Saturday, July 5, 2008

TO: EDITORS OF ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Sirs, if I wanted to read a magazine with random portions in reviews in bold to emphasize their importance and which begins each review section with large print telling you what's reviewed, which reduces substantial story to purportedly user-friendly infographics that actually convey no information, and which relegates the George Carlin memorial (by Chris Rock no less!) to way in the back of the book in the "TV" section, rather than with the rest of the "married/birth/engaged" materials, I'd read Us Weekly or People. Please give me back my EW. Thanks.

'Grey's Anatomy': Kevin McKidd in talks to join the show | TV Biz | Hollywood Insider |

McTHIRTEENTHY: Please, Shonda, can we see Lucius Vorenus, M.D. at Seattle Grace?

Friday, July 4, 2008

THE BOY WHO LIVED: Caleb Potter was supposed to be dead by now. He was not supposed to be marching again in the annual Wellfleet (MA) Fourth of July Parade, one year later.

On July 4, 2007, Caleb marched as he always did with his pirate crew of friends, again, of course, as Yellowbeard. That afternoon, the 25-year-old Owen Wilson look-a-like did something really stupid: riding on his skateboard, he grabbed onto the back of his friend's pickup truck and faceplanted. Hard.

The doctors gave him a seven percent chance of surviving. If he did survive, they said, he'd be in a vegetative state.

To say that this Outer Cape community immediately rallied around this uninsured, self-employed native shellfisherman is an understatement. Quite frankly, I've never seen anything like it. "Pray for Caleb" signs hung and pirate flags flying all over the place. You couldn't go into a restaurant, bar or store without there being a jar up front collecting money to help pay his medical costs. This pirate town of the Whydah kept him front and center of the town's consciousness all summer long with events like "paddle out" rally in the water, twice-daily prayer circles in front of Town Hall, and a ton of fundraisers.

I will confess that early on I had a fair amount of cynicism about the whole thing -- how much sympathy was I supposed to have for a good-looking kid who consciously chose to do a stupid, risky thing? It was a bit like the "Save Ferris" movement in a way, and you wondered if it was a phenomenon that just gained momentum because it felt good to be a part of something.

But it was real, and in this small community the desire it was palpable. You just couldn't help being overwhelmed by the coming-together of all these people around one of their own, touched by the way in which everyone, everyone built this support system for him and his family, in this town where everyone knew someone who was close to him and his family.

And somehow, Caleb kept recovering and worked his tail off in rehab, with his mom's blog charting every step of the way. He lost an eye, and his short-term memory may never be wholly back, and then his father committed suicide ... yes, it has been a rough, awful, terrible year for Caleb and his family.

But there he was today, back in the parade. They didn't make a spectacle of it -- he wasn't the Grand Marshal, they didn't even put him on a float or in one of the classic cars. He just walked as part of his pirate crew, with his friends, right after the pro-impeachment peace drummers and before the crew from the nearby seafood shack tossing candy. Yellowbeard and his crew were back, and on this Fourth of July, all was right in Wellfleet.

e.t.a. Pictures and video via Caleb's mom.


[T]he delay of this declaration to this time has many great advantages attending it. The hopes of reconciliation which were fondly entertained by multitudes of honest and well meaning, though weak and mistaken people, have been gradually, and at last totally, extinguished. Time has been given for the whole people maturely to consider the great question of independence, and to ripen their judgment, dissipate their fears, and allure their hopes, by discussing it in newspapers and pamphlets – by debating it in assemblies, conventions, committees of safety and inspection – in town and county meetings, as well as in private conversations; so that the whole people, in every colony, have now adopted it as their own act. This will cement the union, and avoid those heats, and perhaps convulsions, which might have been occasioned by such a declaration six months ago.

But the day is past. The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great Anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade with shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.

You will think me transported with enthusiasm; but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these states. Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, and that posterity will triumph in that day's transaction, even although we should rue it, which I trust in God we shall not.

John Adams
A WORD FROM YOUR EDITOR: Tom, great first draft. Your enthusiasm for the liberty thing really shines through. Now let's see if we can't punch it up a bit. Some suggestions:

When in the Course of human events
Strike "human?" Doesn't add anything. I think your shift key is sticking again.
it becomes necessary for one people
One person? Or just "people"? I like it better with "people," plural -- kind of has that universal relatability thing going for it?
to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another
Dropped a word. Another what? "Another people?" That's an awkward construction. Maybe "other people," or if you want to do a callback, "other humans." I like that -- kind of an Oscar Wao geek-cult reference. Very now.
and to assume among the powers of the earth,
Easy on the sci-fi, though -- we don't want to end up in the genre bins
the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them,
These are the same thing. Pick one?
a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
This is a little opaque. If you want to move away from the sci-fi, maybe replace the whole paragraph with "Sometimes, when people break up, they should say why." Can you come up with a good anecdote to illustrate this? What did you say to Sally that one time?
We hold these truths to be self-evident,
Throat-clearing. Delete and get to the point
that all men are created equal,
I'm okay with this, but you should sleep on it, because this is going to be published and you never know who's going to quote it back to you. Sally, for instance.
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Beautiful (other than the typo in "inalienable"). Drop an "and" before "that among these," and please see somebody about that shift key.

it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Your call, but you're going to lose the Mather people if you insist on the happiness part

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
Perez Hilton will kill you if we don't fix this one

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither
Is this a go? I can't remember if you wanted me to wait until you saw the final polling.

sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
This reads a little gross. Perhaps full stop after "people."

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms
Generally, I counsel writers not to brag about their humility. Just a suggestion.

They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity.
Style manual says "hearing-impaired." Here, can substitute "nonresponsive." Pluralize "voice"? Do justice and consanguinity speak with one voice or two? In my head, I think I hear two, but consanguinity is pretty quiet.
We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
Great! I think we have our title. Enemies in War, in Peace Friends will kill on Amazon.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
Run-on sentence. Let's not replay that whole fight about commas, please. And fix that shift key!

Anyway, great draft. With some work, this could be huge. If we get it just right I think I can call in a chit and get it in front of Oprah. Take the holiday off, but can you turn around another draft by July 11?
WHEN IN THE COURSE OF HUMAN EVENTS, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

ANOTHER SETBACK FOR CLEMENS: According to this ESPN report, the syringes and other steroid paraphernalia that trainer Brian McNamee submitted to federal agents will test positive for Roger Clemens' DNA.

Let's assume for now that this turns out to be true. To think that Roger brought most of this upon himself by voluntarily suing McNamee for defamation. You have to think that Andy Pettitte's approach seems wiser with the benefit of hindsight.
IS IT ME YOU'RE LOOKING FOR*? I just wanted to say hello to whoever it was that found us through a Google Nicaragua search for "giselle buchman nude." Funny on so many levels. I hope we helped you scratch that itch.

*David Cook -- if you're such a word nerd, can you please, please sing "is it me for whom you are looking?"
GOTTA HAVE THAT FUNK: I have been a big fan of Nikka Costa's since her debut album in 2001. I was very pleased to see this favorable article about her in today's NYT.

For those of you not familiar with her work, give this song a listen.
I KNOW WHAT YOU'RE THINKING: Viacom gets to know exactly how many times everyone has been Rick-rolled (among other things)?? Instead, maybe we should be thinking about what they could do with that information. If it's used to foist a Rick Astley comeback tour upon the world's already suffering masses, don't say you were not forewarned.
THE PLOTS THICKEN: Further news about Madonna's love life and the love lives of Alex and Cynthia Rodriguez and Lenny Kravitz here (note that this is from the gossip page).
IN 400 FEET, ON THE LEFT, THERE WILL BE CAKE: Cooler voice for your GPS--KITT or GLaDOS?

Have a submission for the summer cocktail series? Send it along and if you are a regular commenter, be sure to remind us of your alias in your email that we might give you proper credit. [Ed note, we've had a couple of shorter ones come through. When there are enough shorter pieces, I'll consolidate them into one entry].

Anyway, from reader Kate, we have a few thoughts about gin and tonics. Or is it gins and tonic?


I wasn't yet five, but old enough to talk when I first yelled the phrase, "Gin and tonics for everybubby!" We were at a motor lodge on a southern beach where my mom's family went every year. They'd been going since she was in high school, and when she got married and had us, we got to go too. Later, the year I turned five, my grandparents built a house on a beach north of the lodge, where our traditions continued. While beers are perfectly good for drinking on the beach after riding a few waves, very cold gin and tonics remain the cocktail drink of choice. We spend all day at the beach, with a brief lunch break up at the house around noon. By 4 or 4:30, when the sun hits that perfect angle behind the dune, and the ocean is as pretty as gets all day, we start thinking about how lovely life is and about how it's getting to be that time to get back to the house. The walk back is best if we've been in swimming, because the sun bakes the salt on our skin on our way up to the house. Showers my granpa made from cedar boards are under the house, and the salt feels like it washes off in one fell swoop, feels like we're getting new skin every night. Once everyone is clean and dressed, appetizers start to fly out of the kitchen--usually shrimp cocktail. My grandpa would wear a blue outfit, his beach leisure outfit, of blue shorts and a blue and white zip jacket. He'd make gin and tonics on the counter while the kids watched, and he'd make us special, non-alcoholic fruit juice drinks. Then we would all go out to the front deck, where we could hear the ocean, drink our drinks and eat shrimp or cheese and crackers. Then we'd run like wild children around the house while the adults talked--most of the adults. Granpa was one of us, and would chase us around the house till we had no breath left for laughter or screaming.

There have been a few changes since I was five. The schedule remains the same, ocean swims dictated by the tides, but beach time dictated only by the presence of the sun. My granpa is no longer with us, but we have his namesake, our son, to watch my dad make the drinks. It turns out I don't even like gin, but think there's nothing better than a vodka tonic. And my dad has upgraded the level of alcohol we get in our drinks, because while my granpa was beloved, he didn't like to spend a lot on alcohol for a mixed drink. But we still walk up from the same beach, shower in the same showers, and sit on the same deck and enjoy the same sound of the waves. We're preparing for this year's trip right now and even the four year old knows there is no place better.

The perfect gin/vodka and tonic:

Fill a short, wide glass that fits nicely in the palm of your hand with ice. It can be glass, but it also can be an old plastic cup with ocean designs you've had for at least twenty years.

Pour in 1 and 1/2 or 2 ounces of gin or vodka, depending on the size of your glass. The drink should not be too strong--it should be refreshing, with a perfect mix of gin/vodka, tonic and lime. You might have to make and drink a few of these to get the perfect proportions.

Take a good sized slice of lime, squeeze it into the drink. Rim the glass generously with the lime slice. Drop it in the glass.

Fill the glass to the brim with good tonic. As drink mixer, you might need to take a sip in order to carry it to your favorite people out on the deck without spilling.

While you can have one of these away from the beach, it certainly ought to be at the end of a hot day, when the sun has finally given you a break and you can sit outside.

I could write a similar story about my family, my granpa and Old Fashioned's, but as everyone knows, those are a winter drink, for Christmas and New Year's Eve parties.

With credit to 3under5, whose story got me thinking about my own Granpa.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

TONIGHT'S TALLY OF OVERT REFERENCES TO SEXUALITY BY NIGEL -- AT LEAST FOUR: Over the course of tonight's exceptionally and perhaps unduly long SYTYCD, it became clear that this season has the haves and the have-nots. The haves -- that is, the have-a-chance-of-making-the-final-fours -- are those who are either obvious favorites or who strike me as having a chance of busting out with something amazing despite a more under-the-radar early set of dances. The eight haves are:
  • Twitch and Kherington: it's always good when you get to perform a dance that will be remembered by an obvious catch phrase -- the hummingbird, the dead dad, the office politics, and so forth. The bed dance was one of those dances. As for their paso doble, I liked it much more than the judges did. Usually a paso doble on this show involves a strong matador and a girl trying hard to look like a cape but actually looking like a girl trying hard to look like a cape. Whether it was true to the intent of the dance or not, I appreciated Kherington's fierceness -- being a matadrix instead of a dishraggy kind of a cape had a nice feminista thing to it. But all this ruminating is kind of irrelevant, because neither Twitch nor Kherington is going anywhere anytime soon.
  • Katee and Joshua: they got the less showy of the two Mia dances this week, and I must confess that during their pre-dance clip, I was feeling a little eyerolly about what feels like a whole lot of Mia dancing thus far this season. But I loved this one much more than the bed dance, which was a lot more gimmicky. This one was just bare-bones Mia unplugged, and it was gorgeous. I found their West Coast swing to be a little lead-footed (except for the parts when Joshua was doing the Flintstones-accelerating-their-car footwork that is so very Benji) compared to the real thing, but these two have really proven themselves week in and week out. Katee is still a bit of a cipher -- she's lucky to have the far more charismatic Joshua as a partner -- but I see a bit of Sabra potential in her.

(we pause here to acknowledge, as Isaac did last week, that based on what we've seen so far, these four are running head and shoulders above everyone else in terms of being deemed America's favorite dancer -- but I'll add one more to my top bracket:)

  • Will: Poor Jessica -- let's just put her out of her misery already. You can see the pain in her eyes every time a judge tells her she's not Will. But seriously: who is? I am dying to see Will paired with someone else, because he is astonishing. Twitch is great, Joshua is great, but neither of them has shown the sheer WOW that Will is capable of. He doesn't have the gorgeous lines of a Danny Tidwell (given that he's like three feet shorter than Danny), but he also doesn't have the cold inaccessibility of a Danny Tidwell, so if he can pull away from Jessica and have a real breakout kind of a week, he's an obvious top 2 guys kind of a dancer.

For whatever reason, I have decided that I should select a top eight, and so here are my other three. They are currently nowhere near the others, but one should recall that once the partners start getting shifted around, some unexpected butterflies often emerge.

  • Chelsie and Mark: I love Mark. I think that in a year with Twitch and Joshua and Will, he is unlikely to win, but I find him interesting and quirky and neat to watch. Chelsie feels incredibly young and kind of pageanty to me, but I could see her maybe coming into her own a little ways down the road. (Especially since she seems to lack that dumb-as-a-board-please-stop-talking-now thing that Jaimie had going on last year.) And given that I didn't care for either of their dances tonight -- what was that jazz thing that everyone loved? And the fifty-pound electric blue feathery thing that Chelsie had to wear for the foxtrot? Note to wardrobe: sometimes fewer feathers make a more lovely bird.
  • Courtney: with the exception of Benji Schwimmer, this is a show about evoking emotion. Jury's out as to whether she can do it. Sometimes I think it's there, sometimes I think it's not.

(Comfort, Thayne, Kourtni, Matt, Gev, Jessica -- I wish you well and will enjoy watching two of you do a random dance or two on tour.)

A couple of other thoughts. I don't think I've ever liked a Cecily and Elisa routine. Their choreography is almost always the weak link on any given episode, and tonight two couples were hurt by it. It just can't always be that the dancers fail to hit their routines, can it? I would also like someone to explain to me what exactly "jazz" is, as distinct from contemporary and broadway. I once thought that jazz was everything that wasn't ballet (and I had some supersnazzy sequined costumes for my jazz dance recitals), but after a few years of watching this show, I just don't know anymore.

MY MOTHER ALWAYS TOLD ME THAT IF YOU HAVE NOTHING TO SAY EXCEPT 'FUCK CLAY BENNETT,' YOU SHOULDN'T SAY ANYTHING AT ALL. SO FUCK CLAY BENNETT: After letting the litigation run plenty long enough for everybody to realize that Clay Bennett and his business associates are a bunch of self-congratulatorily stupid liars, the people who bought the Seattle Supersonics -- notice that I didn't say the Sonics themselves -- settled with the City of Seattle and will be able to move the team to Oklahoma City right now. Bennett will pay Seattle $45 million plus another $30 million if Seattle doesn't get a team within the next five years.

The city didn't want the Sonics to leave and sued to keep them. The former owner didn't want them to leave and stunt-sued to make that point. The fans, who kept showing up even when Bennett ordered management to take a dive, didn't want the team to leave. My understanding is that the players -- especially Kevin Durant, who has embraced Seattle -- didn't want to leave. I think it's pretty fair to say that the only person outside of Oklahoma City who wanted the Sonics to go was David Stern, a lifelong friend of Bennett's and a guy whose interest is in having a credible threat to hold against cities that refuse to pour public money into new facilities every 15 years (yes, the last time Seattle rebuilt the Sonics' home on the public dime was 15 years ago). And now he's going to say to Seattle, you won't get another team until you pony up. Douchebag.

I've already vented my anguish at this inevitability, so I won't go back into my history, and the city's history, with the team. Instead, to Oklahoma City, I'll say this: First, I doubt you're going to use the name "Sonics," but if you're thinking about it, you don't deserve it. The team you are getting has no history. You have no right to hang the 1979 banner, no right to wear the green and gold, no right to take any pride in the Shawn Kemp highlight reel or the Jack Sikma perm. Second, I hope that whatever dumb-ass name your moron owner picks (incidentally, whatever name he picks, I hope it becomes a popular euphemism for abject, embarrassing failure), your team goes 10-72 every year (as bad as you can get without getting in the record books) until the novelty of having a basketball team wears off and you stop showing up or watching on TV and some other city comes sniffing around to steal what wasn't yours to begin with, at a loss to Bennett, leaving you with an expensive publicly funded empty arena. Third, I hope that Durant and Green and Westbrook play lethargically and grow to hate each other, biding their time until free agency, when they move to cities that didn't steal basketball teams, thereafter blossoming into legendary talents. Fourth, I hope at least one marquee free agent every year says publicly what every NBA player is thinking privately: "why on earth would I, an NBA player, voluntarily play there for that asshole?" Fifth, I hope you come to understand -- really, really come to understand -- exactly what kind of people you're in bed with. You know, the ones who are already squeezing you for public money and who joked that their contributions to anti-gay rights causes would grease the skids for the trip out of Seattle. Put it this way: if you don't reject them, then you deserve each other. And by the way, if you agree with the owners on that last one, then I hope that the first time an active NBA player comes out of the closet, it's in Oklahoma City, because that way you can buy yourself some extra agita for your homophobia.

The Sonics are now a story with a fixed beginning and a fixed end. They have a title (like I hope OKC never will) and a history and a long line of great, entertaining, and beloved players. They have fans who grew up with the Sonics and will always be fans of the real Sonics and have memories, great memories, of the Sonics. That belongs to us, not you, and no matter what else you and Clay Bennett can steal from us, you can never have that.
DO YOU THINK YOU'RE WHAT THEY SAY YOU ARE? It's been a while since we've checked in on the LA Times' Richard Rushfield and his overwrought reactions to Carly Smithson's ouster from Idol. Well, he's backstage with all the former contestants at the start of the Idol tour, so let's see how he's doing:
Onstage, the band and crew runs through the set of the greatest performer in "Idol" history, Carly Smithson, with the choreographer Stacy Walker standing in for the singer.
Um, okay. Also, Jason Castro really likes racing go-karts.
EVERYONE MUST STAND ALONE: Three years ago today Philadelphia and cities around the globe hosted the Live8 concerts to promote African debt relief, and we blogged about it. Well, the problem hasn't been solved exactly, but this does give me the excuse to pull up a favorite YouTube link or two.

Some setup is required, however: back in 1984-85, an impossibly malnourished child named Birhan Woldu became known as the "face of famine" for her appearance in some moving news stories about the devastation going on in Ethiopia. Twenty years later, she's still alive (and studying to be a nurse), and Sir Bob Geldof brought her on stage at Live8 as a symbol of hope to say, look, Live Aid worked, and we can make a difference here too. The problem being, however, that when Madonna took the stage to sing "Like A Prayer", Woldu didn't leave, and this awkward footage followed. Watch Madonna gamely attempt to involve her in the performance before giving up.

Actual musical highlights from the day, other than Will Smith leading his hometown crowd in chanting the "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" theme (not available online): Annie Lennox, "Why"; Robbie Williams, "Angels; Coldplay w/Richard Ashcroft, "Bitter Sweet Symphony"; and the late James Brown, at the age of 72, in Edinburgh with "I Feel Good" and "Sex Machine".

LET THE DISAPPOINTMENTS PASS, LET THE LAUGHTER FILL YOUR GLASS: The remarkable season of the Narberth “12 and under” tournament team came to an end yesterday following our 4-3 loss to Ridley.

As the score suggests, this was an agonizingly close game. We jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Our first run came on a play in the second inning in which Andre hit a deep fly ball that would normally have been a double, but which he turned into a triple on account of his astonishing speed. An error by a panicked Ridley player ensued, which brought Andre home. In the top of the fourth inning, CJ hit a single, which was followed by Brandon hitting a home run, his second HR of the tournament. Was it a titanic shot? A massive blast? A Ruthian smash? My “sportswriter’s thesaurus” simply can’t do justice to all of the wonderful things Brandon did for us on offense. We made sure that every player played in the game, including Andrew, who played well at third base.

I will note briefly that at around this time in the game, one coach for Ridley was ejected from the game for threatening an umpire with physical harm. The umpires issued stern warnings to the other Ridley coaches about how to behave. It was not a happy time in the game for any of us, but we took a moment to remind the boys (and ourselves) that we must always treat the umpires with respect. I am gratified to report that our players (and our coaches) acted like gentlemen during this game and throughout the tournament.

If baseball were simply a morality tale (or a Hollywood movie), I suppose the ending would have been a clear victory for us. But it was not to be. To its credit, Ridley battled back, scoring four runs in the bottom of the 4th inning. There is a cliché about baseball being a game of inches and that was true in this case. A few of the hits by Ridley were “seeing eye” singles, which barely eluded the outstretched gloves of the Narberth players. On a close and somewhat controversial play, a Ridley runner was called safe at third on a tag play that was perhaps millimeters away from becoming an out.

We fought back in the sixth inning, our final turn at the plate. Zach hit a sharp single. Marvelous Brandon hit a ball sharply that ended up in foul territory. In the end, the Ridley pitcher prevailed, striking out our final batter to preserve the victory for his team.

As we lined up to shake hands, I was thinking a lot about the ejection of the coach earlier in the game. Before the handshakes began, I reminded the boys that no matter what the other team or its coaches did, we were going to take the high road. The words were barely out of my mouth when I realized that they were largely irrelevant. Between the good things they’d learned from their parents, in school, and in playing sports, every player on this team had already internalized the essence of sportsmanship. Further, the Ridley players and coaches turned out to be gracious and classy victors.

We walked back to the bench. Some of the boys were understandably downcast. Each of the four coaches spoke to the players, each emphasizing the superb achievements of the members of the team and the sportsmanship that they had displayed. Caught up in the moment myself, I don’t think I can quote precisely to you what any of us said. But I will remember Coach Knox’s eloquent words to the lads, in which he praised their strength, character, endurance and integrity.

Youth sports provide a framework in which our children can learn to be resilient. With a little luck, that resilience will serve them well as they weather the storms they encounter later in life. You could make the case that resilience is in fact one of the most significant keys to happiness. There were some disappointing aspects about Tuesday’s game, but I was impressed by the resilience the boys displayed. By the time we all made the long walk back to the parking lot, I saw smiles on the faces of most of the players. I saw parents wrapping their arms around their children, proud as can be at the job they had done.

The end of the game, and, indeed, the end of the season, was a sad moment for all of us. A boy named Drew, the paragon of sportsmanship on my team during the regular season, gave me a hug as he was leaving. That took away some of the sting of the loss. Thank you, Drew!

In the long run, a few of our children will have the chance to play baseball in high school or college. The odds are against any of them making it as a professional. But my fervent wish is for each of them to have a good instinct about how to do the right thing in all aspects of life. I love the way that after each game the boys can tell the coaches about several examples of good sportsmanship. I love the way that they lend one another support, the friendly way that they interact with each other. They are getting the message that virtue is its own reward.

I understand that no matter how I say this, it’s apt to sound sort of corny, but I believe in these players. They are going to be terrific adults one day. I believe in them.

Finally, three cheers for all of the parents and fans, who made all of this possible. Thank you for your support. But most of all, thank you for allowing the other coaches and me to have the privilege of coaching your magnificent boys. The experience enriched our lives.

TAKE ANOTHER TRA LA LA OF MY HEART, NOW BABY, YOU KNOW YOU GOT IT IF IT MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD: While the eardrum-piercingness of Mary Murphy's scream is undeniably undeniable, the difference between Murphy and, say, Paula Abdul, is that there's never any doubt that Murphy knows what she's talking about. That is, so long as you have a glossary handy to figure out where the Tra La La is better or worse than the Hot Tamale Express. The L.A. Times is here with Murphy herself to help you figure out which planet she's transmitting from.
ONE YEAR YOU'RE IN, THE NEXT YOU'RE AWT: The LAT continues with its top-notch scoop on who's on the Emmy semi-finalist lists. Let's make this easy and summarize some of the surprises:
  • In--Lee Pace, Bryan Cranston, Jon Hamm, Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver, Michael C. Hall, Kyle Chandler, Mary McDonnell, Elisabeth Moss, Jeanne Tripplehorn (the only one of the Big Love ladies to make it), S. Epatha Merkerson, Sarah Silverman, Neil Patrick Harris, Jack McBrayer.
  • Out--Kelsey Grammer, Edward James Olmos, Connie Britton, January Jones, Terry O'Quinn, Robert Sean Leonard, Teri Hatcher (the only Desperate Housewife not in), Chi McBride.

Reporting also indicates that The Wire doesn't stand a chance based on panel reactions (too complex and not stand-alone enough), and that the generally older voters clearly had the oogies when presented with Dexter. On the other hand, they ate up Damages (which, for all its sins, had a great pilot and a great finale) and Boston Legal and clearly had nostalgic love for Mad Men.

ETA: Supporting Actress Comedy has a few surprises of its own. In--Amy Poehler, Kristin Chenoweth, Jenna Fischer. Out--Jaime Pressly (last year's winner!), Dana Delany, and Sarah Chalke (who's also apparently not a semi-finalist for guest acting).

I'D BUY THAT FOR A DOLLAR!: I Survived a Japanese Gameshow took a huge dive in my estimation tonight. How hard is it for the directors to just show the actual events, and then let the contestants comment on it, rather than intersperse commentary in the middle of a three minute event?

Maybe I watch next week, but not much longer. The charm of this show is that part that involves Japanese game shows, not the part that's Real World: Chiba.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

27th OF JUNE, ASBURY PARK (MARIE) (GUEST POST BY ADAM C.): Asbury Park fixture Marie Castello, better known as fortune teller Madam Marie, died on Friday at the age of 93, just a week shy of another Independence Day. Bruce Springsteen immortalized Madame Marie in his evocative song “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy),” from his 1973 album The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle.

In live performances to this day, Bruce often dedicates the song to folks who still live in Asbury Park and its neighboring shore towns, an area Bruce called home for many of his formative years. Over the wistful strains of the late Danny Federici’s accordion, Bruce paints a picture of a summer town slowly dying amid the evening fireworks and the tourist trade. He crafts rich images of the characters who inhabit the boardwalk and its Pinball Way, cruising the Circuit and, in some cases, dreaming of something more. As the narrator comes to the realization that he’s grown “tired of hanging in them dusty arcades” and “chasing the factory girls underneath the boardwalk,” Madam Marie serves as something of a touchstone for his impending departure:
Didja hear the cops finally busted Madam Marie for tellin’ fortunes better than they do?

For me this boardwalk life’s through, baby. You oughta quit this scene too.
I used the couplet above as a yearbook quote twenty years ago when I graduated from high school. At the time, I took it in a very literal sense. I thought it captured perfectly how much I wanted to get away from my hometown, to start down a new path somewhere that wouldn’t be defined by my place in the panoply of high school stereotypes, or by who my parents or my grandparents were. Although I couldn’t predict my future, I thought I had a pretty good idea of where I was going and what I wanted. And I did. Until I didn’t anymore. Twenty years burning down the road, I’ve had occasion recently to think about that couplet again. I see a lot more depth, resonance, and sad truth in those words, on both a personal and a global level. But I also can find comfort in the implied hopefulness of the lyric.

Although Marie Castello was never hauled in by the cops outside of song, you may know that Asbury Park suffered a painful decline in the decades after the release of The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle. The Palace Amusements complex fell into grave disrepair and was demolished (although its iconic mural of Tillie the clown was partially preserved). Like many of the local businesses, Madam Marie’s boardwalk shack was eventually shuttered.

But then, almost exactly four years ago, amid a major (and still ongoing) redevelopment effort in Asbury Park, Madam Marie reopened her boardwalk shop and began offering readings. Her family members, including a great-granddaughter, continue to work the small booth to this day. And the beach at Asbury Park is again becoming known as a jewel of the Jersey shore.

Farewell, Madam Marie – for what you meant to your family and Asbury Park, for the creative spark you inspired in Bruce Springsteen, and for the inspiration his image of you gave to me and I’m sure many others, you will be missed. I hope the Castello family will be able to share and enjoy fond memories of Marie and be at peace on this Fourth of July.
THAT THERE WAS URBAN BRONCO MUSIC, BUT CAN I HAVE MY '98 BACK NOW? Two and a half years ago, I lamented the lack of hybrid options between super-sub-compact and SUV. I wrote that "[i]t would have been nice, by the way, to see a faltering American auto industry getting ahead of the demand curve with a cool-looking luxury hybrid model."

Two and a half years later, the auto market is ugly. June sales for the industry as a whole are down 18.3 percent year-on-year, with low-mpg vehicles like the Explorer (sales down 50%) and the F-Series (down 41%) leading the drop. Meanwhile, Toyota and Ford couldn't meet demand for Priuses, Corollas, Yarises, or Focuses (Priii, Corollae, Yarii, or Focii?). Even when automakers can shift production (expensively) to those smaller cars, their margin will be much lower.

So: two and a half years ago, the SUV and truck market was shrinking and consumers were shifting away to more fuel-efficient cars. A sizeable number of affluent consumers were buying hybrids that were less-expensive than their prior luxury cars and doing it for a variety of reasons. China's oil demand was rising and there was instability or hostility in three oil-producing regions. The auto makers knew all of this. And yet we still have the same options: a $60K Lexus, some SUVs, some compacts and subcompacts, an Altima, and a Chevy Malibu to replace the discontinued Honda Accord.

I know lots of Prius owners who love their cars, and I imagine that people driving that Lexus are pretty happy too. Wouldn't it be nice if Detroit, Tokyo, and Germany could make something daring in between that people could get excited about?
HEY MA MA MA: With Isaac asking "what are you reading?," I figured I'd open up a thread to deal with another pressing issue--"what are you listening to?" For me, the last couple of downloads have been the Peter Gabriel closing credit song from Wall-E (I particularly like how the drums kick in as he sings "we're coming down to the ground), and the bizarre mixture of 80s one-hit wonders Dream Academy and country superstars Sugarland.
EUSTACE TILLEY, YOU'RE ON NOTICE: We received two mailings from The New Yorker last night: one invited Jen to renew her existing subscription for one year for $49.95, or for two years for $79.95. The other invited me to start a new subscription at the "professional discount" rate of one year for only $25, or two years at $45. [Hell, the magazine's own website is offering a cheaper rate than what they mailed Jen -- $39.95/1 or $69.95/2.]

So I called their customer service number and asked, um, can I just renew Jen's subscription at the rate you've offered to me? And they said sure. I then asked if there was an even lower rate they weren't telling me about. Alas, no such offer was extended. But seriously? I can't believe the gall of that "offer" to Jen.
A MILLION LITTLE PEOPLES: I'm halfway through James Frey's weirdly riveting Bright Shiny Morning, so maybe this post is premature. Still, I figured I had to say that this should have been called A Field Guide to L.A. Stereotypes. The hard-working daughter of illegal immigrants who falls in love with the man whose house she cleans; the passengers just off of the bus from the video for "Welcome to the Jungle"; the self-absorbed and sexually voracious actor; the bikers; the cholos; the actresses who turn to prostitution; the moneyed and cynical; the ethnic; the poor; and so on. Are you kidding me? It's a testament to Frey's skill that the book is so eminently readable despite the clichés, all the more so because so little of it is occupied with recurring characters and the advancement of the plot (with long interstitial passages dedicated to vignettes or short recitations of factoids, some of which are recognizably true and some of which I'll just say, hmm, if Frey calls it fiction ...). At the halfway mark, this is a book for which one has no reason to apologize to Oprah.

So what are you reading?
THERE'S A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LIKE AND LOVE: The NYT's pan review of the new ABC Family drama Secret Life of The American Teenager (it's like Juno, except bad and not funny!) does contain a brief moment worthy of discussion--the reviewer notes, without commentary or justification, that the following films constitute "classics"--The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Clueless, and 10 Things I Hate About You. While I'm delighted to see 10 Things make the list, I'm sure we can offer supplementation and argument on this crucially important issue. Too early for Mean Girls and Bring It On to make it? What about other portions of the 90s teen movie boom--She's All That?
DO THEY BITE? My key contribution to the motley crew of various fractions of teams that assembled to triumph at last night's Big Quiz Thing was to be able to identify Stephenie Meyer as the fantasy writer whose books are currently at #1, #8, #16, #19, #26, #35, and #39 on Amazon. Despite her dominance of the bestseller list, I've yet to have my interest piqued. (And the movie trailer, which was rather inexplicably paired with Sex and the City, did not exactly do much to get me there.) Am I missing something?
LORD KNOWS IF LAWYERS STARTED WEARING A NEW, TECHNOLOGICALLY ADVANCED SUIT THAT LED TO A SERIES OF RECORD-BREAKING PLAINTIFFS' VERDICTS, JUSTICE SCALIA WOULD FIND A WAY TO OUTLAW IT: This blog has never covered a Summer Olympics without ALOTT5MA faves Svetlana Khorkina (or as we like to call her, KHORKINA!) or the Thorpedo, so there's no telling what we'll be doing for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad around here. Will we focus on the mascots and the wave of new architecture? Will I spend an inordinate amount of time being bitter about the fact that a friend narrowly missed competing for the United States in the lightweight men's doubles sculls? Will I complain again that synchronized diving isn't more like this or this? Will we have more fun during track week or swimming week, and is it really all about folks like Dara Torres (41!?) and the Baltimore Bullet, Michael Phelps?

Much of this is up to you. So tell us: as of now, about six weeks pre-Games, in what are you interested?

Monday, June 30, 2008

ANOTHER GAME TO REMEMBER: It’s a tale of two balls that I will tell you about today. It’s a tale of a star leading us to heroic triumph. It’s also a tale about how everyone matters.

Let me set the stage. Several years ago, David Cone, then with the Yankees, pitched a perfect game. Adam, Isaac, Phil, the Pathetic Earthling, a few other friends and I began a discussion as to whether a perfect game was the ultimate individual achievement in any team sport. After a while, we concluded that it was not since the pitcher must rely on his fielders for many of the outs, and, perhaps even more importantly, he must rely on his teammates to produce runs so that the team can win the game (just ask Jered Weaver of the Angels about that!). We eventually reached a consensus that it was generally not possible for a baseball player to win a game by himself.

I’m not sure I’ve changed my view on that, but tonight’s game between the Narberth baseball “12 and under” all star team and Springfield featured a performance that comes as close to that rarefied standard as any I have ever seen. A boy named Andre was clearly the reason why we won. Andre is a gifted athlete, strong, fast, and graceful. Not to mention that he’s about as nice a kid as you will ever find.

He pitched a 1-0 shutout tonight, with 12 strikeouts in 6 innings of work. In other words, all but 6 outs were “by way of the K”. One of those outs was an outstanding leaping grab by Andre himself, preventing what surely would have been a single. He allowed just 3 baserunners during the entire game, only one of whom reached 3rd base. Andre has an overpowering fastball and outstanding control. He has a particularly nasty pitch that comes in knee high on the outside corner. It’s essentially unhittable.

The Springfield pitcher was nearly as good as Andre. He held us scoreless during most of the game. The one run he allowed … was a home run by Andre, a towering drive that cleared the fence in center field by about 20 feet. As is our custom, we retrieved the ball and I presented it to Andre. All in all, Andre had accounted for the vast majority of our defense and he produced our only run of the game. It was a performance for the ages. Andre is a great player and I suspect that he will receive other home run balls and game balls for his feats on the field. But I imagine he’s going to remember this particular game and this particular home run ball a long, long time.

Despite the closeness of the game, we’d managed to play every player on our roster except one boy, our youngest player, who is named Andrew. Throughout the game, Andrew had done everything he could to help the team win, from cheering loudly, to retrieving bats, to warming up the right fielder between innings. We had him ready to play in the bottom of the 5th inning, but the batter before him unexpectedly hit into a double play. For our final inning on defense, we played our best defensive players to try to preserve our slender lead. And it was probably a wise move since a boy named Brandon made a nice catch in center field of the only ball that a Springfield player hit hard all day.

But at the end of the bench sat Andrew, looking a little sad. “When am I going to get into the game?” he asked politely but with a slight waver in his voice.

I sat next to him and leaned my head right next to his ear, speaking softly so that only he could hear. “We have a chance to win tonight, but it’s such a close game that the coaches decided that we needed our very best players on defense in this final inning. A one run lead can disappear in the blink of an eye. I know that it’s hard for you to just sit here, but I’m going to ask you to think about the team. If we win today, we’ll have accomplished something that no Narberth team has done in the past 15 years. You are a part of this team and if we win, you’ll be happy right?”

He nodded, but a look of uncertainty crossed his face.

I continued. “I was in exactly your shoes once. When I was a sophomore in high school, my team got to play in the first round of the state championship. I was the youngest kid on the team, just like you. And just like you, I didn’t get to play during that game. But my team ended up winning. Now, all these years later, what I remember most about that afternoon was jumping up and down with my teammates when we won, not the time I spent riding the pine. If we hold on to this lead, I guarantee you that you will not regret this sacrifice you’re making.”

Andrew lifted his head and smiled. He nodded more confidently this time. A moment later I heard him cheering for Andre.

Andre struck out the final batter. The team piled on him, full of elation. As we lined up to shake hands, both teams displayed terrific sportsmanship. The Springfield coach made a point of shaking Andre’s hand and telling him what an impressive job he’d done. One of the umpires even shook Andre’s hand!

I called the team over and asked them to sit on the bench while Coach Knox, the Narberth baseball commissioner, spoke to them.

“I have the game ball here” he began. “Normally we’d give it to Andre for the outstanding job that he did tonight, but he’s already got a ball from tonight’s game, thanks to his home run. But tonight we’re going to give it to a guy who did everything he could to help the team win. He cheered for all of you. He picked up the bats. He warmed up the fielders.”

The team looked around, wondering who Coach Knox was describing. I saw a glint of recognition cross Andrew’s face, coupled with a hint of disbelief.

“Tonight,” Coach Knox continued with a much louder voice, “tonight, we’re giving the game ball to Andrew, who showed us what it really means to be a teammate.”

Coach Knox handed the gleaming white ball to Andrew. Tears of joy flowed freely down Andrew’s cheeks. I could tell that he didn’t want to let the other boys see him cry. I moved closer. He pressed his face into my shoulder. I hugged him while all of his teammates patted him on the head.

Coach Dotsey yelled “on the count of three, I want everyone touching Andrew's hat and we’ll yell ‘Narberth’”. The team pressed in tight, arms reaching in to touch the lad’s dark baseball hat.


The tournament continues tomorrow (Tuesday).

INSERT "LITTLE WILLIE WEEKEND" JOKE HERE: It would not be consistent with the high standards of this blog to merely post the words Verne Troyer Sex Tape and then scurry for cover, or to wonder if it will be nominated for an Oscar in the "live action short film" category. At a minimum, I should pull up the appropriate clip from Goldmember, right? And then this post won't be seen as completely juvenile?

[Look: if the injunction order were online, I'd post that, and then I'd be totally in the clear in terms of this post having some redeeming jurisprudential purpose. It isn't. Does this mean that for balance, I need to post if Seth Green ever has a sex tape leak?]
LIGHT SHOWERS AS BIG WILLIE WEEKEND APPROACHES: It is difficult to imagine anything dampening this Philadelphian's enthusiasm for all things Will Smith-related, but the whole Fresh Prince's Scientology School thing does give me a moderate case of the oogies, almost approaching heebie-jeebie level. If it turns out that Smith really is privately a member of the CoS, will that affect your opinion of him, or only if he goes publicly wacky with it like Cruise did?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

THE PIPES ARE CALLING: Question raised by a fellow delayed soul at T.F. Green Airport earlier tonight -- can you think of a grown man who still calls himself "Danny" and not Dan or Daniel? I had two answers at the time, one more an hour later. So as not to spoil, to the Comments.

I WONDER WHAT THE WORLD WILL THINK OF JOHN MELLENCAMP’S WORK 50 YEARS FROM NOW? Was there ever really a world like the one that Norman Rockwell depicted in his cover illustrations for The Saturday Evening Post? I’m too young to know since he stopped painting before I started playing Little League baseball. There is a gentle humanity, a sweetness and warmth that underlies many of his works. I assume that his portrayals of American life must have been idealized, at least in part. Was he sentimental? Yes, I suppose he was, but I guess that that does not bother me.

The “Norman Rockwell” world lives on in the various Little League and Cal Ripken all star baseball tournaments taking place at this time of year in innumerable small towns across America. That thought struck me yesterday as I watched my “12 and under” all star team get ready for their first tournament game. The dusty field with its unusually high pitching mound. The boys, earnest and polite, yet ferociously competitive, all dressed in their blue and white uniforms. The throngs of parents gathered under the shady trees. The small children scampering about, happy simply to be part of this exciting endeavor. The scorers table set up on two card tables. The chief umpire, an old school kind of a guy, who looked just like Wilfred Brimley.

It had been at least 9 years since my town (Narberth, PA) had won a tournament game. The kids, to varying degrees, were aware that the odds were stacked against them. During our final practice a lot of the boys had a flat emotional affect.

We jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning, thanks to some excellent hitting and tenacious plate discipline. A wave of enthusiasm and determination swept over the boys. Without any prompting, the lads on the bench started to yell encouragement to their teammates.

A boy named Sammy pitched brilliantly for us during the first three innings. I happened to be the first one to greet him when he finished pitching. Between the heat and his hard work on the mound, Sammy looked a little tired, but on his face was an expression of sheer willpower that I doubt that I will ever forget.

The game was close and exciting throughout. I spent most of my time pressed up against the fence near home plate. Often Andrew, the team’s youngest player, was by my side. At one point, around the fourth inning, he grabbed my elbow and looked at me with a grin straight out of one of those Norman Rockwell covers. He exclaimed “this is real baseball, Coach Bob!” Caught up in the moment, he said it again “this is real baseball!” Andrew, of course, was right.

During most of the middle of the game, the outstanding pitcher for Lansdowne essentially shut us down on offense. He had a wicked fastball and good control. He mixed in the occasional curveball and changeup effectively. We were leading 3-1, but the game was too close for comfort.

With a mighty swing of the bat, a boy on my team named Brandon smacked a home run over the fence in left field. The entire team lined up near home plate to congratulate him. A moment later, I ran out and retrieved his home run ball. I showed it to Brandon and told him that I would keep it safe for him until the end of the game. Brandon looked happy, but he also looked as though he himself could hardly believe that he’d just homered.

Thanks to dazzling pitching, together with intelligent and athletic defense by the entire team, we allowed just two more runs the rest of the game. The score was 5-3 when we recorded the final out. Pandemonium and jubilation on the field ensued.

A moment or two later, we all gathered by the bench where each of the coaches said a few words. I wish I had had a camera so I could show you the expressions of enchantment on the faces of the players.

As everyone was starting to leave, I jogged up the hill to my bike and found Brandon’s home run ball in my bag. I brought it over to Brandon and his mother. I dropped to one knee so that I could look Brandon straight in the eye. “Congratulations, Brandon,” I said, “here is the ball you hit over the fence. Hang onto it because you’re going to remember that moment and this entire game when you are 40 years old!” He smiled, his eyes full of joy. I turned to Brandon’s mother. “And your mother is going to be telling everyone she knows how proud of you she is.” I paused a moment for dramatic effect. “For at least the next 20 years!”

As for me, and as for all of the people who were fortunate enough to have been there yesterday, I suspect that we will all remember this game 20 years from now. It was emphatically a game to remember.

LIVE FROM NEW YORK: Fairly quietly, last night, NBC reaired the first ever episode of NBC's Saturday Night, which was hosted by the late George Carlin, as a memorial to Carlin. It's fascinating to see how much the show has changed--Carlin delivers some stand-up at various points during the show, but doesn't really feature in the remainder of the show, musical guests are interpersed with the show, and the infamous and bizarre Andy Kaufman/Mighty Mouse bit appears. Fascinating to see how a show that began as a challenge to the institutions of television has itself become a television institution.
HELLO, DOLLY: Since there's clearly demand for it, here's a spoiler thread to discuss WALL-E, which I agree was very good, but think might have been a little overpraised by some critics. Credit is due to the folks at Pixar for making a movie that's pretty damn experimental in some ways and that depends on the intelligence of its audience to figure out parts of what's going on rather than spelling it out.