Friday, May 29, 2009

Schmidtty Says Good-Bye

20 years ago today! Hard to believe...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Alternate Reality Football

We have a way to go before football season but I always get the fever about this time of year. It's a month after the draft, almost four months after the Super Bowl, and preseason is just over two tantalizing months away. I thought I'd take a look at the history of the league, and how only a few games could change everything.

Since 1966 -- the beginning of the Super Bowl era -- there have been a total of 14,134 regular season games, played, plus hundreds of playoff games. But when you think about it, if you reversed the decisions of just 43 of those games (less than 0.003%), the entire league would look completely different.

But it doesn't seem so unusual if you just reverse the fortunes of the 43 Super Bowl games that have been played over the last ... well, 43 years. Remember, we've still had fewer Super Bowls than we have presidents! That will change, of course, when the Bills win Super Bowl 44.

In the real world, the NFC has won 22 Super Bowls, and the AFC has won 21. (The Patriots could have tipped the balance in the AFC's favor had they stopped planning Disney World speeches and beaten the Giants, but such is life.)

Let's look at the first four Super Bowls, when the National Football League and the American Football League still had yet to officially merge. Here are the bizarro results (I am going to use Arabic numerals instead of Roman numerals for ease of reading):

Super Bowl 1: KANSAS CITY CHIEFS defeat Green Bay Packers
Super Bowl 2: OAKLAND RAIDERS defeat Green Bay Packers
Super Bowl 3: BALTIMORE COLTS defeat New York Jets
Super Bowl 4: MINNESOTA VIKINGS defeat Kansas City Chiefs


Since the AFL and NFL each won two games in these initial contests, it doesn't change the league dynamics all that much, other than making Kansas City the winners of the inaugural game, the Packers choking away two consecutive games (wonder what that might be like) and the Vikings beginning their soon-to-be decade of dominance. In the most exciting game of the first four, Joe Namath valiantly attempted to upset the heavily-favored Colts, but Johnny Unitas had one more miracle left in him, leading the Baltimore to their last football title ever to date.

Now, onto the 1970s!

Super Bowl 5: DALLAS COWBOYS defeat Baltimore Colts
Super Bowl 6: MIAMI DOLPHINS defeat Dallas Cowboys
Super Bowl 7: WASHINGTON REDSKINS defeat Miami Dolphins
Super Bowl 8: MINNESOTA VIKINGS defeat Miami Dolphins
Super Bowl 9: MINNESOTA VIKINGS defeat Pittsburgh Steelers
Super Bowl 10: DALLAS COWBOYS defeat Pittsburgh Steelers
Super Bowl 11: MINNESOTA VIKINGS defeat Oakland Raiders
Super Bowl 12: DENVER BRONCOS defeat Dallas Cowboys
Super Bowl 13: DALLAS COWBOYS defeat Pittsburgh Steelers
Super Bowl 14: LOS ANGELES RAMS defeat Pittsburgh Steelers


Oh, those poor Steelers of the '70s. They made the game an unprecedented four times in six seasons, and lost all of them. I wonder what that's like.

The bizarro 1970s were clearly dominated by the NFC, who won eight out of ten Super Bowls. The Cowboys and Vikings tie the decade with three each, but the Vikings get the edge for "Team of the '70s" because of their Super Bowl Four win, which technically took place in January 1970. However, the Cowboys get special consideration by making it to exactly half the Super Bowls of the 1970s (true in both the bizarro and real world).

Amazing that the '72 Dolphins came THIS close to having the NFL's first perfect season since the merger, until Garo Yepremien botched a field goal to allow the Redskins to score late in the game, take the momentum and win the game. Cowboys tight end Jackie Smith's clutch catch in the endzone of Super Bowl Thirteen gave Dallas the lead and the momentum over the star-crossed Steelers. The then-all-time passing leader Fran Tarkenton got his crowning third Super Bowl ring in four years in Super Bowl Eleven.

On to the 1980s!

Super Bowl 15: PHILADELPHIA EAGLES defeat Oakland Raiders
Super Bowl 16: CINCINNATI BENGALS defeat San Francisco 49ers
Super Bowl 17: MIAMI DOLPHINS defeat Washington Redskins
Super Bowl 18: WASHINGTON REDSKINS defeat Los Angeles Raiders
Super Bowl 19: MIAMI DOLPHINS defeat San Francisco 49ers
Super Bowl 20: NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS defeat Chicago Bears
Super Bowl 21: DENVER BRONCOS defeat New York Giants
Super Bowl 22: DENVER BRONCOS defeat Washington Redskins
Super Bowl 23: CINCINNATI BENGALS defeat San Francisco 49ers
Super Bowl 24: DENVER BRONCOS defeat San Francisco 49ers


In four attempts, the pesky 49ers couldn't quite get over the hump, making Joe Montana possibly the greatest QB that ever lived who never won a championship. The Patriots performed the upset of the decade, toppling the mighty 15-1 Bears. But it was the Denver Broncos, led by John Elway, who dominated the second half of the decade, winning three out of four Super Bowls. The Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals -- the two AFC expansion teams of the 1960s -- showed a lot of toughness as well, with two wins each. Amazingly, the Washington Redskins would be the last NFC team to win a Super Bowl for fourteen long years.

The 1990s weren't just the advent of the internet and the Bedazzler! It was the decade of change ... and going back to the future!

Super Bowl 25: BUFFALO BILLS defeat New York Giants
Super Bowl 26: BUFFALO BILLS defeat Washington Redskins
Super Bowl 27: BUFFALO BILLS defeat Dallas Cowboys
Super Bowl 28: BUFFALO BILLS defeat Dallas Cowboys
Super Bowl 29: SAN DIEGO CHARGERS defeat San Francisco 49ers
Super Bowl 30: PITTSBURGH STEELERS defeat Dallas Cowboys
Super Bowl 31: NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS defeat Green Bay Packers
Super Bowl 32: GREEN BAY PACKERS defeat Denver Broncos
Super Bowl 33: ATLANTA FALCONS defeat Denver Broncos
Super Bowl 34: TENNESSEE TITANS defeat ST. LOUIS RAMS


Clearly, the Team of the Bizarro '90s was the Buffalo Bills, run by the K-Gun offense, they started their good-karma with a clutch 47-yard Scott Norwood field goal to win Super Bowl Twenty-Five by a score of 22-20. Many compare them to the (real-life) New York Islanders of the early 1980s. The rest of the Decade shows a second Super Bowl win for the Patriots, and the first taste of victory for the Steelers and Packers, who had each been to the big game multiple times prior, but never able to win. Two major Super Bowl upsets in a row happened, with Atlanta defeating the 15-1 Broncos, and the Titans beating the high-flying Rams. (Note: the Titans got to the Bizarro-world Super Bowl by performing a completely legal lateral pass in a playoff game against Buffalo. In Bizarro-world, the play was 100% legit, and Phil Luckett was named head of officiating instead of being tortured in my dreams.)

Last but not least, the turn of the Millennium, with a couple surprises along the way!

Super Bowl 35: ST. LOUIS RAMS defeat New England Patriots
Super Bowl 36: NEW YORK GIANTS defeat Baltimore Ravens
Super Bowl 37: OAKLAND RAIDERS defeat Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Super Bowl 38: CAROLINA PANTHERS defeat New England Patriots
Super Bowl 39: PHILADELPHIA EAGLES defeat New England Patriots
Super Bowl 40: SEATTLE SEAHAWKS defeat Pittsburgh Steelers
Super Bowl 41: CHICAGO BEARS defeat Indianapolis Colts
Super Bowl 42: NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS defeat New York Giants
Super Bowl 43: ARIZONA CARDINALS defeat Pittsburgh Steelers


Once again, the Steelers have a tough decade, losing two Super Bowls in four years, mostly because they got very little help from the officials in both games. The Patriots looked to be having a bad go of it as well, losing three of four games, before finally capping off their perfect 2007 season by defeating the Giants.

So to recap:

Bizarro Team of the 1970s: MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Bizarro Team of the 1980s: DENVER BRONCOS
Bizarro Team of the 1990s: BUFFALO BILLS
Bizarro Team of the 2000s: ????

Well folks, it has been a wild, wild ride. I hope you enjoyed this trip down a twisted path. And think, if just 43 games -- out of the 14,000+ that have been played in the Super Bowl era -- had had different results, this wouldn't have been bizarro at all, but real!!!!

How's your mind? Blown? I'm sure it is. Of course, to the kids in third world countries, this is how it really happened anyway.

Friday, May 22, 2009

R.I.P. Dane Cook

No, he's not actually dead, but my love for him certainly is. It seems that early on, you fell into one of two camps: either "Dane Cook is the Greatest Comedian That Has Ever Lived In This or Any Era," or "Dane Cook is a Fucking Piece of Shit Who Only Is Popular Because of College Co-Eds." I was somewhere between these two frames of mind, in that I always found him funny, but I could tell there was trouble a-brewin'.

[Note: I'm noticing that I'm referring to Dane Cook as "Dane" throughout this post, as if I know him. I don't know him, but referring to him as "Cook" is probably even more douchey.]

Dane Cook's first album -- Harmful If Swallowed -- was an unexpected masterpiece of observational humor and unusual wordplay. He would mine mundane situations for universal nod-your-head-in-agreement truths, such was what everyone says when they get cut off on the highway ("Umm... hello???") and when you are standing around at the scene of a night-time accident (where everybody acts like they are cold). It had some profanity and some bawdy moments, but they were always within the context of his observations. It was a real charmer of an album because not that many people knew who he was back then, and you could introduce someone to it without looking like you were already on some kind of bandwagon.

His second release, a double album called Retaliation, was very entertaining, if imperfect. Everyone remembers "somebody shit on the coats" line, and there is enough laugh-out-loud material on this one to be considered a good buy. Interestingly, the second disc is a lot of dirty stuff, notably the "where's the handle" portion, which is amusing but incredibly filthy.

At this point, you were solidly pro-Dane or anti-Dane. And it seemed that reactions on both sides were wayyy over the top. There are people who refuse to acknowledge that there has been a single funny syllable that has ever fallen from his lips. Note some comments on Dane from his entry at RateYourMusic.com:
There are 24 tracks on this CD but where are the jokes? This is nothing more than some pretty boy comic talking about his everyday boring life in a room full of people that would laugh at anything. ... HIFS was the comedy album that rotated a lot in many various kiddy circles when it came out. Who didn't listen to this? But come on, this guy was a sham. I really hope that no one over the age of twenty actually bought into this stuff and laughed, because it is all very stupid. ... Dane Cook is NOT FUNNY. Seriously. I was heavy into stand up so i got Wright, Carlin, Hicks and Hedberg. ... I could listen to this all the way through without even cracking a smile. I would only do that to prove a point. After the point was proven, I would never listen to this unfunny shit ever again.

Okay first off, don't get me started about these hipster fucks who constantly cite George Carlin and Mitch Hedberg. Carlin hasn't been funny in two decades; in fact his funeral was probably funnier than his last ten albums. And Hedberg had a brilliantly brief streak as the "hot" comic, but by the end of his young life he was so drugged out that he could barely perform. Joe Piscopo had more longevity than poor Mitch.

But you can't tell me that you never laughed at Dane Cook. I just don't buy it. I feel that these people probably had a pre-conceived notion about Dane and that probably colored their reaction to his comedy. Not your thing? Fair enough. I find it very hard to believe you never found him funny once.

The flip-side to that is the equally irritating Cult of Dane, which basically amounts to a collection of college age girls (all due respect young ladies) who wouldn't know Bob Newhart from Jim "The Anvil" Neidhardt, and suddenly are experts on the History of American Comedy. These are the people who scream at Dane's every concert ... you know, rather than actually laughing. God forbid Dane would throw out one of his catchphrases, you'd think you were at a fucking Jonas Brothers concert.

I never really blamed Dane himself for this; why wouldn't he try to get the crowd as amped up as he could. (David Cross certainly knows what's up!) And it wasn't his fault that (what I thought was) his relatively smart humor was being co-opted by a bunch of neophytes who just thought he was hot.

Dane's HBO special, Vicious Circle, wasn't bad, but it seemed that he couldn't help but fall victim to believing the accolades. He might have been drafted into the Cult of Dane, but now he was the willing ringleader. (Think: Gaius Baltar, fellow nerds.)

A few months ago, I was very excited to hear his album Rough Around the Edges on a trip from Syracuse to Rochester. I laughed for one track ("15 cents") and the rest was sex-laden material that would have sounded better coming from Jimmy Norton than Dane Cook. It was a crushing disappointment.

Later, I heard a radio interview with Dane, where the interviewer said Dane had been called "an X-rated Brian Regan," and whether Dane took that as a compliment. (If you don't know who Brian Regan is, he truly is the greatest comedian that's ever lived, next to maybe Bob Newhart and 1980s David Letterman.) Dane said "No, I don't take that as a compliment." And while he didn't insult Regan, he said it in a very dismissive way, almost like saying "Don't even compare Brian Regan to ME." He lost me for good there.

And that brings me to his latest special, ISolated INcident, a concert shot in one take and presented commercial-free for its debut. While it wasn't patently awful, it was just not that interesting. Dane went for a lot of the sexed-up humor that he's been using as a crutch lately (I had gravitated to him early on because he found a way to transcend that kind of stuff), including extended passages about web porn (not a single titter from me) and countless references to sexual exploits. It's not like I'm a prude, folks, I just don't find that kinda stuff interesting.

But the worst, new part of Dane's new act is the self-referentiality. In this special, he makes reference to his parents that died (which is fine), but then talks about how he Googled himself and saw all this hatred on the internet. (One funny thing: "When I entered my name into Google, Google came back to me and said 'Are you sure?'") But rather than acknowledge the myriad, valid reasons that some people might dislike him (his ego, the change in direction of his humor), he seems to chalk it all up to jealousy over his success. Instead, I would hope that Dane might figure out that maybe he strayed a bit from his roots. If someone had gotten to Adam Sandler early on, maybe we'd have more Billy Madisons and Happy Gilmores, and less Wedding Singers, Big Daddys and Little Nickys.

Early on, Dane had a kind of humility that any good comedian needs to have. The second a comic starts taking himself too seriously is when he will start to lose his luster. (See: Piscopo, Joe; Carrey, Jim; Murphy, Eddie; Degeneres, Ellen (since rehabbed).) I would love to see Dane act less like a superstar and more like a dumbass comic with flaws and vulnerability. When you are handsome (and suddenly buff, holy shit!), a little self-deprication goes a long way, and until he finds it again, I'm off the Dane Train.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Dominoes!

Awesome! A short video for the Rochester Institute of Technology's "Imagine RIT" festival.