Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Oscar Notables & Their Sports Counterparts

Another edition of the Academy Awards is in the books, and the Oscar participants share some similarities to the athletic world. Here are some sports counterparts for all the acting nominees, as well as a few other notables from Sunday’s ceremony.


Marion Cotillard: Tony Parker.
She’s a native of France who experienced triumph in the U.S.

Cate Blanchett (also nominated for Best Supporting Actress): Jim Tressel. She’s won the trophy before, but in a bid for a second, she lost out twice in short succession.

Julie Christie: Roger Clemens. She portrayed an Alzheimer’s patient, so her memories didn’t match up with the people around her.

Laura Linney: Billy Beane. She’s often in contention – usually in productions with a modest budget.

Ellen Page: Steve Nash. She’s short, Canadian, and helped a talented ensemble thrive.


Daniel Day-Lewis: Tiger Woods.
No one had any doubt that he’d win on Sunday.

George Clooney: Tom Brady. A past winner, he came up a little short this February. But he’s still way more handsome than you.

Johnny Depp: Les Miles. He makes unconventional decisions, but you can’t argue with the results.

Tommy Lee Jones: Hanley Ramirez. Nominated for In the Valley of Elah, Jones gave a great performance that few people paid to see.

Viggo Mortensen: Maria Sharapova. He portrayed a Russian who was best remembered for a nude scene. (NOTE: The comparison is wishful thinking for male readers.)


Tilda Swinton: David Beckham.
She’s a Brit who got lots of media attention in L.A. And she didn’t make Americans care about soccer.

Ruby Dee: Pat Summit. She’s a woman who’s been at it a long time and still gets the job done.

Saoirse Ronan: Sidney Crosby. She was up for prestigious awards despite being a teenager.

Amy Ryan: Bill Belichick. She portrayed a thoroughly unlikable character who lives in Boston.


Javier Bardem: Troy Polamalu.
His character was distinctive for his brutality and his hair.

Casey Affleck: Serena Williams. He’s the younger sibling who turned out to be the more talented one.

Philip Seymour Hoffman: Chris Douglas-Roberts. He uses three names and consistently gives strong performances.

Hal Holbrook: Joe Paterno. He’s in his 80’s but shows no signs of quitting.

Tom Wilkinson: Bruce Pearl. His character alternated between crazy and brilliant.


Diablo Cody: Jimmie Johnson.
She prefers a fast pace and is familiar with the pole position.

Joel and Ethan Coen: Peyton and Eli Manning. They’re brothers who both got to experience the ultimate victory lately.

Jon Stewart: Isiah Thomas. He lives in New York and is a constant source of comedy.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Duke's Unselfish Week

Around the country, the mere mention of the word “Duke” inspires hostility for millions of college basketball fans. However, Mike Krzyzewski and his Blue Devils deserve nothing but appreciation this week. Since Sunday, Duke has been a model of unselfishness.

The team’s exemplary behavior began with its trip to Wake Forest on Sunday night. Duke entered the contest at 10-0 in conference play and 22-1 overall. The prevailing wisdom among bracketologists was that the ACC would only place four of its twelve members into the NCAA tournament. Realizing that Wake could enter that discussion with a marquee victory, the Blue Devils went ahead and made that scenario a reality. As the Demon Deacons prevailed 86-73, Duke could take pride in advancing the cause of the conference. The truly unique aspect of the contest was that all five Blue Devils fouled out of the game. The referees even called three fouls on assistant coach Steve Wojciechowski, for flops he committed as a player in 1998.

Besides boosting Wake’s at-large chances, Duke also helped its biggest fan with the defeat. Dick Vitale recently returned to the airwaves after literally being silenced for much of the season after throat surgery. Knowing that Dickie V would be calling the Memphis-Tennessee showdown this coming Saturday, the Blue Devils wanted to give him the privilege of broadcasting a 1-vs.-2 matchup. With Sunday’s setback, Duke relinquished the #2 ranking in favor of the Volunteers. In gratitude, Vitale promised to mention the Cameron Crazies and Coach K as much as possible during the Tigers-Vols showdown, making it just like every other non-Duke game he broadcasts.

Not content to merely assist the ACC and Dickie V, Coach K advanced the cause of college basketball in general during a radio interview after the Wake loss. Noting that guard Nolan Smith had recently been playing through a knee injury, Coach K remarked, “unlike other schools we don’t release our injuries.” Believing that “other schools” was a thinly-veiled reference to North Carolina, UNC coach Roy Williams shot back on his radio show with a message to “coach their own damn team, I’ll coach my team.” While Roger Clemens, the Daytona 500, and the recent NBA trading frenzy still commanded the sports headlines, there’s nothing like a bit of sniping between the sport’s biggest rivals to get some attention for college basketball. If nothing else, it was much more fun and juicy than talking about Kelvin Sampson’s phone bills. Coach K surely knew that this media frenzy would ensue after making his comments. When it comes to slights against his team, Roy’s skin is thinner than a coked-up runway model.

Duke once again showed its conference loyalty in Wednesday’s 96-95 loss at Miami. The Hurricanes entered on the wrong side of the tournament bubble and desperately needed a high-quality win. Joe Lunardi certainly took notice as the Blue Devils accommodated the hosts with a season-high 23 turnovers. Miami’s Dwayne Collins tallied a career-high 26 points, leaving Duke assistant Chris Collins highly impressed. Remarked Chris, “Who would ever expect a guy named Collins to play so well in a Duke game?”

By dropping consecutive games on the road, Duke also brought joy to the opposing fans. ACC crowds always exert extra energy when the Blue Devils or Tar Heels come for a visit. However, until Sunday, Duke was unblemished in conference play, while UNC’s two defeats both came at home. In losing back-to-back contests, the Blue Devils put a stop to this season’s appalling lack of court-stormings by ACC fans.

It is not surprising that a team led by Coach K would be so unselfish these days. Krzyzewski is a devout Roman Catholic, so Lent is an important time for him. Coach K believes that everyone should be willing to sacrifice something. As a prime example, he cited the Duke football program, which gave up winning when Steve Spurrier left for Florida.

After this string of unselfishness, Duke cannot be blamed if it proceeds to blow out St. John’s this Saturday. However, rival fans have to appreciate the Blue Devils’ efforts in recent days. Only one thing would make them happier: seeing those same results in March.

Monday, February 18, 2008

More Superhero Dunks for Howard

Saturday night, Orlando’s Dwight Howard dazzled the All-Star crowd in New Orleans by winning the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. In the most enduring image, Howard donned a Superman costume and threw one down with cape in tow. Some may wonder what the Magic big man can do for an encore if he chooses to defend his title in Phoenix next year. Clearly the Superman theme worked for Howard this year, so he should expand his repertoire to include other superheroes. Here are some possibilities, in alphabetical order.

Aquaman: With the court at US Airways Center completely underwater, Howard swims from one basket to another and emerges to throw down a thunderous slam.

Batman: Howard dunks after jumping over a rookie teammate forced to dress as Robin. In his front-row seat, Jack Nicholson laughs maniacally as The Joker.

Blade: Howard kills a vampire before every dunk. Then, continuing the Wesley Snipes theme, he hustles his competitors with the help of Woody Harrelson.

Captain America: Each dunk has Howard slamming over Yao Ming, Dirk Nowitzki, or another foreign-born All-Star.

Flash: Using superhuman speed, Howard dunks 300 times within the span of a minute. An added bonus: if he actually misses a few, the judges will never notice.

Ghost Rider: Howard takes off on a fiery motorcycle and throws down a slam. In a tribute to the Fonz, Howard’s motorcycle jump goes over Jerry Tarkanian.

Green Lantern: Instead of going to the basket, Howard uses his power ring to bring the basket to him. The dunking part’s easy after that.

Hulk: Howard turns green, busts out of his shirt in a rage, slams the ball through the hoop, and hurls the basket at the front row of spectators.

Iron Man: Howard throws one down while wearing a suit of armor. Michael Jordan often had to use this tactic when he played against the Knicks.

Plastic Man: With his ridiculously long reach, Howard dunks from the three-point line, simultaneously winning the Slam Dunk Contest and the Three-Point Shootout.

Spider-Man: Howard spins a web to the roof, swings his way to a ferocious dunk, and kisses Kirsten Dunst while hanging upside-down.

Storm: After creating a tornado in the arena, Howard slams through the turbulent conditions. He still keeps the arena dry, since commissioner David Stern has issued a strict edict against “making it rain” during All-Star Weekend.

Wolverine: The dunk-a-thon for Howard continues, even though he repeatedly punctures the ball with his razor-sharp claws.

Wonder Woman: Howard transforms into a hot woman, jumps from his invisible jet to throw down a slam, and reels in his competitors with a lasso.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Roger Clemens Spin on Samuel Clemens

One of the giants of American literature, Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens. These days, most sports fans view another Clemens as a prolific storyteller. Roger’s testimony before Congress may not endure as long as Twain’s works. However, the Rocket is quite knowledgeable about his namesake author. Here’s a look at how today’s Clemens views ten famous works from the earlier Clemens.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Twain’s masterpiece is among the books most frequently banned from libraries. Since it is a banned substance, Roger denies that Brian McNamee ever injected Huck Finn into his buttocks.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: Tom nobly took a whipping to protect sweetheart Becky Thatcher. But Roger would advise Tom, “If anyone asks about HGH, say Becky’s the one who took it.”

The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County: Roger insists that the frog’s jumping was due solely to his religious workout regimen, and he was never injected with anything other than B-12.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court: Whether in the 1800s, medieval England, or 2008, Roger doesn’t think a Yankee should have to show up in ANYONE’S court.

The Gilded Age: Roger insists, “I never took gilds during the Gilded Age, so there’s no way I could have taken steroids during the Steroid Era!”

Innocents Abroad: “It’s Samuel Clemens’ Innocents Abroad,” notes Roger. “Shorten that, and you get ‘Clemens innocent.’ Case closed!”

Life on the Mississippi: “The Mighty Mississippi is a natural wonder,” states Roger. “So why can’t I be mighty and natural?”

The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg: Roger emphasizes, “I’ve never played in Hadleyburg, so you can’t pin that one on me!”

The Prince and the Pauper: Asked why the book has a happy ending, Roger replies, “Because the pauper never told lies about the prince to George Mitchell!”

Pudd’nhead Wilson: “Okay, this one got published when Twain was 58,” remarks an annoyed Roger. “But I’m supposed to be washed up in my 30s??? Come on!!!”

Monday, February 11, 2008

"UNC Defeats Clemson in Chapel Hill," Plus Similar Headlines

For North Carolina fans, it was nearly the worst back-to-back regular season scenario imaginable. Coming off a defeat to hated Duke on Wednesday, the Tar Heels were perilously close to their first-ever home loss against Clemson Sunday night. However, despite never leading in regulation, UNC managed to prevail 103-93 in double-overtime. As a result, Carolina is now 53-0 against the Tigers in Chapel Hill, and “The Streak” lives on for at least another year.

Clemson was, for much of the evening, the better team in the Smith Center. However, in the end, the result was this utterly predictable headline: “UNC Defeats Clemson in Chapel Hill.” Here are a number of other headlines - inside and outside the sports world - carrying a similar level of surprise.

Cleveland Falls Short of Championship
Lohan Involved in Auto Mishap
Clemens Steroid Case Takes Bizarre Turn
Opposing Fan Calls Belichick “Arrogant”
Critics Blast New Sandler Film
Bengal Taken Into Custody
Bush’s Approval Rating Declines
Yankees Lead MLB in Payroll
Sitcom Focuses On Fat Guy With Hot Wife
Clippers Face Rebuilding Season
Major Title Eludes Sergio
Hot August Predicted For Phoenix
Fans Heap Scorn on BCS
Marlins Play Before Sparse Crowd
L.A. Drivers Confronted By Gridlock
Knick Fans Show Disgust Toward Isiah
Sharpton, Limbaugh Disagree On Several Issues
Saban Accepts New Coaching Job
Pope Endorses Prayer Habit
Vitale Portrays Duke in Positive Light

Friday, February 08, 2008

ACC Halftime Report

We’ve reached the midpoint of conference play in the ACC basketball season. How do things look? In order of the current standings, here are some quick hits on each of the 12 teams.

Duke: 8-0 Conference; 20-1 Overall. Coach K has the Devils at the top of their game, and now we know why he was chosen to coach at the Beijing Olympics this summer. It’s the Year of the Rat in China.

North Carolina: 6-2; 21-2. Ty Lawson’s injury is only a temporary issue. The long-range problem? There’s no “D” in “Tar Heels.”

Clemson: 5-3; 17-5. The Tigers desperately hope to end their winless streak in Chapel Hill this Sunday. If UNC somehow falls to 52-1, the ’72 Dolphins will storm the Smith Center court.

Maryland: 5-3; 15-8. Bambale Osby is fulfilling the promise he showed at Carver High School in the late 70’s. Any White Shadow fans out there?

Virginia Tech: 5-4; 14-9. Three of the Hokies’ conference wins have come in overtime. So they’re hoping that all ACC Tournament games will be scheduled for 45 minutes.

North Carolina State: 4-4; 15-7. Freshman star J.J. Hickson gives ACC fans what they’ve wanted for years: a J.J.-led team that’s completely mediocre.

Georgia Tech: 4-4; 11-10. In conference, the Yellow Jackets are 1-3 at home and 3-1 on the road. Is Eli Manning their point guard?

Wake Forest: 3-5; 13-8. The future looks bright, and Chris Paul is lighting up the NBA. But once again, I have to ask: why does the Demon Deacon mascot wear a bowtie on his CHIN? Somebody answer me!

Boston College: 3-5; 12-9. The Eagles have dropped five straight games. Fortunately for them, Boston fans are way more disappointed by a team that’s lost 1 of its last 19.

Florida State: 3-6; 14-10. Guard Isaiah Swann is out with a torn ACL. Unlike for other FSU athletes, this ACL stands for Anterior Cruciate Ligament, not Academic Cheating Loss.

Miami: 2-6; 15-7. This slumping Miami team can’t help itself by trading Shaq.

Virginia: 1-7; 11-10. At 10-2 when the new year arrived, they’re just 1-8 since. Giuliani’s had a less disappointing 2008.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Perfection Denied, From 1 To 19

In a historic upset Sunday, the New York Giants stunned the previously undefeated New England Patriots 17-14 to win Super Bowl XLII. The Pats had been expected to cap off an unprecedented 19-0 season, but they ended up 35 seconds short of their goal. Here’s a by-the-numbers look, from 1 to 19, at perfection denied.

1: Notre Dame’s ranking in November 1993, before an upset by Boston College. So the whole “ruining a perfect season” thing is old hat for Tom Coughlin.

2: As in Rocky II, which showed that sometimes the overwhelming underdog doesn’t win until the rematch. Next, the Giants get to take on Clubber Lang.

3: Margin by which New York defeated Miami at Wembley Stadium in the first regular-season NFL game played outside of North America. As of now, every NFL team to win a regular season game in London has gone on to win the Super Bowl.

4: Receptions during the entire regular season by the Giants’ David Tyree. So in the Super Bowl, it’s only natural that he caught a touchdown and had an insanely amazing catch on the game-winning drive.

5: New York’s seed in the NFC playoffs, marking the third consecutive year a team playing on wild card weekend went on to win the Super Bowl. Next year, look for the top two seeds to refuse their opening round bye.

6: Computer rankings used by the BCS. The NFL would rather have a playoff, allowing the Giants the chance to play their way to a championship. I know, it’s crazy.

7: Feature films directed by Michael Bay, a graduate of Wesleyan. Unlike fellow Wesleyan alum Bill Belichick, he’s SUPPOSED to be known for his filming activity.

8: Surprisingly low number of Brady Bunch episodes with an appearance by Sam the Butcher, played by Allan Melvin. Melvin died on January 17, providing a distraction for all Bradys.

9: Carries on Sunday by New York’s Ahmad Bradshaw, for 45 yards. As Super Bowl history has shown, it’s good to have a Bradshaw on your side.

10: 1979 film in which Bo Derek represented perfection. Unfortunately for the Patriots, perfection in the NFL was also a 70’s thing.

11: Consecutive victories for New York outside of Giants Stadium. Like most people, their outlook improves just by leaving New Jersey.

12: Points by which New England was favored on Sunday, as fans of every other team pulled for the Giants. Because nothing says “lovable underdog” more than a New York team.

13: Super Bowls won by quarterbacks drafted #1 overall, now that Eli Manning has joined the list. Tim Couch could do it too, if someone would just give him the chance!

14: Ranking of Some Like It Hot on the American Film Institute’s 1998 list of the 100 best American films. Its famous last line was: “Well, nobody’s perfect.”

15: Age of Miley Cyrus, a/k/a Hannah Montana, whose concert movie is currently #1 at the box office. In crunch time, Eli did his own Montana impression.

16: Points scored by New England in the “Tuck Rule” game, which began its remarkable post-season success under Belichick. This time, Justin’s pass rush had Giants fans screaming, “Tuck Rules!!!”

17: Jersey number of Plaxico Burress, who had predicted that the Patriots would score 17. Instead, his winning touchdown put the Giants at 17, much to the delight of those 17-0 Dolphins.

18: Games won by the 1985 Bears, the last 18-1 team before New England. That Super Bowl wasn’t much fun for Pats fans either.

19: Like the Patriots, I didn’t quite manage to finish this one.