Friday, December 14, 2007

A Few of Your Favorite Things: Movies, Tennis, A Horse Race, and Institutional Foolishness

The guest below doesn't focus on just one thing. In fact, he doesn't even focus on just the purely good, offering two things he felt were "so bad they were good." I usually rule the blog with an iron fist. But what can I say...he's my dad.
I can't reduce a year to a single best thing until I hit the Powerball lottery, so I will cover two subjects ... movies and sports.

To begin, three "bests" at the movies:

1) Michael Clayton and the incredible performance of George Clooney.
2) Gone Baby Gone and the transformation of Ben Affleck from an actor who never quite arrived to a director with a future.
3) No Country for Old Men, where the Coen brothers set the atmosphere of unrelenting menace early on with the simple crunch of Josh Brolin's boot on the hardscrabble Texas ground at a grisly murder scene.

Now, sports -- with a preface. The preface being that, although baseball is my favorite sport, any year that finds the Red Sox succeeding and the Yankees failing doesn't permit me to find any "bests" in the national pastime. The Colts' Super Bowl win was pedestrian, ditto the Spurs' victory in June. So I am left with these moments:

1) Federer over Nadal at Wimbledon. It seemed inevitable that numbers one and two would face off again after Nadal's victory in the French Open. Federer was heavily favored on the slicker grass surface, but Nadal had him at the brink before succumbing late. It was a perfect example of two great athletes in their prime playing a widely anticipated match that actually exceeded the expectations.

2) This year's Breeders' Cup Classic brought together the five very best thoroughbreds in the country in a showdown race that would decide the horse of the year. After two days of drenching rain, the sun emerged just before the start of the Classic, and it was a thrill to see Curlin leave Street Sense behind and set sail for the front-running Hard Spun. When he passed him easily and coasted to the wire, there was no doubt as to the best horse of 2007. The fact that I had a small wager on the winner was icing on the cake.

3) What is the name by which the Trinity University lateral play will be known? It had to be seen to be believed, and even then you had to wonder if it was a digital concoction served up as a hoax. It turned out to be real, and has eclipsed the Cal-Stanford “band” play as the strangest in football history.

Finally, we have all heard the phrase "it was so bad it was good," so I'm going to include two things in 2007 sports that were awful, but so awful that they were good.

I'll start with the more recent of the two selections. The 2007 college football season was terrific and unprecedented, as improbable schools like Southern Florida, Boston College and Missouri flirted with the highest ranking in the land and then fell back. The tone was set early, in September, when word spread that a school named Appalachian State defeated the mighty Michigan Wolverines, and it was reinforced a few weeks later when Stanford, a 43-point underdog, stunned top-ranked USC. What a year! A year that cried for a playoff to determine a champion, when 16 teams in a field could each have a plausible shot at a championship. A year, alas, when some sportswriters, coaches and computer guys will continue to make decisions that should only be made on the field. The fact that the NCAA seems to have no interest in developing a structure for determining a national football champion in Division I, a structure that, incidentally, is in place for every other collegiate sport in every division, is incomprehensible. It has always been ludicrous, but in this year of incredible upsets and real parity, it has arrived at the point of being "so bad it's good."

Finally, the NBA playoffs. After 90+ games in a grueling season, the championship appeared to rest on who advanced from the Western Conference matchup between San Antonio and Phoenix. The games were tense and emotions ran high. Near the end of Game 4, an incident took place in which Steve Nash, the leader of the Suns, was rammed into the scorer's table by a frustrated Robert Horry. As Nash fell to the floor, several of his teammates rose from the bench and edged toward the floor. Cooler heads prevailed, Nash picked himself up, and the game ended with no escalation of the incident. As it turned out, Amare Stoudemire, the Suns' star center, had set foot on the playing court when he got up from the bench. He never approached the immediate scene of the foul, didn't make a fist or threatening gesture, and appeared to make no incendiary comment. Commissioner David Stern, however, quoting from the precise language of a rule designed to prevent brawls, elected to ignore the spirit of the law and stuck to the letter, which required that Stoudemire be suspended from playing the next game. So it was that the NBA title was decided in a posh New York office by a short old guy in a suit. Stern should star in the first chapter if a sequel is written to The Death of Common Sense.

--Jake Williams


Post a Comment

<< Home