February 28, 2010

An offseason checklist for the Philadelphia Eagles.

As we all prepare for NFL free agency to officially begin on Friday, the Philadelphia Eagles have a lot of work to do. Specifically, three areas must be addressed: defensive line, safety and quarterback.

On the defensive line front, (surprise surprise) the Eagles should make a serious push for Julius Peppers.

Is there risk involved? Absolutely; he's a 30-year-old defensive end. Jevon Kearse was 27 when he came in, and we saw how quickly he broke down. And, perhaps more importantly, will even a healthy Peppers put up the kind of numbers that would justify a $13-14 million a year contract? Probably not.

But he would add serious firepower to a line that was taken out back and spanked by the Dallas Cowboys two weeks in a row. For a while there, Juqua Parker, Darren Howard and company held up relatively well across from Trent Cole, but as last season winded down, the other end position became a revolving door of suck. And while I like Mike Patterson and Broderick Bunkley, they almost never bring pressure from the inside.

Someone like Peppers, at the very least, makes people stop and take notice. You can't double or triple-team Cole when a guy with 81 career sacks is coming at you from the other end. Plus, Peppers is three inches taller and twenty pounds heavier than Kearse. Comparing them, as I did no more than two paragraphs ago, is not entirely fair. He's a monster on the line, and the Eagles are a team that's not afraid to spend big bucks on a defensive star.

Hopefully, the same will go for the safety position. Antrel Rolle is about to be released by the Cardinals, Darren Sharper is old but unrestricted, and Nick Collins, Antoine Bethea and O.J. Atogwe are all available, albeit casualties of the inexplicable "2010 restricted free agent rules in preparation for the big stupid upcoming work stoppage." By the way, letting them call it a "work stoppage" is a bunch of crap. It's a strike or a lockout; a strike if the players are refusing to play, a lockout if the owners aren't letting them. Neither of those terms, however, bring back pleasant memories for sports fans; there's no doubt in my mind that "work stoppage" is the key ingredient in the latest batch of NFL PR bullshit.

But anyway, the Eagles need a safety. In the most unsurprising move in the history of football, rookie Macho Harris and mediocre soon-to-be journeyman Sean Jones did not fill Brian Dawkins' shoes. Even a step-slower Dawkins could have made all the difference in the world last year. It would behoove the Eagles to correct this oversight and bring in a every-down safety, preferably one with above-average coverage skills.

I know that guys like that don't grow on trees, but I think it'll happen. And why is that? Well, count me among those intrigued by the Eagles hiring Dick Jauron to be the secondary coach. A guy who's been a defensive coordinator and head coach in the league doesn't take this kind of step back without a good reason. MAYBE he really misses Andy Reid that much from their time in Green Bay, and MAYBE he's tired of all the bullshit and politics that come with important coaching positions. But MAYBE it's to get second-year defensive coordinator Sean McDermott listening for the footsteps of a 59-year-old defensive mind creeping up behind him. Or, at the very least, maybe it's to turn the secondary around, formerly a position of strength for this team. Either way, I think the safety position gets addressed competently in the offseason.

And finally, the quarterback. This has been done to death, but it should still be addressed. In a rambling mess of a chat, one featuring a revisionist diatribe about Muhammad Ali that was expertly dissected by Tommy Craggs and (about halfway down) Drew Magary soon after the fact, Bill Simmons actually dropped a now-rare pearl of wisdom on the Eagles' QB position:
"They should absolutely trade [McNabb] for a draft pick and usher in the Kevin Kolb with Vick Backing Him Up Era."
I would actually go one step further: dump Vick and McNabb and go with Kolb and a veteran backup. I've discussed this before; I think there's no better time, from a PR and even from a football standpoint, to move on at the quarterback position. Take whatever the Rams are offering for Vick and move McNabb to whomever will extend him. Bringing back McNabb as a lame duck quarterback would be a disaster; if you thought he was sad about how the Eagles treated him before, just wait until he's literally playing for his job with one foot out the door.

It's Kolb's time; at the very least, we know he's competent. Back in the day, McNabb used to dazzle us with a few big plays a game, more than covering up deficiencies like his accuracy. But now, he's a shell of what he used to be, still a skilled quarterback but not one that's going to thrive in this offense, in this city, with all the history and talk and everything weighing on his shoulders. He needs a change, and so do we. And lookie here, we have a quarterback waiting in the wings to take his place!

Unless the rest of the league decides to stonewall the Eagles and laugh at the mess that 2010 in Philadelphia would become, move Donovan McNabb and start a new era. We'll cheer the shit out of him when he comes back post-retirement, maybe even hang his number five from the rafters. It's been a hell of a run, jam-packed with excitement, but pardon me for scoffing at anyone who thinks a Super Bowl is in the future of a McNabb-led Eagles team.

As for the other positions that could be considered questionable, count me as optimistic about a) at least one of the Andrews brothers contributing next year, b) the acquisition of a solid running back to compliment LeSean McCoy and Leonard Weaver and c) the return of Stewart Bradley turning the linebackers into a position of strength, not a weakness. The Andrews one, obviously, isn't exactly likely, but I just can't believe that they'd both turn out to be such unequivocal busts (Shawn's early excellent play being ignored, of course). The Eagles might have their flaws as an organization, but to drop the ball on two major, expensive investments like that? I'll believe it when I see it.

Either way, the next few weeks will be extremely interesting in Philadelphia. Is the organization ready for a seemingly obvious overhaul, or will they rest on the "laurels" of the worst 11-win season in history? Let's hope it's the former.

February 27, 2010

Reason number two why the Phillies will return to the World Series.

It still surprises me that no closer has chosen Warren Zevon's "Boom Boom Mancini" as their entrance music. Great opening, the "hurry home early, hurry on home" part -- that's not better than fucking "Bodies" by Drowning Pool? If anyone with any sway reads this, please rechristen our latest, greatest pitching prospect (and possibly future closer) Phillippe "Boom Boom" Aumont. That has a nice ring to it.

Speaking of closers, ours is one of the reasons the Phillies will make it back to the World Series.

I know that sounds odd, considering that Brad Lidge was 0-8 with a 7.21 ERA, a 1.807 WHIP, 11 blown saves and the lowest K/9 rate of his seven-year career in 2009. But the year before, he was eighth in MVP voting with a 1.95 ERA and zero blown saves. So we've seen the best and worst of Bradford Lidge, and I, for one, am banking on him turning it around.

It's conceivable that Cole Hamels reached the ceiling of his potential in 2008. The league may have figured him out, and relying primarily on two pitches may end up keeping him from ever becoming a true, Lee/Halladay-esque ace. But Brad Lidge has had two seasons with an ERA+ of over 225 and one with a 184; those are very, very good years. He has a lights-out slider and, when he can locate it, a very competent fastball. Simply put, when healthy, he's a top five closer.

And he wasn't healthy last year. We all knew it, and Lidge has admitted it numerous times in the offseason. I don't know if it happened when Howard jumped him after the final out of Game 5 and smushed his knee or not, but it happened, and the two surgeries he had in the last few months (elbow and knee) should help rectify that.

As last year becomes more and more of a memory, it's amazing to think that the Phillies made the World Series with Lidge providing what may have been the worst full season of relief pitching in the history of the game. Not only did he suck when he got on the mound, but it must have crept into the players' heads that their closer was unreliable, that no lead was safe and that, despite all their best efforts, losing a game on any given day was a possibility.

And they persevered anyway. Credit for that goes to them, of course, and to Charlie Manuel for leading this team the right way. Even though sticking with Lidge as long as he did last year was downright idiotic, it's part of his charm. He has his guys, and he believes in them, even when logic and rationality and facts say otherwise. If we didn't win the World Series, we'd probably run him out off town on a rail. But we did, and he was a huge part of it. So was Brad Lidge.

Charlie's faith is going to pay off this year. Lidge can't possibly be that bad again, and even a halfway-decent closer is worth at least four or five more wins. The Phillies have, top to bottom, the best lineup in the National League. They've got an ace, a World Series MVP and the makings of a decent bullpen. If they get something, anything, from Brad Lidge, they'll be right back in the thick of things. And in my opinion, this will be the bounce-back year we're all praying for.

February 23, 2010

Farewell, Brian Westbrook.

This video, featuring picture-perfect musical accompaniment from pop rock all-stars Three Doors Down, more than adequately sums up my love for now-former Philadelphia Eagle Brian Westbrook.

Everyone has their favorite Westbrook memory, from his season-saving punt return against the Giants in 2003 to his 2,104 yards from scrimmage and long-awaited domination of the NFL in 2007.

From 2004 to 2008, you could argue that he was second only to LaDainian Tomlinson as the NFL's most dominant running back. When Donovan McNabb faltered or suffered a season-ending injury, he was the constant that carried the team. Opposing defensive coordinators had to account for him on every play, and Eagles fans never knew when he'd break a game-changing run, return or catch.

He seemed to lead by example, and even though he'd miss two or three games a year, his resilience season after season captured the hearts of Philadelphia fans.

His departure was expected, even encouraged...at least in theory. There's no way the Eagles were going to pay $7.5 million to the hobbled, creaky back that Westbrook had become. The only question was when they'd cut the cord, which turned out to be a day after the San Diego Chargers released Tomlinson.

The Eagles also now seemingly have a boatload of money to throw at a primo free agent, a group of players that includes stud defensive end Julius Peppers of the Carolina Panthers. And if the final two games against the Cowboys showed us anything, it's that the Eagles can use some help on the defensive line.

But it's still tough to see this happen. Extremely tough. Westbrook burst from minor obscurity at Villanova University to become one of the most dynamic players in football. He was DeSean Jackson before there was a DeSean Jackson, except he touched the ball 25 to 30 times a game. He kept the Eagles interesting, competitive and extremely exciting. He was a veteran on a team that was constantly rebuilding on the fly, a team that had no problem jettisoning aging players and survived by relying on several key stars.

And now they've jettisoned Westbrook. I imagine he'll catch on somewhere, although I really hope he doesn't risk further injury to his brain while gutting it out for a team like the Cleveland Browns or the Kansas City Chiefs. He's had an incredible career, even if it was one only Eagles fans can truly appreciate, and I would hate to see him rot away in another uniform.

But what will the fallout be from his departure? Is LeSean McCoy ready to be a featured back? Is the Eagles locker room strong enough to survive without Westbrook and Brian Dawkins? And is this the precursor to a Donovan McNabb departure, as well?

Only time will tell. But for now, I say goodbye to someone who might be my favorite Eagle of all time, and definitely the most explosive player I've ever seen put on midnight green.

Farewell, Brian Westbrook.

February 22, 2010

Reason number one why the Phillies will return to the World Series.

My roommate texted me earlier today. He wrote, and I quote:
"While pooping in an elementary school stall in Cambridge, I'm suddenly overcome with how insanely ridiculous it is that our Phillies even made it to the World Series twice."
Yes, folks, baseball fever is in the air. Catch it.

It is an amazing time to be a Philadelphia Phillies fan. The greatest first baseman, second baseman and shortstop in team history are still on the roster. Every member of the outfield made last year's All-Star Game. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. made a blockbuster deal in the offseason to bring in super ace Roy Halladay. And our former ace and current closer can't possibly pitch worse than they did in 2009!

Hardworking, extremely likable players, superstars everywhere you turn, an aura of success surrounding Citizens Bank Park, a hillbilly-turned-icon as manager. This team has it all.

Nevertheless, you have to admit that making the Fall Classic three times in a row is crazy. Not only does that mean continuously winning about 100 total games (at least) a year, it also means that your players remain extremely consistent and at least relatively healthy. Those things don't always come together.

For two years in Philadelphia, they have. But, even with most of the main pieces returning, even with what look like a few key additions here and there, it's been tough to remain eternally confident. As Phillies fans, even in this golden age, we're still kinda waiting for the hammer to drop.

But in the last 24 hours, something has changed. Something positive, something beautiful. An entity has descended on Clearwater, Florida, a beacon of hope and freedom and promise and love. A sign that everything is going to be alright, that somebody upstairs is smiling down on these Phillies, that the local nine has their priorities straight and are committed to only the finest things in life.

That something is this:

My god. Look at that. If this team isn't destined to win, I don't know who could be.

So, in celebration of what everyone now knows will be another extremely successful Phillies season, I'm proud to present part one in an ongoing list of ten-ish (we'll see how busy I get) reasons the Phillies will return to the World Series.

Next up on the countdown: More than just a beautiful photo. But my God, what a beard.

February 17, 2010

Pitchers and catchers, reporting for duty.

In celebration of the impeding official arrival of spring training (early reports had everyone but Jamie Moyer, Jose Contreras and Carlos Ruiz in Clearwater already), I present to you my first to-be-published piece of sports-related content.

Will Leitch, the founder of Deadspin, posted a request on his personal blog for father/son baseball stories. Being a lover of Leitch, a baseball aficionado and a son, I sent over this story about the Philadelphia Phillies 2008 World Series parade. Understanding immediately that he was dealing with a future literary superstar (possibly not true), Will said he would include it in his latest book (100% true). You can preorder his book here, and you can read my excerpt....here:

Friday, October 31st. Halloween in Philadelphia. The Phillies had just won the World Series.

I took a super-impromptu day off from the post-college job I had started only a few months earlier, and my dad took the day off, as well. At the time, he owned a direct-mail advertising franchise, so he set his own hours. And he made it clear that his hours that day would be zero -- he wanted to be at the parade with me, his oldest son.

But I didn't want to see him. (Writer's note: Dad, this is not entirely true. Hyperbole, you know. Thanks for creating me!) I wanted to spend time with my friends, drink Yuengling from cans and whiskey from giant plastic bottles, to scream and holler and curse and do everything you don't normally do when your father is around.

So I avoided him. (Note: Again, not entirely true. Truth tinged with fiction is so much easier to write.) Cell reception was bad enough in the city that day, with so many people congregating in one spot, that he could barely get through to me as it was. But, just as we were getting camped outside the gates surrounding Citizens Bank Park, my phone rang.

"WHERE ARE YOU?!" he yelled. Without an excuse, I said, "Right outside the gates!"

"I'LL BE RIGHT THERE!" he yelled.

And ten minutes later, there he was. He had a beer with us. He talked to all my friends about the last Phillies parade in 1980. But most of all, he huddled with me, and told me how amazing this all was, and how I needed to cherish it, and how glad he was to be there with me for it.

The parade rolled by an hour or so later. And my friends and I took my father (he's a few inches shorter and 30 pounds lighter than most of us), propped him on our shoulders, and carried him around, screaming and cheering and laughing and crying. There's a picture of it. He has a huge smile on his face. He was having a ball. And so were we.
-- Steve Cimino, Medford, N.J.

So there you have it. Thanks for being there with me, pop. Let's have another one in 2010.

February 15, 2010

A million dollars or pooping treasures: The eternal question.

As you get older, you figure out certain barometers that can be used to judge people. It could be someone's favorite music, movies, TV shows, books, sports teams. Their favorite kind of alcohol, favorite season of the year, favorite candy bar, favorite thing with bacon on it. But no matter what it is, you find out what's important to you and, if you so desire, use this information to rank the opinions of people around you.

But I'm here to tell you that all of that is crap. There is one question, and only one question, that you need to ask everyone you meet so that you can decide, as Chuck Klosterman would put it, if you can really love them.

That question is, "Would you rather have a million dollars or the ability to poop treasures?"

This often requires clarification.

The million dollars aspect is just as it sounds: You would acquire a million dollars, tax-free, no strings attached. It doesn't matter where it came from; it would be in unmarked, non-sequential bills, and you are free to spend it how you see fit.

The pooping treasures part, however, is a little more complex. Once a week, every week, for the rest of your life, you will "poop a treasure." The word poop is not used literally; through rudimentary magic, the treasure will pop into existence from thin air in an area near your butt (just go with it). This will happen at the same time every week, a time decided upon by you. This will take approximately 10 seconds and will not hurt one bit. A litter box or some similarly sized receptacle will be noted as the preferred place for the treasure to materialize, although in the end, it's wherever you choose to deposit it.

The treasure will be an item often beneficial to your existence; it will never be detrimental, although it can be neutral. It can be as small as a dime, a matchbook or a a eraser. It can be as big as a briefcase, easel or large coffee table book (hence the necessity for a litter box-sized item). It will never be a piece of something; it will always come in full. And, if it is a item of clothing or a watch or anything else suited to a specific size of person, it will always be in your size.

One week, you could get a gold bar. The next week, it could be a thousand dollars in a roll of 20's. Of course, you could also get a nickel, a postal stamp, a thumbtack or a toenail clipper. The options are that varied.

Again, like the million dollars, these treasures will come with no strings attached. At the same time, you may not use your treasure power to achieve any kind of fame. Your close friends and family may be told about your new ability, but if the information spreads too wide, the treasures will cease to materialize.

Most people's first reaction is, "Obviously, I will take the million dollars." And that should be their immediate answer. A million dollars is an incredible amount of money that could change a person's life. Invested properly and used wisely, it could even be enough to set someone up for life.

Also, as a disclaimer, if the man or woman being asked has a sick relative, a legal issue that must be resolved, a cash-flow problem in their family or another serious, potentially life-threatening concern that could be bettered or even solved by money, they should obviously take the million dollars. They should probably even punch you in the fact for pushing on to the "or you could poop treasures!" part.

But let's say you live a modest, relatively hassle-free lifestyle. You have a job, or at least more than enough money to get by. You, like everyone else, could use a million dollars, but it's not imperative to your existence. If this is your situation, and you still choose the million dollars, take a long, hard look at yourself in the mirror. You've lost your zest for life; you may never had a zest at all.

This is because the question is a lot deeper than it seems. Take some time to examine it. On the surface, you get a lot of money. Hooray! But wouldn't you always live your life wondering what could have been? When the money runs out, and it probably will run out, will it have been worth it?

I don't think it would. It's not like the question is "a million dollars or zero dollars," although it may seem that way at the start. It's a million dollars or a mystery box every single week, a million dollars or a new adventure right around the corner, an adventure that doesn't end until you do.

Much of life is boring. Unless you have big plans on the weekend or an extremely attractive, amazingly adorable girl that you love to go home to every night, the weeks probably start to run together. But imagine that, every Friday, you get to poop a treasure. Every Friday, for the rest of your days, something exciting will happen.

And let's say you live for 50 more years. With 52 weeks in a year, that's 2,600 treasures. Odds are, at least a few of those will be pretty sweet. You'd really turn down 2,600 rolls of the dice, spins of the wheel, stones to overturn, for a check?

Maybe those who pick the check would come out on top at the end; maybe they'd have pooped out 2,600 pairs of Walmart sunglasses. Or maybe they'd have pooped out a pair of Ray-Bans, and then a Rolex, and then one hundred thousand dollars. It could happen; anything can happen. That's the whole point, and that's what makes it a risk worth taking.

You might disagree. You might think this is a fucking idiotic question to ask someone, especially if they're going to turn down free money. But then again, if that's how you feel, you're probably not someone I'd want to love, anyway.

I think this question means a lot. I think a person willing to take a chance, to invest in their continued existence rather than jump at the quick fix, is the kind of person I want to spend my time with. It's not all about money, even if you pick the treasures and root for the gold bar. It's about enjoying yourself, about finding out that you're driven by an inner curiosity, a child-like sense of wonder and anticipation, rather than a sterile, unimaginative greed.

The cold hard facts say that a million dollars is the rational choice, but right now, that's not for me. I want someone willing to throw rationale out the window. I want someone who longs to poop treasures.

February 11, 2010

Let's get flyered up.

In the book Loose Balls by Terry Pluto, Roger Brown of the ABA's Indiana Pacers talks about what playing in Indianapolis meant to him.

"I had no desire to play in [the NBA]," he says, "not when I could stay with the Pacers and be a part of a great team. I still live in Indianapolis today...the Pacers and the town have been great to me."

These words were uttered sometime around 1990; Roger Brown died of liver cancer in 1997. But as a lifelong fan of the Philadelphia Flyers, Roger's love of a team and a city that adopted him as one of their own ring true to me.

Bernie Parent, Bob Kelly, Bill Clement, Gary Dornhoefer, Keith Jones, Craig Berube, Bobby Clarke, Paul Holmgren, Derian Hatcher, Brian Propp, Chris Therien, even Dave Brown and Ilkka Sinisalo.

All of these men spent time with the Flyers organization. All of them, and probably a lot more, either work or have worked with the Flyers after retirement, whether as a coach, a broadcaster, an "ambassador of hockey," a scout or a general manager. While they did not all spend their entire careers in Philadelphia, they do all still bleed orange and black.

This is a testament to the dedication and passion of the Philadelphia Flyers. Although they haven't won a Stanley Cup since 1975, no one would dare question their commitment to success. Whether run by the fiery Ed Snider or the deep pockets of Comcast, they've never been afraid to spend money or make the big move, and they've never hesitated when the end result could be another deep playoff run.

Have they made mistakes? Absolutely. Their inability to acquire a franchise goalie, or sometimes even a serviceable one, has possibly cost them a championship or two. Their overzealous pursuit of big bodies at a time when speed was returning to the game might have done the same. And their mishandling of coaches over the last decade has ranged from incompetent to downright idiotic.

But we forgive them, even when the 2006-2007 team finished with the worst record in the league. They're almost always competitive, almost always exploring their options and always trying to recapture that glory. We get the sense that they care, we know that they treat their players and the fans right, and we understand that they want to win as much as we do.

This is why old Flyers are welcomed back with open arms, why constant reminders of past successes are displayed throughout their home at the Wachovia Center. Out of context, it might seem like they're living in the past, but I think it's more about celebrating it, making sure that the team and the fans don't forget what has made this organization great.

The Broad Street Bullies of the 1970's, the Tim Kerr-Mark Howe-Ron Hextall teams of the 1980's, The Legion of Doom in the 1990's -- there's a lot of history surrounding the Flyers, most of it very good. It's odd, because usually stuff like this doesn't mean much to me; I want to see wins, and I want to celebrate championships. But when it comes to the Flyers, it does.

When reports surface that Paul Holmgren is gunning for Ilya Kovalchuk or Jay Bouwmeester, we don't take it with the same grain of salt that we would an Eagles or even a Phillies rumor. When the team makes a big splash by acquiring Danny Briere, Chris Pronger or Peter Forsberg, we say "ho-hum."

We expect big acquisitions, we expect people to want to play here, we expect a contender. But this isn't only because we have grand expectations; it's because there's an aura around the Flyers organization that draws people in. They know the Flyers, even when they don't play that way on the ice, exude class, integrity and loyalty. They know that, for most of their fans, and especially when they're winning, the Flyers are royalty. And they want to be part of it.

This is because Flyers fans and Flyers management share the same desires. Like I said, maybe those desires are sometimes too strong, and maybe knee-jerk reactions or set-in-stone styles have cost the team in the past. But never, not once, have I thought that the Flyers were playing it safe, being cheap, trying to limp into the playoffs, looking to turn a profit.

As good as the Phillies are now, as consistently successful as the Eagles have been lately, I can't say the same about either of them. With them, there's always questions. With the Flyers, there are not.

Again, this doesn't absolve them of their failures. I won't be satisfied in May if the Flyers are home playing golf but they "tried their best." But neither will they. They might not be the biggest draws in town, and they might not bring us a parade anytime soon. But it won't be for lack of trying, and in an era where salaries are skyrocketing, players are inaccessible and sports are more a business than ever, being a Flyer, no matter what position you play or title you hold, still means something. And that means a lot.

February 6, 2010

The twenty best Bruce Springsteen lyrics.

If you haven't heard, I love Bruce Springsteen. I love his music, his politics, what he stands for -- pretty much everything about him.

But what he does best is lyrics. Some people call them simple, but I think he writes with a passion and honesty that few can match. He tells great stories, inventing characters that seem to hop from song to song and creating subtle backstories with nothing more than a throwaway mention.

That being said, compiling a list of the best Bruce Springsteen lyrics is a daunting task. Almost every song has a gem or two that sticks with you. Nevertheless, it's a task I feel up to. Plus, I get to spend a hungover Saturday morning listening to Bruce.

I've tried my best to forgo a lot of the generic, overused lines you'd expect to see on a list like this. So, whether you're a fanatic like myself or a newcomer to the Boss, in no particular order (picking twenty was hard enough), these are the best lines Springsteen has to offer:

"And the poets down here don't write nothing at all, they just stand back and let it all be."
"Jungleland" from Born to Run

"When I die, I don't want no part of heaven, I would not do heaven's work well. I pray the devil comes and takes me to stand in the fiery furnaces of hell."
"Youngstown" from The Ghost of Tom Joad

"The Daily News asks her for the dope, she says, 'Man, the dope's that there's still hope.'"
"Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?" from Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.

"I said, 'I'm hurt,' she said, 'Honey, let me heal it.'"
"Spirit in the Night" from Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.

"These days I'm feelin' alright, 'cept I can't tell my courage from my desperation."
"Local Hero" from Lucky Town

"You do some sad things, baby, when it's you you're tryin' to lose."
"Living Proof" from Lucky Town

"You'll be fine, long as your pretty face holds out, then it's gonna get pretty cold out."
"You'll Be Comin' Down" from Magic

"Love's a fool's dance, and I ain't got much sense but I still got my feet."
"Girls In Their Summer Clothes" from Magic

"I'm no prince and I can't lay the stars at your feet."
"Wings for Wheels" (the early version of "Thunder Road") from a live performance

"If I'm a fool, I'll be a fool, darling, for you."
"Countin' On A Miracle" from The Rising

"This is a town fulla losers, and baby I was born to win."
"Wings for Wheels" from a live performance

"There's a girl across the bar, I get the message she's sending. Mmm, she ain't lookin' too married; me, well, honey, I'm pretendin'."
"One Step Up" from Tunnel of Love

"You've got to learn to live with what you can't rise above."
"Tunnel of Love" from Tunnel of Love

"Come on out for just a little while, you know that heart of stone, girl, it just ain't your style."
"Where the Bands Are" from Tracks

"I just can't understand it, you're not pretty at all, but I come when you whisper, I run when you call."
"I Wanna Be With You" from Tracks

"He tried selling his heart to the hard girls over on Easy Street, but they sighed, 'Johnny, it falls apart so easy, and you know hearts these days are cheap.'"
"Incident on 57th Street" from The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle

"I ain't here for business, I'm only here for fun."
"Rosalita" from The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle

"So walk tall, or baby don't walk at all."
"New York City Serenade" from The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle

"I'm gonna sit back right easy and laugh when Scooter and the Big Man bust the city in half."
"Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" from Born to Run

"Winners use the door."
"Rosalita" from The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle

February 2, 2010

Mulholland Drive sucked.

For the past few weeks, I've been relentlessly reminded of one fact:

Mulholland Drive sucked.

Yes, the movie that seems to be near the top of everyone's "Best of the 2000's" list sucks. It's awful, and it boggles my mind that people, let alone respected movie critics, disagree.

First off, it didn't help that I watched Mulholland Drive right after viewing modern classics like Se7en, Memento and The Usual Suspects. I was counseled by fellow movie buffs and the Internet that David Lynch's "masterpiece" was very similar. This was aided by the DVD's inner sleeve, which contained a list that promised to "help unlock the secrets of Mulholland Drive."

"Oooh, secrets," I thought, "that sounds great." Well, it turns out that you don't need a step-by-step guide to unlocking the movie's secrets. The first 60 minutes or so turn out to be just an illusion in a character's head. It's like that movie Identity, except people thought that movie was idiotic. For some reason, that feeling is not also associated with Mulholland Drive.

Second off, it was supposed to be a television pilot. That's why characters like "the guy played by Robert Forster"and "the guy played by Justin Theroux" don't serve a purpose -- they're incomplete, presumably conceived by Lynch to receive an entire season of character development, not a two-hour movie's worth.

Wikipedia states that "a large portion of the film was shot with Lynch's plan to keep it open-ended for a potential series" and that Lynch "left the general meaning of the movie's events open to interpretation." Some might find this mysterious or intriguing, but much like the finale of David Chase's "The Sopranos", I find it disgustingly lazy.

As I've stated before, I'm a huge fan of Blue Velvet, but that's because it combines Lynch's inherent weirdness with a cohesive plot and dynamic characters. I've never doubted Lynch's creativity, but when it comes to Mulholland Drive, I can't help but thinking he's using his audience in a negative way. They're reading into things that aren't there, making unwarranted suppositions and unjustified speculations that lead to an self-invented conclusion.

Lynch is playing upon his reputation as a surrealist, expecting viewers to fill in the blanks he's left. But, like a Mad Lib, you can put anything you fucking want in the blanks. Literally anything. I fail to see how that is creative, much less an aspect of the movie that people enjoy.

But a few top ten lists aren't the only things that reminded me of Mulholland Drive's suckiness. There's also been the final season of "Lost", which I'm currently preparing to watch.

Although I loved Season One, after that I took a bunch of seasons off from the show. I kept track of it from afar, getting periodic updates on the plot's progression. Even though I haven't been watching, I've respected how they're telling the story and how the twists all build on top of each other in a satisfying way. Now that the final season is about to begin, I think I'm ready to give it another try.

I want to see how they finish things off, to see if Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof have the balls to give the series a concrete ending. Sure, they might alienate a few people, but you're never going to make everyone happy. If they take the plunge and give everyone a real ending, like the one they've claimed to have in their heads for a while, I'll have a lot of respect for them as writers and showrunners.

This show has a chance to take five seasons of mythology and wrap it up with a bang. They've left many of the same blanks as David Lynch, but they also have a dozen or so episodes to fill them in with a permanent marker, not the pencil that Lynch offered his viewers. They can do what storytellers are supposed to do -- provide a beginning, middle and end.

How "Lost" will wrap up remains to be seen, but there's one thing I know for sure: No matter how Cuse and Lindelof decide to end their run, the secrets they unlock for us can't possibly be as shitty as the so-called secrets of Mulholland Drive.