Best of America V.2 - Teary-Eyed Heat Edition
Last week, I recapped the Oscars, which, material-wise, was like working with the dress Ciara wore to the Grammys. But, hey, every awards show has a down year, right? (Note to James Franco: When you get upstaged by a 94-year-old at your own awards show, it's a good sign you shouldn't be doing live television.)
This week is more open ended.
I have some thoughts on Lil Wayne's newest music video as well as the Heat crying in the locker room and, of course, highlights from this week's episode of Jersey Shore.
It's a Shepherd's Pie of sports, entertainment and pop culture. (Except Shepherd's Pie is English. So let's call it a Denver omelette instead. Hashbrowns on the side.) Hope you came hungry.
Here's my best of the week for Feb. 28-March 7:
Best statistical performance: Kevin Love, 51 straight double-doubles
With all due respect to Amar'e Stoudemire and Monta Ellis, who both put up 41 points in losses Friday, K-Love had the NBA's best week statistically.
Not only did Love record back-to-back-to-back 20-20 games this week, putting his total at 11 for the season, he also tied Moses Malone's league record for consecutive double-doubles at 51 with a 23-point, 17-rebound performance against Dallas Monday.
A double-double against Indiana Wednesday is all that stands between Love and record book immortality. Somehow I don't think Josh McRoberts and Roy Hibbert are up to the challenge of stopping him.
Best highlight reel: Blake Griffin in "Quake Griffin"
If they made Oscars for "Best NBA highlight mix," this would be the runaway favorite for 2011. A minute of utterly remarkable Blake "Quake" Griffin highlights, edited with the tight-fisted brilliance of a Hemingway novel. Not a moment wasted. Not an opportunity missed.
Brilliant work from the folks over at QuakeGriffin.com.
Best moment of clarity: Miami Heat players crying after Sunday's loss to Chicago
I was going to call this section "Best non-dance related Adam Morrison moment" or "Best Dick Vermeil tribute," but the (alleged) tears shed in Miami's locker room Sunday deserve more consideration than a punchline.
It's funny to think of Chris Bosh's eyes welling with tears. Or LeBron James' face twisted in agony. (Dwyane Wade seems to get more of a pass in the public eye.) These are players who spat in the faces of their former teams and welcomed ridicule with over-the-top parades and self-aggrandizing nicknames. In their attention-seeking, they've become bona fide NBA villains.
At core, they're still just athletes though. Emotional ones. Ones who feel pressure and don't like to lose.
How they deal with that pressure is telling, however.
Whether tears were shed or not, the Heat are getting awfully worked up over regular season games these days. Remember this isn't the first time this week they've been accused of getting overtly emotional after a tough loss. Contrast their response with that of the Lakers earlier in the season (when they were struggling to the same extent, if not more) and there's an obvious difference.
The Lakers, when challenged, were frustrated but defiant. The Heat? Frustrated and overwhelmed.
Can you imagine Kobe Bryant or Derek Fisher crying in the Lakers' locker room after a one-point regular season loss? Hell no. They'd be throwing water bottles across the room, kicking lockers, calling Ron Artest names usually reserved for Ari Gold rants.
Well, reportedly anyway.
You don't have to be a genius psychoanalyst to realize LeBron isn't wired the same way as Kobe. And I realize different people have different styles of leadership. But these LeBron-A-Rod comparisons are beginning to make an awful lot of sense to me.
When A-Rod came to the Yankees he was scrutinized to the nth degree because his talent dictated an expectation that went beyond stats. You don't acquire Alex Rodriguez to win batting titles or finish first in the AL East. You acquire him to help you win a World Series, which he eventually did in 2009. But his struggles leading up to that championship were legendary.
Before he was A-Rod the world champion, he was A-Rod the goat, A-Rod the guy who couldn't get it done when his team needed him the most.
We're seeing the same stigma surface with LeBron.
He could score 30 points a game. He could average a triple-double. He could win his third consecutive MVP award. But if he falters in the final moments of a close game, if he doesn't win the fans of Miami a championship, he's not worth the salt NBA fans will happily pour into his wounds.
I think that's why you're seeing tears from the Heat. Not just LeBron (if it was in fact LeBron who was crying), but the whole team. They feel the pressure -- except for Wade and Udonis Haslem, they don't have the confidence that comes with winning a title. Success (at the highest level anyway) is alien to them. And when it seems out of reach, they fall to pieces.
The Heat haven't just lost four of five games (which, in and of itself, isn't that big of a deal), they've lost all three games this season against the Bulls and all three games against the Celtics. This is not a good sign.
Whether they cried or not, the Heat are having major problems dealing with adversity. Rather than rising to meet challenges, they're shrinking from them (as evidenced by their 1-9 record against teams with a .700 win percentage or higher).
I think this moment was telling. I think it was a moment of clarity.
The Heat are not legitimate title contenders this season. Mentally, they're too weak to win it all, and I'll continue to believe that until they prove otherwise.
Best NFL lockout-related column: Bill Simmons, "Greed is good in NFL labor talks"
The most innovative column I've read in a long time. The Sports Guy takes on the topic of greed in the NFL in a first-person narrative that's both personal and insightful. I won't ruin the concept by explaining it any further than that. Just know that it's great. Read it here (if you haven't already). It's worth your time.
Best Internet time-waster: Ben Blatt and Arjun Modi's "6 Degrees of NBA Separation"
An awesome, NBA-themed twist on the Kevin Bacon game developed by two guys at Harvard with way too much time on their hands. Not that I'm judging. I spent two hours on Saturday connecting Nate Robinson to old school guys like World B. Free (two degrees of separation - Antonio Davis and Mark West) and George Mikan (five degrees - Michael Finley, Fred Roberts, Bill Walton, Lenny Wilkins and Clyde Lovellette).
Added bonus: Thanks to Blatt and Modi, we now know that Al Jefferson is the tie that binds Darko Milicic and Michael Olowokandi. No wonder Jefferson hasn't been on a winning team since 2004-05. He's the Great Bust Connector. Next thing you know, he'll be on his way to Houston to hold down the front court with Hasheem Thabeet. (Cue rim shot.)
Runner-up award goes to Colin Cowherd's Best Rock Band bracket. Good way to kill a half hour. I'm rooting for The Clash (No. 9 seed) to go all the way. Hey, a guy can dream, right?
Best new hip-hop: Wiz Khalifa & Snoop Dogg - Young, Wild & Free
Not going to blow your Wiz Khalifa-style knee-high socks off, but it's a solid collaboration (listen here). It's also proof that Khalifa's "Rolling Papers" album (release date: March 29) will be better than some of the other crap he's been putting out lately, which is encouraging.
"Black and Yellow" was always too good to be a one-hit wonder anyway.
Best new rock: Foster the People - Pumped Up Kicks
I realize this song's been out for a while, but I like it and it's a slow week so why not spotlight it and give FtP a little love?
"Pumped Up Kicks" is an MGMT-style good time. It's been on L.A. radio for a month or so and is catching on pretty well (it's on KROQ's top 25 most played list). The beat is the highlight, obviously, but I'm also a fan of the understated lyrics. "Brother's got a quick hand/He'll look around the room/Won't tell you his plans." That's good stuff.
Also, one of the guitarists looks like a young Tom Sizemore. That's always a bonus.
Unlike last week's spotlight band, Young the Giant, I haven't heard much from these guys that stands out (other than this single obviously). But they've only been together for a little over two years, so that's understandable. Hopefully they'll continue to put out good stuff and pass their inexplicably stagnant predecessors.
Best double take: Ronnie from "Jersey Shore"
Ronnie from Jersey Shore makes some ridiculous faces (the Scrunched Up Laugh Face; the Incredulous 'What Was She Thinking, Bro?" Face; and, of course, the infamous I'm Drunk Out of My Mind, All I Want to Do is Watch Strippers From the Bottom of the Pole Face), but the face he made on Thursday's episode when he saw Sammi walk back into the house was his best yet.
It was a complete double take -- equal parts shock and dumbfounded dismay with a little dash of excitement mixed in, like he wasn't completely sure what was going on but he didn't like it and then, once he thought about it, he liked it a little but not enough to overcome the other, stronger feelings he felt initially so he just went back to being dumbfounded. And he ran the whole gamut in under two seconds.
I've never seen that look on another man's face, but I'm pretty sure I'd have the same reaction if I was in his shoes. My ex-girlfriend, who I'm still in love with but I fight with constantly, left me alone in a house with my buddies and a bunch of her friends, who snuck behind my back and took all of her things out of my room. I cried my eyes out for two days, but I'm finally over it and having fun. Everything's getting better. I'm making Ron-Ron Juice. All of the sudden she's back without warning. She looks better than ever and she won't give me the time of day. Fantastic. Eff my life.
Not exactly my idea of a good time. I'm glad I'm not Ronnie.
A few more "best ofs" from Jersey Shore before I move on to my hip-hop music video rant...
Best "when nature calls" subplot: JWOWW popping a squat behind a parked car. Between that and her incident at the rooftop bar a few weeks ago, I'm willing to believe she'll go any time, any place as long as she's drunk. She's not inhibited, let's just say that. I have a sneaky feeling she's going to have trouble potty training her kids.
Best appearance by an undershirt: Vinny's wife beater getting flushed down the toilet, causing a backup that took not one, but two plumbers to unclog while simultaneously smelling up the bathroom so bad that no one would go in there for a month. Now that's a situation.
Best line: Deena telling the camera she's "hestatic" that Sammi is back. That cracked me up. Hestatic. In a related note, Deena is hestatic she hasn't contracted an STD in Jersey Shore in spite of the thousands of Jersey Turnpikes she's performed at Karma. Well, at least none that we know of anyway.
Best line (runner-up): Vinny finding out two girls at the club are lesbian, then asking them "Are you fully gay?" Not, are you bisexual? Or, do you also have sex with guys? Are you fully gay? I don't know what was funnier: the way he asked that or the look on his face when he found out they weren't. He lit up like a Christmas tree. I haven't seen him that excited since Pauly brought the motor scooter home.
Best "could have been great, but wasn't" music video: Lil Wayne - 6-foot 7-foot
Okay, here's my main beef with hip-hop (other than the fact that it gives Chingy an outlet to continue to make music): The music videos suck.
They're the most unoriginal, uninspired videos on TV/YouTube/the Internet. Aside from the occasional Eminem or Kanye West concept piece, hip-hop videos are boring and derivative -- like watching the producers of Two and a Half Men make the same sitcom over and over again but with a different cast. (Look, Oliver Hudson plays the under-sexed workaholic this time instead of Jon Cryer. It's a completely different show!)
Even country music videos are better. And I hate country music.
It's something people rarely talk about, but if you watch hip-hop videos regularly you'll notice 98 percent of them are exactly the same. Custom cars, custom chains, MySpace models wearing next to nothing (not that I have a problem with that) and non-stop posturing.
The posturing is what bothers me the most. It's not dancing. It's not acting. It's just staring into the camera, adjusting your fitted every once in a while, then adjusting it back. That's lame, right?
I mean, how is nodding your head and grabbing your nuts entertaining?
I'm not offended by it. I just think it's dumb.
And it's everywhere. Even the best rappers and the best directors use it.
Case in point: Weezy's video for "6 foot 7 foot" (see below).
"6 foot 7 foot" is directed by Hype Williams -- the Michael Bay of the hip-hop world. You probably know him from Kanye's headache-inducing "All of the Lights" video and Jay-Z's occult classic "On to the Next One." He's not a bad director, and he comes up with a really cool, Inception-inspired concept. Still, this turns out to be a truly mediocre video, which is disappointing because it had a lot of promise.
It starts with a mockup of the Inception scene where Leo DiCaprio's character is "kicked" back into reality by being dropped into a bathtub filled with water. Weezy plays the DiCaprio part and is pushed into a bathtub by some Italian-looking dude that we never hear from again. This opens the door for all kinds of possibilities: Lil Wayne entering random dreams, bending buildings, fighting off guys trying to steal his rhythms.
Instead, it's all downhill.
Williams refuses to use any kind of narrative or storytelling device and focuses the remaining four minutes on, you guessed it, posturing. Lil Wayne in a suit, arms crossed, mugging. Lil Wayne in a Bulls hat in front a white wall, mugging. Lil Wayne as a professor (what?) at a podium...mugging.
If you like watching Lil Wayne stand around doing nothing, it's cool. Otherwise, it's ridiculous.
With so much talent involved -- Weezy is a smart, dynamic guy; Hype is a smart, dynamic guy; Cory Gunz...looks good in dark suits and raps fast -- I can't believe this is the best they could come up with. This could have been a video we talked about for days. Okay, hours. But you get the idea.
As appealing as Bentleys and big asses are, I know rappers have more to offer. Eminem's "Love The Way You Lie" video, for instance. Or Ice Cube's "It Was A Good Day." Or even Outkast's "Bombs Over Baghdad" -- at least "B.O.B." had a funky purp and yellow theme to go along with the cars and strippers.
It's time for hip-hop to step up its video game.
Best way to give back this week: Team in Training
This is something I'm going to start doing regularly: A weekly cause section. I figure it's the least I can do for you, America (Bernie Mac voice). It's good to give back.
This week I'm proud to highlight Team in Training, an organization that has raised over $1 billion to fund cancer research.
Team in Training is a great cause because it promotes health on two fronts: funding the fight against cancer and empowering people to get in shape and participate in endurance events (marathons, triathalons, century rides, etc.). Personally, this means a lot to me because, like many of you, I have seen close friends and family members affected by cancer and heart disease. My grandpa has had multiple heart attacks and more than a few brushes with cancer. His health is deteriorating rapidly as a result.
Seeing him suffer drives these points home for me: Staying healthy is important and fighting cancer is important. Team in Training helps you do both. If you can afford to donate, please do (if you'd like a suggestion on a specific team to donate to, I recommend this one). Or organize a team and promote cancer awarness through your training. Either way, you're helping a good organization.
And, no, if you're wondering, I didn't pick this cause because the organization's acronymn is "T.I.T." They actually go by "TNT" (much cooler). Get your minds out of the gutter.
Until next week...