IT LIVES (Bon Jovi-less, and Distinctly Lacking Grudens)

16 02 2010

Perhaps you’ve noticed a subtle buzz around the water cooler; there’s a spring in your step, the source of which you can’t quite identify. The sun shines a little brighter, and strangers smile at each other in the street.

This is probably because olympic curling starts today in Vancouver.

Also, hey: the AFL is back! We don’t even have to call it Arena Football One (1) anymore! According to sources (a profootballtalk.com post forwarded to us at least twice), the old nomenclature was used on a conference call from the league. WOOOO. AIN’T NOTHIN’ STOPPING US NOW!

Albany, not part of the league, don't worry

Rising! Like a phoenix! Or a Firebird! Whatever!

We were going to wait until this clusterfuckery ended, and there were some actual games to be played, or data to be massaged, or characters to be assassinated, but whatever. There was a conference call! Kosar and Ditka are back! It’s a war! Indoors! On the floor! Petit four! Esprit de corps!

Who’s involved?

South Division: Alabama (Huntsville – space camp!) Vipers, Jacksonville Sharks (Al Pacino-coached), Orlando Predators (Now with Zero Grudens),  Tampa Bay Storm (Brett Dietz!)

Southwest Division: Bossier-Shreveport (LA) Battle Wings (served with a side of bleu cheese dressing), Dallas Vigilantes (Dr. Dolezel bought the name Desperado for his own perpetual use, thank you), Oklahoma City Yard Dogz (I will never use this name), Tulsa Talons (formerly the Pittsburgh Phlanges)

Midwest Division: Chicago Rush (Wooo! We’re getting the band back together!), Cleveland Gladiators (Wooo? We’re getting the band back together?), Iowa Barnstormers (Look, it’s not like Kurt Warner’s doing anything), Milwaukee Iron (Wooo. We’re getting the band back “together.” With Ringo’s kid playing the drums.)

West Division: Arizona Rattlers (I wonder if the money-back guarantee’s still good), Spokane Shock (more like shocked to find themselves in Spokane, am I right? Oh, let’s just get through this), Utah Blaze (who are currently holding open tryouts, and that’s really the only news of use on arenafootballone.com)

Conspicuous by their absence: Jaws/Bon Jovi-owned Philadelphia Soul, only the current Arena Bowl Champions; Grudens; ESPN (Hooray? The NFL Network?); San Jose Sabercats and ol’ LazerQBVision; actual useful data.

On the other hand: football games, starting April 10. -ish.





We review “Big Fan”: they sent us a screener!

11 01 2010

"Big Fan" - it's about football, sort of!

It’s been a while since we’ve had any hot-off-the-presses news regarding that good ol’ redheaded cousin nobody likes to talk about, the AFL, but we recently received an offer to take an advanced look at “Big Fan”, last year’s well-reviewed but barely-seen dark comedy starring Patton Oswalt. Since we’re both fans of free stuff, and JM’s been playing over here as of late, we said “hell yes”.

“Big Fan” follows Paul Aufiero (Patton Oswalt), a die-hard New York Giants fan that has diddly-squat to live for. When a chance encounter with his hero, the G-Men’s star linebacker Quantrell Bishop, goes seriously wrong, Paul ends up in the hospital and Bishop is benched, and the Giants’ playoff hopes start to fade faster than a Plaxico Burress touchdown route (provided he hasn’t shot himself in the leg,  been arrested, or jailed). Paul decides he’s coming down with amnesia, in the hopes Bishop will get to retake the field, the Giants have a better record than the Eagles, and his rival sports talk caller, Philadelphia Phil (Michael Rapaport) will have to eat a plate of crow.

Commence the tried-and-true POINT-COUNTERPOINT:

POINT: STORY: JM: “Big Fan” is a typical indie feature – small in scope. So small that a movie about a giant Giants fan does not feature a lick of on-screen sport. Oswalt is the ultimate outsider, so far removed from the team he loves he’s forced to watch games in the Meadowlands parking lot. This, however, is to the film’s advantage. By keeping the stakes low and not going with the obvious Hollywood plot turns, “Big Fan” feels frighteningly authentic, which makes the relatively small stakes feel big and black-comedy end note all the more visceral.

TC: ADDENDUM: If there had been ONE MOMENT of football action, the story would’ve collapsed. We only are able to experience the despair and joy and hope and pathos through watching Oswalt’s reactions. We’re obligated to trust his reactions, because we get – at best – snippets of play-by-play. And more stunningly (to me): Oswalt succeeds in doing it for us. I never for one moment went “Well, this is unbelievably overboard.” This MAY be due to the fact that I’m a sports fan, and have (recently, as a matter of fact) lived and died with a team’s fortunes. Mind you, I didn’t get the crap kicked out of me by Cory Wooton (as they say in Spain: El Espoiler!) but still: it’s scary how we’re able to say to ourselves “there but for the grace of God go I.”

PATTON OSWALT, ET AL, POINT: TC: If I have one complaint with the performances, it’s that Patton Oswalt’s character is dumped into a pastiche of random Jersey/Staten Island stereotypes. So, you have this nuanced, tortured character hanging out with pretend people. With the exception of his pal, who’s a nicely affable, if dim, fellow.

Let us now discuss my favorite Patton Oswalt performance: any time he’s crafting/delivering one of his radio-call-in rants. I think I said while I was watching the movie that it reminded me of high school speech. But it’s actually the obsessive crafting of a comedy bit. It makes complete and total sense, and makes Oswalt the perfect choice. I could watch him assemble and deliver his rants all day.

JM: EXTRA POINT: I agree, Kevin Corrigan, the house-party host from “Superbad” among other stuff, is amusing as Oswalt’s dimwitted partner in fandom. His family members are somewhat generic, but I’d argue Oswalt’s performance and character keeps those stereotypes in check. Michael Rapaport is fun as the quintessential asshole fan of your rival team.

On Oswalt rehearsing his call-in rants: yes, yes, a thousand times, yes. The call-in scenes illustrate both the gross inadequacies and blind fanaticism of our protagonist. His passion is hindered by his propensity to mix metaphors and trip over his own words, which isn’t helped by the thin walls separating his bedroom from his mother’s. There’s been a quiet buzz among the critics and online community that Oswalt’s performance could make him a dark horse Oscar contender, and likewise the widened field for ten best picture nominees could give “Big Fan” a chance for wider exposure.

Which brings us to our final

POINT: OVERALL IMPRESSION: JM: I was thrilled to finally see this flick. It played in Chicago for one night at the Music Box (where I also missed a Q&A with writer/director Robert Siegel and Oswalt) back in October, and despite a strongly positive critical reception the film didn’t see a wider theatrical release after it’s initial tour. “Big Fan” is a simple story told with uncommon grace. Aside from being both a riveting drama and occasionally laugh-out-loud dark comedy, we’re given a chance to reflect on what it means to be loyal to your team, and how our teams can bring us together or drive us apart. Oswalt’s expressions when watching the final game of the regular season are priceless, and the lengths he’ll go to for the Giants are all the more bleakly comic when we consider how far removed he is from his team.

TC: Oswalt is riveting. End of line. A nuanced, graceful, subtle film, handled delicately but not fluffily. If you’re a fan of sports, you know this. And if you’re not a fan of sports, this is just scary. My main criticism is I have no idea if the last 25 minutes of the movie is buy-able if you don’t follow sports. I think it might read as just pitiful and crazy to people who haven’t expended inappropriate amounts of emotion rooting for laundry.

It nails the critical fact that the players that fans root for, obsess over, and think they know are so far removed from their fans that they may be a different species. It’s a movie that grips you, and does its work without hammering you over the head. You aren’t embarrassed enough for Oswalt to stop rooting for him, and he’s not so pitiful you feel distanced from him. Somehow it walks a tightrope for, what, 90 minutes? 110? How long was this movie?

JM: 87 minutes.

It’s a jim-dandy of a little thriller/dark comedy, and is certainly worth checking out when it’s released on DVD this Tuesday.

“Big Fan” was written and directed by “The Wrestler” scribe Robert Siegel, and stars Patton Oswalt, Kevin Corrigan, and Michael Rapaport. We regret to inform you that no Eagles fans were hurt in the making of the film.





Are We Boned? Yeah, We’re Boned.

9 12 2008
Aieeeee! It's just like Pitcairn Island!

Aieeeee! It's just like Pitcairn Island!

Oh, dear Christ. We get bored and wander off for several months, and our “beloved” league is in jeopardy? We figured it was the idle chatter of a few of the we-blogs, and perhaps there was some financial difficulty … wait, where’d the VooDoo go? Well, that’s just Tom Benson, and he’s kind of a dick. The league is as sturdy as one of my favorite Chicago institutions, The Tribune Company. Oh, it’s not? Oh, crap. The Predators, sold? What are the guys we met in New Orleans going to do with their scary masks? Terrorize children [more often]?

You’ll tell me it’s all going to be okay, right, San Jose Mercury News? Gak. “WE WILL TAKE ON ALL COMERS, FOR WE ARE INDESCRIBABLY WEALTHY,” is the campaign for the 2009 SaberCats, by the way. But what of The Dietz?  Certainly the Storm…

Despite reports of AFL troubles, Storm plods along

A ringing endorsement from the St. Petersburg Times-adjacent tampabay.com.

What happened? Well, until I can get a detailed analysis from our in-house economist, let’s use broad strokes: David Baker’s AFL was growing, and had a deal with ESPN that was supposed to secure the league’s future. He left us. Heleftusheleftusheleftus. Lex-from-Jurassic-Park interlude over, the VooDoo crumble with little-to-no-notice. A deal with A Mysterious Equity Group falls apart. Talks, dispersal draft, and free agency are all postponed. No schedule?

Boned, boned, boned. Where are our cut-rate Woodward and Bernstein to follow the money? Where’d it go? Did the league expand too quickly under Baker, only to collapse like a dying star? A star that was interesting, but never really that bright in the first place? Colorado is one of the teams facing awkwardness, and they’ve been one of the sturdier teams, owned by John Elway. If Elway’s hurting, everybody’s hurting.

Dammit.

We don’t write for a while, and this is what it takes to put fingers to keys?

At least we didn’t come back for an epitaph.

Yet.





Arena Bowl XXII – The Live Blog

27 07 2008

It’s Here! Today! We’re going CoverItLive-style, and you know what that means: no embedding! Following links! Extreme laziness!

Who will take home the Kraken of professional sports trophies? San Jose or Philadelphia? I know I predicted San Jose, but I really want to see Bon Jovi hoist this thing with his spindly arms.

Keep in the care of this guy? No. Hell no.

Keep in the care of this guy? No. Hell no.

To follow the liveblogging extravaganza follow the mighty link: TO THE LIVE BLOG!

This Guy? Maybe.

This Guy? Maybe.

This Guy? Could Be...

This Guy? Could Be...





BREAKING: Commissioner Hagrid! What Will We Do Without You?

26 07 2008

In a surprise move two days before the Arena Bowl, and one year after signing a contract extension, Commissioner David Baker resigned his post for reasons… mysterious.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a while. I never thought I would do this for the rest of my life,” Baker told The Associated Press. “The league has never been stronger … it gives me the opportunity to look into doing other things.”

“There’s a lot of great opportunities for this league.” Baker said. “So this is a good time for me. If I didn’t go now, there would be no other career for David Baker.

“Like my good friend John Elway, I am going out on top.”

Bullshit. If it doesn’t turn out that he was called back to Saltfjellet by Hrungnir, King of All The Mountain Giants, I’m calling shenanigans on this whole thing. Because a world where Commissioner Hagrid resigns because he’s bored, and not because he must take part in a 10,000-year-old ancestral tradition of hewing forests, draining lakes, and piloting the mighty glaciers themselves is not a world in which I want to live.

Nevertheless, fans and employees of the Arena Football League owe David Baker a debt of gratitude for the last 12 years of work, which saw consistent growth in team value and visibility, a shocking increase in media coverage (thanks, Worldwide Leader!), and the ability to mock the leadership of every other sport. Bud Selig, Roger Goodell, David Stern, and especially that troll Gary Bettman should thank their lucky stars they no logner have to be shown up by the commissioner of a second-tier sport in professionalism, fan-friendliness, and the ability to crush coal into diamonds.

It’s Still Football wishes Mr. Baker the best, and would be remiss in neglecting to mention that meeting the guy last year was insanely great. We also might have been inebriated. But that shouldn’t detract from the fact that we were duly impressed by his magnificence

I hope he still takes care of all the Arena Bowl XXII pomp and circumstance, because it’d just feel weird to have Ed Policy hand over the 10-Ton Foster Trophy.

Godspeed, You Titan; You Showed Us How a 7'6" Bazillionaire Should Act

Godspeed, You Titan; You Showed Us How a 7'6" Bazillionaire Should Act





ARENA BOWL XXII: We’re Way Less Interesting Than Last Year

25 07 2008
I Cheated and Stole ESPN's Banner. Winner

I stole ESPN's Banner. I am a winner.

So, guess what? Between general apathy and real-life nonsense, we totally blew off the playoffs (which apparently were hosted in Crazy Town, final results notwithstanding), and aren’t going to New Orleans again. For which my liver thanks the Flying Spaghetti Monster. BUT ANALYSIS WILL ENSUE!

ALL HAIL.

ALL HAIL.

Multiple members of Bon Jovi! Jaws! More Cowbell! The Grieb Laser Industry! Darren Arbet! The Guy Who Owns Fry’s! D’Orazio! SOME OTHER PEOPLE OHMYGODIT’STHEARENABOWL!

Dear Point-Counterpoint, I never thought this could happen to me… (Jump?)

Read the rest of this entry »





ESPN Is Doing An Arena Bowl Whatty-what?

25 07 2008

Well! This looks familiar.

Jiggly camera work? Silly questions? Athletes amusing themselves? Seen it… before… but… more awkwardly?

AH HA! ESPN! Well, since we can’t go, Mary Buckheit can appropriate our hand-held stumbling meme. NEXT YEAR, MARY: DUELING CAMCORDERS!