Thursday, May 23, 2002

MORE COMICS: Found via that AICN review below and kinda-sorta related to it is this Time piece on Spider-Man and the development of the more-human movie superhero. Hey look, there's Stan Lee:

"The other superheroes at other companies didn't seem to have too much vulnerability," says Stan Lee, who created Spider-Man at Marvel with artist Steve Ditko. "Peter had money troubles. He wasn't that popular with girls. Getting a date was a big deal with him." If Superman is a hero who dresses up as one of us, Spider-Man is one of us, dressed up as a hero. Says Jeff Ayers, manager of New York City's Forbidden Planet comics store: "Batman's a millionaire, Superman's an alien, and Wonder Woman's an Amazon goddess. Most superheroes are foreign to us, but Spider-Man is normal and flawed."

And then Dan Clowes and Scott McCloud show up:

"With Steve Ditko, Spider-Man had these sexual undertones to it that read as being the work of a singular artist," says Clowes. Today's successors, he says, are "just a 10th-generation regurgitation of the same stuff over and over." The comic crowd became older, insular and cultish while kids turned to video games. "Gamers really know how to do power fantasies right," says Scott McCloud, author of Understanding Comics, "and they're riding a wave of technological progress."

Neat read. Spider-Man was, by the way, one of the best superhero movies ever; I can only think of the first two Supermans as maybe being on the Spidey-level. I'll wait for the next Spider-Man to come out before I start drawing comparisons, but I think Spider-Mans I & II are going to stack up real well to the old Superman franchise. One thing Spider-Man (the movie) does have all over Superman (the movie): no identifiable cringe factor, and certainly nothing on the level of the Margot Kidder "Can you read my mind?" poem. Wham! Pow! Superheroes aren't just for camp purposes anymore. Take it to the bank.
DIRTY MUTIES: Promising review of the X-Men 2 script. It is an AICN review, of course, and they do love to bring the hype on that particular site. But it does sound good. Moriarity also points out an underreported development: after years of futility, Marvel finally has it all over DC for bringing their characters to the big screen. I think three lousy Batman movies in a row sort of sunk DC for the forseeable future.
SOUTH AND NORTH: Good opinion piece by John Shelton Reed on the South's perception of the North and the North's of the South. One paragraph I liked:

Most Southerners who know New York (I lived there for five years) know that there's a kind of outer-borough New York guy (it's almost always a guy) we get along with just fine. He is working-class and usually Irish, Jewish or Italian, but these days sometimes black or Latino. He is what historian Paul Fussell called a "high prole," largely defined by his skills and "pride and a conviction of independence." When Mr. Fussell identifies disdain for social climbing, fondness for hunting and gambling and sports, and unromantic attitudes toward women as his other traits, Southerners should recognize the Northern variety of what we used to call a "good old boy" (before the label escaped captivity and lost all precision). "A solid, reliable, unpretentious, stand-up, companionable, appropriately loose, joke-sharing feller," in the description of Roy Blount Jr.

Via the MCJ.
JAPANESE WEIRDNESS CONTINUED: Via Ed Mazza comes this LA Times story about Japanese people being scared of soccer hooligans. They got some interesting counter-measures:

Drawing on a special national anti-hooligan budget of $35.6 million, thousands of Japanese police have fanned out to warn businesses of the danger of hooligans, pronounced "fuurigans" in Japanese, in the process terrifying many shopkeepers by showing them footage of foreign soccer fans attacking police, burning shops and brawling.

One of the ingenious weapons in Japan's arsenal is something reminiscent of the Middle Ages--a sort of pole-mounted wire noose to encircle foreign ankles.

"The best way to defeat taller opponents would be to trip them up and then subdue them on the ground," police informed Japanese reporters.

Another technology is more evocative of the Roman Colosseum: nets. Police have unveiled special guns that cast large webs over intended targets. A test in December successfully entangled actors posing as the foreign menace at a distance of 16 feet.

When me and my brother used to watch G.I.Joe we always made fun of "the net;" somebody always had a net and if Snake Eyes or Mutt or anybody got caught in it they were done, instant Cobra hostages --the net could not be escaped from. Somebody in the Japanese Anti-Hooligan Office was watching too, apparently.
THIS WHOLE PIAZZA-IS-GAY THING: I'm gonna go to the Phils-Mets game and start a "YOU ARE NOT GAY" chant. That'll work.

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

DALLAS MAVERICKS POSTMORTEM: Two of the leading Mavs hypemeisters, Sports Illustrated and Bill "Mavs in six" Simmons, have recently recanted their Mavs-love. Simmons:

The more things change, the more they stay the same. A Don Nelson team self-destructing in the playoffs because they weren't tough enough and because they didn't play defense? Jeez, I can't believe it. And the thing that really gets me? I fell for them, hook, line and sinker.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. A Don Nelson team self-destructing in the playoffs because they weren't tough enough and because they didn't play defense? Jeez, I can't believe it. And the thing that really gets me? I fell for them, hook, line and sinker.

Think about that Mavs-Kings series. The Mavs pull a hideous no-show in Game 1, even though they were resting for six bleeping days. They rally back to win Game 2, thanks to Steve Nash's only good game before Mike Bibby gave him $20 to stop playing defense for the rest of the series. So they're back at home for Game 3, playing in front of a raucous Dallas crowd ... and Peja Stojakovic sprains his ankle during the game (knocking him out for the series). Good teams do not lose these games at home. Period. And somehow they give this one away at home, allowing the Kings to shoot 53 percent and out-rebound them by nine.

Now they're facing a must-win Game 4, and they get every significant call because the league is desperate for a seven-game series (both Webber and Divac foul out before the end of the game, and if you don't believe in this stuff, you probably leave cookies and milk for Santa every Christmas Eve). But they still bungle the game because Nelson is the last person on the planet to realize that Bobby Jackson is killing Nick Van Exel. Plus, Sacramento runs 57 straight pick-and-rolls that Dallas' defenders botch. The Kings could have brought in Sam Lacey and Pete Carril to run a pick-and-roll in the fourth quarter, and it would have worked.

He goes on from there --I think he's mostly mad at himself for believing the hype. And here's SI's Marty Burns: Cuban's get-rich-quick scheme doesn't pan out. I swear there was a story on CNNSI where they sort of admitted they bought into the hype and got burned, but I can't find it. I guess the title of that Burns thing is sort of a tacit admission of guilt.
NEAT: Both me and Jer and the deposed Generalissimo Thornton got noticed by famed blogophile Doc Searls in the same post. Thanks, Doc! I just hope Jer isn't upset about people calling his blog Shitistan now, which I think I started, needing a way to conceptualize the Thornton-led uprising; the blog is of course properly referred to as We Are Full Of Shit.
HEFNER WATCH: Speaking of Fark, they had the link today to the Smoking Gun file on the death of former Playmate Elisa Bridges. Playboy initially claimed "natural causes" but the autopsy found several unnatural causes: "heroin, methamphetamine, Demerol, and Xanax." But as The Smoking Gun says in their intro to the autopsy: "did you really expect Playboy would acknowledge a Playmate's messy demise?"

I just envisioned some dark triumvirate composed of Hef, George Lucas, and Walt Disney, three creators of self-enclosed fantasy worlds with massive impact on the twentieth century who obsessively protect[ed] their creations from the influence of the real world. There's a link between those three --I swear.
OTHER SPORTS BLOGS HEARD FROM: Matt Welch hips us all to the blog of Dan Lewis, an actual professional sports writer. Dan's more of a commentator than a linker to weirdness, it seems like, so he's following in the warblog tradition and not the hey-I-got-cool-stuff Fark/boing boing-esque SPORTSbyBROOKS. Kewl. Hey, an NBA post!
PARTY AND GEEK OUT: Bruce of Flit has provided me and us all with hours of fine Star Wars obessiveness; check out a page full of discussions of technical matters in the Lucasverse and a great David Brin rant. Feed the inner nerd. Or the outer one --as the case may be.
MARK CUBAN WATCH: Dallas journalist cheeses off Cubes, Cubes calls in to complain and then journalist tapes the conversation. It's a hoot.

Monday, May 20, 2002

JUST A LITTLE TWEAKING: Charlie Murtaugh fixes a recent Bush speech with just a teensy bit of editing. That's all it take sometimes --recall, if you will, the Phantom Edit.
HEFNER WATCH: Evan Daze sent in this choice bit of Hefner-bashing from Nerve and I am thoroughly in his debt. It's a review of that Girl Next Door Fox reality-special dealie. Here's a sample:

So there is something a little extra pathetic about watching Hefner service his legacy. He has always worked overtime in this department, anyway, comparing himself to Capra characters, claiming he was "testing the boundaries," and generally convincing himself and others of his own profundity, even when he couldn't come up with anything better than cool-cat palaver like, "We enjoy mixing up cocktails and an hors d'oeuvre or two, putting a little mood music on the phonograph and inviting a female acquaintance for a quiet discussion of Picasso, Nietzsche, jazz, sex."

Of course, a late '90s retro cool cloud descended over the mansion, particularly after a Viagra-popping Hef went back on the loose after his 1998 divorce. The Friars Club gave him a lifetime achievement award, and the American Society of Magazine Editors inducted him into their hall of fame. It almost seemed indecorous to point out that the man's only achievements have been throwing some really swell parties, spending his entire adult life in pajamas and putting out a stroke magazine.

Picasso, Nietzsche, jazz, sex. Yes.
OBIT: Stephen Jay Gould, dead at the age of 60. Geez, talk about out of nowhere. Via Goodshit.
MARK CUBAN WATCH: He wraps up the Mavs' season in this interview.
WEBBER WOBBLES, DOES FALL OVER: Bill Plaschke of the LA Times on Chris Webber:

Chris Webber is the smiling slugger who hits 40 home runs a year, three of which anyone remembers.

Chris Webber is the congenial quarterback who throws for 35 touchdowns a season, two after Thanksgiving, none in the final two minutes.

Chris Webber is ominous and odd enough to be classified as science fiction, a double feature. At 7 p.m., he's cute, magical E.T.

At 10 p.m., he's Hollow Man.

Webber was supposed to be the middle of the Sacramento King attack in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals against the Lakers.

Luckily for the Lakers, he decided to tailgate instead.

He goes on with variations on this theme for the rest of the column, but the point he's making --the softness of Chris Webber-- is well taken. He is the Kings' achilles heel, the guy who's getting them all those wins but who is not going to get it done come playoff time.. I mean, I think they (the Kings) are already doomed; it's just a questions of if they sweep or not. I think they win a few if they can get Webber to foul out in the fourth quarter --which seemed to work for them against Dallas.

Friday, May 17, 2002

DOES IT HAVE AN ATMOSPHERE? NO? SCREW IT: Via Dane Carlson comes the news that astronomers have found eleven new moons of Jupiter but they're all of the tiny, rocky variety. We need a way to distinguish true, good moons like our very own Moon and Titan and Ganymede and Io from all the tiny little Manhattan-sized rocks people are trying to pass off as moons, like the shitty little moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos. Call them captured objects or captured asteroids or space rocks or something, otherwise every little Charon and Phoebe is going to be clamoring for moon-status and this will lead to chaos, I'll tell ya what.

And yes I called Phobos and Deimos "shitty little moons." That makes me.....wait for ANTI MARTITE! HAHAHAHA! Get it?
CLONES REVIEW OF THE DAY: Franklin Harris has his posted. His verdict:

Lucas can be happy to know that he has almost redeemed himself for the failure of "The Phantom Menace." Like "Return of the Jedi," "Attack of the Clones" is a flawed but enjoyable film, at least as far as its intended audience is concerned. But it isn't the great film it could have been if Lucas knew half as much about love and loss as he does about droids and Death Stars.

I saw it last night and it was tons better than Phantom Menace, if only because the Jar Jar and Trade Federation cretins appearances were kept to a minimum. It was a little disconcerting to see Jedis fighting with and not against Stormtroopers, but I guess the plot called for it. Whatever. Was this thing as good as Jedi? Jedi was a movie caught between opposite poles of high-coolness (the Jabba's palace scene, the space battle, Darth turning on the Emperor) and unredeemable suck (the death of Boba Fett, anything with the Ewoks.) There isn't anything unredeemably sucky to drag down Clones like Jar Jar dragged down Phantom Menace and the Ewoks strangled Jedi --which gives it a vast advantage over Jedi. And yet there isn't anything like the Jabba palace scene to weird you out and impress you and get you really engaged in the movie. The guest appearance by Los Angeles in the year 2019 only reminded me (obviously) of Blade Runner, and the all-CGI final clone vs. droid battle came across like a completely pale imitation of the Empire Hoth battle. So Clones is not quite stinky poo, but nothing like the first two Star Wars where you knew you were going to see something you'd never seen before. I think Franklin is right to put it on the same level as Jedi, but it fails for different reasons than why Jedi failed. No blatant suck factor, but a flatness of tone in just about every scene besides those on the cloners' planet --now those worked. Even if I was rooting for Jango Fett.

Which leads me to Item #417 in the Case For "George Lucas Has No Clue Why People Like His Movies": Boba Fett. Here's this guy, we see him first in Empire, the movie that also made Vader as a total badass what with the killing of subordinates right and left and the boots-quaking fear every slumming Shakespearean actor in that movie had for him. And Boba Fett was the only guy in that movie with the nuts to stand up to Vader. And Lucas has, like, no clue why this was so awe-inspiring and why everybody wanted Boba Fett underoos back in the day; he had no idea how to exploit Fett's presence and fed him to the friggin' Sarlaac in the first scene of Jedi. And as if to underscore the point we get mega-Fett presence in Clones: the whole clone army is Jango copies. Lucas knows people like the character, but still can't quite put his finger on why; I picture him saying to himself, "People seem to like this Fett fella, so I'll make sure he gets a huge role in the Star Wars mythos, even if I never liked him myself and offed him the first chance I got. That'll work." Fett worked because he was just a bad-ass guy standing up to Jedi weirdos and the Empire with nothing more than a jet pack and a cool outfit --he was like the "evil" version of Han Solo, or at least the version of Han Solo who was pure mercenary. And Papa Jango is the only one mixing it up with the Jedis in Clones, fighting Obi-Wan and winning in the best action scene in the movie, and he still gets offed (just like Darth Maul in Phantom Menace; Lucas never lets his more engaging characters live.) So now we have an origin for Boba Fett and a zillion clones of his daddy, none of which makes me think Lucas knew what he had in bounty hunter Fett. The Mismanagement of Boba Fett: another plank in the George Lucas, Creative, Clueless Guy platform.

And there's still no Han Solo guy to add irreverence to the good guys in Clones, leaving Jedi stiffs Obi-Wan and Anakin to carry the burden of levity. They aren't quite the zero-charisma tag team that Liam Neeson and MacGregor were in Menace, but they do have to switch between "formal" dialogue and "snappy banter" dialogue (safe to say that neither one has Harrison Ford's comic timing) and it's a little, well, obvious. So it lacks the fun factor of Jedi in that sense, though C-3PO and R2-D2 end up carrying the comic load in the final third of the movie and I did enjoy their scenes. But....yeah: Clones is on a similiar level as Jedi but does not work for different reasons. That's the only point I have.

And Ewan MacGregor has a zit on his forehead the whole movie long. Did Alec Guiness have a zit in the first three and I never noticed? Huh.
MALOOF BROTHERS WATCH: The Kings' owners appeared on The Tonight Show and the Sacramento Bee has the recap.

Thursday, May 16, 2002

WE ARE FULL OF FLOPS: Knowitall Blowhard, The True People's Hero, is back in charge of the peace-loving republic of Shitistan and is joining me in NBA coverage. The masses need their opium.
IS THERE AN OPTION C?: Corsair poses the musical question: would you rather raise your children under a quasi-fascist Arab regime or a pathological communist one? Now there's a noggin-scratcher. Corsair sounds like he'd rather have the condition of having a government so relentlessly psychotic and awful that you'd do everything you could to make life better for your children (North Korea) over the looking-backward sending-your-children-to-die-for-glory culture that manages to be assured of its own greatness and incredibly resentful of the developed world's success at the exact same time (your average Arab regime) --and when you put it that way, North Korea does sound like a slightly better place to raise children. But man....I dunno.
CLONES REVIEW OF THE DAY: Patrick Sauriol has his up. He approaches it with the persepctive of a Star Wars fan, but not an obsessed, Lucas-worshipping one, and judges it just short of thumbs up:

Still, some of the old problems with Menace remain. The dialogue by Lucas and Hales is hit-or-miss, and it could have used another rewrite from a wordsmith who's an expert at writing natural sounding dialogue. No one will argue that Lucas hires the world's best people to create his imaginary environments...but why then doesn't he hire someone like Frank Darabont, Scott Frank, John August, M. Night Shyamalan or another accomplished screenwriter to polish up his scripts? George, you don't have to do everything!

Attack of the Clones has been skewered by the mainstream critics, and I think that's unfortunate. It's not a bad movie but neither is it a good movie; the more I think about it, the more I believe greatness slipped by Clones by just a hairlength. Lucas, while certainly an innovator and a man of incredible cinematic ingenuity, needs to also realize his limitations as a filmmaker. I believe the savaging he took from the most vocal critics of The Phantom Menace helped make Attack of the Clones a better Star Wars film, but his journey towards being a better director isn't over yet. Here's hoping that Episode III will finally see Lucas come into full bloom as a master storyteller.

Patrick's right about Lucas needing to realize his limitations; it's no coincidence that the best Star Wars movie --Empire-- had old-time professional Hollywood types like Leigh Brackett and Irvin Kershner prominently involved.

Coming Attractions also has a link to a USA Today story on the Daredevil movie. Ben Affleck is Daredevil. Jennifer Garner is Elektra. The two main villains are the Kingpin and Bullseye. We'll see how that goes.
KOBE BRYANT, DECENT HUMAN BEING: I love talking smack about Kobe as much as the next Laker-hater, but then he goes and proves himself a good person:

Steve Tyson met Kobe Bryant last weekend in an Italian restaurant in San Antonio—just walked up and stuck out his hand—and Bryant smiled and did the same.

For a few minutes, while Bryant's bodyguards ate, Steve and Kobe talked, about Gary Payton, Steve's favorite player, and about the senior prom Steve was headed to, and about the playoff series against the local team, the San Antonio Spurs, and Steve hardly coughed at all.

They took a picture, Steve and his date, Megan, and Kobe Bryant, who laughed and shook Steve's hand one more time and wished him luck. Steve returned the sentiment, and hardly coughed at all, and everybody said goodbye.

Bryant could not have known that Steve Tyson had all but sneaked away from Room 964 at Wilford Hall Medical Center on the Lackland Air Force Base a few hours earlier. Tyson had disconnected the IV bag above his head, then coiled the line beneath the sleeve of his tuxedo shirt, told a nurse he was going and left.

Via the LA Examiner. And yes, this is three links to the LA Times in a row. Either they're hitting on all cylinders sports-wise today or I'm just being lazy. Take yer pick.
IF ONLY BASKETBALL WAS JUDGED LIKE FIGURE SKATING: Diane Pucin on the aesthetics of the Kings:

Sacramento has a group of players who see the floor well and seem to see all the possibilities the game can offer. They see all the possibilities because so many are available to this team. "We can do so many things," Sacramento guard Doug Christie says. "We have a lot of guys who are versatile."

When the Kings play offense, all five men are involved. Any of five players can pass and score. Big men such as Vlade Divac, Chris Webber and Peja Stojakovic can dunk and shoot from outside. The Kings play fast, yet they play patiently. They do things by instinct, but it is instinct produced by visualizing their next move and the one after that. They sometimes seem like the chess master who never, never concedes he has been stopped.

When there are five, four, three seconds left on the shot clock and the defense is about to congratulate itself on a great possession, Mike Bibby or Webber or Christie will make a soft bounce pass to a sneaky cutter who has been forgotten by a defender who was already thinking about the next play. The Kings never give up on finding ways to score because they have so many ways to score.
FOOTBALL IN L.A.?: The LA Times runs down the suspects for latest professional American football franchise to move to Los Angeles:

San Diego—The Chargers are already moving their training camp in 2003 from La Jolla to the Anschutz sports complex in Carson, and they have a major loophole in their lease with publicly owned Qualcomm Stadium. The contract, which extends through 2020, has a clause that would allow team owner Alex Spanos to "shop" for a new city in 2004 if the team exceeds certain salary restrictions imposed by the NFL.
Minnesota—Viking owner Red McCombs is very interested in selling his team, and, according to NFL sources, has already contacted the Anschutz coalition about buying it. The problem with the Vikings, though, is there is no clear way out of their Metrodome lease in the next seven years.
New Orleans—Saint owner Tom Benson says he wants to keep the team in New Orleans and last week signed a 10-year, $186-million deal with the state to keep the franchise among the top 16 teams in local revenue. But escape clauses remain in the lease, and it's unclear whether New Orleans can continue to support an NFL team, let alone the transplanted Charlotte Hornets.
Buffalo—It's highly unlikely the Bills will ever move out of Buffalo as long as Ralph Wilson is the owner. After all, they play in a stadium named after him. But sources familiar with the situation say Wilson does not have enough cash to transfer the team to his two daughters and pay the estate tax. After the 2004 season, the Bills can get out of their Buffalo lease by paying a $20-million penalty. That penalty shrinks each subsequent year, all the way down to $2 million in 2012.
Indianapolis—Although their lease expires in 2005, the Colts can get out of their lease earlier if they dip below the median in total operating revenue.
Arizona—The Cardinals have the money for a new stadium, including more than $350 million from taxpayers, but they have yet to find a suitable place to put it. They have zeroed in on a Mesa site, but people there are circulating a petition to keep a stadium out of their town.

San Diego is the team that people keep mentioning because they moved their practice facility from La Jolla to Carson --which I presume is closer to Los Angeles-- but from a it-makes-sense-to-me standpoint I can't see how New Orleans continues to have an NFL franchise. I can't see the Vikings or the Bills ever leaving, but the thing about the NFL is, if the Colts and Browns can move, anybody can move. The big question is: will the NFL make the new team change their name? All the teams mentioned above have long histories, if not actually good histories. Perhaps a renaming would to the Saints or Cardinals good.

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

CLIPPERS WATCH: So the Los Angeles Clippers are sitting around, minding their own business, trying not to be too bothered by the fact that --with the recent turnarounds of the Nets and Kings-- they are the last traditional pitiful franchise in the NBA out of the playoffs. And then comes this weird bit of rumor that Mike Dunleavy will pull his name out of the draft if the Clips get one of the top three picks. The hey?

By the way, that Pistons-Celtics 66-64 showcase of ineptitude? That was like a basketball game as envisioned by Ed Wood: everything done in earnest, everything failing horribly, yet strangely compelling to watch. If there's a Mystery Science Theater of sporting events, that has to be the first thing they do --because it wasn't bad and boring, it was hypnotically, charismatically bad. And thus very watchable.
SPORTS GUY WENT DOWN TO GEORGIA: While reading the Bill Simmons account of his trip to Inside The NBA (here's part one and part two) I run across this passage:

Poor Ernie is hemming and hawing. They're referring to a feature about Johnson in Thursday's USA Today, in which writer Jill Lieber wrote flattering prose about Ernie but took some veiled shots at Kenny and Charles, saying they "babble on endlessly" in one section. The feature even carried a sub-headline about Ernie that read, "He is a rare person who can banter with big egos and still keep the show on track." And now Barkley and Kenny have twisted things around at Ernie's expense.

Lost in all the joshing was the story itself, a wonderful account of Ernie and his family. Johnson and his wife had two children of their own, then adopted two more children -- one each from Romania and Paraguay, including an abandoned, handicapped boy who suffers from muscular dystrophy and a number of other medical problems -- one of those stories that you read and feel guilty about your own life, knowing that somebody else has been acting so selflessly.

Here is the article in question.
CLONES REVIEWS FILTERING IN: Here's the Metacritic Clones page. Reviews are mixed, but I am all set to cringe in my seat when I read dialogue like this: "I don't like the sand. It's coarse and rough and irritating--not like you. You're soft and smooth." So very....cold.....
MORE ON NON-NASCAR RACING: Team Ferrari orders Rubens Barrichello to let Michael Schumacher pass him in an F-1 race on Sunday:

Formula One might be the most popular auto-racing series since the invention of the wheel. Its teams might have operating budgets that could turn a developing nation into a superpower.
But this time, F-1 has hit the wall big-time. Even in a series that oozes arrogance, the decision of the Ferrari team Sunday to order Rubens Barrichello, who was on the verge of taking the checkered flag, to slow down and allow Michael Schumacher to win the Austrian Grand Prix was outrageous.
Ferrari tried to defend the decision Monday, a move that amounts to gasoline on the fire.
For those who don't follow F-1 racing, Ferrari team manager Jean Todt ordered the move to enable Schumacher to expand his series lead in his bid for a third straight season championship. The crowd greeted the sham with jeers.
ODDLY COMPELLING: The complete Allen Iverson interview transcript. Via SLAM.
KINGS-MAVS EPISODE FIVE: MAVS STINK: This whole Mavs-Kings thing did not live up to the hype, I'm afraid. Kings in five when everybody was hoping it would go seven, or at least predicting that, possibly based on the Kings' sketchiness and willingness to fall apart when pressured. Darn. Hopefully the Kings can make it a series against the Lakers, and not regress into their flaky ways.

Friday, May 10, 2002

MAYBE THEY'VE SEEN TOO MANY MOVIES: Interesting New Times LA article on the LAPD and how it won't give up on its habit of car chases.
YOU KNOW, THE ONE WITH THE FUNNY-LOOKING CARS?: USA Today story on why NASCAR is beating Indy racing in popularity. And an ESPN article on Sarah Fisher.
SPEAKING OF RETURNS: Monstah is back. And smacking around Dinesh D'Souza.
MARK CUBAN WATCH: Somebody in The Washington Post got him talking:

"If the best story line we can come up with is Michael Jordan, shame on us," Cuban said. "With everything we've got going on, shame on us. If that's the best we can do, slap us in the head."

On a different note, Cuban encouraged fans here to bring noisemakers to Games 3 and 4 to out-duel Sacramento fans, who bang on cowbells at home games. Fans responded, mostly by bringing cowbells.

Cuban said the best barometer of the noisemakers' effectiveness would be if Sacramento Kings forward Chris Webber gets, "that I'm going to cry look on his face. Then you know the [noise] is doing its job. Either that or [girlfriend] Tyra [Banks] is walking out with Chris Tucker or somebody."

And Craig Sager interviewed Cuban and his guests, the Maloof brothers, during halftime last night. Nothing really of note there --neither party seems like they really want to hate the other. Despite all the cowbells.
MAVS-KINGS EPISODE THREE: THE RETURN OF THE CHRISTIE: Mavs lose without ever really being out of the game but without ever being really in the game either. Dirk has yet to pick up this series and as he goes, so go the Mavs. I mean, Finley scores 37 and they still lose? Plus the Kings just looked like they wanted it more --Bibby particularly. These are two streaky teams so the series could come down to which team remembers they want it more in enough time to win two or three more games.

Wednesday, May 08, 2002

NETS LOVE: I keep expecting the Nets to fall in the crapper but they pull it off again. And Joumana Kidd is a fine-looking woman.
NBA HYPE: Little Q&A with Joe Maloof.

Tuesday, May 07, 2002

THE DEATH OF PIM FORTUYN: Coincidence of coincidences, the Economist had just come out with their survey of the Netherlands when Fortuyn was killed. Here's the relevant quotes:

This is a particularly opportune moment to re-examine the apparent success of the polder model, for three reasons. The first is that, after nearly two decades of healthy performance, the economy has suddenly begun to look a lot less bouncy. Growth has slowed sharply, inflation has reappeared and unemployment is rising. Some critics have suggested that the economic wheels have come off the polder model. The more sober OECD, in its latest country report, notes merely that “these are undoubtedly testing times for the Netherlands, with the economy moving away from sustained non-inflationary growth.”

The second reason is that the normally predictable Dutch politics is under attack. The upheaval does not stem from the government's resignation on April 15th, which made little real difference, since an election was anyway scheduled for May 15th, after which Mr Kok had promised to step down. But it had long been assumed that the next government would be just another variation on the familiar theme, perhaps this time including the Christian Democrats. However, a new actor has burst on to the stage in the shape of the populist Pim Fortuyn. Mr Fortuyn is leading his own party into the election and may, say the polls, win so many seats that it will be hard to keep him out of the government.

Mr Fortuyn's arrival may be more than a coincidence. For the third reason for reappraising the polder model is that he reflects a growing dissatisfaction with the whole system. Despite their economy's success, Dutch voters, like those in France who recently backed Jean-Marie Le Pen, seem strangely disgruntled. Many are unhappy over their country's reputation for excessive tolerance—whether of immigrants, soft drugs, prostitutes or even gays (paradoxically, Mr Fortuyn is openly gay himself). There are particular worries over a practice known as gedogen, an untranslatable term that signifies acceptance of mild law-breaking: in effect, the opposite of New York's policy of zero tolerance.

The malaise that is showing in support for Mr Fortuyn is also strengthening the criticisms that some leading Dutch figures have been making of the cosy and consensual polder model itself. In recent months, both the governor of the central bank, Nout Wellink, and the finance minister, Gerrit Zalm, have suggested that the polder model may be past its best. Why do they feel this? A big part of the answer is to be found in their country's recent economic performance, which has not been quite as good as enthusiasts like to maintain. Nor, on closer examination, does it owe all that much to the polder model.

There you go. I meant to link to this survey earlier, and make some goofy joke about the land of my ancestors --like how weird are the Dutch, they created their country out of a swamp, no wonder I love the Meadowlands, etc.-- but real events overtook me, I guess.
STILL FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT: Nice to see Christina Hoff Sommers is still stirring up trouble. Via Joanne Jacobs.
DRUG WAR: A story from the frontlines on Reason.
WRESTLING AS YOU LIKE IT: Phil Schneider has the first two new Heat and Raw Workrate Reports in a long long time and I'm glad they're bringing them back. Feel the love.
PROZAC IS A SCAM: Sugar pills cure depression as well as antidepressants. Apparently it's the context of getting treated for your problems that's the important thing, and not the pills themselves. I'm glad people are getting treated and everything, but does this mean pharmaceutical companies are making billions to provide a prop so people think they're getting something chemical that's making them better when in reality they're just thinking themselves better?
MEANINGLESSNESS OF RACE WATCH: Charlie Murtaugh links to this Sally Satel article about the subtle changes doctors make when treating one race or another:

In my drug-treatment clinic, where almost all of the patients use heroin by injection, a substantial number of them have hepatitis C, an infectious blood-borne virus that now accounts for 40 percent of all chronic liver disease. The standard treatment for active hepatitis C is an antiviral-drug combination of alpha interferon and ribavirin. But for some as yet undiscovered reason, African-Americans do not respond as well as whites to this regimen. In white patients, the double therapy reduces the amount of virus in the blood by over 90 percent after six months of treatment. In blacks, the reduction is only 50 percent. As a result, my black patients with hepatitis C must be given a considerably less reassuring prognosis than my white patients.

Without a doubt, there are many medical situations in which race is irrelevant. In an operation to repair a broken leg, for example, a patient's race doesn't matter. But there are countless situations in which the race factor should be considered. My colleague Ronald W. Dworkin, an anesthesiologist in a Baltimore-area hospital, takes race into account when performing one of his most important activities: intubation, the placement of a breathing tube down a patient's windpipe. During intubation, he says, black patients tend to salivate heavily, which can cause airway complications. As a precautionary measure, Dworkin gives many of his black patients a drying agent. ''Not every black person fits this observation,'' he concedes, ''but there is sufficient empirical evidence to make every anesthesiologist keep this danger in the back of his or her mind.'' The day I spoke with him, Dworkin attended a hysterectomy in a middle-aged Asian woman. ''Asians tend to have a greater sensitivity to narcotics,'' he says, ''so we always start with lower doses. They run the risk of apnea'' -- the cessation of breathing -- if we do not.''
MAVS-KINGS EPISODE TWO: TEAM CUBAN STRIKES BACK: Now this game lived up to the hype. I think I'm pulling for the Mavs because the Kings have an alarming tendency to fall apart at crunch time --like they did last night as Webber started jump-shooting and Stojakovic threw up a three when something more predictable was needed-- and any team that falls apart at crunch time is not going to beat the Lakers.

And who was key for the Mavs last night? That's right, Nick Van Exel:

His message came during a timeout in the second quarter, after his Mavericks were down by as many as 13 points and after they allowed the Kings to connect on 63 percent of their first-half attempts. He screamed at Dirk Nowitzki and Greg Buckner in the same breath. He had a message for them, too.

"I was just telling them that this has got to mean more," Van Exel said. "We can't go down 0-2, and I wasn't going to let them."

WORLD CUP: Interesting Boston Globe article on the Adidas-Nike-Puma rivalry within soccer. The article ends with the usual wistfulness about America being an untapped market for soccer.
I HEART BASKETBALL: Bob Ryan on Mavs-Kings:

What basketball fan wouldn't want to watch Dallas and Sacramento battle for seven games? This will be San Antonio-Denver, circa 1985, with both teams actually approaching the series with an eye toward outscoring the other guy. What a novel concept! God bless Don Nelson and Rick Adelman, a pair of retro coaches who are actually allowing their high-spirited athletes to think in terms of offense.

Wouldn't it be great if one of these teams actually won it all? We haven't had a truly enjoyable champion since the 1988 ''Showtime'' Lakers, a team directed by some guy named Pat Riley and choreographed by Magic Johnson. I wonder if this Riley fellow in Miami is related to the one who used to coach in LA? He certainly has no professional similarities.

But if either Dallas or Sacramento manages to defeat the Lakers, and then takes out whichever outgunned Eastern Conference team that happens to show up, people would pay attention. Sports are incessantly derivative. For 13 years, the winning formula has been to concentrate 80 percent to 90 percent of your energy on defense while trying not to make too many mistakes on offense. Dallas and Sacramento do it the old-fashioned way: They want to blow you out of the gym. If one of them wins, people will fall in step. That's a lock. And we will be the beneficiaries.
CLIMBING MOUNT KOBE: Matt Welch links to Eric Neel's latest, and I have to quibble with this:

And as for Kobe, like Jordan and Tiger and DiMaggio and a handful of others, put him in that class of single-minded athlete performers who are utterly captivating and, it seems, almost totally unknowable.

I still say the jury is out on Kobe as a performer until he can carry a Shaq-free team. As for his persona, he is, at heart, an arrogant ass convinced of his own ability and in that sense is completely knowable. Sometimes he tries to do the Jordan trick of always doing the thing that wins the game on the court and then always saying the safe thing to the press afterwards --but he's not that good at it, and much more at ease when he's trying to show up other players or being a wiseass. So --in my opinion-- the youthful Kobe is trying to emulate his idol, Jordan, and succeeding on the court but failing off the court because he's not bland in that Jordan/Tiger way. Those Sprite commercials are still shitting, but at least Kobe's showing some personality in them, unlike all those Jordan Hanes ads and that creepy Buick ad where Tiger starts cackling in the end. Never was laughter so forced.

Anyway, the Viper picks up on something kind of like this today:

The no-zone rule was changed in no small measure to try to neuter O'Neal, but he's still the most dangerous dude (27.2 ppg, 57-pct. FG, 10.7 rpg) in the dungeon. When his tootsies aren't tender, The Big Aris-toe-tle simply distorts the game, whereas Bryant is Tracy McGrady with two rings and a superiority complex to match.

And has this to say about MVP Tim Duncan:

Using "where would his team be without him?" as the principal principle before stuffing the ballot box, you can understand why the Spurs' habit-forming savior is going to get a personal visit from David Stern along with the hardware and a handshake. Despite firing 21 blanks Sunday, including his first ten (yes, I told you before, I'm aware playoff stats don't count), his presence and absence (see Game 4 vs. Seattle) proves he's the most indispensable player in the association. Without The Big Fundamental, San Antonio wouldn't qualify for the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Then this:

For Whatever It's Worth: I voted for Duncan. He's too good to be true. It's impossible to say anything bad about him, which greatly concerns me. Imagine if his actions and attitude create a wave of incoming NBA players with equivalent character, unmitigated team orientation and general genius for the game.

I strongly advise youngsters not to follow Duncan's example. Do not, I repeat, do not try to act like him at home or on the court. Otherwise, I'm out of business.

So I hope this means Tim will be inspired tonight, though Shaq may be inspired too in that negative way that Shaq gets inspired: when people aren't paying enough attention to him. They were claiming on TNT last night that the Lakers are beatable this year --and they looked very beatable in that first game against the Spurs-- but nobody's beat them yet. Hopefully San Antonio isn't too intimidated by that loss and comes back and makes a series of it.

Monday, May 06, 2002

TROLLS NEED TRADING CARDS TOO: A goofy USENET post that made me laugh.
MAVS-KINGS EPISODE ONE: THE PHANTOM MENACE: Because Game One didn't live up to the hype as the Mavs never got off the ground. Hopefully Episode Two --Attack Of The Cubes-- will be better.
THAT LAKERS-SPURS GAME: I dunno, you think that first-Shaq-then-Kobe injury thing was just a ploy to inject some drama in that game and get the crowd riled up? If Shaq didn't really get a call from his father in the locker room, I'm thinking anything's possible.

Friday, May 03, 2002

NOW THIS MAY BE GOING A BIT TOO FAR: Dirk Nowitzki: Time Person Of the Week. Yep:

Last week, Dirk Nowitzki led the running, gunning Dallas Mavericks into the second round of the playoffs. He put up, as the sports guys say, "Big-time numbers." Those would be: 100 points and 47 rebounds in a mere three games. He also shot 52 percent from the floor, made 8 of 11 from beyond the three-point arc and sank 32 of his 36 free throws, and graced the cover of Tuesday's issue of Sports Illustrated, his goateed face soaring up to the rim.

Suddenly, a league that's been desperately scouring the U.S. for its identity without Michael Jordan (Ohio high school junior LeBron James was on the cover of the aforementioned sports weekly a few months ago as the next Mike) may have found it in a bevy of European imports that are changing the way the NBA game is played. And so for fulfilling the promise of globalization, Nowitzki is's Person of the Week.

I mean, I loved watching the Mavs destroy the Wolves and meant to write a post after Game Three linking to every rundown on that series as I could find. But this Mavs-Kings series, it's already into overhype territory, and yet the hits keep on coming. It's a good thing that Dirk apparently never leaves his apartment, or he might be getting a complex.

Via the Lone Mavs Fan forum.
INTERESTING: Why Las Vegas isn't getting an NBA franchise anytime soon:

Las Vegas, the first choice of the Grizzlies a year ago as they looked to leave Vancouver and an intriguing location for the NBA as a whole, has backed way off on its push to land a team through relocation or expansion. It was barely in play as the Hornets went window shopping before settling on New Orleans, suggesting city officials who once tried to rally support are conceeding they are fighting a lost cause. The league won't go there unless sports books stop taking action on the NBA, and the casinos won't agree to that concession, more because the hotel industry doesn't want outsiders dictating their business than out-of-financial concerns since basketball bets are a very small percentage of the gambling take. Without that holdup, the Grizzlies would probably be there now and the league would be in a market it considers extremely promising.

From Scott Howard Cooper's latest ESPN column.
EX-SUCKSTERS WATCH: Tim Cavanaugh: still has no love for the blog form. Or maybe just The Corner. Polly Esther: penis-free in the 2-double-O-2. The old URL still works, though.
BK IS BACK: Remember Byung-Hyun Kim? The guy who gave up two game-costing homeruns in the World Series last year. He's still a Diamondback, and apparently doing fine:

"As far as I can tell, he's fine," manager Bob Brenly said. "I haven't been given any reason to believe he's been affected by this. Obviously, it might have been different if we'd lost, but I guess we'll never know that, will we?"

So far, Kim looks more than fine. Not only does he appear unaffected by his World Series misfortune, he seems energized by it. In his first 10 appearances, he has five saves, a 0.84 ERA and a remarkable 20 strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings. That's 20 strikeouts out of 32 outs, territory usually reserved for his teammates Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling.

When it was mentioned to Brenly that it's a good bet Kim has never even heard the tragic tale of Donnie Moore, Brenly's voice acquired an edge that could slice rock. "No, he doesn't," he said. "And you know what? He doesn't need to know, either."

Moore, by the way, gave up a game-winner in the 1986 ALCS, preventing the Angels from getting into the World Series. And he floundered around after that and killed himself and tried to kill his wife in 1989. Moore was about 32 when he gave up that homer; Kim was 22 --so maybe his youth is healing the psychic wounds.

Thursday, May 02, 2002

MAVS-KING SCHEDULE: Can be found here. And Dan Graf of The Sporting News buys into the hype.
A BLOGGER DARKLY: Charles Murtaugh promises to drag Blade Runner into the cloning debate and I am suitably psyched. Lessee here, Blade Runner had to do with humanoid replicants who were identical to humans except at the emotional and, I guess, chemical level and who were bred to fill specific roles in society (soldiering, plutonium rod disposal, prostitution). Charlie's analysis is going to proceed from somewhere in there, I'ma guessing.
OTHER PLAYOFFS HEARD FROM: Hey, Puck Hog has gone collaborative. Check 'em out. The two Charleses --Tupper Jr. and Austin-- even digress and digress and digress again into the basketball. I can't watch hockey this year since 1. the Devils are gone and 2. this is a fun fun NBA playoffs but Howard Fienberg's brainchild is the place to go for intelligent hockey talk. If you're keeping track we have good blogs for hockey, college football, baseball, and basketball. There appears to be no NFL-specific blog but reading Ben Domenech early and often will do for that, methinks.
MARK CUBAN WATCH: The second MCW of the day: his chat today on ESPN. A few highlights:

George: Are you going to be shopping Michael Finley this summer? I feel he is expendable with your recent acquisitions.

Mark Cuban: (2:12 PM ET ) Hell no.
gokul (dallas): hi mark. congrats on the mavs making the second round. i believe they will beat sac in 6. and advance to face the lakers. might against the lakers, Might nelson refer to the hack a shaq again? whatever is being said about shaq's new free throw proficiency, its still the weakest part of his game. why not make him shoot 30 ft's a game? i'll bet u a million bucks he makes no more than 10 or 12.

Mark Cuban: (2:14 PM ET ) Nellie's job is to do what it takes to win. If its hack a Shaq, I'm all for it. Right now though all we have to do is get the refs to call him stepping across the free throw line and he has a big problem.
Noah(Phoenix): Mr. Cuban, since you have so much money, could you please take on the contracts of Penny Hardaway and Tom Gugliotta during the offseason? All we would want in return would be a conditional second round draft pick and some bubble gum.

Mark Cuban: (2:14 PM ET ) Want me to buy you lunch and a car too? :)
Tempo341 (DC): What is the next 'BIG THING' that I should invest in?

Mark Cuban: (2:14 PM ET ) Put your money in the bank and stay away from the stock market.
Rick (Austin): What has been the biggest thrill of owning a sports franchise?

Mark Cuban: (2:15 PM ET ) Besides all the great people, the best is running on the court after a game winning shot, and knowing the cops can't come and kick you off.
Anthony (Dallas): Are you in favor of the Hornets move to New Orleans? It doesn't seem like New Orleans could support another professional franchise - they have trouble with one. Why wouldn't the league force the owner to sell since he seems to be at the root of the problem?

Mark Cuban: (2:16 PM ET ) I havent seen the league report. After I read it I will make up my mind based on the data presented and nothing else

He also say the feuds with Phil Jackson and Shaq are "all in fun." Kind of like the chat, or watching the Mavs. Neat.
PIMPING COMICS: Makura no soshi Karin has a review of 9/11 comics up on bookslut. Check it out --I didn't know the comics majors did anything like this, as I've been in one of my non-comics reading periods lately. Karin offers this:

It can be argued -- and indeed, it has been, especially with regard to 9/11 -- that it's wrong to criticize a piece of heartfelt art for its sentimentality, and certainly there are those who will accuse me of being a curmudgeon (or worse) for having any kind of problem with, for example, the 2-pager depicting a fictional Superman lamenting his helplessness from within the pages of his comic book. History will pass the final judgement, long after many of us are dead, but even now, surely we the living can see that it does the shades of 9/11 little service to wish that Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Flash had been around to save them; nor, for that matter, does it add any honour to the heroes the the four-colour pages to mix them up in the troubles of our real, messy world. For some of us, it may alleviate the pain, but the question of appropriateness remains unaddressed.

Without seeing the comics, I mean, a 2-pager with Superman "lamenting his helplessness" just sounds horrible. And didn't DC nuke one of their fictional cities --Keystone City or Central City or Fawcett City-- recently? In the past few years, I think. Superhero comics diverge from the real world at moments of real horror, because the superheroes operate on such a hyperreal scale that something as horrible as the 9/11 attacks happens pretty frequently in your D.C./Marvel continuities. I don't think 9/11 is really something the genre can address, or, rather, it already has addressed it, in fictional crisis after crisis. But I haven't read the comics so enough.

Hey, there's a bookslut blog too. Kewl.
MARK CUBAN WATCH: ESPN Magazine has a story on Cubes. Phil Jackson thinks Mark "has his head up his ass" which raises Mark's stock in my book.
MAVS A-GO-GO: The Dallas Mavericks are turning into the league's media darlings, what with the Dirk Nowitzki Sports Illustrated cover (and Slam too, for that matter) and the Steve Nash appearance on Letterman. I only hope they live up to the hype. Mavs vs. Kings Game One, 6:30 PM, Saturday. Here's a neat Dirk Nowitzki feature, by the way.
COMICS QUOTELOG: "At times I feel like a bit of an outsider among comics fans. I was a DC geek in my youth, not really discovering Marvel till my teens and the Dark Phoenix plotline in the X-Men, circa 1980. On the other hand, that means I appreciated the hell out of Grant Morrison’s JLA. Deep down there’s a part of my that thinks religion is a crutch for people who can’t bear to face the fact that the Justice League doesn’t exist." --Pigs & Fishes.
INSOLVENT REPUBLIC OF JAPAN WATCH: Neat Foreign Policy article on the worlwide cultural cache of Japan. A sample:

More than 60 years ago, in a classic study called Mirror, Sword, and Jewel, a German economist at Tokyo Imperial University named Kurt Singer discussed the contrast between the “plasticity” and “endurance” of Japanese culture, the ability to absorb and adapt foreign influences while still retaining an intact cultural core. Yet for Singer writing in the 1930s, the question was “why this gifted and active nation has produced so little that has been found acceptable by other countries in an age open to all foreign influences.”

Today, Japan has outgrown that question, thanks largely to the qualities of Japanese culture that Singer himself identified. In fact, in cultural terms at least, Japan has become one of a handful of perfect globalization nations (along with the United States). It has succeeded not only in balancing a flexible, absorptive, crowd-pleasing, shared culture with a more private, domestic one but also in taking advantage of that balance to build an increasingly powerful global commercial force. In other words, Japan’s growing cultural presence has created a mighty engine of national cool.

It is impossible to measure national cool. National cool is a kind of “soft power”—a term Harvard dean Joseph S. Nye Jr. coined more than a decade ago to explain the nontraditional ways a country can influence another country’s wants, or its public’s values. And soft power doesn’t quantify neatly. How much of modern American hegemony is due to the ideological high ground of its democracy, for instance, how much to its big corporate franchises, to Hollywood, to rock music and blue jeans, or to its ability to fascinate as well as intimidate? National cool is an idea, a reminder that commercial trends and products, and a country’s knack for spawning them, can serve political and economic ends. As Nye argued in this magazine more than a decade ago, “There is an element of triviality and fad in popular behavior, but it is also true that a country that stands astride popular channels of communication has more opportunities to get its messages across and to affect the preferences of others.”

However, while Japan sits on that formidable reserve of soft power, it has few means to tap it. National cool ought to help Japan infuse its universities, research labs, companies, and arts with foreign talent. But in a vast public opinion study conducted throughout Asia in the late 1990s, respondents who admired Japanese culture and Japanese consumer products thought little of the idea of studying or working in Japan, even less of moving there for good. And as open as Japanese culture is to foreign influences, there is neither political nor public support in Japan for immigration, or for immigrants.

When Nye first wrote about soft power, he rightly believed that Japan’s insularity kept it from taking advantage of its formidable economic soft power. Today, a decade of globalization has made Japan somewhat less inward looking, but a decade of recession and political turmoil has made many Japanese seem less secure in some of their fundamental values, undermining traditional ideas in everything from business culture to family life. Those values may rebound with the economy, or they may transform into something new—a national uncertainty infused with even more anxiety by the demographic changes that will accompany the graying of Japan’s population.

Japan’s history of remarkable revivals suggests that the outcome of that transformation is more likely to be rebirth than ruin. Standing astride channels of communication, Japan already possesses a vast reserve of potential soft power. And with the cultural reach of a superpower already in place, it’s hard to imagine that Japan will be content to remain so much medium and so little message.

Via Bizquick. Japan and America are the two countries with worldwide pop cultural influence, and yet we and they do it in completely different ways.
ALL THE WORLD'S A BLOG: I heart Tanya.
YAOZERS: Here's Jay Mariotti in the Sun-Times:

Sharp guy, Yao Ming. He hasn't been in this country four days, and he already has perfected the American art of blackmail. ''I look forward to taking each and every one of you to dinner some time in the future,'' he wrote in a six-paragraph release, distributed to reporters Wednesday after his workout/dog-and-pony show.

''But the check is on you if your reporting makes me look bad.''

The waitress better give me the tab, then. Because Yao clearly is a hype creation who is being stretched and spun into something he's not. Is he a unique project who can develop into a 10-year NBA veteran? Yep. Can he run the floor, hit a jump hook, locate the open cutter? Yep. Does he have calves bigger than my arms? Yep. Will he eventually score his 15 points, grab his seven rebounds, block his couple of shots? I assume. Is he the best Chinese curiosity since the fire drill? Absolutely.

Yet through the blurry blitz of magazine covers, TV features and media madness, let's get something straight: Yao is not going to stalk the game like a beast from a science-fiction movie. He is more novelty than reality, and it would behoove Jerry Krause, who was pacing the sideline during the one-hour Yao on Parade exercise at Loyola's ancient Alumni Gym, to avoid the 7-5 tower on draft night. As it is, concerns abound over the Chinese government's threats to take most of Yao's paycheck and restrict his NBA availability. The last thing the Bulls--or Donald Rumsfeld--need is Krause squabbling with Beijing and causing international incidents. Having now seen Yao perform up close, along with 100 media members and a who's-who of basketball cognoscenti, I can safely conclude he's a double-edged risk.

If you don't believe me, ask Jerry West. He was almost as big a story as Yao, having come out of hibernation this week to run the Memphis Grizzlies in a coup for team owner and Chicagoan Michael Heisley. While praising Yao's friendly demeanor and surprising technical knowledge of the game, West also made it known Shaquille O'Neal has nothing to worry about. Offensively, Yao will contribute. Defensively, he might disappear. As we've seen with other foreign players, he lacks the hard-core temperament to battle the league's brutes. When Yao said this last week of O'Neal--''It's not football. He should go to the WWF. He's too strong.''--wasn't he admitting he's already intimidated?

Mariotti goes on to say: "Until further notice, he's an 18-minute-a-game backup." This appears to be the consensus among people who watched him in the workouts: good, but not the next franchise player.