Friday, December 21, 2012


     Seven days ago, twenty children went to school.  On that same day, twenty children didn't get the opportunity to go home.  They died where they learned.  They were slaughtered in the place they were supposed to be safest.  Despite heroic efforts by their teachers, twenty children lost their opportunity to be more than the subject of memorials and tributes.  I haven't spoken to a single person, several states and far removed from the Newtown Massacre, who can finish the conversation on this topic.  It sickens all of us.  A week later, we're still asking why.  On our death beds, that question will remain unanswered.
      This is a crime, a tragedy, without motive.  When Adam Lanza decided to turn Sandy Hook into his own disgusting, evil playground, he ruined innocence.  He made every parent of every six year old in the country wonder if home schooling was a safer option.  He stormed into that school and ruined countless numbers of lives.  There isn't a parent of the twenty children who were murdered that will ever be okay.  Every birthday, every Christmas, every single milestone that they were expecting to celebrate will instead be turned into solemn days of prayer and remembrance.
       While I am neither a parent nor a teacher, Lanza's massacre makes me feel sick because I am friends with both.  Every time I pop on facebook, I am greeted by smiling photos of my friends' children.  Almost every time I catch up with an old friend, I'm talking to a school teacher.  It makes me like everyone else who takes the time to read this.  This one, this school shooting, touches everyone's life in one way or another.  We ask why, we wonder what could've been done to prevent it, and we'll scratch our heads forever to figure it out.
       That, or we, as a country, will realize that legally available assault weapons need to be eliminated from our society.  There is no argument that I can accept for those guns.  I'm 100% in favor of responsible gun owners.  I'm 100% in favor of man's right to hunt.  I'm also 100% opposed to allowing man access to weapons that were designed to kill people.  I don't give a damn how pro-gun or old school you are.  I've seen deer killed with a compact car by accident.  I see no reason to need a virtual tommy gun to harvest some venison.  No more is it okay to justify bigger guns because gun owners like how loud they are or how fast they reload.
        While I support the right to defend your home and support the right to hunt for food, I can't turn a blind eye to the over indulgence in guns that our society has accepted.  If there were ever a time for our nation's leaders to look at our gun culture, that time is now.  It was discussed after Columbine and Virginia Tech.  It's imperative now.  Previous school shootings were peer to peer.  There was at least a glimmer of hope that one of those kids could overpower their attacker and stop the assault.  When a twenty year old enters a room full of six year olds with a weapon, they have no chance at survival.  That is, of course, unless their attacker isn't capable of wielding a gun with the ability to fire off round after round at will.
         I hate talking about gun control.  I'd rather discuss religion with an atheist in the first pew at a Catholic church.  However, I'll talk gun control ad nauseum before I ever want to walk by a television again and see that twenty babies looking forward to Christmas had been murdered by a maniac with easy access to a weapon that could bring down a grizzly bear with one good shot. 
         Overly enthusiastic gun owners have often said that guns don't kill people, people kill people.  This is one of the most ignorant statements ever uttered by man.  People pull the trigger, but the weapon does the killing.  Saying that guns don't kill people, but people do, is akin to saying space shuttles don't land on the moon, people do.  Without the space shuttle, astronauts are limited to just how high they can jump.  Without the shuttle, they fall pretty short of their goal.
         We like to blame video games and movies for giving kids bad ideas.  Many of those video games encourage the theft of vehicles, yet we haven't seen a spike in 14 year olds stealing cars.  Blaming video games or movies for the abnormal and indescribable behavior of school shooters is like blaming the lottery for bank robberies.  It doesn't compute.  Adam Lanza never played a game that encouraged the massacre he committed.  Adam Lanza was a reprehensible and violent individual with access to guns that were capable of killing innocent people at an incredibly efficient rate.  It's time to stop scapegoating video games and movies and start looking at the true reason these crimes are capable of being committed.
         The bottom line is that eliminating assault weapons eliminates the number of deaths that can take place in a classroom full of backpacks with Christmas lists inside them.  It's time for our country to stop being so damned stupid.  I don't ever want to read about two classrooms of first graders being methodically murdered.  I don't ever want to feel compelled to comment on something like this again.  It's time for our leaders to take action to prevent this from ever happening again.  It's time to stop finding excuses for things like this, and start eliminating the actual reasons for these tragedies.  I have friends and family whose lives ultimately depend upon the right decisions finally being made.  God bless the families of all of the victims at Sandy Hook, and God willing, we'll find a way to make our nation more responsible so that the next Adam Lanza doesn't have access to weapons that can inflict more damage than can be reasonably prevented.

- To my friends who are teachers, this tragedy makes me think of you every single day.  I hope none of you are ever faced with anything close to this, and I fully respect your committment to our youth.

- To my friends who are parents, I can't imagine what runs through your head when you kiss your kids goodbye for the school day.  I hope we can make some changes that make your children safer.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Paterno loses his legend.

The masses swarm and the city swells.  PSU football makes the community bigger, better, and more relevant.  The chants of "We are, Penn State" echo through the nearby hills.  Fans of all ages typify the eager college football enthusiast.  The finest grilled meats and coldest local beers fill coolers on the hill.  Tailgating reaches it's peak in a typically sleepy college town.  Everyone in attendance is there for one reason and one reason only.  It's a Saturday in Happy Valley and the Nittany Lions are ready to go.

On the way in, every fan from everywhere stops by the Paterno statue and pays their respects.  The man built the program and the program built the fan base.  On a single Saturday the crowd swells to disproportionate size.  What is typically small-town Pennsylvania becomes the third largest city in the state.  Everyone's dressed in white, and when the lights flicker on, the fans almost glow.  It's time for another night game at Penn State.

Meanwhile, in the depths of PSU's athletic facilities, Jerry Sandusky is doing things we relegate to 20/20 and shows of that ilk.  In the depths of the programs walls, there is a sexual predator lurking, almost hunting, with no restriction.  The team's next in line has just finished showering with a kid who struggles with the demands of 5th grade.  The coach is on the verge of facing his first Big Ten game and gets ready by taking a shower with a 12 year old...... if only that locker room had a hair dryer, this whole mess would've been swept under the rug as mom wouldn't have had her questions.

Sounds ridiculous, right?

Problem is, as much as I agree about the absurdity of the situation, it's basically what happened.

Therein lies the problem.  Jerry Sandusky is a terrible human being, a sexual predator, and based on accusations, an incestuous sexual predator.  That's horrific, appalling, and repulsive.  We can't just dismiss that and ignore it, but we can accept it as fact.  What takes this whole ordeal over the top is knowing now that Joe Paterno knew it.  As I said in November, Paterno was affiliated with Sandusky almost 50 years ago.  What has become an alarming reality is that Joe Paterno actively chose to hide what he knew.

Now we watch as the Paterno family clutches at any hope that the man we all considered to be virtuous is proven to be, quite frankly, an egotistical scumbag.  He actively chose over multiple years to ignore the atrocities occurring at Penn State.  He chose football over humanity at EVERY level.  What Paterno supporters fail to recognize is that JoePa was made aware of Sandusky's behavior, at the LATEST in 1998. Conveniently, Sandusky retired shortly thereafter.  To think, for one second, that Paterno was innocent and without culpability this past year, is to think that Paterno knew nothing of prior allegations.  It's already been proven that Paterno was in the know and also included in the emails that chose to ignore the terrible accusations.

It's hard to believe that the Paterno family is so dedicated to inappropriately protecting Joe's name that they ignore the obvious.  Everyone, from the top of the ladder to the bottom rung, knowingly disregarded a sexual predator in their midst.  It's cliche to say, but necessary to put out there.... Penn State, from the top down, needs to be punished in a way we've never seen before. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thoughts on Jerry Sandusky.

Years before news leaked of Jerry Sandusky turning the Penn State campus into his own windowless van of depravity, he was lauded as the eventual successor to Joe Pa.  A man legendary and loved enough to replace the most iconic head coach in the history of college football.  When he retired in a fairly abrupt fashion in 1999, many logically assumed that he had grown tired of the stubborn old man in his path to a head coaching gig and decided to call it quits.  What no one knew then was his retirement came the year after the first reported incident of indecent behavior with little boys.  While the grand jury presentment focused primarily on a 2002 incident, seen and reported by a then 28 year old Mike McQueary,it disturbs me that the first allegations came a year prior to Sandusky's retirement.  More than anything else, that allegation puts Penn State leadership in the cross hairs for me.  

Following the 1998 allegation, Sandusky was investigated by the school and state investigators and the resolution was that he promised not to shower with young boys in the locker room again.  Really?  That's akin to Michael Jackson making Macaulay Culkin sleep in a different room at the Neverland Ranch.  This is profoundly disturbing to me.  We are 13 years and at least as many young boys removed from Sandusky's original investigation.  How in the hell does a guy who had a known sexual abuse case get unfettered access to Penn State facilities?  Care to guess when Sandusky was banned from PSU's campus?  November 6th, 2011.  

Oh, and there's this little number that'll give you goosebumps.  Jerry Sandusky founded Second Mile, a charitable organization with the mission statement of "Providing Children with Help and Hope," in 1977.  Just how many children did he grope and poke when he was leading a group intended to help and provide hope?  We know, factually, that Sandusky faced allegations of abuse in both 1998 and 2002.  We also now know that Sandusky resigned from his foundation in....... 2010.  I can't understand how a man accused of unspeakable acts against helpless children is allowed to use a foundation to groom young boys for his own deviant sexual amusement.  

Recapping what I've just written, Sandusky first faces allegations during the 1998 season when a boy he showered with came home with wet hair.  He retires in 1999, five months after PSU's season ends.  In 2010, in the middle of the investigation that lead to the current explosive reports, he again uses retirement to elude his accusers.  One man can't avoid trouble for decades without some assistance.  The fact that the assistance allegedly came from people within the university is deeply disturbing.

I've read the entire grand jury presentment, which you can read by clicking the link at the bottom of this article, and it's both graphic and disgusting.  Details of the allegations will repulse you.  Jerry Sandusky's case will go down as one of the most damning sexual abuse cases in history.  He faces 40 counts currently, and with the list of accusers growing, could face more before all is said and done.

On top of what we know to be in the report, Sandusky's perversions raise questions that may never be answered.  Those questions are perhaps the most disturbing as Sandusky was permitted to adopt six children and foster several others with his wife.  If his perversions were present during the time those children were in the home, just how far reaching is his demonic reign over children?  It's horrible to have to think about, but most perverts don't just flip a switch and turn into monsters.  Their depravity grows from within, meaning the possibility exists that there are more victims than we already know about.

The bottom line is that Sandusky used his position of power and influence, as a trusted coach, and further as a leader of a non-profit dedicated to helping children, to destroy their lives in showers, saunas, and secret basement bedrooms for more than a decade.  Although they'll be a bit old for his perverted tastes, Sandusky will find plenty of willing participants for his shower games.  The problem, of course, is that even rapists and murderers hate pedophiles.  In a fitting twist, the man who made his money coaching linebackers may very well get sacked in prison.

One more thing, Jerry Sandusky wrote an autobiography in 2001.  It's title; "Touched."


Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, the Athletic Director and Senior Vice President for Finance and Business respectively, both face jail time for perjury.  These are the two men who were informed by Joe Paterno of what Mike McQueary saw in the men's locker room in 2002.  Both men told investigators that the accusations were not of a sexual nature, but when questioned further, admitted that even their stories implied some sexual contact between Sandusky and the child identified as Victim 1.  These two men held high-ranking positions at a state funded institution and chose to sweep this story under the rug for the better part of a decade.  When the allegations against Sandusky are proven to be true, as I believe they will be, I hope that both Curley and Schultz will receive full sentences for their role in covering up what should have been an open and shut case.  These two men are the reason Sandusky was allowed to turn Penn State to Ped State for as long as he was.  They deserve everything that's coming their way, as their blind eyes gave Sandusky access to areas he should've long been forbidden from.  Pennsylvania law dictates that any and all suspected sexual abuse cases in schools have to be reported to authorities within 48 hours.  Thanks to Curley and Schultz, that 48 hour window extended to NINE YEARS.

Stretching the web of deceit even wider, PSU President Graham Spainer was relieved of his duties today for his own failure to report the incidents that Curley and Schultz reported to him.  In essence, every important person at Penn State knew of the accusations against Sandusky and made the decision to do as little as humanly possible.  In my opinion, losing their jobs is only the beginning.  All three will try to wiggle out of the situation they knowingly put themselves in, but I sure hope they don't.


Joe Paterno will not finish the season as head coach of PSU.  While he made an effort today to avoid termination on someone else's terms by announcing his retirement, Penn State University and the state of Pennsylvania, will have no choice but to remove Paterno from his position.  We don't know exactly what he knew, but we do know this.  Joe Paterno, by his own admission could've and should've done more.  He has known Sandusky longer than any living person.  Sandusky played under Paterno beginning in 1963, and worked under his former coach for 31 years (1966-1999; coached elsewhere in 67 and 68).  When, exactly, Paterno first learned that his friend preferred the company of 5th graders to that of his wife is unknown.  We can, however, make the conclusion that he was definitely aware of it by 2002 and only spoke of it when forced to.  It's not enough to just tell the athletic director the information shared with him by Mike McQueary.  While Paterno fulfilled his legal obligations in 2002, he's spent too much time ignoring his moral obligations to go out his own way.

Granted, if someone accused one of my best friends of the things Sandusky's been accused of, I'm going to have my doubts.  I may have difficulty believing the allegations, but I'm certainly not going to take that same friend to a carnival and let him jump around in a bouncy castle with boy scouts, which is essentially what Paterno did by continuing to allow Sandusky to come and go as he pleased at the athletic facilities.

While I hate to say it, I have  to, Joe Paterno shares some of the responsibility in this matter.  Penn State can't make the same mistakes it has made in the past.  Allowing Paterno to finish the season with fanfare and a farewell tour will only multiply the criticism heaped upon the university.

In Paterno's official statement, he said he "wanted to do what was best for Penn State."  If he intends to do that, his most important duty is to step away now and let that university begin a healing process that is likely  to take years.  Sadly, Joe must go.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Jeff Bailey's quick overview of the BCS Conferences

2011 College Football Preview - Jeff Bailey

NOTE - this post was written two weeks prior to the start of the season.  Due to our real jobs, we apologize for the delay.

With the college football season just beginning it’s time to take a look at the six BCS conferences and who will be competing for championships.  Most conferences this year are wide open without a clear cut favorite, which should create some great matchups late in the season.

Big 12
With the loss of Nebraska and Colorado to other conferences, the Big 12 is down to only 10 teams this year.  Looking at the remaining 10 teams it is hard to think of anyone but Oklahoma winning this conference.  Oklahoma is the early favorite for the National Championship and returning the bulk of their main performers from last season when they won 12 games.  

Landry Jones is poised for a huge year and possibly a Heisman Trophy run as well.  With the return of sensational receiver Ryan Broyles, the Sooners offense will be explosive.  Oklahoma’s only real question is on the defensive side, especially at linebacker.  Going into this offseason, The Sooners had a very solid defense, but with the recent, and very unfortunate, death of Austin Box and now the injury to Travis Lewis, who could be out up to 8 weeks, Oklahoma has some holes to fill.

Even with the great team Oklahoma has put together, it won’t be a walk in the park.  In state rival Oklahoma St and Texas A&M will make Oklahoma earn everything.  Both OSU and Texas A&M have very solid teams that can compete with anyone in the country and are looking for a Big 12 championship and a shot at a BCS bowl.  Even with a horrendous season last year, Texas is still looming and could come out of left field to make some noise.

The surprise team to look out for is Oklahoma St.  The Cowboys return one of the most explosive QB-WR combos in Weeden and Blackmon, which can take over any game.  Despite some scares, I still believe Oklahoma will come out on top in this conference and might even end up in the BCS National Championship game.
Big 10

The Big 10 has been pretty easy to figure out the past few years with Ohio State dominating the competition, but the 2011 season brings with it a lot of change.  Not only did the Big 10 add powerhouse Nebraska, but the conference split into two divisions and will feature their first conference championship game.  This new alignment, coupled with all of the turmoil at Ohio State, it’s difficult to determine a clear-cut favorite.  Wisconsin, Ohio State, and newcomer Nebraska are the top 3 teams in the conference, but teams like Michigan State, Penn State, and Northwestern will push for their share of the spotlight.

Wisconsin is probably the early prospect for the Big Ten’s best team, especially when you consider the addition of dual-threat QB Russell Wilson.  Wisconsin features one of the best backfields in the country, with the dynamic tandem of Montee Ball and James White.  The Badgers are a very solid and veteran team on both sides of the ball who will have a lot to prove coming off a frustrating Rose Bowl loss to TCU.  

You can expect Nebraska to make a huge splash in its first Big Ten campaign.  With Taylor Martinez leading the way, Nebraska will make some noise early and often and should compete for their spot in the inaugural conference championship.  

It’d be foolish to rule Ohio State out entirely.  While the off-season drama certainly hurt their chances, the Buckeyes still have a solid group of core players capable of putting together a run of their own.  Ohio State’s success will hinge on the transition at quarterback and the capability of Luke Fickell to rally his players behind him.

The surprise team in the Big Ten this year is Northwestern.  Coach Pat Fitzgerald has quietly put together a very solid and great team.  Northwestern has started to make some noise in the Big Ten recently, and their 2011 team is one of their most complete in years.  With the return of QB Dan Persa, Northwestern is a bit of a sleeper pick to compete in the Big Ten Championship game.  

When it’s all said and done and the Big Ten champion is crowned in Indianapolis, I believe Wisconsin will take home the top prize.


   The ACC is one of the few conferences that was not affected by teams moving around.  Even with that said, the ACC is not the strongest BCS conference this year.  At this point, it is just looking like a two team race between Florida State and Virginia Tech.  Both teams have high expectations for a BCS bowl game coming into this season.  The past few seasons have been a bit of a disappointment for ACC fans, as Virginia Tech has been the only consistently successful program.  However, Florida State, under Jimbo Fisher, is looking like they’re truly on the road back to prominence.
 By all accounts, the Seminoles are poised to cruise to an ACC title.  Both FSU and VT lost their starting QBs to the NFL in the offseason and are looking to find a suitable replacement.  Florida State has the lead in this department with EJ Manuel expected to transition the Noles out of the Christian Ponder era.  Running back Chris Thompson should help make that transition an easy one, as I expect him to have a great season.  FSU always has a solid defense and that should continue for the 2011 season.
With the Miami scandal in full-fledged panic mode, I truly see the ACC as a two-team race with Florida State edging Virginia Tech for the conference’s automatic BCS bid.


 There are some new faces in the Pac-12 this year, which is going to make for a very interesting season.  At this point it seems like a one team league with Oregon coming off a National Championship run last year, but the showed some vulnerability in their opening loss to LSU.  USC is still under NCAA sanctions and cannot win the Pac-12 or go to a bowl game.  That said, USC is nowhere near as good as Oregon coming into the season, and showed that in their week one struggle against Big Ten bottom dwellar Minnesota.  With USC out of the picture, only one other team will compete with Oregon for the Pac-12 championship.   
Stanford is about the only team that will compete with Oregon for the Pac-12.  Stanford returns the Heisman front runner and future #1 draft pick in the NFL in Andrew Luck.  Luck is by far the best QB in all of college football, but he won’t be able to do everything by himself.  Stanford has a very solid team, but Oregon just clips them in personnel.  Oregon returns one of the best QBs in the country along with arguable the best RB in college football.  Their high powered offense from last year that averaged 47 points per game is looking to make a trip back to the national championship to clean up some unfinished business.  Besides being the best offensive juggernaut, Oregon has a very solid defense that most people overlooked.   
The biggest surprise team will also be one of the newcomers in Utah.  Utah returns an overall solid team, but will have to prove to both the Pac-12 and the country that they do below with the big boys.  What will help Utah out the most is their schedule.  Utah avoids playing both Oregon and Stanford, so they should make quite a large splash.  With the likes of Utah and Stanford hovering just behind, Oregon should still find a way to win the Pac-12 and compete for a 2nd straight trip to the National Championship.  This league will mostly likely come down to the huge matchup on Nov 12 in Pal Alto when Oregon and Stanford run head first into each other.

Big East

Oh, the Big East, the lonely cellar dweller of the BCS conferences.  Last year the winner of the Big East had 5 losses, while at least three teams from both the Big Ten and SEC had fewer losses.  This coming season is no different for the Big East.  The preseason polls are out and zero, yes zero, teams from the Big East are currently ranked.  With that said, there are two main competitors for the Big East title, and they are West Virginia and Pitt.

    West Virginia is the early front runner, but the Big East is still pretty wide open since no one wants to separate themselves.  WVU returns one of the best athletes in the Big East with QB Geno Smith.  Not only that, but WVU surprisingly had the 3rd best overall defense in the country last year.  They should be able to replicate that again this year with at least a top 10 defense.  Pitt returns a great QB in Tino Sunseri, but they have some big shoes to fill at RB since Dion Lewis is now in the NFL.  Pitt will give WVU a run for their money, but WVU should easily walk away with a BCS bowl game in January 2012.

    As for a surprise team, I’ve always been a fan of Connecticut but they have to replace one the best RBs in the country last year and deal with a transition at the head coach positon.  UConn has had recent history of producing very good RBs, but can they keep that streak alive?  Even if UConn can reload at the RB position, they will be no match for WVU.  WVU should easily run away with in the Big East with minimal speed bumps.
  The SEC is looking for an unprecedented 6th straight National Champion.  Auburn and Cam Newton shocked the world last year, but will fall back into the middle of theSEC again this season.  The two candidates to keep the SEC National Champion streak alive are Alabama and LSU.  Top to bottom, the SEC will still be the countries strongest conference.  Teams like Georgia and Florida are looking to rebound and get back to their normal top 10 ranking.

    LSU and Alabama are the best two teams in the SEC and should stay in the top 8 throughout the entire season.  LSU lost their leading rusher from last year, along with other key playmakers on both sides of the ball, but they should be able to reload.  Jordan Jefferson might just be the best QB in the SEC this coming season, and if he can keep everything rolling on all cylinders, LSU could be looking at a possible National Championship game.  On the other hand, Alabama lost their three offensive leaders in McElroy, Ingram, and Jones.  Bama just reloads at RB with Trent Richardson, who a lot of people think has always been better than Ingram.  Both LSU and Alabama had top 10 defenses last season, and should easily keep that going this coming year.  Overall, LSU edges out Bama as a team, but as we’ve learned in the past from the SEC…anything can happen.

    There seems to be a different surprise team every year in the SEC, but this year it will be South Carolina.  SC won the SEC East last year since Florida and Georgia were having down seasons, and are looking to repeat.  South Carolina just reinstated their starting QB from last year, which is a huge surprise and help for them.  Not only is QB Garcia coming back, they also have one of the most explosion RBs in the country coming back in Marcus Lattimore.  Lattimore is looking to have a Heisman-like year and hoping he can help SC get back to the SEC Championship game in Atlanta.  With the likes of South Carolina, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Alabama, and LSU, anyone will have a tough time winning this conference.  At the end of the day, LSU should come out on top with Jefferson leading the way.
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for further college football posts.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon review from Mike Curry

Below you'll find a hearty review of the newest Transformers flick from Mike Curry.  Mike is, in my opinion, the best basketball blogger I've had the privilege to read.  Understandably, his review of the movie would be a bit out of place on an NBA blog, so my spot gets the benefit of Mike's typical wit on an atypical (for him) topic.  If you get a chance, please pay his blog, CavsHQ, a visit at  

(Here is a long movie review of Transformers: Dark of the Moon by
someone who has no business reviewing movies.  I'm not quite sure why
I decided to write it, but it needed a home and Dan was kind enough to
host it on his site.  Thanks Dan.)

I was lucky enough to sneak into a Transformers: Dark of the Moon
preview on Monday night.  Damn the lack of proper English, this is
robot fighting, son, and I was excited to see it.  That excitement
didn't last, but it was enough to convince me to write a couple of
thousand words about the film to both prepare and warn people about
what to expect from this third movie in the Transformers series.

Full disclosure: I am a Transformers fan.  The first toy I vividly
remember receiving was an Optimus Prime figure that my grandparents
got me when I was four or five years old.  It was a Christmas present
that my brother and I discovered buried in a closet at their house.
After it's discovery, my brother and I were allowed to play with it
whenever we were visiting, even though Christmas was still months
away.  It was awesome.  I had surrogate Optimus Primes when I went
home - repurposed other toys to stand in for the Autobot leader - but
that metal truck that transformed into a robot at my grandma's house
was the coolest thing in the world.

And some people were surprised that kids were devastated when the 1986
animated movie killed Optimus Prime?  Stupid adults.

Flash forward 27 years, and now we have two live action movies, with a
third releasing on Wednesday.  Whatever you may think of their
quality, the two previous movies took in over $1.5 BILLION in revenue,
so somebody is interested.  I liked but didn't love the first film,
and unlike most I really enjoyed Revenge of the Fallen - that inner
four-year-old was able to overlook the sloppy storytelling and crude
humor to get to the 30-foot talking robots shooting at each other.  I
went in to yesterday's screening with the hope that lessons had been
learned, budgets had been spared no expense, and that I was finally
going to get the Transformers movie that I could wholeheartedly

Well, maybe in another 27 years.  While Transformers: Dark of the Moon
features some fantastic visuals throughout, it is a disaster as a
movie.  But that doesn't mean it's not worth talking about.  I hope.

The (Spoiler free, I think) notes:

The Good:

-  Robots fight in this movie.  They rip each other apart.  The action
is heavy, loud and visceral. The only shame is that the fights move so
fast and with so much action that it can be difficult to catch
everything that is going on in each scene.  The action is more
coherent than the previous two films, however, and watching robots
beat the bolts out of each other is why I go to Transformers movies.

-  The robot and vehicle designs in the films continue to work for me.
 If you are able to show me a flame-embossed Peterbilt semi cab or a
yellow Camero and make me think of them as living characters, you are
doing something right.  Megatron's new vehicle mode, being an actual
vehicle and not strictly CGI this time, looks particularly menacing.
For all the failings of the movie franchise, the visualization of the
Autobots and Decepticons has remained impressive thanks to the
magicians over at Industrial Light and Magic.  They steal the show.

-  A few of the set pieces - especially a mid-point highway battle
(that had to have killed dozens) and the building folding in on itself
seen in the trailers (likewise) - are truly impressive.  They are "Oh,
that's why this movie cost $200 Million" impressive.

-  For better or worse, this was the first 3D movie in a long time
that didn't make me think about wearing the glasses.  The picture at
the Cinemark XD screen in Valley View was sufficiently bright, and the
3D picture was not a distraction, though it is fair to wonder if that
means that the effects were minimal.

The Bad:

-  Michael Bay is not a good director.  Like so many other incredibly
lucrative filmmakers, Bay is a visual effects expert who knows how to
get an incredible shot, but has no idea how to put together an actual
movie.  He is certainly not the first of his kind - George Lucas and
James Cameron blazed this particular trail, and a similar though more
controversial attack could be leveled at Steven Spielberg - but Bay
has utterly failed to grow as a storyteller over his career.

Sure, it's not like Shakespeare was drafting this screenplay, but
after six years of working with the franchise as its sole director,
Bay can't pin the lack of coherent narrative on anyone else.  It's
clear that he doesn't care about the story that these Transformers
films are telling.  Which makes him bad at his job.

-  Bay can say that he makes films to appeal to 15-year-old boys, and
that's certainly a way to go.  But that doesn't make tiny robots
dropping four-letter words and lingering shots on a Victoria's Secret
model not wearing pants a requirement.  Bay is obsessed with dropping
adolescent comedy in places where it does not belong, including one
excruciatingly long scene in TF3 featuring Ken Jeong as a conspiracy
theorist whose only motivation is to see how uncomfortable he can make
that same teenage boy audience feel with clumsy mistaken

The scene would be unwelcome in any film, but to put it in the same
movie where you shoot Chicago as a post-9/11 war torn wasteland and
get somber about the possible execution of beloved robot buddies, it
is particularly tone-deaf.  It's not okay just because "it's a Michael
Bay movie."  It is bad film-making, and fans and movie goers deserve

-  I don't think I've seen editing this bad on a feature-length film.
I don't know jack about the technical aspects of film-making, so the
editing would have to be pretty atrocious for me to notice.  It is.
Characters disappear for extended stretches, only to reappear for a
moment, only to disappear again.  Coherence is an afterthought.

The Observations:

-  At no point did I think that Rosie Huntington-Whiteley was doing a
great job, and at no point did I think that she was killing the movie.
 It is clear that Michael Bay uses women in his movies strictly as
objects to be admired, and as a Victoria's Secret model
Huntington-Whiteley is familiar with that role.  I'm quite certain
that there will be more comments on her outfits than her acting in
reviews of the film, so in that she must be deemed as successful.

I thought it was interesting that Shia LaBoeuf said in a recent
interview that Megan Fox was uncomfortable with Bay's misogynistic
film-making, and that attitude led to the conflicts that resulted in
her disappearance from TF3.  Hey Megan, if you don't want to work for
a misogynist, more power to you.  Also, I loved "Jennifer's Body."
Call me.

All that said, if anyone says that they thought either
Huntington-Whiteley or Fox were vastly superior to the other, they're
kidding themselves.  Fox was the object in the first two movies,
Huntington-Whiteley is the object here.  No more, no less.  Not even
noticeably less clothing, if we don't count that early pant-less

-  I assume that Shia LeBeouf did every scene five different ways, and
then Bay and his crew just chose one out of a hat.  LeBeouf's Sam
Witwicky changes disposition like a drug addict.  But it's hard to
kill Shia from not remaining consistent to his role, because there is
no role.  I wonder if Bay is even on set for the scenes with dialogue.

-  As for the other actors, Frances McDormand does a commendable job
in making the most out of a tough-talking intelligence operative
unafraid to talk smack to 30-foot-tall death machines.  John Turturro
works as a competent foil to McDormand and is far less manic and
obnoxious than his character in the first two films.  Alan Tudyk is
also very watchable as Turturro's valet slash hacker accomplice.

-  These performances make the work done by "Army" guys Josh Duhamel
and Tyrese nearly unbearable, and anyone who can explain to me why
John Malkovich is in this movie gets a prize.  If you "steal" scenes
that should have been left on the cutting room floor, you're not a
help you're a hindrance.

-  Leonard Nimoy as the voice of the newly revitalized Sentinel Prime
worked.  The forced in Star Trek line did not.

-  In previous films, the Transformers just "transformed" their hands
into swords, guns and other weapons.  This time they hold the weapons
in their hands.  Not sure why that should change mid-series.


Why am I writing about a Transformers movie?  Because I wanted it to
be good.  I wanted to go back to 1984 for a couple of hours.  Instead,
I got a movie where even I - a guy who liked Revenge of the Fallen! -
was unable to really enjoy.  It's a disappointment.

I wouldn't blame you for going to see it just to check out the
spectacle.  Just don't be surprised when you walk out knowing that you
crafted better stories on your living room floor when you were four.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Michigan fan reacts to the Tressel story

It’s been a week.  A week since I started burning couches on front lawns in celebration of Jim Tressel’s resignation.  A week since I misunderstood the rules of vacated wins and prematurely celebrated the end of Ohio State’s win streak over Michigan.  A week since I talked to my dad, a loyal OSU fan, about how corrupt that program is.  No, wait, none of those things happened.  I’m a Michigan fan who is disappointed with what’s going on at Ohio State.  Depending on how long I keep your interest, I’m going to tell you why.

Let’s start with a couple of key points.  Despite claims to the contrary, this is a big deal.  I quickly dismiss the arguments of OSU fans who whine about the rules.  Rules are rules, and in every walk of life we come across rules we think are stupid.  Can’t wear jeans to work even though you’ll never see a client that day?  You put your suit on.  Can’t go 35 in a school zone even though it’s virtually impossible to idle at speeds much lower than that?  You go 20 or you get a ticket.  Point is, we follow the rules because society, businesses, and organizations, have order.  We keep that order by following the rules.  Ohio State didn’t.

I’m disappointed by the resignation of Tressel for a number of reasons.  Primarily, and this is NOT Ohio State’s fault, Tressel was sold to the public as a beacon of all that is good and right with the world.  This is a man that (clearly irrational) people named their children after.  He was Woody Hayes the pacifist, Earle Bruce the consistent winner, and John Cooper with appreciation of the rivalry.  I can vividly remember listening to talk shows discussing Tressel as potentially running for office, and I can remember thinking that he would’ve won by a landslide.  In the eyes of many, he was the perfect coach.

Year after year Tressel won recruiting battles, produced a top five team, and waltzed into a BCS game.  Rinse, lather, repeat.  He was brilliant.  I was jealous.  I couldn’t poke holes in the guy.  I could take cheap shots at his wardrobe, but for most of my adult life, I’ve been wielding a gun with rubber bullets because of Tressel.  I used to scoff at the occasional OSU fan who called him too conservative, wondering what the hell else he could do for the school than win more than eight out of every ten games, dominate recruiting, and create a gap between Michigan and Ohio State that has never been seen before.  Literally, never.

With that out of the way, I’ve said for a decade that Tressel was a “blind eye” coach.  My counterpart, Jeff, can vouch for that.  First it was Ray Isaac at Youngstown State, then it was Maurice Clarett, then it was Troy Smith, and now it’s the group of idiots who traded honor and tradition for ink.  Eventually, even the most adamant defender of Tressel and OSU has to recognize a pattern.  Previously, the man with sleeveless sweaters was able to plead ignorance, over and over again.  This time he responded to an email.  No more denials.  No more pleas.  The perfect coach is now perfectly imperfect.  The beacon of light flickered and faded, casting a shadow of doubt and inconsistency.  For me, a dyed in the wool Michigan fan, it was disappointing.

As Michigan fans, we endured Bill Martin’s attempt to cram a square peg into a round hole with Rich Rodriguez.  We watched him behave like a man having a seizure on a trampoline on our sidelines.  We wondered how a guy could come to Michigan and promise the revered “1” jersey to a freshman defensive back.  We watched Bill Martin slink into the shadows like he just got done stabbing Monica Seles, and we watched our football program sink to levels that we couldn’t imagine.  Throughout all of that, we watched Ohio State dominate the Big Ten, compete for national titles, and be portrayed as an example of a perfect program.  Ohio State fans will never understand how distant the image in the rear view is of the 2006 game.  Divergent paths, indeed.

Things changed this off-season.  New AD Dave Brandon removed Rodriguez from Ann Arbor, and despite what many have said, Michigan got it’s man in Brady Hoke.  Personally, I haven’t been that excited about Michigan football since the day before they lost to Appalachian State.  Hoke was the guy to go toe to toe with “The Vest.”  A juxtaposition of style and behavior that was befitting of the rivalry.  Fred Flintstone meets Ned Flanders.  I was excited for 2012, knowing the gap in recruiting created by Lloyd Carr’s sinking ship and Rodriguez’s inability to understand the Big Ten would leave too big a gap for a 2011 win.  I fully expected Brady Hoke to make hay in the rivalry and we’d see everything both fan bases love about it.  Then this happened.  Make no mistake, I wanted Hoke to beat Tressel, and I am confident he would have.  Unfortunately, I’ll never get the chance to see that happen, nor will the OSU excuse makers.

My disappointment starts with the Hoke/Tressel reason, but it certainly doesn’t end there.  Despite my belief that Tressel knowingly turned a blind eye on previous occasions, I loved the guy.  I still think he’s a good person, I still think he loves OSU, and I still think that he ultimately cares about the kids he coaches.  I don’t feel that way about Urban Meyer, Steve Spurrier, Pete Carroll, or Nick Saban.  There was a gap between who Tressel was and who the other coaches are.  That character trait is the reason that I loved Bo Schembechler and am leading the Brady Hoke bandwagon.  To have that image irrevocably damaged bothers me.

One more thing that I feel needs to be mentioned.  Gordon Gee and Gene Smith should be ashamed of themselves.  Jim Tressel harbored more goodwill for that program than anyone since the Clemson-puncher (see Woody Hayes).  It’s foolish to think that those guys, and the compliance office, and the entire remaining coaching staff, had no idea what was going on.  Tressel has gone from a hero to a speed bump as the bus he’s been thrown under rolls over him.  If I were an Ohio State fan, I’d be outwardly and vocally upset about the fact that the best coach they’ve ever cut a check to (sorry, Woody) has been a sacrificial lamb strictly for the purpose of avoiding extreme sanctions.  The Vest was forced to resign, despite procuring legal help, because OSU intends to blame Tressel for a sweeping organizational problem in an effort to prevent further sanctions.  I am extremely disappointed to learn that this program, despite the rivalry, is capable of being that short-sighted and ignorant.  Of course, at the end of the day, I will remember OSU fans and their criticism of Michigan’s ONLY NCAA football sanction for practicing too much.  What is it they say about karma?

An OSU fan reacts to the Tressel story

Tresselgate, the downfall of Ohio State, the Bucks stop here…how ever you say it it’s an embarrassment to Ohio State football and the University.  As a lifelong Ohio State fan, I am very saddened by what has come up within the past few months regarding Jim Tressel and the players.  At this point I’m just hoping the hits stop coming and that we can fade out of the headlines.
When the first accusations came out in December 2010 about players receiving benefits from selling items I was shocked, but at the same time not overly surprised.  Even before all the NCAA investigations, it was obvious that football players at major programs receive extra benefits in some way, OSU included.  At the same time, I thought some of the players that got caught would’ve known better.  After that was said and done, I thought us fans could move on and look forward to the next season and argue about who should be the starting QB and RB.  This was just the beginning, however, of what looks like a very long road ahead.
The day Yahoo! published the story about Tressel lying to the NCAA, I first thought it had to be a lie or that there was more to the story; as did most of the fan base I’ve spoken to.  Tressel has been looked upon as almost a Messiah like figure by both fans and players.  After the 90’s with Cooper we just wanted a coach that could win the big game and beat Michigan.  At Tressel’s first speech/press conference for the fans he promised that we would be proud of the players come Michigan week…and we were.  Tressel then followed up his first season with a second straight win against Michigan and our first National Championship in 34 years.  After the 2002 season, Tressel was solidified as a god among coaches in Ohio State’s eyes.  His success continued by going to three National Championships, winning seven Big Ten Championships, and a 9-1 record against Michigan.
After so long, the fans, myself included, thought Tressel was unstoppable.  Sure we had issues with Clarrett and Troy Smith, but no one ever thought Tressel would’ve been involved at all.  No one wanted to think about life without Tressel, we wanted him for life.  Three months ago, that all changed.
Ever since the Yahoo! article, it just been hit after hit for the program.  We are now just along for the ride hoping there is something left once the dust clears.  Even with Gordon Gee and Gene Smith backing Tressel I thought it wasn’t going to be that bad, the program would get some sanctions and we would move on.  Sure it is horrible to violate the NCAA, but us fans thought everything would still be good with Tressel at the helm.
Then came Memorial Day.  I woke up that morning with about 4-5 text messages on my phone asking what happened with Tressel.  I was completely shocked at first to see that Tressel resigned as head coach, especially with all the higher ups at OSU saying he was still the coach no matter what.  It then came to light the depth of violations OSU had committed.  Never did I think Tressel could, and would, cover up so many violations and then on top of that lie to the NCAA about it all.
After reading many articles and talking to multiple people about the whole situation I thought Tressel resigning was the best option.  As horrible as it was to see him leave, it was what was best for the program.  I was actually not too surprised that he actually resigned considering nearly every major coach that has lied to the NCAA has been fired, dismissed, or resigned.  I don’t think Tressel or OSU wanted to go against that mold.
Right now us fans are just sitting back waiting for the hits to stop coming.  With ex-players now talking and the NCAA investigating every little thing about the athletic department it could get really ugly.  Fans are just hoping the NCAA does not make an example out of Ohio State to warn other major schools to clean up their act.  Personally, I’m guessing we get a USC-like treatment with a couple year post season ban, scholarships reduced, and the 2010 season vacated (besides the Sugar Bowl since the NCAA made the “Tat 5” eligible).  If more and more information surfaces the NCAA could go back further and vacate more seasons, which we hope does not happen.
As the 2011 season comes closer the program and fans are at a crossroads.  What will happen this year?  Who will be the next coach?  Who will start in place of the “Tat 5”?  When we will beat Michigan again?  These questions will hopefully be answered within the next few months.  This 2011 team just went from a possible National Championship contending team to fighting for 8-10 wins and keeping their head above water in the Big Ten.
Come 15-20 years down the road I’m guessing Tressel with get the Woody treatment.  Both coaches went out in the wrong way, but what they did on the field is undeniable.  They won Big Ten championships, beat Michigan, and won at least one National Championship.  Woody’s memorable hat and thick black framed glasses can be seen all over the place on game days.  In 20 years, I think we will be seeing sweatervests just as much.
As the dust settles, this thing I know…I will still be a Buckeye and wear my team colors proudly.  Sure there will be fans that leave and hate OSU, Tressel, and the players involved but that just comes with the nature of the beast.  True fans will stay around and stand up for their school.  I’m not saying what Tressel or the players did was the right thing or even remotely okay, but whatever happens I will still be an OSU fan and still be at every home game cheering them on just as hard.  Once a Buckeye, always a Buckeye…Go Bucks!