We know what you are thinking: Here comes the sophomore slump. Oh my, is someone exhibiting symptoms of the early stages of Manziel Disease? Not us, pal. Not. Us. No, we are like Dirk Diggler after he won Newcomer of the Year at the Adult Film Awards. We’re just gonna keep rockin’ and rollin’. These blogs we do, they can make a difference in people’s lives!
1. FC UK
Something happens/And I’m head over heels/I’ve got to find out/Why I’m head over hee-eels….”
Thank you, Tears for Fears.
Football season, European-style, opened its season this weekend, as both the Barclays Premier League and La Liga began play. Worth noting: Gareth Bale of Tottenham Hotspurs, the BPL/EPL’s reigning “Footballer of the Year”, did not play due to either a foot injury or the fact that Hotspurs are negotiating a sell price with Real Madrid for his services ($100,000,000). Down in Spain, FC Barcelona, the world’s premier club team, cruised to a 6-0 halftime lead over Levante before idling down to a 7-0 win.
NBC landed the rights to the BPL earlier this year and their production looked sharp. Ground-level views are something we’d rarely seen before, certainly not back in my boyhood days when the only soccer available was “Soccer Made in Germany” on PBS (and one midfield camera was about the extent of it).
Is the zeitgeist upon us? Spencer Hall, the creator of “Every Day Should Be Saturday” and the wittiest man writing about COLLEGE football, was inspired to tweet a Big & Rich “College Gameday” parody tune. It went a little like this:
“YEAH WE’RE COMIN’! TO YOUR CITTAYYYY—“
WELL WE COME FROM WOLVERHAMPTON
UP TO WIGAN
OUT TO NORWICH
TRYNTA GET TO SWANSEA CITY
FOR THE GAME
THEN WE GOT ON THE A4
WENT TO LONDON, CHELSEA SCORED
TOOK THE TUBE TO ARSENAL
TO SEE ARSENE
SUNDERLAND AIN’T GOT NO SUN
MAN CITY’S SPITTIN’ OUT CASH FOR FUN
LIVERPOOL’S STEALIN’ OUR BUS
MAN U’S IN DEBT FOR ETERNITYYYY
BUT WE’RE COMIN’
TO MAN CITAYYY
It is easy to ascertain why people such as Hall (and myself, and even Chris Fowler) are infatuated with the BPL: it’s the closest thing to college football that exists outside of football. Mad-passionate fans, idiosyncratic traditions, and a yearning (although, sadly, that is being abrogated in the colonies) to keep things simple.
My favorite BPL wrinkle, outside the play itself: the airline seats that players and managers use as their bench. I kept waiting for someone to inform Robin Van Persie to put up his tray and return his seat to its upright and locked position. Least favorite wrinkle: branding on uniforms. I know it’s nothing new, but I loathe it. Then again, the league name itself is branded.
Now, to test your BPL ardor: How many of the 20 BPL clubs have the word “City” in their title and who are they? (answer below pic)
Answer: Norwich City, Manchester City, Stoke City, Cardiff City, Hull City and Swansea City, who are a combined 0-1-4 (second number is Draw, third is Loss) after one weekend. Man City plays this afternoon.
2. Associated Press Releases College Football Poll After Holding It Hostage 221 Days
Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.
Alabama, last year’s national champion, is the AP’s preseason No. 1 while Ohio State, which did not actually lose a game in Urban Meyer’s inaugural season, is No. 2. The rest of the top 10: Oregon, Stanford (those two meet in November), Georgia, South Carolina (those two meet in Week 2), Texas A$M, Clemson, Louisville and Florida.
One thing that AP voters are great at: Looking backwards.
One thing they normally overlook: the Hunger factor.
Notre Dame failed to crack last year’s AP preseason Top 25, yet the Irish would meet the Crimson Tide for the national championship after completing an undefeated regular season. Were the Irish empirically the nation’s 2nd-best team last season? Probably not, but they certainly belonged in the top 10.
So who’s hungry this season? In my estimation, NOT Alabama. But the Buckeyes certainly are. As is Georgia –if the Bulldogs start off 2-0, meaning they will have beaten a pair of preseason Top 10 opponents in Clemson and South Carolina, then they should be ranked No. 1. That’s a big “If…”, obviously. Northwestern SHOULD be hungry.
Use this site to track AP poll voters (though, for all intents and purposes –as opposed to “all intensive purposes” — the poll is meaningless) each week. Keep an eye on outliers Scott Wolf, Benny Guilbeau and Jon Wilner.
Wolf, of the Los Angeles Daily News, has Louisville No. 2 (not a bad pick, actually, when you measure their talent versus their schedule) and Notre Dame at 22, lower than any of the other 59 voters. Wilner, of the San Jose Mercury News, has UCLA at 13 and Fresno State at 17 (and the Irish at 21). Guilbeau has Georgia at No. 1, which, again, I agree with provided they get past the opening gauntlet of those two Saturdays.
Nothing wrong with being an outlier. Again, the experts had the Irish outside the Top 25 and nobody had Johnny Manziel on his Heisman list this time a year ago. It’s just being stubborn and different for the sake of standing out that’s annoying. And that, as you’ll see as the season progresses, is Scott Wolf.
3. And Yet That Is NOT Why They Call It Beantown
Boston Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster declares himself Designated Self-Righteous A-Hole and nearly — nearly — transforms Alex Rodriguez into a sympathetic figure. Dempster threw his first pitch behind A-Rod, then appeared to need two more inside pitches to muster up the courage to bean him squarely in the back on a 3-0 count. As much as most fans loathe A-Rod, and with good reason, it was satisfying to see him take Dempster over the centerfield wall four innings later.
Red Sox pitchers have beaned A-Rod 21 times in his career, more than any other team.
Nearly as satisfying was Yankee manager Joe Girardi’s post-game quote: “Whether I agree with everything that’s going on, you do not throw at people and you don’t take the law into your own hands. You don’t do that. We’re going to skip the judicial system? It’s ‘My Cousin Vinny.'”
Worth noting: This had the feel of a vintage 2003-2007 era Yankees-Red Sox game at Fenway. It lasted 4:12 even though it only went nine innings…also, A-Rod was one of four Yankees plunked on Sunday night…why the Red Sox waited until the third game of the series to plunk A-Rod is curious. Were they just biding their time until the prime-time ESPN broadcast, or is Dempster just that big of a jerk? Possibly both…Finally, and this is coming from a lifelong Yankee fan, no ballpark is more telegenic than Fenway. None. No park even comes close…I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the next time A-Rod hits a grand slam, it’ll break Lou Gehrig’s career record of 23. And if he does it this season, while appealing his suspension, there’s going to no end of debate being embraced. If only it had happened last night.
4. The Annotated Newsroom
“You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen…and General Stomtonovich” — Enough with myths we choose to believe, let’s discuss Genoa.
1. “It couldn’t matter less, but Santa Claus has nine reindeer.”
The first Red Team meeting devolves into a Red-Nosed Team meeting as the ACN crew attempt to name all nine reindeer. I’m just happy my mom played Holiday Sing-Along With Mitch (Miller) non-stop annually the week before Christmas when I was a lad. Mitch had all the answers.
2. “We can call people until Saint Swithin’s Day…”
Charlie, in the same Red Team meeting, drops this arcane reference and no one bats an eye? Saint Swithin’s Day falls on July 15, and it’s a British thing, baby, yeaahhhh! You will notice that this meeting is taking place in mid-March.
3. “I got us a suite at the Soho Grand…”
A swanktacular hotel in the Tribeca area of lower Manhattan. Here is the actual bar. If they didn’t shoot Maggie’s scenes here, they at least did an excellent job of creating a replica of it. Jerry Dantana should fabricate things this authentically.
4. John Carter
Clearly, Aaron Sorkin creates this entire scene just to have Sloan Sabbith provide the ridiculous plot synopsis of this 2012 Disney film (“it’s about a Civil War veteran who is transported to Mars…”). Listen, Aaron: Nobody but nobody disses Taylor Kitsch (a.k.a. Tim Riggins) on my time. Got it? Don’t let it happen again.
That said, Will McAvoy’s wry, “You know, spoiler alerts” line was the funniest moment of the episode. Actually, both of Will’s scenes with Sloan were the highlights of this episode.
5. The visit to Jimmy James’ house
First of all, that’s not General Stomtonovich, that’s Jimmy James from “NewsRadio”. Or you may know him as Milton from “Office Space.” Whatever. Stephen Root is an outstanding character actor, and he kills it in this scene, too. Worth noting: very few Spanish-style roofs in Silver Spring, Md. That scene was almost certainly shot in Beverly Hills, north of Wilshire Blvd., I’d guess.
Also, the retired general references March Madness, but we can clearly see the word “STATE” along the baseline on the TV in the background. An NCAA tournament site would have the name of the city hosting the site there, without exception.
6. “Sloan is out with a New York Giant and Will’s having a quiet night at home with Mrs. Macbeth…”
McKenzie and Don bond over drinks at the local swank Midtown bar/sushi den. Mrs. Macbeth is Lady Macbeth –the first of two Shakespeare references in this episode –and this is a swipe at Hope Davis’ Nina Howard character, who is now Will’s girlfriend. Like the king of Scotland’s wife, Howard is goading her partner into suicide, although here it is only career suicide –though to an on-air broadcaster, that’s actually worse.
Also, notice how Don seems to have a slump-and-talk with an important female colleague in each episode these days, since the breakup with Maggie? Who’s on the menu, next week? Sorority Girl?
7) “He’s not Betty White”
Slumdog scolds the Ron Paul gal for confusing advanced age with being adorable. For the record, Ron Paul turns 78 tomorrow. Betty White is 91.
8) “I was at Newsweek in 2005…”
Don, referencing “Not-So-Great Moments in Gotcha! Journalism”, is referring to the magazine’s April 2005 piece in which it alleged that guards at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility flushed copies of the Quran down the toilet to torment Muslim prisoners. It was later revealed that they had flushed down copies of Duran Duran albums (okay, not really). Anyway, Newsweek later retracted most of the story.
9. “You looked like Dukakis riding in a tank…”
A reference to the 1988 presidential election in which Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis, a wonky liberal, was photographed riding in a tank. It’s the standard fish-out-of-water reference, here used by Sloan to Will to inform him how stupid he looked appearing on ACN’s morning fun fest program.
10. “Suddenly Mac is back in town…”
Sloan, in the midst of a sermon to Will in their second scene together, slyly drops a lyric from the classic Bobby Darin tune “Mack the Knife”. And by Sloan, of course, we mean Sorkin.
11. “Self love, my liege, is not so vile a sin as self-neglecting…”
Will’s response to Sloan’s goading him about his obsession with his on-air likeability. From Shakespeare’s Henry V.
12. Goldlilocks Planet
I’d explain the reference but Will and Sloan do a pretty good job themselves. Basically, a planet that has conditions similar to earth’s to support carbon-based life forms such as ourselves…and perhaps even Les Miles.
13. Savannah Guthrie
Yes, she is leggy. But from what I’ve seen, kind of clumsy.
14. Return to Jimmy James’ home
Once again, a basketball game is on in the background and once again, it’s not the NCAA tournament. Why? Because it reads “SEC” in the free throw lane and “Wildcats” on the baseline. That’s Kentucky. Two things to notice here: 1) General Stomtonovich says, “It happened” before Maggie closes the door, so she is a witness to the fact that he said it. 2) When Jerry Dantana later plays the doctored footage at the second Red Team meeting (SPOILER ALERT!!!!), no one notices that the game unnaturally jumps in time from the time Dantana poses his question to the time when Stomtonovich says, “We used Sarin.”
That’s going to be the evidence that alerts all to Dantana’s subterfuge. Imagine this happening just a year ago. Twitter would explode in two minutes as viewers noticed the jump-cut. That’s why Charlie says, “By 10:05, I knew we had a problem.”
5.) Another Gilmore Girls Alum Does Well
The No. 1 movie at the box office this weekend was “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”, the true story of a White House butler who served during the course of eight presidential terms. The script was written by Danny Strong, whom heretofore I recognized as the managing editor of the Yale Daily News (and Paris’ boyfriend) back on Gilmore Girls. So who has the better post-Starrs Hollow resume, Strong or Melissa McCarthy?