Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Live Sports?

In the wake of the NFL lockout that is threatening the 2011/12 season, I recently read an article that talked about the steady decline of MLB attendance over the last 3-4 years.  This all has me wondering, are live sports dead?  This article went on to mention that NFL attendance has dropped at similar rates over the past few years, and many say the NFL is as popular as ever!

What is causing this? There are a number of reasons:  the recession, HDTV, busy schedules, etc. the list goes on and on.  I sat back and thought about the article last night, and I started to think about all reasons why people don't go, and I must say they all make sense.  I can't think of any reason outside of just wanting to be there to go to a professional sporting event these days.  Games are expensive, traffic is brutal, and at least in Atlanta, there is nothing to do before or after around the stadiums.  What can the leagues do to bring people back to the stadiums?  I am going to walk through a list of things I would change if it was up to me below.

1.  Speed up the pace of games:  Whether we are talking about the NFL, MLB, or NBA, games are too long these days.  TV timeouts take forever in football, batters step out of the box in baseball, and basketball players call timeout every 10 seconds in the waning minutes of a game.  All of this must be streamlined, and a sporting event should go no longer than two hours in my mind.  Two hours is a long time, especially if the game starts at 7pm on a weeknight and you are expecting families with kids to come and enjoy the festivities.

2.  Lower food/beverage prices:  You know why Augusta National is so great?  There are a lot of reasons, but one of which is that the food/beverage prices remain constantly moderate over time.  $2 cokes and $2.50 sandwiches are a far cry from the $6 cokes and $6 hot dogs at the ball park.  Once you get fans to the park/stadium, there is no need to fleece them with crazy food prices, it just drives people away.

3.  Entertain us:  Overshadowed by the big money at stake and the various labor disputes and other issues that take the focus from the games themselves, many forget that sports are a form of entertainment, and really nothing more.  Long ago the money became so big that sports distanced themselves from the fans and began to take themselves a bit too seriously, while forgetting that they are just entertainers.  Just like I don't care to listen to Sean Penn lecture me on international affairs, I also don't want to hear about athlete labor problems or the money problems of billionaire owners who own teams because they are bored.  Your number one priority is to create an entertaining atmosphere, with an exciting product.  If you happen to make a lot of money doing it, then that is great, but don't sacrifice entertainment value in order to line your pockets (Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Bengals, etc)

Those are just three of my suggestions for sports in general, what would you do to improve the entertainment value of live sports?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Famous For No Reason

In honor of this week's royal wedding, I thought it would be a good time to bring attention to a very disturbing trend in American society:  unearned celebrity.  Our country is literally full of "famous" people who have done absolutely nothing, what does that say about us who encourage this?  Why do over 9 million people watch "Jersey Shore" each week?  In my opinion pop culture in America has hit a low point, and we can only hope it turns around ASAP.  With all that in mind, I'd like to run through my top 10 "famous for no reason" Americans.

10.  Subway Jared:  In Jared's defense, I admire the fact that he got his act together and lost a bunch of weight, but ever since the dude has not had to have a real job.  I mean people lose weight all the time, yet how many of them get to be on tv forever?

9.  Kevin Federline:  A backup dancer who somehow married Brittney Spears, yet then couldn't figure out a way to hold on to a lifelong lottery ticket.  Even still, we all know him, and I hear he still garners a pretty good club appearance fee.

8.  All Survivor castoffs/winners:  Congrats on camping out in an exotic location for a few weeks and not getting along with others.  I will be impressed when they do Survivor:  Antarctica.

7.  All Housewife cast members:  I have never seen an episode of any of these, though I hear Real Houswives Santa Fe is riveting.  Lets find quasi new money people and encourage them to act like total morons.

6.  Real World/Road Rules cast members:  I have no idea what the qualifications are for these shows, but I know they are so low that these people can't find other gainful employment afterward. because they have continued to release all these spin-off shows involving all the former cast mates.  From what I can tell an affinity for cheating and tribal tats are a must for being on these programs.

5.  Lindsey Lohan:  Seeing as how she hasn't done a move in like 4 years or so, I have forgotten why she is famous, yet she is still front page news when on cue she breaks parole, and avoids jail time.  It is time for her to go AWAY.

4.  The cast of The Hills:  Great idea, lets take a bunch of rich hot people, and give them an easy entrance into show business regardless of talent.  Goes to show how clutch it is to be in the "lucky sperm club", because these people have had all the breaks already.

3.  Paris Hilton & Nicole Ritchie:  From The Simple Life fame, these two heiresses shot to the top of the q list and have remained ever since.  Much like those mentioned in # 4, these girls already had the world at their fingertips, yet we continue to throw money and attention their way for no reason whatsoever. 

2.  The Kardashians:  The Kardashians are this high because of how famous they are, I mean they are through the stratosphere.  While they became famous for no reason, I will give them a little credit for shrewdly exploiting their fame and maximizing their earning power.  That being said, they have no skills and even less brains; oh yeah their dad defended O.J., go figure.

1.  The Jersey Shore cast:  You knew this was coming, I mean trashy, tasteless, and obnoxious are just some of the adjectives you could use to describe these idiots.  Everybody acknowledges these people are morons, yet America keeps tuning in.  It really makes me wonder if there is something in the water here; the Chinese must be laughing at us.  While they excel in science and math, we sit around and watch Snooki get drunk and "you know what" by random dudes.

As I look at this list, I don't know whether to laugh or cry!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Giving Back

As most of you know, a few friends and I recently put on an event called Score For Sarcoma; benefiting the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University.  I am pleased to announce that the event was a great success, and last week we were able to present Winship a check for $4,326.  The amount of money we raised through the event and donations totally blew away my expectations, and for that I thank you all a million times over for helping us!  What makes this fund-raising effort different in my mind, is that instead of donating the money to "research/awareness", which is difficult to know if your money is really helping people, we donated our funds to the Patient Assistance Fund, which exists to help under privileged cancer patients with copays, rent, rides to treatment, etc.  I believe that all of you who donated/participated should feel comfortable in knowing that your money is truly helping those who really need it.  Again thank you all!!!!

Here is a picture of my parents, Brian Fitzgerald (co-chair of the event), and myself giving the check to Winship.  Sadly our other co-chair Clint Powell was not able to join us, but to Brian and Clint both, thank you so much for the initial idea and helping drive the success of this event.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Tradition Like No Other

Most of you know that The Masters is my favorite week of the year; a week that begins this morning as the players and patrons head out for the first day of official practice rounds.  My first trip to Augusta was on a rainy Tuesday back in 2003.  My dad won 4 practice round badges in the lottery that year so myself and 3 buddies from college drove over from Athens.  In 2004 I was lucky enough to be invited by my good friend Ross to attend the final round, where we watched Phil charge from behind to capture his first major title.  That Easter Sunday in 2004 was probably the greatest sporting event I've seen live.

So with The Masters upon us, I would like to turn attention to a sports bucket list of sorts.  Here is my top 10 list of sporting events to see:

1.  BCS National Championship Game involving UGA:  I would prefer it to be in the Rose Bowl, but I'm not that picky I guess.  I would just love to see the dawgs win it all in person.  My Bama friends said it was amazing to see their team win it last year in Pasadena.

2.  Men's Wimbledon Final:  As far as tennis goes, this is the granddaddy of them all.  How many people do you know that have been to the Wimbledon final?  Exactly, I can't think of any either.

3.  USA in the World Cup Finals:  After the excitement generated by the American squad this past summer in South Africa, I would love to be on location in a hostile environment rooting on the yanks.  The next opportunity is in 2016 down in Brazil, which would be cool on a number of levels.  It would be even more amazing if they were to somehow make the finals.

4.  Rangers baseball in Fenway Park:  As one of the two remaining iconic baseball stadiums along with Wrigley Field, I would love to see my team beat up on the Sox like they did this past weekend, but of course on their turf.  I have heard that not only is it a cool park, but there are so many bars and restaurants around Fenway, that make you wonder what the heck they were thinking when they built Turner Field.

5.  Braves baseball in Wrigley Field:  See above

6.  Kentucky Derby - From a Box:  Notice the specifics I highlighted:  "From a Box".  Any idiot with $60 can get a ticket to the infield where the youth of America go to get sleazy.  I can do that any night of the week, I don't have to go to Louisville to find such tomfoolery.  I want to go to a box, sit up there with some rich guys and some hot women with big hats.

7.  British Open:  I have seen a lot of live golf, which is why I am just now getting to it here on my list.  That being said, I would love to go to the British Open, preferably at either St. Andrews or Royal St. George.

8.  Champions League Final featuring Aston Villa:  For those of you who don't know, some friends and I all started following English top flight soccer this winter.  We all chose teams and have followed them into the spring and then beyond.  My club of choice is Aston Villa out of Birmingham, and I would love for them to qualify for the Champions League final someday and play in the finals (hopefully in Wembley Stadium).  If you haven't checked out the EPL, I recommend you take a look at it.  I have really enjoyed following soccer this winter/spring, and I look forward to being more knowledgeable when the 2011/2012 Premier League season begins in the Fall.

9.  & 10.  I literally can't think of a 9th or 10th event.  I have no desire to ever go to the Super Bowl, nor do I care much about going to the Final Four or a World Series game.  I could care less about the Dayton 500 or Indy 500 as well.  I guess that about wraps it up?  What events would be on your top ten list?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Viewer's Choice

My last post was focused on films that disappointed me over the last few years via my Netflix subscription, so it is only fair that I dedicate a post to those movies that I have enjoyed since becoming a member.  This list will be one including some new releases and some not so new, but the one thing they all share in common is they entertained me for an extended period of time.  One of the main aspects of a film that could make the difference between me enjoying it or not, is the like-ability of the main character.  If the director fails to create a connection between the audience and the character, then it is difficult for me to care about what happens to him/her.  A great example of a director failing at this is in "Into The Wild", the story of the college graduate who died in the Alaskan bush.  At no point in the movie did the character come across as like-able, and as such I found myself eagerly anticipating his demise.  At the opposite end of the spectrum is Forrest Gump, who is someone we all found like-able upon viewing that great film.  My guess is nobody reading this has anything in common with someone like Forrest, yet we all identified with him, and perhaps went so far as to perceive him not as a character being played by Tom Hanks, but as a real person all together.

Another trait I am looking for in a film, is does it include elements of multiple genres?  For example:  "Back To The Future", my favorite movie, has a little bit of everything in it:  romance, sci-fi, action, comedy, etc  How can you not like a movie that has all of that neatly wrapped into a great story told over 2 hours?  So with that in mind, lets take a look at some of the Netflix winners over the past few years:

Shutter Island:  It seems silly to call a collaboration between Leo and Martin Scorsese the "other movie" that Leonardo has done in the last two years, but when compared to "Inception" that is where this film stands in many people's eyes.  I however liked this movie much better than "Inception", for one because it shared so many similarities, yet was portrayed in a more believable context.  This movie was very dark and did a better job with the "is it real or isn't it" concept that it shared with "Inception"

The International:  This is crime/international political thriller co-starring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts.  I thought the plot was strong, and there were some pretty intense action scenes.  Overall I was thoroughly entertained by this movie.  I also like the ending, which without giving it away, wasn't a typical Hollywood ending.

Les Miserables:  Hard to believe this retelling of the Victor Hugo classic is now 13 years old.  I was unfamiliar with the details of this story upon first viewing the film.  I am sure this differs drastically from the novel as most movies must in order to convey the story in ~ 2 hours, but regardless I really liked this morality play set in 19th century France.  Liam Neeson is great in the lead role, and Geoffrey Rush (from "The King's Speech") is amazing as his arch nemesis Javert.  If you like a good period piece based on a classic novel, then this is the movie for you.

Julie & Julia:  I don't care if you laugh and call me names, I thought this was a delightful little chick flick.  Meryl Streep was really quite hilarious as Julia Child.  Again, one of those characters where I truly believed became separated from the actress herself.  I thought it was interesting learning about the history behind how Julia Child became famous, and I thought the other part of the movie, based on Julie's blog, was a nice story that is relevant to all of us who are busy but hoping to do so much more.  I really think guys and girls alike will enjoy this movie if they give it a chance.

These are just a few, but many other movies have really entertained me over the last few years, from "Up in the Air", to "Role Models', to "The Count of Monte Christo" and beyond.  What are some movies that you really like?  What films appeal to multiple genres, or have a strong character that you really root for during the movie?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Critically Acclaimed?

It has been nearly two years since I joined Netflix, and I must say it has evolved into the best $10 I spend each month.  Without a doubt Netflix hates me, because I am that customer who throws off their business model.  When I receive a disk I usually watch it that evening (clearly I have a busy social life) and then send it back the next day; in other words, Netflix loses a lot of money on me annually (sorry I'm not sorry).  One of the things I have always made an effort to do since becoming a member is to balance my que with new releases and critically acclaimed classics equally.  There are so many award winners and movies listed on the AFI's top film list that I have never seen, and I thought this membership was the perfect opportunity to view these titles. 

Having viewed numerous Oscar films and other classics, I have come away rather disappointed in most of these films that I viewed.  Don't get me wrong, a lot of Oscar winners are amazing and well deserving of the praise they receive, but a lot of the movies I have seen have been mediocre, and some have been down right bad.  I wonder if it is my generation; have film tastes changed so much that what was considered good in 1984 is so different today?  I don't think that is the case, because I love a lot of older films, in fact some of my favorite films are all from a different era.  I believe the real issue at hand is that film critics and academy voters are incredibly out of touch with what is truly good storytelling.  At the end of the day if the movie doesn't tell an interesting story, then it isn't a good movie.  Below is a sample list of the "acclaimed" films I watched:

The Last Emperor:  This 1987 period piece won 9 Oscars including Best Picture.  This movie tells the story of the last Chinese Emperor and  how his life was affected by the political climate of his day.  This movie was long and boring.  I appreciate the effort of trying to show audiences what things were like in this foreign culture during such a turbulent time, but I don't think ti should have won Best Picture because they tackled a difficult subject.  "Fatal Attraction", "Wall Street", and "The Untouchables" were all superior films and should have carried the day in my opinion.

Amadeus:  This 1984 biopic of the famous composer won 8 Oscars including Best Picture.  This movie was more entertaining than "The Last Emperor", but I still found it somewhat weird and erratic.  The performances were moving, but I definitely don't think it was better than some of the year's other releases:  "The Terminator", "Ghostbusters", "Star Trek III", or "Romancing The Stone".  But when I look at the other nominees for Best Picture, its success is much more evident; 1984 was a weak year.

The Searchers:  While not an award winner, this movie is listed 12th on The AFI's 100 Greatest Films List.  For those of you who don't know, this is a western staring John Wayne, and directed by the legendary director John Ford.  I happen to be a fan of westerns, but this movie straight up sucks.  It is too campy and the plot is terrible.  Wayne's movies are all a bit campy, but this takes the cake.  "Mclintock" and "The Alamo" are far superior John Wayne films, but for my money the best westerns were made by Clint Eastwood, such as "The Good The Bad & The Ugly" and "The Outlaw Josey Wales". 

Chinatown:  This 1974 film was nominated for 11 Oscars, and is widely considered one of the greatest noir films of all time.  I was excited to watch this when it arrived, as I like movies set in the 30's in LA ("LA Confidential", "The Black Dahlia", etc).  I liked this movie much better than the three I have listed above, but it was not the classic I was expecting.  For me it was the ending; I thought it ended rather abruptly and the loose ends were tied up too quickly.  Overall this was a good movie, but not a classic.

The English Patient:  This 1996 film won 9 Oscars. This might be one of the most boring movies of all time.  It took me three nights to watch it because I kept falling asleep during it.  I don't want to waste many words talking about this dreadful film, other than by saying that "Primal Fear", "Waiting For Guffman", and "Jerry Maguire" were all 1,000 times better than this bore.

I have watched many other "classics" over the last two years that have helped reiterate my critic-audience disconnect hypothesis.  "A Passage To India", "A Clockwork Orange", "The Year of Living Dangerously" and others all disappointed me in one way or another. 

What award winners/classics left you unimpressed upon first viewing?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Score For Sacroma and Beyond

I want to thank everyone yet again for the amazing generosity they have shown by donating to and participating in Score For Sarcoma.  I don't have the final figures yet, but I can say without question that we blew my expectations out of the water.  All of the credit goes to everyone who helped us with their kind donations.  What separates this fundraiser from others is that our proceeds aren't just going into a general research fund or being used to cover hospital overhead.  Our donation is going to directly help cancer patients that truly need the assistance, whether it is paying for Rx or assistance with bills due to income loss, these funds will help patients concentrate their efforts on getting well.

A number of people have asked me if I am going to continue blogging, and after much thought I have reluctantly decided to do so.  One reason for this is that my fight with cancer is definitely not over, as quarterly scans will remain a part of my life for sometime.  In between such scans I think I will try to keep the same tone that this blog has had from the beginning, though the topics might change.  I hope the content is entertaining and informational, and as always, I would love for you to comment, as I am hoping to have more discussion based posts going forward.

Thank you again for tuning in over the past seven months, and I hope you all continue to check in from time to time going forward!