Blasts & Duds from the Oscars

February 25, 2009
It is time to bring back the popular column of Blasts & Duds from the
Grenade.  Today, it is all about the 81st Academy Awards.  The
Oscars have always been good for some great Blasts & Duds over the
years.  Let’s see how this year stacks up:


1.  The Academy Selections – I wrote my 2009
Oscar picks
a couple of weeks ago, and many of picks came true. 
The Academy did not really have a surprise in the bunch.  Penelope Cruz
winning for Best Supporting Actress may have been the only winner that could
be classified as a surprise, but not a real big one in my eyes. 

2.  Kate Winslet  – Boy, she made up from her
"so surprised to have won" routine at the Golden Globes.  You
are a great actress, Kate, it’s ok, it is not a surprise anymore.  I
thought she gave a very good speech, and was classy throughout.  Brava! 

3. The Presentation of the Acting Awards – Great call by
the Academy to bring back 5 winners from each acting category to present the
awards.  You can’t beat seeing people like Robert DeNiro, Sophia Loren,
Anthony Hopkins, Ben Kingsley, and so many others was a true tribute to
the screen.  I liked how they were able to talk a little about each
performance and it did not feel rushed. 

4. India – The Slumdog from Mumbai, became a Hollywood
millionaire on Oscar night.  Nominated for 10 Oscars, they took home 8. 
And since, there were two nominees for Best Song, they went 8 for 9. 
Danny Boyle took home Best Director and Christian Colson sealed the night
with the Best Picture Oscar.  Indian music was rewarded with A. R.
Rahman winning for Best Musical Score and Best Song.  Slumdog
Millionaire had a fairy tale finish not only on the screen, but on Oscar

5. Jerry Lewis – The Academy rightfully bestowed their
Humanitarian Award for him.  While his health may not be at its finest,
his spirit felt strong.  I am very glad that they finally got around to
doing this, while this legend of a person is still with us.  I only
wish he was able to speak longer. 

6. Hugh Jackman  – I know people have gone back and
forth on this.  I liked how his opening act was not political, but
reached out to just about everyone.  While, he certainly was not
as good as Billy Crystal hosting, he did not take away from the awards. 
Hugh is an Australian gem.  He can host this show anytime, as far
as I am concerned.

7.  The Camera Crew & The Stage – Alright, I
won’t be shy, I loved that the camera crew panned to Angelina Jolie &
Brad Pitt while Jennifer Aniston and Jack Black were presenting for
Best Animated Feature.  +1 to the camera crew and directors from ABC. 
The Stage looked amazing, with that Swarovski crystal curtain.  Well

8. – Dustin Lance Black – A well deserved Oscar that was
followed up by a very inspirational speech.  It was heartfelt and real. 
You could tell he was very nervous, but it was something he needed to get
off his chest.  It must have been quite an honor for him to have won
this award for Milk, and to see how Harvey Milk’s story inspired his
own life is very impressive and memorable. 

9. – No Music Cut-offs – It was nice that people who won their
awards were not cutoff after 15 seconds of talking by the band.  
There should be a time limit, but at least give them a minute or so, to
thank and describe their feelings on one of the biggest nights of their


1. Sean Penn – Ok, ok, we get it, you are America’s
Douchebag.  If I ever met Sean Penn, I’d probably shake his hand with
my right hand and want to knock him out with my left hand. He is a
tremendous actor, and while I thought he would finish 2nd for Best Actor; I
was not upset that he was the winner.  But, dude, can you leave
political crap at home.  It has no place at the Awards. 
Republicans are not the devil, and not everything you think is right,
actually is.  You could taken a page from your screenwriter, Dustin
Lance Black, on how to give a speech that gives thanks and sends a message
with pride and dignity.  Oh, and when you get a chance, could you
remember to thank Harvey Milk, he might have played a part in your victory. 
That reminded me of Julia Roberts thanking 4 million people and not even
mentioning Erin Brockovich’s name in her speech.

2 – The Great Unknown – The question we all are left
with in our minds; what if Mickey Rourke had won?  No one has any idea
what he would have done had he won Best Actor.  We can only guess and
say what is on our minds, but it will always be one of the most unknown
questions in Oscar history. 

3. – Ben Stiller – It does not help that I am not really
a big fan of his to begin with, but I did not really think his Joaquin
Phoenix impression was funny.

4.  Anne Hathaway – Should be more like Anne
Go-away.  First, she is not pretty.  Maybe, I am in the minority
here, but I know I am not alone.  She has eyebrows reminiscent of Bert
from Sesame Street, a big beak for a nose, and when I see those teeth, I
want to re-do the Go-go’s classic hit, "We’ve Got the Beat," to
"She’s Got Big Teeth."   Second, I do not really think
she is that talented as an actress, either. 

5.  Eddie Murphy – He was not given the easiest
task, but he seemed to have some difficulty reading off the monitors. 
I am hoping he is not into any drugs or something else.  

6.  Beyonce & Queen Latifah – I like both of
them.  I just thought their choice of song were questionable.  In
the movie Dreamgirls, Jamie Foxx’s character says to Beyonce’s
character, Deena, "You know why I chose you to sing lead? Because your
voice… has no personality. No depth. Except for what I put in there." 
While it was just a movie line, there is some truth in it.  Beyonce
could not resist throwing in a snip of "At Last".  Please,
just leave that to Etta James.  As for the Queen, a lovely voice, and
one with depth, but "I’ll Be Seeing You" just did not seem to fit
her, in my opinion.  

7.  Bill Maher – Straight from the Sean Penn school
of Douchebagness, Bill decided to put a smarmy little comment about his
documentary not being nominated and that people who believe in God are
responsible for the world’s ills.  Sorry, Bill, but about 95% of the
people do believe in some form of a God around the world.  We all DO
NOT think like you, so please, do not act like we do.  I am sure
Bill was so upset that later that night he smoked 3 bowls worth of pot and
had 2 escorts to carry him through his lack of winning an Oscar. 

8.  In Memoriam Montage – We always like to see and
remember who passed away in the past year in film.  The one problem was
that the way it was filmed by the cameras, you could not see some of the
people who died due to bad angles and long distance shots by the cameras. 

My overall grade for the 81st Academy Awards is a B-plus.  It was
more of a blast than a dud, and it did justice to a very good year in
movies.  The ratings were up 13 per cent over last year. 



February 24, 2009


My plan to change Health Care is one that is controversial, it would not be a
perfect fix, but I think we can do more with this plan than we could with the
current tragic climate of health care in America today.  

Health care has turned into Wealth Care.  The health insurance we have
covers us when we get ill, but we have it because we know without health
insurance and should we become seriously ill, there would be no way possible to
pay off the medical bills.  Health insurance has become not only something
to protect your health, but something to protect our wealth, and that is not

We should be able to take care of people who need health care.  If over
40 million Americans are not covered, this means the system is greatly
flawed.   I am not advocating a national health care plan, that would
be a disaster.  I know in Canada it can take 6 months or more just to get a
colonoscopy and I have heard from Canadians that I know that some come down
to the US to get a procedure like that done, because they cannot afford the wait.  

If you do have insurance, the pitfalls are endless.  Almost everyone I
know and have worked with as a Benefit Administrator has had a problem with
their insurance company denying something that has been authorized by a
physician.  With a majority of large health companies being publicly held;
the insurance companies have to choose between your care and their
profits.   I cannot tell you how many times an employee’s tests for
certain cancers have been denied, many of these tests cost less than
$1,000.  Yet, the insurance company will cover hundreds of thousands in
expenses for cancer treatment.  It is downright crazy.

Employers bare too much of the
burden on health care.  

Employers are baring too much of the burden on carrying health care for their
employees.  The costs to cover a single employee for a company can range
from $300 to over $500 per month.  More employers are increasing the
employee payroll deductions, employee doctor and hospital copays and
prescription copays.  It is their only option to fight off annual double
digit increases from the health insurance carriers.  Employers now have to
choose between giving larger raises or reducing the employee’s health
benefits.  It is not fair that an employee is dependent on their employer
and really does not have a fair say in the matter.  The new term of
employee-driven healthcare is nothing but a way to keep your deductible high and keep you from going to the doctor for something that may appear to be small but could be larger.  


The first bill signed by President Obama into law on February 4th, was an
expansion of the SCHIP(State Children’s Health Insurance Program).  This bill allows an extra 4 million uninsured children to take part in the program.  The addition $32.8 billion to SCHIP is coming via the funding of the largest cancer-causing related death in men, and the second largest cancer-causing related death in women.  That cancer is lung cancer.  The government will receive that
$32.8 billion through just one method.  That method will be a 62 cent per pack increase in federal taxes on the purchase of a pack of cigarettes.  You
certainly will not hear these words ever uttered by a politician but, "The government needs smokers".  With the new federal tax on a pack of cigarettes, if you live in New York, the state with the highest per pack tax on cigarettes, the total amount you pay in taxes on a pack is $3.76, $1.01 to the
Federal government and $2.75 to the State.  If you are smoker, the government does not have the words to thank you enough.  If you see a smoker, do not look nasty at them, thank them for supporting the government’s plans better than any way possible besides the income tax.  

My question is how come cigarettes are the only item that gets overtaxed?  

I found a very good website on what each state government receives ingasoline, alcohol and tobacco tax revenue. Here is another good website to look
at just alcohol I wanted to get a closer look at the alcohol
.  The numbers are in gallons.  This is about the equivalent of a 12 pack of beer.  The state of Wyoming has not increased its $.02 per gallon of beer cost since 1935.  It would take 533 six-packs of beer to equal the tax revenue on a carton of cigarettes.  Only a handful of states have raised the beer tax this decade.  For every 12 pack of beer sold in the United States the average tax is about 20 cents. Now, I know what the critics will say, I pay enough taxes, are you suggesting that I pay more? 

First, the governments need to balance their budgets and cut wasteful spending, but that rarely ever happens.  We do pay our fair share in taxes and then some, but what I am saying is if we can generate more revenue without raising income taxes can we all have health care too?

What if the beer I am drinking not only quenches my thirst, but also helps pay for my medical coverage?  Now, that sounds like a pretty good deal, yes.  


Last week, Pennsylvania Governor, Ed Rendell, a Democrat proposed to give
establishments with a liquor license the right to put video
poker machines
in their establishments.  Governor Rendell said that
this could generate about $550 million in revenue for the state.  Now, whether that is true in a struggling economy, remains to be seen.  There are critics to this, but I love it.  The one problem I have is that the bill will only benefit students from families making $100,000 or less.  I think that number should be increased to at least $250,000.  More residents should reap the benefit, and it would keep more students in the your own state, which in turn would mean more state revenues within the borders. 

There are millions of people who like to gamble, some of whom, only get to do it at casinos every so often.  My solution, legalize gambling online, and
legalize sports betting in all states.  Why is Nevada the only state where sports betting is legal?  

In 2006, Americans wagered an estimated $12
wagered in the online gaming industry.  After 2006, broadband internet access became more prevalent and those who now had high-speed Internet
and wanted to gamble online, were either too afraid or did not really know how.  

As we have seen in the last few months, putting your money in the stock market may be the biggest risk of all. You have a better chance of getting struck by lighting 7 TIMES, before you can win the Mega Millions lottery
jackpot.  The odds of winning are over 175 million to one.  But, this form of gambling is completely legal!  Here are the complete lottery odds
for MegaMillions.  I guess because the state really does not mind that you have a better chance of marrying a multi-millionaire than you actually becoming one through their lottery.  

If we are allowed to play the lottery, a game with absolutely horrendous odds, why should we not be able to gamble online.  If the government can
reap the billions in revenue from online gaming

Oh, I know, this will lead to more gamblers becoming addicted and that would be unfortunate.  But, you know what there are hundreds of millions of addicted gamblers in America today.  It is each and every one of us who has any money in the stock market.  I tried to find a website or a toll-free number for support in assisting me in consoling me for my losses in my stocks
and retirement plans.  

I would make a fair wager to say that if someone was given a $1,000, to wager on sporting events, odds are pretty favorable that they would not lose most of
it, or would have a better chance of coming back with a nice return on their investment than if they used that money in the stock market or lottery in 2009.  If the government could receive not only the revenues from someone winning from online gaming, but by taking a percentage of the action (like a vig)
at the time of the bet, the amounts that would be coming into the coffers of this new health plan could be staggering.  

But it is completely legal that I can invest thousands and thousands of dollars every year into the stock market only to have it get shredded by some greedy pigs and by financial investors whom you could not trust with a dollar,
let alone billions.  You would not even want them to pick your lottery numbers, because with their knowledge they may not be intelligent enough to
understand how to even pick 6 numbers!  

I have not smoked pot since 1996, and I will never smoke pot again.  It is very addictive and can lead to other drugs.  But, then again so can
cigarettes and alcohol.  There are millions of Americans who enjoy as Adam Sandler would say, "Their marijuanaca", unfortunately this is still
deemed as an illegal activity and we do not reap much money in revenue from the pot smokers of the country.  The only revenues that come in, come from arrests and the fines that the local governments receive because of pot.

I have never paid for pot, and I would have no idea what a dime bag now costs on the street.  If it did cost $10, and the government made $2 on each dime
bag, how much revenue would that bring in?  If we taxed marijuana like we do cigarettes the windfall of money that would come in to each state would
likely be staggering.    

The money that would be received by the federal and state governments from these ventures would ONLY be used to fund our health care system.  There
would be no taking from Peter to pay Paul like our governments love to do. 


Chances are, if you are still reading this; I have your attention.  So will this new plan be free for all?  The answer to that is no.  While
it would be nice to have a free health care system; it is not prudent. 
There needs to be at least a small hurdle to prevent this system from being completely ravaged by abuse.  The new plan will cost each American $50 per
month.  Children will be $25 per month per child.  A typical family of four is covered for $2,400 per year.  The money can be directly taken out
of your paycheck or it can be sent directly via the government, online or through the mail. 

Doctor visits will be a copay of $20. 

Prescription drugs will be $20 for a brand name prescription, and up to $10 for generics. 

Emergency Room visits are $50.   Overnight hospital visits up to a max of $200 per night.

A minimum of 75% of the hospitals and doctors in each state would be part of the network.  Pre-existing conditions will be extinct. 

If each person goes to the doctor twice a year for $40 in copays and has an annual prescription bill of $100 in copays per year, (these are very generic
figures), the amount money that would be collected would be $30 billion. 

Let’s say their are 200 million adult Americans who subscribe to the plan.  That would be a total of $120 billion in premiums.  If 50 million children are signed up in to the system that adds another $15 billion.  We would recoup the money from SCHIP, which we no longer be needed, that would be another $60 billion into the new system.  If you add in the costs that would be saved from each state having its own health care, and then the additional revenues from tobacco, alcohol, gambling, marijuana taxes; I think we could have a pretty good health care system taking shape and about as much money as was in either "stimulus" package to get this much needed
plan rolling.  

After one year on the plan, your account will be evaluated and depending on usage the monthly amount that you pay may increase or decrease.  The new
annual amount cannot exceed more than 50% of the prior’s year premium.  If you do not use the plan much, your premium will be decreased by an amount not to exceed 50%. 


Opponents will say, oh great, public health care, you have just destroyed the system.  Actually, no.  It makes it fair for everyone.  There are
no free rides, but no one left out in the cold. Private companies will still be in business.  You would be fully eligible to purchase a plan with benefits
tailored to your needs in addition to the standard American plan. 
Insurance companies would be in the same situation they are with Medicare. 
There are many millions of Americans who have additional coverage through Medigap plans.  You would have the option to increase your coverage and be able to see any physician in that network you chose. 

Medicare will still exist. 

Employers will no longer bear the burden of health care and can save millions a year, which hopefully can lead to bigger raises for you and for me. 

There you have it.  Health care for everyone.  I did not even have to raise income taxes to get it.  In fact, I may have saved you some money,by not having to pay for health insurance at work where your deductions can be hundreds of dollars a month, alone.

I just gave you more of the things you wanted to do, but could not do legally in the past.  If this behavior makes you sick, you paid for your health
care and helped many more people along the way than what the system used to be.  Used to be you just ruined your life and did not help anyone else. 



2009 Oscar Predictions

February 14, 2009

Sunday night, February 22nd, the 81st Annual Academy Awards.  It’s Oscar Night!!

Unlike the Grammy Awards of two weeks ago, where you see who wins the award and you say to yourself, “Who are these people?  And where did all the good music go?”   At the Grammys they always have to drag out our old favorites like Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, and others to bring us back to why we liked music to begin with.  The Oscars delivered some very big performances.  I am proud to be a movie buff and very proud that Hollywood, Bollywood and all points in between still take pride in the craft that is filmmaking.  I was lucky enough to see all five Oscar nominated films and then some over the past year.  I did not see every nominated film, but most critics did not either.

Here are my 2009 Oscar Predictions, these are just my picks, do not go bananas if you disagree, but I’d love to hear your opinions.

I will start with the two easiest ones of the evening.  These two are my pick and whom the Academy will select, the rest will change.

Best Adapted Screenplay – Slumdog Millionaire, Simon Beaufoy. A fairy tale worthy of Snow White.

Best Original Screenplay – Milk written by Dustin Lance Black. It is should not be close.  This was not just a portrait, it was a masterpiece.  Only wish Harvey Milk was alive to see his story come to the screen so beautifully.

Best SongJai Ho, Slumdog Millionaire. Take Your Pick of the Slumdog Millionaire songs which I am sure will win.  The Best Song should have gone to Bruce Springsteen for “The Wrestler.”  Thanks to a nonsensical rule by the Academy, states that the nomination of a song must be in the movie and not during the credits.  If “The Wrestler” was good enough for the Golden Globes, it should have been good enough for the Academy.  Few will remember the winner of Best Song this year, but I know I will not forget “The Wrestler”.  Springsteen nails the character of The Wrestler with this song.  It is nice to see Peter Gabriel nominated here, but when I think of him and movies, I will always think of “Say Anything”.  “In Your Eyes”” was one of the best uses of a song in a movie.

Academy Pick – Jai Ho, Slumdog Millionaire

Left Out: The Wrestler, Bruce Springsteen, The Wrestler.  See above.

Best Supporting Actress – Amy Adams, Doubt.

This may be the one award where all 5 have a legit chance at the statuette.  I did love Marisa Tomei in “The Wrestler”, but I doubt the Academy will reward her again.  I would not be upset if they did give her another golden statuette.  Viola Davis had a great scene in “Doubt”, but should one scene reap this reward.  It has a couple times in the past, but I thought Adams was better in the whole movie.  Davis winning would be the equivalent of David Tyree winning last year’s Super Bowl MVP.  He was not on the field that much, but made the play that everyone remembered.  Taraji P. Henson deserved the nomination for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, very good but not the best.  I did not see “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and cannot comment on Penelope Cruz’s performance, but I did see clips and I have read that she is deserving and could win.

Academy Pick – Viola Davis, Doubt

Left Out – I cannot really think of any, they nailed it, with this superb cast of five.  While Kate Winslet won the Golden Globe for Revolutionary Road, she is already nominated for Best Actress and that was a far better performance.

Best Supporting Actor – Heath Ledger, Dark Knight. This one is the lock of the evening in acting.  Ledger saved his best for last, tragically.

I loved Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt, he played the part of the priest in scandal to near perfection.  I did not think Josh Brolin was outstanding in Milk, good, yes, but his nomination was sketchy to me.  Michael Shannon’s acting as a man out of his mind, but brutally honest at the same time was a good one. You will hear more from him.  Robert Downey, Jr. should enjoy the parties after the ceremony.  You have to feel for this year’s other nominees.

Academy Pick – Heath Ledger, Dark Knight.

Left Out – David Kross, The Reader.  At 18, he gave a tremendous effort.  Even if he was nominated, he would not stand a chance against Ledger; I just wanted to give him his just due.  I thought he was terrific, and I hope he will be in more English-speaking roles.  Not an easy role to play when you are paired with someone so talented as Kate Winslet, but he grew in to the role nicely.

Best Actor – Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler.  A movie that made you truly believe that Rourke and his character Randy “The Ram” Robinson, were one in the same.  The mirror images of “The Ram’s” career and Rourke’s life are pretty stunning.  Rourke gives everything he has left in this performance.  It was the comeback performance of the year.  Sean Penn, may win any other year for Milk.  He was fabulous, but the Ram is an unstoppable force.  Frank Langella was great as President Richard Nixon, but was it more of an imitation than it was acting?  I did not see “The Visitor” and could not comment on Richard Jenkins performance.

Academy Pick:  Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Left Out: Leonardo DiCaprio, “Revolutionary Road” – I thought this was a very underrated performance. There was no need to make a huge stink over it, the winner is either Rourke or Penn; they are head and shoulders above the rest.

Best Actress – Kate Winslet, The Reader. An absolutely captivating performance.  Yes, we could have done without all the nudity, lol.  But, her portrayal of a German woman standing trial for her past was excellent.

Meryl Streep as always delivers the goods in “Doubt”, and her ability to master any accent comes flying through here.  She is as good as we have ever seen when it comes to acting. Ironic that Winslet’s award winning performance as a former Nazi guard could beat out a woman who once played a Nazi concentration camp inmate in “Sophie’s Choice.”  I would not be surprised if Kate took a page from Meryl from Sophie’s Choice on how to play an accent with her role.  Angelina Jolie was very good in “Changeling”, but this is a two woman race like best actor is a two man race.  I would be more than satisfied if either Winslet or Streep won.  It was nice to see Anne Hathaway get nominated for “Rachel Getting Married” I hope she will steer her career towards more dramatic roles instead of crapola romantic comedies.  I did not see “Frozen River” and cannot comment on Melissa Leo’s performance, but I have heard few others have seen it as well.

Academy Pick:  Kate Winslet, The Reader

Left Out:  I, personally did not see any other performances worthy of a nomination, but there may be others.  Winslet and Streep rise above all.

Best Director – Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire. Brilliant storytelling.  This movie could have been easily juggled if in someone else’s hands.  It was handled with precision by Boyle.  Seeing how Bombay (Mumbai) and the children grew from the slums to living in condos and having high-tech cell phones was very dramatic.  Boyle gets to the heart of the squalor in Mumbai and does not spare a detail, even if it will make your stomach cringe.   The actors were good enough to carry this amazing screenplay and directing. Gus Van Sant probably wins this in many a year for his work in Milk. Ron Howard did his usual above average job, and Stephen Daldry deserved his third Best Director nomination for his direction in The Reader.

Academy Pick:  Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire.

Left Out:  Darren Aronofsky, The Wrestler.  Tremendous directing, turning what could have been a high-budget and overdone project into a movie that will touch your heart and has more of a feel of a documentary than it does as a film of fiction.

Best Picture – Milk. I know it is sacrilegious to pick a different director and picture combination, but this has happened three times this decade.  Milk was so true to its story.  A terrific performance from Penn.  If the Academy picks Milk, I think this will count as a makeup for not picking “Brokeback Mountain” for Best Picture in 2005 due to its homosexual tones.  This award will probably go to Slumdog Millionaire, but the movie I enjoyed the most was Milk.  I think Slumdog is very good, borders on great, but it is not Best, Dev Patel’s mediocre job on the accent really brings the film down a notch for me.  Frost/Nixon is very good, but is more imitation, than that of new filmmaking.  The Reader is terrific, and if not for a half-hearted effort from Ralph Fiennes this movie could have a shot, but it doesn’t.  Benjamin Button gets better in the second hour, but the first hour should be called Snooze Button.  It is a very good story, but not best picture in 2009.

Academy Pick: Slumdog Millionaire

Left Out:  The Wrestler and The Dark Knight. Maybe, there are not enough pro wrestling fans in Hollywood, but this picture was worthy of a nomination and could have been a contender for the trophy. I am not sure how the Dark Knight was not considered here.  Maybe the Academy wanted to keep this popular movie out, but it deserved a nomination.

Well, there you have it, my 2009 Oscar Picks.  What a great year for movies, it sure makes you forget about that music award show earlier this month.  Let’s hope the Jonas Brothers are nowhere near the stage.  Oh, one more pick, I think Hugh Jackman will do a very fine job.

Another Buck for A-Rod

February 11, 2009

Let me begin this column by stating that I am a Mets fan, and I have no bones to pick here.  Man, Joe Torre, is one lucky guy. He fails to win a World Series in his last 7 years as Yankee manager, despite the Yankees spending a stimulus worthy amount of over $1 Billion in payroll, and you hardly hear a peep of blame.  In fact, most Yankee fans were sad to see him leave.  I do not think Joe wanted to come back with the current management structure of the Yankees, and I do not think the Steinbrenner Sons wanted Joe back.  It was bizarre for New York.  In other cities; they are a little more patient.  Jeff Fisher has been the only in coach in Tennessee’s history, and Bill Cowher was in Pittsburgh, and did not win a title until his 14th and final season with the Steelers.

Yes, Joe won 4 World Series in 5 years, and that is undeniable.  He was also very fortunate to step into a very good situation.  And last year, Manny Ramirez falls in his lap as he decides that Fenway park will never get wi-fi in the green monster, and moves to an area more comfortable for him, La-La Land.

Last week, his book, The Yankee Years, was the talk of the New York sports world. People were reacting that the Yankees were not going to retire his number 6, and that there would not be a Joe Torre Day someday at Yankee Stadium.  Now, it seems like that may happen a lot sooner than you think.  This week the book seems to be as memorable as Bill Parcells’ book about his last season in the NFL when he coached the Jets in 1999.  He returned to coach the Cowboys in 2003.  Personally, I think Joe’s book is overblown.  What I disagree with the book is the timing.  It reminds of me that car that makes a fast turn to cut in front of you, and then proceeds to drive under the speed limit.  You then look in your rear view mirror and see there was no one behind you.  My point here is, Joe couldn’t wait?  Joe couldn’t wait until his managing career was over to release some details that he thought were sacred cows of the clubhouse?  Did he need the money that bad?  I believe Joe Torre is a nice man, but I think he is a man who still likes the spotlight, and the spotlight he has as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers is not like he had in New York.  Joe, being from Brooklyn, knows their is no limelight in sports like New York baseball.

I think one of the most seldom asked questions in New York sports is what if Buck Showalter did not leave the Yankees after the 1995 season? People tend to forget that Buck took over the Bronx Bombers in 1992, after the 1991 season with Stump Merrill as Manager posting a 71-91 record.   Buck did not get along well with George Steinbrenner and was not really seen as a New York kind of manager, despite his success.

Buck ran it to unfortunate luck as Yankee skipper.  If the Wildcard system was in place in 1993, the Yankees would have won that.  In 1994, the Yankees appeared to be running away with American League East, they had a 6 and 1/2 game lead over the Orioles and had the best record in the AL with a 70-43 record.  No one would ever see how that season would finish as the 1994 baseball season ended prematurely on August 11th, due to the players’ strike.  Buck was named AL Manager of the Year in 1994 as a consolation prize.  In 1995, after a 144 game strike-shortened season; Buck led the Yankees into the playoffs for the first time since 1981.  The Yankees met the Seattle Mariners in baseball’s first ever Division playoff series. The Division Series originally ran with the Wild Card team hosting games 1 & 2 and the Division Winner hosting games 3, 4, & 5.  This would change after 1997; I can’t help but think that the Yankees would have won that series if it was a 2-2-1 series.  Just another unlucky piece for Buck’s resume.  It was an epic series, where the Mariners outlasted the Yankees in 5 games after a classic 12-inning finale.    There was a young 20 old shortstop named Alex Rodriguez on that Mariners team.

Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez was a natural.  He couldn’t miss. He tried out for Team USA while still in high school.  He was drafted first overall by the Seattle Mariners.   Major League Baseball could market him as the next superstar, young, good-looking, a boy with a Latino roots but born in America and could speak to people of so many backgrounds.  He could have been to Latin-Americans, what Joe DiMaggio means to Italian-Americans,  what Willie Mays means to African-Americans, and what Sandy Koufax means to Jewish-Americans.  An American born of a minority race with unparalleled talent that would be talked about by generations of fans as their personal baseball icon.

Somewhere along the line the boy known as  Alex Rodriguez became A-Rod.  Arod is a Sindarin word that means noble.  Unfortunately, for Mr. Rodriguez, his version of A-Rod has a hyphen and now it means something totally opposite of the Sindari counterpart.  His numbers were piling up in Seattle, and then he went to Texas in 2001, where he would sign that monster 10 year/$250 million contract.  After three years of terrific stats, his Rangers failed to make the playoffs and the Yankees would trade for him in 2004.

When Alex came to New York, he was given his king’s salary and given all of the media spotlight.  But, there was no key to the city to be rewarded, because this was not his team.  (If LeBron James becomes part of the New York Knicks in 2010, you will see what the key to the city really looks like).  A man by the name of Derek Jeter has the key sealed until he retires.  Jeter is a New York icon, and held the position that Alex grew up playing which was shortstop.  You almost feel bad for A-Rod.  He is kind of like what Maris was when compared to Mantle.  The only thing is here, Maris, I mean A-Rod, makes over $20 million per season and will not receive an ounce of pity.  He would move to third base, and it would be the hot corner for him in more ways than he could ever imagine.  This week it became an inferno.

Derek Jeter was supposed to be a good player, he made it himself great through his hustle, running down to first base on almost every at bat, going after balls that few would dare, and then in 2004 by diving in to the stands and risking his body and his possibly his career to make a catch.  It was a play that was completely Jeter-esque, but it is a piece of the game that does not seem like it is in A-Rod’s repertoire.  The heart of Jeter well overshadowed the supreme talent of A-Rod.  It is a very large shadow and it is one you do not get away from if your cocky, unfeeling, and make the front page headlines for who you are dating rather than the back page headlines for his accomplishments.

A-Rod had his chances to make add to the Yankee legacy, but it was not meant to be. I wonder what Yankee fans would be saying about A-Rod today if it were he and not his predecessor at third base, Aaron Boone, who hit that home run to win the 2003 American League Championship Series.  I also wonder what would have happened if he had homered in extra innings in either Game 4 or Game 5 of the 2004 American League Championship Series to knock out the Red Sox, instead of having to be part of a dubious legacy.  But, when the chips were down, A-Rod could not deliver.  Over the years, he became the other K-Rod, or my personal favorite, Double Play Rod.

You look at A-Rod and you are not really sure that it matters to him.  He knows he is great, heck, he will tell it your face.  But, to be great in sports, especially when you play in New York, and double that when you play for the Yankees, you need to be a champion.  He had been a Yankee for 5 seasons, and the Championship cupboard was bare.  Could it get any worse for A-Rod?  Oh yes.

A-Rod came out this week and admitted he had used steroids in his time with the Texas Rangers.  Ok, let’s set the record straight, he didn’t come out, he was forced out by a Sports Illustrated report that said he had tested positive for steroids back in 2003.   After appearing, voluntarily, on 60 Minutes in 2007, and stating that he never took steroids, he now puts himself in the world of first class baseball liars along with  Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and the list grows each and every day.  One thing you didn’t think A-Rod would do was take steroids.  He did not really show any physical build up like those mentioned in the prior sentence.  With his talent, did he really need to do it?  But, he did it.  He is digging a hole so deep, that I do not know how anyone can come out of it.  There is just one thing that I don’t understand; I may find myself rooting for A-Rod.  I may not be alone.  He is about as steep of an underdog as there is right now, and New Yorkers always love an underdog.  If he can pull himself out and show the heart that matches his skills and lying ability, he just might redeem himself.  Will this happen?  I have no idea, but I am going to tune it.  I bet you will, too.

Like the opposing team’s manager his Mariners defeated in 1995, A-Rod did not have much luck in the Bronx.  Unlike Buck, he may get a chance for redemption and a chance to change his luck. Also unlike Buck, A-Rod’s wounds are mostly self-inflicted and he cannot undue the damage that has been done, but he may get a chance to do something good.

I wonder what else Joe Torre knew, maybe he will save that for his next book.

Requiem for the Sports Guy

February 6, 2009

I am writing this as a piece not to knock the Sports Guy, Bill Simmons, but it is a tribute to someone who has given me plenty of enjoyment in my life.  I am just asking him to take a break. In terms of sports writing exclusively on the Internet, Bill was one of the first.  He is a very talented writer, and since he came well before we knew what a Blogger was; he is a columnist, and I know he would like to be called that. He’s a Hall of Famer in my book. I just want him to concentrate on what he does best, which is write.  The podcasts are ok, but I really don’t give a crap about Cousin Sal every NFL week, and could care less if Johnny is worried yet.  Sometimes it feels like you are just listening in on their phone calls.  Bill has a voice made for writing.  When I see him post a diary, the ramblings or have an online chat it makes me feel like Old-Timers Day is at ESPN.  Years ago, many teams had Old-Timers Day, today it is just done by the Yankees.  I always enjoyed the event, even though I am a Met fan.  It is always cool to say, “Look, Yogi still can wear the uniform,” or “Wow, Whitey Ford can still reach the plate!”  Reading Bill’s columns now has that effect on me.

We are both Patriots’ fans and that is how I found him. I live in New Jersey.  Back in the 90’s, when AOL had an overwhelming share of the at-home Internet market, the out-of-town sports fan did not have too many options.  Newspaper websites were far from what they are today.  Some of those papers actually charged to read their content!  Personal websites were very minor and this whole social networking phenomenon was limited to chat rooms, AOL Instant Messaging, and if anyone knew how to create a Geocities page, where it would take an hour to load your 3 pictures.  Those who had dial up remember these days well.  And those of you who were too young to remember these days, you didn’t miss much at all. was the first sports website that I found that was informative and made me laugh as well.

His move to ESPN was not the end of the world. It was the start of something new.  This was an unbelievable jump for someone who used to write me when I made a comment on his site.  I was happy for him like I would have been happy for him if he was my brother.  He brought a lot of his days as the BSG over to ESPN, and for those who thought his columns would suffer by making the jump to tWWL (the WorldWide Leader) in 2001 (God, it’s been almost eight years already!) were mistaken.  He became more polished.  While he did not really keep track of and rate other sports columns anymore, his columns were better.  Using movie lines and songs to correlate to sports was terrific stuff that kept us wanting more.  I would take lunch late at work to wait for his article to come out and print it, so I could read during lunch or on the bowl.

My favorite article of all time is when he wrote about the Pats winning their first Super Bowl, on February 3, 2002.  He must have stayed up all night to write this.  It was a masterpiece.  He had to have been drunk as well while writing it, which makes even more impressive. It may be more of a masterpiece to me because it was a moment of shared joy for him, myself, and so many other long-time Patriot fans.  I knew Bill had made it to the big time when the Chairman of the company that I work for, brought me in to his office, two days after Super Bowl XXXVI.  The Chairman knew I was a big Patriot fan, and the only one in our New Jersey office. He talked to me about this article he received from a friend of his.  His friend is the President of another company who was up in Massachusetts, and when he gave me the print out of the article and I saw the title and Bill’s name; I knew he had really made it.

Later on in 2002, he signed on to be a writer for Jimmy Kimmel Live.   We did not hear too much from him in 2003, and I was surprised that he left Jimmy’s show and worked full-time at ESPN.  Maybe, it was contract related, or ESPN’s viewership went down and offered him a better deal.  I think his downfall in terms of his sportswriting, comes from a few things, his move to Hollywood, having two children, and other projects have truly hampered him in terms of what he does best, which is column writing.  But, hey that’s life and you cannot fault anyone for that.

I narrowed my elegy to four things that caused me to write this:

1 – The Book, Now I Can Die in Peace: How ESPN’s Sports Guy Found Salvation, with a Little Help from Nomar, Pedro, Shawshank and the 2004 Boston Red Sox

I initially thought it was great that Bill was writing a book about the Sox amazing year.  Then, I opened it at Borders.  I was shocked to see that book was just a compilation of his columns as ESPN.  He never spoke about this when he referenced the book.  It was a total let down to people who have read him for the last five years.

Here was my review that can be found under the 2-star rating:

“Bill Simmons cleans out his hard drive and calls it a day and now a book. (Sorry, it had to be said). Anyone who has read the Boston Sports Guy could have just saved his articles and added their own commentary.

Bill is a very talented and original writer but I would have rather read something that is new. I know he has a new daughter and we all need to make a buck, so I can’t blame him.  The columns are as a good as it gets about the Sox and sports, but you may have read this before.

I wish the title was a better one. First, there are a few more important things that I would like to see happen in my life than a baseball team who could care less about me (except my wallet) win a World Series. Second, the title is a complete rip-off from 1994 when a fan had made that sign at Madison Square Garden after the NY Rangers won the Stanley Cup. Adding to the non-originality of the book.”

I hope his NBA book that comes out this fall is original, I doubt I will buy it, but I hope he uses original writing.

2 – He Cannot Relate to New England Anymore

Now, every once in a while, Bill can still bring it, like in this column on the demise of home-field advantage in the NFL.  He made it work with ideas that were given to him by some of his compatriots in the Blogosphere.  But, I also noticed in his column something that really pissed me off:  “I’ve attended three Pats games in the Gillette Mausoleum.” His distance from the Boston sports fan really showed up in that sentence.   I do not care who your friends are who go, and what you hear, what websites or podcasts you read or hear, if you are not personally there, you truly cannot relate and are not qualified to comment.

He has only attended 3 Pats games at Gillette Stadium?  How is that possible?  The Stadium just finished its 7th season.  I am not saying you have to be a season ticket holder to be a diehard fan, you don’t, and you don’t have to go to any games at all.  But, let me get this straight: You write for ESPN, who would probably pay you to go to Foxborough, and you have only been there once every two years?   Even if you do not like the stadium, how do you not get out to see one of the greatest era’s of your team in your lifetime.  Yet, he is not afraid to wax poetic about Foxboro Stadium.  I, myself, have attended over 10 Pats games at Gillette, driving 4 hours to and from Northern New Jersey, and I was one of about 1,000 Patriot fans that went to Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville.   I have also attended every Patriots-Jets game at the Meadowlands since 1993, but that is another story.  I am not from New England either, but I do follow the Pats religiously and follow the team on a daily basis, and see them as often as I can.  I do have friends in the area, but it does not make me an expert on what the pulse of the fans truly is.

Here are a couple of facts from a fan who has been to both many times:

A – Foxboro Stadium always was a dump. My high school stadium where I played football had more amenities.  What Bill didn’t mention about Foxboro Stadium, was that the traffic used to be the slow road to China, be prepared for a 3 hour ride home, it is better now, not great, but better.  You prayed for your car and for your bones when parking at Foxboro, most of the parking lots were unpaved, there were just mounds of dirt and rocks in the parking areas.  Oh, and if you went during a night game, leave a paper trail on how to find your car because there were about two working lights in the parking area and a million bottles you could trip over on the way back.  Those days may have been fun when you are in college, but as you cross the 30 yard line in terms of years, it blows for the most part.

The fans who sit by the field have the same enthusiasm for the most part as those up in the 300’s.  While it will never be what Foxboro Stadium was in terms of its closeness, the closeness to the field from the upper level is the only thing I miss about Foxboro Stadium.  Being squeezed in on metal benches was lousy, there was one TV monitor, one scoreboard, a sound system that looked my old 8-track system complete with ropes tying up the speakers!

B – Gillette is not perfect. Unfortunately, and I agree with Bill on how the noise goes straight up instead of directing the noise on the field.  There is a wine-and-cheese crowd, luckily, most of them are in their precious Club area.  Patriot Place is amazing, but you cannot believe that you are walking into stores, restaurants, and a theatre on a place that you used to have hold on to someone else to make it over a dirt hill to get to the stadium.  It does take away from the team a little.  But, it sure beats what we had.

C – Winning breeds complacency. When your team has had as much success as the Patriots have had in this decade, you lose a little bit of that hunger to stand and yell on every down.  But, unlike the Atlanta Braves, the Pats still sell out every game and have a wait list over 50,000 fans, something we never had at Foxboro.  The fans still show up in droves no matter what the weather.  I have sat in about every possible location at Gillette Stadium, I’m still amazed by the Pats fans I sit next to during the games.  Most are very knowledgeable about today’s team.  Their memories are short and some of them would fail to recognize who used to wear #11 for the Pats, let alone know who Hugh Millen or Tommy Hodson were.  If he lived in the area or went to more games, he would know this.  You can strip him of the Boston in Boston Sports Guy.

3 – The Machine Named ESPN (hiding behind Disney) Ate Him Alive

ESPN is owned by this little mouse with ears named Disney.  That mouse has huge ears and those ears have executives with eyes that do not like when content done by one of the mercenaries, oops, I mean employees, can cross the line.  I am still amazed that the Tuesday Morning Quarterback was brought back on to ESPN’s Page 2.  You don’t create your own Blogspot page called Sportsguy Unplugged with a picture of Andy Dufresne, if you are happy about the work you are doing and the company you represent.  You know the editors at ESPN have cut his columns limb from limb in terms of censorship. I know in this past year that he couldn’t stand that ESPN was giving Rick Reilly, $3 million a year, for 800 words per column and that Reilly thought of him as a Blogger and not a columnist.  I also know that he will take his anger towards tWWL about how they screwed him over on having then Senator Obama on his podcast.  His contract is signed until 2010, this must feel like the longest year in his life.  His column does not allow comments, now I am not sure if that decision is his, or if it is made by tWWL, but it would be cool to see what others are saying.

4 – Most of Us Did Not Watch the Same Things as You or Constantly Talk About Our Friends In Our Writing

I may have watched Beverly Hills 90210, and seen the first three Karate Kids, but I do not discuss them.  I have been waiting for a Guiding Light reference someday.  Also, I do not see anyone else who mentions their personal friends, like JackO, J-Bug, and Blueboy constantly.  Seriously, who has a friend named Blueboy?  And why would you want to be named after a gay porn mag? Maybe, these guys get a piece of the action.  Mentioning your parents, or your wife and kids is fine, but I guess Bill will keep trying until he can land them a job at ESPNEWS or something.   If he ever wonders why people call him a Blogger; it is precisely there.

Competition came along as every network, newspaper and team put in these people called Bloggers, that would give fans instant access to their teams.  This was followed by thousands of fans’ posting their own columns and then came the other side of sports websites like Deadspin, SportsbyBrooks, Awful Announcing, Kissing Suzy Kolber, and too many other good ones to mention.

The need for a 10,000 word column went out of fashion.  There is just too much information that is presented in front of our faces to occupy our time anymore. By the way, if you are still reading this, thank you. You run out of hours in the day when you try read and listen to all of what you want, oh, and do your job at work, too.  In 1999, there were no iPods, cell phones were just that phones, the Internet was fledgling and 75% of the people did not know how to go online, and video games were just games, not consoles that bring so much more to the table. Time moves on, and Bill moved on to Hollywood and drifting away from sports to the world of glitz and glamour.

Rest well, Sports Guy, we will be there for you when you come back.  If you are under 40 and you write about sports, you know you have taken some lessons from him.  Thanks for some great columns and for paving the way for so much more to come since the days of my 56K modem.  I hope I am there to witness you receiving your Lifetime Achievement Webby Award.  I would like a picture.  I will put next to my picture of me and some of my friends that we took at Old Timers Day.

Why Satellite Radio May Be Grounded

February 5, 2009

I care about radio.  I love radio and grew with radio since the days I had my old clock radio in my room, long before I got a TV.  There was FM and AM and I listened to it every night before bed.  It was a great companion.  The beauty of radio is that it is a medium that allows our imaginations to take over a little, like a book.  You have images of what the DJ looks like, what the studio looks like, what the ballpark looks like, what that naked girl on Howard Stern’s show looks like, if you hadn’t seen those things previously.  The radio is an old friend, and one that really grew when satellite radio became available.  I could not wait to be add some new friends in this new era in technology.

I became a Sirius satellite radio subscriber in 2005.  This was shortly before Howard “The King of All Media” Stern was joining the company in 2006.  I love music and could not stand regular, or terrestrial radio anymore.  I had a long commute to work and my CD collection was growing stale.  I loved having Sirius.  The programming was new, I loved seeing what song was playing and it was great to have the talk, the sports, and Howard.  People said to me, “You’re paying for radio?”  I said yes, it is commercial free and it is terrific.   Howard was great, he could say and do anything.  But, as time went on, my commute got smaller and the memory on my Zune got bigger and my love affair with satellite has begun to diminish.  Today, seeing an email that Sirius XM is going to increase rates and remove free Internet listening really made want to write about the failures of Sirius XM.  This dog is crawling on its last legs and I am not sure how it will stand again.

Echostar came in as the White Knight today.  The White Knight is  Echostar’s CEO, Charlie Ergen, one of the 100 richest people in the world worth roughly $9 billion.  I cannot see the FCC allowing a Satellite TV provider to also have satellite radio.  The FCC sat 16 months on the merger of Sirius and XM, and that was when we all the economy was still growing.  Now, in a deep recession, I cannot see this being a priority to the Feds.

If this should happen, I would recommend anyone who held in positions in either Echostar or Dish Network to get out if they have not already.  Sirius XM is riddled in debt, in upwards of $4 billion.  Barring their is another White Knight with the ability to absorb such massive debt and is not involved in the communications industry where they do not have to worry about the FCC holding them up, Sirius XM may be able to avoid Chapter 11.  I can’t see what Echostar would want in owning Sirius XM, I could see them trying to buy what the satellite equipment they have, especially the terrestrial repeater network and then letting the rest go to someone else or down the drain.

Here are some of the reasons for the failure of Sirius XM:

Antiquated Technology & Rushing To Market – It’s the 21st Century and in order to have Sirius in the car, if my car does not have it installed is to

In 1995, this would have been great to have.  There were no iPods, no music on the Internet, just CDs or tapes and regular radio to get your music, news and sports.  XM began in 1988.  Sirius began in 1990, but few knew anything about it.  Had they gotten into the mainstream earlier and before everyone had broadband Internet connections, I believe they would have been very profitable.  Satellite radio would have been the product you couldn’t live without.

If a GPS device can work by just plugging the unit into my cigarette lighter, why does my Satellite radio need a 50 foot wire that goes through my car?  Was a Plug and Play model not easy to accomplish?  Sirius decided to use Directed Electronics exclusively to provide the equipment for the radios, and that really limited growth of the units.  The Sirius Stilleto came with its antenna attached the earphones.  This could not have been less comfortable.  I am not sure how anyone who tested these out on their own ears and said this feels good and I would like to wear this for a long time.  At least with XM’s portable units, there was an antenna on the unit and you could use your OWN headphones with the unit.  The problem is that the antenna only uses about 3% of the total satellite signal on its own.  Your chances of getting a signal at home without the wired home antenna kit is slim to none, also the portable units do not do well under areas with a lot of trees.

The fact that neither Sirius or XM has a unit that can play indoors or in your car without wires is preposterous.  In this generation, people like mobility and being without wires.  Sirius brought back the wires and the annoyances that come with that.

Obscene and Obese Contracts – Sirius and XM let the money fly like they actually had cash on hand and were profitable.  Neither were true.  Everyone quickly points to the Howard Stern megadeal.  Adding Stern in 2006 was a huge score for Sirius, but he came at an awful big price.  A five year-$500 million contract, plus another $200 million in stock.  As egregious as the deal was, it did bring in millions of subscribers.  Sirius needed a big radio star to grow the company, and it got it.  The number of subscribers before Stern were about 600,000, a year after Stern was on, the number grew almost 10 fold.  No other programming on Sirius or XM can come anywhere close to saying that.

How many subscribers did Oprah bring in at $18 million a year, or Martha Stewart at $7.5 million per year and now Chris “Mad Dog” Russo at $3 million per year.  All three would need to bring in over 200,000 subscribers just to break even.  I do not know of anyone who went out and got Sirius XM for any of these three.  In terms of sports, there need to be over 400,000, baseball fans subscribing to break even on the $59 million per year baseball contract.

Do the music stations really need professional DJs at an additional cost?  It seems to be that you could hire a chimp to play tunes on the stations and not really miss a beat.  I am not sure I know too many people who listen to their favorite music stations on Sirius XM looking for a single DJ.  They just want to hear music from that time or that genre.

The cost of just acquiring the content cost Sirius XM nearly $500 million.  That is nearly 3.5 million in subscribers which is equaled to an estimated 25% of the company’s total revenue.  Sirius XM has a total operating cost of around another $500 million.  Add the two together and you have about a $1 billion in costs and that eats into roughly 50% of the total revenue.  Remember that Sirius XM may say they 18 million total subscribers, but those numbers include new cars sold with satellite radio already installed, it does take into account whether those drivers actually keep and pay for the service.

The iPod & Free Internet Radio – There are over 100 million iPods that have been sold.  That is more than 5 times the amount of satellite radios.  Back when I bought my satellite radio in 2005, iPods could just play music.  Now, with units like the iPhone, you can listen to music, watch video, record video, surf the Internet, text message, and do it all without wires and no additional bills. Podcasts were in their infancy, and now there are millions of podcasts available, many without a fee.  Satellite radio cannot compete and finally is close to signing a deal with Apple.  Internet radio was always available, but now it has become even more popular as units are being made just for Internet radio.  There are hundreds of websites that you can listen to music just like Sirius for absolutely no cost.  You can listen to stations all around the world, unlike with Sirius XM that only has around 200 stations.

Not Giving Subscribers the Best of XM and the Best of Sirius for Free – In 2007, Sirius and XM agreed on a merger that would be hopeful in trying to pair two losers together to create a winner.  The merger took 16 months to take place and the FCC stalling on the merger did not help anyone.  During this time the value of both companies plummeted, and their stock prices became running jokes.   Sirius CEO Mel Karmazin took the only thing he had left which was the residual shareholder value to complete the deal.    We had been promised that this would benefit the subscribers and that our radios would not be obsolete.

As a gift to subscribers, I thought Sirius XM should give ALL subscribers at least 3 months free of what they call the Best of Sirius or Best of XM. This way the loyal subscribers could feel that this new company cares about us, and also we could get a feel of what we had been missing.  Sirius XM decided to give that to new subscribers, and if you wanted the Best of the other package, it will cost you an extra $4 a month, if you had a compatible radio.  If the cost had been the same, I may be more inclined to get a new radio.  Not all radios were compatible for the transition.  Another mistake.

They Are Increasing Subscription Rates At The WORST Possible Time – The company is no position to stunt subscriber growth.  Satellite radio is not a necessity, it is a luxury.  Mel Karmazin went in front of Congress and promised lower prices for subscribers in this article in July.  Today, I received an email from Sirius XM that The company is taking away subscribers ability to listen online for free in March.  It will cost $2.95 a month to listen online if you do not renew by March.  A little drastic for a company skidding on the balls of its ass, don’t you think?  Annual rates are supposed to be increased as well, but I have not seen any proof of that just yet.

I liken Sirius XM to the dot-com boom and subsequent bust of the late 90’s.  Neither Sirius or XM has ever turned a profit.  There was always future talk of positive cash flow but that has never even been close to happening.  I am predicting that with these changes their subscriber growth has stopped and they will see a reduction in subscribers for the first time.  If you did not own the product and you knew about the company’s financial difficulties, would you feel comfortable signing a year, 2 year, 3 year or more contract?  People are thinking, geez, are they going to be around next year?  With the economy the way it is, and with so much free media available online, I think less and less people will see the need for this, instead of more and more people saying they can’t live without Sirius XM.

Sirius XM is highly dependent on the automobile industry for its subscriber growth.  I do not think I need to tell anyone that any growth in that area is going to be few and far between in 2009.  I do think in the future automobiles will be wi-fi ready and be able to find radio stations online and all over the world.

I am sure if you are a present or former subscriber you have your own reasons that are in addition to what I mentioned.  Their customer service is tragic to say the least.

Sirius XM has $700 million in debt come due this year.  $175 million is due in just a couple of weeks.  They may be able to pay off the debt, but the company will still be miles away from turning a profit.  I am not sure what the solution is, do we just junk this technology, is their another company out there who will buy out Sirius XM and take the hit on their books in this economy, will the government take over satellite radio?

Whatever happens here; I think there was a golden opportunity that was mangled.  Management should have been more serious about their spending.

I may be telling my kids some day of the years that I paid for radio.  Hey, at least I didn’t buy an HD Radio.  For now, I’m off to bed and my clock radio is right there, oh and this radio has a MP3 input jack.

Blasts and Duds from Super Bowl XLIII

February 2, 2009

I have come up with a new concept here at the Grenade, it will be called Blasts & Duds.  I give you my version of the best and the not-so-good parts of Super Bowl XLIII.


1.  The Game – A terrific game, and you could not ask for much more.  As I said in my Super Bowl column, the NFL has found a way to make these games exciting like at the end, like the NBA.  We have been spoiled over the past few years, and while I would not say this game topped last year’s or any other great Super Bowl, it will go right up there with those great games.  I saw it as a Pittsburgh semi-blowout, I was right for about 52 minutes, and I was very happy to be wrong.

2.  Ben Roethlisberger – Boy, did he make up from his record-setting lousy performance in Super Bowl XL.  From the start of the game until the very end, he was in rhythm.  His escapability is remarkable.  Just when you think you have him, he manages to use his strength to get away and make a play.   It is not Montana or Elway, but he doesn’t have to be.  Big Ben gets it done his way.  He was intercepted once on a tipped ball.  But, it was the final drive for the ages, and his TD pass to Santonio Holmes was picture perfect.

3. Kurt Warner – If anyone had any questions on whether he is a Hall of Famer, he answered it.  There is an open invitation for you to come to Canton, Kurt.  For the third time in his career, he led his down the field to tie or take the lead in a Superbowl with under 5 minutes to play.  He passed Joe Montana in total passing yards in Superbowl history.  Montana did it in 4 games, Warner only needed 3.  Kurt did make some mistakes, the biggest being a very costly interception at the end of the first half that was a 14 point swing, and really the play of the game, he also tripped over his center’s feet a couple times, and had a fumble on the handoff to James early in the game that Arizona recovered.  But, he made the plays he needed to make, and finally found Larry Fitzgerald when he had to most.

4. Santonio Holmes – I can’t rank him any higher, because I had him in my fantasy league and it was nice of him to give his best game at the Super Bowl.  He was great, and deserved the MVP.  But, where the heck was this performance in the regular season?  His best game was 5 catches, for 94 yards in week 2!  His TD catch was as pretty as you will ever see to win a football game.

5. The Combination of Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Breaston – The three who should have a nickname were all very good.  They combined for 21 catches, 282 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Angry Anquan before the game came up with a nice effort, and had the big 45 yard play to set up Arizona’s first touchdown. Anquan went 8 for 84.  Breaston went 6 for 71 and was the wild card that the Steelers had to pay attention to and that freed up things finally for the most talented player on the field late in the game.  Larry Fitzgerald did not catch a pass until there was under a minute left in the first half.  He didn’t catch his second pass until the fourth quarter.  But, Fitzgerald proved the old adage that great players aren’t always great, they’re just great when they have to be.  Fitzgerald caught 4 passes on the Cardinals second scoring drive, including the 1 yard TD pass where he made a sensational catch despite being mugged by Ike Taylor, who did not get a penalty for pass interference.  That was just the appetizer.  With 2:47 to go in the game, Fitzgerald caught a 15 yard slant and go route, and he was gone for 64 yards giving the Cardinals their first lead.  Larry would finish the game with 7 catches for 127, and 2 touchdowns and nearly stole the MVP away.

5. Darnell Dockett & Karlos Dansby – Dockett absolutely ate up his counterpart Darnell, the Steelers’ Darnell Stapleton.  Dockett had 6 tackles and 2 sacks.  Dansby had the interception that would have been huge had Arizona not given the turnover back on Harrison’s interception for a touchdown.  Both players gave great efforts, and will be rewarded when free agency comes to them.

6. James Harrison – Like John Matusak, he was a One Man Force.  The Cardinals left Mike Gandy by himself to block him, and he held on for dear life.  They flagged Gandy three times for holding, it probably could have been 10.  The Cardinals needed to give him help and did not.  All three drives that had Gandy’s holding penalties led to punts for Arizona.  Who would have thought that the longest play in Super Bowl history would come from a 6 foot, 250 pound outside linebacker.  A great read on the interception and an amazing 100 yard return!  Great blocking downfield was key, and James used every ounce of himself to find the end zone.  He could have been MVP until about 8 minutes to go in the game. He roughed up a Cardinal player and was not flagged for it, and was lucky to not be disciplined for a dirty play.

7.  Al Michaels & John Madden – Like I said last week, I think Al is the best in the business and he was terrific on Super Bowl Sunday.  He didn’t try to exaggerate how great the game was, he let it play out and just announce the action. I’m not a huge Madden fan, but this game fit him perfectly.  It was a time when Madden’s simple comments were effective.

8. – Joe Willie Namath – Did Broadway Joe look great or what?  I haven’t seen him look that good since Super Bowl III.  He really should bring in the Lombardi trophy every year from now on.  I don’t think he wanted to give it away.  He wanted to keep it and maybe impress a certain Suzy.


1. The Officiating – How there was not a formal review on the second to last play is beyond belief.  While, it did look like a fumble by Warner, there could have also been a way to call it a tuck, which would have meant an incomplete pass.  I do not see why the league couldn’t have spent the 2 minutes to fully review the play to see if the call on the field was correct.   Terry McAulay looks very good on TV, he looks and speaks professionally, but is not a great referee. He did not do that great of a job in Super Bowl XXXIX, and should not have been awarded another Super Bowl that quickly.  The roughing-the-passer penalty on Karlos Dansby in the 3rd quarter gave me flashbacks of Sugar Bear Hamilton on Ken Stabler in the 1976 AFC Playoffs.  I thought he missed an intentional grounding on Roethlisberger as well.  There were a lot of penalties and many of them were justified.  The holding in the end zone, and the running over the holder, were excellent calls.  How James Harrison was not flagged for giving someone the business was beyond me.  I disagreed with Madden, on saying he should have been ejected.  A Personal Foul would have been fine there.  No call was inexcusable.  Santonio Holmes should have been given a personal foul for using the ball as a prop on the game winning TD.  Look, I am no fan on the rule; and I love celebrations, but that is a rule and it should have been a penalty, which would have meant the Steelers would kickoff from the 15, instead of the 30.  The Cardinals probably would have been in better field position on the final drive.  All in all, I do not believe the result changes because of the officiating, but their performance was mediocre at best.  But, officiating is the last the NFL wants to hear about the day after the Super Bowl, it certainly wasn’t the talk of the office after last year’s game.

2 – Arizona’s Secondary – With Hines Ward not 100%, this should have made the Cardinals secondary’s task a little easier. But, this bumbling unit proved to be the downfall of Super Bowl XLIII as it could not cover the one man it had to stop in Santonio Holmes.  How he was still able to catch that touchdown with 3 defenders in the area is unforgivable.  Holmes should have been mugged and 5 penalty flags should have been on the field before he could be allowed to catch anything in the end zone that late in the game.  Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie made a nice play on a bomb to Nate Washington early in the game, but was beat routinely by Santonio Holmes and had a facemask penalty on Pittsburgh’s first drive of the second half.  Antrel Rolle only had a couple of tackles and did not do much else.  Adrian Wilson had 7 tackles, but had a silly Personal Foul penalty on the Steelers field goal attempt as he ran over the Steelers holder.  Lucky for Wilson, the Cardinals still kept the Steelers out of the end zone. Aaron Francisco was completely lost and fell down on the 40 yard pass to Holmes on the final drive allowing him to reach the 6.

3. Mike Tomlin – I know some say the decision to kick the field goal was a good one, but I disagree.  You need less than a yard; I would have gone for it and used Big Ben on a QB sneak and take my chances.  At the worst, Arizona has their first possession of the game at their own 1.  But, I would have felt confident that the game would have started 7-0.  The Steelers have a 20-7 lead in the 4th quarter, they are the best defense in the league, and he has the safeties playing in what looks like St. Pete.  They are at least 25 yards off the ball.  It was only a matter of time before Larry Fitzgerald made his mark on this game when you leave the middle that open.  A great defense does not give up 14 points in 5 minutes of the 4th quarter of a game that it is winning by double figures.  Had the Steelers not come back to win this game, Mike Tomlin would have had been wearing huge goat ears this morning.

4. Troy Polamalu – He played in the game, yes?  I know I saw his hair.  He was practically invisible.  Two assisted tackles, no solo tackles, and at least half a dozen whines to the officials.  I thought Hines Ward was the one who Whines Hard?  I think we have a new candidate for that award.

5.  Bruce Springsteen – Somebody’s getting older, and unlike Brenda Warner and Joe Willie, he isn’t getting better with age.  He tried to bring the emotion of his concerts to halftime, and I like it at the beginning, with the whole “Put down the guacamole,” bit.  But, it was the crotch slide that ended up tea bagging the camera operator that made the most headlines.  I think NBC would have rather seen Janet Jackson’s floppy boob come out again than a 59 year old man’s crotch come flying through their new HDTV.  Was it me or did it look like Bruce couldn’t remember his lyrics?

6.  Roger Goodell – My goodness, what a horrific public speaker.  First, his award presentation to Kurt Warner on the Walter Payton, NFL Man of the Year Award was something out of the Oscars.  Roger, “And the winner is Kurt Warner.”  That’s all you have to say?  How about a sentence or two about the man and what he represents to the league, or even commenting on and thanking the other players nominated.  Second, when you give out a championship trophy, it is okay to say a couple sentences about the game and to thank both teams’ owners, players and fans.  He said one sentence comparing this game to last year’s game, which was ridiculous.  Let this game be the new chapter in NFL History, there is no need to talk about one game being better than the other.  Every NFL fan is biased and will form their own opinions.  I give more of a speech when one of my players wins a Fantasy sports title, for goodness sake.  Goodell makes Belichick look like a distinguished speaker.  Goodell would be Bush at a press conference, and Belichick would be Obama.

7.  NBC – Were 725 analysts really necessary?  Maybe this why GE’s stock is ready to hit single digits?  Why on God’s green Earth was Matt Millen brought in?  What insight could he possibly have?  Um, I ran a team completely into the ground and have put my former organization farther away from this stage than Neptune is to Earth, so I guess I am qualified.  Next on CNBC, Bernie Madoff to discuss sound investing in troubled times!  One player I thought I would not be talking about was Rodney Harrison.  But, NBC with its earnest payroll hired him too for analysis.  Now, you know, I love the Patriots, and Rodney is a favorite of mine, but man did he come off like an ass last night. How they dropped the audio on Matt Lauer’s interview with President Obama was inexcusable.