Monday, June 11, 2007

So Long, Sopranos



My thoughts on how my favorite show went away? Loved it. Loved the ending. Love the fact that even right now, the next morning, I am thinking through that ending and wondering what they were trying to tell me. I know it will get ripped, but I bought it.

Entertainment Weekly weighs in


I admit I had gotten myself so anxious between last Sunday and this that I almost — almost — expected to witness Tony's actual end-of-the-road death, in bloody color. And yet I also knew that The Sopranos wouldn't end that way — it just couldn't, not if David Chase remained true to his vision of psychic mess handed down from generation to generation. Really, did you expect otherwise? Toying with many of the big-bang endings predicted (and wished for) by plenty of opinionated viewers in a final episode he wrote and directed himself, Chase (1) didn't turn Tony over to the witness-protection program; (2) didn't expose Paulie as a turncoat who would sell out his boss; (3) didn't let AJ kill himself, or Meadow distinguish herself, or Dr. Melfi take T back as a patient, or the Russian mobster come back out of the Jersey Pine Barrens. Hell, Chase didn't even let Silvio live or die — just left him there in a dreamless coma so very different from Tony's, hooked to a breathing tube while his wife clipped his toenails and Little Miss Sunshine (family, redefined!) played on the hospital TV screen.


I have a bit of a short morning for more blogging, so I will miss a few things, but here are the big ones…

Spurs destroy Cavs…again …so this clown has to poke the Mavs…


The Spurs say it's still too early to celebrate, but it's not too soon for them to get angry.

Angry at Dirk Nowitzki for not showing enough heart to give them a chance for revenge. Upset at David Stern for handing them a break and an asterisk they didn't ask for. And hacked off at

LeBron James for not putting up a fight until garbage time.

Knowing these Spurs, they don't care about any such triviality. They'll gladly take their fourth NBA championship trophy, which they should claim in Cleveland within the week, and they'll ignore the chorus calling their achievement either tainted or historically unimpressive.

But years from now, when the topic of the 2007 NBA playoffs comes up, people won't remember Tim Duncan's steadiness or Tony Parker's penetration or Manu Ginobili's wiliness in the clutch. Instead, they'll think about the Mavericks' meltdown, and Amare Stoudemire's suspension, and an overmatched Cavaliers squad that did the unthinkable and made people think less of the Eastern Conference than they already did.

And for these Spurs, whose toughness and talent make them worthy champions, won't that legacy be worth getting upset about?

Right now there undoubtedly are some readers thinking that asking such a question is jumping the gun, that talking about legacies is premature when the Finals haven't even shifted to Ohio yet. After all, the Spurs blew out Detroit in Games 1 and 2 in 2005 before the Pistons stretched the series to seven, and Miami spotted Dallas two games last year before coming back to win the title.

But rest assured, the 2007 Cavaliers are not the 2005 Pistons (who had won a championship the year before and had a starting lineup that didn't depend on Zydrunas Ilgauskas or Larry Hughes for offense). And they most certainly are not playing a team like the 2006 Mavericks (whose star player went into a shell at the first sign of adversity, and whose coach's most infamous strategic move was a change of team hotels).


The Lebron vs. Jordan crackback


Just what is it we were supposed to be witnessing, again?

As anyone who has seen those Nike-themed banners (RISE UP, WE ARE ALL WITNESSES) or the most recent of his seven Sports Illustrated covers knows, this is the Age of LeBron, in which he finally succeeds Michael Jordan.

There's just one problem: We knew Michael Jordan and this isn't him.

Little as it's understood, it's possible for LeBron James to be a dazzling young player without ever becoming as good as Jordan.

It's also possible for James to go belly-up in the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs and still be a dazzling young player, burdened by a mediocre Cleveland Cavaliers team that's overmatched at this level.

James' 48-point breakout in the Eastern Conference finals was deemed "Jordan-esque," the way to compare players to Jordan, without saying they're actually as good as Jordan.

(Everyone figured out long ago that direct comparison was impossible. Jordan won six titles and five MVPs; who on the horizon has a chance of matching that?)

Wrote Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News: "James is the one player on the planet who can make the NBA as big as [David] Stern says it is and wants it to be again."

In that case, the NBA will just have to stay the size it is.

James was merely LeBron-esque in the Game 6 clincher against Detroit, scoring 20 points but making three of 11 shots.

He was clown-esque in his Finals debut, when he wasn't even in double figures midway through the fourth quarter with the Spurs leading by 18.

Actually, the most Jordan-esque thing about James isn't James but his supporting cast.

Jordan joined a ragtag team (Orlando Woolridge, Quintin Dailey, Wes Matthews, Ennis Whatley, Dave Corzine), although by his fourth year the Bulls had Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant, the nucleus that would win their first three titles.

James joined a ragtag Cavaliers team that has been only modestly upgraded four years later.

Of course, they are here, but that's easy to explain. They're in the East. It was dismayingly clear all season that one of those schleps had to be here.

Even before Game 1, writers were asking if the Cavaliers were the worst team ever to make the Finals. (Other nominees included the 2002 New Jersey Nets, who were swept by the Lakers, and the 1999 New York Knicks, who finished 25-25 in the lockout-shortened season but actually won a game against the Spurs.)

Putting an exclamation point on this calamity, TV ratings, which were expected to hold up for one game, anyway, in the Finals to see what James could do, cratered ahead of schedule, drawing the lowest number ever for an opener in prime time.


Lebron loves Definitely


TrueHoop reader John points out how much LeBron James likes to say the word "definitely." These are James quotes (with John's emphasis) from recent press conference transcripts:


You DEFINITELY give a lot of credit to the Spurs. They DEFINITELY played well tonight defensively, offensively. Some of it was me missing a lot of the shots that I usually make and some of it was the defense that they put on me and on our team in general. It's like a half and half thing. ... It was DEFINITELY crowded. They did a great job of shrinking the floor. If I went by one guy, another guy stepped up, something I'm going to have to make an adjustment for for Game 2. I'll DEFINITELY be ready to counter some of the things they did defensively. ... I didn't play extremely well, DEFINITELY. Not just shooting the ball, but the six turnovers was uncharacteristic of me in the postseason, tried to force a lot of passes in there that looked open at times but really wasn't. ... We did a better job last year in Game 5 and Game 6 of playing great basketball in the third quarter, but once again it caught up with us again. We don't know what it is but we did a great job of figuring it out. We're going to do it pretty soon. We DEFINITELY want to get a win on this floor before we go back home. ... It's not like I've never seen a double-team or triple-team before, I just have to play better, and I DEFINITELY have a better effort on Sunday. ... That's DEFINITELY a fair assessment and I have to do a better job of trying to recognize that, trying to attack north and south instead of east and west. ... We were DEFINITELY a much better team going into Detroit last year. We won the game just because we have more playoff experience. Last year was based on us making the playoffs; this year is based on us getting to the championships, and we have to approach it with the same mentality that we had. ... He DEFINITELY gave us a lift throughout the whole game of attacking and getting to the rim. You know, a lot of guys don't understand that Daniel is much better than shooting an outside shot, which I told you guys after Game 3. ... I've DEFINITELY stepped up with my free-throw percentage and it was something I had to get over with. ... This is DEFINITELY not an individual performance on my part, but without those other 14 guys, we would be down 3-2 instead of up 3-2. ... They're DEFINITELY a great defensive team, but at times I wanted to attack as much as possible and that's it. ... This is DEFINITELY a big win, one of the biggest wins in Cavaliers' franchise history, for me and my teammates, it's DEFINITELY the biggest win. But we have a goal, we can't dwell on this tonight when we have another game on Saturday. We have got to do our best to try to win that ballgame and get where we wanted to be all year. ... I just wanted to try to be aggressive and not allow them to make too much of a run, and give ourselves an opportunity to win down at the end of regulation. And it took two overtimes to do it, but as a team we DEFINITELY -- this is a gutted-out victory. ... We want to give Detroit a lot of credit because they DEFINITELY brought out the best in us, but we just believed and guides stepped up, no matter if it was the one guy all the way down to the 15th man on the roster, we believed. ... DEFINITELY, I ran to Z because when I was first drafted, Z was the first guy I seen. Z has been through a lot, been through losing seasons, year after year after year, and I promised him when I got drafted I was going to try to change it. If you guys remember when I was in New York, I said I was going to light it up like Vegas in Cleveland. Awesome, I told you, I'm going to be a GM someday. I told Daniel before the game, I said, "I believe Detroit is going to double-team me, triple me before I cross halfcourt, so get that gun and get it locked and loaded and just shoot it, don't second guess yourself, just shoot it." And that's exactly what happened, and guys stepped up. Especially Boobie stepped in, knocked big shots down. When they closed out on him hard, he drove the ball to the rim, got fouled and made free-throws. This is DEFINITELY a big step in Cleveland Cavaliers history.


The Rangers played on this weekend, and now we have confirmation: CoCo Cordero cannot pitch in Arlington


For all these two-out, ninth-inning rallies, the Rangers remain what they are – the team with the fewest wins in baseball.

A night after a two-out rally in the ninth inning gave them their most dramatic victory of the season, the Rangers pulled off more magic again Sunday, only to fall, 9-6, to Milwaukee in 12 innings at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

The way the Rangers avoided their second three-game winning streak of the season was as hard to believe as Marlon Byrd's 0-2 single off Brewers closer Francisco Cordero in the bottom of the ninth that tied the score, 6-6.

Cordero had saved 22 consecutive games to the start the season before a nightmare weekend in his return to Arlington.

The only problem – the Rangers didn't win it in the ninth, which gave another opportunity for them to play down to their 23-40 record.

The 12th inning started with error No. 13 for second baseman Ian Kinsler on a routine grounder. The game, for all intents and purposes, ended when Geoff Jenkins smoked a one-out, three-run home run to right-center off reliever Willie Eyre.

"I thought things were going to go our way the whole game but that’s just baseball," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "It was a good game, and they just ended up pulling it out."

The Rangers led, 4-2, after five innings, even though the Brewers, who finished with 22 hits, had already stranded 10 runners.

But the Rangers' pitching staff couldn't hold down the Brewers all night. The main culprit was reliever C.J. Wilson, who has been one of the few positives of a painful season.

Wilson, who won his lefty-lefty matchup with Prince Fielder on Friday, getting a key strikeout in the Rangers' 10-6 victory, lost the rematch with the Brewers' budding superstar in the sixth, and the inning unraveled.

After Fielder's single to put runners at first and second, Wilson hit two straight Brewers. The second, Jenkins, forced in a run to trim the Rangers' lead to 4-3. Catcher Johnny Estrada then singled back up the middle for two RBI and a 5-4 lead.


3 months ago, ask the world soccer media and Beckham had nothing. Now, He is being begged to stay with Real Madrid and England


Ramon Calderon, the president of Real Madrid, said Sunday that he would do everything he could to get David Beckham to remain with the team instead of joining Major League Soccer's Galaxy next month as planned.

"That ship has sailed," responded Alexi Lalas, the Galaxy's president and general manager, who insisted that Beckham would arrive in Los Angeles in mid-July.

Calderon, a tennis fan, was at the French Open in Paris to see Spain's Rafael Nadal defeat Roger Federer in the men's singles final and suggested to reporters that there might be an escape clause in Beckham's contract with MLS.

"He is playing at a very high level," Calderon said. "We will have to sit down with his representatives … to look at this clause and decide what to do. But I would love him to stay at the club…. We are going to do all we can to make him stay."

Does Beckham's contract have an escape clause of any sort?

"No," Lalas said.

"I don't doubt the fact that Real Madrid would love to have David Beckham back," he added, pointing out that the England midfielder would be sought after by "numerous clubs around the world, especially considering what's happened over the past couple of months.

"To be fair to Real Madrid, the comments on the face of it are pretty benign. Yes, there's a desire" to have him remain at Real Madrid, "but just saying it doesn't make it true."

Beckham's London-based agent, Simon Oliveria, told the Associated Press that "there is no intention of … reneging on the Galaxy deal."

Beckham will play for Real Madrid on Sunday in Madrid, where a victory over Real Mallorca would give his team the Spanish league title. His contract with the club ends June 30.

Lalas said winning the championship should be Real Madrid's focus now, not second-guessing its inability to sign Beckham, 32, to a new contract.


FC Dallas with a nice win (against a LA Galaxy squad that has nothing); but lose Cooper for a long time


On any other night after a 3-1 win, the FC Dallas locker room would be a happy place to be. But after FCD's win against the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday night at Pizza Hut Park, the Hoops weren't exactly ready to celebrate.

Instead, they were more concerned about leading scorer and forward Kenny Cooper, who was injured in the 89th minute after a hard tackle by L.A. defender Tyrone Marshall.

An X-ray of Cooper's right leg after the game confirmed that the Dallas native has a broken right tibia. He is expected to miss between six and eight weeks because of the injury. Marshall was sent off by referee Jair Marrufo for the tackle.

"It takes the shine off a good win and a good night for us," FCD head coach Steve Morrow said. "Our thoughts are with Kenny. We are obviously devastated for him. It's a big loss for us."

Morrow admitted that he didn't have a good feeling when Cooper went down late in the match.

"I feared the worst when I heard a huge crack (on that play)," he said. "Kenny is a guy who fights through those things and I knew it was serious when he couldn't continue."


Toja Goal from FC Dallas


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Jason Garrett will call the plays


From the moment Jason Garrett was hired as offensive coordinator there was some secrecy as to who would call plays.

Would Tony Sparano do it again?

But Cowboys officials, from owner Jerry Jones to coach Wade Phillips, wouldn't say who the playcaller would be in 2007.

After the early practice at Friday's minicamp, Garrett confirmed he would call the plays in 2007.

It's not really a surprise since Garrett has asked players and his fellow coaches just what they like to see on the field.

"I do like that about him," receiver Terry Glenn said. "He seems like more of a down-to-earth, young-generation type coordinator. He seems like he's fresh, young and opened-minded."

Garrett has spoken to numerous coaches, including Norv Turner, the Cowboys' former offensive coordinator when Garrett backed up Troy Aikman, now the head coach in San Diego, about what to do.

Before Garrett went on his interview with the Cowboys, he spoke to Turner.

Garrett also has Sparano and receivers coach, Ray Sherman, a former offensive coordinator on two previous teams, to bounce ideas off.

Last season, the Cowboys finished fifth in the NFL in total offense at 360.8 yards per game with Sparano making the calls.

"I talk to Norv all the time," Garrett said. "He's a great play-caller, and he's somebody I learned a lot from just watching how he did it. We have a great staff here, and Tony Sparano has been helpful. And coach Phillips has been a great resource."

Several players have noted that Garrett likes to throw the ball downfield more than in the previous offensive scheme. During minicamps and organized team activities (OTA) passes were also going to the running back. There have also been some reverses and end-arounds with receiver Terrell Owens.

"I think he can do the job," Phillips said of Garrett. "It's kind of like when I was a first-time coordinator in New Orleans. I felt like I could do that job or I wouldn't have been named the coordinator. We ended up leading the league in several categories there and hopefully the same thing will happen with Jason."


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West Ham Fan – watch with volume low

8 comments:

CFB123 said...

Sorry Bob, but when the Mavs pull off the 2 biggest choke jobs in NBA history, they're going to be poked at. The Spurs are decisively up 2-0 in the Finals just as the Mavs were last year, so of course it's going to be brought up. But just as Jimmy Johnson so famously said "we're not Houston" at the halftime of Super Bowl XXVII, it's pretty safe to say that the Spurs aren't the Mavericks either.

As for The Sopranos, I'm sorry, but that ending sucked. After all these years, at least a little bit more at the end would have been nice. But oh well, the last 2 seasons weren't very good anyway.

Phil K. said...

Re: "West Ham Fan"

That guy is me (minus the British fagginess) watching a Mavs play-off game--from this year or any year. No matter how hard I try to remain calm, I'm ball of nerves the whole time.

His "How can he miss it!?!" comment was issued by me at the t.v. ad infinitum when Dirk was shooting. Maddening.

Although, in my ending, I'm on the ground, clutching my wife, driving a dagger into her gut.

Gravypan said...

Yep.

The only way to stop the poking is to win a Title.

Until that day arrives, I'd have to say any criticism is deserved.

Robert said...

The Sopranos ending put an emphasis on the thing that made the show great. Throughout the series, David Chase had enough faith in his vision to resist the urge to spell out every detail. This ending is the last of many examples of the show leaving it up to the viewer to use their imagination to interpret things, thereby making the viewer a participant in their own viewing experience. Without that aspect, the show just would have been really disappointing violence porn. I can see why someone looking for blood and guts would have been let down, but why even continue watching the show beyond Season 4?

TheDude said...

Uh, Bob, did you realize that that Bada Bing JPEG has been altered to show a dude in a speedo?

TheDude said...

On second thought, I think I might have been trolled. Oops. Carry on...

jason said...

When you get whacked you never see it coming and then you just see Black. Well guess what? That's what happened to US, the viewer! We got Whacked! Think about it, David Chase didn't whack Tony, he whacked us the viewer.

And the more you think about it, the more genius it is. David Chase is a genius.

mrowlou said...

the MOST tense last 5 minutes of any show. ever.

and, the most tense parallel parking of a car. ever.

It was genius.

And you gotta wonder, if a head pops, is that the sound you would hear?