Thursday, August 27, 2009

Simply Ravishing

I’m not going to lie. I went through a pretty vicious wrestling phase when I was younger. Every week, a friend and I would, swear to god, take our shirts off and act out or own pudgy, pre-adolescent morality plays in each other’s basements. I was a character called Devil Dog, the WWF’s Intercontinental Champion. I entered the ring to Bruce Springsteen’s “No Surrender.” My friend was the Heavyweight Champ, known simply as Wild Thing. I’ll give you one guess what his entrance song was. Together, he and I shared the Tag-Team title, holding off, in a series of epic matches, the Twin Towers—Big Boss Man and Akeem the Dream (ne One Man Gang). I don’t think we had a name. We were simply Devil Dog and Wild Thing, and we were badass. Or as badass as two socially awkward and positively shirtless 11-year-olds could be. 

Back then, it was sort of cool to watch the WWF. (Acting it out, not so much.) Professional wrestling hadn’t yet devolved into the nu-metal spectacle of hate, ignorance and unbridled testosterone it is today. The WWF might have been ridiculous, but it wasn’t entirely without charm. The British Bulldog, Davey Boy Smith, for instance. The good guys, more often than not, emerged victorious, and hubris, embodied most spectacularly in the person of Mr. Perfect, was always punished—usually with an atomic drop. Karma was indeed instant.

All this is a somewhat rambling, semi-coherent explanation of why I’m so excited about hirsute history, branded t-shirts that feature the hair of famous people. Sure, they have writers and modern painters and physicists. But they also have wrestlers from the 1980s. That the t-shirts come in Hulk Hogan’s famous yellow and red color scheme only make the shirts that much more desirable and.... what's the word... awesome. They picked the right wrestlers, too. The aforementioned Hulkster. Andre the Giant. Rowdy Roddy Piper (one of my favorite villains). Hackshaw Jim Duggan. Ravishing Rick Rude. And, perhaps best of all, Mean Gene Okerlund, the WWF’s tuxedoed announcer.

In case you're wondering, I wear a medium. Also, here's a bonus clip of a 1988 Jim Duggan appearance on a regional talk show. The Hacksaw is promoting his upcoming fight against Andre the Giant. The clip is a startling look into the scrambled mind of one of the WWF's most interesting characters. Devil Dog, for all his preternatural talents and youthful charisma, just never measured up.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Can the Braves Win the Wild Card?

With the Yankees running away with the American League East, I’m now officially turning my attention to the Atlanta Braves and the National League Wild Card race. Before the season started, I somewhat foolishly predicted that the Braves would win the National League East, with the lowly and astonishingly bad Mets taking the Wild Card. Today, though, my money’s on the Braves taking the Wild Card.

Since the end of June, the Braves, believe it or not, own the second-best record in the National League, going 32 -18 over the past two months. They are now a season-high eight games over .500. But they still have their work cut out for them. As of this morning, with 38 games to play, the Braves sit a distant four games behind the streaking Colorado Rockies, winners of 53 of their last 79. They’d also have to overtake a strong, but shaky San Francisco Giants team, and hold off the stubborn Florida Marlins, reasonable but certainly not inevitable outcomes.

I think, then, that the Wild Card is going to come down to a two-team race between the Braves and the Rockies. If the Braves are going to pull this off, though, they’re going to have to rely on their starting pitching, because their hitting (Brian McCann’s recent outstanding contributions notwithstanding) leaves a lot to be desired. Atlanta’s rotation—Javier Vazquez, Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens, Kenshin Kawakami and rookie Tommy Hanson, with rehabbing Tim Hudson waiting in the wings—enjoys a healthy 3.54 ERA, the fourth lowest in the National League and more than half-a-run better than their Colorado counterparts (including the recently disabled Aaron Cook), which sports a somewhat pedestrian 4.14 ERA. 

At the same time, the Braves’ bullpen, anchored by closer Rafael Soriano and set-up man Mike Gonzalez, is, arguably, one of the most reliable in the National League. The Braves’ pitching staff, as whole, also possesses a formidable 7.5 strikeouts per 9 innings, compared to Colorado’s 6.9, a significant advantage that could help the Braves eek by the Rockies before the season ends.

What else is working in the Braves advantage? Not much, actually. Both Atlanta and Colorado have five series remaining against teams above .500, while Colorado enjoys only three more remaining home games (22) than the Braves (19). Pretty even, I’d say. Honestly, I have no idea whether or not the Braves can pull this out, but I’m looking forward to watching them give the Rockies, everybody’s flavor of the month, a run for their money.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

19.19 Seconds

Usain Bolt is still fast. A few days removed from shattering the 100-meter world record in a ridiculous 9.58 seconds, Bolt ran 200 meters in an equally ridiculous 19.19 seconds, another world record and just three-tenths of a second off his 100-meter pace. Double the meters; double the time, basically, just like a machine. Most humans run out of steam the farther and faster they run. Not so with Bolt. The man, if you can call him that at this point, seemingly has no problem maintaining world-record speed over long distances. I seriously wouldn't be surprised if, later this week, he dashed off 300 meters in under 29 seconds. 

Kevin Durant at the Movies

Kevin Durant is a man of many talents. Not only is he the most promising and, arguably, most exciting young player in the National Basketball Association, he’s also a pretty good film critic.

For the past few days, in between hours-long practices and work out sessions, Durant has been watching DVDs during his downtime, tweeting his by-the-minute commentary. Most recently, he screened "Obsessed," Beyonce’s broken-down star-making vehicle, and J.J. Abrams’ "Star Trek," which, given its November DVD release date, must be a bootleg or an advance copy or something.
Here are some of Durant’s more trenchant reactions to "Obesessed":

Man if I have a wife and we arguing and she say ‘get out my house’ ima laugh and ask her is she high lol…pleaaassseee.

Ladies don’t try n be like beyonce cuz the fellas will flip and kick yo a** out lol.

Moment of truth.

Lol beyonce got a big a** head..cuz she head butted da mess out that girl..I woulda been outtaaa dere…my scalp woulda been bruised.

While Durant clearly had a lot to say about Obsessed, in comparison, he wasn’t particularly taken with the latest incarnation of the Star Trek franchise. Or should I say enterprise? I get confused. Still, Durant did manage to bang out a few keepers, and raise a number of somewhat interesting if somewhat curious points.
If you ship run outta gas n space…where would you refuel at?
Good question, Kevin.
Zoe saldana is beautiful…nice smile.
Yes, she is
Spock as a little kid would beat da hell outta mcauley caulkin in home alone.
Highly illogical.
Dirty blond to redhead and back again. Don’t worry, Kirk’s still a natural dickhead underneath.
Sorry, that last line is from Anthony Lane’s "New Yorker" review of the film. You get the point, though. 

No word yet on which movie Durant plans on watching next? Here’s hoping he gets his hands on an early copy of "Julia & Julia." I can't wait to read what he has to say about Nora Ephron.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Derek Jeter is Underrated

Believe it or not, this is the growing consensus. After going after Jeter for a few grafs, SI's Joe Posnanski, a Bill James-type writer if there ever was one, finally celebrates the Yankees captain and his remarkable 2009 season.  He writes:
I think that in many ways Derek Jeter this year has added a third title. He has, against all odds, become UNDERRATED. And that is a wicked turn. I think Jeter at 35 is having one of his greatest seasons. I think he's playing defense better than he ever has, he's getting on base and slugging like he did in his prime, and in my view he has been the Yankees most valuable player in 2009. And, for once, it's funny, I don't hear too many other people talking about it.
For years, Jeter's abilities, specifically his defensive chops, have been simultaneously championed and dismissed by his admirers and detractors. His fans, as Posnanski points out, argue that Jeter's greatness cannot be measured by simple statistics. How, his fans argue, can you quantify this or this? His detractors, on the other hand, highlight his limited range and declining UZR rating. And, you know what, both camps are right. From year to year, Jeter, while playing at an enviably high level, isn't the best shortstop in the league. (Hell, when A-Rod came over in 2004, Jeter, some argued, wasn't even the best shortstop on his team). This year, too, for instance, Florida's Hanley Ramirez and Tampa's Jason Bartlett enjoy better offensive numbers, while Texas' Elvis Andrus, Milwaukee's J.J. Hardy, Toronto's Marco Scutaro and Los Angeles' Raphael Furcal, according to FanGraphs, are better defensively. 

Since he broke into the league, though, Jeter's been one hell of a baseball player. It's about time his numbers, the hitherto computable evidence against him, are finally in step with what Jeter's fans have been saying for years. He's simply one of the best in the game. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Forget Favre

The big news today is that Brett Farve emerged from his Mississippi ranch and saw his shadow. Which means, of course, he gets to play quarterback again this season--this time for the Minnesota Vikings. Lucky them. This annual event, which is about as predictable and relevant as Groundhog's Day, is just silly. How long do football fans have to pretend to care about a washed-up quarterback who can't resist throwing into double coverage, and can't just leave well enough alone?  I don't care that he's coming back. I don't care that he's playing for Green Bay's division rival. I don't care that he won a Super Bowl 13 seasons ago. I simply don't care.

The only football I plan on watching this year is "Friday Night Lights," which kicks off its fourth season this October. 

(Thanks to B.A. for pointing out the image)

Monday, August 17, 2009

9.58 Seconds

Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man, shattered the 100-meter world record Sunday night during the world championships in Berlin, Germany. And by shattered, I mean, completely and utterly pounded it into dust. 100 meters, 9.58 seconds. Less time than it takes most men to lace up their shoes.

Bolt only needed 33 strides to reach the finish, shaving the most time off the world record since the introduction of electronic timing, according to BusinessWorld, which also noted that Bolt’s pre-race breakfast was an order of chicken nuggets. Even more amazing, Bolt’s godlike performance comes on the heels of an April car crash in his native Jamaica that resulted in a busted left foot and a small operation to rest the broken bone.

Bolt bested his previous 100-meter best, (9.69, also a world record), which he easily set during last years’ Olympics—after slowing down during the last ten yards or so to pound his chest. After the race, physicists from the Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics at the University of Oslo, Norway, estimated that Bolt, had he sprinted straight through the finish, would have clocked in at 9.55 seconds. At the time, most people scuffed at the calculation. Impossible, critics said. Usain Bolt begs to differ.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Operation Iraqi Baseball

Earlier this summer, Rachel Maddow highlighted a McClatchy news story about the Iraqi national baseball team, which, it turns out, is bad at baseball and, more troubling, in desperate need of equipment. Within a few days, Maddow and her staff were besieged with offers to help. Among the calls the show received was from Ebbets Flannels, a Seattle-based manufacturer of vintage baseball uniforms. The company’s founder, Jerry Cohen, pledged 20 uniforms, one for each player. Other companies and private citizens said they would donate bats, batting gloves, spikes, mitts and catcher’s gear, among other pieces of equipment. Maddow, for her part, sent the team a case of baseballs and, because she’s a self-proclaimed nerd, a rule book.

Last night, Maddow announced that the equipment had finally reached the team, after a month-long collaboration between her show, McClatchy, Ebbets, CTG Athletics, a New York-based sporting goods company, and Ohio-based shipping vendor Star USA, who covered the cost of delivery. A genuinely pleased Maddow declared, (unironically, I might add) that Operation Iraqi Baseball was a complete and total success. See for yourself.

You can purchase a Iraqi team jersey here. A portion of the proceeds go to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. You can also find links to various charities that help the people of Iraq at the show’s website.

Does Minka Kelly Want a Piece of Kate Hudson?

Speaking of fights, the Yankees seem to have an intramural catfight on their hands. And it’s between Minka Kelly and Kate Hudson, the respective girlfriends of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, at least according to Page Six, that ink-stained stalwart of reportorial integrity and, you know, classiness.
She made it past third base with Alex Rodriguez, but Kate Hudson isn’t getting a warm reception at the plate from Minka Kelly, longtime squeeze of Yankee captain Derek Jeter.
Like Afghanistan and Vietnam, the spat is reportedly a proxy fight in the long-rumored Cold War between Jeter and Rodriguez. It seems Kelly, who plays Lyla Garrity on "Friday Night Lights," is said to be less-than-pleased with Hudson’s desperate need for attention. While Jeter and Kelly prefer to keep a somewhat low profile, generally avoiding the press and keeping mum about their personal relationships, Rodriguez and Hudson, well, favor very public displays of affection.
"Friday Night Lights" hottie Kelly has been dating Jeter since last year. Since then, she's usually cheered him on from his private seats, kept a low profile and has rarely been photographed with him.
Then, high-profile Hudson arrived on the scene. She's been snapped smooching A-Rod in the stands, and recently switched from sitting in a private box to hanging in the family seats, cheering on the team with Yankee wives including Amber Sabathia and Karen Burnett.
Oh, no she didn’t. She did. I’m sure, though, that this little tiff is really much ado about nothing.
Our source added, "People are choosing sides."
People are choosing sides! People are choosing sides! This is exactly the kind of thing Obama warned us against.
Hudson, who also enthusiastically attended the Bombers' family picnic, seems to have gotten an early thumbs-up from veteran Yankee wives Michelle Damon and Laura Posada, whose stamp of approval is crucial, a source said.
I doubt very much that it's an either/or proposition, but I'd have to go with Ms. Kelly on this one. What about you? Team Minka or Team Hudson

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Porcello's Jersey Defense Is Impregnable

Last night, during the second inning of the Red Sox-Tigers game, Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello, a product of New Jersey, drilled Kevin Youkilis with a high-80s fastball, just above Youk’s protective arm gear, reportedly in retaliation for Red Sox pitchers Brad Penny and Junichi Tazawa hitting Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera on consecutive nights. (Youkils was also hit on back-to-back nights). Youk, probably still sore about his recent poor performance in the outfield, took offense, and charged the mound. At first, Porcello didn’t want any part of the impending imbroglio, so he sidestepped the charging, puffy glob of sweat, until Youkilis, in a truly embarrassing act of frustration, threw his batting helmet at him. And this is where Porcello broke out the tried-and-true fighting style of the Garden State: avoid the initial onslaught, wrap up your opponent, toss him to the ground, and then wait for your friends to break things up before things get out of hand. I’ve used this technique many, many times. It got me through high school.

Although I wouldn't say that Youkilis got his ass kicked, I can't exactly say he comported himself heroically or even well during the dust up either. Porcello, on the other hand, did what he had to do to get through the melee. To the victor go the spoils

Here's last night's scuffle in all its glory.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Major-League Smokers And Other Missed Opportunities

Sports Illustrated just published online 25 Things We Miss in Baseball. The list, which includes prosaic things like stirrups, no pepper signs, and high leg kicks, is largely hit-or-miss. I would, though, gladly welcome back into the game Youppi, the Expos mascot of indeterminate origins, and bullpen carts. Ditto balanced schedules and, if I'm being honest, organ music.

More interesting, I think, is the magazine’s companion 1o Things We Don’t Miss in Baseball, particularly numbers 5 and 7—Terrible Uniforms and Players Smoking in the Dugout—which, as a fan, I desperately want to see put back into practice right away, like before the first pitch of tonight’s game. Seriously, who wouldn’t want to see, say, Roy Oswalt taking the mound in this? Or Jamie Moyer lighting up in between innings, like Harvey Haddix did throughout his 13-inning, near-perfect game on May 26, 1959? 

I'm serious. Who wouldn't get a kick out of seeing this every night?

Or this?

Hell yeah. In fact, the more I think about these two lists, the more I realize that if I were to put together a Venn Diagram, the Cardinals-era Keith Hernandez, with his stirrups, quality stache, reported philandering, cookie-cutter, faux-grass home park, old-school manager, and, most importantly, his pack of smokes, would be its union. Just one more reason to love Mex. Thanks, SI, for a job well done. 

Juan Roman Riquelme

People who know much more about soccer that I do swear Argentine Juan Roman Riquelme, a midfielder for the Boca Juniors, is one of the best players in the world. Wikipedia tells me he is a playmaker know for his passing and setting the tempo of the play. I never heard of him before, so I’m just going to have to play along, in both instances.

Whether he is all of these things is beside the point. All I know is that he's good with the ball. Here he is showing off his touch, while two men, in the distance, shoot paint pellets at his feet.

And here he is weaving his silky magic against the competition, an equally impressive display of skill. 

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Beatdown in the Bronx

It really doesn’t get any better than this. After dropping their first eight games against the Red Sox this season, the Yankees have put a stranglehold on the American League East. Behind stellar contributions from A.J. Burnett, CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Alfredo Aceves, Mark Teixeira, Johnny Damon, Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher and just about every other member of the 25-man roster, the Yankees now sit comfortably in front of the Sox by a whopping 6.5 games, with about 50 games to play. The Yankees, who have won 31 of their last 41 and now enjoy the best record in the Majors, are finally firing on all cylinders. They look excited. They look locked in. They look impressive. They look, in a word, unbeatable.

More impressive than the four-game sweep, though, was the way in which the Bombers thoroughly dismantled the Red Sox. In the first game, on Thursday night, when Joba was far from dominant, the Yanks knocked John Smoltz out of the game, off the Red Sox roster, and possibly clear out of baseball. On Friday night, Burnett matched Boston ace Josh Beckett pitch for pitch, while the Yankee bullpen held the Sox scoreless for six more innings, until Rodriguez deposited Junichi Tazawa’s pitch into the right field seats in the 15 th inning, for a dramatic, walk-off win, five-and-a-half hours after Burnett’s first pitch. The next day, about 16 hours later, CC Sabathia made do on his promise of greatness, and dominated the suddenly anemic Red Sox offense, taking a no-hitter into the 6 th and giving the Yankee bullpen a much-needed rest.

As telling as the first three wins were, however, last night’s victory was by far the most satisfying, and most complete. The Yankees simply demoralized the Red Sox. They countered Victor Martinez's much-needed and much-celebrated two-run homer. They knocked around the highly touted and fan-favorite Daniel Bard, who, despite his ungodly talents, looks a lot more like Kyle Farnsworth or Craig Hansen than Goose Gossage or Joba Chamberlain. In coming back to win last night, the Yankees knocked the Sox out of contention for the American League East, sending them spinning and defeated back to Boston. It really doesn’t get any better than this.

I’m not the only one turned on by this Yankees team. Every beat writer in the country, it seems, also likes what they see. Except for those writers who live north of Hartford.

Ted Keith, SI:
But the Yankees did more in the last four days than they did in their first four months of the season combined to establish their preeminence as the best team in the game. While the hitting was impressive (a .299 average and nine home runs) and the defense solid (only one error) it was the starting pitching, that most significant of October variables, that is most responsible for the sweep, and for their status as front-runners. For the first time in 36 years, the Yankees got three consecutive starts of at least seven scoreless innings, and they came from three men -- A.J. Burnett, CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte -- who will figure prominently in the Yankees' postseason plans. 
This series, then, and perhaps the entire division, may have been won as much in December and January as it was in August. That was when the Yankees signed all three of those pitchers, at the cost of $36 million, to beef up a starting rotation that had sprung a series of question marks in a disappointing third place finish the year before. And while all three have had various moments of success to date, this was the first time all delivered the kinds of sterling efforts on consecutive days that would make the Yankees heavy favorites in any postseason series.
Tom Verducci, SI:
Make no mistake, the Yankees are the best team in the AL right now. Yes, the Angels match up well against them and the Red Sox still have time to fix their flaws, but at the moment, New York is a ferocious offensive team that simply wears down opponents -- not so much with its ability to draw out at-bats, but with the constant threat of power.
Amy Nelson, ESPN:
In the end it was a 5-2 win for the Yankees, a four-game sweep of the Red Sox, and a 6 ½ game division lead -- their biggest in three years. Even more ominous, New York has never lost a division lead of six or more games.

Now, the Red Sox head home having designated a future Hall of Famer in John Smoltz for assignment, carrying an injury list that continues to expand, and the task of trying to dent the Yankees' new lead. This, after Boston had suffered the indignity of not scoring for 31 innings, until Martinez's shot.
Pete Abe, Journal News:
Meanwhile, the Yankees now lead the AL East by 6.5 games. In the long history of this franchise, they have never lost a lead of more than six games at any point of the season.
John Harper, Daily News:
Whatever [the Red Sox] do, this is more about the Yankees now. How long has it been since we've seen them play this kind of baseball for such a sustained period, getting dominant starting pitching, mostly excellent defense and the timely hitting that reminds you of the late '90s championship clubs.
Joel Sherman, New York Post:
Maybe life could be better for the Yankees than it is right now. But please send in postcards to explain how.

Humiliating the Red Sox is usually enough to turn the Bronx into nirvana. But the latest version of a Boston Massacre is just one slice of the Yankees' current heaven.
Let us count the ways: The Mets stink. The Joe Torre Dodgers are faltering, and so are the Yankee-tormenting Angels. A few weeks ago it was inconceivable that the AL playoffs could be held without both the Angels and Red Sox. But now the Rangers are within 3½ games of the Angels and are tied with Boston for the wild card lead.
Bob Ryan, Boston Globe:
The Red Sox can’t worry about the Yankees now. They can only worry about themselves and the fact that they are now officially embroiled in a three-team wild-card race. There’s a lot of time left, anything can happen, yada yada yada, but what it comes down to is the Red Sox must start playing better baseball.
Steve Buckley, Boston Herald:
Now, the Yankees are practically unbeatable. By the time they had completed their four-game humiliation of the Red Sox last night, croaking the visiting team’s bullpen en route to a 5-2 victory that had a packed Yankee Stadium roaring with delight, the Bombers’ record since June 24 had improved to 31-10.
Bill Simmons, the Sports Guy:
OK, this is devastating. Bard was my favorite subplot of the season. I can't even type.

Seriously, it doesn't get any better than this. 

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Attack of the 267-Pound Matzo Ball

To promote their biennial exhibition against Maccabi “Electra” Tel Aviv, Israel’s premier basketball team, the Knicks commissioned the world’s biggest matzo ball. The 3-foot-high matzo ball, which consists of 1,000 eggs, 80 pounds of margarine, 200 pounds of matzo meal, and 20 pounds of chicken base, was slow boiled for about a day in New Jersey, reportedly in a 100-gallon kettle, by 12 chefs. The record-breaking matzo ball received a 24-police escort through the streets of Lower Manhattan until it was unveiled at its final destination, Noah's Ark Deli, on Grand Street. It was driven in a 24-foot freight liner. Representatives from the Guinness Book of World Records were on hand to certify the matzo ball's record-breaking size. The thing weighed in at an astounding--and unappetizing-- 267 pounds, approximately twice the size of Nate Robinson

Not to be picayune, and, please do correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe matzo balls are particularly big in Israel. Hummus or Ptitim would have been more appropriate, no? 

Obama's Next Beer Summit?

With the hated Red Sox coming into town for a highly charged four-game series against the streaking Yankees, President Obama has an idea for putting this bitter, century-old rivalry to bed, once and for all. It is High, It is Far, It is... Caught has all the details.

Now that I think about it, Obama does drink a lot. Which is probably why I like him so much. And this picture page is why I like the mad geniuses at It is High, It is Far, It is... Caught so much. Just brilliant. Please click through. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Knicks 2009-2010 Schedule

The National Basketball Association released this morning each team's schedule for the upcoming season, the league's 64th. While most people jumped up to find out when LeBron was heading to Los Angeles, or when Kobe's slated to play in Beantown, I was more interested in taking a look at the Knicks' upcoming road to perdition. (Spoiler alert: the Knicks don't have a draft pick in next year's draft, and the projected, much-ballyhooed salary cap seems to be getting smaller and smaller with each passing week). Seriously, things don't look good. The Knickerbockers start and finish the season on the road, opening against the Heat in Miami, and topping things off north of the border against the Raptors, a game that may or may not have playoff implications--for about two or three teams not from New York. 

It gets worse. In March and April, just around the time I usually lose complete interest in them, the Knicks face a series of absolutely brutal road trips, including a visit to Texas, followed by a five-game trip to the West Coast. In between, they host the 76ers, the Rockets and the Nuggets. That just seems unfair. See for yourself.

Yikes. That stretch should pretty much put an end to the team's playoff chances, if they even have any after the All-Star Break, which, per usual, arrives in mid-February, right around my birthday.

Surprisingly, though, the powers that be have deemed the Knicks worthy of five nationally televised games, including a Christmas Day contest against the Heat, one of five games scheduled for a national broadcast on Baby Jesus' birthday. Meanwhile, LeBron makes an early appearance at the Garden, on November 6, the Knicks' sixth game of the season. Kobe drops in on January 22. Both games are, of course, nationally televised, because of what happened the last time these two stopped by. I guess the world needs to see the league's two most marketabl stars abuse my Knickerbockers. While we're on the subject, I'm not too crazy about the team's chances of winning any of their games in front of a national audience, which also include home games against the Clippers and the Raptors, in December and January, respectively. It's only August. Is it too early to write off the entire season? 

Assault in the Ring

I don't have HBO, so I can't comment on the quality of the recently premiered "Assault in the Ring," a documentary about the controversial, and ultimately criminal, 1983 boxing match between Billy Collins Jr., an up-and-coming, undefeated prospect, and journeyman Luis Resto.

The documentary, which was broadcast over the weekend, has received pretty good reviews, and rightfully so, I'd imagine. It really is a terrifying story. Resto basically beat the hell out of Collins, battering his face so badly Collins couldn't open his eyes the following day. But, as is usually the case in boxing, there's more to the story than just the 15 rounds. Immediately after the match, Collins' father, who was also his trainer, noticed that Resto's gloves were missing several inches of padding, which meant Resto just spent roughly 30 minutes beating the younger Collins with, essentially, his bare fists. Even worse, as the documentary points out, Resto, before the fight, in collaboration with his trainer, Panama Lewis, had wrapped his hands in plaster of Paris, which, turned his fists into rocks.  

After the fight, about three years later, Resto were charged with assault, criminal possession of a weapon and conspiracy. Resto served a little more than two years in prison. He lost his boxing license and, at least as of last year, currently lives in the basement of the Bronx's Morris Park Boxing Gym, the same gym he trained at as a fighter. Lewis's boxing license was revoked, barring him from ever officially participating in match within the United States. Collins, meanwhile, spiraled out of control. Because of a torn iris, he wasn't allowed back in the ring. He started drinking and abusing drugs. Just one year removed from the Resto fight, he drove his car off the road, in a suburb of Tennessee, his home state. 

It's a terribly sad and shocking story. Here's the trailer, which is one of the best I've seen in a very long time.  If the documentary is as good as this teaser cut, we've got a good ones on our hands.