Monday, July 21, 2008

Monday's Starting Five

1. The New York Mets. They're back in first place. Or, at least they're back tied for first place (with the Phillies) in the National League East after splitting a four-game set in Cincinnati over the weekend. The Metropolitans have gone 13-4 in July and have put themselves back in the race for the NL pennant. Hell, the Daily News practically awarded them the division last week. Of course, that back page may have precipitated the end of the team's 10-game winning streak and initiated a brief two-game skid. Either way, the Mets righted themselves and are set to open up a 3-game death-waltz with the Phillies at Shea.

2. The Los Angeles of Anaheim (by way of California and Heaven and family-friendly baseball films starring Tony Danza). The world champion Red Sox visited Anaheim (or did they visit LA?) this weekend with the confidence of having taken the last nine meetings between these two teams in the postseason. And, it didn't mean a thing. The Angels swept the Sox right out of town behind quality pitching, timely hitting and the continued success of K-Rod, who notched his 40th save of the season in the sweep-capping win yesterday.

3. Carlos Delgado. Apparently the rumors of his demise have been greatly exaggerated. After a 2007 season that was alternately brutal and mediocre and thoroughly lackluster open to the '08 campaign it seemed certain that Delgado was done. Apparently not. His bat has come alive in the recent weeks and he has re-emerged as an offensive threat during the Mets recent hot streak. After hitting in the .200s in each of the season's previous months, Delgado is raking at a .419 clip in July. He has hit seven doubles, four home runs and knocked in 12 runs during the month as well.

4. Jose Reyes. After scuffling through a forgettable April, the Mets spark plug has batted over .300 in each month since and now ranks either first or second among NL shortstops in at-bats, hits, walks, runs, doubles, total bases, steals and triples while ranking third in RBI and fourth in home runs. Yesterday in Cincinnati, Reyes went 4-for-6 with a triple and three runs scored. The triple, coming in the fourth inning, was the 63rd of his career and moved him past Mookie Wilson and into first place on the all-time Mets list. He did this with less than 700 at-bats over parts of six seasons while it took Mookie Wilson over 4,000 at-bats during parts of 10 seasons to hit his 62 triples in a Mets uniform.

5. The Sporting News. Starting on Wednesday morning this 120+ year-old publication(s) will launch a new venture in the form of an electronic sports-only daily newspaper. I don't know if this daily "paper" will work out. Heck, I don't even know if I've got it in me to read another email or another news source each morning before heading to work or once at work. I don't know either of those things. But I like this anyway. I like that there will be another way to get some sports news and opinion and I really like the idea that some of the bloggers from The Sporting Blog will have another outlet.

Benched. The Big Lead. Before I start, let me just say that I like this sports blog. I know some other folks out there have problems with it, but I'm an a-la-carte optimist. I load up my plate with what looks good to me from out there in the blogosphere and try my best to ignore the things that don't interest me or that I flat-out disagree with. And, I hope people do the same when it comes to WWOD?. This is why I check The Big Lead just about daily (and often twice-daily) as the site does a great job of rounding up most of what is happening out their in the wilder, wider sporting world. The fellow that runs (and those who deputize on the weekends) have been kind enough to link to a few things I've written over the past few months. And, I've been grateful for that. That being said, I usually steer clear of the editorial posts about movies, music and politics (or the nature of sports blogs). Not due to any disdain for those topics but just because that's not what I'm there to consume. I'm there for sports news and to check the AM/PM roundups to see what everyone else is thinking/writing about. However, earlier today, I read a post about The Dark Knight, which opened this weekend and made a lot of money. I saw the movie yesterday morning (10AM) in IMAX at Lincoln Center and was totally blown away and almost went to see any evening showing last night. It's awesome. Run, don't walk, to go see it. So, I couldn't help but peak at what someone else had to say about the film today. Big mistake. My jaw dropped down to my keyboard, splashing g's, h's, and j's all over the document I was "working on," when I read that, in the opinion of this particular blogger, The Dark Knight is not as good as Revenge of the Sith.

"As expected, Dark Knight shattered every box office record imaginable over the weekend. Saw it. Liked it immensely. Was it better than Iron Man? Tough. They’re polar opposites: Iron Man was fun and witty; Batman was dark and tragic, partially because of Heath Ledger’s death.
Of the many superhero/sci-fi movies we’ve seen in the last few years, this almost certainly cracks the top five (with Iron Man and Transformers) but our favorite is Revenge of the Sith, the Star Wars movie where Anakin becomes Vader.

I haven't seen Iron Man yet and I have heard that it is very, very good so I won't even comment on that comparison. But Revenge of the Sith? Transformers? Seriously? It felt like someone kicked me in the groin when I read that. It felt like some sort of trust was broken between me as a reader and the author of The Big Lead. And, I'm a HUGE Star Wars dork! I was there waiting overnight (and first on line, I might add) outside of a movie theater in Wayne, NJ when The Phantom Menace was released in 1999 and have a pretty serious-looking replica lightsaber in my living room. Like I said, I'm a HUGE dork. But, c'mon! The Dark Knight was a full-fledged cinematic experience for a mature audience who had grown up on Batman/comic/sci-fi movies. It was visually stunning (especially in IMAX), ambitiously choreographed (both in terms of the stunt sequences as well as the plot itself) and contained a complex narrative utilizing an ensemble of three-dimensional characters while all three Star Wars prequel movies were facile indulgences of a impeachably wealthy man (looking to fleece a mature audience who had grown on Batman/comic/sci-fi movies) who has lost touch with his art in which the performances were as wooden and lifeless in their own way as the predictable, plodding plot and over-zealous use of CGI were in theirs. Frankly, the two most embarrasing moments I've ever experienced in a movie theater as movie-goer were at the end of Revenge of the Sith. I had overpaid for secondary-market opening night tickets at the multiplex in Union Square and brought a girl who was not a Star Wars fan and I would say that her opinion of me may never have recovered from my pre-show enthusiasm for this debacle. The first embarrassing moment occurred during the poorly submerged nods to Frankenstein when Vader makes his first appearance and the second, being perhaps the silliest piece of dialog ever penned to paper, was when a medical robot described the death of Natalie Portman's character by saying that "she has lost the will to live." Seriously, this is who a medical ROBOT diagnoses the death of a major character in the sign-off scene of a six-film cycle? Really? Yes, we got to see the Vader/Kinobi fight but this movie was still terrible. It almost made me want to turn in my old Kenner Millennium Falcon toy. Almost. To say it better than The Dark Knight is not only a display of bad taste it is also an affront to everything that was good about the original Star Wars trilogy which has far more in common with the lastest Batman installment then with the three prequels. If someone wanted to say that they liked Knight but it was no classic like Empire then I've got no problem with that. But Sith? I just can't let such a remark go unremarked upon.

Still, I'm sure that I'll get back to checking in with The Big Lead but it is probably going to me a few days, at least, to take it very seriously again. Disagreements amongst sports fans are common and usually represent no grave trespass. We like different teams and different players. And, we're irrationally passionate about it. That's the way it works. However, there is nothing wrong with being a fan of a bad team (there may even be something commendable about it) while you can't be a fan of bad movies and expect people to take you seriously. This is one specific area where sports and movies fandom differs. Sitting in the stadium or at a bar and cheering for a struggling team doesn't reflect poorly on anyone but sitting in a movie theater and applauding a bad movie does (and I don't mean campy so-bad-that-they're-good-movies). That's why I was so mortified sitting in a darkened Union Square theater watching (and even worse, listening to) Revenge of the Sith with someone who thought that movie was representative of my taste and interests. There are certain doors that must remain forever open and/or closed. Someone who doesn't want to lose the respect of any serious movie-watchers shouldn't admit in decent company that they think The Mummy was better than Raiders of the Lost Ark, that Alien Vs. Predator is better than Aliens or that (for you ladies out there) Love Actually is better than When Harry Met Sally or Annie Hall. And they sure as hell shouldn't let anyone find out that they think Revenge of the Sith is better a better film than The Dark Knight. That's the sort of secret you take to the grave. Lest people start to talk. Or, even worse, stop listening. Trust me, I know.