Thursday, January 27, 2005

The IncrediBull Resurrection

Well, it's time to give credit where credit is due. Up until December 8, 2004, when I attended the Chicago Bulls game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Bulls were 2-13. Since that game (at which I was somewhat miffed that they dominated LeBron James and the Cavs), including it and this past Tuesday's game against the Denver Nuggets, which I also attended, the Bulls have gone 19-6. Obviously, it was my Supercalifragilistic Karma that turned the Bulls season, and fortunes, around.

And it sure is nice to have a good basketball team around here for a change. In Chicago, we'd almost forgotten what the NBA Playoffs were like, much as we've forgotten about the existence of hockey. But at 21-19, the Bulls are currently in a position if they make the playoffs, though they have half the season left, with lots of road games against good teams. But along with the excitement the #1, 20-0 Illini, whose game against Wisconsin I closely followed over the Internet on my cell phone during the equally exciting end of the Bulls game, it's just fun to have the Bulls back again.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Peyton's Place

Peyton Manning is a loser. I do not mean this pejoratively (look it up), but simply as a statement of fact referencing the fact that throughout his largely outstanding college & professional career, the Indianapolis Colts quarterback has consistently been unable to lead his team to victory in their biggest game of the season. Despite having perhaps the greatest regular season of any quarterback in NFL history, with a record setting 49 touchdowns, this past Sunday Manning was rendered powerless by the New England Patriots in a 20-3 loss. This was the second year in a row the Pats had his number, and three previous trips to the playoffs proved equally fruitless for the Manning & the Colts. This after a 4-year college career at Tennessee in which Manning was the most heralded quarterback in the land, on teams with genuine national championship aspirations, and year after year played poorly in crushing losses to Florida, Tennessee's big rival at the time. And the year after Manning left, a much lesser regarded quarterback named Tee Martin led Tennessee to an undefeated season and a national championship. So while even this week, many will claim Manning's teams' losses are not nearly all his fault, there certainly seems to be a clear trend.

Meanwhile, the Patriots quaterback, Tom Brady, who wasn't the full-time starter in college at Michigan and was drafted in the 6th round (unlike #1 pick in the draft Manning), is 7-0 in his career in playoff games, has won 2 Super Bowls and could reach a 3rd with a win over Pittsburgh this weekend. And though he led the Pats to a 14-2 record in the regular season, he was an afterthought in the league MVP voting, which Manning won unanimously in voting held before the playoffs.

But who is really more valuable, and whose career would you rather have? It reminds me of the Dan Marino-Joe Montana era, where Marino put up mindboggling numbers, but never won a Super Bowl and Montana, with much less gaudy stats, led his 49ers to 4 Super Bowl victories (including one over Marino's Dolphins, in the only Super Bowl he reached). And while Marino was recently -- quite deservedly -- elected to the Football Hall of Fame, Montana (who's also a Hall of Famer) is clearly thought of as the better of the two, and perhaps even the greatest quarterback of all time. For like Brady's doing now, he won. And for whatever reason, the truth is, Manning hasn't.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The Holy Grail of Musical Comedy? Not Quite.

Shubert Theatre - Chicago
@@@ (out of @@@@@)

As a World Premiere musical based on "Monty Python and Holy Grail," headed straight to Broadway (with a big advance sale and hype as "the next Producers"), created by Python's Eric Idle, starring David Hyde Pierce, Tim Curry & Hank Azaria and directed by Mike Nichols, Spamalot promised to be the clear highlight of the current Broadway in Chicago season. I went in with high expectations, and perhaps as a result, left somewhat disappointed. The show was certainly watchable, enjoyable and even hilarious at parts. And with no point of reference in terms of comparisons with other musicals, it's easy to see how many will think "it was awesome" as one audience member commented. But compared to musicals I thought were awesome, this one clearly wasn't. For unlike The Producers and Hairspray which enhanced their classic movie sources with equally brilliant music, lyrics, staging, etc., most of Spamalot's humor, and overall appeal, came directly from the movie, while the music, staging, etc. was nothing particularly wonderful. It was like watching the movie onstage with music, rather than a genuinely inventive musical with movie origins. And when it attempted to be newly zany, it seemed rather derivative of The Producers. Curry and Azaria were good; Pierce wasn't particularly distinctive. All in all worth seeing just for "the event" and the all-star cast, without which it would be even worse, but certainly not a truly magestic show. I have more global comments on the state of musicals in general, but I'll take that up another day.