Monday, February 28, 2011

Few surprises at Oscars, but here's 5

Pretty anticlimactic Oscar night, huh? The King's Speech wasn't my favorite film of the year (The Kids Are All Right was), but it was good. And it certainly was the classic film for the Academy to be ga-ga about: historically significant, wonderfully acted and British. So that it won best picture was no surprise at all -- keeping with the night's theme.

The 5 Oscar surprises, according to this observer:

5. Geoffrey Rush -- the single best part about The King's Speech -- was one of the few nominees associated with the film who somehow managed not to win.

4. I didn't expect James Franco to be Billy Crystal or Jon Stewart, but I did expect him to read cue cards without seeming petrified and/or disinterested. I can't remember a less engaging host. Of course, the writers did him and co-host Anne Hathaway no favors at all. Aside from Franco's Charlie Sheen joke (while dressed in drag), the hosts were given precious little to work with.

3. Scarlett Johansson's hairdresser did the impossible: make her look less than beautiful.

2. Melissa Leo barely blinked after casually dropping the f-bomb. There goes her invitation to appear on Sesame Street.

1. The main highlights were provided by 94-year-old stroke victim Kirk Douglas (incredibly charming as presenter of best supporting actress) and a chorus of Staten Island 5th graders (wrapping up the proceedings with "Somewhere Over the Rainbow") . Gotta admit: I didn't see those coming.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Competing for peanuts (but tasty peanuts)

Here's an interesting tale (at least I think it's interesting) about the state of our economy.

An organization I believe in has a couple of part-time openings. I have applied, even though it pays barely more than minimum wage. A few days ago, I participated in a group interview in which 12 of us candidates sat around a large table and were interviewed on numerous subjects by two managers.

This was the first time I ever had been involved in such a session. At first, I didn't like the idea, but as we got going I changed my mind. The interaction between each other (and the managers) allowed people to show more of themselves, to display listening skills and to exhibit originality when answering questions. For example, because I was the last to get a chance to answer the first question, I had to be different without making stuff up. It was a challenge, a nice mental test.

During the course of the hour, we were told that there had been more than 60 applicants, that we were the final dozen, that there were "two or three" openings and that some of us would be chosen to advance to the next level of interviews.

There was a lot of positive energy in the room. About 45 minutes in, I said to myself: "You know, I really like just about everybody in here, and I could see myself happily working with most of them."

Nevertheless, after the session ended, I was struck by how much each of us wanted one of these low-paying jobs. There were just-out-of-college kids wanting to start their adult lives, middle-aged folks like me wanting to make a positive impact in the community, longtime stay-at-home moms wanting to get back in the workforce, etc.

And, in today's financial climate, we were competing for relative peanuts.

To work for this particular organization, it has to be about more than the money. That's certainly the case for me. I like the idea of helping people and joining a team of like-minded, service-oriented people. And the flexible schedule would let me continue coaching and doing some of the other things that make me happy in my post-journalist life.

So I'm pleased to report that I just received word that I advanced to the next stage of interviews. Here's hoping I'll have my A-game.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Spending money and playing ball in Carolina

The economy bites. Don't blame the Nadels.

We knew that when we moved to Charlotte, with its lousy public-transportation system, we eventually would need a second car because Roberta wouldn't be able to walk to work after we bought a house.

Due to our unfortunate Christmas Eve accident that totaled our Prius, we first had to buy a first car, which we did Jan. 1. We then closed on our house in suburban Matthews and, while it was being painted but before we moved in, we bought another car.

Which means that so far in 2011, we have bought a house, a new car and a late-model car. This, of course, is in addition to all the stuff one must buy and services one must use -- including the plumber who had to unclog the kitchen sink on our third day in the house -- when one moves into a different dwelling.

Yep, once upon a time, we actually used to save money. But what fun is that?


One non-house, non-vehicle purchase I had to make: a pair of cleats for my new gig as assistant softball coach at Charlotte Country Day School. We've had two practices to date and I have enjoyed getting to know the head coach and the girls, who are very different from the 7th grade basketball players I coached at the same school.

The coach is Eric Johnson, a former baseball/football star at Western Carolina who was a high draft pick of the Cleveland Indians and spent five years in the minors. He also was on the Bears' practice squad for two seasons. In addition to being an amazing athlete -- as you might imagine -- he's a knowledgeable coach and a good guy who is dedicated to helping these girls have success and fun.

This whole move to Carolina was supposed to be about experiencing different things and meeting new people, and that's just exactly what I've done.

I'm one lucky guy. A little poorer financially, but lucky nonetheless.

Stay tuned ...

Finally back online after getting the modem set up at our new house in beautiful suburban Charlotte.

The Internet is one of those things we have come to take for granted ... until we have to do without for a few days. It was like a trip in the Wayback Machine -- way back to 1997!!

Anyway, I'll have a new post later.

I'm sure you'll be waiting breathlessly.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Hall Call: Worm 5, Reggie 0

Interesting that Dennis Rodman was chosen as a hoops Hall of Fame finalist but Reggie Miller wasn't. I'm not sure which guy Michael Jordan disliked more!

Worm undoubtedly is one of the all-time great characters in the history of sports. He gave me two of the best interviews I had as a journalist, so there's a soft spot in my heart for the dude.

Rodman's personality was so large it's easy to forget that he probably was the best pound-for-pound rebounder in basketball history. Phil Jackson used to say Rodman was one of the smartest offensive and defensive players he's ever coached, too. Throw in his major role for five championship teams -- five more than Miller won -- and it's pretty much impossible to exclude him, no?

Then again, none of it really matters if Tex Winter doesn't finally get in. Given all he has accomplished, they might as well not even have a Hall of Fame if it doesn't include the architect of the triple-post offense.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Maybe the Rays can move here

Spring training has barely begun and I already can tell I'm going to miss baseball.

Charlotte only kind of has a Triple-A team -- the Knights actually play across the South Carolina border in Fort Mill -- and the nearest big-league ball is 4 hours away in Atlanta. Ugh.

Though I'm neither a Cubs fan nor a White Sox fan, there was something special about being in Chicago for the baseball season. Just about every day for six months, one team plays a home game in front of tens of thousands of fans. And pretty much every day, not just one but two ballgames are on local TV.

Then there's the fun banter -- and not-so-good-natured ribbing -- when it comes to the Cubs-Sox rivalry, especially in the days surrounding the two teams' regular-season meetings.

I'll miss it all. I'm already missing it. This is the first February since 1994 that I won't have spent any of spring training in Arizona ... and it just feels weird.

Charlotte is growing on me. It's a nice place with good people and many wonderful attributes. I'm not running back to Chicago any time soon; in fact, Roberta and I just bought a house.

Still, although I'll be able to watch baseball on the tube every day of the week, I know it won't be the same as living in a real baseball town.

Those of you who do know exactly what I mean.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Stay classy, Albert Pujols

The Bald Truth

Though I'm not a big fan of trumped-up signing "deadlines" at all, it was a classy move by Albert Pujols to extend the deadline he gave the Cardinals by a day so his soap opera wouldn't detract from Stan Musial receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Tuesday.

The Balder Truth

Here's hoping Pujols realizes that Stan the Man, a World War II veteran, is a true hero -- unlike guys who merely swing bats or shoot baskets or throw footballs for a living.


I want Pujols to sign with the Cardinals because I think it's better for baseball if he does.

What I don't want is to hear Pujols say something like this if he decides to leave St. Louis' zillion-dollar offer so he can get a gajillion from another team:

"I wanted to play my entire career with the Cardinals, but they obviously didn't feel the same way. It's not about the money, it's about respect."

Look, Pujols already has made more money than any man not named Mike Tyson can spend. And the Cardinals no doubt are prepared to respect him hundreds of millions more.

So he'd better not make it sound as if they turned him out into the cold.

Real people are really suffering these days. They don't want to hear a dopey jock whining that he "had" to take $300 million from the Yankees because the Cardinals "disrespected" him with their pathetic $200 million offer.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Williams beats Sloan ... so now what?

If there was one coach (not named Phil Jackson) who you'd have thought would have been immune from the NBA's star-first mentality, it would have been Jerry Sloan.

All the guy did for most of two decades in Utah was win, hold his players accountable, stress fundamentals and professionalism, and represent his organization and community with dignity.

But when it came time for the Jazz owner to make a choice between the 68-year-old Sloan and soon-to-be-free-agent Deron Williams after the two clashed for the umpteenth time, the owner chose the temperamental All-Star point guard over the Hall of Fame coach.

So an era has ended in Utah.

And I sincerely doubt the next era will be anywhere near as successful, especially if Williams leaves after his contract is up anyway.

Meanwhile, in other NBA news ...

Can you believe the way the Cavaliers partied after beating the Clippers on Friday?

I mean, jeesh, you'd think the Cavs hadn't won in two months!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Love that Deadwood!

SWEARENGEN: "Sometimes I wish we could just hit 'em over the head, rob 'em and throw their bodies in the creek."

TOLLIVER: "But that would be wrong."

For the first time since it originally aired back in 2004-05-06, I've been rewatching Deadwood from the beginning. What a show, among the finest of the many fine HBO productions over the years.

Acting -- amazing, led by the incomparable Ian McShane. Writing ... direction ... setting -- all of it spot-on.

Back in '04, many viewers were put off by the swearing. Given what takes place on regular network TV now, it seems almost a quaint complaint today.

Hard to believe HBO and the cast never came through with a fourth season -- or at least the two movies the network practically promised to do.

As Swearengen would say: "C@cks&ck#rs!"

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Here's the deal: Make Lovie wait for a new one

There are four reasons to extend a pro coach's contract when he still has a year remaining on his current deal:

1. His lame-duck status would distract the team.

2. He should be rewarded for consistent excellence.

3. A team is worried that another club will swoop in and steal him.

4. He is so popular with the fans that they'd revolt if he left.

Now, let's see how these apply to Lovie Smith.

1. As in most cases, the "distraction" angle is a media fabrication with zero relevance. If anything, the players love Smith because he's an enabler and a coddler and will play extra hard to "win one for Lovie."

2. Lovie has been the Bears' coach for 7 years. They have missed the playoffs in 4 of those seasons and have won a grand total of 3 playoff games on his watch. This is not what one would call runaway success. If anything, he is one of sport's most overpaid coaches.

3. If Lovie gets angry and bolts after the season, would it really be that difficult for the Bears to find a coach at least as good? If anything, several accomplished coaches would line up for the opportunity to replace him, with Bill Cowher likely first in line.

4. That's a good one. If anything, Lovie might be the only guy associated with the Bears capable of losing a popularity contest to Jay Cutler. (Actually, it probably would be a tie.)

Conclusion: There is not a single decent reason for the Bears to throw a whole bunch of cash at Lovie and guarantee his continued employment for four or five more years.

Why not wait to see how the team performs in 2011? What's the stinkin' hurry?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Today's High 5 - Super Bowl XLV Edition

5. To excuse-making coaches, GMs, owners, players and fans in every sport and every city:

The 2010 Green Bay Packers were your worst nightmare.

They lost 15 guys to injury during the season, including some of their best players. Nevertheless, they won five straight games down the stretch, including three straight road playoff games. Then, in the Super Bowl, they lost No. 1 defensive back Charles Woodson and offensive stalwart Donald Driver but still beat a good Steelers team to win it all.

More than ever, excuses are for losers. And for driving that point home, we all should thank the Packers.

4. When it comes to truly great NFL QBs, you've got Brady, Manning, Brees and Aaron Rodgers.

Not necessarily in that order.

3. Ben Roethlisberger threw two INTs that led directly to Green Bay TDs. He tried to rally the Steelers but failed miserably on the final drive.

Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

Big Bad Ben is bound to be pretty upset for the next few months, so I recommend keeping your daughters, sisters, nieces, mothers and grandmas somewhere very safe.

2. That was quite a shot at the end of the game of 325-pound Steelers DT Casey Hampton dejectedly walking off the field with his belt undone and his massive gut protruding from under his jersey.

For the record, Fox had a strong game, providing many outstanding camera angles of big plays to go along with Troy Aikman's always insightful commentary.

1. Was it just me, or were the commercials especially lame this year?

Oh, and can we please just declare Bruce Springsteen an American Treasure and beg him to do the halftime show every year until he's 80 or so?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Liked Packers 6 months ago, no reason to switch now

This is one of the easiest Super Bowl predictions I've made over the years, and not because I expect the game to be one-sided.

I'm just stickin' with the team I liked from Day 1.

Before the season, I thought the Packers had the goods to win it all. Outstanding defense, great receivers, good O-line and the best QB nobody ever put in the same sentence as Brady and Manning (or Favre, for that matter).

The injuries piled up and, I admit, I started to doubt. Late in the season, though, the Packers pulled things together, got sound play from those who replaced their many injured players, found just enough of a running game to provide some balance and won the games they had to win down the stretch.

Going into the playoffs, I said they might just run the table. And now, I see no reason to believe they won't make it 4 for 4.

Aaron Rodgers will outplay Ben Roethlisberger -- no easy feat, given that Bad Boy Ben is a two-time Super champ -- and the Green Bay D will outperform its Pittsburgh counterpart.

In this era of big-market teams dominating MLB (and, to an extent, the NBA and NHL), it's cool to see a club from BY FAR the smallest market in big-league sports play on the biggest stage of them all.

The Packers are easy to root for. And for me, they're easy to pick, too.

Packers 23, Steelers 20.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

At least Vinny kept Thibodeau's Bulls seat warm

Bulls 106, Clippers 88. Or, to put it in different (but equally accurate) terms:

The Coach The Bulls Should Have Hired Three Years Ago 106, The Coach The Bulls Never Should Have Settled For Three Years Ago 88.

Three questions:

Did the Bulls really have to endure two years of mediocrity under Vinny Del Negro to get to Tom Thibodeau -- the then-Celtics assistant I urged them to hire back in 2008?

Given that the Bulls are 34-14 despite playing huge chunks of the season without Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer, shouldn't Thibodeau be the frontrunner for coach of the year?

A year or two from now, when the Clippers realize they have too much young talent to be laboring under Vinny Del Excuse, who will be their next coach?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

$tep right up, NCAA amateur$!

The biggest day in professional football is just about here.

No, not the Super Bowl, silly.

National Letter of Intent Day!