Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

Sonata Pathetique

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson made it clear earlier this week that he doesn’t believe the NBA should play games on Christmas Day.

Well, he and the Lakers certainly did their part.

Roundly refusing to put out even a modicum of effort, the World Champions’ pathetic performance was an insult to everyone who supports them, buying tickets, wearing jerseys, wasting a large part of Christmas Day sitting before the TV to root them on.

In fact, it was remarkably like last year against Cleveland.  At least these fat, lazy multi-millionaires are consistent.

No, I don’t think they’re saying they don’t care about the fans.  They simply have no pride in their work.

I have, right in front of me, a copy of a letter written on the Green Bay Packers’ letterhead (1263 Highland Avenue, Green Bay, Wisconsin 34305) on December 15, 1967.  It’s from Vince Lombardi, Head Coach & General Manager, to Mr. Jim Murray, Los Angeles Times.  It reads, in part, “Dear Jim: Your column of December 12 was the finest tribute I have ever received.  It made all of the Lombardis’ very happy and we are all most appreciative.”

What was this article, written by the home columnist of the rival Los Angeles Rams, which Lombardi treasured for the rest of his life?  Murray had written it on December 12, following a tough Rams home victory over the soon-to-be World Champion Packers.

“You’re going to think I’ve flipped but you know whom I would have given the game ball to in Saturday’s Rams-Packers game?

“Vincent T. Lombardi is who…

“You pick up a national magazine, and V.T. Lombardi comes off like Ludwig of Bavaria sitting around in his epaulets and drinking blood.  You go to Green Bay and you ask where he lives and the natives say, ‘Just go up to the end of this street and St. Peter will direct you from there.’

“But it is a measure of the man that he went all out Saturday to win a game he would have been far better off losing…

“And yet, Lombardi’s team went down with all guns firing, the flag still flying, looking for ways to clobber the Rams and stopping the clock to do it.  The Rams came out of it looking like guys who had just broken up a dogfight…

“There are large areas of the world where coaching football may equate in the common mind with polishing the statue of Sherman’s horse.

“But to Vince Lombardi, it’s HIS profession.  He would quit before he would dishonor it.

“We have today a whole society clouded with shiftless plumbing, shoddy carpentry, doctors who are after yachts, not disease.

“On the other hand, I have known trash-men who would stop and get off the truck to pick up a fallen box.

“When Vince Lombardi loses a football game, particularly with the numbing suddenness he did Saturday, it is wise to enter his locker room with a whip and a chair.

“Not Saturday.  Vince Lombardi’s face was suffused with pride.    ‘Gentlemen, we lost… and I couldn’t be prouder of our team.  It’s a credit to football and the National Football League when a team that has clinched its division plays as hard as you did today.  You are men of great desire and dedication.’

“All he had lost was a game.  But he hadn’t tried to sell the Green Bay Packers with one wheel missing.  He hadn’t come into town with a plastic team craftily disguised as the real thing.  His team lived up to the warranty.  No one wanted his money back.  No one hollered for the Better Business Bureau.

“His critics have said Lombardi doesn’t belong in this century.  And they are right.  Pride in workmanship like that hasn’t been seen much in this century.  When you bet on them, buy a ticket to see them, or invest in them, V.T. Lombardi guarantees you are getting the original, the genuine Green Bay Packers, not a shoddy imitation.  Let those who criticize him ask if THEIR product could stand that rigid inspection…”

Phil Jackson has won, what, eleven World Championships?  Kobe has five?  David Stern, who presides over this mess, has reaped many tens of millions for himself watching his players indulge in a league-wide collusion to get through each contest with as little effort as possible.

They should all, every one of them, be ashamed of themselves.

A Matter of Respect

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about leadership.  After all, directing any film, from a website video to a TV pilot to a marketing video to a feature, requires leadership qualities rivaling those of a football coach.

Which is exactly what I’ve been considering.  Specifically, the bald guy in Minnesota.

Brad Childress, head coach of the Vikings, and his boss Zygi Wilf, the owner, are at odds.  No matter what anyone says, Brad’s days are numbered.

Now here’s a guy who, just last year, was only another Brett Favre late big game interception from The Super Bowl.  He seemed to have turned the team around, riding a rugged defense, Favre, and Adrian Peterson to a big season and a four-year multi-million dollar deal of his own.

Wilf should never have done it.  Because, with all of Childress’ success, a moment so revealing that it should never have been ignored occurred near the end of the season.

Childress wanted to take Favre out of a meaningless late-season game to save and protect him.  Favre refused.  He told Childress, loudly, publicly, and after the game, that he, Favre, will decide when he plays.  And Childress kowtowed.

I’ve written and directed a play on Vince Lombardi, and have studied the man for 14 years.  I guarantee that the greatest coach in the history of football – and, with John Wooden, the greatest coaches of any sport ever – was spinning in his grave so violently that it registered on the Richter Scale.

Not because of ego.  Because of success.  You can’t win in sports – especially a violent team effort like pro football – when your team doesn’t respect its coach.  And no NFL player, no matter what they might say to the press, retained even a shred of respect for Childress after that.

I mean, come on, can you imagine Favre telling Bill Bellichick that he’d decide when he played?  Bill Parcells?  Mike Shanahan?  None of them would have murdered him.  But the laughter in Favre’s face would have rivaled any sitcom.

Favre should have not only been benched but released on the spot.  I guarantee that, in private conversations, some of the players began referring to Coach Favre and his assistant Childress.  If not something far more misogynistic.

Yet Childress showed his inability to lead, which makes the Vikings’ struggles this year unsurprising.  There’s no question Childress has been feeling the waning respect, which is why he was so quick to make a show of waiving Randy Moss, and why his players are now publicly dissing him.  And, because he never told Wilf, his job is in jeopardy.

He’s going to get fired.  It’s just a matter of time and not that much of it.  Not because he’s a bad football coach.

Because he’s an incompetent leader.

Making The Lakers an Offer They Can’t Refuse

Friday, June 25th, 2010

All right, I know I’m just a measly maker of website videos, so what do I know about the NBA? Yes, I’ve spent 30 years in Hollywood, which should have nothing to do with it, but what do marketing videos have to do with pro basketball?

Sales, that’s what. And recognizing an archetypal character when I see one.

The NBA purportedly makes $10 million for each finals game. Now that’s a lot more than a website video or marketing video, or almost any other business you can think of. The association has a deeply vested interest in two things – making sure the games seem fair to the viewers, and making sure they haul home as much cash as possible.

That’s where the character comes in. If you were to go to a movie and see NBA Commissioner David Stern giving his all to appear like the average joe, and then watch as he suddenly shifts into attack mode when a Jeff Van Gundy (at the time, Rockets head coach) or Mark Cuban complains about the refs, you’d know what you were seeing. A phony, and an angry one at that. So you’d be searching for backstory to validate how he turned out that way. Here it is:

First of all, David Stern is so short that the comment he probably heard most growing up was, “Hey, David, get out of the hole!”

Napoleon Complex.

Secondly, he’s a native New Yorker who grew up in Jersey, so has organized crime in his genes. How does Don Stern (Don as in Corleone, not Donald) sound?

It takes the drive of Napoleon to attempt to re-form the game David unfortunately inherited from his erstwhile boss, Lawrence O’Brien. The results? The Don saw profit in worship of the slam-dunk and one-on-one game, which quickly led to things like a 30-point loss to Italy in the Olympics. He essentially had to recuse himself from the international process to let the U.S. game survive and regain its standing.

But worse for longtime basketball aficionados like me, back when Shaq was tearing up the league for the Lakers, Don Sterneone figured out how he could influence games, satisfying both his power lust and ability to help series leaning towards the best outcomes for the league. He got to the refs. Perhaps nothing as direct as certain people have sworn, but more insidious.

He gave his officials the option to decide when a foul was a foul.

Shaq could be hammered if it didn’t stop him and no whistle, but the same foul by him on a smaller center would be called. Basketball quickly became the only sport whose officials, when they spotted a foul, had to first decide if it “created an advantage” before blowing the whistle.

Now, for anyone whose done it (including this website video guy), it’s hard enough to ref a basketball game, especially one with big, fast, top-level talent. Add in that most refs aren’t exactly mental giants, and you’ve now input a discretionary element impossible to exercise correctly, but easy to influence.

So, when Don Sterneone wants L.A. to lose Game 2 at home and make the 2010 finals a series, and the officials know it, they use two phantom calls to effectively keep Kobe out of the game, while simultaneously deciding the Celtics created no advantage on constant, two-handed shoves by Ray Allen to free himself, leading to his remarkable first half shooting. Not to mention deciding – on replay, no less – that Pau Gasol’s hand had somehow turned black and grown onto Kevin Garnett’s arm.

The Lakers will probably win the series, but as the Don wished, it will go longer than it should have. That’s not the point. The manipulation of a wonderful, truly American game by this would-be Napoleon has got to stop.

And the sooner, the better.