Monday, August 31, 2009

Words, Not Necessary

Though I'll add just a few. Poodles, in my experience, are relatively useless animals. I had no idea, though, that they could be decorated. Kudos to you, sick, weird poodle artisans. May you come back in your next life as Joey Chestnutt's colon.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Another Pleasant Valley Sunday

Ever wanted to know what the voice behind Elmo looks like? Yeah? Want to see a 6 and a half minute interview with him? Really?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cultural Exchange

In honor of the impending occasion of my first-ever foray into the world of NASCAR (September 12, Richmond International Raceway), I present the following for your aural enjoyment.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Know Your CFL Squadron

It's almost September, and while autumn's not exactly in the air, the sounds of pads popping and sights of middle-aged men in overtight Bike shorts are a sure signal of the coming season. As always, Team G:TB will be here to chronicle our national obsession with all things oblong and leather-bound (other than the ones hidden deep in the recesses of TR's closet - some things are far better left unexamined).

Today, in memory of Ted Kennedy and his dogged defense of the little guy, we look in a different direction. Friends, let's talk 110-yard fields, three downs to get 10 yards, and rouges. In the first (and possibly last) installment of Know Your CFL Squadron, we examine the fabled Montreal Alouettes.

What's an Alouette? I've wondered this nearly my entire life. I thought it was a made up word used to rhyme the French version of that children's song. Jaunty Alouetta, or something. As it turns out, an alouette is a skylark. In either case, not a terribly intimidating mascot. Though better than the original Montreal nickname, the Petit Fours.

Guys You Know on the Alouettes: Mark will be pleased to know that Chris Leak is drawing a professional paycheck, taking his questionable arm and mediocre overall game to Montreal to back up Anthony Calvillo. If you knew that Anthony Calvillo ranks 5th in all-time professional passing yards, you're a sick bastard. Leak's better off than Adrian McPherson, who not only has to listen to the former's taunts about Florida State's mediocrity, but also finds himself stuck on the Alouettes' Inactive List. Former West Virginia tailback Avon Cobourne totes the ball for the A's, while erstwhile Auburn Tiger Damon Duval handles the kicking and punting duties. I'm surprised that an Auburn grad was allowed to leave the country.

Why Alouettes Fans Love Bono: According to the impossibly accurate Wikipedia, the A's were down on their luck in the late 90s and on the verge of folding. They played their games at the cavernous Olympic Stadium before thousands of empty seats. When a playoff game the the BC Lions was scheduled in conflict with a U2 concert at Olympic Stadium, the Alouettes moved the contest to the much-smaller Molson Stadium. The ensuing sellout and raucous atmosphere revived the club's fortunes. As a result, the Alouettes now play all their games in the cozier venue, and play U2's Sunday Bloody Sunday before every home date. Odd, in a way, as Bono is a known hater of all things Canadian. Except backbacon.

2009 Outlook: The Alouettes are fresh off a Grey Cup loss to the Calgary Stampeders, and have opened the new campaign winning 7 of 8 games. So I guess it's not really an outlook, per se. More of a 'hey, how are the Alouettes doing so far?' sort of thing. Avon Cobourne is second in the CFL in rushing. I smell another Grey Cup in the offing.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

This Day in History...Kinda

August 25, 1991
Carl Lewis sets a world record in the 100 meters, running it in 9.86 seconds (somewhere Usain Bolt rolls his eyes and chuckles).

A date I'm too lazy to look up
Carl Lewis does this, and in the process almost causes Charley Steiner to have an on-air aneurysm recapping the performance.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday Morning Morons

Yep, these people are making us look good...two candidates today:

Our first stop - Times Square in NYC (of course it is). It appears someone has been channeling Aykroyd's drunken Santa from Trading Places while wearing not-so-cuddly Sesame Street costumes.

NEW YORK, Aug. 23 (UPI) -- A man dressed as the "Sesame Street" character, Elmo, was rude to tourists in New York when they tried to photograph him, the New York Daily News said.

The newspaper reported the character -- surly and dirty, nothing like the Elmo on the TV show -- swore at and jostled people who wouldn't give him money when they tried to photograph him Saturday.

Line that got me: "Look man, Elmo needs to make a living, too," he said.

In what should be a surprise to no one, we head to Ohio (Cleveland in fact) to celebrate MMM #2.

CLEVELAND (AP) - Police said a Cleveland barber became so upset by what he considered bad beef jerky that he returned to the store where he bought it and tried to rob the owner. Police said the 28-year-old barber walked into the store where he bought the snack, just two doors down from his barbershop, and tried to rob the owner Thursday night.

Line that got me: The barber told police the stick of beef jerky he bought sickened him and his dog.

Um, of course it did dude, it's beef jerky.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Hot August Mornings

Neil Diamond thanks the Lord for the night time, but this guy (Editor's note: author pauses to point two thumbs at himself) thanks the Lord for the morning time. And cable TV. And my DVR. For the confluence of these inventions will allow me to satiate my growing thirst for EPL soccer.

While the hot-shot bachelors amongst the tens of our readers will do things this weekend like (Editor's note: author pauses to prepare his Bennett Brauer impersonation) "drink at bars," "see live music" and "score with chicks," the author will do things like "get infant feces on my hand," "fold laundry" and "drink scotch alone on my couch." But the saving grace of my weekend will be back-to-back mornings of EPL heavyweights in action.

On Saturday morning, ESPN2 will show Man U's third match of the season at 9:55 AM. The Red Devils will match up against a feisty Wigan United squad that I know nothing about. They have a new coach, they had an impressive two-nil win over Aston Villa in their first match, and followed that up with a shut-out loss to Wolverhampton in their second match.

Man U, also 1-1 on the season, hopes to bounce back from a shocking loss to recently promoted Burnley on Wednesday. The team has lost some of its firepower from last year due to the departure of the flamboyantly talented hooker-loving Cristiano Ronaldo and the Argentinian spark-plug striker (and fan-favorite) Carlos Tevez, who was like the team's Vinnie Johnson, minus the short shorts. And jump shot. Man U is also hurting on defense, as ageless keeper Edwin Van Der Sar will be out a couple months after thumb surgery. Back-up keeper Ben Foster was shaky in sparse playing time last season. He will have to step it up in a big way if Man U wants to repeat this season.

Other Man U players to watch:

Nemanja Vidic - The bruising Serbian stopper was voted the team's player of the year by his teammates. He is a brute on the back-line, a superior version of the US' Oguchi Onyewu, with some Ivan Drago mixed in. He stepped up last season while fellow defender Rio Ferdinand suffered with some injuries. He is the uber-swarthy fellow at left in the picture above.

Dimitar Berbatov - The enigmatic striker was showered with the fans' jeers for most of the season as his seemingly laconic play disappointed them, in contrast with Tevez' constant energy. Berbatov even found himself on the bench a lot as Man U charged ahead late in the season. But he remains a lethal striker with a cannon foot. He will be under a lot of pressure to replace Ronaldo's goal-scoring production and make things happen up front with Wayne Rooney and new addition Michael Owen.

If this match-up doesn't whet your whistle, you can watch another great match at 11 AM on Sunday morning. The Fox Soccer Channel will show Chelsea facing off against Clint Dempsey's Fulham squad. Dempsey was recently re-signed by Fulham and has become a fixture on the field. So it makes it that much more fun to root against Chelsea.

As hated as they may be (by your humble author), Chelsea has a fantastic pool of talent. Up front, Didier Drogba is one of the most skilled strikers in the world, despite perpetually featuring some of the worst hair you'll ever see. He's seen on the left in the picture to the left, next to Belgian native (and Everton player) Marouane Fellaini, who is included because, well, you have to include an afro like that. Anchoring the middle of the field is German Michael Ballack, a guy who plays the game the way it should be played - extremely physical every second of the match, yet not a dirty player. He cemented his reputation as one of the best players in the world at the 2002 World Cup, where, as a 25 year-old, he helped lead Germany to the finals. He is now past his prime, but he's still a lock-down player, almost like a Ray Lewis type.

So saddle up to the telly, gents. With a DVR and a cup of hot joe, you can buzz through each match in less than two hours.

TGIF Ghoogles and Nationals Update

Not a whole lot to see here, but a few of them gave me a chuckle...
[Tiny Editor's Annoying Note to Me: I was told to explain what "the ghoogles" post is all about. These are the most recent search terms that somehow, someway led people to this little corner of the blogosphere. Happy rob?]
  • peed on my rug
  • i hate kyle because
  • summer homework
  • blog.gheorghe
  • kato little yellow friend
  • loyal vernon bouldin
  • home work blogs
  • 1980 movie about gymnastics
  • gheorghe the blog
  • summer homework
  • alfonso ribeiro shirtless
  • i love this job more than i love taffy
  • randy newman blogspot
  • john staluppi felon
  • the oc seth fluffer
  • Are Ben Olson, P Cowan still on UCLA football squad for 2009?
  • salvador dali a mason
  • let's have a bachelor party with chicks
  • rhymeo rob
What I'm not chuckling about is the Nats inability to gain ground on the other league chumps. My in-person support last night did them no good...perhaps tonight's apperance will work out better.

-Cincinnati Reds, 51-69, 9 up
-Pittsburgh Pirates, 49-70, 8 up
-Baltimore Orioles, 49-72, 6 up
-San Diego Padres, 51-72, 6 up
-Kansas City Royals, 47-73, 5 games "up"
-Washington Nationals, 43-78

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Travesty of Apostrophic Proportions

His name was J'Nathan Bullock.
His name was J'Nathan Bullock.

It seemed simple. Buried in the Transactions section of your local sports section on Monday, below the Favre news, the box scores, the day's Yonkers Raceway post times and some NCAA Football previews, was this brief news item:

TE J'Nathan Bullock was cut by the New York Jets on Sunday.

It is, after all, that time of the year. Each NFL team's Turks march through the training camp facilities to play Grim Reaper and cut short a dream for a prospect. "Coach wants to see you. Bring your playbook."

But this news is not all that it seems. Bullock's cut was not due to his inexperience, even though the four-year starter for Cleveland State's basketball team never played a game of college football. It wasn't due to the team's depth at the tight end position. And it wasn't due to his poor hands during drills at camp, even though he dropped every pass that wasn't chucked right into his bread-basket.

Sadly, this transaction was due to the most sinister of sectarian biases still lurking in the NFL. It's a practice not formally acknowledged, that resides in the shadows of ignorant men's minds. We are not talking about racism, anti-semitism, homosexuality or NFL rookie hazing. We are speaking about Anti-Apostrophe Bias.

As the 21st century evolves, progressive pundits in the media like to talk about the seemingly well-intentioned Rooney Rule, created by Dan Rooney, former owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, to promote minority hiring in the NFL. But what they don't mention was that Rooney, a long-time Freemason, was a noted hater of apostrophied first names. Pittsburgh's recent hiring of Mike Tomlin as head coach was merely an effort by the Rooney family to cloud that hatred under a thin veil of racial equality. But the intrepid investigative reporting team here at G:TB feels it is time to lift this skirt up and take a look at what's festering underneath.

In the days since the Rooney family cast a pall over the NFL's hiring decisions, some fine men with apostrophes have blazed trails of perseverance, sacrificing themselves for the future well-being of similarly named souls. The genesis of this movement can be traced back to the Indianapolis Colts' controversial drafting of O'Brien Alston in 1988. Not surprisingly, we saw how things played out. After a couple promising seasons, Alston fell off the NFL landscape, hampered by bad knees. What few people know is that Alston's knees were damaged when he was bludgeoned by baseball bats swung by teammates, including this noted Anti-Apostrophist, in a heinous Co'de Red assault during the 1990 training camp.

In subsequent years, brave souls such as Le'Shai Maston, Tre' Johnson, D'Marco Farr and 'Omar Ellison carried Alston's torch with mixed results. And the next generation continues that march. Men like Dre' Bly, Na'il Diggs, D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Donte' Stallworth show that those with apostrophes in their first name are neither feeble nor dangerous behind the wheel (except, well, Donte'), and can be productive members of the NFL society.

But the decision to cut Bullock smacks of a clear line in the sand to the current NFL players trying to brave the animosity and eke out a living. The Order of the Apostrophe ("OFTA"), an apostophe advocacy group created by D'Qwell Jackson, Tre' Stallings and J'Vonne Parker, was taken aback by the transaction.

"We thought we had come a long way, especially after the Giants' signing of Sha'reff Rashad, but to see this happen in a large, liberal city like New York reminds us that we have a lot of work to do to educate the masses," says the Redskins' D'Anthony Batiste, OFTA's Vice Chairman for Community Awareness.

Making the situation worse, anti-apostrophe bias seems to be proliferating. Just last week, the Bears' Will Ta'ufo'ou was granted provisional membership in OFTA after receiving death threats in the mail.

"The letters come from all over. People want me dead. Or they just want to ridicule me. Just last week, a man from Sheboygan wrote a letter to me and called me and my family a bunch of dumb dildos because we have two consonants, two apostrophes and five vowels in my last name. My kids shouldn't have to read things like that. They didn't ask for this," says Ta'ufo'ou.

So the uphill climb continues for the unfairly maligned gridiron warriors. Solid citizens like Seattle's Na'Shan Goddard, Denver's Andre' Goodman and Pittsburgh's Ra'Shon Harris will have to continue living in the shadows, watching over their shoulders, hoping the axe won't unfairly fall on their careers, thanks to the hatred fomented by Rooney, his beloved Freemasons or known apostrophe hater Jimmy Johnson. Role players like Sen'Derrick Marks at Tennessee, Le'Ron McClain of Baltimore and the Saints' D'Juan Woods will continue to see their playing time minimized in an effort to suppress their salaries.

As noted Apostrophic Equality crusader Jerry Glanville once said, the NFL stands for Not For Long. Not for long indeed when you have an apostrophe in your name.

His name was J'Nathan Bullock.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I Go to the Indiana State Fair...and Survive (Barely)

Some of you may remember I had a pretty fun time at the fair last year, so I figured this time around I'd chronicle my gastronomical conquests in picture form for our loyal readers (right now rob is sobbing in his office, realizing this is the post that pushes his LeBron extravaganza down the page). No more intro required, let the gluttony begin...

Arrive at the fair

It's 95 degrees and humid as shit. I'm a moron and didn't wear a t-shirt. Land war in this blunder. Tough start to day.

Regular corn dog, small diet Pepsi

I mean, it's the fair. You've got to start with a corn dog. And you have to be careful in your corn dog selections - they need to be fresh out of the fryer or else they're not worth it. If you go to a stand that only has corn dogs rotating on a rack, move on. It's not like you're limited in corn dog stand choices.

Pick up free Blow Pop from Better Business Bureau of Indiana at ridiculous Expo Hall

The BBB slogan? "Don't Be a Sucker". Seriously folks, the team of monkeys you had working around the clock couldn't come up with something better? [Note: Blow Pop was eaten as "dessert" exactly 12 hours later]

Sample Shoup's new hogburger

It's freakin' delicious. Went back through the line two more times.

Photo op with Indiana state hero Veal Armstrong...and a talking goat

Stepping into the different animal barns at the fair is like walking through a portal into another dimension. A dimension of denim and poor dental hygiene. Hard to describe, but entertaining as all hell.

Pulled pork BBQ sandwich from the Indiana Pork Association, another diet Pepsi
You like how I keep getting the diet sodas, as if that's gonna make a difference?

Snack on other people's absurd World Famous King Taters

What exactly are they, you say? Take a look.

Fish fry (jackson pollock white fish), yet another small diet Pepsi

The fish fry stand had zero shade around it. I almost passed out waiting for this item.

Ribeye steak sandwich at Indiana Beef Association tent, a Lemonade

Starting to develop some serious stomach issues at this point, had to stop halfway through this sandwich as I had the meat sweats. Genuine concern is starting to show on the folks I am at the fair with. Burgess Meredith urges me on.

Deep fried pizza, more diet Pepsi

In six hours I've developed diabetes and have surely clogged three arteries. And a big middle finger to deep fried pizza. What a disappointment. I assumed we would take a slice of pie, dip it in a fryer, and then hand it to me. Nope - the dough is simply fried and then lathered with marinara sauce and some cheese. Of course I still ate the whole damn thing.

Deep fried cookie dough

Anyone had a portable defibrillator?

One chicken tender, one fry, one ping only

By now we are at the Keith Urban concert at the fair (I would never be called a country music fan by any stretch, but I have now seen this guy twice, and he puts on a damn good show). Apparently, if you are a female going to a Keith Urban concert, you wear daisy dukes so short the pockets show and cowboy boots that make you like like an Amarillo whore. And you wear that no matter what shape or size you are. I was partially blinded by some of the sartorial choices.

Exit fair.
Victory pose. Note corndog stick in right hand.

Obviously, I have no choice but to go back next year. However, I need your help in deciding how I'll entertain myself in Year 3, without ended up in the ICU of St. Vincent's.

Monday, August 17, 2009

More Than a Blog Post

So LeBron James walks in, and I shake his hand and say, 'Hi, I'm Rob from Gheorghe: the Blog'. Surreal? Oh, yeah.

I suppose an explanation is in order.

Friend of G:TB Shlara is both connected and a little bit of a marketing genius. LeBron and his high school teammates from St. Vincent-St. Mary's High School are featured in a forthcoming documentary entitled More Than a Game (Lionsgate). The movie started as a film school project for Akron native Kris Belman, a 10-minute documentary assignment by a novice filmmaker. The fact that it became a feature length film is nearly as unlikely as the story of our involvement.

One of Shlara's friends is responsible for the film's public relations push in Washington, D.C. One online introduction and several incredulous emails later, we received confirmation that G:TB's voice fit with the film's promotional strategy (I know what you're saying, and I agree. I wasn't aware that we had a voice. Again with Shlara's genius.) And that's how I found myself in a room at the Ritz-Carlton interviewing Dru Joyce III, Willie McGee, Romeo Travis, Kris Belman, and yes, LeBron James as part of a panel comprising three real journalists and one still-bewildered blogger.

We'll provide a review of the film itself closer to the October 2 release date - believe me, we've got a ton of material. Suffice it for now to say that I'd highly recommend More Than a Game to anyone who has a father, or children, or friends. This post is mostly about us. Forgive the indulgence; next time we get into the end zone we'll act like we've been there before.

The PR team confirmed the interview with us early last Wednesday. I spent the better part of the next two days trying hard not to puke. What do I wear? What do I ask? Could I talk about mustaches? I wanted the participants to think I knew what I was doing, even though the last interview I conducted was as the editor of the Woodbridge Senior High School newspaper. And that was probably with one of my friends. I didn't want to piss off the professional writers who were doing their jobs. I sure as hell didn't want to let Shlara down in front of her friend. Did I mention that I didn't want to puke?

Before the interview, Shlara, Teejay and I attended a press screening of the film at Regal 14 Cinemas in the District. (We'd have pictures of Teej with Kevin Durant, but for the fact that Shlara is as technology-clueless as she is public relations-savvy). Father-turned-coach Dru Joyce II opens the film saying, "Basketball is a vehicle." In his telling, it's a vehicle to build character, to turn boys to men, to teach even adults the lessons hard won in failure. In the words of Belman, the director of the documentary, it's also a vehicle to tell a story about loyalty. About fathers and sons, brothers - in arms and in fact - and best friends. About sacrifice and redemption and passion. The movie benefits from a cinematically perfect real-world narrative arc upon which Hollywood's finest scriptwriters would be hard-pressed to improve. And in a great many ways, it's about all of us. As it was pointed out to me earlier today, if the St. Vincent-St. Mary's guys had a blog, it'd be like Gheorghe, only with different YouTubes and more posts about sneaker culture.

Gheorghe: the Blog hasn't traditionally been a venue for deep thought. It was conceived by a bored middle manager as a reaction against raging self-importance in sport and society, and evolved into, well, I'm not sure it's evolved much - we're still mostly an exercise in niche entertainment. Over its nearly six years, though, it's become a metaphor for the brotherhood and camaraderie we share in real life, a bond that might have been weakened by time and distance kept intact. A pale electronic echo, in some sense, but real nonetheless. In the same way, the four boys who began their basketball careers at a Salvation Army in Akron, OH (joined later by a fifth) stand in for everyone who's ever laughed with, fought, yelled at, mocked, heckled, and loved their buddies. LeBron and the boys are a mirror image of the G:TB team. A funhouse mirror image, for sure, but the similarities resonated with me throughout this experience.

After seeing the movie, nearly all of my nerves disappeared. (Nearly, but not entirely all. I almost spilled coffee on myself as I killed time before the interview because my hands were shaking so much.) As portrayed on film, and revealed in a question-and-answer session immediately after the screening, Dru, Willie, Romeo, LeBron, and Sian are a likable, friendly, comfortable, natural group. One of them just happens to be among the most transcendently gifted athletes in the world. The interview itself flew by in an instant. I tried hard to be respectful of the other interviewers, and tried even harder to listen to the conversation instead of thinking about my own questions. My only regret was not asking the group their thoughts about Gheorghe Muresan; that'll be the first thing I ask the next time I talk to LeBron.

Thanks to the enterprising Teejay Doyle, Team G:TB purchased a digital voice recorder in advance of the interview, enabling me to capture the transcript that follows. I'll note for the record that I have a substantial newfound respect for real journalists and how hard it is to both conjure insightful questions and transcribe the responses accurately. I think I did okay on the former, and I hope I've done the latter, with apologies in advance to the Fab Five if I missed a word or two. The following reflects answers to questions posed by G:TB only, though as I noted above, we've got tons of material. Enough for a few more of these posts in the runup to the movie's release. Our loyal readers have become accustomed to redundancy as an editorial strategy, so this should be nothing new.

Willie McGee and Dru Joyce II joined us first. These questions are for them.

G:TB: He (Director Kris Belman) got a lot of stuff from you guys, sort of after the fact (note: the film features interviews conducted with each of the players in the present day). You guys sorta opened up and were really comfortable talking about a lot of stuff. Was that because of the comfort level you guys have with each other, or was it just kinda the guys you are?

Willie McGee: I think it was that Coach Dru gave his blessing. At the time we had a lot of media at practices around at times. He said it was a college student doing his project and really gave his blessing for him to be in the gym at times. Like Dru said (note: in response to a previous question), he really wasn't in our faces. He just kinda let things unfold. Plus, he was a good guy, y'know joking around. And after a period of time, we really became comfortable with him. It was like he was a friend who just had a camera.

Dru Joyce III: I think the questions, when we sat down and started doing our first interviews...we're a real comfortable group. We give you realness and if you ask the right questions and get the conversation rolling, we have no problem sharing our story. I mean, because we've been blessed, you know, been blessed with a great opportunity, and who wouldn't want to tell their story. We've got so much to offer.

Willie McGee: All we need is someone to listen (laughter).

G:TB (to Kris Belman, who had just entered the room): We were just asking them how you got them to open up...

Kris Belman: What'd they say?

G:TB: Well, they said they're the kind of guys who like to tell their story anyway. Were you surprised to get that level of openness in some of the interviews and dialogue?

Kris Belman: Well, I think it was kind of two things. I think, first of all, with them loyalty to all five of them and Coach, I think loyalty is one of the most important things. And I think a lot of that was exemplified by the way they grew up. I think loyalty was of the utmost paramount, and, you know, once they did accept me and what I was trying to do I was kind of accepted and that loyalty was given to me. It's one of those situations where when you're on the in, they'll do anything for you. Pretty early on, that trust was given to me. I asked for photos, I called Romeo up and said, 'Hey, I need photos of you', he'd FedEx a giant box the next day of the original baby footprints and original photos of him as a baby. That's unbelievable to me, you know? I'm in college, I'm in L.A., and his family trusts me that much they're sending me his original baby photos. That's the trust that you get when you're on the inside with these guys because loyalty's so important. But as far as getting some of those interviews and so on, I don't know, I feel like it was just because we'd been together for so long at that point I was going back and doing more and more interviews and most of the interviews in the finished film were shot after knowing the guys for five or six years. I think that trust allowed us to go into certain areas that maybe a year in they wouldn't have been comfortable going into.

G:TB (to Dru Joyce III): You could probably look at how tall I am (note to our new readers: not very) and see who I identified most in the film. (laughter from Dru, who stood all of 4'10" when he played for St. VM as a freshman) One of the other things I identified with was that, you know, my Dad was a lot, I think, like your Dad when he was coaching me. And in our relationship there were times when it was kind of strained. For you, watching that again on the screen, what was that like and how do you think that affects you as you want to move into coaching and someday have kids of your own?

Dru Joyce III: I think my Dad did a wonderful job. The film tells the real tough times, it goes into the times that weren't good, but, y'know, our relationship was never broken. I just want to put that in the clear. It was never broken. We were always there for each other. He was always there for me no matter what was going on, that didn't separate us. But, you know, there were tough times where I probably couldn't stand him. I didn't want to hear another word from him. And he was tough on me, but things like that, they pay off. And I'm living the payoff right now. I went to college to play Division I basketball - that was a dream of mine. I'm playing professional basketball - that was another dream of mine. I pay tribute to how my Dad coached me, because he put the basketball in my hand and he made me work, and those things that he taught me can never be replaced.

Note: It's not a spoiler to note here that Willie McGee moved from Chicago as an 11 year-old to escape a tough environment and live with his brother, Illya, in Akron when the latter was a senior in college. And it'll help the next question make a lot more sense.

G:TB: Willie, one of my favorite parts of the movie was your relationship with your brother. I'm 39 years old, I have a 7 year-old daughter, and I don't feel like I'm ready. You're roughly now the same age as he was when you came down. Have you thought about that, and what something like that would mean for you?

Willie McGee: Yes, I definitely have. I definitely give him credit for being man enough to take on the challenge. Because he didn't know what was ahead of him. Two years ago, I thought the same thing. It was at that time that he brought me here and would I be ready to do the same things like that, and I don't know if I would have. But if I had to, I would, for my younger brother. It'd be something we'd go through together and I'd give him everything I had. And I definitely commend him for that.

Romeo Travis enters the room, and Willie McGee leaves

G:TB: You guys played for Coach Dambrot there (at Akron University - Dru Joyce III and Romeo Travis played there after graduating from St. Vincent - St. Mary's for Keith Dambrot, who coached them to two state championships during their first two seasons in high school), right? How was the transition going back to him after playing for Coach Dru (Joyce II)?

Dru Joyce III: It was kind of like a 3-year break. We did 2 years with my father (note: as head coach) and another year while he was the assistant. It was different because he (Coach Dambrot) couldn't approach the game the same way he did as when we were in high school. The passion and his effort was still there, but his philosophy had to change a little bit because, you know, college is a different level. It was kinda surprising to me. i thought, you know, it was just Coach D, we're gonna just pick everybody up from the locker room and we're gonna push the ball until everybody in the gym is tired of looking at us. But that wasn't the case - we had to play a different style. I think it catered more to the rest of the team, but Coach D, what you see is what you get. You seen him jumping in the film, stomping his feet and pointing, still sticking his face right here (puts his hand on his chin) in guys' faces. That doesn't change. That's what he's gonna do.

Romeo Travis: Going to college was like getting demoted.

G:TB: How long did it take you to - sounds like you never got comfortable with it, but how long did it take you to work in that environment?

Romeo Travis: Until my junior year. Well, he was a point guard (gestures toward Dru Joyce III). When you're a point guard they let you lead, but I'm a forward, so it takes a lot longer for me. But once I became pushed to the forefront as one of the better players, it's easy. My sophomore and junior year, that's when it was more like, I can say how I feel and be able to talk to other guys.

LeBron James enters the room with Willie McGee. He's tall, but leaner than I expected. Wore Size 15 Ferragamos. I know because he put them up on the table, completely at ease in the environment.

G:TB: Is there something in the film that really stuck out to you as positive, and is there something that you wish wasn't there?

Dru Joyce III: It's a documentary. It's supposed to tell the truth. I like the film. I don't have any problems. It includes the necessary things for us to get the point across and to tell the story. It's all a positive message, even when we lose our minds a little bit, it shows you that people can get off course but you can always get it back, you can always refocus.

G:TB: When you guys lost to Roger Bacon (in the 2002 Ohio Division II State Championship game. Kind of a spoiler, but it is public knowledge, my friends.), how much did Coach Dru have to push you guys the next year, and how much did you guys just say, 'we're not gonna do that again'?

LeBron James: He didn't have to push us at all. That one loss was an eye-opener for us, so that probably was the easiest coaching year Coach Dru had, our senior year because we was just focused.

Romeo Travis: We governed ourselves that year. If one of us actually did something, somebody else would yell 'get it together'. So it was like that loss changed our attitudes.

At this point a revealing discussion regarding the number of sellouts in the history of Cleveland's Gund Arena (now Quicken Loans Arena) ensued. It was probably my favorite part of the interview.

LeBron James: ...only sold out two times that year [their senior season]; once when we played and once when Michael Jordan came back with the Wizards.

Dru Joyce III: They only sold out [Gund/Quicken] two times in history.

LeBron James: ...hmm, yeah, before then. It's probably happened a few times now. They sell out a lot now. (smiling, eyes twinkling, while the others groan)

G:TB: Alright, so when he does stuff like that, do you guys give it back to him? Is it different now? (Yeah, that's right. I just broke LeBron James' balls. Sort of. A little. Tiny. Bit.)

Dru Joyce III: It's coming right back.

Romeo Travis: What I've learned is, you can't really listen to half the stuff he says. It's just gonna be outlandish. (laughter) It's just gonna be out of control. If you try to [accurately] depict everything he says, you're gonna be frustrated.

G:TB: As you look back, you know, six/seven years ago [when you were in high school], is there something you wish you could have carried forward to today that you don't have anymore?

Romeo Travis: I wish I didn't have to pay bills.

Dru Joyce III: I wish I was still playing with these guys, man. I never had teammates who shared that passion for winning and wanted to work hard to win. At all levels, I just never was on a team that had that same passion. It makes it tough at times. It's frustrating when you get guys out there who really don't care if we lost, it's not a big deal to them. Because it's a big deal to me. And I want everybody to feel like it's a big deal.

G:TB: You still feel it every game? Every loss?

Dru Joyce III: Man, I hate losing. (note: I take it back. This was my favorite part of the interview. Dru Joyce III will be a terrific leader of men, as a coach or whatever he chooses, when he retires from basketball.)

(L-R: Romeo Travis, Your Humble Blogger, Willie McGee, LeBron James, Dru Joyce III)

After the interview concluded, as the public relations team moved us quickly on our way in a precisely choreographed dance, I managed to get the photo you see above. The four friends from Akron could not have been more congenial about it, welcoming me into the photo and then chiding me good-naturedly later as I botched a picture for another of the participants. The friendly mocking tone was so familiar that I didn't even think to be embarrassed. I've taken much worse from my own friends. I walked from the hotel - bounced, really - buzzed on adrenaline and relief. And convinced more than ever that true friendship is a gift that transcends money, fame, and glory. Make plans to see More Than a Game when it comes out. You'll see what I mean.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Anticipation Killing U2?

As if the wanting wave can't rise any higher for G:TB's exclusive report on 08/17/2009, here's an approved piece of film making that just might put (at least 2) readers over the Edge... Realizing we're not preaching to a documentary sort of crowd, anyone can appreciate the shear coolness of the guitar. And unlike this director's previous film, An Inconvenient Truth, even Republicans won't be able to argue the importance of the subject matter's existence in world culture. If nothing else it'll slow the burn of the ruin of the Bert and Ernie clip. Oh, and Jack White makes a guitar out of a 2x4, a coke bottle and a rusty piece of wire. How slick is that? Check it...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

YouTube Filler Fit For A King

Yeah, you know what you're about to see...again...and you know you still love it:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Open Thread

U.S. v. Mexico at Azteca Stadium this afternoon at 4:00 EST. Consider this your open thread for comments. At least until we post something better.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Healthcare Reform

You know you were dangerously obese when this picture accurately reflects your relative heft as 'svelte'. Good for you, Coach Fridge. Now go out there and finish .500.

(h/t to the Steinbog)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Monday Filler: Fashion

Maybe it's a sign that I'm really ready for football season. Maybe I'm just trying to forget what happened in the Bronx this weekend. Maybe it's the ungodly heat. Whatever the reason, I found the Titans' 1960 throwback unis more than a little bit awesome last night. They should wear these all the time, and not just the three times they plan to in 2009.

Friday, August 07, 2009

John Hughes R.I.P.

Somewhere in southwestern US, John Hughes' body has been tied to a chair and is riding down the highway on the roof of a station wagon . . .

The writers at Gheorghe: The Blog have assembled to pay tribute to dearly departed director/producer/writer John Hughes with a post about . . . the writers at Gheorghe: The Blog. (That's what we do.) In an doubled-edged effort to salute one of the finest moviemakers of our formative years, we're going to grant you readers a touch of insight into who we are. We present to you, straight from our home office in Shermer, Illinois:

The List of Gheorghe Contributors as John Hughes Movie Characters


As an hors d'oeuvre, we're going to throw out there a nice pair: our steady female commentors, KQ and Shlara. There was much debate over whether they were Weird Science's Deb & Hilly or Samantha Baker and her fairly hot friend she rode the school bus with; the last minute winner, however, was depicting our two lady-friends as The Princess and The Basket Case. And it was pretty obvious to us which was which.

Perfect Quotes:
"Do you know how popular I am? I am so popular. Everybody loves me so much at this school"
"I've done just about everything there is except a few things that are illegal. I'm a nymphomaniac."

When conducting this exercise, we first asked folks which character they saw for themselves, and just like 15 years ago when Rob picked Michael J. Fox to portray him in the movie version of our lives when we all knew Gary Burghoff would get the nod, he aimed high. After inducing a chuckle with a pretty good wisecrack ("I kinda have to be Jake Ryan, right?"), he amused us with more serious suggestions as well: the guy everybody wanted to be -- Ferris Bueller -- and Eric Stoltz's Keith Nelson character in Some Kind of Wonderful, attributable to Rob's unhealthy sexual obsession with Lea Thompson that has lasted beyond all statutes of limitations. He did provide more self-deprecating offerings in the form of AMH roles -- Gary Wallace and Brian Johnson, but the rest of us already had someone else in mind. It came down to his diminutive stature, his likable qualities (also diminutive, said one entrant), his quick-witted sarcasm, and his "pining for the wrong girl in high school," as one person put it...
He's Duckie.

Perfect Quote:
"His name is Blane? Oh! That's a major appliance, that's not a name!"(making fun of less-than-masculine names to take the attention off the real issues, of course)

Just because most of us have never been in the same barroom (or any room, for that matter) as Mark doesn't preclude us from labeling him with a Hughes character. Far from it. We had lots of suggestions, from "BOTH robbers from Home Alone" (presumably Pesci's height and Stern's intellect) to Chet Donnelly (Mark's not dickish enough... not quite) to John Bender (same, and Bender has good hair) to the bald biker from Weird Science. All good stabs, but they're all in some way superficial characterizations. The Mark we've gotten to know is more complex than that. He's highly clever. He's definitely not to be trifled with, though he's just a kid. Pretty much a pain in the ass. He's a little set apart from the rest of us because of his geographic location (and the fact that he never did time at W&M). And here at G:TB, he's found a sort of home. Alone. Yep, this punk is Kevin McAllister, and he's currently changing his Facebook picture to the shot of him screaming after he puts on the aftershave.

Nah, on second thought he's Charlie Sheen's character in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Perfect Quote:
Boy in Police Station: Drugs?
Jeannie: Thank you, no. I'm straight.
Boy in Police Station: I meant, are you in here for drugs?
Jeannie: Why are you here?
Boy in Police Station: Drugs.

Dennis doesn't come around these parts as often as, say Teejay, so this should be highly informational for you readers. We had suggestions such as Rusty Griswold, Dick Vernon, the loogie-hocking pickup driver in Planes, Trains, & Automobiles, and Blaine McDonough. Hard to get a bead there, eh? This should help: Dennis is someone of upstanding moral character in his community, but when he breaks bad, look out. He's not just a tough guy but the kid with brooding intensity, intelligence, and emotion; he's the one who comes off bad-assed and strong but who's suffering deep down and just wants to go crazy, to wail on Larry Lester's buns or dance like crazy in a tank top. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Dennis, or as he's known in celluloid, Andrew Clark.

Perfect Quote: "If I lose my temper you're totaled, man."

Ah, the ever elusive TR. Once known as Rhymenocerous, also The Iron Sheikh, also Tim the Enchanter. (TR is actually his initials: Thad Rigby is his real name.) And when it came to picking characters, there were just as many entries of equally diverse origin. The gayest pick was Kevin Bacon's Jake Briggs character from She's Having a Baby. I won't divulge which G:TBer confessed to come up with that one all too quickly, but let's just say Duckie and move on. We also got another Chet, another John Bender, a Beethoven, a Grandpa Fred, an Abe Froman the Sausage King of Chicago, and my favorite pick, Long Duk Dong. In the end, however, TR is quite clearly Cousin Eddie. His audacious demeanor matches his attire (he'd be the first to don the dickey in this group), he's quick with a joke and he makes us all chuckle at the very image of him. Is that real tomato ketchup, TR?

Perfect Quote: "Mornin' Clark. Shitter's full."

Got just a few picks here, a Jack Butler (Mr. Mom), a Cameron Frye, and a Jake Ryan (self-pick). And some commentary about leading men, strong and handsome, the guy who always lands the hot babe, etc. Yeah. The consensus soon enough indicated that I am indeed . . . Clark W. Griswold. Equal parts lovable family man and inept clown, there seem to be enough parallels that there was no protesting Sparky. Time to pack up the Truckster and head to WalleyWorld, I guess.

Perfect Quote: "My credo is . . . if you have to have a credo, you know . . . 'Go for it' . . . pretty much."

And finally we get to Teejay. It's here that we have our first tie. Fortunately, both characters are played by the same actor, a late, great funny man with more than a few years of comedy experience under his belt. There were thoughts of little brother Mike Baker, Ed Rooney (TJ's mustache was spitting image), Dutch, and the girl in the Ferrari, but they quickly fell by the wayside at first mention of these two perfect picks: Uncle Buck and Del Griffith. Who doesn't love these guys? Yeah, they might seem abrasive at first, but after just a few years of spending time with them, you realize their greatness. TJ, you're welcome.

Perfect Quotes: "Art Linkletter was right. Kids do say the God damnedest things."
"Six bucks and my left nut says we're not going to be landing in Chicago."

(but I also love this exchange...)
Del: You play with your balls a lot.
Neal: I do NOT play with my balls.
Del: Larry Bird doesn't do as much ball-handling in one night as you do in an hour!
Neal: Are you trying to start a fight?
Del: No. I'm simply stating a fact. That's all. You fidget with your nuts a lot.
Neal: You know what'd make me happy?
Del: Another couple of balls, and an extra set of fingers?


Friday, August 7, 2009.
Gheorghe: The Blog.
Dear Mr. Vernon, We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Friday morning coming up with this post for whatever it was we did wrong. What we did *was* wrong. But we think you're crazy to make us write a blogpost telling you who we think we are. What do you care? You see us as you want to see us - in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. You see us as Duckie, Kevin, or the stoned guy, Andrew, Eddie, Clark, Buck, and Del. Correct? That's the way we saw each other at 7:00 this morning. We were brainwashed.

Hey, hey, hey, hey

Won't you come see about me?
I'll be alone, dancing you know it baby

Tell me your troubles and doubts

Giving me everything inside and out and

Love's strange so real in the dark

Think of the tender things that we were working on

Slow change may pull us apart

When the light gets into your heart, baby

Don't You Forget About Me

Don't Don't Don't Don't

Don't You Forget About Me

Will you call my name?
As you walk on by

Will you call my name?

Or will you walk away?
Will you walk on by?

Come on - call my name

Will you call my name?

I say:
La la la la

La la la la la la la la la la...

Prank Bet Update: Nats on Fire

Whit, in case you're not closely monitoring Riggleman's Rough Riders, the fellas notched win number 5 in a row last night, and now stand at 37-72 for the year (wow does that look atrocious in print). Somewhat amazingly, Jim Riggleman is 11-11 in his first 22 games as Nationals manager. Get that guy a medal. Or at least a pastel-colored participation ribbon.

Despite how freakin' sad their overall record is, let's take a look at how the Nats stand compared to the other dregs of the league (we'll be using the loss column to track Washington's progress up the slippery slope of sucktitude):
  • Baltimore Orioles, 45-63, 9 up
  • Pittsburgh Pirates, 45-63, 9 up
  • San Diego Padres, 45-65, 7 up
  • Kansas City Royals, 42-66, 6 games "up"
  • Washington Nationals, 37-72
(Cleveland, Cincy and Oakland, all 10+ games better than the Nats right now, avoid the list this week. But the way Dusty Baker skippers a club, don't be surprised to see the Reds giving the Nats a run for their money very soon.)

I need to avoid getting my hopes up though, just wait...Dunn might clear waivers, so he'll be gone. The young arms might stink it up even more than Craig Stammen yesterday (1.2 IP, 5ER). Elijah Dukes might physically assault Rob Dibble over the weekend (we can only hope). Somehow, someway, these guys are gonna tie one of these shit teams in a couple weeks, then tear off an epic losing streak to end the year, costing me a case of Golden, CO's finest beverage. Because, after all, they are the Nats.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Worlds Colliding

G:TB's sphere of interest is expansive, spanning sports, facial hair, scotch, and public policy, just to name a very few. Imagine our glee, then, when two of our favorite subjects intersect, and in a manner that's exceedingly absurd. And if the absurdity is of our making, well, so much the better.

Last week, teddy bear/roid monger David Ortiz expressed bewilderment about reports that he'd tested postive for performance enhancing drugs. In a prepared statement, Ortiz said in part, "I have already contacted the Players Association to confirm if this report is true. I have just been told that the report is true. Based on the way I have lived my life, I am surprised to learn I tested positive."

Today, as reported by the Toronto Star, Papi "is still waiting for additional information regarding a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003. Before last night's game at Tampa Bay, Ortiz said he will share the information, including what was in his system, with the Red Sox and the public. "I'm trying to," Ortiz said. "It's frustrating, but I'm trying to get to the bottom of this. I think about it every day."

The solution, ladies and gentlemen, is as plain as the glove on your hand. We have an active athlete in the middle of a heated pennant race, obviously too busy to focus on what is sure to be a tedious and long-ranging investigation into the truth. In a happy coincidence, we have a retired athlete with several years experience "investigating" specious self-made claims and all the time in the world to pursue the various rabbit trails a thorough examination of Papi's drug story would entail.

Papi, meet O.J. O.J., Papi. If the test ain't there, conviction ain't fair.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

I didn't even have to use my AK...

I've always maintained that one of the main reasons why Nike is so much more successful than any of their counterparts in the athletic shoe/apparel industry(besides a superior products line, higher profile celebrity endorsers, an autocratic founder and cheap Asian child labor) is because they have fantastic advertising people.

Seriously, think back and recall your top 3 favorite Nike commercials of all time. I could probably give you my top ten without taking too much time. There this one...and this one and this one. (Note: These aren't my top 3 but they definitely make the Top 10).

Now try and think of your top 3 favorite commercials by all the other athletic shoe/apparel companies combined....not much comes to mind, does it? As a way to further this idea, just think what the good folks at Nike could've done with an original, iconic person/personality like Allen Iverson had he signed on with them instead of Reebok. His shoes were clunky, his commercials were pedestrian and they never even created a longstanding logo for the guy. For Christ's sake, Iverson became a cultural icon almost in spite of Reebok. So, what's the point of all this? Essentially, there is none. Nike has the best advertising people around. They can make you care about people (and products) you normally wouldn't care about through the sheer originality and brilliance of their ads (even if only for a minute or two). Don't believe me? Well, watch this new Nike ad for Paul Rodriguez's new shoe.

Now, I like skateboarding and enjoy skate videos. TJ, on the other hand, probably doesn't know who Paul Rodriguez or Eric Koston is (Koston's the skater in the plaid shirt) and damn sure doesn't give a damn about skateboarding. But, I bet you he watched that whole video, and enjoyed it too. I'm betting you did as well.

Carry on.

Still Searching for Our Purpose

Morning silliness courtesy of Andrew Sullivan. More film family portraits here.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Public Policy, Part Deux

Today's episode of pseudo-intellectual week at G:TB focuses on a public policy question of a different sort. Since last August, employees of the State of Utah have worked four 10-hour days each week, with Friday becoming an actual part of the weekend as opposed to its mere de facto status in the rest of the country.

Among other results, Utah reports directly reducing energy costs by $1.8 million by limiting demand for electricity and saving 12,000 metric tons of greenhouse emissions. Sales of weak, low-alcohol beer have skyrocketed, as well. On the downside, Utahans have had 20% more time to contemplate the fact that they live in Utah.

The politics of the G:TB effectively span the spectrum, so I'm interested in the responses to this post. Does Utah have it right? Would you prefer to work this schedule? And how would you market a four-day workweek if you were smoking pot at the same time?

Monday, August 03, 2009

Summer Homework

I suspect this little thought experiment may yield some interesting responses from the G:TB community:

And, yeah, this is the best I can do after a week spent doing nothing so mentally taxing as calculating high and low tide.