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Just Off-Camera

"They respect you if you write. The dumber the world gets, the more the words matter." -Dan Jenkins

Monday, January 31, 2005


What, you've been waiting this long for the NHL to get some kind of deal worked out? Once again, the players and owners met this week and came away with nothing to show for it. At this point, since dates have been released to arenas on a 45-day rolling basis, the regular season would have to begin in mid-March even if an agreement were reached today, and that's not happening.

While the No Hockey League was sleeping, the Pac-8 wrapped up its regular season this weekend, and the UCLA Bruins finished in first place. We went into the weekend's two-game set with Cal knowing we needed only a split to get the top spot, and we came out with guns blazing in the first period of Friday night's game. Martin Galstyan, our leading scorer, scored four goals and added an assist in the first period alone, and we went into the break up 5-2. I even contributed an assist in the period as well, my third point of the season (and third in the last three games). We didn't roll over them quite as handily the rest of the game, but we still played with confidence, winning 8-4 and securing the regular season championship. I'm told it's the first time in the last six seasons that we've had the top seed in the playoffs, and it's the first time in the last five seasons that we've made the playoffs at all.

Perhaps because we knew we had the top spot locked up, we came out soft in Saturday's game, losing 5-3. Cal smothered us with their forecheck all game long, and we were down 4-1 heading into the third period. Despite our best efforts, they held us off, so we finished the conference schedule with an 11-5 record.

Cal would have made it into the tournament regardless of their finish since they are the tournament hosts this year, but Cal finished second. They're the defending champs, and they're on their home ice, so they'll be tough to beat. Oregon, another team we split with (1-1) this season, finished third.

The biggest surprise is Washington sneaking into the tournament with the fourth seed. They beat Washington State twice this weekend to slide past USC, keeping the Trojans out of the tournament for the first time in the tournament's history. They'll be a real wild card when we play them to open the tournament (1:00, Feb. 18, Berkeley Iceland). We beat them 10-2 and 8-3 in Washington earlier this season, but they somehow turned their whole season around and won their last six games (including two over both Oregon and USC) to finish 8-8. We took Washington pretty lightly when we played them in October, but we can't afford to do that now that they've shown that they're capable of beating teams of our caliber.

Then there's USC, our last remaining game before the Pac-8 tournament. Since 'SC's not going to the tournament, that game, on Feb. 11, is their season finale. They'll come at us with everything they've got in that game, and we have to be ready for it. We have two weeks to prepare for that game. We'll be at home, where we're 2-0 against the Trojans this season, but they've won the last two games to force a meaningful Game 5 in the Crosstown Cup series. It's been a long time since UCLA has had the Cup, so there's plenty of pressure on both teams in that game.

Add to all of this the fact that the Eagles are in the Super Bowl on Jan. 6, and it makes for three straight huge sports weekends in the Book of Alex. So much for February being the worst sports month of the year. It's time to fire up the playoff beard - it's not coming off until I get back from Berkeley, hopefully with a Pac-8 championship to UCLA's credit.

Unless I get a job interview. Then I guess I have to shave.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Ten Reasons To Root For The Eagles

10. Gillette Stadium only takes Visa; Lincoln Financial Field also takes MasterCard.
9. Tom Brady does commercials for The Gap; Donovan McNabb does commercials for Chunky Soup and NFL Equipment.
8. The Patriots' wide receivers are boring and interchangeable; the Eagles' wide receivers are entertaining, unpredictable, and hilarious.
7. Patriots' secondary features guys named Gay and Earthwind and a converted wide receiver; Eagles' secondary features three Pro Bowlers.
6. Tom Brady, despite being born under the luckiest star ever, is still suing GM for $2 million plus punitive damages. Donovan McNabb didn't even sue Rush Limbaugh or ESPN when he had the chance.
5. Mike Vrabel grabbed Ike Reese's nuts and squeezed during a scramble for a fumble last season. I'm sure there are Eagles who would do the same, but I know about this incident, and it ain't right.
4. Bill Belichick is the worst-dressed coach in football; Andy Reid only dresses like an idiot if Terrell Owens catches 15 touchdowns in a season.
3. Patriots fans prepare for games by humping trees in a bizarre forest ritual; Eagles fans prepare for games by converting old school buses into the tailgate vehicles of their dreams.
2. The Patriots' web site, after beating the Steelers in the AFC championship game, arrogantly proclaimed, "Yet another display of greatness by the best football team of the 21st century." The Eagles' site says, "One Team. One City. One Dream."
1. Patriots fans already got to celebrate two Super Bowl wins in the last three years, plus a Red Sox championship; Eagles fans haven't cheered an NFL champion in the last 44 years - or in the last 21 years in any sport.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Hell Freezes Over, Or At Least Experiences A Cold Front

A couple days ago, I was having a conversation with a friend where I claimed that the objective of every team, from season to season, is to improve upon its finish from the previous year. If you have a losing record, then you want to go at least .500 the next year. If you go .500, then you want to make the playoffs. If you make the playoffs, you want to reach the next round.

For the past two years, the Philadelphia Eagles failed to meet that goal. After losing in the NFC championship game in 2001, they reached the exact same level again in '02 and '03, only to stall and go no further.

At last, on their fourth attempt, the Eagles are finally NFC champions.

I'm not quite sure how to react. In my memory, only three times before has a team from Philly made it to the finals of their respective sport - the '93 Phillies, the '97 Flyers, and the '01 Sixers. They all lost.

The '93 Phils were perhaps my favorite team of any single season in any sport ever. Led by my favorite player, Darren Daulton, they went from worst to first in one year and were baseball's most perfect reflection of the city of Philadelphia. They beat the pretty-boy Atlanta Braves in the NLCS, and though they gave the defending champion Blue Jays their best fight in the World Series, they lost in heartbreaking fashion. You've seen the play; I don't need to mention it any further.

In '97, the Flyers went up against the fearsome Detroit Red Wings, led by a quintet of Russians, back when Russians still weren't as prevalent in the NHL as they are today. My dad gave me the option to choose one game of the NHL finals to attend. Since the Flyers had home-ice, I could pick from Games 1, 2, 5, and 7. Thinking that Game 7 might not happen and that nothing would be settled in Games 1 and 2, I opted for Game 5. The Flyers never made it back to Philly, getting swept by Sergei Fedorov & Co.

In '01, the Sixers gave Philly a whole lot of false hope by beating Shaq & Kobe's Lakers in L.A. in Game 1 before dropping the next four games to lose the series. I'm not really much of a Sixers fan anyway, so I didn't lose any sleep over that one.

Which brings us to the present. Part of me says I should be satisfied that the Eagles have simply made it this far - that reaching the Super Bowl is success enough for this team that has tried three times before and failed to make it. That part of me is resigned to thinking that the Patriots are too well-run, that they are too deep, too efficient, and too confident to beat. The whiners in Boston will get their fourth championship in four years and still find something lacking.

The other part of me defiantly says to hell with that attitude. The Eagles of the last three years didn't just lose a trip to the Super Bowl - they lost a chance to win the Super Bowl. That's the ultimate goal - not simply to get there, but to win it. Have Philadelphia fans been so accustomed to falling short - 21-plus years without a championship in any major sport - that they are willing to accept merely an NFC championship, only because that was the Eagles' stumbling block the last three seasons? I hope not.

Nobody plays for a conference championship ring. Ask Ray Finkle.

I want T.O. to make good on Andy Reid's promise that he will play in the Super Bowl. I want Donovan McNabb to make Tedy Bruschi miss on a backfield tackle before he tosses a perfect spiral past Earthwind Moreland for T.O.'s first playoff touchdown in an Eagles uniform. I want Jeremiah Trotter to knock Tom Brady back to Michigan and then swing his axe. I want David Akers to kick a last-second field goal that makes people forget Adam Vinatieri ever played the game.

I want a parade down Broad Street with Billy Penn's statue looking down on the Vince Lombardi Trophy as it reaches the steps of City Hall.

I've already booked my Super Bowl weekend flight to Florida - Gainesville, to be precise. It's an hour and a half from Jacksonville, and because tickets cost an arm and a leg (if it were only a toe, you know I'd do it), I'll probably end up watching from a bar near Alltel Stadium. But I just had a feeling that I would regret it for a long time if I wasn't around to see the Eagles win a championship.

Given the team's history, it could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Friday, January 21, 2005

About A Grill

You've heard the story before, I'm sure. Boy meets grill, boy falls in love with grill, grill leaves boy, boy pines over grill, boy meets new grill...

When I moved out to Los Angeles, I was excited about having a balcony at my apartment. It meant grilling whenever I wanted to. One of the first things I did after I settled into my new place was to go over to Target and get myself a cheap charcoal grill. I set that baby up as soon as I brought it home, and then I went out to the supermarket and picked up buns, chicken, A1 sauce, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, cheese, and everything else to grill me up deliciousness.

I am not a chef. The kitchen is merely a storage place for frozen food, canned goods, and leftovers. A couple of times last semester I made pasta, and that was a first for me. Pop tarts and ramen are elaborate meals in my book. But if you put my grill and me together, I'll relish the process of food preparation.

During the first month and a half of life in La-La Land, I grilled at least three times a week. The weather's perfect for it. Burgers, chicken, skewers - I grilled it all. I'd get myself a beer, put one of my stereo speakers on the balcony, and kick back in a chair while I enjoyed the fruits (or meats, I should say) of my labor.

Then, during the first weekend of October, I took my grill on a field trip to a UCLA football game. The grill and I, along with three other guys, got to the parking area early (at UCLA football games, everyone parks on a nearby golf course) and fired up the grill. Chicken and sausage were the meats of the day, as I recall.

Short side story about that tailgate: A few girls came over and started drinking with us while we were grilling, and one looked over at the open trunk of my car with a look of bewilderment. I had a feeling as to what was confusing her, so I picked up the ice scraper that had been relegated to the trunk since moving from Connecticut to California and asked her if she knew what it was.

"No," she said. "I don't grill much."

Angelenos don't realize how good the weather here really is.

Anyway, midway through the second quarter of the game, we decided it was time to actually go into the stadium. We didn't want to dump the hot coals on the golf course, so after putting all of our tailgating material back in the trunk, we left the grill right beside my car. I didn't think much of it, since I saw other grills left by cars as well.

We went into the game, which wasn't all too thrilling - since it was an early season non-conference game, UCLA was winning, and so midway through the third quarter, two of the guys decided to go back to the car and toss the football around. Shortly after they left the stadium, my cell phone rang.

"Your grill's gone."

We quickly left the stadium to check on the developing situation. Sure enough, the grill had vanished. All that was left was a pile of ash 10 feet away. The bastards even took the two chicken breasts that we had left on the grill for postgame consumption.

To say I was upset would be something of an understatement. It wasn't about the cost of the grill - the thing cost about $25. It's the principle of the thing. You just don't take another man's grill. It's a violation. It creates ill will in the universe and just shouldn't be done. I have no idea who the guilty party was, but I like to think that the offender got into a karmically related car accident on the way home.

Right around the time of the grill heist, the hockey season was getting underway, and so I didn't have as much time for grilling anymore. Still, from time to time, I wanted to grill on the balcony and I couldn't.

Finally, on Monday, when I had a day off from school, I went back to Target. I bought another grill. The box was kind of damaged, and when I opened it up, the grill was kind of dented, but that doesn't really matter much. It'll hold the coals and the meat, and once again my balcony will glow with the glorious flame of charcoal heating up. This afternoon I assembled the grill and put it in its proper place.

On Sunday, when the Eagles are taking the field against the Falcons in the NFC championship game, I'll be dropping a match into the coals. There is a certain good aura about grilling and football that no petty grill thief can conquer, and perhaps that positive vibe can, in some small way, help out McNabb, Westbrook, Trotter & Co. finally overcome the last hurdle to the Super Bowl.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

If You Don't Know, Don't Even Bother To Ask

"BARRISTER'S BALL - The annual Barrister's Ball (aka law school prom) will be held on Feb. 11 at a hotel in Santa Monica in a ballroom with ocean views and more importantly, a 2-hour OPEN BAR. Tickets will go on sale very soon, time TBA. You don't want to miss the best law school social event of the year, so start making plans to ask that cute section-mate of yours who you stare at from across the room during con law."

So said the e-mail I got today. I heard about this when I was beginning law school - every year, there's a big formal dance, the biggest and best law school event of the year, and because law school is a lot like middle school (we have lockers, we have all our classes with the same section of students, and so on), people call it the prom. I was looking forward to it. Couldn't hurt to have a second shot at going to the prom.

By the way, I call it "the prom," not "prom." That's just how it was at my high school. Actually, it might have been just me. Deal with it.

But something about that date seemed familiar. Super Bowl? No, that's Feb. 6. I checked my calendar. Sure enough, Feb. 11, 9:00 p.m.: UCLA hockey vs. USC.

Game 5 of the Crosstown Cup, to be precise. The most important game of the regular season. I think that to some of the guys on the team, taking the Crosstown Cup from USC is more meaningful than winning the Pac-8 championship.

There's a good chance that I won't play in that game, although you never know. Still, even considering that, I didn't need to think twice about where I'd be on the night of Friday, February 11.

I have a feeling that when I tell my law school friends that I'm not going to Barrister's Ball that they'll tell me to skip the game, that I won't play, that the prom will be more fun. I've had similar conversations when other games conflicted with nights out. It won't make a difference. I'll be at HealthSouth, uniform on, ready to go.

One of the great things about playing for UCLA is that I really feel like I'm on a team again, which hadn't been the case for me since high school. When there were conflicts with men's league games and frat parties, I would go to the parties. It's different now. I practice with the team twice a week, I travel with the team, and implied in that concept of team is a commitment to be there for games under almost any circumstances.

There will be other Barrister's Balls. What we have a chance to do against USC is win the Crosstown Cup for the first time in eight years, and I wouldn't think of skipping it. I want to be there when we skate the Cup around the ice.

Plus, now I don't have to deal with finding a date.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Erasing The Zeros

When I first started playing hockey for UCLA, I took a look around the locker room, sized up my chances of getting any playing time, and decided that one of my goals for the season would be to make the dressing roster for half of the team's games. It had been a while since I'd played check hockey, and the team looked pretty deep, and since only 19 skaters are permitted to suit up for each game, it seemed like a reachable goal. So when I dressed for our first game of the season against Berkeley, I was feeling pretty good. Of course, I was a scratch for the second game, but even still, I was on pace to meet my goal.

Since that second game, I've been in uniform for each game, so I suppose that measured against my preseason expectations for myself, I've done well. Of course, as soon as you start climbing the ladder, you want to reach the next rung, so while I'm happy to be dressing for the games now, I'm now trying to earn myself some ice time.

Against our weaker opponents like Stanford and Washington, we'll roll all four lines, so I get my share of shifts. But there have been at least three games this season where the only ice time I've seen is in warmups. Sometimes I joke that for me, a hat trick is three shifts in a game. I'm not complaining - I'm a rookie on this team, and I know where I stand on the depth chart. On the other hand, I have to continue to improve and give the coach enough confidence in me to put me on the ice against the best teams in the conference.

On Friday night against Stanford, I took what I hope is a significant step toward that end. In the first period, with a 1-0 lead, Nick Hertz, who was playing on the third line, cut his chin and had to take a shift off while it was bandaged. I got the opportunity to jump up and take one shift in his place.

Playing right wing, I found myself on a two-on-one with Eric Allen, who carried the puck into the attack zone. The defenseman stepped up and played Eric aggressively, and he should have passed the puck over to me, but he instead made a terrific cut inside and freed himself for a shot on goal. The goalie left the rebound right in front of me, and I took a whack to try to get it under him before he dropped to the ice. The goalie got a piece of it with one of his pads, but as I circled behind the net, I could see the puck trickling slowly through his five hole across the goal line.

It happened in slow motion - partly because of the anticipation of a goal, but partly because the puck was barely moving. When it came to rest in the net, it was no more than two inches across the line.

For me, scoring a goal is a rare event. In high school, I never scored once in three years playing varsity. My only goal was in a 10-goal loss while playing JV. And although I scored my fair share of goals in men's leagues (including one five-goal game where every rebound found its way onto my stick and the net looked twice its size), those were no-check leagues with less speed and defense.

So as I realized it was a goal, the first thought flashing through my head was whether someone else touched the puck. I hadn't really considered seriously the possibility of scoring a goal in a game. Then I realized it really was me who scored, and I put my arms up so fast I nearly threw my stick in the air. I was so excited, I had to be reminded to skate by the bench for the requisite congratulations. I can't fully explain the feeling, but it's quite the high.

It took 15 games to do it, but I finally scored a goal as a UCLA Bruin.

Later in the game, perhaps playing with some added confidence, I even assisted on another goal - my first assist of the season. And after the game (a 7-3 win), the coach named John Harms, my linemate whom I assisted, and me as players of the game.

I'm still a little giddy about it all, to be honest. I'm not sure if my writing really does the goal - and especially the feeling of scoring it - justice. But it'll have to do, along with the box score from the game - proof that it actually happened.

Hopefully my momentum, as well as the team's, carries into our remaining five regular-season games. After all, we need to hit Game 5 of the Crosstown Cup and the Pac-8 Championships with a full head of steam. And I have a scoring streak to continue.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Bouncing To Game Five

I started getting the pregame jitters for tonight's game around 2:00 this afternoon, while I was sitting in my Con Law class. We were playing our archrival, USC, and we were taking our second shot at winning the Crosstown Cup.

UCLA hockey has not won the Crosstown Cup in eight years. But this season, we jumped out to a 2-0 lead against the Trojans in the annual five-game series, taking the first two games at our home rink. Our last game of the 2004 calendar year was our chance to go into USC's building and take the Cup from them. And we lost.

We had over a month to think about that loss, and we came back to USC's rink ready to play. There was no way we were going to let them even the series up, not after we won the first two games.

We lost again tonight, 2-1. It was a tough loss, because we outplayed them for most of the game. But we happened to catch them on a night when the bounces went their way and their goalie turned in what had to have been his best performance of the season.

Down 1-0 entering the third period, we scored a power play goal about a minute in to tie it up. And despite pressure and good goaltending from our end, we still couldn't push ahead. Then, with a little over six minutes to play, the puck was flipped high into the air - about 15 feet above the ice - and when it came down, it took a bounce right onto a Trojan stick, which flicked a quick shot into the net. A fluke bounce that could have gone either way went to the bad guys. Even with a minute left and an extra attacker, we still couldn't tie the score again.

Perhaps it's because we're meant to win the Crosstown Cup in the fifth and deciding game, on our home ice, in front of a couple hundred eight-clapping Bruin fans. At least, I hope so.

"We Want Beer!"

This was touched on very briefly in Brian Murphy's Page 2 column on Monday, but the story of Philly fans booing the president during Prohibition and chanting for beer, to me, deserved a more thorough treatment. I think it captures the spirit of Philadelphia sports fans quite nicely, and perhaps even the spirit of citizen participation to an extent. But that just might be the first day of Constitutional Law talking.

Murphy's short mention of the event goes like this:

In the 1930 World Series at Connie Mack Stadium, the Philadelphia A's played the St. Louis Cardinals. Two details: 1.) President Hoover showed up, and was booed. 2.) Shortly thereafter, the fans began chanting, "We want beer! We want beer!" It was, of course, during Prohibition.

Actually, I found other sources that place this event either at Game 5 of the 1929 World Series or Game 3 of the 1931 World Series. The A's were in all three of those series, and they played the Cardinals in '30 and '31. In '29 their opponents were the Cubs.

In '29, the A's won the first two games of the series at Wrigley Field, but then lost to the Cubs at home in Shibe Park (I don't think it was called Connie Mack Stadium at that point). In Game 4, down 8-0 in the bottom of the seventh, the A's put up an unbelievable 10 runs in the seventh inning, winning the game 10-8 and taking a 3-1 series lead.

Two days later, President Hoover made the trip up from Washington for Game 5 in Shibe Park to see the A's attempt to win their first championship in 16 years. Then, one version of the story goes, as Hoover walked across the field to the presidential box prior to that afternoon's game, the crowd chanted, "Beer! Beer! We want beer!"

The fans didn't get their beer - at least, not legally - until 1933, but they did get another amazing win from the A's. Down 2-0 in the bottom of the ninth, the A's came from behind for the second time in as many games and won the game, 3-2, and brought a championship to Philly.

So was Hoover booed for prohibition in 1929? Well, a quote from Hoover indicates that it might have instead happened in 1931:

"I was not able to work up much enthusiasm over the ball game, and in the midst of it I was handed a note informing me of the sudden death of Senator Dwight Morrow. He had proved a great pillar of strength in the Senate and his death was a great loss to the country and to me. I left the ballpark with the chant of the crowd ringing in my ears, 'We want beer!'"

Morrow died on October 5, 1931, the same day as Game 3 of the 1931 World Series between the A's and Cardinals, played in Philadelphia. So the beer-starved fans' chant could very well have happened then. At least three other sites confirms this as the date, including the Baseball Hall of Fame's site. By the way, the A's lost that game, falling behind 2-1 in the series, which they would eventually lose in seven games.

Still another site places the "We want beer" chant in 1931, only at a Washington Senators game at Griffith Park. This site reports that Hoover, after hearing the chant, laughed.

And apparently, the source of the info in Murphy's column is The Great Philadelphia Fan Book, which places the booing and beer demands on October 2, 1930, at Game 2 of the A's-Cardinals World Series.

If I had to guess at the actual time and place of the event, I'd go with Game 3 of the '31 series.

Anyway, what's the point of this discussion? Well, it shows that I have a severely skewed interest in looking up this stuff. But that isn't the point. The point is that the good folks of Philadelphia are passionate about all sorts of things, not the least of which are their beer and their sports teams. That's part of the city's identity - passion, enjoyment of life, and booing anything and everything.

I guess the reason I burned a half hour of my life looking at what happened over 70 years ago is because I consider myself a peer of those Depression-era fans - a Philly fan who, if he were at a World Series game in 2005, would do the same thing if his beer were taken from him.

Of course, the chances of the Phillies reaching the 2005 World Series are slim to none. And no president would ever dare take away the nation's beer again. Which means I can drown my sorrows regarding Ed Wade's failure to transcend mediocrity in a Yuengling, should I happen to be in Philadelphia come October.

Actually, that's a good question. Would I give up beer for 14 years in exchange for three straight World Series appearances, including two championships? At this point, having spent 23 years of my life without seeing a World Series parade down Broad Street, I'm inclined to say yes.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

My Primary Objective Is To Pay Less For School

Back in the day, when I used to work for ESPN, I complained a little about the meager salary they paid me. I suppose they were justified in paying me that little, though. The market certainly bears it - if I didn't have that job, someone else would have gladly taken it for the same salary. As a matter of fact, someone else did, after I left ESPN. Even though I like to think that I was really good at what I did there, the fact of the matter is that ESPN, by virtue of being ESPN, attracts the kind of people who would be good at sports research and would accept a smaller salary to do it.

So even though I complained about the amounts on my Mickey Mouse-adorned paychecks, I was still getting paid. Not so anymore. Now I have to pay UCLA for the privilege of attending law school. UCLA, since it is a state school, offers a tuition for non-California residents that is about $11,000 more than the in-state tuition. Fortunately for me, my mom lives in California, so I get an exemption from the out-of-state tuition.

Before I started my first semester, I applied for the exemption, got it, and paid the in-state rate. I figured that since the exemption was good for a year, I'd get the cheaper tuition again my second semester. Of course, that makes far too much sense, so that didn't happen, at least not yet.

When I checked how much I owed in tuition for the spring semester, my account showed the non-resident tuition. Thinking this might be fixed, I did nothing for a little while, until yesterday I was informed that not only was it not going to fix itself on its own, I also was being hit with a $50 late fee, and if the tuition wasn't paid by Friday, I would be dropped from my classes.

To solve this problem, I went over to Murphy Hall, where UCLA runs its student accounting and other administrative services. I went up to the window where you can ask questions about your account. They told me to go to another window. At the second window, I was told to go to a third window. Finally, at the third window, I was informed that the exemption must be reapplied for each semester. At this point I started seething, because the exemption is good for a year, so this really seems asinine (at least I'm not an undergrad - they go by the quarter system and have to reapply four times a year). So I took the exemption petition form, drove myself in L.A. rush hour traffic to Pasadena, where my mom lives, got her to fill it out, and I'll hand it in today. Even still, it's not that easy - the form says it could take five days to approve. By then, I'll have to pay the non-resident tuition anyway to avoid being dropped from my classes and having to enroll again.

I plan to put on a happy face this morning, march into Murphy Hall, and plead with the people holding the giant spools of red tape to process my petition ASAP. And if that doesn't work? Well, I have two backup plans.

The Jack Bauer plan is to throw furniture, scream at people, shoot someone in the leg, and then threaten to shoot them in the other leg unless they give me the California resident tuition now.

The Milton Waddams plan - you know Milton, the stapler guy from Office Space - is to burn down Murphy Hall.

Both will probably get me kicked out of school and arrested, so let's hope it doesn't come to that.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

24 By The Balls

With the first four hours of the latest season of 24 behind Jack Bauer & Co., it's time to take a look at the characters this time around, both old and new. If you haven't seen 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. yet and you plan to, now might be a good time to stop reading.

I think pretty much every character can be placed into one of two categories. I'm not talking about good and evil here - besides being the obvious two categories, it's not always easy to tell who the good guys are this early in the season. I'm talking about balls and no balls.

Jack Bauer: Is there even a question here? The main man of 24 is so badass, even Jonny Zero wouldn't stand a chance against him (by the way, I give that show four episodes before FOX pulls the plug). I've often said that the three fictitious characters I'd most like to be are James Bond, Zack Morris, and Danny Ocean. I always waver about putting Jack on that list, but I always end up passing, because when you think about it, his life really sucks. Everyone he's ever close to always ends up in mortal danger, and he's happy for maybe a half hour, total, out of every season. So really, all he's got going for him is his badassness, which, in his case, totally overwhelms any shortcomings that might possibly cause you to think about disliking him. By the way, Jack went to UCLA for grad school, just like me. Look it up if you don't believe me.

Audrey Raines: No balls. If it wasn't for her, her dad would probably have pulled off that escape from the warehouse. But instead of picking up the gun and helping her dad out, she can't stop sobbing (in all fairness, I would probably be crying too if I was being held prisoner by terrorists). Plus, she might be turning Jack soft. She already made him say the L word.

James Heller: I have to admit, I wasn't a big fan of this guy early on, but the way he carries himself as a prisoner is pretty ballsy. Not only does he continue to insult his captors, he even tried to escape, using one of the guards' assault rifles as a weapon. If only he'd stop saying, "I am the Secretary of Defense of the United States of America," then maybe we'd really be in business with him. Hopefully, his character doesn't get whacked too early in the season.

Erin Driscoll: The verdict is still out on the new CTU director. On the one hand, she stands up to Jack. On the other hand, it doesn't accomplish anything at all. The real question is, how did someone with a BA in history from Bryn Mawr College become director of the Counterterrorist Unit? Clearly, I'm having too much fun with the online character bios.

Navi Araz: He's obviously got some balls, since he's spent nearly five years planning the latest terrorist attack that's sure to change the world. But who forces his teenage son to run terrorist missions for him? Get in the car and drive your frickin' briefcase to the warehouse yourself.

Dina Araz: Next to Jack, she's got the most balls of any of the show's characters so far. She's more cold-blooded than her husband. At least he openly admits to being a terrorist. She plays the role of caring mother, then orders her son to cap his girlfriend, and when he won't, slips some poison into the girl's drink (which was pretty easy to see coming). I have a feeling she will somehow run some kind of power play on her husband later this season.

Richard Heller: James Heller's wife must have been a complete wuss, because their son has even less balls than their daughter. He's a whiny hippie who protests against his father's war policies, then tries to pull the "My father is the Secretary of Defense" line out when he's being interrogated.

Behrooz Araz: The terrorists' kid has been pretty much beaten into submission by his parents, but at least he mustered up what courage he had to try to get his girlfriend to safety. He's another one who may or may not have balls, but it's probably irrelevant, because his parents will probably kill him when his conscience gets the better of him and tries to interfere with their master plan.

The other characters are (at least for the moment) kind of secondary to the plot, but I will mention that I wasn't sorry to see Ronnie Lobell, Jack's replacement at CTU, take a bullet. Obviously, his character wasn't meant to be likeable or important. But the weird thing is, aside from the fact that he couldn't last two hours, he acted just like Jack. He does Jack-like things in telling Jack straight up that he shouldn't be going to pick up the programmer from the train station with him, and he even pulls a gun on Jack and cuffs him to a pipe. That's exactly the kind of thing Jack would do...but when Jack does it, it's badass. When Ronnie did it, it was stupid. Think about that...what is it about Jack that makes you root for him?

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Happy New Site!

Well, here it is: 2005. New year, new site.

You may be wondering, "Alex, you've only written four new columns since you moved to Los Angeles. Why even bother?"

And to that I say...good question.

Seriously, though, I think this new site is easier to navigate for the reader. It's definitely easier for me to maintain. Hopefully I will write more often than I did during my first semester of law school. The topic might stray from sports more often than it did in the past, mostly because I don't work at ESPN anymore (obviously), and also because the NHL gave me a decent chunk of my material, especially during the dead period between the Super Bowl and Spring Training.

On that note, you can look forward to future columns on topics such as law school, Los Angeles traffic, Los Angeles weather, how Los Angeles weather affects Los Angeles traffic, the Eagles and their quest to avoid a fourth straight NFC championship game loss, and UCLA hockey, which is now an important part of my life.

No promises, though.