Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The King Wins the Crown

So, LeBron James won an NBA title last week. Immediately, the beatifying began. People suddenly forgot about his ridiculous decision two summers ago. People suddenly forgot that he cheated the system, that he decided to join his biggest rival and coerce another all-star to join them. But you know what? After what LeBron James did the last month, starting with massive performances when down 2-1 against Indiana and without their big-man, I forgot about it as well.

The Indiana beatdowns were just the beginning. LeBron followed with the only performance of his career that could rival that Game 6 back in 2007 against the Pistons. Down 3-2 against Boston and heading to that Sam Adams Factory of a city, LeBron was about to be demolished by every fat slob sportswriter again for "choking" and "coming up small" and all those others things. What did LeBron do? He score 40 in three quarters. He could've pushed 60 if he didn't sit due to the fact that the Heat were up by enough already. Against one of the most spirited, arrogant teams put together (that other 'Big 3'), a team that had knocked LeBron out of the playoffs in 2008 and 2010 in their home building, LeBron gave a performance fit for a King. That's when it really started.

After losing Game 1 against OKC, and actually looking like the slower team, LeBron decided to show up, to do all those things people said he didn't do when the bright lights of the playoffs came. He posted up. He took over in crunch time. He defended everything. He was a beast, he put together four games that rival anything anyone not named Jordan has put up. That's when it was cemented.

I don't care about the fact that LeBron is the best player of the past ten years. I don't care about all those idiots telling me I need to appreciate him, or that we should stop hating him, or that he has redeemed himself after uttering that ridiculous sentence of "I am taking my talents to South Beach." To me, he did none of that. I still hate him. I still think he complains way too much, is given way too much lee-way and respect by the referees, and did something so cowardly by teaming up with the best players he could fine, and doing it while pretending not to and making every NBA team fellate him for one summer. I still hate him for all of that, but I am glad LeBron got his title.

Like most things in my life as a sports fan, it connects to Peyton Manning. For years, I had to defend Peyton Manning from all the idiots that said he's a choker, that he can't win the big one, that a man who had his kicker and defense carry him to a title was better than him. I had to listen to all of that even after Manning won his title. People tried to say it was only because he had to face Rex Grossman (never mind the fact the Bears had the NFC's best defense, and the 2006 Colts were the only team ever to beat the #1, #2 and #3 scoring defenses in one playoff run). Being a Colts fan was hard, and Peyton Manning isn't even an arrogant jag like LeBron. But I still felt bad for LeBron, for having to go through that same "he can't win the big one" stuff that Peyton had to.

Now, I will say that LeBron, and NBA players in general, can do more for their team to win a title than a QB, but still, it was obvious that he has been the best player in the NBA over the past five seasons. Yet people were saying Kobe was better. People were saying Durant was better. Derrick Rose somehow won an MVP last year. LeBron sat there and took it all, and he finally got his ring.

Personally, I think LeBron really just wants to be liked. He's just really awkward at doing it. Something like the NBA version of A-Rod. His biggest fault is that he tries way too hard to be liked. Every move seems calculated, targeted. In a way, I feel bad for him. I don't think LeBron ever thought his decision would come with that much back-lash, that much hatred. We even have evidence since he's already admitted he hasn't ruled out a potential return to Cleveland. I do feel bad about the way people excoriated LeBron. I always felt it was fair to blame him for taking the easy way out (and guess what? it worked), but not for being way too obtuse and over-his-head to not know that the decision was a huge mistake.

LeBron has his title. After arguably his worst career failing last season (blowing a 2-1 series lead to Dallas, a team that seems very underrated historically, given their dominating romp through the playoffs last season, beating this same OKC team 4-1 and beating this same Miami team 4-2), LeBron looked way over his head. Well, just like MJ who lost to the Pistons twice in a row before his dominance started, or Kobe (sans Shaq) losing the final-clincher by 39 one year before winning two straight titles, and like what Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will do soon, LeBron took his fall, got up and finished the job. LeBron has his title. Now, LeBron, just don't do it again.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Comedy Power Rankings (Updated)

My last post about Community got me thinking about my personal list of favorite comedy programs. I'm not really a fan of drama on TV. Of course, there are exceptions (The Wire, Breaking Bad, The Good Wife, Deadwood), but I would rather laugh than cry or be tense. Comedies also usually have less staying power than Dramas, so it is interesting to see how many of my favorite comedy programs lasted few years. So, here is my initial power rankings of my favorite comedy programs. A few notes about this:

1.) I'm only ranking comedy programs of which I have seen a majority of episodes or enough to basically understand the show fully; therefore the following are invalid: 30 Rock, The Office, Parks & Rec, The Big Bang Theory, Eastbound & Down, Family Guy, The Simpsons, Entourage, Will & Grace, Scrubs, Sex and the City, Frasier, other random old shows not listed and many others. Of course, this means I like every show on the list. That makes sense since if I didn't like it, I wouldn't keep watching it, and therefore wouldn't watch it enough to have it qualify.

2.) I'm ranking past shows and current, and for the current, I'll indicate if that show is trending up (has a chance to get higher) or trending down (the opposite). I haven't seen much comedy pre-Seinfeld, so nothing from there (I Love Lucy, Cheers, etc. is ineligible).

3.) I've specified 'comedy programs' because this is more about any show on TV where the point is to make the audience laugh. So live shows are included, fake news shows, sketch shows. It isn't limited to just sitcoms.

Anyway, let's get to the list.

20.) Saturday Night Live (since 2004 - when I started watching)

Obviously, the show has been going on long before I started watching TV, and there have been numerous "golden eras" of the show before 2004, but that is when I started watching. Saturday Night Live to me has always been an enigma. Individually, the people are almost always really talented. Bill Hader, Jason Sudeikis, Will Forte and Darrell Hammond could do about anything and I would laugh. The other players during this time (Fey and Poehler in the beginning, Rudolph, Samberg, Wiig, Keenan, Armisen) have all been talented. But to me, this era of Saturday Night Live has been less than the some of its parts, always underserving talented cast members, rehashing unfunny stuff and not being original enough. If I had one suggestion to Lorne and the rest of the SNL guys it would be to play original sketchs and not rehash and re-do so many old sketches. Even the good ones eventually get tired. That said, the best part about this era of SNL was the advent of the digital short (which might be on the way out with Samberg reportedly leaving). From their breakthrough with 'Lazy Sunday' to seeing Natalie Portman rap, to 'Dick in a Box' through the iconic 2008-09 season which saw the Lonely Island bros. knock out 'Jizz In My Pants', 'Like a Boss' and the best 'I'm On a Boat.' Saturday Night Live in that way adjusted to this new exciting medium. Along the way, there have been memorable characters and moments, but this SNL era for me is represented by the digital short, Tina Fey's Palin (and an all-around great 2008 election season) and way too many actors as hosts. And of course, Peyton Manning's brilliant turn as the host.

19.) Modern Family (Trending Down)

I'll admit that I did find the first season of Modern Family to be mostly brilliant. The representation of Cam and Mitchell was well done, Gloria's eccentric Venezuelan-ness was still new and hilarious, and I could look at Julie Bowen all day. What irks me about Modern Family is that it hasn't tried to grow at all (other than having Lily, well, literally grow). Mitchell and Claire are even more self-righteous. Gloria is still loud. Manny is still a man trapped in a kid. Haley is still a ditz and Alex is still the smart one. All of these traits and characterizations seemed fresh in the first season but now seemed tiresome. Modern Family is still capable of brilliant moments, and they mostly are in scenes and episodes where the entire family is together, but individually its becoming pretty weak. Nothing is worse, though, than Cam becoming such a stereotypically gay man. Cam in Season 1 was great because not only was the large, high-pitched gay man, but also an ex-football player and farmer and tough clown. For a man that played football, why is he now often depicted of having that effeminate way of running? Surely he couldn't do that on the football field. The biggest bright spot for the show over the last two seasons is that Luke has become a hilarious character. One of my favorite side-plots of any comedy show this past season was his bizarre, unexplained, hatred of Lily, Cam and Mitchell's baby. I understand why the show is loved, and I'll admit is still does have superb acting and is good at emotional moments, but it is far more broad than the show it started out as, and for a show that drew ratings big-time from the outset, I'm not sure why it changed.

18.) SportsNight

If I could only judge it by Season 1, it would be far higher up. Aaron Sorkin is a master of dialogue, and to me, his magnum opus in this regard in SportsNight (and particularly the first season, which he had a much bigger hand in). The story of CSN, the #3 sports network (since they do refer to ESPN, I can only imagine what the #2 network was supposed to be) through the eyes of their two anchors, the stat researcher geek who lands to hot director assistant, and the showrunner and her boss. The acting was brilliant all around (particularly Felicity Huffman as Dana). Of course, the writing, fit with all the usual Sorkinesian banter and back-and-forths was impressive. The only reason why SportsNight is not higher up is that the plots were all a little flat. I never, ever bought into Casey McCall's relationship with Dana, nor did I totally believe the whole "nerd gets the hot girl" arc with Jeremy and Natalie. It all seemed a little too easy, I guess. The second season become far too serialized in this sense which was distinctly different from the first season where most of the plots were simply about the show itself. The best comedies to me, especially ones like SportsNight about specific businesses, make working there seem fun, and I've never wanted to work in Sports media more than seeing Casey and Dan each night, and the fun all around for the Continental Sports Network. It really was a shame that Aaron Sorkin decided to give up on SportsNight to focus more on The West Wing. I understand it from Sorkin's perspective, but he gave up on something that could have been a lot more special than the very good show it was.

17.) That 70's Show 

Of any sitcom on this list, That 70's Show is the one I have seen the least of. I didn't really watch it when it was actually out, but over the past couple summers I have watched it DVRed on re-runs on Nick at Nite (which makes me feel really old). I think it is criminally underrated by critics. Sure, it wasn't groundbreaking. It wasn't especially accurate at depicting life in the 70's. However, it had a deep cast full of good characters. Other than Fez, who was broad from the start, they had control over the characters for the run of the show. Each character had their own voice and it all mixed well. It is amazing looking back and seeing actors that would go on to do memorable things grow up as actors on the show (especially Mila Kunis, who was really raw in the beginning). What I really loved about the show was it embraced the fact that these were six friends in a open era, and paired them up constantly. I also loved those 'Circle' scenes, which were always fun. Not a great show, but it deserves to be mentioned more fondly than it is.

16.) Happy Endings (Trending Up)

Of all the current shows on this list (6 of the 17, not counting three who's spots are mostly set in stone, since they aren't serials) Happy Endings has the chance to rise the most. It's a weird show where I fully believe in my heart that creator David Caspe and the rest of the group totally changed the show after it started. The genesis of the show is Alex flees from her wedding to long-time mate Dave, and those two and their four mutual friends have to deal with the consequences. Honestly, that show sucked. They basically gave up on it halfway through the first season and turned Happy Endings into a rapid-fire joke sprint that centered around the wacky lives of six friends in Chicago. Since two of the six are married (the crazy-in-love Brad and Jane, which might be right behind Marshall and Lily for my favorite TV Comedy Marriage) and one of the others in gay (Max, right behind Barney as best supporting character for me as well), the relationship tension is minimal, but that is fine. Just like Arrested Development, I don't give a shit about the plot. The brilliance of the show is the writing, the timing, the acting and the set-up. It's just many, many jokes per minute at a rate faster than anything I have seen since Arrested. It's not as smart and savvy (there aren't many visual jokes and call-backs) but it is as referential and witty. The end of the 2nd Season hinted at some more relationship stuff, but they handled it well. The show also features my favorite current running gag which is Elisha Cuthbert's character, Alex, eating a shit-ton of food at all times. Also, Happy Endings figured out how to utilize Casey Wilson's many talents far better than SNL ever did. The only issue is that Dave is a rather boring character surrounded by 5 goofballs, but they turned that into a meta-joke late in S2 and I loved that too. Look out for Happy Endings over the next two years.

15.) Friends

If I was judging Friends by its first two seasons, it would be much higher. Friends in S1-2, where there was only one real romantic story-arc between the cast (Ross & Rachel, which back then was truly brilliantly constructed over the first two seasons), was witty, smart and openly hilarious. After that, it turned into a something of a comedy soap. The acting was still good, and it was funny, but Friends in its later seasons focused too much on relationships, and maybe more than any long running show on this list, it lost the sense of its characters. Many shows that last a long time are criticized for turnings its round characters into one-note caricatures as time goes on, where each characters particular eccentricity overtakes the character as a whole. For Friends, this virus affected almost every character. Joey went from a slightly air-headed actor to a complete idiot (early seasons showed Joey's level of inteligence to basically be comparable to Phoebe's). Ross became way too sappy and emotional. Monica became a neurotic, raging bitch as her OCD escalated. That said, the show did have a pull, and more than maybe any other show, any combination of its characters had chemistry and worked. Also, early Chandler Bing may be my favorite comedy character of all time. Friends was far too famous for what it deserved, and lost its brilliance as time went on (I mark the end of Friend's brilliance with Ross saying "Rachel" and Monica and Chandler hooking up) but for a while, it was Gold.

14.) Freaks and Geeks 

I wrestled with putting it on the list for two reasons; 1 - it was an hour long dramedy that wasn't all that funny all the time, and 2 - it was only on the air for one truncated season. It was damn good in that one season, but who knows what the show would have done had more seasons come. The characters were all in high school anyway, so I really wonder what Season 2-4 of Freaks and Geeks would have been. That said, it was too good not to put it on the list. I don't revere it the way some do, and think that it was a little too sappy at times and understanding (I never understood why Lindsay was fully accepted by the 'Freaks' in the first place, or why Cindy Sanders would ever give Sam a once-over), but it did give a great representation of high school as a whole. Freaks and Geeks should also get credit for being quite a good period piece, representing high school in the early 80's accurately. Freaks and Geeks was led by a comedy genius in Judd Apatow, and had great actors that have gone on to do well (Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jason Segel, John Francis Daley), and these combined to create an excellent show for 18 episodes. My struggle is would this show have continued at that lofty pace for another 50. That is really hard to do, and especially for a show that at the outset starts off at a very transient age bracket with 15-18 year old characters.

13.) How I Met Your Mother (Trending Steady)

Oh, how this pains me to place it so low. The good news is after Season 5, it probably would have been lower. I'm done thinking this show will ever come close to what HIMYM was the first two seasons, but each of the last few years has been consistently good enough. Anyway, it is better to talk about the show when it was one of the best sitcoms on TV. In its first two seasons, HIMYM may have been the hippest show on television. The random things they created (Slapbet, Robin Sparkles, The Naked Man, etc.) were all great. The show did a great job connecting with the audience outside of the half-hour on Monday, creating dozens of fake web-sites from the show. I still say that HIMYM can do emotional moments better than any other sitcom on television today (just cue up the entirety of Marvin Eriksen's death and funeral from Season 6 for proof), but it has lost some of that incredible charm and mystery from S1-3. I think the narrator telling the kids (and transitively, the audience) that the day Ted meets the mother is the wedding has both solidified the show (no longer was in just floating in limbo like Seasons 4-5) but also hampered it, as all of Ted's relationships in-between we know end in failure. I feel sad for the creators (Carter Bays and Craig Thomas) because they probably never envisioned HIMYM lasting nearly this long, and they have to stretch out what they most likely had pegged as a 5-year story, but that is the spoils of success at times. When it is done, I'll probably only remember the good times, where it was the most inventive, savvy 'traditional' sitcom I have ever seen.

12.) Everybody Loves Raymond 

Everybody Loves Raymond and Friends were essentially siblings, both put on the air and eventually taken off the air within one year of each other. To me, Friends was the better show originally, and because of the fame of its actors and its hip connectivity to the 20-somethings, it will forever be the more 'important' show, but to me, Raymond is better in totality. Unlike Friends, Raymond never lost what it had in the beginning, and you can make the argument it became better over time (a lot of this for me has to do with the fact that I enjoyed the kids more as kids than toddlers and babies). Everybody Loves Raymond followed the same formula for episodes for nine years, and my God was it successful. It helped that the cast was brilliant. Unlike Jerry Seinfeld, Ray Romano is a damn good actor (just see his work on Men of a Certain Age) and the whole cast, from Doris Roberts to Patricia Heaton to Brad Garrett to the late great Peter Boyle, had tremendous chemistry with each other. I could listen to that family argue with each other for days. In a lot of ways, they were a precursor to Arrested Development as it was a fresh take on the family sitcom. Instead of trying to create laughs out of a normal family, Raymond created an incredibly strange, spirited family and presented it as traditional. In the end, because of this and other successes, Ray Romano might be one of the most underrated comic minds of the last 20 years.

11.) Community (Trending Down)

I had a real hard time placing Community, a show I spent about 1,500 words bashing just three days ago. At its best, it was the best sitcom on TV (at the time) by far. Episodes like Remedial Chaos Theory (which is so universally praised and still not overrated), their original paintball episode 'Modern Warfare', their first homage with a Goodfellas parody in 'Contemporary American Poultry' and others were just a lot better than anything comedic on TV. My issue was that it appeared in parts of Season 2 and throughout much of Season 3 that it was trying to hard to appease to its fan-boy niche, and create a show that was more about what its fans wanted than what it was good at. It's homages were initially used sparingly, but late in Season 3 it became almost every other episode. It got trapped in its own brilliance. Because when Community did those episodes right it was magic, it gave Community, in my mind, a sense of invincibility that it could accomplish any homage and concept no matter how abstract, which made their strikeouts more prevalent. I have no idea what Community will be without Dan Harmon. My guess is it will be more of a witty, smart show about seven weird friends in a Community College, which is essentially what it was in Season 1. I loved that show too, more than much of the 3rd season. However, it will never be what it was at its best, which is the best experimental comedy I have ever seen.

Now we get to the Top 10, where all of these shows are brilliant. It was hard for me to actually decide on a ranking of this Top 10 other than the final four, which I knew going in. They all have just amazing moments and qualities.

10.) Parks & Recreation (Trending Steady)

I'll say this, other than maybe Everybody Loves Raymond, and the shows at numbers 1 and 2 on the list, I have never seen a comedy so incredibly consistent. Other than S1, when the show clearly started out way too much like The Office and then experimented before finding itself with the S1 finale 'The Rock Show', I have yet to see a bad episode of Parks and Recreation. Now, it doesn't reach the magnificent heights that Community can, and it hit home runs at the same frequency as How I Met Your Mother did in its first two seasons, but it smacks a double each time up. I have never seen a show mix genuine, sweet, emotional scenes with witty, smart humor this effortlessly. I have just two complaints about the show: 1.) I could do without Rob Lowe's character, as I find him just a little too broad for the show; 2.) I wish Mark Brendanawicz didn't get written off, which I know is an inexplicable belief. Anyway, the cast is, again other than Lowe, perfectly meshed and written. They are as good as any show of satirizing events that are in the news, and mixing in pop-culture. More than anything, they've created this little harmonious world that just seems so much fun. Plus, the fact that it is co-created by a blogging hero (and rabid baseball fan) Michael Schur can't hurt. I think Season 4 was a slight step down from Season 3 (which may have been the most consistent season of comedy I have seen since S2 of HIMYM), but it hasn't lost control like Community. It deserves its place in the Top-10 and has a chance to rise higher (bringing Mark back for another spin might curry some favor). 

9.) Whose Line Is It Anyway?

At its best (Colin and Ryan's banter during games like 'Greatest Hits', 'Infomercial', or 'Scenes From a Hat' or 'Props' or 'Hats') this show was incredibly funny. The reason it isn't higher is mainly because I wasn't a fan of some of the games they played (Any singing game other than 'Greatest Hits', 'Hoedown' or 'Irish Drinking Song', or 'Sound Effects'). To me, it lives in its best form on Youtube, where I can view continuous streams of its best moments, and in that forum, there are few things better. Drew Carey was a solid host (cementing his place in my personal list of favorite 'hosts' and comics I want to see succeed mainly because he seemed like such a nice guy), and played off of the cast well. Wayne Brady is one of the more talented people I have ever seen, and Colin and Ryan were, well, Colin and Ryan. It was impossible not to love those two, and they were incredibly sharp. The fourth always rotated, but I've never not liked or appreciated a cast member. Even after its real run finished, Whose Line lived on on nightly syndication at 10 PM on ABC Family. As years have gone on, it's been pushed back to midnight, and probably it will soon be off the air, but it will live on in Youtube, and it will be the best example of improv comedy on TV maybe ever.

8.) The Colbert Report

Speaking of shows that were hard to place, The Colbert Report will forever be tied to The Daily Show. To me, the Colbert Report wasn't as groundbreaking as many think (it is essentially the same basic total satire of a news show that the original Daily Show with Craig Kilborn was, or what Weekend Update is at its best), but it is the first to make the focus the host, and it is by far the smartest. Nothing about the Report gives me more joy than to see Colbert and his staff just brilliantly tearing apart the hypocrisy in so much conservative speech even though giving the facade of a conservative. It is true genius. Colbert's interviewing style is easily the most entertaining I have ever seen. I will say that he is a little unfair, because while he usually is in character with the support of his crowd and is able to say outlandishly, foolish things without reproach, he then flips sides and will attack with reality. It isn't really fair to do both. Either way, it makes for great television. The show is really perfect for Colbert, who has been able to constantly sell this character for near seven years now without ever seeming like he was doing schtick that didn't land. I don't rely on the Report for actual news like the Daily Show, but if I want to laugh more, I'm going with the acolyte over the master.

7.) Curb Your Enthusiasm (Trending Up)

In almost the exact same form of the show coming up next, Curb has rebounded with two really strong seasons back-to-back after a small lull in the middle (for me, it was S5-6). Curb has become more pointed and obnoxious of a show in its later years than it was in the beginning (which was truly just about the audacity and eccentricity of Larry David), but no less funny. I do miss Cheryl, as she was always a great foil for Larry, but single Larry David has really been a great creation, and introduced a new angle to the show, where we can see Larry screw up relationships in a myriad of ways. To this day, I am shocked that most of the dialogue the viewer sees is improvised, but it makes for such realistic speech. I love how Curb has become almost a yardstick to measure how famous you are. Mostly, the actors that get to play themselves are people who are actually comedy friends of Larry's (the Seinfeld cast, Rosie O'Donnell and of course, Richard Lewis), but the real test of fame in hollywood to me is if you get to play yourself on Curb, like Ted Danson, John McEnroe, Ricky Gervais or even Michael Yorke, while seeing who has to play a character. All credit deservedly goes to the genius that is Larry David (who I think people now realize was a far bigger part of Seinfeld than most originally thought) who showed not only how to break the Seinfeld curse, but gave us a real Seinfeld finale.

6.) It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Trending Up)

It's time to stop kidding around, Always Sunny is the best basic cable sitcom ever, and it is not close. It is already the longest running cable sitcom, and is contracted for at least two more years. It is also far more groundbreaking than it is given credit for. What Rob McElhenny, Glenn Howerton and Charlie Day did was basically beat the system. These three unsuccessful actors decided that instead of auditioning for roles, they would create their own show. Currently, the people that get to star in their own show is not a very long list, and it is generally given to people that were far more successful than these three (Larry David, Ricky Gervais, Louis CK). FX showed incredible trust and foresight in giving these three goons a show, and man have they repaid FX times over. Always Sunny also had a dip in Season 4-5, but has rebounded with a strong Season 6 and a really good Season 7. They may be pushing some of the characters (Charlie has become a bit dumber, Dennis a lot more sociopathic) but the general tone remains. Also, they almost seamlessly integrated a new central cast member with Danny DeVito, and that has been magic. I bet Chevy Chase is so upset that he gets saddled with Pierce, while Danny DeVito has the time of his life portraying Frank Reynolds. McElhenny, Howerton and Day are really all geniuses as they have basically created a comedy machine. The show is so much smarter than it is given credit for, lampooning and satirizing so many aspects of the world with great takes on the mortgage crisis, American Idol, the movie Invincible, the movie Million Dollar Baby, the healthcare system, Facebook, municipal politics, gay marriage, the modern music industry. It is a show so much more than just five idiots screaming at each other, and I hope it has a long life ahead of it.

5.) Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn

I believe that this is the show that was on the air the shortest amount of time of any on the list, and other than mediocre-quality Youtube videos, it is inaccessible, but it was brilliant. I actually think that along with the show at #1, this was a show that would do so much better today, where comedians are becoming more marketable than ever. There were so many things to love about Tough Crowd, from the great chemistry between Colin and the regulars (Patrice O'Neal, Greg Giraldo, Jim Norton and Nick DiPaolo), but here are my top three: 1 - how merciless the cast and Colin was to anyone who came with prepared stuff and written lines, 2 - how Colin Quinn fought to keep jokes that bombed on the final cut, as proof that comedians aren't always perfect in joke delivery, 3 - how it was the one comedy show to feature prominent conservatives. Quinn was more of a true independent, but Jim Norton and Nick DiPaolo were unabashed conservatives. Neither was fully a Bush supporter, but they were able to cut through a lot of the BS of the left at the time. The show was cut because Comedy Central thought it was too controversial and they were already dealing with a racially controversial show in Chappelle's Show and a political one in The Daily Show, and wanted Colin Quinn to cut back to mostly pop-culture topics. Colin, thankfully, gave Comedy Central a "Fuck You" to that request, and the show died with its legitimacy and honor in tact. (The greatest irony is that it was replaced essentially by The Colbert Report). I implore anyone watching to check out Tough Crowd and see smart comedians just sit down and be funny with each other (and the ones that aren't funny get torn apart by those that are), and also to watch Patrice O'Neal and Greg Giraldo (not to mention Jim David and Todd Lynn) at their best before their demise. The foundation of the show is so strong that I have no doubt it would have succeeded if it started today.

The Last Four really are a cut above, my personal Mt. Rushmore of Comedy on TV.

4.) The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

The Greatest example of political news satire, the Daily Show keeps churning along 15 years later (12 with Stewart). Jon has gone from a wiry, brown haired 30-something, to a gray-haired man pushing 50, and the show has become more serious and thoughtful (particularly the interviews) but it is still the best example of smart comedy. To me, there is no shame to say that you get a lot of your news out from the Daily Show. It presents the real news, to real stories, and tears them apart. Jon Stewart's stable of correspondents is so deep that even the newer ones that are talented (Al Madrigal, Jessica Williams) seem lost compared to the brilliance of the established vets (Jon Oliver - who I can't believe doesn't have his own show now, Jason Jones, Sam Bee, Aasif Mandvi, Wyatt Cenac). His show has been a breeding ground for comedy gold (Colbert, Carrell and even lesser known names like Rob Riggle, Rob Corrdry, Ed Helms, Mo Rocca, Matt Walsh). Stewart effortlessly uses these other talents that surround him to create a show that isn't so much about him but by him. Unlike Colbert, Jon Stewart really highlights the idiocracy rampant in Washington (and in America in general even outside the realm of politics). There is a reason Stewart will win that 'Best Variety Show' Emmy until he finally retires (hopefully around 2030) and that is because the Daily Show is, essentially, perfect.

3.) Chappelle's Show

Here's another show that would have found even more success had it been airing today, but my God, was Chappelle's Show just incredibly brilliant in every way. Nothing tore down racial, political, economic and stylistic barriers like Chappelle's Show. I feel like it gets unfairly pegged as a show that fed off of racial tensions and racial differences, but so many memorable sketches were so far away from racial comedy. Chappelle's Show was just pure genius at every level, from small hilarious plot items like Prince being good at basketball and serving waffles, to the juxtaposition of the Wu-Tang Clan and businessmen, to the stupidity of The Real World or Making the Band. Chappelle, though, was at his best when the conversation did stick to race, but not about the prevalence of race in America, but just the general difference between black and white. Black Bush, the Special Edition of Law & Order, Wife Swap, these were more about the different life experiences of black adn white America, and it was all hilarious. But there were times where Chappelle took the "easy" way and just riffed and random shit, like his "When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong" or "A Moment in the life of Li'l John" or a personal favorite where Chappelle owns a cancer-stricken kid in street hoops. Obviously, it is painful that Dave walked away from Chappelle's Show (both this and Tough Crowd ended withing months of each other - I have a feeling if Comedy Central was running Tough Crowd and Chappelle along with TDS and Colbert today, it would be a Comedy power-house) but he left 23 episodes (and hours of extended scenes that are all great) of pure genius. Chappelle's Show was the best sketch show ever, even over SNL at its best, and it really isn't all that close.

2.) Seinfeld

The two biggest reasons for me placing Seinfeld over Curb is that Seinfeld did it for longer, and more times a year (22-24 episodes a season against just 10) and did it without cursing and censors, and Seinfeld was just as funny. The show did change a bit without Larry David in its last three seasons, but that was going from an A to an A-. The four main characters were so well defined, and contrasted so well with each other. Elaine might be one of the funniest female sitcom characters ever. Kramer is probably the best eccentric/quirky sitcom character, and no one I have ever seen does physical comedy like Michael Richards. Of course, George Costanza was brilliant in every way, a more depressed, more cynical, more bombastic version of Curb's Larry David. That said, what made Seinfeld truly special were the other characters, with Newman, Mr. and Mrs. Costanza, Susan, Puddy, and all the other supporting characters all being well cast and written. It was also such a great topical show, creating more phrases than any other show I have ever seen ('master of your domain' being my favorite). What Seinfeld really excelled at was in no small part because the main cast was just four deep, keeping the four together and letting them play off of each other, which was always so good. Another subtle thing I loved about Seinfeld is that the characters laughed, a lot. Too many times in Friends or other shows did the characters never laugh at each other. That was never a problem with Seinfeld. It took me a while to truly appreciate how brilliant it was, but I don't think there will ever be a traditional sitcom to top Seinfeld.

1.) Arrested Development

I debated if it merited number one over Seinfeld mainly because Seinfeld did it for a lot longer than Arrested Development, but really, I just haven't seen anything close to Arrested Development in terms of all-encompassing comedy. It could play straight comedy, physical comedy, puns, references, meta-moments and layers of satire, while adding visual gags. Watching Arrested Development was really like going on a treasure hunt for jokes, and they were often subtle, hidden and needed repeat viewings the unearth. A lot of why this worked was that even when all this crazy was going on, the cast kept it all natural. The cast in its entirety was so good at keeping all of the dialogue and situations mixed with the plausibility of reality. Another thing I really have grown to admire in Arrested Development, especially when contrasted with Community, is that it had a cast with 9 main characters (10 if you count Oscar from Season 2) and really shared air-time and storylines between all nine pretty evenly. Community has found in increasingly hard to service seven characters. Arrested Development made it look easy (and made fun of itself when it failed to, with Michael qupping "I feel like I haven't seen her" when Maebe was brought up in the 3rd episode of Season 2 after appearing infrequently in the first two episodes). In truth, Arrested Development made everything look easy, from writing, to casting, to directing, to pacing. It is The Wire of comedies, in that it did everything you can ever ask from a comedy program and did it all pretty close to perfect. I guess the only knock is that there were no affecting emotional bits in the show's run, but at its foundation, it was a comedy. It's job was to make us laugh, and not only did it do that, but Arrested Development made us think as well.

UEFA EURO 2008 Quarterfinal Picks

Well, the traditional powers did all get through (save for Holland, who basically recreated the French Disaster of 2010 but without a practice coup). There is one true Cinderella in Greece, who is well-versed in this role as they rode that label all the way to the Title in 2004. The other two teams (Czech Republic, Portugal) are both interesting squads who have played better than most expected. Anyway, it's the Euro Cup. It will be fun, and we probably won't get Germany-Italy and Spain-Portugal in the semis.

Czech Republic vs. Portugal

It is rare for a team to lose a game 4-1 and still win their group, but the Czech Republic pulled off that feat (much to my dismay, since I stupidly predicted Russia would make the final). Their team is really not all that good, but I could see them sticking close to Portugal. That said, Portugal has looked far better in this tournament then I ever could have expected. Cristiano had chances in the first two games, but was on fire against Holland. I doubt he'll have as much room to operate against the Czech's as he was against the Dutch, but he is on form right now. Fabio Coentrao has been playing awesome in a pushing-full back role. Helder Postiga has mainly been a mess in front of goal, but overall their counterattack has been mostly lethal. Overall, Portugal might have won in any other group, and should be favored here, and for good reason.

Portugal 2 - Czech Republic 1

Germany vs. Greece

Germany was given one of the hardest groups I have ever seen in any tournament (even considering the Dutch flameout). They didn't lose a game. They never trailed. Their defense has looked good apart from some surprisingly shoddy work defending set-pieces (Nicklas Bendtner destroyed them on set-plays). Their offense has created more chances than maybe any other team, but their finishing hasn't been the best (I'm looking at you, Thomas Muller). I still think they are the team to beat. As far as Greece goes, they are lucky to be here. They caught Russia napping late in the 1st half and that was all they needed to get through. It would be the ultimate Cinderella story for them to knock off the pre-knockout stage favorites, but I think this German team, which in many ways has built to this moment ever since their high-flying run at home in the '06 FIFA World Cup, is ready to finish off what Ballack/Klose/Lehmann and the rest started.

Germany 2 - Greece 0

Spain vs. France

I was ready to buy into France until that soulless performance against Sweden. I know they had little to play for, but to lose 2-0 to a team playing for nothing was strange. France's youth has mostly played well, and Ribery is playing better for France than he has at any point since what basically was his debut in 2006. Spain is good. They've only conceded once. But if Iker doesn't make that point-blank save against Croatia, they are not even playing in this round. If they have to depend on Fernando Torres, they are screwed. This is continuing a theme from April/May where Xavi and Iniesta just are not what they once were. The Spanish defense is not playing up to their cup-winning level. This is a gut-feeling, but I think it ends here. There is also some nice symbolism here with France being the team that knocked Spain out in 2006, starting Spain's glorious run.

France 2 - Spain 1

England vs. Italy

England has really impressed me with their fight and resolve in this tournament. They are playing more competitively than I could have imagined. The youth have really stepped up (Welbeck, Walcott, others) and Steven Gerrard is playing better than he has in years. That said, if there is a team out there that lives off fight and resolve, it is the Azzurri. Andrea Pirlo is making like 2006, and the team as a whole is playing with a lot more offensive flair then I could have imagined. To me, what EURO 2012 will be known for (other than possibly the birth of another European dynasty in Germany this time) is the return of France adn Italy. England is playing over its head, but I feel like Italy is just meeting their actual ability.

Italy 2 - England 1

This sets up Semis of Germany vs Italy and France vs Portugal, which, coincidentally the same matchups as the 2006 Semis. Although I have extolled the virtues of that tournament quite often, I will say that I didn't realize that my picks lent to this particular situation until I just started writing this paragraph.

Enjoy the Games!!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Thoughts on "Parks and Rec"

So, after I finished ranking the 18 comedy programs that I have watched throughout my life, I decided I wanted to make that list 20 names long (a lot more standard than 18). So, I decided 'Veep' could be the 19th show (and I would place it 17th for now, but trending heavily up hard to really gauge a show long-term after 8 episodes - no matter how consistently good some of them were), and then I started to watch Parks and Recreation, which is probably the show that has gotten the highest praise of any show that I haven't yet watched. It also hasn't been on the air long enough for me to really have to spend a ton of time watching it (say 'The Office' or '30 Rock' or 'Archer'). Anyway, so I have finished the first three seasons of Parks and Recreation, and I have to say it is almost always really, really good. Every character can be really good. The only one that I really haven't loved is Rob Lowe's Chris Treager, but even he can be really funny at times. The show is structured brilliantly with enough strait characters and enough wacky character that neither side really beats up on the other one. It might be the most unique mix of a comedy that I have seen in a long, long time.

So, it is no Arrested Development, but it is in that realm of showing wackiness but crafting it well enough that it sounds believable. But it also has the romantic arcs that a show like Arrested probably could not have pulled off (it didn't try). Parks and Recreation, though, does something that I find a lot of my favorite comedies do, and that is it makes its little world so real, so exceptional, so loving and fun that I would like nothing more than to be a part of it. I would love to work in the Pawnee Parks department. I would love to hang out with Tom Haverford, stare at April and Anne, have drinks with Donna, make fun of Jerry, play around with Andy and drink scotch and eat meat with Ron. I would love nothing more than to do all of that. This doesn't make Parks and Rec unique. In fact, I have a lot of favorite sitcoms that figure into this little sect of "shows whose universe make me want to live there". Early seasons of How I Met Your Mother were like this. Community in S1 was like this. Everybody Loves Raymond was like this (who wouldn't want to be a part of that ridiculous family). However, does this really make a sitcom better?

I have no need to be a member of the Bluth family, because I know that Arrested Development is not really based in reality. Just like Community S2, that show isn't built to be a replica of this world but a slanted version that while not really all that enticing, is just more enjoyable. In fact, I think this is necessary for a show to become truly epic. I think if you take too much time humanizing the characters, making love and romance a part of the recipe does put a ceiling on your show. The biggest reason is that none of these shows were really able to keep the appeal of their world going for all that long. HIMYM lost it mostly. Friends lost it just as quickly. Parks and Rec has been able to keep it going for three years, but even then some of the things I liked least in S3 of the show (which was probably more consistently good - but not really great - than any season of any show I have seen in a long time) were the romantic arcs, particularly Ben and Leslie (but for an odd reason that I will get to in a tangent in a minute). Doing romantic arcs in a comedy is really, really hard. I've rarely seen them done well. Ted and Robin was good, but ill-fated since anyone with a brain knew it wasn't lasting. Ross and Rachel pre-break was about as good as I've ever seen it done. Marshall and Lily is and has always been special, but that's like cheating since they were together for all but eight episodes out of now 140. Romantic Arcs are so easy to get wrong (witness Ross and Rachel seasons 4-9) especially when they involve two of the main characters.

There have been four long-term relationships on Parks and Rec over Seasons 2-3 involving two accredited main characters (I'm basically discounting S1 since that was almost like a whole different, and definitely worse, show), with Mark and Anne, Chris and Anne, Ben and Leslie and Andy and April. To me, Parks and Rec has gone 1.5/4. Mark and Anne was just a bad idea, to put the two straightest of straight (wo)men in the show together. Chris and Anne is the one that worked because it allowed Rashida Jones to really play it funny as for once she wasn't the "perfect one". Ben and Leslie never worked for me because I just have problems with Ben. The half is for Andy and April, where I was a fan of their flirtatious beginnings (with just great subtle acting by Aubrey Plaza) but found the whole thing too rushed. I like them married, but found it not really all that believable. Anyway, Parks and Rec is great at emotional, and more than that "sappy, sweet" moments, but the romantic nature of the show could be its downfall.

I want to finish off S4 before I rank it somewhere. Right now, it is probably #12 (ahead of HIMYM behind Everybody Loves Raymond). I don't know why I'm ranking it behind Community, but I just found Community's highs higher, and consistent enough especially over its first two seasons, that it holds a higher place in my heart. Anyway, now to my last point about the show, one that I have alluded to twice - Ben replacing Mark.

So, Mark, played by Paul Schneider, was written out after the show for what seemed to be the mutually symbiotic reasoning that the character itself is based on a guy who switched between the public and private sector (keeping the door open for his return for something more than a one-off guest appearance that he probably would have done at some point anyway) and that Paul Schneider was having some success in films. Mark was essentially replaced by the combo of Chris and Ben. Chris is a different story, but Ben essentially was Mark. I prefer Mark, and it might just be because he was there first.

Ben is Mark. They are basically the same character (aside from the differences in profession and what-not). They are the dry-witted, straight character. Where I feel sad is that Mark is probably most people's least-liked character in his time, while Ben is a fan-favorite, and the only difference between the two is the writing for Ben has been a lot better. Paul Schnieder played what he was given really well. I am sure he could have done as good if not better of a job as Adam Scott (who has great chemistry with Poehler, but less so for the rest of the cast). I wish Mark stayed. I wish that character was having the relationship with Leslie right now. I wish that goofy, satirical, poignant voice of Mark was still in the show. One of his last scenes on the show (with Leslie telling her how she can't ever quit government) was honestly one of the best scenes the show has ever done. I really hope he comes back at some point, and I'm holding out hope it follows the same arc as the man his character is based on and it is for a whole season (or half-season). I loved that character. I didn't like the relationship with Anne, but if I could pick one to stay, it would've been Mark and not Anne. Anyway, one can hope.

It got me to thinking of other characters on shows that were replaced over time that I wish never left. The one that quickly came to mind is Rex Van De Kamp on Desperate Housewives, who was a gem of a character in a gem of a storyline with Marcia Cross. Thankfully, he was there for the best, most watched and critically praised season on the show. He won't be forgotten. I feel like Mark will. I couldn't really think of other good examples (I'm sure there are, though) but it is sad to go back and watch S2 episodes and see that face in the credit sequence.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

EURO beats the World

I haven't written in a while, what with my beloved Devils making me both proud and depressed at once, and the Heat back again in the Finals, and of course with work starting forcing me to get up at a normal hour for humans. But lost in the last two weeks of my darkness is the fact that the UEFA EURO 2012 has begun. I really started to love futbol (which I think I'll always refer to it as from now on) with the 2006 FIFA World Cup, as I was able to watch the last vestiges of a Golden Age of traditional futbol, with France, Italy, Brazil, Germany and Argentina all with great sides full with great, great players (compare that to 2010, where really only Spain and Holland had great sides). That said, the tournament that really got me hooked was UEFA EURO 2008 in Austria and Switzerland. It was a great tournament, with the best international futbol team I have ever seen winning it (Spain v. 2008). UEFA EURO 2008 not only cemented my love of futbol, but really opened my eyes that what I was then watching every night was the best international futbol tournament in the world and damn good fun (it helped that because of bizarre circumstances, I was able to be home alone from Sunday Night through Thursday for eight weeks). Anyway, here now is my written introduction to this tournament (the first of many posts on this particular futbol festival) with my four biggest reasons why the EUROs are better than the more ballyhooed World Cup.

4.) Making a Cinderella run is a hell of a lot easier

I should say that relative to the World Cup, the EURO has no real "cinderella" (we'll get more into this later). But the non-favorites have an easier task. First of all, without any true cupcakes, advancing is never a sure thing for even the best teams, so the chances of advancing if you aren't one of the true best two teams in any group are easier. Then, with the knockout round starting at the Quarterfinals, a team need only win two games to get to the Final. That's why Greece in 2004, or Denmark in 1992 are possible. It will be a miracle if one of these nine teams don't win a future World Cup (Germany, France, Italy, Brazil, Spain, Holland, Argentina, England, Portugal).Other in than Uruguay's two wins back in the pre-WWII days, they've won all of them (and been in every final except two). It is completely different in the EURO. Forget the final. If a team makes a "cinderella" run to the semifinals is not all that surprising in the World Cup, but still is a true story (Uruguay in 2010, Turkey and Korea in 2002). It is strange if there isn't a "Cinderella" in the semis. In 2008, we had Russia (who knocked off group-stage heroes Holland 3-1 a.e.t) and Turkey, who won a string of ridiculous comebacks full with late-stage heroics until losing a uber-entertaining semifinal to Germany 3-2. This time it could be Denmark, or Ukraine, or even Italy (who is kind of a "Cinderella" in 2012 at least). Mark it down, there will be surprises, and that is normal.

3.) The Fans are more engaged.

Now, this might be just because I hated those fucking Vuvuzelas in 2010, but the fans are just more loud and gregarious, and in all honesty, fun in the EUROs. All these European countries have great fans and because the tournament is obviously always in Europe, the fans don't have all that long of a way to go. Of course, loads of World Cups are in Europe and those always are extremely well-attended and just seem like a grand old time (What I would have given to just travel around Germany in 2006), but these are always in Europe. Also, because it is, again obviously, just European teams, there are no countries that 1) don't really have all that many actual fans and 2) have to travel far. The fans in Ukraine and Poland have been great, in every country. It is just a special atmosphere during these huge tournament futbol matches, and when it is in Europe, in futbol only stadiums (hate to knock South Africa here, but those futbol stadiums were built WAY too wide open-air and not close or intimate enough - other than Camp Nou, most futbol stadiums for big European clubs are pretty intimate even if they sit 70,000).

2.) You'll always have some bad-blood rivalries.

You can have some great rivalry games in World Cups as well, but a lot of times you can get through most of the tournament without really seeing one. If you look back at 2010, there was no real rivalry match throughout the knockout stages. The closest we got was Germany-England and Argentina-Germany, but both weren't good games. There are just way too many rivalries littered across Europe to not get some (Germany-Italy, Italy-France, Germany-Holland, France-England, Germany-England to name a few). We even get them in the group stages, in games that have the added layer where one team can pull the ultimate "eff-you" and knock a team out of the tournament before the group stage ends. The rivalries in Europe are always so great because there are real political bad-blood all over. Any time Russia has to play a former Soviet Nation, or anytime Germany plays, well, anyone, there are political ties in the match as well. The games just have an added importance in the EURO cup.

1.) No Leo Messi

I kid, I kid. I don't miss him, but playing a major tournament without him, but with all his midget buddies from Barca, just seems odd.

1.) There are no bad teams.

All of the previous three points are largely built off this fact. There are no Tunisia's in this tournament. There are no Honduras', or Australia's, or South Africa's. There are no four African teams that will all get some level of hype even though only one will actually do anything. And, as humorously three different people have told me, there is no Saudi Arabia (not sure why they are so many people's go-to team of World Cup ridiculousness). Every group has four good teams. Sure, usually there is a level between some sides and others (Spain, Germany, others) but generally the groups all have four good teams. Any result is really possible. That's why it is no surprise when Italy draws Spain (of course, it is surprising that the fact that those teams drew is a surprise at all, given Italy's pedigree and performance in international tournaments). That's why only three countries have ever won this tournament more than once (Germany with three, and France and Spain each with two). There are good countries every time around that don't even qualify for the EUROs (England in 2008 for one). That's why UEFA was pressured into expanding the tournament in 24 teams, which they will do for the 2016 event. Even then, there won't be too many true lightweights. European teams dominate the World Cup now. The World Cup is really just Europe and Brazil & Argentina anyway. A hidden reason why I truly loved the 2006 World Cup, and found the quality of play just scintillating (at least compare to 2010) was the European teams DOMINATED. 6 of the 8 Quarterfinalists were European teams (the other two were, of course, Brazil and Argentina). Even more stunning was that 10 Europeans made it out of the group stage and all 9 that didn't win the World Cup (Italy did, lest you forget) lost to other European teams. So this is basically that, but with more great teams, and a more tightly packed schedule. Enjoy it. It will be another four years before it happens again (of course, there's that thing in Brazil in 2014 too, I guess), and starting July 2nd, I'll be counting down the days.

Before we leave, here's my half-cheating picks when the group stage is already halfway done:

Group A) Advancing: Russia, Poland

Group B) Advancing: Germany, Portugal

Group C) Advancing: Spain, Italy

Group D) Advancing: France, Ukraine


Russia over Portugal 2-1 
Spain over Ukraine 2-0
Germany over Poland 3-1
Italy over France 1-1 (pk)


Russia over Spain 1-1 (pk)
Germany over Italy 2-0


Germany over Russia 2-1

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Call it Maturity

The Devils are about to lose the Stanley Cup Finals. They have a good chance of getting swept (which is nothing new to me, after the Astros in 2005 lost the closest sweep ever). The weird thing, I guess, is that I'm not to upset about it. I've lived through awful playoff losses in every sport where I truly have a favorite team. From the 'Tuck Rule' to Bettis's fumble, to the onside kick that Mr. Playboy Bunny decided to field with his face, to so many more (The Devils losing in 2001 after blowing Game 6 at home to Colorado, the Devils losing a series in 7 games where they led 3-2 with 2:00 left in Game 7). It might be because of this that I don't see this loss, to a Kings team that is really on a roll that I have never seen from a team in the playoffs since Anaheim in 2007 (who lost more games, but played better teams). Or maybe it is because I have grown up and been able to appreciate the run, even if the final result doesn't match what I truly want. If nothing else, the Devils, in what will inevitably be a 2nd failed trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, have further taught me that. Sports still means too much to me, and I have ways to go to correct that, but at least winning it all isn't the sole purpose of my sports addiction.

What makes me nonchalance to the Devils predicament they find themselves in is that they could have easily been up 2-1 right now. Mark Fayne and Zach Parise both pushed pucks wide of wide-open nets in Game 1 late in the 3rd period (not to mention Clarkson's multiple chances and Parise batting in the puck). Kovalchuk beat Jonathan Quick but couldn't beat the pipe late in Game 2. It is not as if the Devils haven't had chances (in Game 3 they had loads also, but Quick was absolutely brilliant). The Devils lost both in OT, a situation where I would have been catatonic in the past. Both times I was able to just turn off the TV and move in. Maybe it was defiance that the Devils still had a chance, or maybe it was just being able to accept that the Kings, as currently playing, are just better at every level.

The one thing I know is unlike the Colts failed runs in 2008 (still my favorite regular season Colts team), 2005 (still the best Colts team) and most importantly 2009 (my most invested season), even when the Kings lift the Cup, I can look back at the Devils of 2011-12 with happiness and pride. This wasn't the most talented Devils team, and although they were better on offense than any Devils team since their offensive-heyday (did you know the Devils led the Eastern Conference in scoring in their 1999-2000 Cup season, and led the NHL in goals in 2000-01?), they were the worst Devils team defensively I have ever season. But that didn't spoil their character, which was as strong as any Devils team apart from the 2003 squad. They let leads slip away on multiple occasions. They needed three OTs in Game 6 and 7 combined to beat what many considered to be the worst team in the NHL playoffs. Funny thing happened after that series win over Florida, though. They started playing joyful hockey.

Seeing the Devils dominate the Flyers (who could not have been more overhyped after beating a swiss-cheese of a team in Pittsburgh) and then grind out a series over the Rangers, and exorcise the demons of both 1994 and 2008 was all I needed from this Devils team. I probably would have felt a little worse about the Devils being down 0-3 right now had they gone through, say, the Bruins and Capitals to get to the Finals. Going through the rivals helps. It made this final gravy, a cherry on a sundae that was the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Just like in real life where I hate cherries, I didn't need a cherry on this sundae to make it delicious.

The last reason why I really don't mind the Devils 2011-12 season ending in relative infamy (a sweep), is that when this is the one team that has given me more joy than any other team I have followed other than the Colts (and when you think about postseason success, more than the Colts) I give them a lot of slack. I wasn't there for 1995, but I was there, at just the young age of 9, watching Game 6 of the 2000 Stanley Cup Finals end in Dallas, with a beautiful pass from Patrik Elias (my favorite non-Marty-Neidermayer-or-Stevens Devils) to Jason Arnott to kill off the defending champs past midnight. I was there throughout the '03 Playoffs, seeing the Devils play toe-to-toe with a loaded Senators team and win Game 7 in Ottawa in a classic game. I then saw Marty Brodeur outplay Jean Sebastian Giguere posting three shutouts in the Stanley Cup Final (the most ever in one Cup Final) and cement his place in the pantheon of great goalies. With that history, with that personal trophy case as a fan, I'm a little more accepting, more giving. I can accept that this Devils team did more than I could have imagined, and that the Kings deserve this.

Before the Finals started, I compared this to the 2001 Finals, but with the Devils playing the role of the Aves, with the old goalie in his swan-song, and the Kings as the 2001 Devils, with the young hot goalie (the one difference being either of those teams would have taken out either the '12 Devils or even Kings in 5). I picked the wrong Devils team. This is almost a carbon copy of the 1995 Finals. The one difference is those Red Wings were historically dominant, and the Kings aren't playing the trap, but there are tons of similarities. In that series, the Devils went to Detroit in Games 1&2 and won both in close games (Game 1 was also 2-1), with Marty playing great. Game 2 featured an end-to-end goal by Scott Niedermayer that was reminiscent of Drew Doughty's goal in Game 2 . Yup, it was all the same, but this time the other way around. Those Devils blew the Wings out 5-2 in Game 3 and did it again in Game 4, but the story of the series was the Devils in all. They stifled the Great Red Wings. The didn't allow them to breath. They didn't allow them to get anything going. They were the dominant team against what had been a truly dominant team. I guess this is payback for the Devils, getting dominated in a similar fashion. Thankfully, the payback is coming 17 years later, when I am old and mature enough to realize that the Devils have given me Cups already. Now they need to give me memories and my God have they done that. Winning the Cup isn't everything. It is for Kings fans right now, but not for most Devils fans. Call it maturity, whether it be age or just relative success of your team. It is good for the heart either way.

About Me

I am a man who will go by the moniker dmstorm22, or StormyD, but not really StormyD. I'll talk about sports, mainly football, sometimes TV, sometimes other random things, sometimes even bring out some lists (a lot, lot, lot of lists). Enjoy.