2011

The return of Van Halen

Well, Rolling Stone reports that Van Halen is preparing a new album—with David Lee Roth at head vocals.

Not 100 percent sure how I feel about this one. On the one hand, I’m an enormous fan of comebacks, as well as an enormous fan of DLR-era Van Halen. I’m not one of those purists who rips on Sammy Hagar’s contributions—I actually think 5150 is a helluva album. But the band was never the same after Crazy Dave departed, just as Crazy Dave was never the same after exiting.

The thing is, these guys are old. O-l-d. Which is no biggie—except I’m not sure anyone will care. There’s barely an audience for contemporary CDs anymore. Will anyone out there really wanna plunk down $12 for Van Halen VII, or whatever the disc will be called? And what if it sucks? Very few old rockers maintain their mojo. Actually, it’s similar to old athletes. All the blather about relying on experience and knowing more now and being in incredible shape—it’s usually crap.

Hmmm … the jury’s out.

The post-career pose

Am at MSG for the Wizards-Knicks game. Was standing by the court a few minutes ago, watching John Starks. The one-time New York star works for the team in community outreach. He still looks really young, and is insanely approachable.

In the, oh, 10 minutes I spent standing there, Starks must have posed for four of five photos at midcourt. Which means he surely poses for hundreds of annual photographs.

I’m by no means ripping Starks, or sports fans, or photographs. But I wonder if ex-athletes ever get resentful, being treated (somewhat) as cardboard cutouts. Nobody asks to pose with me or you, and that’s a good thing, I think.

Nobody wants to be forgotten. But if we’re never remembered to begin with, it works out quite well, too.

PS: Boneheaded moment of the night—think I called Shawne Williams “Erik” by mistake. Thinking old-school NBA. If I did, he didn’t correct me.

The State of the Union

So the president has a pretty daunting State of the Union address to give the nation tomorrow night. Generally speaking, I’d say the majority of Americans ignore a president’s State of the Union. We all know it’s taking place, we all know our favorite shows for that night will either be delayed or cancelled, we all know we should care (but usually don’t).

I think a big problem with the State of the Union is it isn’t usually a State of the Union, but a State of the President’s Status and Agenda. We rarely hear the truth, and when we do it’s only because things are going well. Our most courageous presidents—FDR, JFK and LBJ among them—seemed unafraid to confront tough conditions with genuine talk of sacrifice and difficulties. But can anyone recall a State of the Union that was a genuine status report of the union?

I sure can’t.

For Barack Obama, this is a biggie. Coming off of the Arizona shooting, he’s surely trying to maintain the sense of agreeability and unity. But, especially with the current 8-second-and-a-cloud-of-dust news cycle, moods seldom last. Yesterday’s “Give Peace a Chance” is today’s “Fight the Power.” Although I don’t 100% agree with his moves of late, I think the president is wise to make a Clinton-like slide toward the center. A. It keeps things moving; B. It shuts the Republicans up a bit. The less liberal Obama seems, the less fools like Palin and Romney can foam.

What do I want to hear tomorrow? Well, I like the message of political unity. I’d also like a very strong economic plan to grow jobs and keep things moving. I also strongly believe in higher taxes for the upper-class, though it’ll never happen.

And that’s that.

Miss America

So for reasons I can’t really explain, I was watching The View this morning while working out at the gym. The topic of Miss America came up, and Joy Behar—the liberal (good) and obnoxious (bad) co-host went up on the swimsuit competition, saying it’s sexist and demeaning and terrible and wrong.

Joy, by the way, worked as one of the pagent’s judges.

When confronted on this slight contradiction, Joy weebled and wobbled. She only agreed to serve so she could complain. She has always made it clear she hates swimsuits. Blah, blah, blah.

Personally speaking, I hate the Miss America contest. It’s really boring, the women are—generally speaking—dim and even the swimsuit portion is lame and sucky. But if you’re gonna criticize something, you damn well better not be taking money from that very organization.

Oh, Joy.

J-E-T-S III

It will never happen.

That’s what I decided a few moments ago, while sitting alone on my bed, watching Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger take a final knee in the AFC championship game and seal his team’s trip to Super Bowl XLV.

Whether I live to 40, to 60, to 80, to 100, to 120—in my lifetime, the New York Jets will never win a Super Bowl. Hell, they’ll probably never reach a Super Bowl.

I am 38. Because of my duties as a sports writer, nearly all of my team allegiances were shed long ago. The little boy who rooted for the Mets? Gone. The kid who loved Chris Morris and the New Jersey Nets? Departed. When you spend enough time inside the clubhouses and locker rooms, most of the mystique and glamour vanishes. The larger-than-life men of your youth are merely men. The cathedrals are merely stadiums.

For some reason, however, I have never been able to get the Jets out of my system. I love them—in the same way I love to drink three or four milkshakes in a day. Yeah, I wind up vomiting. But the thrill overtakes my senses.

The first time I thought the Jets were destined for the Super Bowl was in January of 1983, when they traveled to Miami to face the Dolphins for the AFC title. New York had everything lined up—a fantastic halfback named Freeman McNeil, two explosive wide receivers (Wesley Walker and Lam Jones), a terrifying defensive line known as the New York Sack Exchange. Yet playing on a muddy field that nullified the Jets’ dynamic speed (Miami famously failed to cover the field during the previous day’s storm), the Dolphins won, 14-0.

Sixteen years later, the Jets returned to the conference championship game, and even led the Broncos, 10-0, behind the wisdom of Bill Parcells and the thunderous right arm of Vinny Testaverde. “This time,” I bragged to my friends,” things are different!”

The Jets lost, 23-10.

Now, after so many years of heartbreak and heartache, I am crying uncle. If the Jets were ever going to reach the Super Bowl, this was probably their season. Beginning with the Hard Knocks buzz and all the Rex Ryan blather, New York just seemed … different. Though I usually don’t buy the whole team-of-destiny thing, there was a team-of-destiny thing going on. The Jets scratched and clawed for wins that seemed impossible; they fed off of Ryan’s nonstop boasting; they featured depth all around the field, from the receiving skills of Santonio Holmes Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery. When they shocked the football universe by pummeling New England last weekend, believers—including myself—began to emerge.

Maybe, just maybe, these Jets are special.

Sigh.

I hope I’m wrong, but the modern Jets are beginning to smell a lot like Willie Randloph’s Mets from a couple of years back. Blow one big opportunity—hey, it happens. Blow two—the mental anguish begins to weight heavily. Are we merely biding our time? Or are we forever doomed to almost-ran status? To coming close, but not close enough?

My first favorite Jet was Mike Augustyniak, the bowling ball fullback from Purdue who joined the team in 1981. Through the years, I wallowed in the endless lows, from Mike Haight and Dave Cadigan to Blair Thomas and Rich Kotite. I embraced the brief highs—Ken O’Brien’s of-thrilling duels vs. Dan Marino; McNeil leading the league in rushing; the arrival of Curtis Martin and the emergence of Wayne Chrebet and Keyshawn Johnson. I hoped for the best, buoyed by the belief that betters days and championship parades were always just around the corner.

Now, however, I understand the truth.

The Jets are eternally doomed.

And so are their fans.

What it means

In the aftermath of the CNN column, I received a whole lot of positive feedback and a whole little of negative feedback. The positive was great—I still dig kind words, as we all do. The negative takes, however, are actually fascinating. In that, oddly, I get it.

The general thought is this: What kind of SI writer lowers himself to tracking down 23-year olds in their basements? What the $#@@ is wrong with you?

It got me to thinking about perception and reality—both of the self, and from others.

Throughout my career, I have never thought of myself as a “big-time” writer or even an “SI” writer. I’m just a guy who writes because he loves writing. No more important than the basement blogger, no less important than Lupica or Layden. I write because I enjoy it and—some would argue—it’s a talent. I’m better at expressing my thoughts via writing than speaking. Hence, me and the page.

For some reason, however, people don’t always like successful (if you consider me to be successful, which if definitely up for debate) mainstream writers. Or, for that matter, successful anythings. If you’ve attained success, you must be cocky, snide, rude, a dick. Maybe this sounds dumb, and maybe it is dumb—but sometimes it seems as if I’m no longer allowed to mix it up with others. In other words, if I’m a blogger and you’re a blogger, we can both have at it. But if I write for SI and you’re a blogger, my criticizing you is a form of bullying; of being excessively arrogant. Hmm … maybe I’m not stating this well. It’s kinda confusing to me.

It’s also like—if you’re me, and you take the time to read what people are writing about your work, well, you’re pathetic. It’s a big no-no, and I’m not sure why. Why is it wrong for me to see what people think of a column? And why is it wrong for me to contact people who get excessively rude? I mean, it’s OK for someone to call me a f^%$wad, but if I then reply to the person I’m the one open for criticism? Why? I don’t get it.

I am not famous or even half-famous. I am a writer with a wife and two kids who struggles to pay the bills and who’s always looking for the next book idea. I love exchanging thoughts and ideas, and can’t believe how fortunate I am to write for a living.

That’s it.

J-E-T-S

Tonight, while watching the closing seconds of the Jets-Steelers game, it hit me that I’ll likely die without ever seeing my team win a Super Bowl.

Covering sports for so long, I haven’t kept most of my rooting interests. But, for some reason, I continue with the Jets. They were my boyhood passion—and merely by accident. When I was 6 or 7, my older brother told Dad he liked the Giants. I was left with the Jets.

Damn.

I worry that the Jets are about to become the Mets of a few years back—on the verge of greatness a couple of years, then haunted by being on the verge, but never able to move forward. Mark Sanchez is fantastic, and the offensive line is as good as it gets. But the Jets have some serious holes—Braylon Edwards is likely gone, and they desperately need a pass-rushing defensive end.

Man, this one hurt.

Today’s CNN.com column: II

Ever since the CNN.com column on tracking down dillweed anonymous posters came out Friday morning, I’ve been hearing references to the so-called “Jay and Silent Bob scene.” I saw the flick, but that was a long time ago … didn’t remember much of it.

Alas, found the clip. Two, actually. And they’re perfect.

The reaction has actually been riveting: I’d say 90% supportive, 10% (largely anonymous) dolts ripping me. Cowards. My favorite, hands down, was someone who would only identify himself as “Heff.” On this blog, he initially wrote:

Man I read that article on CNN and laughed so hard. I love reading about idiots like you. Do you honestly think that you’re above criticism because you’re a writer? I mean maybe you wouldn’t get criticism if you didn’t write awful pieces. I hope you track me down I’ll tell you to shove it in front of my mom.

I responded with: OK, so provide your real e-mail address, tough guy …

Which prompted Heff to write:

What are you possibly going to say in an e-mail that you can’t say in this comment section?

Once again, I responded: wow. that is, by far, the wussiest moment of the day. you just said “i hope you track me down.” e-mail, please …

Heff then wrote:

How am I a wussy when you can’t even say what you want on this comment page, yet can rant on about something else in an article and cant handle criticism? THEN, call some teenage kids mom because you were felt bullied. Obviously you’re trying to get my information or e-mail me something inappropriate. Also, I’m neither going to give your creep-self my e-mail nor put it on a comment page for everyone to have. Booyakasha. I’m out.

Literally, the guy went from asking for a confrontation to slinking out the back door.

Typical. And pretty entertaining.

No biggie, Heff.