Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Easy Way Out...

Not sure how many people tuned in last night, but I'm sure it broke some records. I tuned in and I'm not even a fan of the show. I hoped I would see something different happen last night, but I didn't.

I'm talking about the TLC "reality" show, Jon & Kate Plus 8.

Part of me thought I shouldn't even write about this. Giving them more attention just feeds into the disaster that they are already a part of.

As I watched last night I heard Jon & Kate throwing out this phrase, "for my kids," a lot.

"I do everything for my kids."

"We're doing this for our kids."

"This is the best thing for my kids."


As the tension built throughout the show, I just kept shaking my head. Why would they do this to their kids? What benefit would the kids get from the decision they were about to make? What would those kids think when they looked back at this TV show that brought them so much fortune and fame but destroyed their family?

Do you think that every one of those kids wouldn't give up all the toys and things that they get from this show to have their mommy and daddy together?

Maybe Jon & Kate don't have any real friends or family members that care enough to speak the truth to them, but someone should have told them a long time ago that it's time to step up and put your family first.

Turn off the cameras. Tell TLC to kiss off. Deal with whatever consequences come your way and save your family. They don't need "crooked houses," picnic lunches on acres of land or anything else but their family.

Do you think TLC really cares one bit about you as a human being. If they did, they would say, "Hey, we're going to put the show on hold and get you guys some counseling. We love you too much to let this show destroy your family. These kids need you." The only thing they see are huge ratings and tons of cash piling in. It's really despicable.

I know this is just one family who just happens to be famous for taking fertility drugs and having 6 kids at once, but seriously this whole thing is just a taste of what happens in families all over the world. People are so willing to throw in the towel on their marriage.

Jon and Kate could work through this. There was something there. They loved each other at some point. I wish I had five minutes to talk with them to show them what they are doing. In reality they know what they are doing. The money and the fame and all that goes with it are just too much for them to let go of apparently.

Soon the lights will fade on their little show. America likes a happy ending and this is not a happy ending. Maybe they will realize that the show will get a ratings boost if they reconcile and stay married... or maybe we can pray they turn those cameras off and do the right thing.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Help Wanted...

I just finished up what I can only call another train wreck in the long line of disasters by the NHL marketing department.

The NHL Awards Ceremony aired last night on VS here in the United States. I'm sure you missed it, but I am a glutton for many things and one of them happens to be punishment doled out like a BC two hander by my first love in sports, the NHL. Thank God for the DVR.

This year was the big hurrah of the NHL as they moved the Awards from the Great White North to the Deserts of Sin City. Look out Vegas here comes the NHL!

To start things off with a bang, the NHL spared no expense and went for a home run with their opening act. None other than the mega-stars who've been on top of the charts and number one in your hearts for a very long time, Robin Thicke (son of Growing Pains star Alan Thicke) and Chaka Khan. Yes, I just said Chaka Khan. Way to play to your audience guys.

The first presenters didn't disappoint either. Kevin Connelly, from Entourage, Michael Buble along with one of the big mouths of the NHL, Jeremy Roenick. Buble and Connelly read the tele-prompter almost as well as Obama and Jeremy Roenick struggled to string more than two words together. It was pretty pathetic.

Did I mention all the empty seats at the Palms in Las Vegas. There were quite a few. Couldn't you hire some seat warmers or give away some tickets? Honestly, who would want them?

Not only did the NHL trot out some amazingly high profile celebs like, Colin Ferguson from the "hit show" Eureka (it's on the SciFi Channel, I had no idea), William Fichtner (Prison Break) and mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer but they paired them with some NHL superstars of years gone by. Always a recipe for awesomeness. Then hoping you would forget, they had those same celebs present at other times throughout the show. Nothing like a little recycled Jeremy Roenick and Michael Buble to keep you on your toes.

Did I mention what a total idiot Jeremy Roenick was? Good. He also graced the stage a few times to stammer his way through a few awards and show his amazing comic timing and stellar improv skills.

A few of the awards were just presented by the good ol' boys of the NHL. They may not be slick talkers or be great at reading from cue cards, but at least they are down to earth and likeable people. Enter former Oiler great, Glenn Anderson. Not only did he think he should pick up on the douchebag tendencies of Jeremy Roenick, but he thought he'd throw in a little biggotry just for fun when he said, "I thought these were the NHL Awards, not the Russian Awards." This in response to most of the Awards going to Russian players. Thanks Don Cherry Jr., we appreciate you pointing that out for us.

Speaking of Russians, "they need learn speak English as people understand properly what saying they are." Evgeni Malkin was the worst offender of the English language (he's only like 22 years old, so I'll cut him some slack), while Alexander Ovechkin and my own favorite Pavel Datsyuk were a close second. Although, Ovechkin got the second biggest laughs when telling Malkin, "You English not bad as Pavel." Pavel actually got the biggest laughs when he accepted his second award of the night saying, "second time, not as ner-wous."

To top off the "Russian Awards" someone thought it would be a great idea to send out Hall of Famer, Igor Larionov with Vladimir Konstantinov. Konstantinov suffered a severe closed head injury 12 years ago. He is walking and talking even though doctors thought he never would, but to put him onstage with his walker and have him present an Award was pretty horrible. Stay classy Gary Bettman.

As the evening continued to degenerate Mark Messier gave out his own Award, the Mark Messier Leadership Award. He also did a fabulous job of putting all 3 of the people watching the broadcast into a deep slumber.

Finally, Kevin Smith popped up on the screen and provided a few moments of reprieve by talking about how much he loved the NHL. Besides Pavs winning two awards, that was the highlight. Yes, a less than 30 second appearance by Kevin Smith was one of the highlights.

Before the night ended the head dufus of the NHL braintrust made his usually awkward appearance to present a Lifetime Achievement Award to Jean Beliveau. I am always suprised that these old timers don't elbow Bettman right in the face.

What better way to end the night of nights for the NHL than with the smooth sounds of... you guessed it, Chaka Khan.

So I ask you people of North America, why aren't you fired up about "the Greatest Sport on Earth?"

If anyone in the NHL took the time to look at the NFL and see how they have taken their sport to the highest heights, maybe, just maybe the NHL would have a chance. Heck, why not go and hire away the some of the people that have marketed the NFL so well. Pay them whatever they want and let them reshape the way people look at this sport.

The Help Wanted sign still hangs in the window of the NHL. Fans long for the day when Sportscenter shows more than 30 seconds of NHL highlights. They hope for a day when one of the Networks actually cares to show their games in Prime Time. They hope for a day when people know other players besides Sidney Crosby (the face of the NHL, strangely absent from the NHL Awards Show, way to go face).

For now, we have to settle for more of the same. A sport that hasn't figured out how to market a game that when seen in person makes many skeptics turn into fans. Some of the most talented athletes you'll never know play this game. It's a shame those who guide the ship don't have a compass.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

When You Care Enough to Send the Very Best...

My wife makes cards. They're really good too. She and a bunch of chicks that we know from church are all into card making, stamping, scrap-booking, etc. It's kind of a sickness, but as far as addictions go, I guess it's not a bad one.

May, June & July seem to have a decent amount of cards that are made for friends and family around here, so I usually have a card or two sitting on my computer or somewhere near where most of my activities take place with a pen and a note to please say something nice and sign it so Cheryl can mail out her latest masterpiece.

I usually procrastinate the writing and signing until Cheryl gives me the "I need to mail that tomorrow to get it to (insert name here) in time." I hate doing that to her, but the pressure to come up with something new and exciting to say to people that makes them feel good on their special day is tough. Especially when you are the funny, sensitive guy.

I started thinking about this yesterday, because the reminder from Cheryl came for me to write something nice to my Dad for Father's Day. I stared at the wonderfully created card and wondered what to write on it's blank canvas. It's always tough for me to write something really nice to my Dad that I haven't said before. The truth is, my Dad is a great guy. I love him, so it's easy to say he's a nice Dad and he always took care of me, blah, blah, blah. It just starts to feel like I've said it all before.

The truth is, my Dad wouldn't remember if I put together a three year rotation of nice things to say to him. While I feel like I am repeating everything, he would just think compliment iPod was on shuffle. My Dad is not the type to really care about the mushy stuff that I might write anyway. I hate to say this, but I wonder if he even reads the cards. I'm sure my Mom reads them to him at least.

Cheryl's Dad is now asking her to throw a childhood memory into her Father's Day cards. Thankfully, Cheryl has a good memory. My scope of feel good stories is rather limited in some ways. A lot of my childhood memories involved me being a pain in the butt and getting in trouble. They're funny of course, but not exactly the kind of stories that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

I remember when we used to just go to Hallmark or the drug store and pick out a card. That is what we paid those greeting card writers for. They came up with some sappy, well thought out words to make the recipient feel like you loved them. Plus, you spent a good 10 to 15 minutes looking for just the right card that had a good picture on it and something inspiring written inside. Those were the days. Buy it, sign it, send it or better yet hand it to the person.

Some people have even taken it a step further and made it almost effortless. E-Cards. You know someone sort of thinks of you sometimes when you get one of these links in your email inbox. Especially if like me, you only look at the freebies. For some reason the idea of paying for something intangible in cyberspace is too much for me. If I am paying for the E-Card, I want the person to be able to read it, put their hands on it and throw it away. The computer trash can doesn't count.

So the next time you get a card from someone think about all the anxiety that went into it. It should make you smile to know that someone felt intense pressure to write something nice for you on your special day.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I'm a Reality Junky... Get Me Outta' Here!

There is a disturbing dirty little secret that has crept it's way back into my life... "Reality TV."

I had sworn off these horrible shows a few years ago because I found myself hating people I didn't really know. Since I say I love Jesus and am a follower of His I remember reading somewhere that you aren't supposed to hate people... something like you already murdered them in your heart, there is no light in you and so on and so on. I have since moved from hate to annoyed or mildly annoyed.

So I decided it was in my best interest to stop watching because I really hated some of these people. There was one young lady in particular on Big Brother that was a real piece of work. Chris would remember her name... she made her boyfriend look like an idiot while she was on the show, then they both showed America their wonderful relationship with a return appearance on the Amazing Race. Anyway, after a long respite from "reality," I started to let it creep back in.

These shows have to be like gold to the television industry. I wonder if in the not too distant future they will make up more than half of what we watch on TV. You may even think you are above "those silly shows" but if you watch American Idol or John & Kate Plus 8 (has anyone learned being married and a reality TV show don't mix?) or any other show that has "normal, everyday people" in it, you are one of us.

But I think it's time that we find a new name for these shows. Maybe someone has already, I don't know, but these shows are anything but real. I guess Manufactured Reality TV isn't as catchy, but it definitely is more precise. Besides the original Real World: New York way back in the day, none of these shows just follow someone in their everyday life. There is always something or someone introduced to make things happen. Whether it's a vacation, a new job opportunity and the ever popular alchohol, nothing is just real life. Why? Real life is pretty boring... it's you sitting at your desk or staring at your screen until lunch. It's you getting the kids ready in the morning or going to the bank. Real life is mundane at times.

Another disturbing reality trend are shows like Gene Simmons Family Jewels where not only are scenarios manufactured, but they are acted out. It almost seems like Gene and a staff of writers talk about funny stories they have experienced in life or "wouldn't this be funny?" moments and have Gene and his family act them out as if they are their own reality. Confused yet? Me too. It reminds me of when Kramer sells his life stories to J. Peterman on Seinfeld.

Alas, I keep watching.

Now every quasi celebrity we grew up with is getting a reality show. Corey Haim & Corey Feldman (canceled... too real when Haim got back on drugs), MC Hammer, Torri Spelling and a host of others. Not to mention shows where a bunch of celebs go on together. Even Screech has been on a bunch of these shows. You know, there was a time when reality shows gave the common man a chance to be famous... washed up celebs couldn't have that. Now we have the Celebrity Apprentice, Celebrity Fit Club, I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Outta' Here (total Survivor meets Big Brother rip off) and I'm sure there are more to come.

Why am I spouting off about all this? I have no idea... maybe to share with you so you don't feel so bad about yourself for watching or maybe so we can all admit we have a problem. All I know is I love watching these shows and then talking about how lame I am for watching them.

Plus, I would have never known anything about Spencer Pratt if it weren't for I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Outta' Here. It's like when you see the Godfather for the first and then you understand all the jokes. I would have missed out on a lot of punch lines if I hadn't learned a little about Spencer Pratt... I fear for future generations if they are learning any life lessons from the Hills.

So when all is said and done, why not take a few hours this week and plop yourself down in front of the TV and escape reality... to a simpler place where Baldwin brothers live with the guy from La Bamba and the kid from American Idol that wasn't very good but kept sticking around because of Vote for the Worst.com (so that's how Janice Dickinson is sticking around!). The psuedo reality called Reality TV.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mad Men or Sad Men?

Cheryl and I have jumped back on the Netflix wagon now that Summer is here (and sadly the hockey season officially ended). One of our first TV shows we decided to try out was the first season of Mad Men.

Obviously there has been a lot of hype about this show and I'm only a few years late to the party, but I still thought I would throw my two cents in there anyway.

The show takes place on Madison Avenue in New York back when the advertising executives were wild and living life to the fullest (or lowest... you decide). The setting along with the clothes and overall design take you back to "the good ol' days," when everyone smoked and you could enjoy adult beverages at work.

I enjoyed so many aspects of the show; the characters were great, the story lines for the most part drew me in and as I mentioned the overall look of the show is great. Cheryl looked at me numerous times throughout the first three episodes when the men in the show basically sexually harassed the crap out of the secretaries at the office. Apparently, that was the way it was back then... there are plenty of other lines throughout the show to make you realize that women back then were not where they are now. You've come a long way baby.

Kids are generally treated as second class citizens on the show as well, especially daughters. Nothing like are current society of child worship... another Blog for another time.

Unfortunately with all the great character, story lines and overall look of the show, the underlying theme for me (after watching the first 3 episodes) is that no one is happy. The ad execs in the office are constantly in pursuit of sexual adventures with the secretaries or any other woman for that matter before they head home on a semi-daily basis to their family. Add to that the constant boozing in and out of the office and you really start to ask yourself, "is this what people are after? 'Cuz it don't look fun to me."

I am not saying that this show is not well done. It is. I am not calling for a ban due to the moral deficiencies on the show. There are many of them, but I am asking myself, "is this really entertaining?" The answer is somewhat, but being happily married and not in a continual state of womanizing makes me feel a bit detached from the characters.

I am not one who objects to many TV programs or movies based on the morals of the characters. I'm a big fan of the Shield, Rescue Me, Sons of Anarchy and even It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (thanks FX for all your trashy shows) and these shows cross the line all the time. In the case of Rescue Me and Always Sunny laughter is the elixir. The Shield and Sons of Anarchy make me love the bad guy much like some of my other favorites the Sopranos and Breaking Bad. Somehow, Don Draper has not done that for me.

If the only thing I have to look forward to on Mad Men is people smoking, drinking and screwing around on their spouses, I think I need another show for my Netflix Queue... any suggestions?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Come On, Really?

This is just plain ridiculous.

My favorite part is... "Being a big guy certainly has it's advantages and it's disadvantages." Oh you mean like not being able to use a bathroom on an airplane? Paying for two seats on the flight... not being able to enjoy sporting events comfortably? Having to shop at the Big & Tall store? What are these so called advantages fatty?

It's okay, I'm fat so I can make fun of other fat people. It's in the rule book.

Once you get this thing, you have truly given up on life... plus there is no way that thing doesn't make more of a mess than anything you can do on your own.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Unthinkable...

So I've had twenty-four hours to digest the loss...

In writing this little Blog about my beloved Red Wings, I honestly believe it gives me a chance to have some closure. Maybe even let out some of my disappointment through a few harsh words. Ultimately it's cathartic.

When I woke up Friday morning, June 12, 2009, I knew that the game would be lost. I had a dream - really a nightmare - that the Penguins won the Stanley Cup.

I wouldn't say that I am the most positive person in the world, but during these playoffs I continually told myself that good things would happen. It was an exercise for me. Practice for moving closer to a life of positive thoughts. During three-way conversations with my younger brother and my father, I routinely said, "let's keep it positive." My family still lives in the Metro Detroit Area and positive thoughts do not abound in the Great Lake State right now.

The Detroit Red Wings were providing a welcome escape for many residents in the Motor City and throughout the hard hit State of Michigan. Obama has taken over two of the Big Three Auto Companies, but that's a story for another time. Thousands have lost their jobs and many their homes as well. Things are not peachy keen for most people in "that state up North."

Did I mention that the Detroit Lions football team went 0-16? The Detroit Pistons aren't the Bad Boys of old and with the Tigers, who knows what you'll get? We can't even rely on Michigan's football program anymore. Even when all the pro sports teams were in the dumper, at least Michigan had a winning season and a bowl game... not this year.

I forgot about Kwame Kilpatrick, but he has moved on to Texas, so he's their problem now.

Sometimes you wonder what else could happen to Michigan. I hate to even ask for fear that something else might come along and kick 'em while they're down.

Just when you thought nothing good could happen, the Detroit Red Wings were keeping hope alive.

The Red Wings started out this playoff season beating my hometown Columbus Blue Jackets. No surprise really, but the CBJ had a young talented goaltender in Chris Mason that certainly had a lot of Wings fans worried. The Wings have a way of making a good goalie look great sometimes. Nevertheless, the Wings swept the Jackets and headed into the 2nd round of the playoffs.

Their next foe was a familiar and hated group, the Ducks. Two years ago the Wings were a few wins away from Lord Stanley when the cheap shotting Ducks put them out and eventually won the Cup. This time around the Ducks ousted the number one seeded Sharks to get to the Wings. The Ducks made the Wings pay at every turn. It was a hard fought series, but in Game 7 at home in front of hungry Wings fans, Dan Cleary scored late to propel the defending champions to the Conference Finals against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks were a young, revitalized team and eventhough the Wings came into the series injury-ridden they beat the Hawks in 5 games. This set up a the rematch. It was time for the Wings to take on the face of the NHL... Sidney Crosby.

It's hard to like Sidney Crosby if you're a Wings fan. The Red Wings defeated "Sid the Kid" last year in the Stanley Cup Finals, but when you saw advertisements and promotions for the NHL over the past year, you would have certainly thought Sidney Crosby and the Penguins destroyed the Red Wings.

In the NHL world there is a strange form of predjudice that goes on. Some have even called it racism. No one likes to admit it, but most "purists" in the sport have never really embraced "the Europeans" throughout the NHL. The Wings happen to have found great success with those "soft" Europeans. When the Wings hoisted the Cup in 1997 for the first time in 42 years, legendary coach, Scotty Bowman, played the Russian 5 together and helped bring home the first of 4 Stanley Cups to the city eventually known as Hockeytown. Last year, Nick Lidstrom was the first European captain to lead his team to the promise land. But for some reason, the NHL chose to overlook the contributions of guys like Nick Lidstrom when marketing it's sport to North America.

The best player in the NHL happens to speak in broken English and probably isn't as pretty as Sidney, so Crosby's face is everywhere. Two of Detroit's top players most assuredly are in the top five talents in the NHL, yet you won't see them in commercials or anything else that promotes the game. During these Stanley Cup Finals, NBC had special cameras following "the Stars" of the game, Sidney Crosby and Evegeni Malkin. Sidney had one goal in the Finals. The European Evegeni Malkin who luckily plays in the spotlight with Sid, just so happens to be better than him and won the MVP trophy in the Finals scored twice.

This may all sound like sour grapes, but to most Red Wings fans, this is reality. You feel like Rodney Dangerfield... you get no respect. In fact, last night after Sidney won his first Stanley Cup, he neglected to shake hands with most of the Wings. A time honored tradition in the NHL, teams that just beat the crap out of one another for 7 games, meet at center ice to congratulate and shake hands with one another. Somehow, Sidney was just too darned excited to remember those darn handshakes.

He is only 22 years old, but for the face of the NHL you would expect a little more. A little more than one goal. A little more than two handed slashes and cross checks to opposing players and for goodness sakes, a hand shake after you win. But, he's a good ol' Candian boy, he can do no wrong.

When you add up all the things going against the Wings during this rematch, I can honestly say I am proud of everything they accomplished. Injuries are part of the game and many of the Wings best players were hobbled by all sorts of problems.

Whether you think there was an NHL conspiracy going against the Red Wings (and there was) or that you think they just didn't have enough left in the tank to beat the young Penguins (which they didn't), you can't help but love 'em.

Sure, the NHL scheduled back-t0-back games and gave the Wings just two days off between the Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup, but that doesn't mean the almighty Gary Bettman had it out for the defending Champs. You might wonder about some of the officiating and the imbalance in calls favoring the Penguins, but when it's all said and done, you have to play through those things to win the Cup. It is after all the hardest trophy to win in all professional sports. There's a reason the Wings were the last team to win it two years in a row in 1997 & 1998.

I took great joy in the boos that rained down on Gary Bettman when he awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy for the MVP and the Stanley Cup. Trust me, they weren't booing the Penguins. You beat us as fair and square as possible. I kept hoping that one octopus would have taken flight and hit Gary Bettman squarely in the face, it would have been a thing of beauty. I think even the Pens fans could have enjoyed that.

I have been a Wings fan since I was 4 years old. My dad took me to my first game then I have loved them ever since. In my lifetime, I have seen the Red Wings head to the Stanley Cup Finals 6 times and win 4 of them. You can't ask for much more than that. Some people never see their favorite team win once.

The good news is, the Detroit Red Wings orginization is one of the classiest and best run teams in all professional sports and they will be back. No doubt about it.

There is work to be done, changes to be made and tough decisions coming this Summer, but for a few months this Spring, the Red Wings helped to ease the pain a little. It didn't have the story book ending we all hoped for, but I still love my Red Wings.