Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

If you were a reader of this blog prior to it becoming a hub of conference realignment viewpoints, I would regularly run “Land-o-Links” posts that had some random links to usually unrelated news stories or blog posts that I simply found interesting.  In the wake of having my faith in the journalistic instincts of Barbara Walters re-affirmed today, I figured that it was time to re-institute the Land-o-Links posts with a mix of expansion news and other random items on a regular basis in between my full-length missives.  So, here are today’s links:

(1) Notre Dame AD Expands on Expansion Talk (Kansas City Star) – I had put up this news article in the comments in the “Ain’t No Party Like a West Coast Party” post and wanted to focus on it a little bit more.  Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick talked to reporters again about the prospect of the Domers joining a conference and he didn’t say anything to make the fine folks at NDNation feel better.  Here’s the key quote for me:

Swarbrick indicated the dilution of Big Ten revenues could be offset by the success of the leagues own TV network, apparently on sound footing.

“The traditional model, where a conference had a fixed fee media rights deal, if you added somebody you sliced the pie a little thinner,” Swarbrick said. “When you’re dealing with equity in a network … it’s a situation we haven’t had before.”

Maybe it’s just me, but this sounds a lot like Notre Dame wants a piece of the Big Ten Network gravy train.  It’s a clear message to the Domers that don’t already realize the following: the NBC deal is a relic of the past while controlling your own content like the Big Ten Network is the future.  At the very least, the quotes coming out of Notre Dame about its commitment to independence are increasingly more wishy-washy.

(2) The Great Baseball Card Bubble (Slate) – This excerpt from a new book on how baseball cards went through a tulip bulb-like craze (which I’m now going to have to read in full) hits pretty close to home.  My youth coincided perfectly with the explosion of baseball card speculation in the late-1980s and early-1990s where I spent virtually every penny that I had during that era on wax packs.  Years later, a good portion of my basement closet is taken up by boxes of gems like the Todd Van Poppel rookie card.  Are these pieces of cardboard now so worthless that I sometimes wonder if I’d be set for life today if I just opened up an IRA when I was 10 years old instead of plowing through boxes of Donruss and Fleer?  You bet.  Do I even dignify a response to my wife that annually asks about “getting rid of some cards to make it more organized” right around spring cleaning time?  Heck no.

And finally…

(3) Doc Jensen/Totally ‘Lost’ (Entertainment Weekly) – As a huge ‘LOST’ fan, there’s quite a mix of emotions as we enter into the final weeks of the show.  While there have been cable shows like ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘The Wire’ that might arguably be at the top of the heap in terms of quality television over the past decade, ‘LOST’ is the best network TV drama that I’ve ever seen.  Doc Jensen of Entertainment Weekly has provided some of the most mind-blowing analysis of the show out there with an avalanche of literary references, religious allegories, and pop culture notations.  The fact that Entertainment Weekly could be home to such a deep high-brow look at this show is mind-blowing enough.  This also serves as an excuse for me to write about ‘LOST’.

If you don’t watch ‘LOST’, please feel free to ignore the rest of this post because you won’t know WTF is going on.  As of now, I’m subscribing to the common theory that the “flash sideways” story lines represent the epilogue for each of the characters, where the people who sided with Jacob have ended up with semi-happy lives and the ones that sided with the Smoke Monster/Fake Locke are doomed to the same negative lives that they had before.  It seems to be the way that everything ties together and would give those scenes a purpose that currently isn’t quite clear.  I’m really intrigued by Jensen’s prediction that the purpose of Jack is ultimately to take Real Locke’s body back to the Temple and bring him back to life in the pool, which is a not-so-veiled reference to the resurrection of Christ.  This way, Real Locke, who has really taken a figurative beating over the past season with Fake Locke’s references that Real Locke led a pathetic life, will end up being the strong leader that we originally thought that he would be when the show first started.

This provides Real Locke the opportunity to make everything right by taking down Smokey once and for all (in a manner yet to be determined) and taking his rightful place as the chosen “candidate” to replace Jacob.  What’s my guess as to what his first (and only) act as Jacob’s replacement will be?  Sacrifice himself by sending everyone home.  That’s right – I don’t think that Juliet’s detonation of the bomb last season was the cause of the “reset” in the flash sideways, but rather Real Locke, with his power as Jacob’s replacement, destroys the island that he had always wanted to stay on in order to send his friends back to a 2004 world where Oceanic 815 never crashes.

Of course, this means that Real Locke would be giving up his power AND sending himself back to a world where he couldn’t walk, which would be an incredible sacrifice.  This has to work out for him, right?  Well, I can’t think of a more apt ending to the show than Jack, the world-class spinal surgeon, fulfilling his purpose in the real world by finally being approached by Real Locke for a consultation and “fixing” his problem.  Jack has already shown the ability to fix Sarah after a car accident that should have left her paraplegic.  If Jack resurrects Real Locke on the island, then the perfect mirror would be Jack getting Real Locke to walk in 2004.  Then, the show closes with Real Locke fulfilling his dream of going through the Australian outback, which he was previously prevented from going on because of his disability, with a huge hunting knife in hand and looking every bit as strong as we had seen him on the island.

Now that I’ve put all of those theories down, it virtually guarantees that it will end up in a completely different manner.  That’s perfectly fine with me – I’m ready to savor these last few episodes before a big TV void opens up in my life.  I’ll be back with a full-length post later this week.

Many years ago, a young Frank the Tank spent his Saturday mornings with a fairly consistent TV-viewing routine: The Smurfs, Looney Tunes, and capping it all off with Soul Train.  As you wrap your mind around the image of a half-Polish/half-Chinese toddler sitting around watching Soul Train in rapture (of course, host Don Cornelius was the definition of encouraging diversity, as evidenced by inviting these guys as guests at one point), please note that I was a massive hip-hop fan long before it was considered to be mainstream and since I lived in a household without cable (meaning no MTV or BET), Soul Train was pretty much the only television outlet available for me to get my dose of favorite music.  Not only that, the Chicago broadcasts of Soul Train on WGN included a heavy rotation of the greatest commercials of all-time – you can only imagine the horror on my Taiwanese-born mother’s face when I requested that we take a detour to the Museum of Science and Industry so that we could stop by Moo & Oink.  So, I got a little emotional when I found out that the old Soul Train reruns were being taken off the air for good (there haven’t been any new episodes since 2006).  Don Cornelius helped bring R&B and hip-hop to the masses in an era where those genres were considered to “niche” markets.  Now, even the NFL has moved away from using aging white rock stars to headline the Super Bowl halftime show… what?  (This blog post pretty much sums up my feelings about Bruce Springsteen – he’s not bad and there are certain songs such as “Glory Days” that are among my favorites, but I’ve just never felt that he was as great of a songwriter and rock star as he’s made out to be by much of the the general public.)  OK, so there still needs to be some work done.  However, when you look at the top Billboard songs over the past decade, you’ll see the charts dominated by either hip-hop or at least hip-hop influenced acts.  All of those artists should be grateful to the work of Don Cornelius and Soul Train for paving the way when that music wasn’t quite as accepted.

(Ed. note: You may have noticed that I’ve referenced Color Me Badd twice in the last week, which is unusual since no person on Earth has acknowledged their existence for the past 18 years.  Let me just tell you that after my research of the “band” on YouTube, I felt the same elation of uncovering some life-altering treasure as the archaeologist from Jurassic Park that found the prehistoric mosquito encased in amber.  Of course, there’s some blissful ignorance of the collateral damage that will surely come from these discoveries, which means I’ll likely become a pregame snack for a velociraptor within the next couple of weeks.)

(Image from Museum of Broadcast Communications)

There are a whole lot of issues going on in the Chicago sports world that I’ll be getting to soon, including the Bulls apparently settling on Doug Collins Strikes Back as coach (I’ve been jumping the gun on Bulls coaches posts, so I’m holding off until there’s an actual press conference) and the baseball teams on both sides of town holding onto first place in their respective divisions, but I’ve got to get my thoughts down on the state of Lost in the wake of Thursday night’s season finale. Lost is certainly one of those television shows where you really can’t be a casual viewer – you’re either completely into it such that life stops when you watch the show every week or you’re completely out of it and can’t reasonably hope to ever get into it without investing about 100 hours in watching DVD boxed sets. Of course, as the New York Times pointed out last week, even the most diehard fans don’t know WTF is going on. I’ve attempted watching a couple of episodes with my wife, who hasn’t been a regular viewer, and it was impossible for me to explain what was going on in every scene since the backstories and character development have been so complex (which is why I love the show in the first place). With her being the inquisitive type in the first place, the shared watching was a frustrating experience to say the least. So, if you don’t watch Lost, you can just skip this post since I’m not going to bother even attempting to explain who everyone and what everything is – you either know it or you don’t (or even better, check out the invaluable Lostpedia). What’s interesting is that everything that I’m about to write will probably look like a laundry list of ridiculous “Jump the Shark” moments to a non-fan, but will make perfect sense to a Lost fan in terms of the pace and progression of the show.  Regardless, Lost fans have been treated to probably the best overall season since the debut year, even if the season finale didn’t provide a game changing shocker in the manner of last year. I just can’t believe that I have to wait eight months for the show to start up again, so here are my thoughts, theories, and questions on the major characters and storylines that we can debate in the meantime:

John Locke (AKA Jeremy Bentham) – It’s interesting that the character with the moniker of a famous British philosopher ended up taking up the name of another British philosopher for reasons not yet revealed (although the logical explanation is that Locke would need to change his name off the island to cover up the fact that he’s a survivor of Flight 815 outside of the Oceanic Six). The “big reveal” at the end of the show that Locke was the body in the casket was not a shocker, but it’s a very nice touch that the real-life Bentham actually had his body preserved at University College in London which the public can still see on display – a not-so-subtle tie-in to the fact that in the closing dialogue, Ben has instructed Jack that they need to take Locke’s body back to the island. Despite the important reveal, though, this episode raised a whole lot more questions about Locke as opposed to providing answers. Locke has apparently replaced Ben as the leader of the Others, yet Locke (under the Benthem alias) leaves the island at some point later on to inform the Oceanic Six that awful events have been occurring and they need to return from home. What exactly has been happening under the Locke “regime”, for the lack of a better description, that has been so horrible? How did he leave the island and is he now banished in the same manner as Ben? If the Others are supposed to follow all of Locke’s directions, as Ben suggested would happen, why would there be any issues at all? What did Locke tell all of the Oceanic Six back in the real world? Why did he visit Walt in addition to the Oceanic Six? How did Locke die? If Locke’s dead body is transported back to the island, will he be resurrected? I’ll address some of these issues later, but overall, all of these questions are extremely open-ended (which means setting forth any theories at this point are really just shots in the dark) and will likely serve as the main focus of the show for its final two seasons.

Jin and Sun – The first rule of any movie or television show is that a character isn’t dead until you see a body.  So, people can talk all they want about how the size of the explosion on the freighter would have taken Jin down even if he had jumped off in time (or the fact that Jin was due to get knocked off as a result of the Lost DUI Curse), but c’mon everyone – if there’s anything that Lost fans should understand is that death is often a temporary state.  Besides, Daniel Faraday’s boat (which I’ll address momentarily) is perfectly positioned to pick up a floating Jin.

Of course, the more important key to the storyline is that Sun believes that Jin is dead and that is going to drive her character for the rest of the series.  There’s plenty of speculation of why Sun approached Charles Widmore in the finale – some blogs have advanced the notion that she might be trying to double cross him.  However, I believe that everything that Sun is doing post-island is to avenge her husband’s death, which started with the hostile takeover of her father’s company and has led to a possible alliance with Widmore.  Sun made the point to Widmore that they have “common interests”.  By the end of the episode, we found out that Locke visited to all of the Oceanic Six, which means that there is a great possibility that he informed her of the circumstances around Jin’s death – namely, that Ben killed Keamy with the knowledge that it would end up blowing up the freighter with the heart rate monitor/bomb signal.  (On a side note, Keamy is probably the only character on the entire series so far that was an unequivocal villain.  All of the other characters have been so complex, particularly Ben, where you think they might be bad but you don’t know whether they have been acting  noble intentions.  However, the producers made Keamy so ruthless that it was over-the-top at times – that was a bit disappointing since he was a fairly prominent character this season.)  In turn, Sun would be moved to blame Ben for Jin’s death.  At the same time, Ben had stated in prior episodes that he would go after Widmore’s daughter, Penny.  If Ben ended up being successful in taking Penny out (via Sayid), then that would mean that there is a great “common interest” between Widmore and Sun with respect to taking Ben down.

Michael – An exception the the aforementioned dead body rule is if the image of Christian Shephard appears to say “you can go now” after you’ve had several unsuccessful suicide attempts in prior episodes, you’re permanently relegated to dead-person vision status on Lost.  Plus, actor Harold Perrineau is apparently upset with his character’s demise, so there isn’t a debate on whether Michael has been eliminated (as opposed to Jin).

Jack/Kate/Sawyer/Possibly Juliet Love Quadrangle – Well, we now know why Kate feels so indebted to Sawyer with him jumping out of the helicopter and all.  Of course, I foresee a Sawyer/Juliet romance on the newly moved island, which may ironically be used by the lovelorn Jack to get Kate to ultimately go back to the island.

Daniel Faraday’s Boat – My feeling is that Daniel’s boat is still floating in the middle of the ocean and didn’t go along for the ride along with the newly-moved island.  This gives him the opportunity to pick up a still-alive Jin.  Also, I think Faraday is going to be a (if not the) key guy to help the Oceanic Six find the island again since he seems to know more about the island’s scientific properties (particularly the “wrinkle in time” portion) than any character so far.  Of course, this depends on whether he’s going to go back to the real world right away or if he’ll look for the island again right away (which would be a tough notion considering his boat has no food or water).  Regardless, I think Daniel and his island-bound colleagues Miles and Charlotte are going to be important Desmond-esque figures for the last two seasons with their special physical and spiritual connections to the island (Frank, on the other hand, is likely going to have a minor role from this point forward, if he has any role at all, since his reason to go to the island seemed to be more of a fact-finding mission stemming from him having been the scheduled pilot of Oceanic Flight 815 before he called in sick).

Ben – By moving the island, is he really banished as he claimed?  I don’t think this is the usual line of B.S. from Ben since he seemed incredulous toward Jacob (whoever that might be) when he turned the frozen donkey wheel to move the island.  So, it looks like Ben is back in the real world looking for the island just like Widmore and (presumably and eventually) the Oceanic Six.  What still hasn’t been revealed in a flashback, though, is how Ben came to lead the Others in the first place.  It’s apparent that he’s “special”, but how early did Dr. Richard Alpert peg this?  We’ll see how this plays out.

There are plenty of other issues that I haven’t even touched upon.  Was Charlotte born on the island? How does Miles apparently communicate with the dead and read minds? How is the Aaron storyline going to play out as a child that was born on the island? Are the time travel properties of the island the reason why women that get pregnant on the island end up dying?  It’s brutal that it won’t be until Super Bowl-time next year before any of these items will be addressed.  I’ll be ready and waiting, though.

(Image from Pioneer Local)

My professional obligations have been keeping me away from blogging for the past couple of weeks, but at least in the sports world, it’s been a pretty pathetic period anyway (from my perspective). The NBA Finals were a complete bomb with the Spurs simply wiping out LeBron and the Cavs while the White Sox are for all intents and purposes done for the season with a June swoon that’s normally reserved for the Cubs. Let’s get so some overdue links:

1) Twins Owner Buys Into Hip-Hop (AllHipHop.com) – The selling radio station owner didn’t think the Twin Cities area had “enough of a black population to support the station’s format”. C’mon, there’s got to be at least five or six black people that live in Minneapolis other than the members of the Timberwolves, Twins and Vikings, right? Anyone? As for Carl Pohlad getting into the hip-hop game, I’ll let Minneapolis Red Sox comment on that one.

2) Your Gripping NBA Champions (Deadspin) – I know that it’s de rigeur to consider the San Antonio Spurs to be boring and bland, but something in the back of my head tells me that if this exact same team were wearing Knicks or Lakers uniforms, the sports world would be gushing right now about a glamorous dynasty a la MJ’s Bulls. It’s like the old Jerry Seinfeld line about how “we’re cheering for laundry” in terms of watching sports.

That being said, this year’s NBA Finals were about as brutal as I’ve ever seen. As much as I fear that the next decade will consist of karmic payback of the LeBron James and the Cavs dominating the Bulls and the East the same way that Michael Jordan made Craig Ehlo his bitch for years, Cleveland simply wasn’t good.  It’s unbelievable that a Cleveland team that was so poorly constructed could get all the way to this point in the first point with essentially just LeBron. Meanwhile, the Spurs have ridden a lucky ping-pong ball bounce in 1997 that yielded the right to draft Tim Duncan all the way to four NBA titles. My general point here, which I will continue to hammer home until the Bulls make the big moves that they need to get to the proverbial next level, is that having a transcendent star with subpar surrounding pieces (i.e. the Cavs and LeBron) still trumps having solid well-balanced teams without that go-to guy (i.e. the Pistons and Bulls) in the world of the NBA. I wish that weren’t true because I’m a huge believer in those fundamental principles of teamwork and chemistry, but this has simply been the state of the NBA for a long time. Meanwhile, the Spurs have shown again that skillful building around a dominant anchor will pretty much guarantee them a legitimate shot at the title year in and year out. Of course, as I alluded to before, the best personnel move that they ever made was getting the right ping-pong balls in ’97. And you wonder why I was obsessed with this year’s NBA lottery for the last 18 months?

3) Your 2007 Bile File Recipients (Sweet Home Sports) – One of my pet peeves about baseball standings discussions among the general public: everyone gets lathered up about the division races yet completely neglect the fact that there’s also a wild card spot to get into the playoffs. Thus, I was pooh-poohing all of the doomsdayers a couple of weeks ago that said the White Sox were done by being so many games behind Cleveland in the AL Central division race. My reasoning was that they were only a couple of games behind Detroit in the wild card race at the time and with the way the AL Central is this season, getting to second place in that division will probably get a team into the postseason. Ask the Boston Red Sox, Florida Marlins and Anaheim Angels whether it matters if you get into the playoffs by winning the wild card or the division. Fact: the AL West champ hasn’t won the World Series since the wild card was instituted in 1995 (the Angels were a wild card team the year they won in 2002), while 3 of the 7 World Series this century have been won by a wild card team. Long story short – don’t ever forget about the wild card.

Of course, this no longer matters for the White Sox since they basically haven’t won since the last time I put up a blog post two weeks ago while the Tigers have surged back to be just about even with the Indians. (Is it just me, or do the Tigers score 15 runs every single night?) Thus, the Bile File has returned at Sweet Home Sports, and there is certainly a plethora of candidates in what appears to be a summer of misery on the South Side.

4) Fuzzy Numbers: A TL Statistical Plunge (The Ted Lilly Fan Club) – It’s nice to see what the three members of the Ted Lilly Fan Club think of yours truly.

And finally…

5) One of the Worst The Price is Right Players Ever (YouTube) – One more homage to Bob Barker as he heads off to his retirement party. This clip starts getting really good at the 2 minute mark, so be sure to watch it all the way through.

Have a wonderful rest of the weekend!

bob-barker-adam-sandler-happy-gilmore.jpg

As I prepare to actually have to cheer for a team from Cleveland since Deron Williams (as much as he tried) wasn’t able to derail the Western half of the impending national nightmare of another Pistons-Spurs NBA Finals, here are some links:

(1) Priceless! (Chicago Tribune) – When I was flying on JetBlue a couple of weeks ago, which has DirecTV at every seat, I came across a showing of “Happy Gilmore” and my wife had to restrain me from busting out of my seat in laughter during Bob Barker’s scenes even though I’ve seen them a million times.  There are also two programs I’ll always remember watching on TV during the days that I spent at my Grandma’s house when I was a kid: baseball on WGN and the “The Price is Right”.  As to the thought of Rosie O’Donnell or Mario Lopez as replacements for the legendary Barker, I only have one thing to say: the price is wrong, bitch!

(2) Lost Season 3 Finale Recap (The Lost Blog) – SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE “LOST” SEASON FINALE.  After a pretty disappointing “24” season – CTU has been compromised more than [insert Lindsay Lohan joke here] – the “Lost” season finale more than made up for it with a simply mind-blowing turn with the flash forward.  I’m not quite convinced that the Losties are getting off of the island at the very beginning of next season; for once, I think Ben isn’t feeding a line of B.S. that the “rescuers” are going to do a lot more harm than good.  Anyway, I’m extremely glad that I didn’t encounter the numerous spoilers that were posted on the Internet prior to the show’s airing since the surprise twist had such a huge impact if you didn’t know it was coming.  I argued last year that “Lost” (and pretty much all television programs) ought to go to a “24”-type of schedule where all of the episodes run in succession without reruns, which ABC has decided to do.  Even though I still think that’s a good idea, that also means we’re going to have to wait until next February for new episodes, which is going to be an excruciating wait after such an incredible cliff hanger.

(3)  Thompson Begins Steps for 2008 Bid (Washington Post) – I personally like Fred Thompson and he was great on “Law & Order”, but with the likelihood of the two parties’ presidential nominees being decided within the first month of the primary season, the late start in the money race is going to be an albatross on the viability of his candidacy.

(4) Kobe Wants to be Traded… or Does He? (Los Angeles Times) – Don’t tease me with another NBA star allegedly on the market that would look pretty nice in a Bulls uniform.  As much as I’d like to see it happen, there’s no way Kobe Bryant is leaving Hollywood – this will blow over.

And finally…

(5)  50 Cent’s Investment Pays Off (AllHipHop.com) – Remember last year when 50 Cent starting selling grape drink?  Showing that sugar, water, and purple equals Fort Knox, Coca-Cola is buying the company that produces 50’s drink where his take is going to end up being around $400 million.  Something tells me that the “G” in G-Unit must stand for “grape”.

(Image from celebsarepeopletoo.com

We’ll see if the Bulls can make things interesting by extending the season tonight.  Until then, here are some links:

(1) Girth and Nudity, a Pictorial Mission (New York Times) – There are some things that you can’t unsee.  Thanks, Spock.

(2) 1st-Class Star for Second City? (Chicago Tribune) – The rumors of A-Rod going to the Cubs or White Sox pop up about as often as those rumors of Kevin Garnett being traded to the Bulls (meaning that they’ve been in the Chicago papers on a weekly basis).  These deals really ought to happen, but the respective traders of the Yankees and Timberwolves can’t get over the thought of letting their superstars go even if it’s for the greater good of their teams.

(3) TV Just Got a Lot ‘Whiter’, Says a Canceled George Lopez (Los Angeles Times) – With Jim Belushi (worst Chicago “celebrity” ever) also axed by ABC, TV also just got a lot funnier through addition by subtraction.

(4) Brett Favre: ‘I Don’t Want to Be Traded… We Can Be Pretty Good (NFL FanHouse) – Your SportsCenter lineup for the next 5 months: (1) every Barry Bonds swing, (2) every Roger Clemens rehab pitch, (3) previews of the next and reviews of the last Yankees-Red Sox series, and (4) every Brett Favre utterance about retirement/non-retirement/trades/non-trades.  This will all lead up to the Duke/UNC basketball season.

And finally…

(5) MTV Developing Reality Series ‘Rapping With the Stars’ (AllHipHop.com) – I think America is ready for a half-Asian/half-Caucasian rap superstar named Frank the Tank.  Stop snitchin’, kids.

ben-wallace-bulls-heat-game-4.jpg 

At the beginning of the year, I was supremely confident in the advancement of the Bulls and even predicted that they would make it to the NBA Finals. Still, after the way that they faltered against the Nets on the last day of the regular season, I was questioning aloud the team’s intestinal fortitude, even after beating the Heat in the round 1 opener of the NBA Playoffs. However, by the end of the third quarter on Friday night in game 3, my belief in the Bulls was resurrected. I saw a team that answered every single charge from the defending champs that will ultimately put multiple players into the Hall of Fame with poise and efficiency. In game 4, they did the exact same thing by taking one last punch from the Heat and then completely knocking them out. I’ll be honest – I thought that this was going to be a 7-game barn burner as opposed to a Bulls sweep. Yet, with the way the Bulls took out Miami with such vigor and strength, I’m ready for a true revitalization of our rivalry with the Pistons. It’s going to be a tough road and who knows whether the Bulls can hang with the Detroit team that they’re modeled after, but I can’t wait to see NBA basketball being played into May in Chicago once again.

On to some more links:

(1) Deng’s Emergence Isn’t Totally Unexpected (ESPN.com) – I don’t agree with Scoop Jackson very often, but I’m right with him in understanding long before the Heat series that Luol Deng would be the key to the Bulls when no one else noticed him. Here’s what I said in my NBA Preview in November: “The real X-factor is how much Luol Deng improves this season. If he stays injury-free, he could very well become the top all around player on the team that’s the go-to guy that the Bulls have been lacking. In my opinion, how well the Bulls will do this season will depend upon the progress of Luol Deng more than anyone else.” That is the first and last time that I’ve said anything right on this blog.

(2) ‘Idol’ Gives Back, We Give Up (Moraes on TV – Washington Post) – As a whole, I enjoy the pomp and circumstance of “American Idol”.  However, when Elvis was brought back from the dead to do a duet with Celine Dion, I almost ralphed on the couch.

(3) The Latest Must-Have for Yuppies: A Blog About the Neighborhood (New York Times) – I grew up as a south side White Sox fan and despised Wrigleyville for its yuppie quotient.  When I presented this reasoning to my wife one day, she looked at me increduously, called me out as a hypocrite and basically said that I was one of the biggest yuppies that she had ever met.  After feverishly denying this, I then took a look at myself and came to a disheartening conclusion. I have a house in Naperville after previously living only blocks away from Wrigley Field (not Wrigleyville per se, but close enough), got business and law degrees, actually crave Chipotle burritos, would take a foreign luxury sedan over a Detroit muscle car as a dream car any day of the week, don’t mind a Starbucks every once in awhile and would rather go to Ravinia than a rock concert these days. In other words, my wife was right – I have become one of yuppies I used to abhor. Really, I used to be cool… seriously, OK? I’m still a Sox fan, so that counts for something, right? Right???

(4) The Right Pick, Despite Wrong Agent (Chicago Tribune) – The Bears took tight end Greg Olsen from Miami in the first round of the NFL Draft, who looks like a beast, yet all anyone seems to care about right now is that he’s represented by Drew Rosenhaus. The slick agent also represents Lance Briggs, who is pretty much holding up the status of the Bears linebacker core for next year with his insistence on getting a long-term contract into place. Still, the fact is that Rosenhaus has a number of the top players in the NFL and it’s likely the Bears are going to have to deal with him for a long time.  I just hope that both parties can work to get mutually beneficial deals into place (unlike, say, the apparent inability of the White Sox to get anything done with baseball super agent Scott Boras).

As a side note on the NFL Draft, I’ve been saying ever since that I started this blog that Brady Quinn was overrated (I fail to see how anyone could have reasonably thought that he was in the same class as JaMarcus Russell after this year’s Sugar Bowl), but the way that he dropped down all the way to #22 after being projected to go as high as even #2 made Matt Leinart’s time in the waiting room last year look like a nice Saturday in the park.  The Browns would have been insane to take Quinn at #3 and made the right call with Joe Thomas, yet subsequently being able to get the quarterback they wanted much later in the first round (and for a lot less money) was the draft day coup.

Also, I enjoyed the fact that the Detroit Lions actually had little choice other than to take Calvin Johnson, who is yet another wide receiver for that team.  There was little questioning of this move since Johnson was almost unanimously considered the best athlete in this year’s draft class, but Matt Millen’s development of marquee first round wide receiver draft choices has been about as successful as the long term growth of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood for the Cubs.  It’s just unbelieveable that after using high first round choices on wide receivers in four of the last five years, the Lions still fell like that they had a need there.

Finally, my gut reaction to the New England Patriots getting Randy Moss in exchange for a fourth round draft pick was a great move.  There are going to be voices out there stating that the Pats shouldn’t be bringing trouble into their locker room, but the fact is that the team needs a top flight wideout and they grabbed someone who is still one of the best talents in the NFL.  Something tells me that Moss is going to have a bit more success getting back into the end zone with Tom Brady at quarterback instead of Aaron Brooks.  Honestly, I’m glad Moss didn’t end up with the Packers as was rumored for the last few weeks.  A lot of Green Bay fans might have had a visceral reaction to that thought, but judging by how that team went 8-8 last year, adding a top wideout would have made that team even more competitive immediately.  Fans can get over prior enemies pretty quickly (see Dennis Rodman with the Bulls) when they help you win after turning to your side.

And finally…

(5) Michael Jordan Ready To Bag Champaign Coeds (Deadspin) – Those that know me understand that my love for the University of Illinois knows no bounds while Michael Jordan will forever be my idol.  So, with the announcement that Jeff Jordan is heading to Illinois, the thought of MJ being on the prowl in Campustown makes me smile.

(Image from Chicago Tribune)

Some long overdue links:

(1) Nothing Fluky About This Power Final Four (ESPN.com) – As I alluded to in Sunday’s post, the upshot of having few upsets so far in the NCAA Tournament is that the Final Four is set up to be one of the most competitive ever.  Saturday’s games are going to be extremely compelling, with the Florida-UCLA rematch of last year’s championship game and Roy Hibbert of Georgetown being one of the few people (if not the only person) in the country that has the size to at least put some type of containment on Ohio State’s Greg Oden that doesn’t involve simply getting the Buckeye prodigy into foul trouble.  The college sports world has been anticipating the thought of Florida-Ohio State matchups for national championships in both football and basketball and with the way the two teams have used their size advantages, I’ll put the Gators and Buckeyes in the championship game.  I’ve liked Ohio State to win it all from the get-go with the Oden-Mike Conley, Jr. combination and with the way that senior guard Ron Lewis has torched everyone over the last three games, I’m staying with my Big Ten brethren to go all the way.  This should be a classic weekend of college basketball.

(2) Donovan Has Yet to Rule Out a Job Change (Kentucky.com) – I know that I might be in the minority in not believing that the Kentucky job is the papacy of college basketball and can’t be turned down, but Billy Donovan would be nuts to leave Gainesville for Lexington.  I’ve heard the arguments that Florida will always be a football school first and foremost while hoops is religion in Kentucky, so Donovan ought to move to one of the nation’s marquee programs.  However, with the way that college sports have trended since the creation of the BCS, there are actually few things better for a basketball program than to have a strong football program to leverage itself off of.  Look at the teams that have risen to power in basketball over the past few years in addition to Florida: Ohio State, Texas, Texas A&M, Wisconsin – all schools that used football money to upgrade their basketball facilities that have attracted top recruits.  Add on how USC made it to the Sweet Sixteen this season and will be enrolling O.J. Mayo next year, the nation’s top basketball recruit, and we have yet another football power getting some love on the basketball front.  Plus, let’s face it, you can get top recruits to come from anywhere and visit Florida.  Just as Donovan’s football counterpart Urban Meyer knew that the tradition and rabid fan base at Notre Dame couldn’t make up for the combination of support and sunshine in Gainesville, the similar tradition and rabid fan base at Kentucky is fool’s gold in this situation.

(3) Darwin’s God (New York Times) – This is a lengthy article but I highly recommend taking some time to read it.  Essentially, scientists have been studying whether (a) humans are naturally predisposed to believing in God or a higher power and (b) that predisposition is a result of evolution.  Absolutely a fascinating subject.

(4) The Best TV Show… You’re Not Watching (Chicago Tribune) – If my plea for you to watch ‘Friday Night Lights’ from October didn’t convince you to watch this fantastic show, maybe this in-depth write-up from the Tribune’s television critic will get you to take some action.  C’mon people – restore my faith in the taste of the American public.

And finally…

(5) Yakov Smirnoff (Wikipedia) – Don’t ask me how I ended up on the biography of Yakov Smirnoff while performing “research” on Wikipedia, but finding out who his roommate used to be might be one of the top ten random facts that I’ve ever encountered.  In Soviet Russia, Wikipedia researches you!

Reason number 1,015 to be thankful this holiday season for YouTube: Getting to see footage of “John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together” for the first time since my family’s old VHS copy of the iconic TV special became too scratched two decades ago.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to Everyone!

(This and a ton of other clips are on the Frank the Tank Channel on YouTube.)

birthday-cake.gif

It’s difficult to believe, but the first two posts on Frank the Tank’s Slant were put up for posterity one year ago today. Since then, you’ve witnessed a steady stream of bloviations from me along with Land-o-Links (my device to comment on numerous items from around the web that don’t warrant full-fledged posts), classic music videos (with a heavy emphasis on old school hip-hop and monster arena rock), and maybe even a different take on the world of sports and news every once in awhile.

Despite becoming a fairly active blogger, I’m not one of those people that believes that blogs will completely turn the media landscape on its head. In my mind, there’s still an important role for “old media” such as newspapers and television to look at events and issues without the colored commentary that inherently accompanies blogs). However, I do think that blogs give the opportunity for yeomen such as myself to stake out places in this flattened world that were previously only the domain of an exclusive media elite while also finally providing exposure to some of the best writers anywhere, including those Slant readers out there that blog themselves.

So, in honor of the first anniversary of Frank the Tank’s Slant, here’s a look back at my 15 favorite posts from the past year, ranked in ascending order, that range from thoughts on the world of sports to political election strategies and television scheduling with some updated comments and observations:

(15) Football vs. Football: College or Pro? (August 16, 2006) – A point-by-point comparison of college football and the NFL, with me giving the college game a slight edge. Of course, I noted that this was a debate comparable to deciding “whether it was more shocking to find out that Liberace was gay versus Lance Bass – if there’s any answer at all, we’re definitely splitting hairs here.” At the same time, I have a zealous hatred of the current BCS system, which has been outlined on this blog a number of times.

(14) Demons Dog the Irish (January 9, 2006) – Regular readers can easily observe that I’m a devoted and frequent writer on the happenings at my undergraduate alma mater of the University of Illinois, but this post featured a rarer instance when I focused on the basketball program at my law school alma mater of DePaul in the wake of my attendance at its inaugural Big East game against rival Notre Dame.

(13) The Yellow Rose Bowl of Texas: My BCS Bowl Picks (December 26, 2005) – I absolutely nailed 3 out of the 4 games right down to a “Penn State will win but not cover” prediction while being comforted that no one that dates outside of his or her own family could have possibly bet money that West Virginia would have beaten Georgia straight-up in a virtual home game at the Georgia Dome. That initial success only a couple weeks after starting this blog emboldened me to make predictions on a regular basis in all of the major sports, which have turned out to be all completely wrong and boneheaded.

(12) Non-Stop TV Seasons Need to be Adopted Everywhere (April 24, 2006) – With ABC changing the scheduling of “Lost” this year, it seems as though the television networks are beginning to heed my calls to get out of its “sweeps feast vs. non-sweeps famine” cycle. They’re about a decade too late to stem the tide to alternative forms of entertainment, but it’s a start.

(11) No Need for an Apology from the Daily Illini (February 14, 2006), The Daily Illini Needs to Apologize for Something Else (February 15, 2006), More Thoughts From Minneapolis Red Sox and Frank the Tank on the Daily Illini (February 16, 2006) – A trilogy of posts on the controversy that surrounded the Daily Illini’s decision to print the Danish cartoons that were the impetus for deadly riots across the Muslim world. The “More Thoughts” post is one of my favorites as the product of a back-and-forth email discussion between my buddy Minneapolis Red Sox and me, particularly since it revealed some surprising views from the “Siberia, Minnesota” writer as a former newspaper reporter.

(10) Springtime for Kiper on Broadway (April 28, 2006) – My pre-NFL Draft thoughts that explained why I love the event so much and predicted the eventual decision of the Bears to trade out of the first round. The follow-up post after the draft had a scathing criticism of the Bears’ moves, but I have since admitted that I was completely wrong, particularly about special teams sage and my new man crush Devin Hester.

(9) Frank the Tank’s Great All-You-Can-Eat Buffets of Chicago (July 14, 2006) – All-you-can-eat is all-that-I-need.

(8) Big Ten from Eleven to Twelve? If There’s No Luck of the Irish, Bring in More Orange (March 5, 2006) – The types of posts that I enjoy writing the most are about wonky sports business and law subjects. At least from my perspective, while there are multitudes of people in the blogosphere that break down the games on the field on a daily basis (and do it very well), there’s a dearth of perspectives on the off-the-field matters, so I attempt to fill that gap from time-to-time. On the particular subject of big Ten expansion, I’m from the camp that the conference should only expand to 12 teams if it means that it’s maximizing its national footprint, which means the 2 real choices for the conference are either Notre Dame (unparalleled in terms of national exposure) or Syracuse (a strong East Coast counterpart for Penn State). As a result, I pass this post along everytime I hear suggestions for Pittsburgh (market already covered by Penn State), West Virginia (an even smaller market), or Missouri (besides the practical matter of whether it would worth it to secede from the Big 12, Illinois already covers the St. Louis market).

(7) The Bears Are Who They Thought They Were! (October 17, 2006) – This was written on only a couple of hours of sleep since I was completed wired after the Bears’ Monday Night comeback against the Cardinals. Regardless of my writing, the YouTube clip of the uncensored Dennis Green press conference is going to be the subject of mutiple NFL Films specials years from now.

(6) The Mason Midmajor Myth (April 6, 2006) – At the time that this post was written, my Billy Packer-esque sentiment was about as popular as, well, Billy Packer himself. However, I still believe that George Mason’s run to the Final Four was the peak of the midmajors as opposed to the start of any trend. We’ll see how this college basketball season will play out.

(5) The Lonely Libertarian: A View From a Disaffected Republican (November 10, 2006) – A rare post from me that was dedicated solely to politics (and I explained exactly why I haven’t written much about the political arena despite my deep interest in the subject). The output here was a bit long-winded yet long overdue as a result of a whole lot of pent-up frustration. Simply put, if the Republicans don’t pay attention to people such as myself, they’re going to lose even more ground in 2008 than they did in this year’s midterm elections.

(4) Chi-Town vs. Motown: Rivalries Across the Board (July 19, 2006) – After the sports business posts, my second favorite broad topic to write about is the nature of rivalries. The analysis of the Chicago-Detroit rivalries was something that I brewed over for months before I finally got down to writing it since there’s much more involved than just a single major rivalry between two particular teams such as the Bears vs. Packers.

(3) Hoosier Fleecing: A Q&A with Frank the Tank on the Eric Gordon Debacle (October 16, 2006) – The most widely read post that I’ve had on this blog to date due to links from Deadspin and numerous other sites from across the blogosphere along with continued interest in the story. As you can probably tell, the emotions were extremely raw at the time. Even though I’ve clamed down a bit, Satan’s Spawn, er, Kelvin Sampson, is going to need to wear some SWAT team gear if he wants to survive his visit the real Assembly Hall in Champaign on January 23rd.

(2) The Best of Both Worlds: A Modest Proposal for a College Football Playoff That Keeps the Bowls (July 28, 2006) – As long as the BCS school presidents continue to support the current bowl system, this post will stand the test of time. My college football playoff proposal wasn’t necessarily the most original idea (I’ve seen variations of the playoff/bowl hybrid before), but I did want to set forth a system that would give incentives for the BCS conferences to implement it as opposed to the standard calls for an NCAA Tournament-style format, which the powers that be will never go for. In the wake of this year’s Michigan-Florida debacle, it’s time to get this done.

(1) The Paranoia of Illini Nation (December 15, 2005) – This was the issue that spurred me to begin this blog and was my first real substantive post. Even though the Eric Gordon reference is obviously now dated, it’s still my favorite piece of writing as it combines my emotional love for the Illini with an attempt to step back from the proverbial chip on the shoulder that seems to plague our fan base.

I hope that you enjoyed this look back on the recent past and get ready for a sophomore year that hopefully won’t have a slump!