25 September, 2007

The Juice gets the squeeze...

By now you've all heard that O.J. Simpson was arrested Sunday in Las Vegas for allegedly stealing, among other things, his own signed memorabilia from a hotel room. This is a bit like me being arrested for stealing copies of my own signed canceled checks. Both would be difficult to explain away and yet, somehow, O.J. attempting to reclaim pictures and items from a time before he was the most reviled man in America, is both tragic and appropriate. And completely expected.

Simpson disputes this characterization, telling the Associated Press, that it was a "self organized sting operation." Which makes perfect sense. Because if there's one person I want to organize a sting operation, it's O.J. Simpson. Especially if he consults with Kato Kaelin in advance. If we sent these two guys to Tora Bora, Osama would be done for. Would anyone else love to see the transcripts of the planning of the sting operation? It's probably as confusing and malformed as the University of Michigan's punt coverage instruction. Plus I'm convinced this phrase was used, "Remember cats, we got to keep the po-po's out of this."

Simpson claims, according to the AP, that he entered the room after pretending to be interested in reacquiring the suit he wore in 1995 when he was acquitted of the double murder. Presumably the only reason Simpson would be interested in the suit is because he could then sell it for even more money than he already sold it for. So he'd be re-scalping his suit. Classy.
Who buys this suit in the first place? There isn't a double murder Hall of Fame. And even if there was, everyone knows the glove is what you'd want. How odd would it be to go to some rich guy's place and see that he had this suit? It would be almost as awkward as visiting LeBron James and having to say something nice about the statue of himself he's created or visiting Monica Lewinsky and seeing her blue dress hanging on the wall. Having said that, right now several defense attorneys reading this column are smacking themselves on the side of the head for not buying the suit and using it as a prop for their DUI commercials on television.

Regardless O.J. has been charged with 10 felonies. Ten! Including kidnapping, robbery, and assault with a deadly weapon. Even Michael Vick was blown away by this many charges. Worse for O.J., he was initially denied bail, which is pretty solid evidence that he's being treated differently than most defendants charged with crimes in Las Vegas. Pacman flew in and out on the same day of his felony charges. Fortunately O.J. has been keeping himself busy in his jail cell reading -- I'm not making this up -- The Purpose Driven Life. Although one does presume that this makes his quest to find the real killers of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman much more difficult.

A legal prediction for you: If allowed by his/her superiors, some ambitious Clark County (Las Vegas) district attorney is going to refuse to plea this case out and attempt to get convictions on as many counts as possible. Getting O.J. convicted would make several attorneys' careers and lead to lucrative paydays down the line. Not to mention the heinous Nancy Grace would blow smoke up your keister for an entire year. Which, for prosecutors, is like being nominated to the Supreme Court.

Since Nevada state law requires that the robbery with a deadly weapon and assault with a deadly weapon convictions be served consecutively (as opposed to concurrently) O.J. is facing enough prison time to keep him behind bars for the rest of his life. I think everyone sort of assumed that O.J. would eventually get himself back in trouble, but not over autographed memorabilia. It's almost like O.J. thinks the law doesn't apply to him.

My favorite O.J. anecdote comes from Miami, where it was reported by a former University of Miami football player, that O.J. had approached Kellen Winslow Jr. at a Coral Gables mall shortly after Winslow's "I'm a soldier" rant. O.J. told Winslow that he knew from his personal experience that you had to be careful of the media. Yeah, that's definitely the lesson I would have taken from being acquitted of double homicide, too. The media just completely made up that entire story. Nevertheless here are six further O.J. questions that come to mind after the latest arrest:

1. Who does O.J. hang out with now? It seems like being charged with double murder would have a tendency to whittle down the friend list. Can you think of someone you would least rather be out in a bar with? What if O.J. turned to you while you were drinking and said, "Get me a screwdriver." I'm just saying this might be confusing.
2. Do black people think O.J. was framed again? These stories and polls are inevitable.
3. Reportedly, among the items taken, were some autographed cleats from Joe Montana. Don't you hope Montana gets drawn into this case? I'm praying that Stephon Marbury is somehow involved as well. There's no better witness on earth.
4. Could O.J. still beat me in a sprint? Admit it, you were pretty impressed at what good shape he was in for 60 years old. The Juice even had cool jeans on. Do the jeans help him pick up women? Can anything help this?
5. Why does the sports memorabilia dealer also have a photo of former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover that was reportedly taken? Is there any overlap in the market here? How many sports fans even know who J. Edgar Hoover is? Are there that many people who call up the memorabilia guy and say, "I want Joe Montana cleats and a framed photograph of J. Edgar Hoover. Also, if you've got them, Rudyard Kipling's pajamas."
6. How has O.J. only paid $10,000 of his civil judgment to the deceased families? He had to get at least that much for the suit, right? What about the new 2k legends football game? Where's his money going? These memorabilia shows seem like easy ways to get celebrities tripped up because they get paid in cash. I wouldn't be surprised to see the IRS sniffing around the Simpson tax returns as these felony cases proceed.

19 September, 2007

Why "Cameragate" could be the best thing that ever happened to New England...

Perhaps the oddest thing about a very odd week in the history of the New England Patriots, a franchise that has known its share of very odd weeks, was the identity of the commissioner who finally brought the hammer down on the lawless regime of Bill Belichick (last seen stalking the sidelines dressed like he'd just knocked over a 7-Eleven while his enraged team performed public ritual murder on the San Diego Chargers). Way back in 1970, Sen. Charles Goodell, R-N.Y., lost his political career at least in part because he took legislative action to curb the unilateralist excesses of Richard Nixon. (Sen. Goodell lost to William F. Buckley's less-easily parodied brother James.) So, here's his kid, Roger, conducting himself in such a way that he probably should be standing on a balcony somewhere, his medals gleaming in the tropical sun. No wonder Nixon lusted after the job of the commissioner of the National Football League. Everything about the position would appeal to him.

Anyway, seeing a Goodell acting as the New Sheriff in Town—to use the John Ford-ism that's become trendy among America's sporty press—has brought out the latent authoritarian in everyone, it seems. He'd already knuckled Pacman Jones for gunplay, Michael Vick for aggravated Rovercide, and Dallas quarterback coach Wade Wilson for practicing pharmacy without either or a license or a decent lie. Goodell couldn't very well have taken a pass on laying the wood to Belichick, who went out of his way to steal defensive signals on a sideline only 20 miles or so from Goodell's desk. In truth, he should have suspended Coach Beyond-The-Law for a couple of games, too, but a half-million bucks is a considerable fine, and the loss of a draft pick makes any football executive cry. People who have been waiting six years to see the Patriots get their comeuppance seemed generally quite happy with Goodell. And then the game started.

Quite simply, no NFL team in recent memory has played a game as well from start to finish as New England did Sunday night. The 38-14 final is not even remotely a measure of it. Neither is the 407-201 margin in total offense, or the 35:46 to 24:14 gap in the time of possession. This was one football operation beating the other one into the ground. The Patriots built this lead in the offseason. San Diego canned head coach Marty Schottenheimer because he lost a playoff game to the Patriots, replacing him with Norv Turner, who has now coached 325 NFL teams in his life. For their part, the Patriots picked up receivers Wes Welker, Donte Stallworth, and, most notably, Randy Moss to give Tom Brady some actual weapons to use. They also signed Adalius Thomas, a frighteningly athletic linebacker from the Baltimore Ravens. It was Thomas who broke the game open, stepping in front of a terrible Philip Rivers pass and outracing all of the Chargers more than 65 yards for a touchdown. By the time Thomas made his play, Brady already had used two of the other newcomers, Welker and Moss, to carve up the Charger secondary, the latter on a 23-yard post route that bisected two San Diego defenders and was as perfectly an executed football play as ever has been. Brady looked off the defenders and came back to Moss, who found the ball on his fingertips as he crossed the goal line at full speed.

On the other side of the ball, Thomas has given Belichick so many options on defense that the coach's creativity is at floodtide, and the team doesn't even feel the absence of all-pro defensive lineman Richard Seymour and explosive safety Rodney Harrison, the latter of whom Goodell earlier busted on a banned-substances rap. The beating was so obvious and thorough that the postgame commentary from the Patriots had more to do with the vicissitudes of the previous five days than it did with the problems inherent in beating a team that went 14-2 last season. There was all manner of chortling and gloating about how the team had managed to overcome the stigma of the media's pointing out that its head coach had gotten caught behaving like an arrogant jackass. A team this good, this dominant, got to cast itself in its own mind as outraged innocents battling to stick it to The Man.

It was like watching conservatives talk about how Michael Moore was picking on them while they were running the entire government.

It's why, absent catastrophic injury, New England can win every football game it plays this season.

For years, the rest of the NFL has chafed at the ability of the Patriots to play Poor Widdle Us while pushing the envelope of league regulations on everything from the injury list, to media obligations, to what you can and can't do on the sidelines. If, ironically, Goodell is Nixon as "the president," then Belichick is the Nixon who hired the "plumbers," right down to the ludicrous written statement that remains his only public comment on the affair and which lacks only a reference to his mother, the saint, to match old Tricky's farewell speech for unmitigated smarm. When Belichick finally got caught this week, you may have noticed that the rest of the league wasn't exactly rallying to his side. Jerome Bettis grabbed onto a retroactive alibi for having been whipped by New England over the past decade, and Tony Dungy offered up a plaintive "what-about-the-children" rumination that was just inches from actual sincerity. This was not an accident. In many ways, everybody in the NFL is against the Patriots, and a lot of them have damned good reason for being so.

However, the only thing that New England didn't pick up in the offseason was a cause, and now it has one, especially if the investigation is as thorough and ongoing as Goodell seems to be saying it will be. It is possible that we will have a revelation a week in which New England's "integrity" comes into question. More ill-feeling. More bad blood. More grist for Belichick's endlessly grinding motivation mill. Moreover, the players seemed all week to resent most that their work in winning three Super Bowls suddenly had been devalued by their coach's misbehavior. That's the obverse of a general feeling that has arisen among Patriots in recent years—that their own talents have been made subordinate to their coach's alleged genius.
One of these is inspiration enough. Both of them together is a volatile mix. If more sordid details come out, and Goodell feels obligated to suspend Belichick for a week, the New England players themselves might beat some team 100-0. The whole mishegas puts the 1972 Miami Dolphins' distinction as the only team to play an entire NFL season undefeated in serious jeopardy. Roger Goodell did the right thing last week, but he also created a situation in which, come February, when the Patriots win the Super Bowl, and he has to hand the trophy to Bill Belichick, it's perfectly plausible to wonder if it shouldn't be the other way around.

13 September, 2007

The morning routine...

Wow...8 months since I last updated this blog. I actually had to check my web browsing histroy to remember the name of the site. So sad. I have decided to make a resolution to myself (I know, I know...it's September, not January. Work with me here a little, will ya?) that I will try to update this puppy at least once a week. Since I usually tend to suck at keeping resolutions, we'll see how this one works out.

Fall is finally just around the corner, and with it comes all the things I tend to associate with the season. Crisp morning air, football games, falling leaves...and the sound of my children complaining about having to get up early for school. Ahhhh, I love the smell of whining in the morning!!! Few things bring joy to a fathers heart like watching his beloved offspring stagger around the kitchen at 7:00 in the morning like extras from "Night of the Living Dead".

This year marks the beginning of my youngest sons scholastic career. Seth is a mischievous little 5 year old who will proudly tell anyone who will listen that he now gets to go to all-day kindergarten. He is more fired up than I have ever seen him about all the cool things he gets to do now. He gets to ride the bus, he gets to eat lunch at school, he gets to hang out with "the big kids". While his older brother and sister wander around the kitchen in the morning like condemned inmates, he sits at the table eating his cereal with the biggest grin on his face. I asked him the other day what he was so happy about and he looked at me with a very serious look on his face and said "Dad, I get to go learn all of my letters. How cool is that?"
Wow. Kinda made me stop and think. I miss having that kind of joy about what I'm doing each day. Some mornings it feels like I'm the one staggering about like a zombie, just going through the motions. Seems like I'm always trying to find that next big project, the one that'll make a difference , the one that'll get me noticed. Looking at that little guy makes me realize that I don't need to be searching for that one big thing that I'm supposed to be doing that's going to bring meaning to my life. It's the little things, the stuff like Seth learning his ABC's that's cool. I get to be Dad to three awesome kids and try and help shape their lives. How cool is that? It's not curing cancer or solving world hunger or even balancing my companies budget, but you know what? It means a whole lot more to me.
So thanks, little guy. You got to help Dad remember what he's here for. How cool is that?