“Dinner for Schmucks”; So Close to Greatness by kentsterling
July 31, 2010, 3:28 pm
Filed under: Kent Sterling, Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

by Kent Sterling

The new Steve Carell/Paul Rudd film “Dinner for Schmucks” is like a delicious Lou Malnatti’s or Some Guy’s pizza covered with maple syrup.  The unwelcome sweetness ruins what could have been a great meal.

My experience watching “Dinner for Schmucks” was the inverse of my unpleasant two hours in the theater for “Mamma Mia” and “It’s Complicated”.  During those two movies I spent a lot of time watching the rest of the people in the theater laugh, and wondering what the hell was so funny.  In both, there were times when the audience roared with laughter, and I couldn’t figure out what had happened that might have caused the outburst.  Yesterday, in a theater half-full, I rolled and the rest of the audience was silent.  For anyone who saw Robert DeNiro roar in the theater during “Cape Fear”, while Nick Nolte and his family were annoyed have an idea of what I looked like.

The only difference between DeNiro and I is that I was laughing at jokes and gags that were absolutely and genuinely hilarious.

Here is the trailer which in contrast to most has exactly none of the funny parts of the movie, but shares the plot completely.  The funny parts are generally the odd bits of business surrounding the main characters – not what the main characters say or do.

The movie starts strong with a group of high earning financial wizards expressing a callous view of humanity, and it gets funnier.  Then there is a lull in the humor as the movie finds its heart.  The end redeems Paul Rudd’s character, and while redemption is often a key ingredient in wonderful movies (“Network”, “Field of Dreams”, “Happy Gilmore”, and “From Here to Eternity” (how’s that for four completely different movies?), but I don’t need to feel good during a mean-spirited film.

Steve Carell stars as a well-meaning idiot who is invited to a monthly dinner that serves as a contest for high-ranking employees of a financial firm to see who can bring the biggest dolt.

This movie is an amalgam of “The Cable Guy”, “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”, and the Paul Rudd 2008 comedy “Role Models”, and it has some great moments.  The whole is not as great as the sum of it’s parts, but it’s still occasionally perfect.

With the matinée tickets at $6.50, I try to be as cautious as possible with my film choices, but this seemed like a no-brainer.  While I wish the movie had stayed true to its sarcasm and willingness to give us some laughs at the expense of morons, it was still well worth the $13 for my wife and I.

There are under the radar moments in “Dinner for Schmucks” that are as funny as anything on film, and those alone are worth the cost of the ticket even if the movie sells out a bit in the end.

Now go to the movie, and pay attention, unlike the schmucks with whom I saw it.



Chicago Cubs SS Ryan Theriot Dealt to Dodgers by kentsterling
July 31, 2010, 3:01 pm
Filed under: Chicago Cubs, Kent Sterling, Uncategorized | Tags: ,

by Kent Sterling

I know the deal included Ted Lilly as the centerpiece of a trade with the Dodgers, but the best part of the Cubs is the displacement of second baseman Ryan Theriot – the kind of player who looks like the kind of player who can help a team win but doesn’t.

Theriot is a punch-and-judy hitter with poor strike zone discipline and enough speed to attempt steals, but not enough not to get caught ten times a season.  He should be a sure-handed infielder with range, but he was never good enough to win games with his glove.

Theriot led off early in the season, but when he went a month without drawing a walk, Cubs manager Lou Piniella finally figured out that Theriot belongs in the eight hole.  Cubs GM Jim Hendry finally discovered that at the age of 30, Theriot is the best he will be and that simply isn’t good enough to help the Cubs win.

A guy without power (F), range (C), arm strength (C), and speed (B), and an on base percentage barely higher than his batting average is a carbuncle causing more drag than he is a sail catching wind.

Theriot will be missed by fans who think former Cubs second baseman Glenn Beckert’s number should be retired, but he is never going to be more than a serviceable utility player for a championship team.

The Cubs got RHPs Brett Wallach and Kyle Smit, in addition to Blake DeWitt, a 24 year old who is more discplined at the plate and less speedy then Theriot.

Ted Lilly will be missed for two months, but at that point the Cubs can wade into the free agent bidding for his return.

Wallach and Smit are two excellent young arms.  Wallach is 6-0 this season with a 3.72 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 84 2/3 innings for the Class A Great Lakes (Midland, MI) Loons of the Midwest League.  Smit was recently promoted to AA Chattanooga, and has pitched primarily in relief.

Regardless of the contributions of the three new young members of the Cubs family, it’s good to send out those who cannot help win a championship, and Theriot falls into that category.

Hopefully, Theriot’s LSU buddy Mike Fontenot is not far behind in getting his bags packed.



Chicago Cubs Now Wait to See Where They Will Play Next by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

There aren’t many untouchables on a team that sucks, and the Cubs haven’t sucked like this since 2006.  Cubs GM Jim Hendry isn’t used to dealing veterans for prospects, but that is where the lot in life of the GM who has signed veterans to massive contracts while they deliver a mediocre count of wins.

Last night, the Cubs were on the wrong end of several major league records for offensive output in an inning against the Colorado Rockies, who scored 12 times on 11 straight hits with two outs in the eighth.  Eight of those hits went for extra bases in a nightmare that just would not end – much like the 2010 season that is likely to cost the Ricketts Family almost exactly $2-million in players salaries for each victory.

For the masochists who want a reckoning of the records tied or broken last night, here you go:

  • 12 suns allowed in an inning ties a Cubs record
  • 12 runs and 13 hits in an inning are both Rockies records
  • Eight extra base hits in an inning ties a Major League record
  • 11 consecutive hits in an inning is the most in the history of baseball in nearly 4,000,000 half-innings.

Now go pour some boiling oil in your ear.

Hendry will try to shed some of that expense today prior to the 4p deadline, or at least get something useful for the cash if they have to eat a significant portion of the money as they jettison players contending teams might want.

The Cubs will deal Ted Lilly. [They have dealt Lilly and 2B Ryan Theriot for Dodgers 2B Blake DeWitt and two minor league pitchers – Kyle Smit and Brett Wallach.] There are others like light-hitting and oft-caught base stealer Ryan Theriot, reluctant trade participant Derrek Lee, wildly overpaid Kosuke Fukudome, and the new definition of wildly overpaid in Carlos Zambrano.  Today’s deadline is meaningless for Fukudome and Zambrano because trades after today only require players clear waivers, and the Cubs would win whether they cleared waivers or were claimed.

Players who are claimed are the financial responsibility of the claiming team.  In the case of Zambrano, who is owed $45-million over the next 26 months, the Ricketts would dance like they won the lottery if Z were claimed.  Ditto Fukudome.  Those two names will certainly cross the waiver wire, and should a team be amenable to a deal, the Cubs would be happy to talk and share in paying their ongoing freight.

There is a rumor that both Lilly and Theriot will be traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but nothing is done yet.

The Cubs are going nowhere fast.  There will be a managerial change at the end of the season due to Lou Piniella’s “retirement”, and so it is up to Hendry to collect as much young talent and other pieces as possible for the next guy, regardless of whether his name is Sandberg, Girardi, LaRussa, or Torre.

The result of the trades completed before and after the deadline likely won’t be seen until 2012, but that’s fine because by standing pat the Cubs would have been worse.  Maybe at the end of the season, Hendry can make a push to sign Lilly as a free agent.  That would be called having your cake and eating it too.



Summer Basketball Wraps Up Today – Zach Hahn Remembers by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

I loved summer basketball.  It was the best time I’ve had so far watching my son play, and the kids who were on his team were like family.  They weren’t the most talented group, but they knew the game and won 90% of their games on grit, fundamentals, shooting ability, and a unique love for one another.

The summer basketball experience is criticized as nothing more than a showcase for coaches that rewards individual excellence and nothing more than a series of meaningless all-star games.  Those are assumptions rising from jealousy, ignorance, or college coaches who forfeit 20 days of family time every year to show their faces to recruits in gyms from Vegas to Indy to Minnesota to Fort Wayne..

Summer basketball is like summer camp for kids who love basketball.  They stay in two-star hotels, huddling together in a room with their teammates watching “Sister Act” on TBS and “A Few Good Men” on TNT over and over.  Then, they throw on their jerseys, assassinate bigger and jumpier teams, grab some pizza, and do it all over again.

They become brothers, and any system that breeds friendships that last for years after that common experience can only be criticized by people who haven’t been through it.

Butler’s Zach Hahn played on the same team with my son – the Spiece Central Stars – and offers his recollection of summers well spent:

After 20 days of multiple games this month, it’s all coming to an exhausting end today.  The kids and parents are looking forward to getting home, but should take a few minutes to reflect on the fun and camaraderie of a month well spent with friends.

For the seniors-to-be, today is the last day of summer ball forever.  While it’s not quite high school graduation day, it is a time for a little reflection on an experience with kids that if program ran correctly, will provide friendships and memories that will last forever.



Top Five Reasons Cody Zeller Should Choose Indiana by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

One thing is for sure, the Zeller Family is not intimidated by Cody being recruited by big time coaches from top ten programs.  They have been down this road twice before with Luke and Tyler, and know the lay of the land as well as anyone in the country.

The first time around, having a child being recruited can be a little bit dizzying.  By the third time, it’s all business.  That seems to be the way Cody has treated it.  As he was asked dozens of times during the last month in front of cameras ranging from cell phones to those used by network TV guys, he listed an impossibly long roster of suitors and smiled as he did it.

The Zellers have a list of priorities that the winner in his recruiting will answer better than anyone else.  Here is part of that list, and why Indiana meets Zeller’s needs:

  1. Coach – Tom Crean is a relatively young coach at 44, who is tireless, energetic and understands how important it is for kids to see his program as a launching pad to the NBA.  He’s gotten kids there in the past and will marshal all necessary resources to show Indiana high school kids that IU is the place where their dreams can come true.  Crean doesn’t have the resume’ of Roy Williams as far as sending players to huge paydays, but he will move heaven and earth to help – as success there will build the IU program more quickly than any other factor.
  2. Potential for helping Zeller get to the NBA – The Cook Center changes the landscape for building a basketball career.  Kids have unfettered access to a place to shoot, lift, build quickness, and develop skills.  The worst thing for a kid with tremendous work ethic is to not have a place to work.  The days of IU players getting up shots at the HPer or waiting for women’s field hockey players to finish lifting so they can get in some reps are over.
  3. Facilities – Many of these are obviously interconnected.  Assembly Hall was never an adequate basketball home for the work Indiana needed to do to be competitive.  It’s occasionally used as a concert hall, and when the girls were working, where was a guy supposed to go to improve his game?  The Cook Center gives the guys their own full court with six buckets 24/7.  The weight room is spectacular and has machines I’ve never seen before. (I’m assuming they represent the latest in building balance, but have no idea other than they are cooler than the old Universal rigs.)
  4. Education – No parent, especially not a pair who have helped their older sons choose Notre Dame and North Carolina, wants their kid to get a substandard education.  Indiana provides a quality academic education, but excels in bringing kids a wonderful and enjoyable environment where they can spend those years where they are most social and energetic.  That’s a part of the education as well.  Most of the people I know who went to Indiana, and I am proudly in this category, made their longest lasting friends there.  Football is on the right path at IU, but the basketball players are the rock stars on campus, and decorum prevents me from disclosing what that can mean.
  5. Connections for Jobs – There are so many IU grads in the state that a basketball player is almost never going to want for professional opportunity.  There is a very meaningful fraternity of basketball players in Indiana who all do very well (minus Todd Leary) financially after their playing days end.  If Zeller chooses IU, there are hundreds of well-heeled alums who won’t forget that after his body balks and he needs to work for a living.  In this category, I would also include proximity.  Although the Zellers have shown they aren’t intimidated by kids moving out of the hills of southern Indiana, it might be a little nicer to drive to 68 miles from their house to Assembly Hall then make the dreary drive through Bloomington all the way up to Butler or West Lafayette, or to Louisville to catch a flight to Austin or UNC.

*******

Zeller knows the game.  The only information the packs of rabble want is that list of finalists, and any time a school is added or subtracted, that’s news people on the internet will find interesting.  After being asked so many times, Zeller amuses himself with his long answer.  Good for him.  It’s all ridiculous to a teenager, and should be to all of us.

Here’s an interview from June 22, 2010, where (not smiling) Cody lists his favorites:

But it isn’t, especially to Tom Crean and the followers of Indiana University Basketball.  Zeller is a very talented kid who can do a lot of very unique things on a basketball court.  Like his brothers, Cody can shoot it.  He can also get to the rim from the perimeter, and that’s rare for a 6’10” kid.

He has the skill and pedigree to get Hoosier fans very excited.  Paired with AAU teammate Austin Etherington, Zeller would give the Hoosiers two excellent incoming freshman to join a maturing Hoosiers squad that is looking good to improve from last year’s 10-win season.

Indiana is in an interesting position, but I doubt any of the reasons it’s interesting are of any interest of Zeller.  He can walk into Assembly Hall a freshman hero – a kid who can help put the Indiana program back on the map and send a signal to the rest of the high school players in the state that IU is return to return to relevance if not prominence.

The last time IU won a national championship, Zeller was five years from being born, and during the final game run under Mike Davis in 2002, Zeller was 10.  Indiana University Basketball history is as meaningful to him as the Go-Go White Sox are to me.

People examine the possible impact of Etherington going to IU as a possible motivator for Zeller.  I have yet to know a kid who went to a school because a friend did.  There have been thousands of teammates who played high school and/or AAU together, and some played together in college, but not because of friendship.  That might have been a nice side benefit, but the reasons for choosing a program are more pragmatic that a chance to play with a friend.  Parents would never allow friendship to rise to a level of priority that would even be listed.

Zeller is seen as a potential savior by Indiana fans, and that is both unfair (to Zeller and Crean) and inaccurate.  No doubt, he’s a nice get and there would be some joy in seeing him sign his letter of intent to play at IU, but there are no saviors anymore in college basketball.  The ridiculous NBA Draft age restriction guarantees that.

Here are Indiana Elite 17s highlights including Cody Zeller: 3676116855



IndyCar Should Give Helio Castroneves an Award by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

So Helio goes crazy because IndyCar honcho Brian Barnhart assesses a black flag penalty for blocking teammates Will Power’s attempt to pass.  Helio disagrees, ignores the directive to pit, and finishes in the lead of the IndyCar race in Edmonton last Sunday.

When informed that he did not win the race, Helio loses his mind and grabs IndyCar official Charles Burns by the collar.  All this is caught on video and replayed countless times on ESPN, giving more heat to IndyCar, excluding Danica Patrick Go Daddy commercials, than for anything since A.J. Foyt knocked Arie Luyendyk into some bushes at the Texas Motor Speedway in 1997.

Here’s the video of the Helio’s really not too crazy craziness:

For his lunacy, Helio might be suspended from racing in the series for a short period of time.

Is someone at IndyCar on crack?  What the hell is going on when a driver brings light and focus to a racing series in dire need of both is discouraged from doing it again?  No one thought the race official, who looked like he could have snapped Helio like a twig anytime during the fracas, was in any danger, and there was no damage done.  Just an agitated Brazilian losing his temper and flailing into the path of a person who had no reason to fear Helio more than Chumley feared Mr. Whoopee (Chumlee was a walrus in the old Tennessee Tuxedo cartoons, and Mr. Whoopee an elderly professorial type who owned the 3D-BB, and three-dimensional blackboard Mr. Whoopee used to show Tennessee and Chumlee how to outwit their foes.  Oh the hell with it.  It’s a shitty reference)

A series like IndyCar should pass out cigars and gold watches to drivers who give ESPN a reason to pay attention to a road race held on the runways of an Edmonton airport.

Drama is good.  Without it, no one would watch sports.  Unless we see a demonstrative display of emotion and personality, why would I root for anyone.  Nice smiling men and women going is circles isn’t going to drive ratings on Versus or any other network.

Penalizing the very behavior that led to IndyCar getting some face time on the Worldwide Leader should be praised, not damned or fined.  Car owners should list combustability as one of the trait to which they hire, and for God’s sake, find us a villain.

I’ve written it enough times that my fingers are tired of hitting these same keys in sequence, but here it is again.  These events shouldn’t be races, but TV shows.  Build TV shows that happen to feature a race.  The drivers are characters, and so are the cars.  When all the drivers and cars are the same, no one cares who wins.  The cars are the same, and will be even when the new Dallara is debuted in 2012, despite the efforts to allow teams to customize.  All the teams are going to figure out quickly which package runs best and mimic it.

Fans need to be emotionally invested in the drivers.  Helio and the easily irritated Danica, the drivers people care about because we see their frustration, anger, and joy.  The others are drones who can drive fast.  Scott Dixon may be the nicest and fastest driver alive, but does he have 10 fans?  It’s okay, NASCAR has the same issue with Jimmie Johnson.

A series can live with a couple of comparatively dull drivers, but not 18.  Tony Kanaan – nice funny guy.  Dario Franchitti – nice guy, aging starlet camera-loving wife.  Will Power – no idea.  Ryan Briscoe – ditto Kanaan.  Dan Wheldon – nice big teeth and cool accent.  Tomas Schekter – now we’re getting there because he’s a reckless daredevil who pisses drivers off.  Justin Wilson – Tall.  Marco Andretti – Young.  Vitor Meira/Mario Moraes/Raphael Matos/E.J. Viso – are they replicants?  If you can tell one from another, your name is Vince Welch, Jack Arute, Curt Cavin, Kevin Lee, or Jake Query.  Minus Danica and Helio, who are these people?  I know their names.  I watch, and have for years, but I have no idea who they are.

If IndyCar wants to gain in popularity, people in their homes (who know where the hell Versus is on their DirecTV – channel 603 – or cable package) need to be able to recognize these people as a collection of personalities, and not just pilots of crazy fast cars.

It’s not enough to go fast anymore.  You have to bring recognizable characteristics.  To get ratings, IndyCar needs to encourage displays of personality, not penalize them.



Harry’s Daily Affirmation – Friday, July 30, 2010 by kentsterling
July 30, 2010, 7:35 am
Filed under: Harry on Sports

Harry talks about change and the need to embrace it as it comes because it’s coming for all of us.  Click on the arrow to listen.