Baseball Toaster The Juice Blog
Monthly archives: January 2006


Gammons Homage Notes
2006-01-31 12:05
by Will Carroll

First, a serious note -- It always seems to happen at this darkest point in the baseball off-season, when the baseball-centric posts on this admittedly non-baseball-centric site are at their ebb. Someone goes over the line and I once again wonder why I'm doing this. I know why, but there's a level at which I refuse to deal with frustration. If I'm not having fun, I won't do this. Scott and I are the oddballs here and at times, the comic relief. This isn't our primary outlet and as happy as I am to be here in the company of people like Alex, Ken, Jon, and the rest of the great writers, I'm not going to put up with things.

So, we are going to begin to delete posts that are decidedly negative, off-topic, or trolling. I want this to be a free and open exchange, but there is a line. We used to say that this place was like the friendly neighborhood bar. Those places will throw you out if you deserve it.


I'm working on a piece about amphetamines. I think it could be the big story of the 2006 season in a way steroids never quite were. Bonds could adjust all that, but I'm having a harder time with writing the greenie piece than any in a while. The reason isn't writer's block -- never had it -- but the fact that I'm not sure if anyone cares. I'd rather talk about the very interesting PECOTAs (posted for subscribers at BP) or the fate of the Marlins or the Classic or anything. Heck, I'd even rather talk lawyers and insurance, like I did yesterday regarding Jeff Bagwell.


Anyone like these rules on pitch counts and saying uncle in the classic? The counts are much higher than I expected and reduce the advantage of the 4-1-1-1-1-1 strategy I expected the USA to take. Now, a hot Pedro or Johan could push a team over the same way a hot goalie can in the Olympics.


Seriously, no one's made a Kevin Millwood offer on Jeff Weaver? I mean Millwood last year, not this year. And has anyone noticed the Angels have done almost nothing this off-season? I know they're loaded with prospects and don't want to block anyone, but this seems odd.


Ozzie Guillen's gone from my least favorite manager -- I thought he was a joke in over his head -- to one of my favorites in just a year. I was flat wrong about the guy. The turning point was seeing his handling of the bullpen, which was genius. I'm curious if the use of ex-players like Raines, Cora, and Baines had much influence. He's definitely someone I want to get on BP Radio.


Time for a little wishlisting -- who would you want to see on BP Radio?


Who's going to be worse, the Marlins or the Royals? I know one of those teams is going to be a lot better in 2008; the other one seems doomed to be a doormat.


After St. Louis opens it's new ballpark in a couple months, the only new one on the horizon is the DC ballpark -- assuming it's ever figured out. The Yankees and Mets are probably at least five to seven years away. Is this the end of the building boom in baseball -- and how long will it be before we can assess its effects on the game?


"Baseball Between The Numbers"
"Built to Win"
"In The Best Interests of Baseball?"

I've read two of these and am looking forward to reading two others. One - completely and totally a waste of time. I'll let you figure out which is which.

Blogging the (Yawn!) Oscar Nominations
2006-01-31 12:00
by Ryan Wilkins

And so here we are again, the last week of January, with the disorienting stench of the Golden Globes fully behind us, and the uplifting aroma of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences 78th annual awards show just one month away. Who will be nominated? And more importantly, who will be shafted, so the writers at Access Hollywood can take their annual month off while each new episode writes itself? Which previously laughable actor will get Queen Latifah'd -- filling out the ballot with a surprising, empty nomination, only to signal the last positive contribution he/she will ever make to society? These are the questions I want answered. And I'm awake at 5:20 a.m. Pacific time for no good reason so I can see them read to me live.

Let's do this.

  • 5:22 a.m.: With roughly 10 minutes until showtime, I've decided to flip from station-to-station to see which morning news programs will be breaking from their normal routine to cover the nominations. Except that I can't find the remote. And it's 5:22 a.m. So ABC it is.

  • 5:25 a.m.: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences web site indicates that this morning's nominations will be announced by "Academy President Sid Ganis and Oscar-winning actress and Academy member Mira Sorvino." Hm. What, was Marisa Tomei not available? Was Mercedes Ruehl too busy? This is akin to MLB pegging Gene Orza and Lamar Hoyt to read off this year's winner of the AL Cy Young award.

  • 5:33 a.m.: With Hollywood running fashionably late, I've taken to finding odds online for potential nominees. Problem is,, my usual go-to source for internet gambling, isn't listing them for whatever reason. Meh.

    What Bodog does have, however, are odds for the Razzies -- the awards for the worst films and performances of the year. The 2006 list is dominated by a host of pretty faces, just like always, with Tom Cruise leading the way with three total nominations, including two in one category ("Most Tiresome Tabloid Target"). Other notable nominees are Tara Reid (for her heart-stopping performance in Alone in the Dark, which is the single worst film I've seen in the theater by a country mile), Jennifer Lopez (Monster-in-Law), and Britney Spears, Kevin Federline, and their shared camcorder (Britney & Kevin: Chaotic).

    Can't they all just win. Please?

  • 5:37 a.m.: As my mug of Peet's (w00t!) begins to drop from lukewarm to arctic, I begin refreshing Google News to see if a press release has managed to escape before the nominations are officially read. Nada. Stupid Hamas.

  • 5:38 a.m.: And out they come, as my local ABC station barely throws their coverage over to Hollywood in time to see the first category read. Mira Sorvino hasn't aged one day since she tripped and fell onto her Best Supporting Actress award 10 years ago as a Hooker with a Heart of Gold™. Sid Ganis, meanwhile, is a tiny, tiny man.

  • 5:38 a.m.: Best Supporting Actress nominees: Amy Adams (Junebug) is the class of the group in terms of singular performance, but she's got no back-story, and the Academy loves to give credit for things completely unrelated to category at hand. Michelle Williams is a fine pick, and frankly I expect more from her going forward. She's got chops. I could do without another Frances McDormand nomination. She's exiting the important phase of her career, and still living off her win for Fargo (but understandably so). I love Catherine Keener, but her turn as Harper Lee in Capote didn't exactly set me ablaze. I see this as something of a body-of-work pick, perhaps trying to make-up for the fact that she got completely jobbed in '99 for her performance in Being John Malkovich. All things considered, she's probably the front-runner here.

    Side note: No Maria Bello? Argh.

  • 5:39 a.m.: Best Supporting Actor nominees: There are three good performances here, with George Clooney (Syriana) leading the pack. He's just got the right mix: 1) Method-actorly decision to put on significant weight/facial hair for the role, 2) Political film that almost everyone can nod their head to in sullen agreement, 3) Eschewing past success to play against type. That wasn't, after all, the wise-cracking Danny Ocean getting his fingernails pulled out over top-secret intelligence. That was a man.

    Jake Gyllenhaal? A really mediocre performance in good film. He was asked to do more than the soon-to-be-nominated Heath Ledger, but he was just in over his head. This is an example of picking the film and not the actor. Matt Dillon was Matt Dillon in Crash, really stretching himself to play a macho prick. He still gives among the worst line-readings in all of Hollywood. This time he gets nominated for them because his character's dad was ill. How sweet. Paul Giamatti is someone I thought the Academy would forget again, in part because Cinderella Man was such a flop. I guess Sideways is still lingering in the back of their collective mind. Bill Hurt? Good call.

  • 5:40 a.m.: A pretty boring group for Best Actor, with Philip Seymour Hoffman as the mortal lock. Johnny Cash fans who didn't take the time to see Capote are already starting to howl; I can hear their cries a-comin'... they're rollin' 'round the bend...

    The pertinent question about Terrence Howard, of course, is "Is this the beginning of the something huge, or just the beginning of the end?" I'll gladly take the former. Morgan Freeman's getting pretty old, after all, and Hollywood's going to need another black actor to take Important roles pretty soon. Welcome to the club, Terry!

  • 5:41 a.m.: More parity in the group for Best Actress, though word on the street is Felicity Huffman is the bees knees in the film no one has seen yet, TransAmerica. It's going to be a dog-fight between her and Reese Witherspoon, who was a shot-in-the-arm to Walk the Line, with the exception of one scene where she's forced to fit the words "walk the line" into a sentence about Johnny's drug addiction so audiences can be impressed with the (gasp!) hidden double-meaning of the title. Still, she was funny, sexy, sung competently, and never lost her accent throughout the film, which is more than you can say for an Academy darling like Nicole Kidman.

    Charlize Theron, meanwhile, enters the Meryl Streep phase of her career, where anytime she tones down her natural beauty she's lauded as being "courageous." For some reason, I'm reminded of a Mr. Show sketch about a similar subject...

  • 5:42 a.m.: Woody Allen for Best Original Screenplay? Granted, I come from about as liberal a school as there is concerning the notion of adaptation, but c'mon! Has no one on the board seen Crimes and Misdemeanors before?

    Noah Baumbach for Best Original Screenplay? Nice.

    Which reminds me... where the hell is Laura Linney in that Best Actress group? And Jeff Daniels and Jesse Eisenberg for that matter? I dont expect much from the Academy, but I'm surprised that the members are willing to recognize a performance like Amy Adams' but overlook something like Jeff Daniels' in The Squid and the Whale, which was equally showy as Adams', but at least comes from an actor with a track-record. Just weird.

  • 5:43 a.m.: No Caché in the Best Foreign Language Film category, apparently. Of course, I didn't see France's nominee to the contest, Joyeux Noël, so this could very well be an astute selection, but I do know that Caché is among the best films of 2005 as measured by the folks at as well as my own tastes, to be published very soon (shameless plug!) in an end-of-the-year list at The Juice!

  • 5:43 a.m.: Why do they even bother with putting other films against Wallace & Gromit? Shit was dope.

  • 5:44 a.m.: And now for the big finale: Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Crash, Good Night, and Good Luck, and Munich, with each director getting a nod as well. Yawn. Remind me why I do this every year again?
So it is written, so it shall be.

Let the pointless yammering and half-baked speculation begin!

Scott Long's Comedy Schedule, Plus a Dirty Little Secret
2006-01-29 10:18
by Scott Long

I have been asked by some readers to put up a schedule of my comedy dates. Here it is through May. All the dates listed are headlining shows (50-60 minute sets) except for the ones with Frank Caliendo.

2     Spring Lake, MI
3-4   Merrillville Star Plaza (Chicago area)
9     West Lake, OH
10-11 Grand Blanc, MI
15    Decatur, IL
18    Bloomington, IL
21-22 Duluth, MN
23    Spicer, MN
24    Mantiwoc, WI
25    New Holstein, WI

1-4   Kalamazoo, MI
10-11 Twin Cities
17    Ste. Saint Marie, MI Casino
18    North Dakota
19    UP of Michigan
21    Sioux Falls, SD
22    Stevens Pt., WI
23    Newton, IA
24    Brainerd, MN
25    St. Cloud, MN
29    Carbondale, IL
31    St. Louis

1     St. Louis
6-9   DC Improv (w/Frank Caliendo)
12    Lima, OH
14-15 Milwaukee Casino
25    LaCrosse
26    Dubuque
27-29 Madison, WI

4-7   Chicago Improv (w/Frank Caliendo -- tentative)
10-13 Lansing, MI
17-20 Toledo, MI

(If you want more information about times and locations, please contact me via email.)

I'm sure many of you noticed that many of these dates appear to be in Single-A towns. Kind of like a Nike tour of comedy. I have played almost every major club in the country. I have performed at almost all the Improvs, which is the top comedy chain in the country. Go to and look at the schedule of comics that will be performing there. The roster includes about 40 comics. These comics, with maybe five exceptions are major draws; they are draws because they have been on network TV shows or have built a niche following through specific communities (Hispanic, Urban, Gay, etc.).

Besides the occasional Pauly Shore or Michael Winslow, the Improv headlining comics are hilarious. Much like the music world, it's important to find a niche to market yourself to. If you don't find that niche, you find yourself featuring at the Improvs and Funny Bones. ($500-$1,200 a week, depending on if the big-time headliner allows you to sell CDs or t-shirts.)

The dirty little secret is if you are not one of these top 40 or 50 acts, the best way to make money is to play smaller cities and towns. Do three or four nights and you will make between $1,000-$2,000 for the week, plus you are given celebrity status in these places. By the way, the worst places to do comedy on a money scale are New York and Los Angeles, as the clubs pay most of their comics $25-$50 a set. These cities have so many quality comics that the owners rule the supply and demand side of the equation. Why comics are willing to do this is if you want to get on TV, you need to live in one these two cities, as all auditions are based out of there.

There are a few ways of making a good living doing stand-up comedy.

  1. Corporate Shows
  2. Colleges (NACA)
  3. Cruise ships

    These first three categories pay well, but you need to be clean and extremely politically correct to do them. This is a big reason so few comics do them and why they pay so well.

  4. Travel the country doing a mix of one-nighters and clubs. (Comics in this category are often referred as road dogs.)
  5. Play small clubs and coffee houses in L.A., NY, or possibly Boston, which you will not making a good living, but hoping to be seen by someone who get you into TV.
I would guess that there are only 200 comics in the country that make over 50 grand a year, by just playing comedy clubs and one-nighters. If you add in the first three categories, I'm guessing you might be able to add another 100 comics who make over the 50 thousand barrier. Now there are some comics who make huge money playing theatres, headed by Larry the Cable Guy, but most comics are in category No. 4.

Morning radio is the No. 1 way to sell tickets. Now that Howard Stern is off the FM dial, the Bob and Tom Show is the most influential place to get people out to the show in the US. (They are in over 150 markets and have 5 million listeners.) Believe it or not, they will sell tickets in the markets they are in way more than an appearance on any of the Late Night talk programs. On the Bob and Tom Show the comic is on for a longer time and they mention where you will be at more often

Have you ever watched a show like Premium Blend on Comedy Central and thought, "Jesus, are these comics lame." I have been in the business for 13 years and I would say 75 percent of the comics on these shows have never performed more than a couple of times outside of SoCal or the East Coast. Almost everyone on these shows have Management and they are looking for young, telegenic people who they hopefully place in movies or sitcoms. I've had friends on these shows, but for the most part, the comics on Premium Blend would be openers for me, as they just don't have the experience or talent to perform in front of an audience for more than 15 minutes.

Just like any profession, comics have different goals. My goal was to travel the country doing live stand-up and hopefully get a TV writing job or two. Just trying to accomplish these goals was filled with frustration and disappointment, but fortunately I've been able to achieve mostly what I set out to do. I've had enough friends move to the coasts and have their dreams and fantasies squashed to not have much doubt that I made the right choice for myself.

Out of the FREYing Pan and Into the Firing Line
2006-01-26 19:30
by Scott Long

In late 2004, I picked up an audiobook at my library by an author named James Frey. Generally, I don't pick up a book from just looking at the front cover, but the artwork was interesting. I proceeded to read the back cover which had a blurb that intrigued me.

A Million Little Pieces is this generation's most comprehensive book about addiction: a heartbreaking memoir defined by its youthful tone and poetic honesty. Beneath the brutality of James Frey's painful process, there are simple gestures of kindness that will reduce even the most jaded to tears. A remarkable performance.

-- Bret Easton Ellis

I figured if Ellis, author of one of the best novels on drug use, Less than Zero, would rave about this book, it was worth checking out. I had no idea how much.

A Million Little Pieces is the most dynamic book I've ever heard. I really recommend picking up the audio version, as the performance that Oliver Wyman brings to the book matches the intensity of the words on the page. This is a book that stylistically has the punch to the gut power that only a few authors have managed to accomplish (Norman Mailer, Ken Kesey, Chuck Palahniuk come to mind).

The magic that these authors have been able to deliver during their writing careers haven't had the burden of relying on the complete truth, as they mainly have produced novels. This is where the moral issues come into play, as Frey wrote a book that he initially shopped as fiction, only to discover that the book world is looking for "the truth." I'm guessing that Frey figured, "Hey, most of the book is true, if this is the only way to get my story published, no big deal."

Now why he might have thought it would be no problem in calling his book non-fiction is that many books classified as memoirs have a fair bit of artistic license running through them. There has been a slate of memoirs focused on the dysfunctional lives of it's author and it seems like the element of darkness needs to be ratcheted up, as readers demand just a little more to feed their dark fixes. Subjects like rape (Lucky by Alice Sebold) and incest (The Kiss by Kathryn Harrison) that would have been too taboo to discuss 20 years ago in a memoir are now the basis for spectacular books on survival.

While taking in James Frey's tale, I did question some of the absolute truth to the story, but his storytelling ability overcame my reservations. Actually, another recent memoir which I loved almost as much, Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs, seemed more fanciful in its tales. While knowing that these books were completely true would be my choice, both Frey and Burroughs (who is being accused of similar fictional elements) are such great storytellers that I'm not willing to throw them on the fire.

While we live in an entertainment world where the word reality needs to be reexamined, at the same time, I'm not sure if in the book world it's any worse than before. I'm sure many authors of memoirs published 25, 50, or 150 years ago would have similar problems, if they faced the modern media glare of Frey. On Oprah's show, Doubleday's editor, Nan Talese basically said (I'm paraphrasing) that she trusted the author's version of the story and it seemed truthful to her when she decided to publish it.

The media has gone after James Frey like he's the first person to use some fiction to punch up non-fiction, which is a bit unfair. Coming from a journalism background, I believe that the media has a duty to always try to tell the complete truth to the best of their ability. I'm not sure that memoirs fall under the same rules. The Frey case seems to have changed the rules on memoirs, so I'm all for some kind of new classification and a more stringent vetting process by the publishing houses, if that makes everyone feel better. Just don't expect to read memoirs that will reach such high levels. Just like 100 meter times in the Olympics after tighter drug testing, the new restrictions will make it hard to break the old records.

I'm not saying that James Frey doesn't deserve some of the bloodletting he's receiving, but eventually the guy needs to be let out of the stocks set in the middle of the world's town square. Guess what, we all lie to certain degrees and there is no group that is more proficient at this skill than drug addicts. Maybe his lying skills are his best proof that he used to be a hardcore drug addict.

A Million Little Pieces helped many people in dealing with their own or a loved ones drug addiction. Many of these same people are angry feeling duped by not getting the whole truth. I would say to these people that it's time to get over yourselves. One of the main tenets of A Million Little Pieces is that no one, not even a higher power can heal you of your own addictions. It ultimately comes down to taking personal responsibility for your own actions.

The one person who I do have some empathy for in the "scandal" that has followed revelations is Oprah Winfrey, as she was called out by so many in the media for perpetuating a falsehood. Her response today on the show to the controversy and the subsequent interviews she did with Frey, Talese, and other media figures like Richard Cohen and Frank Rich, was the best hour of television of her career.

Because of Winfrey's power as the most trusted figure in the United States, she needed to take Frey to the woodshed, as her credibility is the most important thing she has. While I agreed with her tone towards Frey, the hissing of her henchwomen (the audience) was a bit much, as there was little difference between it and a Jerry Springer audience. Frey wasn't smooth and didn't seem to be completely honest, but he was willing to face the heat. James Frey's "crime" was he wrote a book that he pitched as something it wasn't; he didn't get us involved in a war with flawed reasoning. Perspective, people.

While we know now that it's not completley true, A Million Little Pieces is still heartfelt and amazing in many ways. Its biggest mistake just might have been that it was so good that Winfrey heard about it and made it her book of the year. (Maybe Johnathan Franzen knew what he was doing. Considering that Frey and the publisher made a mint after Winfrey's book club selection, they would be wise to donate the profits from this point on to charity, as it would take some of the sting off of the "crime."

Like most truly talented writers, Frey has a healthy ego, which became a bit unhealthy after the suceess of his debut novel. Let the whole experience after writing A Million Little Pieces serve as a cautionary tale. I know if he writes a book about it, non-fiction or fiction, I will look forward to reading about it.

2006-01-26 13:46
by Will Carroll

I'm not one for watching Oprah and I didn't see all of today's episode, but from the descriptions of what I missed and from the parts I saw, Oprah just killed James Frey. Not literally, but almost literally. The guy looked like he'd been beaten, that his internal martyr was getting a workout he hadn't expected, almost like a masochist who likes the pain then doesn't know what to do when it goes a step or ten too far. Frey had no safeword.

Frey, more than Jayson Blair or Stephen Glass, is an interesting case of fiction presented as fact and a case-study for the failings of modern journalism. Add in Novak, Miller, and BernsteinWoodward's involvement in the Plame case and the giants of the industry are having problems. I haven't read Frey's book, but Scott Long raved about it and I'm interested to hear his take on this.

For me, it's interesting in that fact-checking has always been a big part of my career. I'm not a trained journalist, instead learning on the fly and occasionally suffering for it. I make mistakes, no doubt -- Washington Grays, anyone? -- but always make an effort to both admit those mistakes and to be as transparent as possible about how that mistake was made.

I spoke yesterday at DePauw University and afterwards, the director of their Media Fellows program and I talked about the Rose article. While I still believe I had the story correct, my rawness as a journalist caused some obvious mistakes and we're talking about doing a case-study presentation of where those mistakes occurred and how to deal with the phenomenon of the writer becoming a part of the story in modern media. I'll keep you updated if that happens.

How Frey got past fact-checkers and passionate readers is beyond me. Over the last two years, I had two stories relating to steroids that got checked, double-checked, triple-checked, and then checked again by another set of eyes. My "Dr. X" excerpt from "The Juice" not only made it past the test of my publisher and attorneys, but before Sports Illustrated ran the piece, I talked to no less than three people who closely checked the story. It was a hard process, due to the protected identity of my source, but I understood their job and, in the end, truth is truth.

Another piece, offered to a major newspaper regarding some facts of a steroid positive, did not make it past the fact-checking stage. I had a single, important source that wouldn't publicly discuss the fact shared with me to an editor due to the source's concerns for anonymity and in the end, the piece never ran. Could I run it here, where I don't have an editor or fact-checkers? Sure, but I seldom if ever consider that. At BP, I'm lucky to have Joe Sheehan pushing me for my best work. My two books have come out with Ivan Dee as both editor and publisher and his work has made me look good.

I even address this type of topic in my piece for this year's Rotowire Baseball Season Preview magazine. My article is about how to "read" rumors for a fantasy advantage, but at the heart of it, it tells the inner-workings of what Peter Gammons and Ken Rosenthal do so well. I'm not sure when that hits newsstands or the big stage of Wal-Mart's magazine rack, but I've seen a couple previews already out, so keep your eyes open.

So how did something hit the best-seller lists and make it to the massive stage of Oprah without the fact-checking kicking in? I don't know. That story probably won't sell as well as Frey's book, but may be even more interesting.

Schizo Scott Returns
2006-01-23 22:15
by Scott Long

Will's post below, "Hip Hop, Bloggers, and The Voice of a Generation (Remix)" created some interesting discussion. One of the comments, by Knuckles, was a great point.

I think blogs are like rap in that we're nearing the point where the bloggers stop commenting on actual events, and simply start linking to each other's noncontent, and tossing insults around like battle-rap mixtapes.
One thing I like about The Juice is that we don't spend a lot of time breaking down what the major media has to offer. Considering that the beat writers have better contacts and more background information on the subjects they cover, I rarely spend time reading blogs which focus on taking apart the major newspapers. The best bloggers try to bring new takes on a subject, instead of just being a watchdog group.

Now in regard to the insults part, I don't run across many bloggers who throw insults out at other bloggers, unless they are political weblogs who have their right wing/left wing flame wars. In sports and entertainment weblogs, I actually think bloggers are too polite to each other, as we are way harder on newspaper writers than we are to writers in our own world.

I know many of you (and some of the other writers at The Toaster) would prefer for this site to be a more peaceful, nurturing place. When you put Will and I together that just ain't gonna happen. Both of us, to varying degrees, share the characteristics of being contrarians, sh*t-stirrers, and flame throwers. Just like rappers, we know the importance of being a self-promoter. If you live in Indianapolis and have any desires of being heard on a larger stage, you better have some talent and know how to shake and stir it up.

Every six months or so, I write a different version of what I see our site as being. I do this because is a different type of site. I'm not sure either one of us have a good handle on what we are doing here, but we strive to be unique. Sometimes this happens and sometimes it doesn't, as our regular readers are fully aware of. When you write at a site with another person you quickly realize seeing eye-to-eye on everyting isn't possible. When Will invited me to join in at Will Carroll Presents he was a Cub fan and he knew I was a White Sox guy. I guess we realized if we could get past that everything else would work itself out.

I know everytime I write one of these "Core Philosophies of The Juice" it reads very self-indulgent. Sorry, but writing a blog is about the most self-indulgent thing a person can do, so I don't worry about it. I know my favorite blogs give me some backstory on what the writer is like. The way I see weblogs competing with Newspapers and Magazines is that a blogger has enough column space to offer more than just the facts. Welcome to my daily memoir. Feel free to check my work and tell me when I'm off base. If only James Frey had a "Your Editor."


Continuing on the subject of self-promotion, did you notice that Will's new new writing project was headlining the front page of on Friday? It will be interesting to see how the Will Carroll science project proceeds. He's coming over to my house for dinner this week and I will be interested to see how he deals with the meal.

  • Pork chops stuffed with sweet apple and onion cornbread
  • Steamed green beans mixed with bacon and tomatoes
  • Garlic Mashed Potatoes

    and for dessert...
  • Oatmeal Crusted Apple Crisp topped with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
On a related note, since the beginning of 2006, I have eaten horribly. From what I've been ingesting, you would think my New Year's resolution was to eat like a pig. Everyday I've eaten some kind of fast-food, plus chowing down on so many cookies my blood sugar level would read "OTIS SPUNKMEYER."

Now I know I'm not doing my health any favors. I watched Super Size Me last year and was repulsed by the changes in Morgan Spurlock's life from a month of pure fast food. While I was feeling repulsed, conversely my mouth salivated at the same time, watching him knock out burger after burger. I'm in reasonable shape, because I do a moderate amount of exercise, but my pants are getting tight and I'm expecting I will be hitting the Atkins diet again soon, as it's the only way I've found that I can lose weight and still feel full and reasonably satisfied.

I thought I would offer this up, as it seems to be the new rage in blogging. I will keep you posted occasionally on my diet plans. Will's target body type is Brian Giles. At the pace I'm going I will be looking like Rick Reuschel by the end of the year. Knowing this, my diet will probably start next month. My target body type will be Jose Canseco's. Hey, why work so hard using supplements. My motto, more results, half the time. Sure my testicles might go from kiwi's to bleached prunes, but I'm a positive thinker. Small cajones will just make Mr. Boffo look more intimidating.


Couldn't pass up sharing this New York Post offering from Page 6.

January 16, 2006 -- WHICH pop-singing sensation likes to troll the Internet for gay quickies? After one unsafe session, his homo hook-up contacted a tabloid to sell his sordid story and offered a DNA-encrusted washcloth as proof. If the truth comes out, the singing idol's fans, mostly middle-aged housewives, will be very upset . . . (Page 6 NY Post)
Now I have no idea who this could be, but I know who I don't think it is. Clay Aiken. From the comments I've gotten from Claymaniacs in the past, I've learned that Mr. Aiken is a raging heterosexual man, who is extremely well-hung. By the way, any sentence appearing in a major newspaper which features the phrases "homo hook-up" and "DNA-encrusted washcloth" will alway get linked or pasted on this site. In the world of gossip, no one is bigger than Dick Johnson and his crew of fluff artists.


Final Note: Now that the NFL on Fox pregame show is over, I will have a little more time to lend to The Juice. Another person who will have a little more time is Frank Caliendo. Check him out on Late Night with David Letterman tonight (Tuesday) He's will be doing a stand-up set.

Hip Hop, Bloggers, and The Voice of a Generation (Remix)
2006-01-21 13:15
by Will Carroll

I find myself hitting button four on my XM a lot lately. That's the present for The Rhyme. I seem to go in phases with rap, alternately enjoying it and ignoring it, depending on mood and when an artist strikes some chord with me. I'm a white guy from the suburbs, so my chords are hardly the target market.

Listening to rap from the 80's and 90's reminds me of when I was more of the target demo and how a group of guys over the better part of a decade and a half took their low-fi, street-level brand of communication and art and turned it into something that a suburban white kid would turn up in his Fiero.

At least some of it. Two white kids in the 90's lamented "the day hip-hop became hit-pop" in "Pop Goes The Weasel," the classic 3rd Bass song. Hip Hop branched out, became mainstream, absorbed the money and soul-crushing commerce of popular music and ceased in many places to be the vital voice of their generation. Ice Cube called rap the "CNN of the ghetto." There's still some of that, especially when rap finds a new genre or niche within itself or even expands and escapes as it seems to do once every couple of years. (Outkast's last album was three years ago; we're due.)

For every KRS-One, there was a Run-DMC. For every Beastie Boys, there was a Marky Mark. For every Jay-Z, there's a Ludacris. The accessible art form gave young black men a voice, a say, a chance, and many used the opening to move not only out of the ghetto, but into the mainstream. I'm not sure who the first rapper-actor was -- and "Krush Groove" doesn't count -- but I'm willing to bet few saw The Fresh Prince and thought "box office gold." (Whatever happened to Jazzy Jeff, btw?)

As rap expanded, what it left behind was the social contract it had with the street. NWA took the bragging from gold chains to guns, from rhymes to drugs, and rap never recovered. There are still isolated pockets, but there's no room for Public Enemy in today's rap world. Chuck D's now on talk radio.

Then what we see is a new medium and a chance for those who had to voice to have one, not rapping or scratching, but writing and linking. It's hard to wrap your head around Andrew Sullivan having something in common with Eazy E, but the comparison is right there. Sullivan's actually a bad example. To keep it in the baseball world, let's use the example of Aaron Gleeman. He's gone from a kid in a dorm room to someone read by hundreds, written a book, and developing a following. Is Gleeman the blog to rap equivalent of LL Cool J? (Solid, not groundbreaking, but mass appeal.)

Is Baseball Toaster the Wu-Tang? Is someone ready to be MC Hammer, the first complete sell-out? Will corporations co-opt blogging and render it mostly safe, the way the did with hip-hop?

If you don't see Alex Belth and Jay-Z and see similarities, you won't be able to dance to the remix.

Release Point
2006-01-19 18:36
by Will Carroll

Jeff Sullivan has an interesting article over at Baseball Analysts regarding release points. It's good work and worth checking out.

My initial reaction was harsh because so much of what he's trying to do has been done. The problem with that reaction is that the work that's been done hasn't been widely noted. Scholarly journals aren't mainstream and it's not Jeff's fault that he doesn't know about what was done in the AJSM or about internal team technologies like Dartfish.

That tells me that baseball is doing a poor job of "showing its work." Since I'm the de facto chronicler of sports medicine these days, that means I'm not doing enough to explain it. Hopefully, Jeff and I -- and others -- can get more of this type of work done. It's work worth doing.

(Or am I wrong again, Basil Anonymous Editor who is apparently not Basil?)

Solving the NFL's Instant Replay Problem
2006-01-19 10:15
by Scott Long

So do you think Doug Eddings was sleeping a little more soundly last weekend, after watching the NFL Playoffs? Even if you were in the large camp that thought Eddings blew the Josh Paul catch/trap, one could see how he might have missed it. This is unlike NFL official Pete Morelli who actually had made the right call on the field and then reversed it. After that call, I was half expecting Peyton Manning to take off his helmet only for it to be revealed that A.J. Pierzynksi was wearing his uniform.

Morelli's crew were the same ones who earlier missed an obvious pass interference call that would have most likely sewn up the game for the Steelers. Oh and if you think all the calls went the Colts way, guess again. On one play a Steeler lineman flinched, which every official missed, but half of Indy's defense who came across the line of scrimmage pointing, did not. The decision on this issue by the crew was "la la la, that whole play didn't happen, la la la, time for a do-over.

Morelli, unlike Eddings, never had to face the media glare after the game. What could his response been? I'm afraid no matter what he said it would have come out like one big "the dog ate my homework" excuse. Considering Morelli is a principal in his other job wouldn't that have been fitting? As John Canzano writes in the Oregonian, "until the NFL begins using full-time officials in what amounts to a billion-dollar enterprise, the job of regulating the league's high-stakes games falls to the regular guy who has stumbled into a nice weekend hobby."

Considering the NFL is all about TV ratings, here's my suggestion on solving the official's dilemma. Whenever a coach asks for a review, instead of having a referee look it over, have a panel of 3 judges just like American Idol. One judge would be a former referee, the second judge would be a foxy babe, and the final judge would be a sassy former player like Kordell Stewart. (Yeah, I know he's still in the league, but he hasn't thrown a pass in 2 years.)

Can you imagine the excitement this would bring? The NFL has been trying to get more women to watch and I think this would do the trick. Sample of how Sunday's controversial play would have been called if the review panel of 3 had been involved.

First Judge is former NFL referee Red Cashion: "The Steeler defender had possession before he fumbled and recovered it. Pittsburgh's ball. (Heavy southern accent) FIRST DOWN!"

Second Judge is Pamela Anderson: "Did you know I was discovered by Playboy at a Canadian football game? Oh, the play. The odds seemed stacked against the Colts. Oh and since I mentioned "Stacked", my sitcom on Fox will be moving to Thursdays in March. Oh yeah, my final decision. Now I like Troy Polamalu's hair, as its very rock and roll, just like Tommy Lee's. And I relate to many of the players, since a number of them are physically violent to their wives, just like Tommy Lee again. But I have to go with the Colts retaining possession, because I like their uniforms better. .

Third Judge is Kordell Stewart: "Pam, all I can say is you go girl. Now I used to be a Steeler, but don't think I'm biased towards them, as they dropped me. I mean I was Slash. When things were good, Coach Cowher used to kiss me on the cheek, but when I started throwing interceptions, he'd just yell at me. It was so bad I had a clear plastic shield attached to my face mask, not because I was afraid of being poked in the eye, but because I was tired of being spit on. It ain't right when your helmet has an accessory on it that is generally only used at a salad bar. You know its true Coach. So I go with Pam on this decision. Take that Steeler fans!

Ok, maybe my suggestion needs some work, but is it any worse than what happened this past weekend. I'm a big proponent of instant replay in the NFL, but it must be stated that overturning a call on the field can only happen if there is clear-cut evidence that it was wrong in the first place. If something isn't done to create more uniformity in the replay system, it will lose favor with the league and fans. Just like a bad call without replay hurts the game, a bad call with replay does the same. Considering that the NFL tries to keep all gambling references away from its beloved game, they need to do something to solve the inconsistency in the replay booth. Feel free to use my suggestion if you like.

Example No. 3 Zillion and 7 that Karma Doesn't Exist
2006-01-17 15:41
by Scott Long

KARMA def. The total effect of a person's actions and conduct during the successive phases of the person's existence, regarded as determining the person's destiny.

I'm not a believer in Karma. It just has never rung true for me. I have many stories of how karma failed me. This one is my favorite.

Early on during my comedy career, I was performing at a club in Chicago. The last night of my run happened to fall on Halloween. The club's bartender was a sexy redhead, who had been flirting with me the whole week. After my final set, she had asked me if I wanted to go to a party that night. Now, being only 3 hours from home, I had planned on driving home that night. This also happened to be the home where my wife cohabited with me. Despite what a particular body part was telling me, I made a moral decision and told the seductive vixen that I needed to go home to my wife.

Driving home that night, high on the notion that I had done the right thing, karma stepped out in front of me. You see, Karma was the name I dubbed the 400 pound deer who ran in front of my car on Interstate 65. Considering I was driving a Toyota Celica, things did not go well for me, as my auto instantly went off to the side of the road. Some would say I was lucky that I didn't have more than bruises and a mild concussion from the accident. I would not be one of these people, as I looked at my now totaled car and realized the hell that awaited me. (The lengthy wait on an insurance check and the stress of shopping for a replacement vehicle.)

I bring up the subject of Karma because the best recent example of how Karma is fiction happened on Sunday. I'm speaking about another heartbreaking loss for Colts coach Tony Dungy.

While most of the focus has been on Peyton Manning's failure to win the big one, the failure of Tony Dungy's teams to make the Super Bowl is just as relevant. Dungy, who had a tragedy that completely trumps a football loss (the suicide of his son), seems to be cursed on and off the field. While many famous people who present themselves as morally righteous often are exposed as hypocrites, there is no person in the NFL who is more respected as a quality person than Tony Dungy. The whole "good things happen to good people" concept seems to elude him, though.

After appearing unbeatable for the first 13 games, the Colts were exposed some by the Chargers 3-4 defense in week 14. Using 4 linebackers seems to be Peyton Manning's kryptonite, as this defense offers more blitzing opportunities, which help nullify number 18's every down audibles. One could argue that without good karma the Colts wouldn't have even had a chance to tie the game at the end, as a horrible challenge overturn and a miracle fumble recovery put them in position to go to overtime. This arugument seems pretty flawed overall, though, considering how dominant the Colts were most of the season.

To me these incidents just point to how random life can be, despite the percentages. While I'm not saying that Bill Cowher and the Steelers aren't deserving candidates for the elusive thing called karma, Tony Dungy sits on top of the list. Sports are the best example of how karma is about as real as guardian angels and haunted houses. No other profession lives the ideal more than football that "life is tough, wear a helmet." In my world that phrase rings a lot truer than karma. Here's hoping Tony Dungy's luck changes over the next year. Now I'm off to watch Bambi with my daughter. Silently I will be rooting for that little fawn to bite the bullet.

Dear Dr. Marshall ...
2006-01-16 19:15
by Will Carroll

To: Mike Marshall, Ph. D
From: Will Carroll

I saw your response to my response to your comments in the Chicago Daily Southtown. You're right, I haven't played in the Major Leagues and I certainly don't have a Cy Young on my shelf. Then again, I have two books in stores and you have one on your website that hasn't found a publisher. It's hardly a match, but if your logic that you had to play to coach, doesn't not being a major league pitching coach at any professional level make Tom House a better prospect than you?

Anyway, we could go on like this forever, so I'll cut to it. Dr. Marshall, you do interesting work with no results and in the end, that's what baseball is about -- winning. A win in this market is getting a pitcher to the major leagues, healthy and effective enough to rack up some wins.

You haven't done it. Neither have I.

But I'll beat you there. I'll have a major leaguer before you will.

With respect,
Will Carroll

Time To Shake Up the Broadcasting Booth
2006-01-12 16:53
by Scott Long

The World Series Champion Chicago White Sox have signed Chris Singleton to join Ed Farmer in the radio booth. After a great off-season, the White Sox made their first bad move. Singleton was a protégé of current Sox TV announcer, Darrin Jackson, when he came up with the team and I'm guessing will be similar to Jackson in the booth, as well. This would be a huge step down in quality from what the team had for the past 13 years.

If you never heard Farmer do a game with play by play announcer John Rooney, I feel for you, as they were the best baseball radio broadcasting duo I've listened to. (Topping my TV broadcasting duo list, Bob Costas and Tony Kubek doing game of the weeks on NBC.) They both had the rare ability to be insightful about the game, while also being erudite in their thoughts on other subjects.

After working for the White Sox for the past 17 years, Rooney was not re-signed because he didn't want to take a salary cut. During the final days of Michael Jordan's Bulls, owner Jerry Reinsdorf had packaged his two teams together in a radio deal with ESPN 1000, which enabled the Sox to get more than they received for their latest contract. (NEWSFLASH: The Bulls haven't been so good since his Airness left.)

Farmer, who would generally do 3 innings of play by play with Rooney, will be in that role full-time, now.

I know the baseball purists won't care for this idea, but I heard Tony Kornheiser mention on his XM radio talk show that the Nationals should have hired him and Wilbon to do the games together. Now, considering that the guy has about 10 other jobs and makes officially between a million and gazillion dollars annually, I'm not sure he would be a good choice to fill this position, but the sentiment I agree with.

Earlier this year I made an effort to listen to all the radio announcer teams on XM, as I was planning to do a piece where I would rate them. The first thing you will notice, if you attempt to do this is how much all the play by play guy's sound-alike. It's truly maddening to me, as I've mentioned here before that I can't stand the affected voice. Happily the affected voice style is being replaced at most stations in large radio markets by people who don't sound like broadcasting school grads, but it would seem that baseball hasn't gotten the memo.

Kornheiser's point of view on the topic is that not that many people listen to radio broadcasts, so what needs to be done is have a more lively debate in the booth. Now I know there are a some old lady shut-in's who need all the radio minutiae because they are keeping score of the game while listening, but baseball has to reach out to younger listeners. Since most people listen to the TV broadcasting teams, radio needs to present more lively dialogue. What they could use is someone like Jimmy Piersall who never worried about stirring the shit up. Of course, most broadcasters are company men, who are hired according to the team's wishes.

What MLB needs is a renegade owner like Mark Cuban to take over a team like Tampa Bay or Kansas City. Knowing that the team's radio ratings are minuscule, he would put together a crew that was not afraid of using incendiary comments to get people to tune in. I'm not saying this duo would have to be Opie and Anthony, but I do think bringing some edge to the radio broadcast would be an exciting new step in the evolution of baseball. Could it be worse than adding ex-jocks like Chris Singleton to the fold?


A final note on the American League's radio broadcasting teams: Now that the clear stand-out team of Rooney and Farmer are no longer together and that long-time A's announcer Bill King passed way, I would list the Cleveland Indians radio crew Number 1. What puts the Indians crew at the top is their dynamite play by play guy, Tom Hamilton. Hamilton has a strong voice and knows how to create excitement with it, bringing the energy of the game through the radiowaves. I also like crews in Baltimore and Detroit.

The one crew that is almost unlistenable to me is the Yankees duo of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman. To be fair to Sterling, he's an acquired taste, but Waldman shouldn't have the gig. I have no problem with her as a reporter, but I just don't think a woman should be in the booth as an analyst of a men's sport. I might be able to get past this though, if she didn't have such an annoying New Yawk voice. It's like listening to the Fabulous Sports Babe, all over again. While I'm a fan of having non-jocks in the analyst's role, I hate that someone like Waldman was giving one of the first chances at this position, as she isn't exactly as Jackie Robinson-like ambassador.

Finally, I decided to only rate the AL broadcasting teams, as I didn't want to have to discuss Vin Scully. If you want to wax poetic on Vinnie, I suggest you go to Dodger Thoughts and find other like minded individuals who cream their BVD's just thinking about the guy.

After re-reading this piece a few hours later, I realized that the last line could be construed as me taking a shot at Jon Weisman. This was not the intention. While I don't agree with the notion that Sir Scully is a baseball deity like so many do, it's just a matter of an opinion, which I know I'm in the minority on. Also, I'm sure since most participants at Dodger Thoughts are from the SoCal region, they wear more stylish attire, like the Silk Extreme Thong from the International Male catalogue.

Promised Announcement
2006-01-11 16:47
by Will Carroll

A new project I'm working on is now live. You can check out "The Year of Living Chemically", now up at MLBlogs.

I won't bore you with details if you're not interested enough to check it out. I'd invite everyone to see my fourth book, in progress. (Yeah, parse that.)

No, it doesn't mean I'm leaving Toaster. It's just a different location for a different kind of project.

There's A Sale At Penney's!
2006-01-10 22:11
by Will Carroll

I'm trying not to get too excited about the return of "The Shield." It's on Tivo (the new one, with the DVD burner, upgraded by Weaknees) and ready to watch. Next week is "24." How am I going to get anything done?

All I need now is "Bands Reunited," which may be the greatest concept ever. I know Jamey Newberg has been agitating for Jellyfish, but I'd really like to know what the hell ever happened to MC Serch and Prime Minister Pete Nice -- you might know them as 3rd Bass. I mean - two very, very good albums and then poof, nothing. I think Serch had a solo album.

It also reminds me - last two times I've been in the car, LL Cool J has been on the XM. Why is it that most rap has the shelf life of a Mariners pitching prospect, but LL's stuff -- internal references and all -- seems to hold up? I think it might be the familiarity.

Anyway - open thread question - what band do you want to see reunited?

Three big posts upcoming:
1) The Will and Scott sitting at a kitchen table talking about music "podcast"
2) Will's semi-big blogging announcement
3) Laminated List 2006

Welcome New Readers
2006-01-09 22:02
by Scott Long

Over the weekend, the "Open Season" column by The San Francisco Chronicle's Tom Fitzgerald included three lines from my NFL Resolutions 2006 piece. "Open Season" is a widely syndicated weekly column, which compiles the best sports quotes of the week. The column's quotes mainly come from great comedians such as Leno, Lettermen, Long, etc., plus the top sports columnists in North America. To protect its syndication value there is no official link online, but the column did prominently mention next to my name, so let me welcome all new readers who might have discovered this site from "Open Season".

As someone who has never been sold on Michael Vick, you might be surprised to know that I believe Vince Young can be an excellent NFL QB. Young is a leader and has the type of body that can absorb hits, two things I question about Micheal Vick.


Watching Joe Paterno's behavior the past few years, I don't think that he stays at Penn State because he loves coaching. I think he stays because he loves to yell at his players. Hey, name me an 80 year-old guy who doesn't dream of grabbing teenagers by the shirt and screaming at them?

I haven't posted any NFL picks the past couple of weekends. I think Week 17 is a complete crapshoot, as most teams are just playing out the string. For the first weekend of the playoffs I didn't like any of the games, as I generally go with the home teams, but most of the road teams were superior clubs. This was proven out by 3 of the 4 contests being won by the road team. I like all the home teams to win this weekend, but there is only one game I like against the spread.

When you look at the QB and Coaching match-ups, it's hard to imagine Denver winning, as New England has wide advantages in these 2 categories. Unfortunately for the Pats, Denver is a much healthier team who has the bonus of a large home field advantage.
3 star Denver (-3) New England


The most amazing stat I've ever seen in regards to a NFL Playoff game is the Washington Redskins winning a game despite managing only 120 total yards. They were so bad that Native American groups are now just asking for the Redskins decal to be taken off of the offensive players' helmets.


Over at Mike's Baseball Rants you can read the Toaster's bloggers thoughts on the Hall of Fame inductions. I will briefly recap my portion of the discussion. My HOF ballot would have Blyleven, Gossage, Sutter, and Trammell. While I'm in complete agreement with Rich Lederer's campaign to get The Dutchman into Cooperstown, I think the number 1 candidate on the ballot who should be in is Trammell.

At arguably the most important position on the field, Trammell is one of the Top 10 shortstops of all-time. He is downgraded because he was the 5th best at his position during the time he played. (Ripken, Yount, Ozzie, Larkin) This logic fails from my view. Was Roberto Clemente an unworthy Hall of Famer because his stats weren't quite on the same level as Mays, Aaron, Mantle, and Robinson? To be honest there is not much difference overall between O. Smith, Larkin, and Trammell.

Trammell was the MVP of the 1984 World Series and in my mind should have been the AL MVP of the 1987 season. (Finished a close second to George Bell.) Another bias against him is the notion that was Trammell even the best part of the Tigers double play duo? Lou Whitaker is one of the Top 16 second baseman of all-time, but I would rate him just below Trammell. Add to this that Trammell was a leader for the Tigers, while Whitaker was a me-first guy and it puts him a clear step below. I do think Whitaker should be in the HOF, but I believe he should have to wait a bit longer than the other 4. Why? For rolling up during the 1994 baseball strike in a limo and then compounding it by saying "I'm rich. What am I supposed to do, hide it?"

Breaking the Tribes
2006-01-06 14:19
by Will Carroll

I'm going to sound like a raving liberal, talking about diversity and inclusion, throughout this, but get past the claimed language of politics and try to follow what I'm really getting at here. It has nothing to do with politics and much more with marketing, behavior, and blogging in general.

One of the reasons I admire Jamey Newberg is that on the occasions where I'm lucky enough to go to his functions, I notice something in the (large) audiences. Women. Kids. I do pizza feeds -- though I admittedly did a grand total of two in 2005, something I *will* remedy this year -- and I see people that look frighteningly like me.

As much as I like these people, I realize they're my downfall. To once again bring Christenson into the discussion, by listening to my customers, I've only created a tribe and I'm seeing it across the board. Imagine your favorite blog having a reader get-together/meetup/whatever and I'd imagine we'd see a group of like-minded, same-demo people no matter the blog. I'll go beyond this and say we could do it with nearly any media. What would an ESPN group look like? What would a Veronica Mars (best show on TV) group look like?

The niche-based media has created an unintended side effect. To grow numbers, the only way to do so is to appeal to the lowest common denominator and in too many cases, that's frighteningly low. As our society heads towards "Christians vs Lions, next on Fox!", we've allowed a descent from satire and parody to exhibitionism.

On a recent "Iconoclasts" (a show too new to say how good it is, but it's damned interesting so far), Renee Zellweger sounded like a sorority girl next to Christiane Amanpour, but managed to get off a perceptive comment. "People have a hard enough time getting through their day to come home and think and process the world," she said, lamenting the OJ-of-the-day media. Fox News doesn't scare me, but Entertainment Tonight does. News has become distraction, not information, and the ability to do real news has been so marginalized that even something like The Lehrer News Hour seems ridiculous in its adherence to the old style of seriously showing the issues.

How then does a blog of no ambition like The Juice break from a tribe of like-minded individuals and more importantly, should it? If this were a business, we couldn't survive. Our page views won't support real advertising, we don't produce enough high quality content to support a subscription model, and if it were to vanish into the haze like too many other good blogs, there'd be other places to turn, even on the Toaster.

Are tribes the future as we find niches that are either unserved or do we continue to descend in search of enough distracted people to support a business? Can we hope to find ways to grow our ideas and increase diversity within the niche or is that da doomed concept from inception?

The 500 channel promise is no longer a dream; it's a nightmare for inclusion.

Are They Tivoworthy? Top 20 TV Shows of 2005
2006-01-04 07:38
by Scott Long

Never in television history have there been so many high-quality programs. I would argue that the top TV shows have overtaken theatrical movies as the better overall product. The major film companies have become slaves to marketing, most concerned with how their movies will be able to open to their target audience (12-25 year olds). Add to this their other focuses---selling globally and how much extra can be gleaned from action figures and commercial tie-ins----and it's amazing there are any quality releases from the major studios.

Sure television networks have many of these same financial instincts, but the advent of HBO's original programming has been the greatest instigator in pushing for more quality shows. Since HBO was not just looking for high numbers, but more importantly, buzz, which would draw people to pay 13 bucks a month for their channel. (The majority of people paying the high premium are a person over 25, so worrying about reaching the teen market is not necessary.) This is why HBO was able to develop a "Sopranos". Another albatross for networks that HBO didn't have was FCC restrictions, which take the edge and reality away from most shows.

The top young directors start in Indie films, hoping to build a career where they can eventually get major studio funding like Stephen Soderbergh or Wes Andersen. Good luck in making that happen in today's Hollywood system, as a big opening weekend rules. Most of the great directors interested in storytelling over special EFX are behind a Television camera. I wonder if Scorcese or Coppola wouldn't focus their talents on television, if they were starting out in 2005?

Following HBO's approach has been Showtime and FX networks, which also have fewer restrictions as the broadcast networks do. Steven Boccho, creator of Hill Street Blues and LA Law, foresaw this happening a decade ago and created a show on ABC (NYPD Blue), which featured more language and bare skin than had been shown before. Its first season was as good of a drama as network television has ever had. Unfortunately for the networks, they can't go much farther in pushing the edge, as the FCC and their own commercial sponsors won't allow for it, so the cable networks have a big advantage on that front.

The competition from the cable networks has been a good push for the major television networks. This has been shown in how even the highest-rated Nielsen programs, CSI, Lost, and Law & Order feature quality stories and acting. Even with so many channels funneling away viewers from the major television networks, they still have the bonus of being able to reach much larger audiences than cable. This allows for bigger budgets, which does help balance the quality issues to a certain extent. While I still think the best dramas are on Cable, the line is getting blurred a little more, which is helping the Major's close the gap.

Before I go on, don't for a second think that I'm not saying there isn't a large, steaming pile of bad programs on the tube. The biggest reason that there is more quality shows, (the myriad of remote control choices) is the same reason there are even more bad shows.
My top 20 TV shows list is one which features the programs I think were most Tivo-worthy for the 2005. Instead of compiling a list in ranked order, I have split the shows into 3 categories, as it's impossible for me to rank a comedy versus a drama, as they are of different worlds.

Tivo-worthy Dramas

Deadwood- 2004's best show continued on its riveting path of blending Shakespearean dialogue and Wild West action. While technology has changed our world immensely from the 1800's of "Deadwood", the show demonstrates that greed, insecurity, lust, and love are at our core, no matter what the century is. If Ian McShane isn't the best actor on television……

The Shield- …..Michael Chiklis must be. I just discovered this show on DVD over the past couple of months and it's brilliant. My Top shows list of last year is incomplete, as I didn't list this show because I'd never seen it. After seeing Will had rated is so highly, I made a note to catch it. Watching the whole season on DVD is a treat that waiting for it on a weekly basis can't match. Much like "Deadwood", "The Shield" always seems real. Both shows have casts who are not just pretty faces, which adds greatly to the reality they project. On the other hand, there is not a network drama that doesn't have at least one major babe or a hunk as part of their regular cast. I'm looking forward to the show's creator, Shawn Ryan, collaboration with David Mamet which will air on CBS in March.

Six Feet Under- Kind of hard to speak specifically about this show's last season without spoiling it for people planning on catching it later. What I will say is this is that this show should go down as the best family drama in television history.

24- Somewhat of a comeback for this show, as its 3rd season had started slowly. Year 4 featured all the same heart-pounding action as before, but the Arab-terrorist cell angle gave it more realism. Since the show is on Fox, it pumps in more melodrama than needed sometimes, but it's hard to point to a better drama on network TV.

Prison Break- The best new drama of 2005, I would have rated this show above "24", but the last 3 episodes had a lot of filler and the big finale was a huge dud, leaving its loyal viewers left hanging, not giving any resolution until the show resumes in March 2006.

West Wing- After slipping in quality caused by the departure of creator Aaron Sorkin, a new storyline focused on the campaigns of new faces Alan Alda and Jimmy Smits has revitalized the show. Alda's character, Senator Arnie Vinick is a Republican nominee for President who only a bunch of liberal television writers could create. The character's politics and honest approach is what I wish John McCain was really like. My favorite element to Sen.Vinick is his refusal to discuss his religious views. How refreshing it would be for a candidate to not pander to the masses by refusing to use religion as a voting tool?

Breaking Bonaduce- No honest. This was the best reality show I've ever seen. Focused on the beyond dysfunctional life of Daniel Bonaduce, nothing on television had more real emotion and pathos than this VH-1 original. Bonaduce lives his life on the edge like it came from the pages of Bob Woodward's "Wired". (biography on John Belushi) The weakness of all these other celeb-reality shows like "The Osbournes" and "The Newlyweds" is that they thinly veil the "reality" versus the scripted. If Danny Bonaduce was just playing a character, his acting performance should go down next to the Hackman's and Duvall's, as he was completely riveting. Since I saw his work in the movie H.O.T.S. a hundred times (Skinemax classic), I really believe "Breaking Bonaduce" is about as real as a reality show can get.

Tivo-worthy Comedies

Arrested Development- Season 2 of television's most inventive show, was as good as the first. Jason Bateman plays his understated character, Michael, with a consistently note-perfect delivery. His brother, Gob (Will Arnett) is the funniest supporting actor since the prime days of "Seinfeld". AD proves that sitcoms on network TV are not DOA, just that the mass audience is just not sophisticated enough to get its absurd intelligence. (Note: Season 3, which aired this Fall was a step-below the first two installments, but still funnier than any other show on the networks.)

Curb Your Enthusiasm- While not as good as past seasons, "Curb Your Enthusiasm" was still the most thought provoking comedy on the air, despite what Joe Buck believes. My favorite episode of 2005 featured "The Daily Show's" Rob Corddry playing a registered sex offender, who just happened to an incredibly moral person and overall great guy, well except for his one problem. Only a show on cable could tackle a topic like this with a comedic tone.

Starved- See review from

The Family Guy- I'm always reticent to list an animated show highly on a comedy list, as it's a lot easier to get laughs in the cartoon universe. Having said this, "The Family Guy" has more laughs per minute than anything probably ever shown on television. While not as brilliant in it's social commentary as the peak years of "The Simpson", "The Family Guy" is superior to the show now.

Weeds- Starring the always-great Mary-Louise Parker, who plays a recently widowed mother of two that decides to sell marijuana to keep her family living in the comfortable suburban life they had grown accustomed to. If you were looking for a darker, edgier version of "Desperate Housewives", this was the place to move to. Oh and by the way, as luscious as Teri Hatcher and Eva Longoria are, there is something so sensual about Ms. Parker that makes her the sexiest woman on TV.

Boondocks- Not just content with being the edgiest comic in mainstream newspapers, creator Aaron McGruder brought his strip to the Cartoon network. Similar to Chris Rock's stand-up in its no-holds barred look at race in the United States, "Boondocks" was the best new comedy of 2005. Veteran comic/actor John Witherspoon does stand-out voice work as Granddad.

The Daily Show, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and Real Time with Bill Maher-
These three talk shows take very different directions to accomplish it, but they all have in common being consistently funny.

Tivo-worthy News and Variety

Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel- Network television's newsmagazines have went into the toilet, as they now mainly focus on sensational stories that can be shaped into an Agatha Christie mystery, with dreamy Stone Phillips voice-over's. Only 60 Minutes consistently pushes for tougher edged pieces, but considering their reporters resemble the cast of "Cocoon", it just doesn't seem to possess the energy and quality it did during the 80's and 90's. While I'm not a big fan of his books, Bernard Goldberg is the best newsmagazine correspondent around. Mary Carillo is not far behind and let me say her piece on the father and son triathlete team was the most moving piece I've ever seen on a newsmagazine.

Frontline/American Experience- These 2 PBS documentary programs are consistently excellent. They also feature great narrators who have voices that could make the Nicole Ritchie novel worth listening to.

Countdown with Keith Olbermann- Yeah Anderson Cooper looks better in a Gucci suit and sure Bill O'Reilly has quadruple the ratings, but this is the most entertaining and informative cable news show. KO has been skipping from one network to the next, but it appears with Countdown that he has finally found his perfect home.

Rock Star: INXS- I believe Will and I have spoken enough about this show. This is the show American Idol dreams of being. (Quality-wise, not ratings wise.)

NFL Resolutions for 2006
2006-01-03 19:29
by Scott Long

Well, it's that time of year, when hack writers like me do a New Year's resolution column. In this installment I will list the resolutions for some of the NFL's most intriguing people.

Minnesota Vikings- At our 2006 boat party, the only adult entertainment allowed will be a shuffleboard tournament.

Reggie Bush- My resolution is to stay alive in 2006, since I will probably be playing for the Houston Texans. Hopefully they will draft some USC lineman, because when I need protection I think of Trojans.

Michael Irvin- I will not let any of my "brothers" ride in my car, so I won't have to take any more pictures wearing an orange jumpsuit.

Matt Millen- I promise to hire a person who is easier to blame. Motor City football fans, meet your new Detroit Lions Coach. Former LAPD detective, Mark Furman.

Terrell Owens- My focus in 2006 will be to the best team player in the NFL. No seriously. Come on people I mean it. For example, if I end up with The Jets, those losers, I mean my new teammates, they will transform themselves from the example of the almighty TO. Hey being a team player sounds like fun.

Al Davis- I resolve to do what I do every off-season. Sign a bunch of over the hill, high priced free-agents and hire a puppet for a head coach. Oh things are looking up Oakland.

Carolina Panther cheerleaders- Next time we get really drunk and begin to make the sexy with each other, we will only do it in the privacy of our homes. Now if you are interested in seeing this, we will have a webcam set up at

Dick Vermeil- To find a job where my crying is welcomed.
1st choice: Official reviewer of Lifetime Movies.
Back-up plan: Prep cook at a food stand featuring onion rings.

John Madden: Will unveil my dead-on impression of Fox's Frank Caliendo.

Chad Johnson- To bring dignity back to end zone celebrations. From now on, when I score a touchdown, I will respectfully hand the ball back to the referee. I will then precede to---with much dignity---to light a wick which will set fireworks out of my ass.

Bill Parcells: To quit coaching to pursue my ultimate goal: Prowling the catwalks of Milan, as a Calvin Klein underwear model.

Mike Tice: I want to step away from football for the next couple months, well except for visiting the Super Bowl. I, of course, won't be in the stadium; I will be on the outside working as a scalper.

Chris Berman: In 2006 I will actually use a music reference from a band that didn't tour with Foghat.

Maurice Clarett- I will finally get a chance to show how I'm one of the best backs on the planet. Man is our Mean Machine team gonna kick the guards asses!

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