Monday, April 18, 2011

Putable (Barry) Bonds

All that for one guilty verdict?

That was my initial thought after reading about Barry Bonds, baseballs dope king , convicted on one count in his perjury trial, which ended last week.

Then again, Bonds was convicted of obstructing justice.  He's likely to get probation, or a few months in a country club prison.

And perhaps he will sign autographs with "Alcatraz '11" instead of HOF (Hall of Fame).

I'm guessing he doesn't much care either way.  Bonds is arrogance personified, captured beautifully on the cover of Sports Illustrated many years ago with the headline, "I'm Barry Bonds and You're Not."

Bonds was well on his way to best ever status in 1998 when he watched Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire steal his thunder by crushing baseballs like Marlon Brando crushes walnuts. 

So Bonds hit the chemistry lab, injecting himself with enough steroids to puff up like "Hans and Franz" of Saturday Night Live fame, minus the accent. 

The steroid era appears over.  And along with our collective cold shower, there remains a debate on whether roidrunners belong in baseball's Hall of Fame. 

But there's an easy solution.  In the same way the the Hall honors the negro leagues, women's professional teams and latin leagues, its time for a special steroids exhibit I call "From Canseco to Ramirez: The Shrunken Ball Era."  

Features include:

- An interactive water park for the kids, where they can climb aboard the giant syringe and frolic in front of the gushing water. 

- A life size bobble head maze featuring your favorite puffed up sluggers.

- A "little juicer" lab where kids get to don lab coats, play with beakers and test tubes, and inject inflatable dolls in the rear with their homemade concoctions. 

And for the adults, a gallery of honorees broken down (literally) into five categories (cue the Ken Burns music):

1)  The "deniers."  Led by Roger Clemens and Rafael Palmeiro, those who categorically denied using steroids until forced to admit it.  In Palmeiro's case, he famously wagged his finger before Congress in 2005, then promptly got suspended for a positive test. 

2) The "please make this go awayers." Ivan Rodriquez, David Ortiz and over 100 other players who names were leaked on a 2003 "doping list" consisting of players who took part in confidential testing at a time when there were no penalties for violations.  Most players exposed refused to comment. 

3) The "admiters."  Guys like Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi.  Each copped to using 'roids and expressed regret.  Granted, most admitted drug use only after their names were leaked from the doping list but why get bogged down in details? 

4) Manny Ramirez.  This guy deserves a wing to himself.  Manny tested positive, twice, with the second positive resulting in a 50 game suspension in 2009.  Then this spring, he abruptly retired when faced with another failed test and a likely 100 game suspension.  A player many argue is the greatest right handed hitter ever picks up his toys and goes home.  No press conference, no fanfare.  Special mention to Jose Canseco, whose book "Juiced" poked a pin into 'roider teammates.  Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?

5) The "slippery ones."  Guys like Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds.  All three wouldn't admit using steroids but kinda came close.  Before Congress in 2005 Sosa said, "I have not broken the laws of the United States or the laws of the Dominican Republic," where steroids are not illegal.  McGwire hid behind the mic at the same congressional hearing by saying that he was, "not here to talk about the past."  And Bonds, who regulated everything related to his body, somehow thought the "cream and the clear" were not steroids.  Uh huh. 

The exhibit is certain to change with time.  Clemens goes on trial this summer but unlike Bonds, he doesn't have the luxury of a trainer willing to serve hard time rather than rat out his friend.  Greg Anderson has gone to prison twice to avoid testifying.  Brian McNamee, Clemens trainer, is the prosecution's star witness. 

So Bonds is done.  At least for now.  But who knows what Greg Anderson's price will be in the future.  Or the fans price.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Pulling the Plug on Network News

If a news anchor falls in the forest, does she make a sound?  The news the other day that Katie Couric is either 1) Leaving  or 2) Being shown the door was hardly news.  The first solo woman anchor of a national newscast goes bye bye?  Ho hum. 

I think the bigger news (pun intended) is that this may in fact mark the end of network evening news. 

No, network newscasts and anchors aren't going away.  But times have changed.  With the advent of cable news and the Internet, the evening network news (at 5:30 here in Chicago) doesn't matter much anymore. 

Quickly, can you name ONE network news anchor? 

You're not alone.  According to the Pew Research Center, network news has lost 55% of its audience since 1980.

In other words, network news hasn't been "in" since the days of Elf and Arnold Horshack.  

The only saving grace is that network news is (mildly) profitable and the lowest rated network program has more viewers than the highest rated cable news offering.  The best of the worst; an NIT basketball tournament for newsies.

I gave up on newscasts about 15 years ago after a gradual realization that I trust what I read much more than what I watch. Truth is, by the end of my day the top news stories are old and I'm looking for analysis.  Political shows, websites and newspaper commentary fill the void. 

Some of this is generational.  I am firmly convinced that if a meteor struck my parent's home at 9:45 p.m., rescue workers would arrive and find my Dad in the rubble trying to tune in for the ten o'clock news. 

But the days of iconic anchors have passed.  Or have they?  I would enjoy hearing what you think.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Reality Totality

I don't watch much reality TV.  Or at least I would never admit it.  

Some day scholars will credit Jerry Springer and Geraldo for springing an entire collection of unhinged, vapid, narcissistic "stars," some of whom appear on other reality shows merely because of their reality star status.  What a country!

I suppose some shows are more redeeming than others, in the same way you might compare Chaucer to a rap star. 

And like Springer and Geraldo, you can produce an entire season of reality for $5.95, a TV execs dream. 

Full disclosure:  My wife is an actress.  A real one.  Studied theater and everything.  So there have been a few (thus far unspoken) moments when we realize that clowns like "The Situation" and Paris Hilton are taking work from classically trained professionals.  Professionals who use silverware and can spell words like adverb.  Even use them.

I have a few reality show ideas, and would love to know what you think. 

Hormonal Island: Contestants are stranded with three "tweens"  in the throes of puberty.  Nuff said.

Heavy Celebrity Hoarder Intervention: This spin-off of A&E shows features D list celebrities with the tag line "Because any attention is good, right?"  A "very special episode" features Kirstie Alley. 

Survivor Interstate:  Contestant couples are paired with random unrelated children and sent on a cross country car ride.  Challenges include an 8 hour stretch with only a cheese stick and Teletubbie marathon.  Points lost for bathroom stops. 

Gamer Wives: An in depth look at attractive, well educated women and their overgrown children, filmed entirely from the basement.  Special poker edition debuts in the fall.

Deadliest Political Catch - Ten members of Congress (3 Red, 3 Blue, 2 Tea, 2 Decaf) set out on Alaska's  Bering Sea in search of Opilio crab.  The winning team has majority rule until the 2012 elections.