#15 Hypeout

Let me first say that today my mind is not the smooth and streamlined hard boiled egg it usually is. Today, I’m more of a spanish omelette so bear with me. I’m bleeding queso and salsa all over the place so here goes…One annoying thing about life circa 2008 is there’s a little too much hype. With hundreds more media outlets and millions more electric outlets (not to mention wireless kid), there is so much more exposure than there was even ten years ago. For an example of this, just compare the careers of Michael Jordan in the 1980s and LeBron James in the 2000s. MJ declared pro in 1984 and despite hitting the game winning shot of the ’84 college championship game, he came into the pros a #3 pick with no real pressure. There were personal expectations but not too much national pressure and certainly no national hype. Somewhere between the 1980s and 1990s, the system changed. By the mid 1990s, the machine had taken over and sloppy clowns were being anointed before accomplishing anything. For me, the warning bells rang when Harold Miner was  dubbed “Baby Jordan” by the media. Yes, the Harold Miner whose career lasted 15 minutes. Hey, it was a good 15 Harold, more than most people ever do.

 

Now back to the lecture at hand, perfection is perfected, so i’m a land ’em, understand? Forget Miner and just compare MJ going pro to Lebron going pro. When Lebron declared in 2004, he had already had cameras on him since he was in 8th grade. His every game was documented and he was on the cover of magazines before he was 17 years old. While Jordan was given the freedom to develop into himself and become great at his own pace, LeBreezy was expected to be the nastiest before he even graduated high school. His debut game was the NBA season opener and the country watched to see if he was…worth the hype. (Today, most agree that although the hype was staggering, he did manage to surpass it.)

 

Because that’s what matters now. We don’t measure people by their own merit or even against their peers, we judge athletes, movies, music, and events based on the HYPE. It’s as if we say to ourselves “Ok this _____ has gotten so much ink, so many TV spots, this much word-of-mouth. I have heard about this ______ like fifty times. I have spent this many hours talking about it or hearing about it.

 

Is this ______ worth my time? ALL this time..getting me pumped up..raising my expectations to the point where I’m invested in this??

Then when the moment of truth comes, we become cruel when dissapointed. We love to hit the gong and say “flop” or “not worth the hype”.

The amount of hype is directly proportional to the inevitable backlash. Ask this girl. 
 
 

 

Today, everything is hyped so much that when something delivers and surpasses the hype…it’s like a revelation. One is transfixed when we realize “wow, I went in expecting the best..and I got it.” It’s a tall order but once in a while, you get lucky…With more dollars and eyeballs on every event, nowadays very little in life is left to chance and nothing is afforded the neccecary time it takes to surprise us. We construct and deconstruct each step and angle of ______. In a sense, we make it as hard as possible for ourselves to be entertained. It is commonplace to build things up on a heroic scale just to make them sound worthwhile. ( EXHIBIT A – the promo below) Take the 2008 Wimbledon Men’s Final. It was billed as the biggest tennis match ever. It featured the top two players in the world, a fierce rivalry and was a contrast in styles and personalities. This match was hyped up no end despite the last contest between Nadal and Federer being a one-sided yawner. (Nadal in the French Final) Against the odds, it did turn out to be one of the greatest matches of all time. It may sound brash to call something the greatest, but when it happens, it’s very satisfying and especially so to those who come with great expectations. The Federer-Nadal match could not have been better. When the best performances are delivered on the biggest stages, to an audience on the edge of their seats…that’s where you want to be. 

 

Now imagine the exact same match was played by two journeymen. Two men you never heard of. Would the match have been as great with players not as great? Eventhough they played the exact match shot for shot? No, it would lose something. Because we know Nadal. We know Fed. We know about Nadal Vs Fed. We have a vested interest because of all the hyperbole. Therefore I reach the conclusion that when a star or a project comes with expectations and delivers, it offers a satisfaction that an unknown entity can not. The unknown can satisfy through sheer surprise but that will never be as deep a satisfaction as that of expectations being surpassed.

When there is a lot of hype, and the hype is surpassed, we now reach EPIC status.

 In the past month, there have been several examples of senseless overhyping, that should have lead to disapointment, but somehow didn’t. Firstly, the NBA Finals matchup of Lakers-Celtics was hyped up no end because of the Bird-Magic history and somehow the series lived up to it’s roots (a small miracle). Not long after, The Wimbledon men’s final turned into a historic evening. After several hundred ridiculous superlatives promoting the match, the TV networks lucked out and somehow the match was actually as good as promised. And they promised a lot.

Finally, The Dark Knight turned out to be the most satisfying big budget blockbuster ever. If you don’t believe me, listen to these guys. The thing about summer event pictures like this is that people often walk into the theatre saying to themselves “This movie cannot be as good as the hype says..” because it’s often not..However, The Dark Knight was that good.

It features some great acting (I personally really enjoyed Heath Ledger and Aaron Eckhart) and phenomenal writing and directing by Christopher Nolan. Throw in a kickass score by everyone’s favorite German, Hans Zimmer. For a lifelong Batman fan, having watched the old Burton movies in theatres and the animated series on tv, the old Adam West TV show and then sitting through the Joel Schumacher debacles to now reach this, it’s a major arrival. This movie attempts more than any other Batman film in the sense that it’s serious and darker akin to the comics which are really badass. Kevin Smith called it “The Godfather 2 of comic book movies”. I went into the theatre expecting nothing short of a masterpiece. To actually be completely satisfied was very gratifying. I’m not sure that is even a proper review but hey this is a spanish omelette. All I’m saying is that hype has dissapointed all of us at some point. However, there are rare occasions when hype unites us all in hoping for something together and when it comes, it’s sort of euphoric…

 

 

 

 

 

 

#14 Like Father Like Son

Recently a friend sent me a copy of Liam Finn’s album “I’ll Be Lightning”. It’s become one of my favorite albums of recent memory. That was “Music Moves My Feet” off his debut album. Not all the songs are that mellow although i think he does mellow perfectly. Its never dull. The things i like most are his songwriting as well as his voice. Then, totally coincidentally, I found my old Crowded House CD and I listened to that, enjoying it for the exact same reasons. It then dawned on me that Liam Finn was after all Neil Finn’ son, Neil being the singer/songwriter of Crowded House. This was my favorite song when I was eleven years old. I still love it. “Weather With You”This in turn made me ask myself how is it that talented entertainers can pass on their skills to their kids? Could it be in your DNA? Or is it just that they are in a priveleged position to learn and succeed? There’s no set answer but I couldn’t shake thinking about it…

Of course, they’re not the first talented father and son duo. From NFL quarterbacks to Singers and Actors to Businessmen and Doctors, I guess a lot of sons just see their fathers at a very young age and want to emulate them. Couple that with a nurturing environment wherein the dad wants his son to take up his trade and I suppose the possibilities are there…thats my guess. However, it’s just a lot more obvious in the fields of music and theatre than neuroscience for example.

But still, for every Liam Finn, there are 10 of Ozzy Ozbourne’s daughter. I forget her name but she was ghastly. And thats why i am surprised and delighted when a kid of a great musician makes great music. Because following in some guys footsteps is really really hard. For instance, Imagine being this guy’s son and being a singer/songwriter. Here’s the supremely entertaining John Lennon with “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” I wouldn’t have the balls to try following this up and I doubt many would. Still, Sean Lennon’s done nicely and impressively, he’s always done things on his own terms.

The point is just go and listen to “I’ll Be Lightning” by Liam Finn.

#7 Vova Galchenko: Going for the Juggler

Vladimir Galchenko is a 20 year old sophomore at California State University. In his mid-teens, he immigrated to the U.S from Russia where he was a resident of Penza. As a boy growing up, his father enrolled him in “circus school” when he was four years old in the hope that Vladimir would be able to make money and survive as an entertainer. The boy would grow into Vova, widely considered the best juggler in the history of the world. Interestingly, he steadfastly refuses to wear any kind of make-up or costume at any performance deeming such attire “gay”. He became a web phenomenon ten years ago (yes, at the age of 10) Magicians across the world reached out and asked Vova to come train with them. After years of travel and practice, he eventually settled on the west coast and earned a Green Card based solely on his juggling skills. Today,he is in Cali and loving life to the fullest. He can not only do every juggling trick ever, he continually dreams up new ones that leave people scratching their heads. He is the TRUTH. His first taste of commercial success was in a Fatboy Slim video and he has also been featured in Time, the New York Times and a Florida Lotto ad. He is a funny dude who posts his own blog (everybody’s doing it) and he is quick to tear into people ranging from himself to his classmates to Lenin. Watch his juggling in Penza where he juggles on top of a tank as well as at a Lenin statue that he eventually throws balls at. In the world of juggling, 3 clubs or balls is cake, 5 is tricky, 7 is almost impossible and anything else is unimaginable. Galchenko is at the 7,8,9 level. He has practiced three hours each and every day for the past ten years and he is now a machine, a machine that defies gravity and speaks with a russian/cali accent. Vova’s got crazy skills…

#4 Latrell Sprewell: Milwaukee’s Best

I got my lawyer on speed dialheres some mustard for ya mofo               Latrell Fontaine Sprewell aka “Spree” was born in Milwaukee in 1970. After a decent college career, he was drafted in 1992 by the Golden State Warriors. It was over there in Oakland that the voices in his head started calling the shots. Up until December of 1997, Spree was considered a good player, an intense high energy guy. However, that was until practice one day where Spree just snapped and went buckwild on his then coach, PJ Carlesimo. PJ was riding his players as usual and Spree was not in the mood. PJ pushed a little too hard when he said to Spree “Put a little mustard on those passes.” That was the last straw. Sprewell ran upto his Coach in front of the entire team, threw him on the ground and proceeded to choke him with both hands for about 15 to 20 seconds before his teammates pulled him off. Spree immediately left the gym, leaving behind only his horrified coach and shocked teammates. Twenty minutes passed and as the men tried to figure out why he snapped, Spree himself came through the gym doors with a bat in hand. The team got the bat away from him but this crazy son of a gun still threw a punch and clipped PJ. Long story short, Latrell was kicked off the team and wound up being traded to the New York Knicks after sitting out a year.

He vowed he was a changed man. Of course, he was just bullshitting. It’s not like anyone cared anyway. He was nasty as hell and carried the eighth seeded Knicks to the NBA Finals. Still, signs started poppin up that this guy wasn’t all there. First, there was a report that his pit bulls had flipped and had bitten his young daughters, severely injuring them. Spree responded by saying that he was keeping his dogs, they were part of the family. A few weeks later, the team could not reach Sprewell and began frantically looking for him. His agent and manager, nobody knew his whereabouts. People began to fear the worst. After 3 days, Spree showed up in NY and explained that he had driven cross country (without telling anybody) Then, a few days before the season started, Spree came in and said that his hand hurt. Upon getting x-rays, Spree’s hand was clearly broken. Reports circulated that he had snapped while on his yacht “Milwaukee’s Best” (classic) and had started punching the yacht itself. Seriously. Even better, he could have had surgery a month earlier but he hid his broken hand from the team until the season started.
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After going AWOL again the next season, the writing was on the wall. This guy was nutso. The team traded him to Minnesota where his legend only grew. After becoming a core part of the team and earning some respect back, Spree was rewarded with an offer of 3 years at 7 million dollars per season. That would be 21 million greenbacks. Famously, he angrily turned down the offer claiming “I got a family to feed.” He never recovered from that one. Spree was eventually released from the team but with his hakuna matata mentality, he figured he’d get that loot later. He was even offered a 5 million dollar one-year contract from several contenders but he said he would “not stoop to that level”.  A year later, in the midst of a championship campaign, the Spurs offered Spree half a million to play out the remainder of that season. He called their offer “a slap in the face.”

They won the championship without him.

Latrell Sprewell never played in the NBA again. In May 2008, his home was foreclosed on and his yacht had been reposessed and sold. His legacy will be that he was the first player who went beyond thinking about choking his coach. He actually went and did it! Also, he will go down as the only NBA player to have rims named after him. Those ridiculous rims that spin, they will forever be called Sprewells. Still, it must be said that although the man is totally insane, he was awesome to have on the Knicks. That’s because he was absolutely fearless. Crazy dudes are usually fearless.

Buzz Bissinger: “Blog , i must break you.”

dude is crazy!    This was the most intense sport related stand off I have seen in the past month and it had nothing to do with hoops or hockey (It never does). It took place not on a court or a rink but in that bastion of intense testosterone filled dudes, the Bob Costas show on HBO’s cleverly titled “Costas Now”. This was a serious showdown in every way. It was the good ol’ boys of newspaper journalism repped by “Buzz” Bissinger versus the new kids on the blog repped by Will Leitch, founder of Deadspin. I will admit at the outset that I have been a fan of deadspin.com for a year or two. It is not my sports source but it is a site i check out to have a few laughs at the sporting world and more specifically to laugh at the corrupt beurocracy that controls it. To me, when a story is being ignored intentionally by the large media companies, I can trust Deadspin to be all over it. In today’s media, sportswise, ESPN is top dog. They make the schedules, they call the timeouts, they write the stories. Those stories decide hirings, firings, signings and departures. So they are the sports police. SO who polices the police?

 fans police big business           The fans. They are the only ones who can do it which is why the Deadspin blog is great. Deadspin is the voice of the fan, the intelligent nerdy fan as well as the drunk, obnoxious fan. It toasts (and roasts)everybody because fans love (and hate) everyone. Buzz Bissinger, the Pulitzer Prize winning author hates blogs and said so in an incredibely crass and vicious fashion at the media roundtable on Costas Now. Naturally, he feels that he is in a better position to “evoke the feeling of sports” than a random blogger. I disagree. Bissinger contends that from his press box seat, he can capture the spirit of the game more so than a blogger sitting in his dirty frathouse living room. Maybe, maybe not, maybe $#@& yourself. The best anyone can do is try to capture their own experience. The rest is up to the reader to decide, isn’t it? Maybe I live in a frat and i want to read about people having an experience like mine. I am not getting into the press box anytime soon. While sports journalism is a great art (and I have long loved David Halberstam and Jerry Izenberg), people should also have the option to write crass stupid things like “Derek Jeter Sucks A Rod” and people should have the option to laugh at that as well. Whatever puts the wind in your sails. Whatever floats your boat. The irony is that it is usually the professional reporters (especially on tv)whose interests are compromised in the business of sport.

           For instance, Disney owns ESPN and ABC so you will never read an ESPN column saying that the coverage on ABC sucked for an event and you will absolutely never read ANYTHING NEGATIVE about espn in any major media publication. As long as business entities weild power over sports, the Yahoos and Sports Illustrateds and CNNs will never want to get into a truthful appraisal of sports coverage in America. God forbid corporate synergy takes a hit. Seriously, this synergy nonsense could be fodder for it’s own Coors Light Six Pack of Cold Hard Questions. I am not blaming Pete Coors by the way, he is a good man. I am blaming the owners and commissioners since it was them who decided to sell out COMPLETELY. Sport has sold it’s soul conjuring images of the time Bart sold his to Milhouse for 5 bucks. However, Buzz can’t point the finger at Big Money because they sign his cheques. (or sign his boss’ cheques) So, this sensationilist and exploitive world we live in is not a result of the media or society itself, the apocalypse has come in the form of…blogs?
when bloggers attack
             Buzz argued on the Costas show that Deadspin was immoral and unethical because they celebrated the embarassment and humiliation of athletes and he offerred as proof pictures of Matt Leinart drinking beers at a pool party and posing with college girls. How is that embarassing in the first place? Even so, one could argue that this is an invasion of privacy and that is true. Buzz is correct there yet the problem is that the almighty ESPN ran the same pics on TV again and again. Yet, his beef was with a website that can only reach a fraction of the people that espn does. So why does he choose to attack “the blog” instead of espn? I suppose it’s because he is somebody with sports television but he is just another clown (like me) on the web.

           Buzz’ claim to fame is he is the man who wrote Friday Night Lights, the story of high school football in Odessa, Texas. His book was optioned into a movie and afterward a TV series. Hence, he is no stranger to the sports television collosus. In fact, the movie version of his story follows all the usual tricks that modern sports coverage use in that the film’s primary tool to attract young male viewers (the core demographic for any football movie) is very short cuts and fast editing featuring hard hits and spliced with slow motion/ fast forward moves that eventually stop at yet another enormous hit. Throw in some rah-rah speeches and some rock anthems, microwave 30 seconds and you have ..Rudy on STEROIDS.

         I find it strange that a writer of such repute can embarass himself as he did speaking with Will Leitch of deadspin. His first comment of the evening is ( 2 minutes into the show) “I need to interject here because I feel very strongly about this. (looks over to Will ) I think you’re full of shit.” He goes on to say that he think blogs are dedicated to cruelty, journalistic dishonesty and speed. So is the modern media, genius.  When was the last time the media wasn’t cruel? Cruelty sells and every network serves it up in spades. Your 30 years of humanitarian work are washed away the day you are accused of a crime (who cares if you are innocent?). When was the last time that every single news source in the world was proven HONEST?  Do you hold the media to the same standard you hold the blogosphere you blowhard?? and SPEED? Today,  every news source in the world rushes its stories out to the point that they are proven untrue the next hour and there isn’t even the slightest bit of embarassment about it. It wasn’t that long ago that ESPN reported that Terrell Owens had committed suicide. Here was a national network owned by Disney reporting that a high profile athlete had killed himself intentionally by overdosing on pills. Yet, TO turned up at training camp looking very alive. But speed on a blog is an embarassment to journalism?  Buzz added ever so eloquently “it pisses the shit outta me.”

Bravo Shakespeare!  

           Let me make it clear that I am a newspaper reader. I appreciate the skill and I still love reading sports in the Star Ledger as well as the New York Times. Today, scores and articles are posted instantly and I believe it takes real skill to get people to read the paper. It is an art, it really is. However, I still completely disagree with Bissinger and his disdain for blogs. His fear that his forum is dying does not justify his attitude and his holier than thou arrogance. I would love it if everyone in the world read the newspaper and was well-informed. However, reading Buzz Bissinger or any other reporter does not make me more intelligent than a blog reader. And that arrogant assumption is why I think Bissinger is crazy. Dude is crazy.
here\'s to you pal..
         His attack on blogs is weak and irresponsible. The modern media (particularly television) has failed the people and the dumbing down of society has been happening for a long time now. To scapegoat blogs for momentum that has been gaining for years is a cop-out. For your information Buzz, I would be no more intelligent if I read your books. I’m hoping nobody’s dumber for having read this blog either.

Therefore, I hereby dedicate this blog to Buzz Bissinger. I would like to think that this would really piss the shit outta him.

that dude is crazy!

In recent times, it’s becoming more and more common to find absolutely insane people living the crazy life to the hilt. And often we see these people on Tv or in the newspaper and we focus on their insanity because of their “stature” or maybe I should just say “money/influence”.  Well, I do aim to get those people in the crosshairs and put them on blast. That’s not to say that I am going to ignore the average joe and his increasingly batshit antics. On the record, I promise that I will feature ALL who do whatever I deem crazy enough to write about. Whether they be rich, poor, liberal, conservative, black/white/brown/yellow/blue, fat, skinny, tall, short, smart, dumb or of average intelligence, they will all be roasted based solely on the level of crazy that they are. Full disclosure: dumb people do seem to get made fun of more often than smart people, it just seems to work out that way.

 More often than ever, I find myself thinking “wow, that dude is crazy.”

No longer will that sentiment be voiceless.The Scream by Edvard Munch (1893)