Quick and Dirty SummerSlam 2013 Review

I am not one to review WWE PPV events or weekly shows. But SummerSlam 2013 was slightly different. The top of the card was populated with Brock Lesnar-CM Punk and John Cena-Daniel Bryan. Any self respecting wrestling author worth his salt would feel obligated to review a show with two amazing potential matches like that. Let me throw my hat in.

Brock Lesnar vs. CM Punk: What can I say that has not been said about this match? A good many fans flock to the recent Undertaker-Michaels series at WrestleMania’s 25 and 26. This match tucked them in and kissed them goodnight. Just an unbelievable hybrid of styles, moveset, and psychology. It is probably Brock’s best pro wrestling match ever, and Punk was at his best here. Make no bones about it, this was THE match of the WWE this year, and maybe the last five years. This, while not on par with Rock-Hogan WrestleMania X8, was very close in terms of sheer spectacle. If you have called yourself a wrestling fan for any period of time, you owe it to yourself to see this at least once. It stands out on its own, but live? Unreal. These two athletes demand attention and accolades, and earned it all here. A total ***** affair.

John Cena (WWE Champion) vs. Daniel Bryan (Challenger)
Now, where Brock-Punk was a total Battle of the Titans (or as Brell from No Holds Barred would say, Battle of the Tough Guys. Real imaginative writing from Vince and Terry) this was a styles clash. Daniel Bryan is undoubtedly the hottest performer WWE has seen in almost a decade. In ring, promos, charisma oozing out his pores. The man is MONEY. John Cena has long been the standard bearer, the face of the company. But Cena was wrestling injured here. His arm injury harkened back to legit sports moments like Dave Dravecky, the Giants pitcher who shook an arm tumor only to get back on the mound and quickly break his arm pitching in 1990. It was that gruesome. Anyway, Cena did the job here, and put his buddy (and potential Eiffel Tower teammate…only those two and the Bella diseases know for sure) over BIG TIME, clean as a sheet. It was an interesting match that saw Cena using his sheer power, while Bryan tried to simply outmaneuver and outwrestle the Wrestling he-man. It resulted in a damned fine, ****1/2 match. Now, Bryan got the clean win, but HHH finally turned heel and lead to Randy Orton likewise turning heel and winning the title by cashing in his money in the bank briefcase. A lot of longtime fans are maligning this turn of events, but, trust me, it is MONEY. D-Bry is chasing the new corporate face of WWE, Randy Orton, who is controlled by the McMahons. This storyline should lead nicely into the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania. As long as the payoff isn’t Bryan-HHH, but rather Bryan-Orton.

24: The Ten Best Antagonists

Well, at this juncture, I expect people to comprehend that, yes, I am a huge 24 fan. Jack Bauer was one of the decades best protagonists, in an era where there were very few. The aughts were a decade of the anti-hero…think Tony Soprano, The Rock, or Stone Cold Steve Austin. 24 was the one show that defied the decades “shades of gray” attitude. 24 featured clearly defined bad guys doing clearly defined heinous things. With that in mind, I will attempt to list the ten best “bad guys” in this history of the show. Now, more educated people will call them “antagonists” as I have, some, because of the nature of my writing (usually wrestling) will call them “heels”, which is wrestling/carny slang for bad guys. Its all semantics.

The unique nature of 24 is this: Each season features more than one bad guy, heel, antagonist. In fact, they generally feature a succession of bad guys, each more vile that the one before them, until you reach each season’s ultimate heel. That is one of the beauties of the program. So, without further ado, here are my top ten 24 villains of all time.

10. Noah Daniels, Season Six, Vice President of the United States.

Noah Daniels is the Vice President during Wayne Palmer’s administration on Day Six, and is portrayed by a fantastic actor in Powers Boothe. Now, Noah isn’t overtly evil or anything. He just is adamantly opposed to wishy-washy President Palmer’s policies in dealing with a Nuclear strike on the country and his handling of Muslims in the states. However, he is a main force in Palmer’s ousting from power due to a bomb that was set off during a peace negotiation with a former terrorist (Hamri al Assad), and conspires to keep Palmer in a coma so he can enact his own politics of fear to declare war on any country who may oppose the United States’ stances on certain things. Daniels, by the end of the season, is proven wrong, and is also proven to have started an affair with a secretary who is leaking secrets to the enemy. But fuck all that, the real reason he cracks the top ten is because he is POWERS BOOTHE. This man is an incredible actor, one of the better coups 24 had in character placement. Noah Daniels eventually comes over to the right side, and is not necessarily remembered for his counterproductive politics through Day Six. But he was still a damned fun character.

9. Abu Fayed, Terrorist, Day 6

Fayed was the main culprit behind the events of Day 6. He was in cahoots with Jack Bauer’s father and brother to set off a series of nuclear weapons housed in suitcases…Suitcase Nukes. Fayed may have had the best look of any of the antagonists in 24 history, as he looked, well, just plain EVIL. Fayed, Gredenko, and Jack’s own old man were the main villains of a somewhat forgettable season six.

8. (Tie) Peter Kingsley and Max, Businessmen, Day 2

Max. That is the only name given for one of the best heels in 24 history. Peter Kingsley is his surrogate, more or less. Kingsley is the man behind the Cyprus Recording and some of the attacks on America in Day 2. Kingsley doesn’t have much screen time, but his presence is felt throughout the final 4 hours of Season 2, possibly the best season 24 has to offer. He is certainly a main aspect of what I consider the best 24 Episode ever, the Day 2 finale at the LA Coloseum. He has to be mentioned. But once Kingsley is killed, his handler, Max, calls in a favor to have the President poisoned, and that is exactly what happens in the last waning seconds of Season 2, as Mandy (who may or may not be on this list) poisons the President.

7. Mandy (Seasons 1, 3, 4)

Mandy was a devious little bitch who had dipped herself into multiple terrorist activities. Day one, she sabotaged a plane to make off with some ID. Season Two she poisoned the President. Season 4 finally saw her comeuppance, as she was arrested and questioned. She demanded immunity for her leads to Habib Marwan, and received it. The character has not been heard from since.

6. Ramon Salazar, Season 3

Salazar was a Mexican drug lord Jack had put away at a serious price to himself: He became addicted to Heroin. Salazar only lasts half of Season 3, before murdering his own brother. Jack helped Salazar escape from prison in order to track the Cordelia Virus, but Ramon turned on Jack, to his own detriment. He was still quite the foul enemy. Amador was right there as well.

5. Graem/Phillip Bauer, Seasons 5 and 6

Jack Bauer’s own family takes the poll at number five. Graem stonewalled his brother when he was trying to find links to his father’s company and Gredenko in season six, as well as Fayed. Graem is eventually tortured by Jack and then murdered by his own dad Phillip, who killed in him such a way as to make Jack complicit in the murder. While Day Six of 24 has some wild plot swings, James Cromwell as Phillip Bauer is truly the epitome of evil.

4. Christopher Henderson, Season 5

Henderson was the man who trained Jack, who brought him into CTU. In season 5, he is a delusional ex agent that Jack more or less excommunicated from CTU after corruption charges. Nothing legal ever happened to Henderson, but he was jaded and hurt by the betrayal of Jack, even if he was justified. During Season Five, Henderson, for most of the series, is the main antagonist, the guy Jack keeps plugging away after. It is not until the final few episodes that you realize he is not the main bad guy, as it is someone much higher up in the hierarchy than this so called Patriot.

3. TIE: Stephen Saunders (Day 3) and Habib Marwan (Day 4)

This was too close to call. Saunders is absolutely my favorite villain ever on 24 for one reason: He had justification. He was an MI-6 operative with Jack in the mission to rid of Victor Drazen. Jack was the only operative, so he thought, to make it out of the mission alive. He was wrong. Saunders went through god knows what, and resurfaced as the epitome of evil, of revenge, of reciprocation. Saunders wielded the hand of god with the Codelia Virus, basically deigning its release whenever and wherever he wanted. What he wanted was revenge for being left behind by Jack, for being fucked over by the people he worked for and blindly respected. In short, he was fucked over, left for dead, dissed and forgotten, and he wanted his sweet sweet revenge. Saunders was easily the best written bad guy 24 has ever featured. He had means and motive, and that is the catalyst for an effective bad guy. That he was brought down by his love for his daughter only humanized the monster even more. Saunders remains my personal favorite 24 villain, and is the main reason why season 3 of 24 remains my favorite.

Marwan is a different story. This dude just blindly hates America, and wants the country to pay, and pay dearly. He is well educated, well informed, well trained. Whereas many 24 seasons have 2 or 3 or 4 bad guys, Season 4 sees Marwan as the force behind everything. From bombings to the Araz family struggle to shooting down Air Force One. Marwan is the force behind everything, and the fact that it came off as plausible is a credit to the writers of the program. Marwan and Saunders are DAMNED CLOSE to number one on my villain list, but there are two more people who are better than these chaps. And if you are a fan or viewer of the show, you already know who they are.

2. Nina Meyers, Seasons 1,2,3

Nina. Lovely ass Nina. Nina was Jack’s main confidant through Day One, and ended up as one of the most evil charlatans television has ever seen. She parlayed her affair with a separated from Teri Jack into an unfound trust that warped Jack for the rest of the series. Nina, in season one, was Jack’s go to, his main ally, and, by the end of the season, had proven to be not only a traitor, not only a Russian spy for Victor Drazen, but also killed innocent Teri Bauer. Many wrestling fans point to Bash at the Beach 1996, where Hulk Hogan turned on the fans as the ultimate heel turn in wrestling. Well, as fat as TV series go, you would be hard pressed to find a better heel turn than Nina on Jack in the final episodes of Day one of 24. Add into the fact that she remained deliciously heel through seasons 2 and three before meeting her untimely demise at the hands of Jack…well. Anyone who has never watched 24 needs to watch the first three seasons just for Nina Meyers. Some say Jack is the main character, and that is, to a point, true. But he would not be near the badass he is without Nina. One of the best heels television has ever known.

1. Charles Logan, Seasons 5,6,8

I am sure to get some grief here. Nina was pure evil, no doubts about it. But when it comes to ultimate, ULTIMATE, evil, Charles Logan is the greatest heel 24 has ever seen. He is THE heel of Season 5, and is remarkable. He is there in Season 6 and makes you think…well, maybe he isn’t THAT bad. Then season 8 hits. And the writers realized, “Logan is a totally unsympathetic character…fuck it, lets go full heel.”And they DID. Listen, if you are a sports fan, the LeBron decision was a heel turn. A-Rod shunning the Red Sox…heel turn. A-Rod doing what he is now to the Yankees…heel turn. Charles Logan is the greatest antagonist 24 has ever seen.

The Return of 24: Ranking the Days, Turmoils, and Triumphs of Jack Bauer

I generally like to keep to sports and sports entertainment on his blog, but the fact is this: I am a huge fan of the old Fox Series 24. It chronicles the perpetual fight of CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit) Los Angeles against the forces of evil. Now, admittedly, the show can get a little ridiculous in its plotlines and the world of terror it seems to exist in. It as if 9/11 wasn’t an isolated incident, but the type of incident that seemingly occurs every day for the erstwhile crew of CTU. 24 has always had a diversity of antagonists, but one main protagonist: Jack Bauer, played by Kiefer Sutherland. Over a period of eight lurid days, Jack has endured, and dished out, every manner of torture and punishment under the sun. He has killed many, has been legally dead (and resuscitated) and has generally been through more shit than a 75 year old plumber. Jack Bauer, and the series itself, are very much in the vain of old school Chuck Norris, Steven Segal and Charles Bronson movies, but made to fit within the timeline of more current events. Some people cried foul on 24 for taking advantage of the very real anti-terror sentiments of this post 9/11 era…yet do not realize that the first season of 24 was recorded prior to that heinous attack. The fact is, a generation of American’s identified with the show, and, more specifically, Jack Bauer, who is perpetually reliving the worst day of his life over and over and OVER again simply because he is just so damned devoted to his country.

This list is an attempt by a longtime 24 fan to rank the seasons, or Days in this case, fairly. I am ranking them in relation to each of their relative merits. For instance, Day 1 may be a landmark season for many, but after viewing ALL of the Days, it is not as good as some would think. This is a list, the lowest form of internet writing, I admit to that. But as a 24 fanatic, I had to do it. And, trust me, I have done my due diligence. I started watching the show, live, beginning with the Day 2 Season Finale, and dutifully watched Days 3 through 7. For reasons that will be explained shortly, I ceased watching midway through Day 7. I am in the process of watching Day 8 currently. Day 8 and 24: Redemption, will not be included in this ranking. I saw 24: Redemption when it aired live, but am hard pressed to remember all the details, as I only saw it once. Season 8 I am just watching, and need time to digest it all. Every other season I have seen multiple times, thanks to the good folks at the Audience Network (DirecTV bitches). They have been replaying each Day, in four hour blocks, with very limited commercial interruption, since January, and that channel has just debuted Day 6. The down end of DirecTV is that a bad rainstorm will wipe out your satellite feed, so a friend of mine was nice enough to give me a stream of the seasons, and, suffice to say, I have been on a mission watching them ever since. Enough already, lets get to the fucking list!

7. Day 7. Easily the worst Day 24 has ever produced. It details the issues President Allison Taylor and the FBI are having with the rogue element of the nation of Sangala. Anyone who has ever viewed 24 knows that this season was just…wrong. Everything was off. First, CTU, the whole organization the series bases itself upon, has been decommissioned by an ambitious Senator who despises the idea of torture. Even if it means saving innocent lives. Add into it the worst President the series has ever seen and a horribly convoluted plot that makes Tony Almeida the main bad guy, and you have this stinker of a season. I have nothing positive to sat for Day 7…it was that bad. Hopefully, I have not turned you off for the rest of this list, as the show really was quite good before this shit sandwich.

6. Day 6. Season 6 was actually quite good, as was the series before Day 7′s shit sandwich. Jack is released from captivity in China by newly elected President Wayne Palmer, simply to be used as sacrifice to a newly empowered Arab Terrorist named Abu Fayed. In the course of the season, which involves Fayed (a very good bad guy, might I add) detonating a series of nuclear devices armed in briefcases (Suitcase Nukes from here on in), Jack finds out that his estranged brother and father (portrayed by James Cromwell) were the people truly driving the plot, along with his Chinese Captor and antagonist Cheng Xi. The problem I had with this season was Wayne Palmer being President, but deft writing pushed Wayne from a character who was perpetually waffling on issues into an adept, shrewd, well written character who unfortunately succumbed to injuries sustained during a White House press conference. It was a fun season, and truly the last season 24 was really a viable show. Personally, I was turned off once recently reinstated Jack Bauer had to kill long time show institution Curtis Manning when I first watched the Day, but time has allowed this Day to age like a fine wine. Seek it out, it is worth it.

5. Day 1. Yes, the initial season of the show ranks this low. But no mistake, it is still a damn fine season. It is just that it was eclipsed by the run of awesomeness 24 was about to embark on. In this season, there was no President to deal with, only aspiring candidate Senator David Palmer, who is basically the vehicle the whole season passes through. Jack Bauer is the head of CTU at the time, before he was humped into submission by various bureaucratic butt heads. It more or less deals with CTU LA handling a threat on the life of Senator Palmer, while Jack has to deal with his daughter running away from home, straight into the hands of nefarious terrorists who want to use her as positioning against the United States Government. Dennis Hopper, playing evil Ruskie Victor Drazen, is the main antagonist throughout most of the season. Tony Almeida and Nina Myers are Jack’s main support at CTU on Day 1. However, it is Nina Myers treacherous betrayal of Jack, Tony, CTU, the Government, and the infrastructure of the United States that really puts the last few episodes into overdrive. Anyone who has watched 24 and does not understand why Nina Myers was so despised by many through the first three seasons needs to watch Day 1.

4. Day 4. Day four presented 24 with its most vile villain: Habib Marwan. Most seasons of 24 follow a logical progression of villains, but Day four had one, and this dude was hard wired. He masterminded the plot to kidnap Secretary of Defense James Heller and his daughter, Audrey Raines. He shot down Air Force One. He apprehended the Nuclear Football. Marwan was probably the best villian 24 ever produced, as he was involved in every attack from minute one to Day 24. Hard to beat that.

3. Day 2: Most 24 fans list Day 2 as the best, and this writer would be hardpressed not to agree. Season Two contains my two favorite 24 Episodes: The one where Jack is declared clinically dead, and the finale at the LA Coliseum. Both are must watch episodes, and the finale is the hook, line, and sinker that entrapped me into the show. Sherry Palmer is ridiculously fucking devious. Peter Kingsley is a very cool bad guy. In short, Day 2 is must watch television.

2. Day 3. Most fans are not big fans of Season 3, but hear me out. Season three, day 3, was the first season I watched live every week. I watched it again on the Audience Network, and it still holds up. Stephen Saunders is still one of the best villains the series has created. The tension between Tony and Michelle, married by this point, is palpable. The Salazars are mere midpoints to the plot of the series, but damned good ones. Jack is addicted to smack. Chase, Jack’s doppleganger, is legt irrevocably maimed by the end of the Day. GET ALL THIS.

1. Day 5. The Queen Mother of the series. Until recently, I was all about naming season 2 or 3 as the tops, the best 24 had to offer. But the fact is Season 5 is the best, and for one reason: President Charles Logan. He, to use a wrestling parlance, is the ultimate heel. In pro wrestling, heel means bad guy. Charles Logan was the worst of the worst that 24 has ever seen. He had babyface (good guy in rasslin parlance) David Palmer killed. He backed the nefarious acts of Christopher Henderson. He threatened his own wife with with a Psych institution. He had his chief Secret Service Head Aaron Pierce tortures. My word, man. Charles Logan is the greatest bad guy 24 has ever seen, and Season 5 of the show remains its pinnacle.

Alex Rodriguez: The Scourge of Sports

The year 2013 has not been a kind one to the sports Gods. LeBron won his second NBA title. Aaron Hernandez submitted a new college criminology text on how NOT to commit murder. Riley Cooper, Hernandez’ college teammate, was caught using a very insensitive racial slur on camera at a concert where I am sure thousands more were using it in an even more incendiary fashion. But let us face facts here, people. As fresh as those wounds may still be, it is always the freshest one that seems, as superficial as it may be, to cut the deepest. And no wound is fresher than the biogenesis suspensions handed down by the honchos running Major League Baseball, particularly the 211 game ban handed to one Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez.

So what is one to make of this unprecedented step that Major League Baseball, and, more specifically, Bud Selig, has issued. On one hand, Alex Rodriguez has never failed an official MLB drug test under their current PED guideline. The poster children for that are Manny Ramirez, Rafael Palmeiro, and the inexplicably exonerated (until recently) Ryan Braun. Even David Ortiz has failed a drug test, but that was in 2003, and he has been proven clean since (allegedly…color me skeptical on that one. But I digress). Rodriguez has never flunked even one, but allegations have hung over his orange tinged head ever since the winter months of 2009, when Selena Roberts of Sports Illustrated unleashed a bombshell: She had ways, means and sources linking Rodriguez to PED use. Roberts was not the first to hold these allegations; Jose Canseco had said in the past that he knew for a fact A-Rod was a roid user. Its amazing to sit here in 2013 and credit Jose Canseco as probably the most credible figure in the history of baseball and steroid abuse. Almost every Canseco allegation has proven to be true, and if any two people in this world should have felt completely exonerated yesterday, Selena Roberts and Jose Canseco would top the list.

Now, some may see the title of this little rant and say “Gee, we know he is a degenerate lying cheater, but the SCOURGE of sports? That is a little excessive, isn’t it?” To that, I simply say you don’t know all the facts. For the time being, let us stick with baseball, Rodriguez’ lifetime passion, the game he is associated with.

Baseball has seen its share of dubious characters through the years. Ty Cobb was a documented hot head and racist who played with such a fierce, defiant streak that it often led him to spike opposing players, strike opposing fans, and rub people so wrong that, later in life, even when some called him the greatest ball player to ever play, he was completely shunned by his peers. Pete Rose is heralded for his hard nosed play, as embodied by his nickname, Charlie Hustle. He lived hard and played hard. When his playing days were coming to an end and he was named manager of the Reds, managing simply did not fill the rush playing did. So he violated the cardinal rule of baseball: he bet on  his own team. Granted, he picked them to win, but, as any baseball fan or player knows, in every clubhouse throughout the game, there is a list of transgressions never to be violated, and betting on the game is numero uno. It all harkens back to the late 1800′s and early 1900s, when betting almost ruined the game. This problem was not just the 1919 Black Sox…that was just the culmination of it. Hal Chase was the Captain of the early 1900′s Yankees, a great first baseman who was also one of the games most corrupt players. He would intentionally tank infielders throws to him at first in an attempt to shave points on the game for his financial gain. The 1914 Batting Title was shrouded in mystery amidst an alleged friendly bet between the teams for the two combatants: Detroit’s Cobb and Cleveland’s Nap Lajoie. Trust me, all this stuff is just the tip of the iceberg, and if you want to know more, I can turn you on to some excellent books to read. But suffice to say, gambling was a widespread vice in baseball (especially with penny pinching owners paying players a pittance). The Black Sox scandal should be remembered as baseball finally clamping down on the problem, even if it did sacrifice some good players who were not necessarily guilty, but tainted.

Back to Rose, he eschewed the advice staring him in his face everyday for 25 seasons, and bet. He was caught. And he picked the worst possible strategy for him: He denied everything. On top of that, after Rose was barred from the game by the late Bart Giammati, he was not above pimping himself in any way shape or form simply to make a few bucks to feed his insatiable need to gamble. The man showed no tact. He was rude, crude, defiant, and unapologetic…until 2003. And even then, when he came clean on national television and admitted that, yes, he had bet on the game, it was only to schlock his new autobiography. Always classy to the end. And at the end, ten years later, the book that Rose thought would lead him back into the loving embrace of MLB (and, more specifically the Hall of Fame), the absolution he sought, the forgiveness…has eluded Rose, because he provided a textbook example of how NOT to deal with a crisis or scandal, how not to look for forgiveness. And its a shame, because the All Time Hit King still remains an outsider, and it does not look like that is going to change any time soon.

Alex Rodriguez apparently has never heard of Pete Rose.

Let us add another figure to this jambalaya of deceit: Barry Bonds. Bonds is a different swine of sorts. Barry has ALWAYS been an asshole first and a once in a generation baseball talent second. At least Barry was up front about it. When he was a Pirate, he quarreled with fans, quarreled with teammates, quarreled with Jim Leyland, Bobby Bonilla, Andy Van Slyke, every member of the Pittsburgh media…at least he was up front about it. By the time Spring Training 1990 hit, we knew two things about Barry Bonds: 1. He was an AMAZING ballplayer, and 2. He was an AMAZING asshat. Bonds never kowtowed to what the Media wanted him to be, and I respect him for that, to a degree. He spurned my Yankees in the 1993 offseason in order to play for his father and godfather’s home club, the Giants (nevermind that Bobby Bonds played for the Yankees or that Mays spent his glory years in New York…not bitter). Bonds proceeded to, in parks NOT conducive to hitting, put up ungodly stat lines. Sure, guys like McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, Griffey  and Thomas (the latter two never linked to PED’s, might I add) were providing sexier box score numbers. Bonds was busy hitting around .300 with 30 homers, 30 steals, an ungodly OBP, tons of doubles, and great left field defense. In short, Bonds, even before the PED’s, was a Hall of Fame talent. And, according to “Game of Shadows”, he stayed clean until he saw what Sosa and McGwire, two players with lesser talents than he possessed, were usurping all the headlines. While they were busy chasing Maris (and the accolades, and the MVP votes), Bonds was putting up a .303/.438/.609 slash line with 37 HR and 28 stolen bases. Folks, that is an ALL TIME season there, and it was overshadowed by Sosa and McGwire making Maris’ 61 home run mark their bitch for the better part of September. Most fans will remember 1998 for that fact. I remember 1998 for a different reason, for as a Yankee fan, I was enamored with that teams sheer dominance over the rest of the American league, and, moreover, all of baseball. For the record, in that day of inflated baseball stats, Tino Martinez led arguably the greatest team baseball has ever seen with 28 home runs.

Bonds at this point was furious at the lack of media attention, or, should I say, recognition (and honestly, as time passes, I agree) that his stellar 1998 received. So he showed up at Spring Training 1999 with an added 35 pounds of muscle and an added ten pounds of bowling ball head. And none of us batted an eye. STEROID ERA BABY! Everyone was, from fans to media, complicit in the obvious muscular and frame change of the game. No one uttered a word. It was FUN! Bonds, and I can’t blame the man, especially knowing his personality (or lack there of) must have been RIGHTEOUSLY pissed. Thus began Bonds assault on all power and hitting records available. And, even though it is well established that Bonds was a cheater…was he really? That age was littered with steroid cheaters. Bonds may be chief among them, but does he really belong there? He took his natural gifts, added some muscle mass (and head mass) and became, quite literally, the best ballplayer, well, the best pure hitter since Ruth or Teddy Ballgame. His at bats, which often pre empted baseball coverage on ESPN, were events. Either dude was getting walked, intentionally or “non intentionally” , and if he got one pitch a game, one good one, in 2001? It was going out of the fucking yard. This was Bo Jackson Tecmo Bowl as a flesh and blood Major League Baseball player. It was astounding. It was unbelievable. Many will point to Bonds never winning a title…but did you SEE that 2002 World Series? The game six homer that Bonds hit in Anaheim just hit me in my scrotum today sitting in Massachusetts. The Hubbell Telescope did not have that height or trajectory. Look at Bonds 2004 stats. This was an example of a guy who was just a generational talent enhancing his already formidable abilities, taking them up a notch than Emeril Lagasse would be envious of.

This of course brings us back to the Scourge, A-Rod. Anyone who has read Selena Roberts salacious book must take these facts into account. Whereas Bonds was just a natural, Roberts accused A-Rod of doping since High School, even JR. High School. One of his role models as a kid was Jose Canseco. I could end an article on A-Rod on that little tid bit. But it goes much further. The most basic evidence proves to the world that A-Rod has been doping, more or less, since High School. A-Rod is five years older than I, and I can tell you, from the time I was 12 or 13, which would be 92-93, steroids were there. A friend of mine, same age, started cycling in 1993 or so. And he got HUGE, not big, HUGE, and stronger than a 1950′s Impala. Seeing as I was exposed to that at such a young age, in a town renown for its football program, Brockton Massachusetts, it is hard for me not to think that this pandemic was limited just to the streets. It was in weight rooms, it was present at High School Football and Baseball practices. It was prevalent. A-Rod was a product of the same times I was, so for him to be using PED’s as early as High School is not as far fetched as one may think.

A-Rod was drafted #1 overall by Seattle in 1993, and the scouts who were observing him were beyond drooling. Baseball scouts use a scale of 20 (poorest)-80, and Alex scored 80′s across the board. He was the evolutionary Ripken…better range, better hands, better arm, better average, better power. Alex did not disappoint. Look at his 1996 age 20 season: .358/.414/.631 with 36 homers, 54 doubles, 15 steals, 123 RBI, 379 total bases. It is an ALL TIME season. A-Rod, doped up or not, had just submitted the greatest age 20 season ever.

A-Rod continued his Mariner’s career hitting much like his first. He became a free agent in the 2000 offseason. Now, most of us were not yet clued in to PED’s at this point, so A-Rod’s age and stats, his pretty stats, made him the biggest (and likely to remain the biggest) Free Agent in baseball history. Rodriguez received some solid offers, but it was dumbass Tom Hicks (dumb ass Ashy Tommy) who absolutely broke all banners of sanity in baseball’s free agent period: 10 years, 252 million dollars. To anyone wondering why 252, well, Kevin Garnett had previously signed a 10 year 126 million dollar contract with the Minnesota Timerbwolves, and A-Rod’s agent, the nefarious Scott Boras, wanted twice the amount. And dumb ass ashy Tom Hicks agreed to it. A-Rod was a Texas Ranger, and Hicks immediately regretted the decision.

A-Rod was unbelievable as a Ranger. Unbelieveable in two ways: Unbelievable in his on field production, and unbelievable in a later confession. But this was the height of a now derided era, and there is no argument now that A-Rod was the standard bearer (besides Bonds) of the era. His numbers as a Ranger were mind blowing: .300 Avg, 50 homers and 120 or more RBI’s a year. That was the era he performed in.

Here is where it becomes cloudy. A-Rod, after flirting heavily with the Red Sox, suddenly becomes a Yankee. All because Aaron Fucking Boone decides to play a pick up game of b-ball. He crushed his ACL. Now, listen, the Yankees SIGNED a stopgap…Mike Lamb, who for the next five years proved to be a reliable player. But this was still the height of Steinbrenner Doctrine. Cashman wanted Vlad Guerrero and a decent third baseman. George was a little more pragmatic. He wanted A-Rod. At third. Along with Jeter at Short. Here began the downfall of the Yankee Dynasty. Do I need to start about A-Rod’s defensive issues in adapting to third base? (not that hard, might I add). A-Rod’s continued failure in the clutch, especially in the glare of the New York Media? A-Rod has done nothing to help  his image with Kate Hudson and fucking MADONNA. People will harp “What about Jeter?” What about him? He keeps his sexual conquests on the DL. A-Rod makes his front page news. A-Rod does not perform in the playoffs as a Yankee, while he enjoys MVP season after MVP season. How many MVP’s has Jeter won? He realizes that the gravy in New York is poured when you win. When you perform in the big games. Take 2009 away, and A-Rod has come up smaller than Billy Barty. He is so focused on his own legacy that he forgets that this is a TEAM GAME. And, to most Yankee fans, he is the antithesis of what the mid to late 90′s-early 2000′s teams met. Brosius, O’Neill, Jeter, Bernie, those guys are guys who are all about team. A-Rod is ME first, and it has been that way since he first donned the pinstripes. A-Rod only cares about his lovely statistics, and they are phenomenal, let me say. But ONE World Series title in the Pinstripes is unacceptable. This is a team that has won 27 World Championships. And we will put it this way; I, as a longtime fan, cannot name a Yankee with one World Title besides this group.

 

The basic gist of this column is this: While many players have seen less service time on the field that A-Rod, no one player has brought more shame. He is a sham, a loser, a stats obsessed asswipe who cares not for his team, but for his own legacy. That is all this stiff Rodriguez cares for. He is the antithesis of the mid to late 90′s-2000′s Yankees. Those teams wanted one thing and one thing only: The World Series Championship, and the bonus money that followed. Alex Rodriguez sought individual glory, and it has cemented the downfall of a once great franchise.

 

 

Red Sox Retired Uniform Numbers

So Wade Boggs has been clamoring for the Red Sox to retire his number 26, and justifiably so. Boggs was THE Red Sox of the 80′s. With five batting titles credited to his name, national recognition as one of the best pure hitters in baseball’s long and illustrious history, and innummerable dents on the Green Monster as his plaudits, Boggs influenced a generation of young baseball fans to pick up their bats and balls and start playing our nation’s pastime. I should know. I was one of them. Yes, dear reader, even as a card carrying member of the “Yankees Universe” (I hate that fucking term from the Yankees….”Let’s see, what is greater than Red Sox Nation? Oh, a UNIVERSE. Woof.), Boggs was one of my favorite players as a child. He and Don Mattingly. I used to imitate the swings of those two greats, tried to imitate everything about them. My mother knew this. My parents bought me this book “authored” by Boggs outlining his hitting techniques, but fuck that, that was not the big item a young 9 year old would necessarily glean from that book. At least not this 9 year old. No, what the book included was Boggs’ bizarre pregame rituals. Among them was that before each game, Boggs would eat some Chicken with Lemon. The recipe was included in the book, and my mother, God bless her soul, would cook that recipe for me before every little league game I played.

All childhood anecdotes aside, the bigger question I have for you, brethren, is this: Who should have their uniform numbers retired by the Red Sox? It seems odd to me, especially as a Yankee fan, that with the long, rich, and textured history the former Red Stockings have that only seven Sox players have their numbers retired by the club. (I know Jackie Robinson’s 42 is up there, but he only had a tryout with the club. That is another story for another day. Maybe tomorrow.) Joe Cronin, Bobby Doerr, Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Carlton Fisk, all worthy members. Some more or less than others. However, there are some numbers that should be honored at Fenway that haven’t, and these numbers just go to show how hypocritical and backwards the organization has been from time to time. The criteria, according to the Red Sox website, for having your number retired is that you played ten seasons and ended your career with the Sox. Already, that criteria is fucked: Carlton Fisk didn’t end his career with the Sox. Neither did Bobby Doerr. It just goes to show what a farce this whole process is. With all this in mind, lets get to the guys whose numbers should be honored with the rest of the Sox all time greats.

Quick aside: Pedro Martinez #45. Pedro didn’t last ten years with the Sox, and certainly didn’t end his career there. But do you think for a minute that 45 isn’t going to be retired, and SOON? Yeah, neither did I.

Dwight Evans, #24: Dewey played over 20 seasons for the Sox, and was the heart and soul of the team throughout the eighties. He also happened to be one of the best defensive right fielders EVER, with a GREAT, accurate throwing arm. You did not run on Dwight Evans. The knock on him early in his career was,well, he couldn’t hit for shit. That changed in the early 80′s. It could be argued that Dewey was the best Right Fielder of that decade, something that I argue all the time. I personally think Dwight Evans warrants inclusion into the BASEBALL Hall of Fame, not just to have his number retired by the Sox. I hated that a guy like Manny Ramirez, a steroid hack with no respect for the game, will probably be remembered more for wearing that number, but no one rocked it with style and grace quite like Dwight Evans. Retire the number.

JImmie Foxx, #3: JImmie Foxx played 7 years for the Sox, so I guess he doesn’t meet the criteria. Did I mention during those seven seasons he put up a .320/.429/.605 line, averaging 32HR and 113 RBI’s a season? That Foxx was known as the right handed Babe Ruth, and formed with Ted Williams perhaps the greatest 3-4 lineup combo in the history of the game? But, shit, why would the Sox retire THAT guy’s number?

Wade Boggs #26: I know a lot of Sox fans are still bitter about Wade hitting .257 and then defecting to the Yankees following the 1992 season. GET. OVER. IT. Wade would have gladly remained a Red Sox if management wasn’t pushing him out of town. Same with Roger Clemens. Fact is, at the time those two were let go of, the ownership was beyond diseased and decayed, and fans were almost as diseased and decayed after years upon years of near misses and general malaise. The Red Sox trotted out Bill Buckner on opening day in 2008 and Sox fans seemingly forgave him. What did he do for the Sox? Sure, he had a few good years, but compared to Boggs? In 11 seasons with the Sox, Boggs compiled a .338 (!) batting average with almost 2100 hits. Some labeled him moody and odd and only motivated by his statistics. Hogwash. Ever seen the footage of Boggs following Game 7 of the 1986 World Series? Guy was bawling his eyes out. The fact of the matter is this: Did Boggs care about his individual stats? Yes. And why not? If you are a .340 hitter over a long haul, you are getting paid, even without a ring. If you are a .249 hitter with eight rings? Guess what, you are not getting paid nearly as much as that first guy hitting .340. In fact, that .249 hitter will labor just to get a minimum wage deal every spring. Wade Boggs, for all his foibles, should have his number retired by the Sox.

Tony Conigliaro, #25: Tony C. is one of those tragedy figures who gets his number retired by any other team, especially his hometown team. Not this hometown team. You want my full thoughts on this one? Here is the full article, which I regard as the best piece of writing I have ever done, written about six months ago: http://marianosaves.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/a-ballad-for-tony-c/

Full Book Review: Booker T: From Prison to Promise: Life Before the Squared Circle

BookerT

There is no appeasing some people. Generally, the reactions and comments for my book reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. However, one negative one stuck in my craw the other night, one in which the commenter asked why I was reviewing a seven year old book, Sigh, Gotta love them trolls. Plus, it gave me some valuable ammunition. I was starting to get a little weary of these reviews, the process of reading and digesting the contents of the book and then trying to put forth a (sort of) objective appraisal of it. Some of these books are truly awful, with little to no redeeming qualities to them. Trust me, you will be reading about some of the bad ones soon, if my library queue is correct. But, occasionally, you come across one that you are expecting absolute bubkiss from, one that seems to be one of those no redeeming value books. Then you read it, and are absolutely refreshed. Booker T. Huffman’s book is one of those rare gems.

I picked up this book about a month ago. Let me rephrase that…I acquired it through my local library about a month ago. The title I read was “From Prison to Promise,” so I was expecting a book heavy on not only Booker’s backstory, but his wrestling career. Then I physically had the book in my hands after a two week waiting period. One of the first things I do when acquiring a book is to see how many pages there are. This one clocked in at 211. Huh. That seemed kind of short for a man who has enjoyed a long, wildly successful career. Then I turned back to the cover, where the truth was revealed in the title itself: “From Prison to Promise: Life BEFORE the Squared Circle.” I was none too enthused when I saw this. I thought I had read every conceivable wrestler’s life story before they entered the ring, and it always was a couple of pages or paragraphs that revealed, simultaneously, everything and nothing. Rare exceptions were there, like Jericho’s first book or Foley’s first book. I was not optimistic about ole’ Booker’s chances. Boy, was I wrong.

Booker Huffman may have the most unique backstory for a wrestler who has had a modicum of success. While this book is light on the wrestling, it is heavy, HEAVY into telling the story of a man who should not even be living, never mind succeeding. The man should have been a street statistic, not a HHH WrestleMania statistic. (Sorry, had to go there)

Booker was born in 1965 in Louisiana to a stable two parent house. That lasted ten months, as the elder Booker Huffman dropped dead at age 59. Off and running, are we not? Booker’s mother, desperate for work to support eight children, decided to relocate the family to Houston Texas in hopes of finding gainful employment. They settled into a small house in the South Park (no, not that one) area of town. Booker was never a stellar student in schools, being that as he grew older, he had no positive male role model. His mother dated, but almost all of her suitors ended up as wackjobs or losers.

At a young age, Booker became attached to his older brother Lane Huffman, who you may be familiar with. Think Slap Jack, sucka. Anyway, looking for any older male role model he could find, Booker adored his older brother and tried to tag alone with him and the older friends, much to their consternation. It all ended up in a situation where Lane and his friends captured a stray cat in a plastic bag, then tossed the cat off an overpass on to a freeway, where it was promptly run over by an 18 wheeler. Dark stuff, no? It only gets darker.

Booker and his family were living, to a degree, in peace and harmony with mom dukes providing all the support a young King Booker needed. Then, shortly after he turned 13, his mother had a freak fall from the family attic. She recovered initially, but began having nagging symptoms from the fall, including numbing of the leg. Turns out she had remaining fluid in her spine, and needed a quick fix surgery to remedy it. Now, I have long made a joke about surgeries, especially pertaining to sports. You always see on, for instance, ESPN’s bottom line that so and so had undergone successful surgery. When do you ever see UN successful surgery? Well, here is such a case. Booker’s mom’s surgery went about as unsuccessful as a procedure could, as she lapsed into a coma and died shortly there after.

This is where the book just starts to warm up. Booker and his young sister were the only two siblings who still needed raising. Everyone else was over 18 and doing their own thing. An Aunt in Louisiana wanted to help raze Booker and his sister, but Booker’s siblings disagreed, wanting to keep the family united, and they held custody. What resulted was Booker and his sister not going to a loving, nurturing home. Anything but. Instead of his siblings giving a damn, they quickly gave up on the two. Booker and his sister lived in the abandoned house where his mother had, more or less, met her untimely death, without any support from anyone. It is truly harrowing stuff to read. No child should be forced to undertake what Booker and his young sister had to endure. Eventually, some stuff got remedied (for lack of a more fluid way of putting it) and Booker and his sister found better places to live. It is still just an unbelievable reading experience as the facts are presented, and that alone makes the book well worth its salt.

While Booker’s young sister continued her education in High School, Booker became jaded. It did not help that the two older sister’s he stayed with were nothing but hustlers, prostitutes and lived with drug dealers and pimps. It was a true street education, and Booker was experiencing Trial by Fire. It should come as no surprise that young Booker T. Huffman soon began running the streets.

Booker was not exactly a “Street God” by any stretch of the imagination. He was a small time weed dealer, big time pot smoker. He never pimped, although he was exposed to that cultural sub genre through his sister’s “boyfriends.” He dropped out of high school after a series of fracases with other students. In short, Booker T was well on his way to being just another street statistic.

And then the madness truly ensued.

Booker, in his heart, is not a malignant man. He had always had a good moral compass. Unfortunately, even the best of moral compasses can become skewed. In young Booker’s case, it came with damning consequences. Booker was working at a local Wendy’s to earn some pocket cash. His essential indifference with the job eventually found him fired after missing a day of work to smoke pot. Booker started hanging with a shady selection of people, and this group conspired to rob his old Wendy’s one night. The plan was a success in practice, and this group went around terrorizing local Houston Wendy’s, as they robbed nearly a dozen. However, with a $5,000 dollar reward for their arrests, a girlfriend of one of Booker’s cohorts turned them in to the local authorities, and Booker found himself behind bars.

Prison was probably the best thing that could have happened to young Booker T. Huffman.

Booker was a pretty big guy at this point, 6’2″, 195 pounds. He sashayed his way through his first few months of a five year bid. He worked laundry. Eventually, that routine became tired, so he decided to get his GED and also compete with the weightlifting team. Booker took to it like a duck to water, anchoring the prison lifting team. He had no big problems in prison, due to his imposing size and demeanor. His descriptions of prison life are colorful and candid, especially to those of us who have experienced the nightmare, and, again, those descriptions alone make the book totally worthwhile.

Booker also relates his indiscretions with women, including siring a child with a woman he had no plans to settle down with or marry. Unfortunately, that woman succumbed to the pressures of the street and the drugs they supply lost souls. While locked up, Booker was informed that his son was about to go through child protective services, as the mother had given up. Book makes no qualms about being a vacant father once his child was born, but prison changed the man. He did not want his son to experience the absentee parenting that had led him down the road that led Booker to Pack 2 (Prison.). Armed with newly found strength, forged from iron and mind, Booker was released on parole after 19 months, and made it a point to walk the straight and narrow. He initially was staying with his sister and her Rastafarian weed dealing boyfriend. Booker wanted out of the street game, but he had a son he desperately wanted to raise. He stole some weed from the Rastafarian, made as much lucre as he could on the streets, and deposited it into a bank account so the people at Child Protective Services could see the man was on steady ground to support is son. Shady? Yes. Admirable? Fuckin A right. Booker soon gained custody of his son, Brandon, and was also dutifully employed in multiple jobs, most notably as a security guard and a storage facility clerk. Both jobs were made possible by his older brother, Lash.

Lash ended up being the man most influential for 25 year old Booker T Huffman. There is actually a quick, funny aside in the book. Booker was doing EVERYTHING in his power to lead a clean life, and brother Lash was helping. However, Lash and his friend, Tony “Ahmed Johnson” Norris were also kind of bounty hunters hired out by the Houston cops. I won’t relay it here, but the whole scenario almost landed poor Booker back in prison.

Then, one day, Lash came to Booker and said “Let’s be rasslers!” They had both watched the mat wars growing up, and both certainly had a look. Funds were raised and they ended up training with “Polish Power” Ivan Putski, a former WWWF legend. Only problem was, Putski was a shit trainer. He facilitated a great training …um…facility, but was totally hands off. Scott Casey basically ran the camp. Booker and Stevie survived the camp, and were soon wrestling on the Houston independent scene. Putski is portrayed as a total cum dumpster here, just a wicked asshole. His promotion folded, and Booker and the newly christened Stevie Ray were on their own. They quickly landed with Joe Pedecino’s Global Wrestling, and were made into a tag team: The Ebony Experience. Friends, this was when I was totally wrestling mad, and still a total mark. But on the GWF shows on ESPN, I used to remark that the Ebony Experience was the future of pro wrestling. I was half right. The book ends (see what I did there?) with Lash getting a call from Sid Vicious. Sid was trying to make an impact with the WCW brass, and wanted to hire Lash and Booker. Imagine that. Sid Vicious: Booking genius. Sid got the soon to be named Harlem Heat the job, and then…then…

Is where the book ends. I have to say, Booker’s book has got to be in my top ten wrestling books of all time. It is refreshing and different, and offers very little in the ways of the squared circle. Whatever. His journey is truly one of a kind, and this book is one of a kind. I could not recommend a book more than this one. It is a quick, really easy read, but with a compelling story. Trust me, this book is well worth the few hours it takes to read it. And congratulations to Booker T for his WWE Hall of Fame induction. Never has an individual so deserved it. SUCKAAAAAA!