking this pick better. The Cal product is the Klay Thompson of this year’s class.

54. Arsalan Kazemi: A 6-8 forward from Iran who is going to remind Philadelphia 76er fans who are old enough to recall an awful lot of Bobby Jones. And that’s a terrific thing.

5. We Still Love Yasiel Puig!

Yes, it’s only been 3 weeks, but he has best BA in MLB. Puig should start the All-Star Game.

The Los Angles Dodger rookie connected on an 0-2 count with two outs and bases loaded in the bottom of the 7th last night to scratch a two-run single and break open a tie game. L.A. has now won six straight. The Cuban defector is now batting .427 while the next-best Dodger is hitting .274. At least the integers are the same.

Our good friend Dan Leonard over at the steakateria was singing Puig’s praises throughout spring training. We’re happy for Dan that he was able to pick Puig up on his fantasy team.





Starting Five

1. Murder

Tight end Aaron Hernandez, hours after being released by the New England Patriots, is charged with murder and four other counts related to the death of Odin Lloyd. As the sheriff at his jail notes, “He’s going from a 7,100-square foot home to a seven-foot by ten-foot jail cell.”

2. He Was Betterer Than Federer


Wave bye to the queen and we’ll see you in Queens.

Seven-time and reigning Wimbledon champion Roger Federer falls in the second round to Ukrainian Sergei Stakhovsky. It was his earliest departure from a Grand Slam event since 2004. Maria Sharapova also lost. By day’s end Chris Fowler could be seen reading “Phil Steele’s College Football 2013 Preview” magazine on-set (I’m kidding…sorta).

3. “I am the master of my fate/I am the captain of my soul” 

South African leader Nelson Mandela, the man who did more than any other individual to dismantle apartheid, is in a hospital and in frail condition. Mandela, who is 94, spent 27 years imprisoned on Robben Island, which is visible from atop Table Mountain in Cape Town (a place you really need to see before you go…Cape Town, that is, not Robben Island).


4. Draft Punk

“We’re up all night to get drafted!”



The NBA Draft takes place tonight at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. And there’s really no player in the field who is a franchise-shifter.

Personally, I’d select Doug McDermott. Coach’s son, 23.2 ppg, six-foot-eight. What?!? He’s staying for his senior season in Creighton? Okay. Moving on…
How I Picture Top Five Going:

Cleveland–Alex Len: He’s a seven-foot-one center from Maryland by way of the Ukraine whose girlfriend, Essence Townsend, is six-foot-seven. One word of caution: Darko.

Orlando–Nerlens Noel: Shot-blocking beast, but has already had one ACL surgery before his 20th birthday. Otherwise a No. 1, but no one wants to select the next Greg Oden.

Washington: Ben McLemore. It’s too easy to assume that the Wizards will take local Georgetown product Otto Porter. McLemore has the most potential of any player in the draft to be a 2-guard star.

Charlotte: Shabazz Muhammad. Here’s my surprise pick. Muhammad was the top high school player a year ago. A southpaw with terrific size (6-7) who probably intrigues Michael Jordan more than Porter or some of the other safe picks.

Phoenix: — Victor Oladipo: The Indiana guard is a complete gamer. Plays bigger than his size and is a ball hawk.

5. “I Love Leave L.A.!”

The Los Angeles Lakers are trying to ensure that Dwight Howard, who has the potential to become the fifth-best center to ever play for the franchise (my rankings go 1) Kareem 2) Wilt 3.) Mikan and 4) Shaq) understands how badly they hope he re-signs with them. I really do wish Kobe Bryant would tweet his thoughts on this billboard, don’t you?


IT’S ALL HAPPENING! June 26 (still June 25th to the Texas State Legislature)

Starting Five

1. Kill Bill Vol. 3







In the case of Wendy Davis versus the Texas State Legislature. The issue was not whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, but rather whether politicians will manipulate the legislative process or, if that fails, blatantly commit electoral fraud in order to get the law that they desire.


1) The irony of Davis’ numerous opponents in the Texas State Legislature attempting to get her to abort a filibuster whose aim was to block a vote on a bill that would outlaw most abortions in the state of Texas.

2) Easily the most memorable filibuster that the Lone Star State has witnessed since another blond, Taylor Boyle, refused to leave the field at the Houston Astrodome in the 1977 film “The Bad News Bears: Breaking Training.” “Let her speak!” equals “Let them play!”

3) So you have it, during a filibuster one may not take a potty break, eat, or lean on a desk –much less sit– but you may wear pink tennis shoes. No word yet on whether or not you may send texts or do yoga.

4) After the gallery (“We the people!”) shouted down the senate, preventing them from voting on the bill by the midnight deadline, they did so anyway and passed it. At 12:04 a.m. Then someone in the legislature attempted to change the time-stamp so that the record would show that the bill was voted on by midnight. Apparently, none of these legislators are aware of Twitter. At 3 a.m. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst stepped to the Senate floor and declared the bill dead.

5) Gov. Rick Perry, who is in favor of the bill, declared, “In Texas, we value all life.” A notion worth remembering as the Lone Star State prepares to execute its 500th prisoner since 1976 this week.

6) While all of this was transpiring –from about midnight to 1:30 a.m. on the East Coast — not one of the cable news networks (much less the major networks) provided a scintilla of coverage. We were hoping to find it on The Longhorn Network, but no luck. At one point both CNN and MSNBC were showing taped coverage of the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin trial, making Aaron Sorkin’s point for him yet again. Even our friend Keith Olbermann weighed in on all of it, via Twitter.

7) Wendy Davis was the child of a single mom. She became a single mom herself at the age of 19. Then she graduated from Harvard Law School with honors. She is 50 years old, blonde, and attractive. Julia Roberts has already spoken to her agent this morning. Reese Witherspoon really cannot go down this path again, can she? Others worthy of consideration: Naomi Watts, Charlize Theron, Sharon Stone, Gwyneth Paltrow and The Rock (Update: someone just suggested Connie Britton; I like it).

8) The new official song of the Texas state legislature, courtesy of Slow Hand.

2. Aaron Hernandez: Handcuffed by Police & Released By Patriots

Hernandez: No stranger to double coverage

Within a 90-minute time span –or, as long as it takes Roger Cossack to don a coat and tie — Aaron Hernandez was arrested in connection with the murder of Odin Lloyd and was then released by the New England Patriots. The latter development, according to NFL experts, suggests that the Patriots’ security people have more information than the general public (no duh).


We all knew this was coming. Not necessarily because police searched Hernandez’s home three times, including for three hours on Saturday, in the past week. Not because they searched a pond behind his home. Not even because he was seen in the company of Lloyd on the night that Lloyd, whose body was discovered just a mile from Hernandez’s North Attleborough, Mass. home, was murdered.

Rather, because Hernandez handed police a shattered cell phone. Because he had his entire home scrubbed and wiped. Because he destroyed his home security system. And because he refused to cooperate. Police are not idiots, and you’d have to be one to not understand that Aaron Hernandez has plenty to hide.
As for football, the Pats let Wes Welker head west to Denver; Rob Gronkowski may never come back after all those surgeries, and Hernandez is history. Tom Brady is not happy and Tim Tebow may just wind up playing tight end this season.

Another pro athlete Hernandez, another moment in a vehicle, and potentially another “I can do whatever I want” episode.


3. “Alex should just shut the f___ up!”


The New York Yankees have learned a valuable lesson this spring –something most of us knew years earlier: Alex Rodriguez isn’t worth the drama. While the Yankees are not a World Series-caliber team as presently constructed on the field, they would make the playoffs if they began today. That is due to a solid pitching staff, the best set-up/closer duo in baseball (David Robertson and Mariano Rivera) and a collection of position players (Robinson Cano and the Seven Dwarves) who compensate for a lack of talent by playing their hardest every night.

Then there’s A-Rod, the human chemistry killer. Last night’s transgression — a tweet announcing that a doctor had cleared him to play only one day after GM Brian Cashman had told reporters exactly the opposite –was not even that heinous. But Cashman’s over-the-top reaction tells you just how fed up the Pinstripes are with A-Rod’s vortex of melodrama. What does Cashman hate more: A-Rod himself or that $100 million albatross of a contract the Yankees gave him a few years ago?

We said it was wrong then. Just as we said the Justin Verlander contract will come back to haunt the Detroit Tigers (he may be Detroit’s third-best pitcher right now).

It has been a frustrating year for the most aptly named man in sports –and the broken leg while skydiving during spring training didn’t help. But if the Yankees can get Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson back (Tex is gone for the season, which isn’t horrible because Lyle Overbay is filling in fine) and if Michael Pineda, who has a 1.64 ERA after three Double A rehab starts, can not only return but return to form, the Yanks actually would have a squad that can compete with anyone in the American League. Since no one in the A.L. is all that formidable this season.

But if A-Rod returns…watch how the chemistry wilts and dies. The question becomes how much of A-Rod’s remaining dollars will the Yankees absorb in order to ship him to another team and be free of him? He becomes David Justice in “Moneyball.” “No, man, I’m not paying you $7 million. The Yankees are paying half your salary. That’s what the New York Yankees think of you. They’re paying you three-and-a-half million dollars to play against them.”

(Note: Avid reader but reluctant commenter Ken Fowler notes that today is The Captain, Derek Jeter’s 39th birthday. So Cashman gave him an early present last night.)

4. Oedipus Flex

Because they couldn’t title it “Mother…” I’ll stop right there.


Robin Wright, Naomi Watts, and two young dudes who apparently stepped directly out of a Hollister catalog. All four are on a beach holiday and each hunk is the son of one of the SuperCougars. The film is titled “Adore”. Well, you can see where this is going. Oh, Princess Buttercup. It’s “Waiting To Exhale” meets “Blame It On Rio” meets “Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice” meets “Summer Lovers” meets “Whatever is Playing on Cinemax at 2 a.m.”.

That said, I think we can all agree that Robin Wright is aging better than any woman in Hollywood, and is getting more roles now (“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”, “Moneyball”, “House of Cards”) than she ever has. Spicoli, you idiot.

5. NCAA Outlaws Chip Kelly for Next 18 Months

The NCAA reduced the number of paid visits from 56 to 37, and also the number of uniform combos from 56 to 37.


Our friend Brett McMurphy said it best on Twitter (@McMurphyESPN) : “College football coach checklist: 1. Cheat, 2. Cooperate w/NCAA for minimal penalties, 3. Repeat Rule No. 1.”



That tennis player who defeated Rafael Nadal in straight sets, Steve Darcis, withdraws from Wimbledon due to shoulder soreness. Can we have Rafa back, please?


“I’d Like A One-Way Ticket From Moscow to Ecuador”

Apparently, Edward Snowden has grown tired of the Moscow Domodedovo Airport Cinnabon and now has requested asylum in Ecuador. Snowden has said that his main purpose in obtaining the job that he had was to acquire the access he did so as to expose it. Maybe the NSA should have spent more time spying on him.

Immigration Policy

Comedian Ron White on what our immigration policy should be. It’s only funny because it makes absolute perfect sense. NSFP: Not Safe For Phyllis.

As always, Medium Happy is published via a grant by No One In Particular. Your doughnations are welcome. via PayPal. Thanks.



Day of Yore, June 25

As John noted earlier, today is the anniversary of The Battle of Little Big Horn. I find it more than slightly ironic that one of the Indian War Chiefs who died that day was named, “Lame White Man.”

With apologies to everyone who lost their lives that day, here in the world of Pop Culture, the June 25th deaths of 2009 are almost impossible to top. Both Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson died that day. 

Unknown Unknown-1

I wrote about Farrah’s death that day here. That post detailed the burgeoning desires of a teenage boy, and it also set off a series of events that led to me getting married three years later. Farrah was a gift that certainly kept on giving. I learned of Michael Jackson’s death in an airport security line, on my way back home to Minnesota for a golf weekend/bachelor party.

What’s the greatest album of all time? Impossible to answer obviously, the music mags and sites have a new answer every five years or so. If you were in high school in the ’80’s like I was, and especially if you grew up in Minneapolis like I did, this one, which came out today in 1984, is on your short list.


Purple Rain” was so freaking good it made a pretty bad movie a cult classic. In 2008 Entertainment Weekly named it the No. 1 album of the past 25 years. I’m not arguing. The start of “Let’s Go Crazy” was so genius that it’s amazing that nobody had ever thought to use it to start a song before. Nine songs that anyone who went to clubs in the 1980’s knows by heart. If “The Beautiful Ones” isn’t in the top four songs of your album, you’ve made a pretty god damn good album.

I’m now going to admit to a guilty pleasure. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anyone say they didn’t like this movie, but it’s in my top 10 and even though I’m not really proud of that, I can’t deny it either. “Sleepless in Seattle” came out today in 1993, and though I loved it to death, it’s not the movie I’m talking about. (Psych!)


I loved every frame of that movie, it’s hard not to, but I didn’t love it as much as this one:

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“The Notebook” came out today in 2004 and it pulled me in hook, line and sinker.

Two pretty people falling in love cute, but he’s a townie with no big future and she’s a richie rich whose parents won’t let her marry outside of her cash class. Young love torn asunder! A war. A best friend dead. A new guy, who’s good looking and charming. An engagement. And here’s where Nicholas Sparks really got it right, in making this the best thing he’s ever written: he didn’t give Rachel McAdam’s character an easy out. The “bad” guy never does anything wrong, he’s just not the guy she’s in love with. She likes him a lot, and loves the idea of him and how easy he’d make the rest of her days, but she’s in love with somebody else. 99.99 percent of stories make the other guy an asshole and an easy out.

If you ever tell anyone I wrote that, I’ll have to kill you. And I’ll deny it. (Google search engines be damned.)

Today in 1976, “The Omen” came out and my wife swears it scared her more than “The Exorsist”. I didn’t see it because I hate scary movies. (You probably inferred that from the last item… I’m seriously not as big of a wuss as I sound today.)


“Bladerunner” came out today in 1982. I liked it a lot when I saw it that summer, but I’ve never seen it again and I don’t need to. It’s cult status was weird to me. I’d rather watch The Notebook again.


There have been some pretty stellar debuts that came out on June 25th over the years.

1947 saw the publication of, “The Diary of Anne Frank”. The world view of a young teenage girl in hiding from the Nazi’s is one of the more prized works of the last century.



Though not as highly praised as that, (although it may be in some circles) Jay-Z dropped his debut album, “Reasonable Doubt” today in 1996. Hailed by critics as a masterpiece, it set the tone for a career that has seen nothing but astonishing success. “Dead Presidents,” “Don’t Knock the Hustle,” “Ain’t No Nigga,” and “Feelin It” are iconic rap songs.


Another debut that’s led to HUGE success hit today in 2002, when Maroon 5 debuted with “Songs About Jane”. “Harder to Breathe,” “This Love,” “She Will Be Loved,” and “Sunday Morning” were all smash hits and Maroon 5 hasn’t missed since. It remains to be seen however, if Adam Levine’s legacy doesn’t become, “that hot, charming guy in the chair.”

220px-Maroon_5_-_Songs_About_Jane Unknown

— Bill Hubbell

Posted in: 365 |


Dear Super Moon: Maybe it’s just me, but it feels as if we are growing more distant. Was it something I said?

Starting Five

1. Stunning Stanley Cup

Dave Bolland scored the series-clincher with 0:59 to play.



With 0:90 remaining in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals, we were settling in for a Game 7 in Chicago as the Boston Bruins led 2-1 at home.

Then, with 1:16 remaining and using an empty net, Chicago’s Bryan Bickell tied it. Overtime? Sure, why not? But then just 0:17 later, while Steve Levy and Barry Melrose were reapplying the hair shellac, Dave Bolland cleaned up a shot that hit the pipes and sent it past Tuukka Rask for the game-winner. Stunning.

The most stunning finish to a Game 6 in nearly a week is what it was.

So, Chicago wins the first Stanley Cup finals between two Original Six teams since 1979.

And, like their NBA counterparts, the Heat (not to be confused with the Sandra Bullock-Melissa McCarthy movie of the same name opening nationwide at a theater near you), the Blackhawks had a memorable streak this season that validated their title. The Heat won 27 in a row, the second-longest win streak in NBA history, while the Blackhawks did not lose in regulation over the first 24 games of the season.

He also answered to “Birdman.”

For those of you who don’t know, “Black Hawk” was the name of a Sauk warrior from the area of what is now Rock Island, Ill. He abetted the British in the War of 1812 and his actual name, which would have given copy editors fits, was Makataimeshekiakiak.

2. American Boss Held Hostage in China (or as I call it, “Progress!”)

Chip Starnes: On the bright side, it is still a gated community.


A co-owner of a Coral Springs, Fla.-based company called Specialty Medical Supplies was taken hostage by his factory workers in the company’s plant outside Beijing. Employees are demanding that Chip Starnes, 42, provide them severance packages. Starnes, in a quote that needs to be cut-and-clipped for our year-end “It All Happened” issue (we have a year-end “It All Happened” issue?) said, “I think it is inhumane what is going on right now.” Ha ha ha ha ha.

3. Belgian Blast

Steve Darcis? Never heard of him.


Steve Darcis of Belgium, the 135th-ranked player in the world, knocks out two-time Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal in straight sets in the opening round at Wimbledon. You may recall that only last month Nadal won the French Open for an eighth time. But you realize that clay and grass are two different surfaces, different colors even (brain storm: A blacktop NBA championship series).

See you in September?

Anyway, Nadal’s knee yada yada yada and he went out in the second round at the All-England Lawn & Tennis Club last season, then took the rest of the year off to rehab his knee and presumably pose shirtless. Also, since we’re taking about Belgium, you should really see In Bruges if you have not already.

4. Death at Le Mans

The driver’s side is on the right.

You sometimes forget that the “24 Hours of Le Mans”, the world’s oldest vehicular endurance race (est. 1923) still takes place. Especially since Steve McQueen has stopped starring in films about it. Maybe because ESPN never includes it in its Top Plays segment. Anyway, it’s a 24-hour race in which each vehicle is shared by two drivers and the test is to see who is able to drive the most laps in a day’s time. Do fans remain for the entire 24 hours? I have no idea.

McQueen in the 1971 film “Le Mans”

Last weekend the race was staged and for the first time since 1986 suffered a driver fatality. Allen Simonsen of Denmark perished when he lost control of his Aston Martin in what is known as the Tertre Rouge corner.

5. Chicago Sky, non-WNBA Edition

Donde es Delle Donne?


While the Blackhawks were busy clinching Lord Stanley’s Cup in Boston, residents of Chicago were enduring massive thunderstorms. Flying into O’Hare Airport is o’hairy enough without having to deal with weather such as this. Actually, the storms were so treacherous that O’Hare Airport temporarily closed and there were probably like, what, 83 murders committed. Which you really cannot blame on the weather.



LeBrained? Almost.

The first rule of standing on the top tier of an open-air double-decker bus is don’t stand on the top tier of an open-air double-decker bus. Especially if you’re 6-8 or taller. LeBron James and Juwan Howard nearly got brained during the Heat’s championship parade. If that had happened, all the critics who accused LeBron of “over-passing” during the NBA Finals would be vindicated. Thanks to the Big Lead for that video. See, Selena Roberts, it ain’t that hard to credit someone.



Where in the world is Edward Snowden? Putin says he’s not in Russia. Oh, that Putin. He IS funny. Speaking of funny, no U.S. media have been able to locate Snowden –after being scooped on his story by a British publication, The Guardian –but at least the Washington Post Express has a sense of humor about it.


Secretary of State John Kerry called the Snowden affair “deeply troubling” and noted that “lives will be lost.” Perhaps he and other elected officials might want to ruminate on why so many Americans –the people they purportedly represent– consider Snowden a hero. One commenter on a blog noted that when you say the initials of the National Security Agency quickly enough, it sounds a lot like “Nazi.”

There will always be “terrorists.” If in the wide definition of the term, I may also include drunk drivers, teenage girls who text and drive, pharmaceutical companies who, intentionally or not, get people addicted to prescription drugs (which kill far more Americans annually than illegal drugs), politicians who openly lie or say, “I don’t recall” while testifying before Congressional sub-committees, and the people responsible for the Legends Seats ticket prices at Yankee Stadium, why yes, “lives will be lost.”

Lives will always be lost, John. No one gets out alive. If, in the cause of protecting us from death –something no one has yet figured out how to do — you squander all of our rights as well as your own integrity, it ain’t really worth it.

But, of course, fear is what keeps you in business, isn’t it?



Much Ado about Much Ado About Nothing


Fillion and Hanks: There IS crying in war.


At least one film critic believes that this film, which opens Friday, is the best movie of the year thus far. One of its stars is Nathan Fillion, a likeable Canadian (are there any other kinds?) actor who was not even billed in “Two Guys, A Girl and a Pizza Place” but is now the title character in “Castle.” We’ll always love him for weeping openly in front of not one but two former sitcom stars (Tom Hanks and Ted Danson) in Saving Private Ryan.


Mark Lisanti’s “Mad Men” Power Rankings

Bob Benson at No. 3?!?!? Way too low, Lisanti.

“How are you doing?”

“Not GREAT, Bob!”


The term we use in organic chemistry is “isomers.”

I do think that Mr. Lisanti has a very soft spot in his four-chambered blood-pumper for Mr. Draper and the audacity of hope, don’t you?

(Side Note: Dear AMC or, specifically, Dear Idiots in The Marketing/Promotions Dept. of AMC: You are fortunate enough to have a genius, Matt Weiner, putting shows on your air. And he probably does not choose the songs with which he closes an episode without great care. So if you really want to promote your network, if you truly want to do what’s best for AMC as opposed to doing something that validates your paycheck, hands off the credits. Don’t cut into “Both Sides Now” with a promo for “The Killing”, which most of us aren’t going to watch anyway. Just be glad we watched “Mad Men” and stay the hell out of Weiner’s way. Are we clear? Thank you.)

Slim Whitman, RIP

Country crooner and world-class yodeler (which reminds me: Twinkies are returning!) Slim Whitman passed away at the age of 90 last weekend. I mention him because if you are of a certain age –mine– you may recall being positively assaulted with Slim Whitman infomercials in the late 1970s and early 1980s. You were told that Whitman was “an international star” (he did sell 70 million records, after all) and then you turned to your older brother, the one who had the Led Zeppelin poster up in his room and who had just purchased “Never Mind the Bollocks: Here’s the Sex Pistols”, and you asked, “Who in the wide world of sports is Slim Whitman?”

And he had no idea. Nice obit here from The New York Times. And here’s a tune you may have actually heard.


Mini-Day of Yore

Happy 137th Anniversary of the Battle of Little Bighorn, one of the great ass-kickings (of Americans, on American soil…sort of) in U.S. history. Most of us remember little more than a line (“Custer’s Last Stand”) if anything more about this “battle” but the truth is that the cavalry got everything they deserved and then some.

You should know that Gen. George Custer was a Civil War hero –he was given the desk at which the Confederacy signed its terms of surrender at Appomattox — and that he ruthlessly slaughtered both Native Americans and their horses in his naked ambition. As far as the Battle of Little Bighorn, it was a case of Custer and his troops being disorganized, wandering far outside their bounds of comfort, and engaging a tribe of people who were more than just a little pissed off at how the Americans had constantly broken promises to them about land rights.

As I wrote, it was a full-on butt-kicking. Savage, really. I highly, highly recommend you read Nathaniel Philbrick’s “The Last Stand”, which is just a phenomenal book. Kids, I ain’t anti-American. I’m just pro-truth.



Starting Five

1. “Look! Up in the sky! It’s an orb! It’s a sphere! It’s….SUPER MOON!”

In brief, it’s the closest that the moon will come to the earth in 2013. The next time our favorite satellite will be this close to us will be August of 2014. Having dispensed with that, I’m devoting the rest of this item to “Nep-Tunes”: songs with a celestial body in their title. And that’s the price of entry. So, sorry, Freddie Mercury, your name works but you’re a lead singer, not a song (and to to you, too, The Mars Volta).

1. “Moon River” (1961): Someone once noted that this song, like No. 2 on my list, is all about hope. There are only 42 different words in the lyrics. “Moon River” won both an Oscar (Best Song, 1961) and a Grammy (Best Song, 1962). It was used first in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, then it was assaulted in Fletch, and most recently it appeared just last night on “Mad Men.”

2. “Here Comes The Sun” (1969): This was the song that made John Lennon and Paul McCartney do a double-take and say, “Hey, our buddy George can write.” I’d have no problems with this tune being No. 1 on your list.

3 “Fly Me To The Moon” (1964): Recorded by Frank Sinatra. Extra points for mentioning two planets (“Let me know what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars.”)

4. “Moondance” (1970): This Van Morrison song was also the title of his greatest album (sorry, “Astral Weeks” fans). Bizarrely, this song was not released as a single until seven years later, while “Caravan”, also on the album –and the song that Nick Hornby has written he wants played at his funeral — never was.

5. “Planet Earth” (1981): A little high on the list? Perhaps, but it’s Duran Duran’s first single and I’ve always enjoyed its energy.

6. “Under the Milky Way” (1988): Somehow The Church, an Australian band, got misplaced by history. The album on which this tune appears, Starfish, is outstanding. They were less one-hit wonders than one-album wonders. The Down Under version of The La’s.

7. “Island in The Sun” (2001): If this Weezer tune doesn’t put a spring in your step, I don’t know what will.

8. “Moonshadow” (1970): Cat Stevens has called this the favorite of his songs. That’s good enough for me.

9. “Walking on Sunshine” (1987): Technically, the judges shouldn’t allow this. Sunshine is not itself the sun. Then again, the sun is simply a ball of fire, so who’s to say? Every time this Katrina and the Waves song came on the radio in the summer of ’87, you were obliged to turn it up and forget whatever you were doing for the next three minutes.

10. “Venus” (1959): Frankie Avalon’s big hit. A remnant of the Fifties, of the Pleasantville-lifestyle of the Eisenhower era.

Not making my cut, but they might make yours: “Walking On The Sun”, “Black Hole Sun”, “Invisible Sun”, “Staring at the Sun”, “Bad Moon Risin'”, “53 Miles West of Venus”, “Drops of Jupiter.” Note: Songs that just say “Star” in title don’t qualify, though if they did Radiohead’s “Black Star” would make the list.

2. California Dreamin’

All the leaves are brown

And the sky is gray

I think I’ll steal Stan Rizzo’s

Best idea today

On its season finale, “Mad Men” gets all Walter O’Malley as a number of characters decide it’s time to relocate from New York City to Los Angeles. Stan Rizzo hatches the idea to Don, who promptly usurps it, which leads to a classic confrontration between the two men in Don’s office in which Stan tells Don, “I’ve got a sandwich on my desk and I want to get to it before you do!”


Then Sally, to her father: “Why don’t you tell them (the police) what I saw?”


And it all begins to pile up for Don. Last week’s complete embarrassment of Ted Chaough and Peggy. The previous week’s “I was just comforting Mrs. Rosen Rosen.” Now this. And then he punches out a minister, while having a flashback to his youth of another minister who bleats that “the biggest mistake that people make is believing that they cannot be forgiven.”

Hello, DONNNNN! That’s God tapping you on the shoulder.

And then, in a scene that is every bit as worthy as Petyr Baelish’s “Chaos Is a Ladder”, Don Draper has his “On the Road To Damascus” moment. He’s pitching a perfect game to the Hershey executives, calling Hershey’s the “currency of affection” (that’s gold, Donny!) and noting his doting father, lawn mowing, and tousled hair. He’s right there! He’s won Hershey and he’s off to California! It’s George Bailey in the back of the sedan headed off for his honeymoon!

But wait. Don Draper, for the first time in as long as anyone can remember, and for no reason that will gain him any secular advantage, decides to come clean. “That isn’t true. I was an orphan. I grew up in Pennsylvania… in a whorehouse.”

Bye-bye, partnership.

Bye-bye, California.

Bye-bye, most likely, Megan.

Hello, inner peace.

“And the Emmy goes to…”
It’s just the most captivating scene in an episode that was replete with them.

And so now Ted will head to California (“Ciao, Chaough”), while we miss an opportunity to place two iconic Don D.’s (Draper and Drysdale) in the same city at the same time.

Pete Campbell: “Baby, You Can Drive My Car”

We end the episode, and the season, with Don taking his three children to see his childhood home on Thanksgiving weekend. It’s a dilapidated whorehouse in a bad neighborhood, but on the bright side it’s a Victorian on a corner lot. “This is where I grew up,” Don tells them. And cue Judy Collins singing Joni Mitchell’s classic hit, “Both Sides Now.” Yes, Don/Dick has looked at life from both sides now, from up and down…


And I do hope that Bob Benson tops Mark Lisanti’s “Mad Men” Power Rankings this week: He (possibly) engineers Pete Campbell’s mother’s death (“Manolo overboard!”), gets Pete kicked out of the Chevy account (you’ll thank him later for this, Campbell), survives a performance review with Roger Sterling, and still carves Joan’s turkey, so to speak.

Here is Alan Sepinwall’s review.

3. Or-Chasm


So now we know there’s another situation in which a grown man will repeat the terms “Jesus” and “Lord” ceaseleslly.

Nik Wallenda, 34, crossed not the Grand Canyon but actually the Little Colorado River Gorge last night by walking across a two-inch thick cable suspended 1,500 feet above the river. The crossing lasted more than 20 minutes and aired “plausibly live” (a 10-second delay, just in case) on The Discovery Channel.

If you’re not familiar with the surname, the Wallendas are the most famous and tragic high-wire act in history. Here are the final moments of Nik’s grandfather, Karl Wallenda, the founder of The Flying Wallendas. Karl was 73 at the time of that attempt in Puerto Rico.

4. Speaking of aerial acts gone wrong…

Just a reminder that there are no safe seats at air shows, people.


…That’s Jane Wicker, in her final few seconds, standing on the wing of a bi-plane at the 39th annual Vectron Dayton Air Show last weekend. The pilot seemed to be suddenly overtaken by a gust of wind that caused the plane to tilt severely and then, as so often happens, gravity won. The last words she hears, ironically, from the P.A. announcer: “Watch this. Jane Wicker. Sitting on top of the world.”

Updated rankings of the 200 Best & Worst Jobs now have “Wing Walker” at 199th, behind “Lumberjack” but still ahead of “Newspaper Reporter.”


5. “We, the people…”

Yesterday morning I exhausted a few tweets on the Booz Allen whistleblower, but I think Max Frankel in The New York Times did an exemplary job of noting most of the points that needed to be made. Here’s the essay, and I’ll highlight the most salient points below.

1. The title: “Inalienable”, which means “unable to be taken away from or given away by the possessor.” Well, that key adjective from a little document known as the Declaration of Indpendence appears to have been cast aside by our government.

2. You can bicker about Facebook or Amazon sharing your information. But, no one is compelling you to use those sites. You and I trade privacy for convenience here. More importantly, those two companies lack the authority to indict and incarcerate us.

3. You, and the federal government, can accuse Snowden of releasing classified information, but the government was openly lying, in congressional hearings, on this topic. Snowden’s “crime” was the only tangible way to compel our elected officials to come clean about programs that not only seem to be serious transgressions on our privacy, but also open the door to a litany of corrupt behavior if and when misused.

4. The government long, long ago forfeited the moral authority to say, Just trust us.

5. The government cannot act on its suspicions without a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. However, this is a judicial board that operates entirely in secret. Are you f’in kidding me? As Jon Stewart said a few weeks back, “It’s not tragic that you broke laws to do this. It’s tragic that you didn’t have to break any.”

6. Privatization. And this is a MAJOR POINT. There’s lots of money in consulting firms getting their tentacles into the act of private surveillance. Especially if it is done indiscriminately, as it is now. So that means government contracts. And who sits on the boards of these firms. Former legislators. It’s a scam, babe, and it’s costing you and I money.

7. My own final point: If government surveillance of its own citizens has expanded to such lengths that we contract that duty out to private firms, well, maybe we’ve gone a little bit too far. There’s a “Minority Report” sensibility going on here, and of course it is also Orwellian. Patrick Henry said it best, “Give me liberty or give me death.” I’d rather not sacrifice the former while trying to preserve the latter.


Just what in the wide world of sports (Slim Pickens reference!) do Selena Roberts and Roopstigo think they are doing? Roberts, the former New York Times and later Sports Illustrated scribe, launched her site on February 4. Her Wiki page denotes her as a “digital entrepreneur”, which I’d take to mean that she is hoping to make this site profitable.

So, if you visit Roopstigo you will see that, today, there is one original written piece on the homepage (“Straight Shooters: Why Women Rule The Rifle Range”, by Pat Jordan, a story that has been begging to be reported, let’s be honest) and five pieces that Roberts (her staff?) have culled from great American newspapers.

One by Blair Kerkoff of The Kansas City Star.

One by Chris Mueller of the Mitchell, S.D., Daily Republic.

One by Steve Hummer and Bill Rankin of The Atlanta Constitution.

One by Shawn Windsor of The Detroit Free Press.

And one, ironically titled “Poaching Disease”, by Rustin Dodd, also of The Kansas City Star.

Roberts is NOT providing links to these papers’ websites. Instead, she has literally cut and pasted the pieces and then placed them on her own site. Yes, she credits the newspaper and authors, but this is like me taking a loaf of bread from Albertson’s and selling it at Kroger.

Selena: You are stealing.

And you’re probably not making any friends among editors and your fellow/former colleagues.

Granted, I used to write at SI, I launched my own site (though I’m not a digital entrepreneur) and I, too, post stories that others have written. However, I ALWAYS provide a link to the publication and the majority of my content here is my own.

Your thoughts?




IT’S ALL HAPPENING! June 21 (MH salutes the MH edition)

Warning: Summer is here but the time is still not right for dancing in the street. It’s dangerous. You may be struck by a motorist. Please exercise caution. Do exercise, though.

Starting Five

1. Try, Try, Try To Understaaaaand: He’s a Magic Man

Jocular, adj., “Given to joking”

Jockular, adj. “Given to obsequious fawning over fellow athletes”

Look…we get it. No one is paying Magic Johnson to be Howard Cosell. And it’s okay if he says, “He don’t.” And of course the man who coached him to four of his five NBA championships, Pat Riley, is now the president of Team Heat. However, at some point during this sublime and memorable NBA Finals, Magic went from being an annoying sideshow to an impossible-to-ignore braying ass.

After Game 6 Magic, in front of his three NBA Countdown-erparts, Michael Wilbon, Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons, declared, “I’ll say it: they (the Spurs) choked.” Curiously enough, two days later on, a site that Simmons founded and of which he is the managing editor, Zach Lowe wrote an astute essay on why such a pronouncement was ludicrous. Lowe never mentioned Magic by name, and Magic probably does not even know what Grantland is. Some day, though, someone may connect  the dots for Magic and inform him that the jovial Simmons was openly disputing his claim.

Last night, after Team Heat won, 95-88, (outstanding effort by LeBron; more later), Magic basically went Jonah Hill-on-Aldous Snow nuts over the team’s two principal figures. He told James, “You are the only guy that can become the greatest to ever play this game” and then later told Wade, “You are the most unselfish person on the face of this Earth.”

Whether that latter pronouncement is related to the fact that Wade pays his ex-wife $25,000 monthly in alimony was left unsaid.

And, because Magic’s legacy as a player is so deservedly respected, no one on set has the gumption to confront him on his forays into (into? “beyond”) hyperbole.

Cosell, in his later years, used to openly lament the “jockocracy.” Ex-jocks muscling their way into the broadcast booth, devoid of impartiality or incisive commentary. Howard actually hoped he could stem the tide. In a Bristolized republic, that is no longer possible. The most we can do now is to openly point out, and hope that you see, that cheerleaders belong courtside in low-cut tops, not on the set of NBA Countdown.

2. LeBron’s Mettle

The dagger: This jumper put the Heat up by four with 0:27 to play.

37 points and 12 rebounds and, just as importantly, holding Tony Parker to 25% shooting. LeBron James was a beast in Game 7. Were he not saved by Jesus (Shuttleworth) two nights earlier, the narrative might have been that he clanged two three-point attempts in the final 28 seconds when his team needed him most. But LBJ and his team were given a reprieve.

And he took full advantage.

You want to be known as the greatest player on Earth (as opposed to the most unselfish person on Earth)? Then take and bury those open 18-footers San Antonio is ceding you. LeBron did.

For me, the most impressive aspect of Team Heat in Game 7 was its stifling defense. There were so very few open looks. Not just LeBron, but Chris Bosh and Shane Battier and even D-Wade were pests all game long. The defense was the difference.

3. Series Epitaph

“Heat Boobs.” Another legacy of the ’13 Finals.

A few final Finals thoughts:

–The old Manu Ginobili, as opposed to “an old Manu Ginobili”, might have been the difference the Spurs needed. I went from bellowing, “Ginobiliiiiiiiiiii!” to “Gi-NOOOOOOOOOOO-bili!” in the course of seven games.

–San Antonio, with this quartet of Hall of Famers, is not returning to the NBA Finals. They all know it. That is why this defeat will always sting so much worse.

–The series was everything we could have hoped it to be, and I was calling for this duo to meet back in March. A contrast of cultures, generations and styles, but both excellent teams. In most seven-game series, a dominant team emerges. That was not the case here. One team, by fiat, had to win four of the seven games. It was Miami. And even then it was not decided until the final 30 seconds.

–Nice to watch a series devoid of adversarial melodrama. There was no hostility between the two sides. Just mutual respect.

— “You can only grow so many tomatoes.” Pop. Love Pop. Here’s his Game 7 pre-game presser, just an hour or so before tip-off. He already acts like my good friend, former NBA reporter Marty Burns. And I can assume they’ll even physically resemble one another when Marty reaches this age.

–Danny Green was the big story after four games, but when the palms got sweaty and the pressure built, Kawhi Leonard proved to be the more reliable young player for the Spurs (and, yes, I know that he missed a free throw; I’ll remind you that Mario Chalmers missed BOTH free throws he attempted last night with under two minutes to play).

–Simmons was funny last night. He read James’ stats, noted his defensive prowess on Parker, and quipped, “I thought you could’ve done a little bit more.” James took the joke well. Then Simmons asked him to come clean: if at any point in the waning moments of Game 6 if he thought it was all over. James: “To win a championship, you need a little luck.” Bingo. Well said. And well done, too, LeBron. Well done.

–I still cannot believe the Thunder let James Harden go. That trio was the only entity potentially (I said, “Potentially”) standing between the Heat and five NBA titles. I don’t know who steps in their path now. Seriously.

4. Arrested, Development

Hernandez’s next uniform may be orange.

An arrest warrant has been issued for New England Patriot tight end Aaron Hernandez. Obstruction of justice in relation to the murder of Odin Lloyd. You hand over a shattered cell phone to police investigators, you’re going to raise eyebrows, you know.

Interestingly, some people tweeted (and then deleted said tweets) yesterday, upon learning of the destroyed cell phone and home-security system, that it was “sad” that Hernandez may be involved in this. No. It is sad that Odin Lloyd was murdered.

Someone else tweeted –and I laughed– that he couldn’t wait for Ray Lewis to join ESPN’s studio shows so that the retired Raven could provide expert analysis on how to avoid being charged with murder.

Finally: Who are the two other people whom Hernandez and Lloyd were with on Monday night? I suppose that’s the first question investigators will ask.

5. “I Thought It Was Great”


NBC, please tell us that this is not the best you can do.

The “Morning Joe” crew addresses yesterday’s debacle with Russell Brand. The aforementioned quote comes from Brian Schactman. Mika Brzezinski notes that she has never “gotten so much hatred, so much vitriol.” (I’m raising my hand here). Brian, it was great. And you came off as a boy talking to a man. And, yes, we caught that you noted this morning that Brand notified Katy Perry that he wanted a divorce via text message, something that you wouldn’t have dared say to his face yesterday.

Near the end of the broadcast Andy Serwer, the managing editor of Fortune and one of the plethora of like-minded pinheads who regularly appear on this show, told Mika that he thought she did not have anything to apologize for. He actually thought it was Brand who had been rude.

At the very end of this morning’s show, there was a dedication to the recently deceased dog of one of “Morning Joe’s” behind-the-scenes staffers.

We’ll get through this, America.



Starting Five

1. Yo, T! Rest In Peace.

Ursine. Volcanic. Ruthless. Sweet. Charismatic. Autocratic. Family-oriented. That was the character, Tony Soprano, that James Gandolfini, who died yesterday in Rome at age 51, brought to life. Before The Sopranos, there was only one real drama of note (and it was more of a comedy at best) on HBO, and that was Sex and The City.

In the winter of 1999 Creator David Chase, with a writing staff that would include the future creator of Mad Men, Matt Weiner, foisted upon us one of the truly inimitable and unforgettable characters in television history. The genre, Mafia movies/TV, was not at all new. But we’d never seen a godfather quite like this one.

If you are from New Jersey originally (raises hand), and Italian-American (hand raised even higher), you are both proud of and appalled at the character. But, this show changed television. In its wake came The Wire, Breaking Bad, Entourage, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, etc. Most of the best, if not all of the best, dramatic series ever to air on TV were spawned after this. The Sopranos was the model.

A few more thoughts…

–Here’s Gandolfini, who would win three Emmys, on “Inside The Actors’ Studio.”

–Here he is, with the rest of the cast, doing a “Top Ten List” on The Late Show

–Here’s a vintage scene with Dr. Melfi, the “Jimmy Smash story” from Season 1. Comic, wistful, empathetic. All in two minutes.

–Right now Gandolfini knows what Chase does not: whether the final scene of this series, the final moment, is actually accurate. Whether everything truly fades to black.

2. Exposed

British Invasion of “Morning Joe”

Comedian, erstwhile husband of Katy Perry and smoldering ball of sexual fire Russell Brand stopped by the MSNBC set of “Morning Joe” yesterday and in eight-plus captivating minutes, simply laid waste to the junior varsity trio of on-air “talent” (I’m using that word oh so loosely) seated around the desk.

Brand absolutely schooled host Mika Brzezinski and quasi-co-hosts Brian Schachtman (oh, you poor boy) and fellow Brit Katty Kay (who was at least smart enough to keep her mouth shut most of the time) on their superficial comments and rude behavior. It began badly when Morning Mika introduced him by saying, “Joining us now, he’s a really big deal…I know, I’m told this…I’m not very pop-cultured, I’m sorry.”

Well, Mika, considering you’re on air three hours every morning, perhaps you oughta be. And how rude was that? Fortunately, that was just the sort of insult that got Brand’s juices running and he can more than retaliate.

At one point, when one of them obsessed about his clothes and British accent, Brand quipped, “Thanks for your casual objectification.”

I’ve seen Brand on talk shows before. And seemingly so have you. What becomes very apparent very quickly is that he is brilliant. And not just because of his prolix vocabulary. There is a tendency to simply think of him a Aldous Snow or some type of clown because of his unique features and mode of dress, but what Brzezkinski & Co. discovered the hard way is this: He’s out-thinking you every moment.

At one point Brand, so exasperated at the “Morning Joe” crew’s utter lack of professionalism and intellect, bursts out, “Is this what you all do for a living?”

It was an outstanding performance. Hey, I’m straight and while watching this “it went from six to midnight.” Russell Brand is one of those performers who actually deserves to be famous.

3. Moms Are The Best


Here is Colbert mentioning his mom one year ago.


Last week Stephen Colbert, who is one of 11 children, lost his mother, Lorna Colbert. She was 92 years old. The host of “The Colbert Report” broke character and gave a simple, sincere tribute to the woman who shaped his life more than anyone else (“If you also like me, that’s because of my mom.”). My mom is, fortunately, still around and will be for a long time–and reads this daily –and has had the same effect on me.

4. Taking Care of Business — and Working Overtime

For the third time in four games, the Stanley Cup finals went beyond the designated 60 minutes. The Blackhawks won 6-5 on Brent Seabrook’s goal midway through the first overtime. The series is now knotted up 2-2 as both Original Six squads return to Chicago for Game 5 and I desperately hope that I got through this item without exposing my Brzezinski-esque ignorance of hockey. I hear it’s a really big deal.

5. A Tight End, And Some Loose Ends

Why was the New England Patriot tight end out with homicide victim Odin Llloyd, who dated the sister of Hernandez’s girlfriend, on the night that Lloyd was murdered? Did Hernandez, Lloyd and two other men leave the bar together? If so, when and why did they separate? Doesn’t Hernandez have a beautiful home? Will Tim Tebow, who played with Hernandez at Florida, move to tight end? When is Rob Gronkowski’s next surgery? Is Kelli Naqi now sentenced to a summer of staking out Hernandez’ North Attleborough home the way she once had to stalk Michael Vick (it’s cool; she’s a Boston College alum so she won’t mind)? Do you think Bill Belichick wouldn’t mind now fielding more Tebow questions? Do the Savage brothers have an alibi?



The home of University of Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops is burgled on the eve of the 24th anniversary of Barry Switzer’s resignation. Probably just a coincidence. Stoops was traveling in Kansas when the break-in occurred, some time after 3:30 a.m., but his family was home. In the wake of this incident Stoops has fired his defensive coordinator.


Day of Puig’s

Puig steals second as Yankee shortstop Not-Derek-Jeter attempts to apply tag.

Dodger rookie phenom Yasiel Puig etches his name alongside hundreds –thousands? — of other Major Leaguers by striking out against Mariano Rivera. Puig, who was at Yankee Stadium yesterday for a mid-week day-night doubleheader against The Pinstripes, had quite the memorable afternoon. He had both a bunt single and a home run, a stolen base, and an attempted 9-3 put-out at first base that went awry. Still, you cannot take your eyes off him. And there he was, in the opener, whiffing against the greatest closer of all time to end the game. A crossing of two epochs.

Speaking of which, the Dodgers’ visit to Yankee Stadium inspired Vin Scully, who has only been calling Dodger games for 64 years, to take to Twitter yesterday.


The Washington Post’s Melinda Henneberger, who is rapidly running out of college football teams for whom to root, tweets, “Naval Academy required woman to attend football games even after she reported being raped by 3 players charged today.” I have not seen this actually reported in a story yet, so take Henneberger’s tweet for what it is. Still, that’s SEC-level misappropriation of values taking place at Annapolis. Also, why should anyone be compelled to watch Navy play?


Hey, kids, The Backstreet Boys have a new song out! Which I doubt will threaten Kanye West’s “Yeezus.”  I completely recused myself from the Boy Band era, but if I had to pick just one group to follow, it would certainly be Dudez A-Plenti.

Remote Patrol

Game 7, NBA Finals


ABC 9 p.m.

No predictions. I had Spurs in six and I was one defensive rebound away from being correct. Thank goodness Disney has Jeff Van Gundy as its color analyst. He’s the most candid on-air talent at ESPN.



Starting Five



Ray Allen: “Three-Feat”

Ten Things To Remember About Game Six


1. The 25 first-half points by the Spurs’ Tim Duncan. Vintage Big Fundamental from a decade earlier.

2. The Heat’s Mike Miller not only playing an entire offensive possession in the fourth quarter with only one shoe, but spotting up and burying the three.

3. Kawhi Leonard’s first-half dunk. As one person tweeted, Leonard just fulfilled two of his lifetime objectives: “He dunked and he punched Mike Miller in the face.”

4. The polarizing play of LeBron James. If you love him, you note that the Heat forward had 32 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, his second triple-double of the Finals. If you don’t, you remind people that he palms the ball on every one of his patented “set-up-from-30-feet-out-and-then-bullrush-to-the-bucket” maneuvers. If you love him, you remind us that LeBron scored 16 points in the final 12:10 of regulation to lead the Heat back from a 12-point deficit. If you don’t, you note that late in the third, he failed to get a whistle on a driving layup and sat in the lane, his palms held upward, and whined to the referees as the Spurs raced downcourt to score a bucket. It was 60-56 at that point and the Spurs quickly turned it into a 13-point lead. If you love him, you note that LBJ was an absolute beast on defense. If you don’t, you grudgingly accede that point. But you note that LeBron, for as great as he is, plays like a playground chump. The dude who misses his shot and then calls the foul. In overtime he came up with a steal and had Danny Green onein-on-one in the open court. Miami led by just one with :40 to play. LeBron did three things here: 1. He slammed into Green and cleared him out with his left arm, conspicuously 2. Lost the ball out of bounds, again conspicuously, and really through no effort on the part of Green, who was falling to the floor, and 3. reacted by making the face you see below.

5. Tony Parker’s brilliance. TP hit a teardrop three with the Spurs down three and under two minutes to play, then made the spin move “Where Did He Go?” play on Mario Chalmers that led to the go-ahead bucket. If either James or Allen miss their threes, the Spurs have a fifth title and Monsieur Parker is the undisputed NBA Finals MVP.

6. That offensive rebound by Chris Bosh (and yes, it is worth asking why Tim Duncan and his 17 rebounds were not on the floor). Four Spurs defenders were in the area of LeBron’s three-point miss, but the human velociraptor (he really was perfect for that team’s nickname) that is Bosh extended to the heavens to grab the board and kick it out to Allen who…

7…. buried the most clutch three in NBA Finals memory. Yes, John Paxson buried a three that won the 1993 NBA Finals, but the score was tied at that point. Garfield Heard buried a shot to force another overtime in the Phoenix Suns-Boston Celtics three-overtime classic in 1976, but the Suns would ultimately lose the game and the series. Two years earlier Kareem Abdul-Jabbar swished the prettiest baseline sky hook you will ever see to clinch a double OT win against those same Celtics in Game 6 of the Finals, but the Celtics would win Game 7 (in Milwaukee) and then the series. (Watch the final 30 seconds of that contest, by the way–go to 6:00 mark. Note two things: 1) there are three lead changes in the final 30 seconds and 2) pay attention to the dribbling. No one is palming the ball. That makes it more difficult for the ballhandler to change direction. But that’s the way the rules are written. The NBA has lost its way in terms of officiating this, which is why LeBron is as lethal as he is).

8. The KIA NBA Countdown postgame show in which Magic Johnson opined, “I’ll say it –they choked.” The road team was down three in the final two minutes and they choked? Really? Kawhi Leonard only made one of two free throws in the final few seconds with the Spurs up two, but he was only a 63% FT shooter in the playoffs, anyway. He didn’t choke. He simply performed at his expected level. Honestly, Magic’s presence on this show is puzzling. If you are too young to remember him as a player, he was a charismatic leader, an ultimate competitor and, like LeBron, a physical beast as a matchup — a 6-9 point guard was at the time unheard of — who, also like LeBron, whined when things didn’t go his way. And, again like LeBron, had a suspect jump shot. But he was the ultimate leader and a brilliant player. It’s startling how simple-minded he comes off on this show. I’m sure Bill Simmons looks at him before every broadcast and thinks two things: 1) The Ewing Theory would work here and 2) this is the guy who beat my Celtics three out of five times in the Eighties?

9. Heat security attempting to cordon off the court as Tim Duncan was attempting to inbound the ball before San Antonio’s final possession in regulation. As ABC’s Jeff Van Gundy astutely observed, “What are they worried about? Miami fans rushing the court if the Spurs win?”

10. Jesus Shuttleworth’s textbook form on his season-saving jumper from the corner. And the look on Tony Parker’s face as he raced to guard him. Freeze-frame moment in NBA history.

2. Michael Hastings Dies in Single-Car Accident

The Buzzfeed reporter, whose 2010 expose on four-star general Stanley McChrystal, then the joint commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, in Rolling Stone, led to McChrsytal’s resignation, is dead. Hastings, 33, perished in a high-speed, single-car accident in the Hancock Park area of Los Angeles at around 4:15 a.m. Locals will tell you that Hancock Park is a tony neighborhood (but not decadently so like Beverly Hills or Bel Air) that almost makes you feel as if you are in Westchester County or New England. Almost.

Bizarrely, David Halberstam was, like Hastings, a fierce and fearless young war correspondent in the 1960s (what Hastings was to Afghanistan and the U.S. military, Halberstam was to Vietnam and the Pentagon, with his work appearing in The New York Times). Halberstam also died in a car accident in California, although as a much older man. If you want to read an outstanding book on being a journalist, especially a war correspondent, read William Prochnau’s “Once Upon A Distant War”, which relates the tale of Halberstam and Neil Sheehan, among others, as young, headstrong reporters in Vietnam.

3. Max Brooks Is Not Part of the World War Z Promo Tour

This is actually the line to acquire Wendy’s new pretzel bacon cheeseburger.

Here’s the author, who also happens to be Mel Brooks’ son, discussing how he had absolutely no control over the adaptation of his best-seller once Brad Pitt’s company purchased the rights to it. “Looks like World War Z in name only,” says Brooks, who notes that Pitt and Leo DiCaprio got into a bidding war for the rights to the story before the book was even published.

My two pennies: I LOVE the book. But, if you have not read it, you should know that it’s constructed a little like The Canterbury Tales. There’s a central story –a zombie apocalypse — around which are based a series of vignettes that allow Brooks to provide observations on economics, geo-politics, sociology, etc. It’s brilliant. But there’s no central character or characters. Hence, with the hindsight of Game of Thrones to guide us, the preferred option would have been to turn WWZ into an HBO series. And, hopefully, someday that will still happen.

As it is now, World War Z the film will resemble its literary sire the way “The Hunger Games” film might have resembled the book that preceded it if the film were about a pie-eating contest. That said, my man Adam Duerson caught a sneak preview and tweeted, “Resembled Max Brooks’ book 0%, but I enjoyed it 100%.”

Last two things: 1) Don’t cry for Brooks. No one forced him to sell the rights. Surely he banked a fortune on this. 2) To avoid confusion, World War Z is the 2013 summer apocalypse film in which everyone is not getting stoned. You’re welcome.

4. Miss Utah Just Keeps on Winning

Third runner-up? Please.

Last night Marissa Powell’s “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” World Tour (i.e., “Print the legend”) continued triumphantly in Hollywood, as she sang the words to her incoherent answer on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Poor Erin Brady, a.k.a. Miss USA, a.k.a. “Who Dat?” She is sentenced to a years of visiting hospitals and cutting ribbons and air travel and trying vainly to remain in shape for Miss Universe –which will not have a bikini competition due to its being staged in a Muslim nation –while Powell will slingshot that fame to a hosting gig on E! or perhaps replacing Diane Sawyer on “World News Tonight.”

What about me?

Powell could be earning high six figures, if not seven, by this time next year, at which point the then 22 year-old can return to Nene “Wiki” Leakes’ question and say, “I don’t know who you’re talking about, home girl, but I’m making bank.”

5. Obesity: The Other White Meat

The American Medical Association votes to recognize obesity as a disease,  while the World Hunger Organization and Sudan vote to collectively raise a middle finger in the general direction of the AMA. As one follower on Twitter noted, “Obesity is a disease? Maybe we should start a 5-K to find a cure.” Yes, let’s. We’ll call it Fat’s Run.


Mess Sweep Twinbill from Barves; Costas Does Not Do Highlights

This had the makings of the Most Mess game of the season thus far. Through six innings Matt Harvey was pitching a no-hitter and had struck out 13 Barves. Then Lukas Duda failed to cover first on an infield roller, spoiling Harvey’s no-no. In the eight David Wright misplayed a ground ball (E-5) but the official scorer ruled it a hit. The Mess led 4-0 at the time but the Barves soon made it 4-3 –all three runs charged to Harvey, even though they should have been unearned– and had the tying run at third.

Honestly, if Harvey were to kill a teammate at this point, it’s justifiable homicide.

But then the Mess actually came through. Bobby Parnell whiffed an Upton –don’t ask me to remember which one — to end the threat and then worked out of a jam in the ninth to record the save.

For Harvey it was his first win since May 17 in Chicago, when he himself drove in the winning run.

In the nightcap, phenom Zack “To The Future” Wheeler pitched six shutout innings in his Major League debut to get the win. Of course, the Mess did not score until the top of the seventh and Wheeler left after six. He got the W, but barely. Get used to this feeling, Zack.

Wheeler: 7 K’s but also five walks in his debut.

In World Cup qualifying, Team USA beat Honduras, 2-0. World Cup qualifying for the USA is the soccer equivalent to Kansas State’s football schedule in September.

Eighty-Six Steak Shapiro

An obnoxious, boorish radio host with a meathead sobriquet was canned for saying something obnoxious and boorish. I’m shocked.

Remote Patrol

Stanley Cup Finals, Game 4

Blackhawks at Bruins

8 p.m. NBC

Between the NHL and NBA, we’ve had three overtime contests in nine games. Not bad. However, with the little ice ken that I possess, it feels to me that Boston has been the superior team every time it has taken the ice dating back to the second round. Toronto, which had a three-goal lead in the third period of Game 7 in the opening round, should have provided the knockout punch. Ever since the Bruins have looked lethal. So, Maple Leaf fans, you’ll always have that to live with. Oh, and by the way, Magic Johnson, THAT was a choke.

The Film Room with Chris Corbellini: “This Is The End”

Apatowcalpyse Now

by Chris Corbellini

How tricky it must be for a guy like Seth Rogen to play himself when the rest of the movie-watching world thinks it already knows him. When an actor does it right though, exaggerating the worst parts of his public self, it’s always good for a laugh. Rogen is the co-director and writer of the Apocalypse comedy “This is the End,” and with a cast that graduated with dishonors from the School of Apatow, the movie suggests that he and other big-name actors aren’t worthy of ascending to heaven. No, it’s much funnier to see these fools suffer each other at the mouth of hell.

What up? Jon Hamm just dropped trou.


The six leads, Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride have all found success on their own in Hollywood. Now, with a credit line to do a project all their own, they’ve put together the funniest movie of the summer so far. It’s drags a bit while the end-of-the-world story plays out in the background, but there’s a lot to chuckle about from credits to credits, which in today’s comedy market is really saying something.


One of the smarter choices the filmmakers made was lingering longer than usual with the set-up: Baruchel flies into Los Angeles to visit Rogen, and while there are smiles, backslaps and a rapid-fire montage of ganja smoking involved, the visitor can barely conceal his disgust with how phony his world-famous buddy has become. This may be rooted in truth, with Baruchel doubling for the co-director Evan Goldberg, who is a childhood friend of Rogen’s. Then again, Baruchel gets recognized himself at a Hollywood party (“Loved you in Million Dollar Baby”), so it might be partly from his point of view as well – a working actor that is not a megastar surrounded on all sides by megastars. The party in question takes place at James Franco’s new mansion in the Hollywood Hills, and it’s the best slice of the picture.


127 Hours; Forgetting Sarah Marshall; The 40 Year-Old Virgin; Mad Men. The Freaks are killing the Geeks in IMDB credits.

There’s an unspoken rule when invited to nights like these: If you have a choice between checking out a pack of celebrities seated at a table or a pack of matches placed at another table … you stare at the matches. The endgame is if you pretend not to look long enough something interesting will happen, and the Rogen-Goldberg tandem shot the party this way and it’s funny and knowing. Michael Cera, for instance, an actor known for his inherent meekness, is spotted hopped up on cocaine and slapping Rihanna’s butt, and she wheels around and belts him.  My favorite moment, lensed in passing as if you were walking out of a bathroom upstairs, was Jason Segel bitching about the dumb-it-down comedy of his own hit television series, mimicking chubby cheeks and mumbling as if he had eaten his TV wife’s food without permission. These would be the stories you tell friends the following morning. Of course the joke of the movie is you wouldn’t live long enough to see the following morning. Just as Baruchel and Rogen are close to having it out for good, beams of godly light bolt from the sky, and the Apocalypse begins.

MH has a soft spot for the almost-famous Baruchel, who first uttered, “It’s All Happening.” He’s sweet in “She’s Out Of My League.”


A good comparison from this point would be “Ghostbusters,” with its combination of how-is-this-happening scares and humor (one of the monsters looks like the ugly dog-creature that attacks Rick Moranis outside Tavern on the Green). But Rogen and Goldberg push it far beyond the silly imagery of a Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man. They instead open up a sinkhole right in front of Franco’s house and drop nearly all of young Hollywood to their deaths.  The Marshmallow Man in this instance is actually a well-endowed demon giant, because what’s worse than feeling inadequate before being swallowed and banished to hell?


The CGI isn’t mind-blowing, and that’s not really the intention. The intention is the hilarious facial reactions to that CGI. It wasn’t enough that these actors were so freaked out by a severed human head that they began squealing in horror. No, the creatives thought it would be even funnier if they captured their horror from the point of view of the HEAD, rolling around like a soccer ball on the floor.  Then, when a exorcism must take place, one of them repeats “The power of Christ compels you!” because that’s the quote they (and the rest of us) remember from “The Exorcist.” This group may not known much about the writings from the Bible, but they do know their movie scenes.

The performers clearly had a blast making this film, you can see it. They must have laughed quite often after someone yelled “cut,” and I look forward to the DVD commentary, when they crack up even more. Rogen doesn’t showcase his famous laugh much in “This is the End,” but you can almost see him bellowing to himself months earlier, as he wrote moments for each of his cast-mates. McBride somehow chews up scenery which involves fire and death, and his moment with the biggest cameo in the movie brings the biggest laugh. Then there’s the finale, with extras and stars alike decked out in white. In the end, sweetness prevails. That may seem like a surprise considering the subject matter, but not to anyone who watched Rogen and many in this cast getting their big break in the Judd Apatow show “Freaks and Geeks.” They are now paying forward that rooted-in-kindness storytelling. The Freaks and Geeks shall inherit the Earth. What’s left of it that hasn’t been stomped on by a demon with his junk dangling out, that is.