Friday, May 29, 2015

Limerick Friday LXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXVXXXII: Summer Reruns Lead To Cinematic Revelations, Plus Pack9 Chases Rings

Portrayed on the silver screen
The Village folk scene
“Inside Llewyn Davis” for the win
The Coen Brothers did it again
Oscar Isaac, poignant and serene

Cleveland vs. Golden State
That’s the rumor, at any rate
LeBron vs. Steph Curry
But still, I’m in no hurry
To watch these games on so late

Here comes springtime cleaning
Of possessions, I’ll be weaning
But you stumble across
Things you just can’t toss
Boxes full of memories and meaning

Spying that can’t be quantified
On Snowden, “Citizenfour” testified
A whistleblower’s plight televised
Had me completely mesmerized
But also, more than a little terrified
With a title they were flirting
Missing out had them hurting
The Pack Nine like a shooting star
So close, yet so far
Is State’s perpetual burden

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Subversive Comedy Amidst The Mothballs: How Dave Letterman Became My Comedic Hero

In my early teen years, I spent many hours lying on the floor of my bedroom closet, watching “Late Night with David Letterman.”

Let me explain.

Back then, you see, Letterman’s show came on at 12:30 a.m., after Carson. My parents thought that seemed a little late to be staying up, especially for someone who had the appalling nerve to sleep past 8 a.m. on occasion as it is.

So I got all McGyver down at the Radio Shack. I found a black & white TV in the garage that probably last showed “I Love Lucy,” strung coax cable underneath my bedroom carpet, into the closet, behind a small cutout door, and into an attic extension/storage area. I hooked up the TV, pummeled it several times, and was in business. I mean, I could sort of tell it was a person talking on a decrepit TV—but the audio was loud and clear.

This all seemed important to me. Because Letterman was this comedic force that had blasted everything you thought was rote about late-night TV in specific and comedy in general right out of the water. Here was this gangly, gap-toothed awkward figure who seemed to be ill-suited for the medium and looked like no one you’d ever seen on TV.

But this goofy-looking Midwesterner was raw, unfiltered, original comedy in physical form. He asked the questions no one else would, he ego-checked the celebrities that no one else dared, he Velcroed himself to things that no one else considered, he threw things from heights that no one else wanted to. He was Uncle Dave, a buzz-drunk prankster out to impress the neighborhood kids—and piss off the HOA at the same time.

Letterman became this anti-establishment cult figure, not just pushing the envelope, but dousing it with gasoline, lighting it on fire, taping Rolaids to it, and seeing if it would float. He commandeered his show with barely disguised disdain, as if someone forced him to host a late-night show, so he figured he would keep pressing buttons and spinning dials until someone got up enough energy to fire him.

The Atlantic dubbed his style “alternative comedy,” with David Sims writing that “In his earlier days, Letterman came across as someone who had stolen a camera crew and broken into an empty studio.”

In those earlier days, he also had a contempt of marketing façade and publicist-created celebrities, and he could slice, dice, and essentially end careers with his on-air interviews. He mellowed considerably after his open-heart surgery and the birth of his son, but he never slowed down—fast, clever, and timely with his on-the-fly remarks to the end.

Oh, he was fallible; make no mistake. He was overly acerbic at times, was an admitted alcoholic, and tended toward self-flagellation. He creeped a bit too hard on young actresses and later owned up to taking advantage of his position by sleeping with subordinates. He must have come close to losing his gig more times than anyone truly realizes.

But through it all, he never pretended to be anything other than a hick from Indiana who woke up every morning thinking, “How the hell did I get a TV show?” He changed the tone, tenor, and look of comedy, and his impact was felt in all corners of entertainment. During his stretch run, I was blown away by how many big names were moved to tears by Letterman’s impact on the course of their lives—from Adam Sandler to Ray Romano to Jimmy Kimmel to Norm Macdonald to Conan O’Brien.

“He was the North Star for me and every comic of my generation,” said O’Brien.

Personally, I always saw Letterman through the lens of generational conflict. My Mom didn’t like him; found him too coarse, too sardonic, too mean-spirited. He belonged to the rebellious youth, all rumpled with a too-long tie and unscripted barbs, while Jay Leno was your parents’ choice—the staid, polite-chuckle presence, a cue-card reader, milquetoast in a pressed suit. Half out of exasperation and half out of my ability to make her laugh, my Mom often suggested I consider writing for late-night TV; now that she’s passed, in my heart of hearts, I know she really meant, “Go write for David Letterman.”

But writing took me in a different direction, and I’ll have to settle for living vicariously through Letterman as my comedic hero. And maybe I’ve mellowed like Dave over the years, a husband and father of two more likely to watch “Doc McStuffins” than toss a microwave filled with marbles off an office roof.

Part of me, though, will always be on the floor of that closet, awash in black and white, breaking the rules of the house to watch a one-man laugh revolution break all the rules of comedy. Waiting to be discovered by my parents. Waiting for the renegade camera crew to show up. Waiting for Uncle Dave to do something outrageous.

Waiting for one last laugh that’ll always be just out of reach … yet never completely lost.

Thanks, Dave. I’ll leave the closet light on for you.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Limerick Friday LXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXVXXXI: From B.B. To M.M., From Yepremian To Letterman, A Week Of Difficult Farewells

Emotionally heart-rending show
Perhaps too tied up like a bow
Found himself in his chi
Inspiration found him by the sea
Sad to see Draper and “Mad Men” go

Undisputed king of the blues
Crestfallen at the B.B. King news
Transcendent with your Lucille
You made every listener feel
What a treasure to lose

To marketers everywhere it spoke
When advertising was less of a joke
And at the very end
You might say of “Mad Men”
It was an eight-year ad for Coke

A bald little kicker he was
Loved him like every Fin fan does
Was funny enough to get away
With a Super Bowl boneheaded play
Gary Yepremian will be missed by us

A self-described Indiana hick
Pulled off a stupid pet trick
Of course, the top 10 list
Among what will be missed
Of Dave Letterman’s original schtick

Friday, May 15, 2015

Limerick Friday LXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXVXXX: The Hammer Falls On The Deflatriots, Plus “Mad Men” Ponders Painful Farewell

A collection of cheating tools
With zero respect for the rules
Brady got held to the fire
For being a habitual liar
Belicheat plays the NFL for fools

As the days dwindle past
Denial has set in fast
The Letterman finale is near
For an icon we hold so dear
Let’s make every punchline last

A pitching staff to be feared
But an offense that’s disappeared
Young arms carry the Mets
But bats as bad as it gets
First place does feel kinda weird

A Pete-Trudy happy ending
Walkabout Don’s fate is impending
Peggy is off on her own
No mention of Roger or Joan
Betty’s lung cancer a bit heart-rending

Will he finally be Dick Whitman?
Will we see Megan again?
Will Roger stick with Marie Calvet?
Will Ken have his final say?
Hoping it’ll make us remember when

Friday, May 08, 2015

Limerick Friday LXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXVXXIX: “Mad Men” Chases The Contrails, Plus Shhhhhhh … The Mets Are Still A Thing

Don turns into Dean Moriarty
Roger’s empty-office drunken party
The strands beginning to unravel
Separate ways they start to travel
“Mad Men,” for the sentimental and hearty

A solid draft for the ‘Fins
Making up for previous sins
Firepower at wideout
Playmakers throughout
Now, who will coach them to wins?

A Pacquiao-Mayweather whatever
One more boring endeavor
Pacquiao fought with a bum shoulder
Mayweather danced and got older
Now can Floyd go away forever?

From the team that brought you Spygate
Now comes the art of deflate
Documented cheating yet again
Belicheat breaks rules to win
Goodell covers it up, just wait

The Mets keep bubbling along
Winning just feels kinda wrong
Have hit a few rough patches
Seem to go scoreless in batches
But steady on is their theme song

Monday, May 04, 2015

Finding Some ‘Fins: Will Tactical Gambles Pay Off For Miami’s Once And Future Regime?

I should start out by saying that it’s difficult to evaluate this draft without factoring in Kenny Stills, the former Saints wideout landed by Miami for the price of its third-round choice. Of course, that means you have to consider Mike Wallace leaving for the price of a fifth-rounder, but both are certainly worth mentioning for context.

In comparison to last year’s draft, which featured picks from North Dakota State, Liberty, Coast Carolina, and Marist, this year’s haul focused on traditional football schools. The hope here is that translates to better tape against better competition, with more accomplished football men providing better evaluations. On the flip side, this draft felt heavy on the boom-or-bust picks, with more selections with medical or character concerns.

In the fifth round, Miami netted four selections in the span of 12 picks, and that is likely where this draft will stake its reputation. To me, the key to the draft is fifth-rounder Jay Ajayi, one of college football’s very best running backs who slipped due to a troubling knee condition but could end up being the stealiest of steals.

Anyway, here's the rundown: 

First Round (14th overall): DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
It’s no secret that Miami needed a big-bodied red zone threat, and with running back Todd Gurley and cornerback Trae Waynes already off the board, this became a surprisingly easy pick for the ‘Fins. At 6-3, 210 pounds, Parker rounds out the Miami receiving corps that now features deep speed (Stills), slot quickness (Jarvis Landry), veteran route-running (Greg Jennings) and the ability to win contested balls in tight spaces (Parker). This choice reminded me a bit of the year Miami drafted Ryan Tannehill, in that there was very little drama and a broad consensus. Now, it will be up to Tannehill to help make the most out of Parker’s dynamic skill set.

Second Round (52nd overall): Jordan Phillips, NT, Oklahoma
After trading back with Chip “Mad Scientist” Kelly and the Iggles, Miami opted for a luxury pick in this underachieving man-child. Knowing that it didn’t have a third-rounder, the Dolphins elected to choose a dude with weight issues and a pre-existing back injury at an already-deep position. Some of the hyperbole surrounding him reminds me of Darryl Gardener, whose Miami tenure was filled with highlights and lowlights. I don’t hate this pick, but it did have me scratching my head some.

Fourth Round (114th overall): Jamil Douglas, OG, Arizona State
It’s hard to shake the feeling of desperation that surrounded this pick. Miami needed a guard prospect, and with most of the consensus guys off the board, it reached for a guy who was a burglar and whose play has been characterized as “going through the motions.” He does appear to possess some position flexibility and tools to work with, but this marked a second straight underwhelming selection for me.

Fifth Round (145th overall): Bobby McCain, CB, Memphis
Using a fifth-rounder gained in the trade with Philly, the ‘Fins went pure playmaker here, tabbing a slot corner with kick-return ability. Though Miami’s needs lie at perimeter corner, you can never have enough nickel guys, and McCain has a reputation as a ballhawk to offset his lack of size. I’m decidedly a fan of this move in this spot.

Fifth Round (149th overall): Jay Ajayi, RB, Boise State
Bone-on-bone knee deterioration certainly doesn’t sound like a medical file you want associated with, say, an NFL running back. However, acknowledging that doesn’t preclude this being a tremendous choice with one of four fifth-round options. Ajayi is a versatile, physical back who could prove to be a worthy complement to—and even a potential replacement for—Lamar Miller. Some hefty “ifs” involved here, but a really nice get for the Dolphins … and the kind of pick that can push a draft from good to great.
And don’t forget—this is the pick Miami got from Minnesota in the Mike Wallace trade. Though there was fault on both sides, the reality is the Dolphins weren’t constituted to get the most out of Wallace’s unique skills. So if they could jettison his salary and land a starting-caliber running back even for a couple of years, it could end up being a strong move for Miami after starting from a position without much leverage.

Fifth Round (150th overall): Cedric Thompson, FS, Minnesota
Thompson was a guy who seemed to be linked to Miami throughout the evaluation process, so he wasn’t much of a surprise in this spot. Not the biggest or most instinctual safety, but he’s got stellar measurables (4.48 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 40.5-inch vertical. 4.28 second in the short shuttle). A solid developmental free safety with the type of athleticism that special teams coaches clamor for? That makes him a low-risk, high-reward choice at this spot in the draft, and another strong fifth-round pick for the ‘Fins.

Fifth Round (156th overall): Tony Lippett, WR, Michigan State
Well, if you’re going to draft a dude only to switch him to a new position, this is the spot to do it. Lippett was a productive wideout for Sparty, but the Dolphins reportedly envision him as a corner. It’s impressive to start at both positions against top college competition, and Miami obviously saw something in Lippett to make them think there were tools there worth exploring.
With four fifth-rounders, I couldn’t help wondering whether it made sense to flip one for Zac Stacy of the Rams, but once Ajayi was available, that resolved itself. I also found myself wondering whether it was worth using the final fifth-rounder on LSU’s La’El Collins on the chance that he is innocent—but I do obviously understand why using a fifth-round pick on someone with a possible connection to a murder would be, er, tricky.
Anyway, as I mentioned, Lippett is most certainly a gamble, but one that Miami was in a position to afford.

The post-hoopla draft grades have been largely kind to the ‘Fins, and it will be interesting to see how the talent landed by the new evaluation duo of Mike Tannenbaum and Dennis Hickey is handled by holy-crap-how-is-he-still-here coach Joe Philbin. 
I’ve long been concerned about Philbin & Co.’s inability to not only develop players, but have a viable vision for how they see a player growing into the Miami system in terms of role and accountability. While I’d love to see Philbin prove me wrong, the overriding sense I have is that the next coach will be tasked with assessing and developing Miami’s Class of 2015.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Limerick Friday LXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXVXXVIII: “Mad Men” Careens To A Sobering Conclusion, Plus ‘Fins Weather The Storms

A punchline is what Don’s become?
As the '70s arrive for some?
An uneven stretch run
For an epic series almost done
“Mad Men” needs some focus and rum

A bust of epic proportions
Says a lot, considering ‘Fin abortions
Dion Jordan suspended yet again
His career over before it began
Will there ever be a change in draft fortunes?

They took difficult shots
And yes, they took lots
But Lacey as a fit was fantastic
Washington brought energy spastic
Unexpected choices for State kinda rots

A relatively weak season three
Ended with the Underwoods up a tree
A highlight was Doug
His story not swept under the rug
“House of Cards” fading, but still can’t quit ye

A big receiver fit the bill
So they took Parker from Louisville
He was a nice scoop
To round out a nice group
No more excuses, Tannehill