Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Nebraska/Oklahoma Week, Part 2

The 10-year Anniversary of the 1995 Nebraska Cornhusker Football team, considered by many to be the greatest college football team ever, served as the backdrop for another "classic" moment in the Nebraska/Oklahoma "rivalry". Even though the game featured future NFL phenom Adrian Peterson, it's mostly remembered for a coach going to the throat slash card on national television and spending the rest of the following week denying that it ever happened.

Oh but it did, Billy C, it did.

2005 -- Oklahoma 31, Nebraska 24: Two years after this game, some Nebraska fans would look you in the eye with all seriousness, and argue about how this game should go down as a Nebraska victory. There was some merit to this, as in July, 2007, the NCAA ordered Oklahoma to "vacate" all of it's 2005 victories. That decisions was wisely overturned in February of this year, because seriously there's nothing worse than having Husker Fan swear up and down that they should have had an extra victory in 2005. You just can't win that argument.

Neither could Callahan, after acting surprised at anyone who brought up the "throat slash" he blatantly did during the 4th quarter of this game against the Sooners. My favorite part of that short video clip is seeing Kevin Cosgrove walk up to Callahan, trying to look interested with that playbook stuffed smack down the middle of his pants. It might have been the only time Grover acted inspired all day.

The Sooners did have Adrian Peterson, who would run for 146 yards against Cosgrove's complex traps. Nebraska had Cory Ross gaining 21 yards on 10 carries. The Huskers did also discover that they had a real find though at Quarterback in Junior College Transfer Zac Taylor. Billy C would ask Taylor to put the ball in the air 45 times against Stoops and Company. And Nate Swift, who THIS year is setting all sorts of career receiving records, had 9 catches for 116 yards. So things were actually looking up for Callahan and company.

But the idea is to actually win the game, something the Huskers couldn't do after falling behind by 21 points. For the 2nd straight year against their hated "rivals", Husker fan would have to be content in their team not backing down.

And for the 2nd year in a row, they'd have to come to terms with another bizarre incident involving their head coach.

Of course, this being just year 2 of the Callahan Experiment, defending Callahan came rather easily to some Husker fans (look at some of these old comments on that you tube video for proof, most of them say, "That's how I reacted after that play" or something like that). It wasn't the Throat Slash itself that caused such a ruckus. Watch the video again. Callahan actually catches himself first a few seconds before going through with the gesture. Which means he had a brief moment of clarity where he KNEW he shouldn't pull off that gesture. Then he said, "Oh, fuck it", and went ahead and did it anyway.

Again, this part defines Callahan at Nebraska. There was that little part of him that knew somebody would see this, or it would cost his team a penalty, or golly, that Osborne fellow is actually here at the game celebrating some team from 10 years ago and he certainly wouldn't tolerate this behavior. And then there was the "Oh, fuck it" part of Billy C. We'll admit, sometimes that "Oh, fuck it" part was what wanted us to see if he couldn't actually work out with Nebraska longer. Because sometimes the "Oh, fuck it" card comes in handy.

But then Callahan had to face his weekly comrades at this Tuesday Press Conference. By then, the video was everywhere. The game was nationally televised on ABC. It was Oklahoma/Nebraska, which always gets attention no matter how badly the teams are playing. The very first question Billy C was asked on Tuesday was about that video posted above.

"What throat slash?" Callahan responded. "I don't remember any throat slash. What are you talking about."

If only we could find the audio of that press conference. The tone in Callahan's voice compared to what Pelini's been offering on a weekly basis this season. The difference is just remarkable. Callahan knows he's lying when he says this, knows it's out there, and you can just hear it in his voice. But somehow, he flat out denies it ever happened.

Nebraska would go on to their first Bowl Game under Callahan that season, beating a pretty good Michigan team in a rather entertaining Alamo Bowl. In Billy C's eyes, it was a successful season. Maybe even a sign that things were on the right track.

Yet Callahan's eyes don't think that throat slash ever happened. Which is fine, because thousands of Husker Fans are still getting to sleep at night convincing themselves that Bill Callahan, Head Coach, Nebraska Football, never happened either. .

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Nebraska/Oklahoma Week, Part 1

The Nebraska/Oklahoma "rivalry" gets the revisit treatment all week long, and of course everyone is pointing out the rich ties between Bob Stoops and both Carl and Bo Pelini. As another World Series winds down (one that might not be over by the time Saturday's NU/OU game becomes final), "Oklahoma Week" becomes one of talk about the rivalry everyone wants it to be, or wishes it once was. Not to gush on sentimentality (and really, the major games have and will continue to be covered to death), but there are some forgotten nuggets in this rivalry that are worth revisiting.

2004 -- Oklahoma 30, Nebraska 3: The last time Nebraska played in Norman, Oklahoma, during a season and era everyone would just as soon forget. And for many reasons. This was the game that to Husker Fan was like watching that hot ex-girlfriend have sex with a guy you know at that moment had everything over year. Yes, Bo Pelini, the guy everyone wanted as Husker Head Dog, was helping coordinate a defense for the Sooners that was hell bent on shutting out Nebraska. This was less than a year after Pelini was passed over (or depending on the story, not even considered) for the Nebraska job, despite openly campaigning for it. Nebraskans wanted Bo, he wanted them, but the guy in charge wanted...well, shit, he really didn't know who he wanted. He certainly didn't want Bo. So he waited until Al Davis fired this short Irish guy who resembled the Bridges Brother who didn't play The Big Lebowski. The one who turned all of the Oakland Raiders against him, but damn if he didn't have the biggest playbook in the world. And oh by the way, he's got Kevin Cosgrove to take care of whatever defense they might need.

Did we mention that Billy C had a Quarterback with little interest or skills in directing this West Coast Offense? But Callahan would make him shovel out the shit anyway?

Oklahoma was a 30-point favorite, and it certainly looked like we'd have a push as Pelini and Company were on their way to a 30-0 shutout with 33-seconds left in the game. The Sooners got tagged with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty as the Huskers were set to run out the clock with the ball deep in their own territory. Why did Oklahoma get a flag? Too many "Hillbillies" were throwing oranges onto the field, which allowed the Corn start at their own 28-yard line instead of their own 13. No big deal, as Joe Dailey and this merry group of misfits couldn't muster up anything against Pelini's game plan.

Then out of nowhere, on a fullback trap play of all things, Steve Kriewald (seriously, Steve Kriewald) busts through for a 48-yard gain. And Callahan gets the Huskers in line as if they were on their way to a game-winning score. He hurried the offense along, called for a run play to get the ball in the center of the field, and made poor Joe Dailey try one last pass attempt to get closer to pay dirt.

And here's where one would get the impression that Callahan had money on this game (and if he did, he could always go to the Pete Rose argument of saying he was betting on his own team and taking the points). As only 1-second remained on the clock, he hurried his kicking team on to the field so that David Dyches could kick a meaningless field goal as time expired.

Vegas went crazy. Husker fan took some bizarre satisfaction in NOT getting shutout by a far superior Oklahoma team. A little "at least we didn't get completely blown out" mentality.

What everyone remembers from this fiasco, of course, was everyone throwing oranges on the field in hopes that the Sooners were Orange Bowl bound (home of the BCS Title Game that year, Oklahoma was 10-0 and ranked 2nd in the BCS poll after the game). Orange fruit flew all over the field, causing confusion to Billy C and his big-ass playbook. I still maintain that Callahan had no clue why anyone, at the end of a football game, would have pause to even think to throw oranges on to a field. Especially in November (remember back to Callahan's first year, he was quite puzzled with many a tradition at the collegiate level).

Noticing the oranges littering the field, Callahan uttered one of his finest quotes as Husker Head Coach to one of his assistants, overheard by many players and media folk.

"Fuckin' Hillbillies."

Legend suggests he actually got close enough to some OU fans and actually said, "You guys are a bunch of fucking hillbillies", but it was the "Fucking Hillbillies" line that became his slogan. In fact, the slick Billy C didn't even deny saying it, and actually APOLOGIZED for using the phrase at the following Tuesday's press conference.

There were Champs Bowl representatives at the game checking the Huskers out for crying out loud. What sort of impression was this for Callahan to leave on these fine citizens?

The two things that somehow sum up the bizarre Bill Callahan era at Nebraska: Hurrying up to kick a meaningless field goal against the coach who would one day replace him; and "Fucking Hillbillies", not so much that he said it, but that he admitted to saying it. Because one year later, the whole world would witness another Callahan incident during the OU/NU game in Lincoln, something he would deny doing for the next three years. But we'll get into that game tomorrow.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mad Men: Meditations in an Emergency

"I sell products, not advertising." -- Don Draper, during tonight's Mad Men Season 2 finale, one with so many water-cooler moments any spoilers will be out before anyone makes it to work in the morning.

Don Draper is the ultimate salesman. Nobody works a room like him. We learned through flashbacks this season that he used to sell cars for a living, and was so great at that he was able to make enough money to keep his "widow" on his payroll. Don has landed more accounts for the Sterling Cooper advertising agency than any Account Executive. He saved the Lucky Strikes account in the series pilot, and most famously closed the deal that brought in Kodak. As Alice Cooper (Bertram's sister, not the rock star) noted last week, "Don's very savvy." Don was the only one to immediately pick up on Peggy's new haircut for crying out loud. You would think Duck Phillips, for all of his jealousy and personal vendetta he has against Draper, would understand the importance of Don Draper at Sterling Cooper. Roger spends most of his time chasing the hot young Secretary, and Bert makes an occasional figurehead experience.

Duck's been reaching the boiling point with his frustration in making a big impact at Sterling Cooper for sometime. And out of all of the great scenes tonight, my favorite had to be the poker game that Duck played in the conference room, Duck on one side of the table with the new British owners, Don on the other end with Bertram and Roger. Duck and Don had their aces up their sleeves, but Duck was blindsided by two very important things: Don knew about Duck being named President; and most importantly, something we the audience have know for sometime, Don Draper doesn't have a contract. So Duck got his head handed to him, as Draper was playing with house money. "If the world is still here on Monday," Don says as he leaves the meeting, "We can still talk." Duck's been back on the bottle for a few episodes now, and his inability to hold his liquor contributed to his temper tantrum following Don's exit. Nobody knows who will be running the new Sterling Cooper, but we know one thing for certain: It will not be Duck Phillips.

As anyone into Mad Men surely realizes, not all story lines get tied up nicely. But there were two biggies that had to at least be addressed tonight. The obvious one being Don and Betty somehow getting back together, and the other regarding Peggy's baby. We'll deal with Peggy first, because her storyline set-up a scene between her and Pete that will surely go down as one of the greatest in this series short history, one that will warrant major recognition for Elisabeth Moss and Vincent Kartheiser.

You could never tell how Pete would eventually find out about knocking Peggy up, her having the baby and giving it away. But the entire storyline regarding Pete and Trudy this season and their fighting over adoption a child led you to think that somehow those story lines would cross. What I didn't see coming was Pete finally breaking down and professing his love for Peggy, even getting to the point of calling her "perfect". Pete and Peggy get an incredible scene together in Pete's office (on the very couch where they wildly had sex early one workday last season, which was also a nice tough). It's a long conversation, one that allows for pauses. This is especially important for Peggy, who's had to keep so much bottled up inside of her through the season in order to keep her career on the fast track. Mostly inspired by Father Gill's continuation to unburden herself of her guilt, Peggy finally admitted to Pete what happened. Father Gill only appeared in three episodes, and it often seemed like he wanted Peggy to admit her secret to him. I'm glad it didn't work out that way, and the scene with Pete finally showed him to be more human, even allowing him to tear up when Peggy leave the office. The wonderful inter cutting between Peggy in bed later that night, relieve and smiling as she does the sign of the cross with Pete sitting alone late in his office with the rifle suggests the new differences between the two. Peggy is content with her professional life, and free from carrying around the guilt that plagued her outside the office. Pete with the rifle is startling. Remember, this show spent the better part of an episode this season ("Six Month Leave") surrounding suicide. Pete's lost both women in his life, after not exactly admitting that he loved Trudy when she left their apartment earlier.

"It must be nice, needing time and just taking it," Betty says sharply when Don finally comes back, literally hat in hand, to meet Betty at the stables. But unbeknownst to Don, Betty just learned she's pregnant, even though she doesn't have any idea "How that's possible". She continues to ride horses, smoke more cigarettes than Don on a normal day, and even orders a Gimlet at a bar while Don sits in his hotel room watching "Leave it to Beaver" with the kids. Part of Betty's growth during her separation with Don is that she's spent many times trying to actually walk in his shoes (remember last week, when she even endorsed his own checks). She had the manipulative revenge moment with Sara Beth, and tonight she wanted to see for herself how Don spent many a night. A gentleman who doesn't look that much different from her husband orders her a drink, and after first waving off his advances, she winds up in the Men's Room with him in the back of the bar (very convenient to have a nice couch at the ready in case such situations arise). She makes sure he understands this is a one-time thing. "I'm married," Betty tells her suitor as they enter the Men's Room.

Part of what makes Don an incredible salesman is how he picks up on things in preparation for his pitch. And he learned something from his California trip. Dick Whitman can go back to being Don Draper, let Betty move on without him, and go around and have affairs with the Bobbie Barrett's of the world without a care in the world. But Anna Draper helped him understand how he doesn't have to be alone. When Don writes Betty that letter -- the one that finally has her call Sterling Cooper ans ask him to come him -- he remembers all of this: "I understand why you feel it's better to go on without me, and know you won't be alone for long. But, without you...I'll be alone forever." The episode ends with Betts having to tell Don something. For a moment, you think she might admit to the affair, thinking that Don would finally do the same and they could officially move on. Instead, she simply offers, "I am pregnant." Jon Hamm gets his James Gandolfini moment here, where he can say so much with small facial expressions that suggest so many different emotions. We fade to black as Betty and Don hold hands, with the idea that they're at least going to give their family another try.

The back drop for the entire episode is the Cuban Missile Crisis, something many of us thought would be a part of this season. Those who lived through those 13-days in 1962 will tell you without exaggeration who absolutely terrified people were. It's a great way for Matthew Weiner to show how the main characters react to the news. The Don Draper who comes back to New York (at least the Don we see at Sterling Cooper), remains the center of calm. "Nobody really knows what's going," he tells Roger. The newly rich Roger, madly in love with Jane, can't believe Kennedy would ruin all of his fun, "Just when I was getting a second chance at life." Harry's big concerns are over how Kennedy's news bulletins will interrupt his programming and cost the agency money. And poor Pete. Just when he thinks it's the right time to proclaim his true feelings to Peggy, he spends his Friday night alone with that rifle, pondering his own demise.

Overall, what a season. Mad Men only has two completed seasons in the books, and both are like separate novels. What do Weiner and company do from here? Does he jump 2 more years to 1964, where Beatlemania is about to take America by storm? The one thing Weiner is on record about is how he doesn't want to deal directly with the Kennedy Assassination as that's been so over-played. The one thing that Duck did get right was about the future of television and the need to spend more advertising dollars with that medium. It's just too bad Duck won't be around to see any of this, at least not at Sterling Cooper.

I hope we haven't seen the last of Jimmy Barrett, and remember his "Grin and Barrett" television show has a 36-episode commitment, which would give the series at least a 2-year run. Could accidentally watching one of those episodes bring back further friction into the Draper marriage? I just don't want Jimmy's story to end with Don knocking him down at that bar in "Six Month Leave". That punch came from Jimmy's blunt "You're garbage...and you know it" confrontation to Don, and of course Jimmy telling Betty about Don fooling around with Bobbie.

There will always be such big questions regarding Don Draper. Will he ever let Betty in on the whole "Dick Whitman" story? Can he really go and give this family life a legitimate effort, even after seeing the Jet Set life isn't for him? Or will he grow bored after a while, like he did after just two episodes this season and giving in to Bobbie Barrett's evil charms simply for the reason that he could?

Another question (and again, on a show like Mad Men, something like this is completely possible): What if Pete Campbell really can't take working in the same place as Peggy Olson? A few weeks ago, audiences might have rooted for Pete to blow his head off right there. But after that tearful meeting with Peggy, Pete won over the audience.

The really big questions remains: When does AMC start season 3?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mad Men: The Mountain King

Spoilers regarding tonight's pertinent "The Mountain King" episode of Mad Men. But first to address those wanting to get into Mad Men for the first time. We've been asked a lot, "Which episode should I start with?" You can't just pick up somewhere in the middle (like, I don't know, say tonight's episode). Creator Matthew Weiner set up season 2 of Mad Men where you didn't have know everything from season 1 to get into the show, but you do have to watch from the season's first episode to enjoy and appreciate each episode. Weiner goes for character before plot, but he winds up balancing both impressively. So if you're new, start from the beginning -- hell, go back and start with Season 1 and then find time to let all of this season envelop you.

Mad Men has always been about identity, or in a lot of cases, lack thereof. It was summed up perfectly in the episode "Six Month Leave" by Freddy Rumsen, after he was fired from Sterling Cooper: "If I don't go into that office everyday, who am I?". Nothing spoke to this idea more tonight than Bert Cooper, and his reluctance to go along with the merger with those "Brits" Duck fell off the wagon with in last week's episode. Cooper wants no part of this change, but the money behind a lot of his success (his sister, appropriately enough named Alice Cooper) and a rather devil-may-care Roger convince him it's the only thing to do. But it makes Bert fear losing his own identity. Sure it's a nice payday for everyone, but like Freddy, if Bert Cooper doesn't come into that office everyday, even if for nothing other than to confuse a baby shower with a birthday party, what else is there?

Pete's clearly been looking to form his own identity from day one. He used the one trump card he had (his father-in-law's executive status with Clearasil) to land a big account. But tonight he was pushed further into adopting "someone else's child" by his wife. If Pete knew of the merger meetings going on behind closed doors, there's no doubt he wouldn't have stood up to his father-in-law's threat to "review" Clearasil. But looking to make his own mark, and not wanting "someone else's" child, Pete makes a critical error. The merger going through will leave somebody like Pete "up for review" as I'm sure we'll see next week, and just losing the only real account he's brought to Sterling Cooper can't bode well. Then again, Pete's an asshole, considering that it's a major miracle that he hasn't been spreading gossip about Don's absence since the California trip (of course, Peggy gave Pete the idea to not bring up such talk).

Betty's still looking for her own identity since she tossed Don to the curb. She even perfectly forges Don's name to endorse his checks. Betty's initial reaction to catching her 8-year old daughter smoking in the bathroom is, "You'll burn the house down!" Like everyone else, Betty doesn't know where Don is, or if he's coming back. But she did get her own sense of satisfaction as her planned meeting between Sara Beth and Arthur worked out exactly as she planned. You could tell Betty was just waiting to use the line, "There's a difference between wanting and having" when she got the chance with Sara Beth. Betty's reward to daughter Sally for smoking -- actually it was for becoming a "young lady", but a lot of it was guilt over how bad of a parent she's been -- is the pair of horse riding boots she's been wanting since episode one of this season. Sara Beth is a wreck, and Betty's still not sure what will happen with Don. But Betty will now parade Sally around when she sees her at the stables, just to rub it in as much as she can to Sara Beth.

Joan's situation is the worst, and easily the most unsettling. Her fiance Greg shows no interest in her sexually (and remember, this is JOAN we're talking about). Not until they can sneak into her boss's office. Joan's been at Sterling Cooper for 9 years, she knows how that place runs. Even the thought of having sex in Don Draper's office is forbidden. But it's the only way Greg thinks of her. He sees how well Roger knows Joan, and assumes she's tossed around the office. Greg raping Joan on the floor of Don's office is one of the most disturbing things we've seen on Mad Men. Since this is AMC and not HBO, it's not as graphic as the Dr. Melfi rape scene from the Sopranos, but there is a stunning close-up of Joan's face as she's raped, while she stares off at Don's coffee table and couch. Joan's not as young as Jane, at least not young enough to make Roger Sterling leave his wife Mona. Getting older meant she had to get married, and notice how even after that wretched scene she still brings up all of his "Doctorly" wonders. Joan isn't the marrying kind, she's certainly not one to put-up with someone like Greg. The fact that she was violated, especially in the work place where she's considered the Queen of the Castle, is something Joan Hollaway can't keep tucked away, Peggy style.

We've said all along that Peggy Olson has been Don Draper's hand picked successor. In a way, Don's been cloning himself through Peggy, personally and professionally. While Don continues his trip, Peggy gets her chance to be Don Draper. Everything she does to land the Pop Sicle account is vintage Draper. The way she describes how "Everyone cuts Popsicles in half, all year round" and likening it to "Christianity, behavior, not religion" sounded like something right after Don Draper's playbook. Peggy is as savvy as Don is business-wise. The night before the pitch to Pop Sicle, she walks around the darkened Sterling Cooper offices, smoking away. And after she lands the account "all by herself", she realizes her growing identity should be rewarded with the ultimate prize at that agency: Her own office (Freddy Rumsen's no less).

But the big story, as it always is with Mad Men, remains: Where the hell is Don Draper? He didn't go off with his Jet Set friends from last week, realizing that a life free of any obligations was too boring for him. He goes to the one person in this world he can be completely open and honest with. It's the woman he called last week from Joy's house, the woman we got to see briefly in a flashback from "The Gold Violin" episode. Her name is Anna Draper, the widow of the original Don Draper. She tracked Dick Whitman/Don Draper down by finding the person using her husband's social security card to get a driver's license. She's been on Don's payroll since she first tracked him down, to the point where we learn he even asks Anna for a "divorce" when we flashback to him telling Anna about meeting "Elizabeth" and how great her laugh is. Dick/Don goes to Anna because he's so lost. Lost from the unfulfilled promises he thought he'd get from the Jet Set. He can tell Anna things he could never tell Betty. But mostly, he needs help in finding his way. "I have been watching my life," Dick tells Anna. "I keep scratching at it, trying to get into it. I can't."

But Dick Whitman/Don Draper can actually drop any facade when he's around Anna. He fixes a chair of hers, something that would have come in handy at the Draper residence a few episodes ago. He can go out and talk to people without having to give them some life lesson pitch. He can stare in wonder as mechanics merge "two Buick's and a Pontiac." He even introduces himself as "Dick". And he sure loves the ocean. Anna Draper gets all of this from Dick Whitman because she's the only one who truly knows his secret. He can let his guard down to somebody. Anna even suggests he can have a life with Betty and the kids. "People don't change," he says back to her, in a moment that was both honest and Don Draper-esque. "I always felt that we met so both our lives could be better," says Anna. As "The Mountain King" ends, we can see Dick Whitman AND Don Draper allow their sins to be washed away.

Other Highlights from "The Mountain King":

  • We know we make the comparisons to The Sopranos a lot with Mad Men, but damn if Anna Draper didn't look and even walk like Svetlana, the one-legged Russian who was the straw that broke the back in getting Carmela to throw Tony out of the house. Like Dick/Don does with Anna, Tony certainly thought highly of Svetlana. And who else was reminded of Janice Soprano when Betty was on the phone with Sara Beth, taking such odd delight in her sadness?
  • "Let me tell you something," Peggy tells Ken and Sal when coming up with their Pop Sicle idea. "The Catholic Church knows how to sell things."
  • Yes, that was The Day The Earth Stood Still on television when Joan first initiated sex with Greg, the very same movie that's coming out as a re-make co-starring none other than Jon Hamm.
  • Bert looking for any sort of way to stop the merger: "You can't trust the Brits."
  • Peggy is so comfortable in her new office she explains how she got it to Pete: "I'm sleeping with Don. It's really working out."
  • Paul made it back from his trip in one piece, but got dumped by Shelia. He sees Peggy taking advantage of the opportunity in having Don away: "Why don't you just put on Draper's pants while you're at it?"
  • Roger really doesn't care what happens. Whoever asks about Freddy's office first gets it. Just get this little merger over with so he can move along with this life and not be late for dinner with Jane.

  • Alice telling Roger he has "two children to look out for." We learned tonight that it was Bert's widow who introduced Roger and Mona. So there are many reasons none of this sits well with Cooper.
  • Peggy had to pour Sal & Ken scotch into those cheap plastic cups, then endured the wrath of that bastard of a copy repairman. No wonder she wanted her office so badly.
  • No Duck Phillips tonight, even though his merger idea is in full swing. You can never predict what will happen on next week's season finale. This isn't the type of show that will neatly tie everything up, have Don come home to Betty and the kids with open arms, and make the world right again. Don isn't even shown in any of the preview's for next week's finale. We know we have a third season already ordered for this series. But what the identity of this show will be after next week is anyone's guess. And a big reason why we won't stop watching.

    Our Moneyball Movie Is Officially Happening

    Our long national dream, one that we first tried casting over two years ago, finally has the green light. We never thought of Brad Pitt as Billy Beane in Moneyball, but now we can actually see him pulling off the role of the rascally rabbit who is the Oakland A's General Manager. And there's excitement over who's adapting Michael Lewis' classic into a script, but they need to re-think their choice of director.

    Steve Zaillian is slated to adapt the book into a screenplay, and really you can't ask for a better writer to do such a thing. But their choice to direct Moneyball: The Movie is none other than David Frankel. Before you get too excited, Frankel directed The Devil Wears Prada, and even worse, two episodes of Entourage (including the pilot, although we do have to give Frankel points for staying away from the train-wreck that's become Entourage since season 1). But this has to mean that Frankel is a big fan of Adrian Grenier, somebody who has no business being in any sort of movie like this.

    If Pitt's really on board, he's got enough pull to name his own director. And seriously, wouldn't David Fincher be fun for this? The only thing we insist is our original idea of Paul Giamatti playing Bill James. The only casting change that needs to made is for the role of Kenny Williams, now that Harold Reynolds has found consistent work. Our new vote is for La Monde Byrd, who most recently has been seen on Mad Men playing the roll of Hollis, the elevator man.

    Saturday, October 18, 2008

    Game 7: Nebraska 35, Iowa State 7

    After next week's game, Joe Ganz will have finally played the equivalent of a full season. He's got 10 games under his belt (as a starter that is) after Nebraska beat Iowa State 35-7 today at Ames, and he's already thrown for 3,524 yards. Which is more than Gill or Frazier, more Vince Ferragamo. The most important thing is the Corn got a win today, even if it was against a team as awful as the Cyclones, but after losing 3 straight, you could tell afterwards that Pelini was relieved to finally get that win in conference play.

    Let's go back to Ganz. He was 27 of 37 for 328 yards, all of this despite having to listen to the Versus announcers complain the entire first half about how Ganz was "out of rhythm". Nebraska gets the Versus treatment next week, again at 11:30am. Versus is the former Outdoor Life Network, the home for the NHL. Days of Thunder, the movie known mainly for introducing Tom Cruise to Nicole Kidman, immediately followed the Nebraska/Iowa State game. We'll probably have Vanilla Sky after next week's Baylor game. This tells you all you need to know about the Versus network. I'm really surprised Andre Ware isn't calling some of the College Football games they carry. But get used to Versus, because that could be the network that will carry the Bowl Game Nebraska goes to (two more wins and they're in!).

    Unless this is continued proof that Shawn Watson and Ganz have some things figured out. The big phrase of the week to describe the "new" Husker offense was "Dink & Dunk". The quick, short passes that move the chains, keep the clock going, and keeps the opposing offense on the sidelines. The Huskers are doing more than that with Ganz. You still can't completely trust the offensive line, but from a confidence standpoint they did rack up some rushing yards. Nate Swift -- who, when his career at Nebraska is complete, is going to be remembered as one of the better receivers to have played here -- ran a reverse in the first quarter that could have been a huge ran if Ganz would have completed his blocking assignment on the play. So it's not a "Dink and Dunk" offense, they're keeping with doing whatever works with these kids.

    Remember, this isn't a very good Iowa State team at all. Yes a win on the road, especially a conference road victory, is harder to come by in this crazy year of college football. Baylor beat the Cyclones just as easily (38-10 at home) last week. I don't think Baylor's that much better than Iowa State, so if Pelini and company really want to keep things going they'll over-deliver next Saturday in Lincoln. There's no reason they shouldn't roll up an even bigger margin against Baylor. Because Pelini has everyone on board with everything.

    We mentioned in last week's post about the great theater that Pelini's press conferences have been. This week added a new wrinkle, as Pelini tried to keep things light around the media. He was Johnny Carson to the covering local media, who played Ed McMahon, laughing too-loudly at anything Pelini had to say. Some sounded like Max Cady, sitting in the front row of the movie theater watching Problem Child with Nick Nolte's concerned family in the back during Cape Fear. You had to think that Bo had a moment like Tony Soprano did during the "All Happy Families" episode of The Sopranos. Tony would tell the worst jokes during a poker game, only to have Paulie, Vito and Silvio fake laugh at him like it was the funniest thing they ever heard. There was even that creepy-slow motion shot we got from Tony's perspective, where T watched his employees belly laugh at his "Boring 747" joke. You have to think Pelini had a moment like this at his Tuesday Press Conference, where he could have made these yokels laugh at anything he said. And they did.

    After today's game, Bo was in a justifiably more relaxed and even pleasant mood. He commented on how badly his team "needed" a win. Pelini knew he had a great Texas Tech team beat last week, even out-coached Mike Leach. The moment Bo Pelini officially put his stamp on the Nebraska football program, where he became the Head Coach, came on that fake field goal attempt in the final minutes of the 4th quarter last week against Tech. After Leach pulled off that 4th and 5 out of his ass, thinking only to draw the Husker Defense offsides but wound up going for what could have been the deciding touchdown. Pelini calling for the fake field goal afterward, getting the touchdown to force overtime, shifted everything his way going forward. He wasn't going to be happy to just play a Top 10 team close on the road. That call let everyone know he was all in, and since then everyone's officially bought into his "system". Even though we know Bo hates giving things like "systems" a name.

    The other thing that has Pelini happier is his defense. He was embarrassed after the Missouri nightmare, and since then his defense has continued to gel and take shape. We knew going into the season that things would get better following Hurricane Cosgrove, if only because things couldn't have gotten worse than Grover Ball. The team still makes mistakes (how many fumbles did they have on that opening drive today? Wasn't it at least 3?), and the penalties have got to get under control (but they only had 4 today). But today was just about getting the win, getting in position to beat up on Baylor for next week.

    So how good is Nebraska? We still don't know. They could finish 8-4 and I wouldn't be surprised. The only game left that I feel totally confident in betting the farm on is the Kansas game in Lincoln (we'll get more into that when we get to that week's game). They're not a complete team, but they're finally showing signs of becoming the team that Pelini wants. And shit, right now, that's not bad.

    Sunday, October 12, 2008

    Mad Men: The Jet Set

    As Roger Sterling would say, we don't want to get too deep before the cocktail hour, but there are only two episodes left of this rather brilliant season of Mad Men. And after tonight, some new shifts in the storyline make us wonder how things will play out over the next two weeks, especially since our main character is now obviously focused on reconnecting with his former identity to the point that he's officially searched out an old friend from his former life. (As always, spoilers follow for those who haven't seen "The Jet Set" yet.)

    Which is all the more interesting when you consider how everyone in this series has always been about "moving forward", especially tonight. I always draw similarities between Mad Men and The Sopranos, and we had a big one tonight. "The Jet Set" is the equivalent of The Sopranos "Kennedy & Heidi" episode from that series' final season (an episode ironically enough, co-written by Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, who also wrote "The Jet Set"). In "Kennedy & Heidi" Tony couldn't handle staying home to deal with everyone's emotions regarding the death of Christopher, so he, like Don Draper, runs away. Tony goes to Vegas, finds an old stripper girl friend of Christopher's, has wild sex with her, does peyote, and ultimately finds his own revelatory moment in the desert, ending that episode screaming "I get it!". It was enough to satisfy Tony to come home and accept his killing of Chrissy and deal with the world he created.

    Don Draper has always ran away whenever he found himself in a situation he couldn't "Draper" his way out of. In California, Don was to be all business, but "The Jet Set" shows us this was more of a vacation for him than anything else. Don meets a new, fascinating group of people, a group more well-off than Midge's beatnik friends from season 1. The nomads Don falls in with tonight are well-off enough to the point they can come and go as they please with no worries about money. This season has made many references to how "well-off" financially Don is, so the idea of running way with this care-free group appeals to him. He even meets an ideal companion in Joy (played by Laura Ramsey), who bears a striking resemblance to his wife Betty (and yes, that was January Jones playing the figure of Don's imagination early on to suggest the parallels). Joy may or may not be the answer Don's been looking for. He does wind up sending his suitcase back home, but Betty's house appears empty, and the delivery man can't find anyone there to take in Don's belongings. But Don's not completely ready to run-off with this new, attractive band of rich misfits, obvious in his final scene tonight. "Hello, it's Dick Whitman," he says to an unidentified person on the phone. "I'd love to see you. Soon."

    While Don stays in California, Pete, who initially wanted to take in some relaxation time on the trip only to find himself having to be all business while Draper drifted away, comes back to Sterling Cooper to find everyone moving forward. Roger's going through with his divorce, has Jane convinced to marry him, and Peggy's got a brand new look, thanks to one of the young copy-writers Kurt. You know...the one who we thought from episode 1 of this series might be, as Tony Soprano would say, a "little light in the loafers." Kurt has moved forward more than anyone at Sterling Cooper, announcing to a stunned group of of co-workers, "I'm homosexual. I make love to the men, not the women." Of course this is heart-breaking for Salvatore, who like Don has been forced to lead a double life. He's more stunned when he hears Ken -- the object of Sal's hidden interest earlier this season -- announce to everyone that he doesn't want to work with a "queer."

    And then there's Duck, who we've been suggesting all along is the biggest thorn in Don Draper's side. Now that Roger's moving forward full-tilt with the divorce, his lawyer warns him that his wife, "has the marriage license, and she wants to hurt you. I have a list of conditions, and an alimony that would support Rita Hayworth." Roger might really think that Jane will offer him the "life he's always deserved to have", but he's ignoring the fact that he'll be stunned financially. Duck sees this as his big chance. He meets with his old British colleagues, offering them the chance to buy Sterling Cooper on one major condition: Duck is named Don Draper's boss.

    While everyone tries to move forward, we finally see with Duck that this isn't possible unless he resorts to his dark past, namely the bottle. This is the first time we get confirmation that Duck is back to the booze -- and really, it's suggested he's been clean all season, until that meeting with the British ad men where Duck realizes he's actually better at his job when he's drinking. Duck even has a case of Tanqueray shipped to the office (brought in to him by none other than Joan of all people, and don't think for a second that she's not paying careful attention to all of this). Still drinking, Duck finally empresses Cooper and Roger, as he's finally become the person they thought they were hiring last season. Duck can't have the impact at Sterling Cooper without help from his drinking, and you know this isn't going to end well. But with Don away, Duck's plan is firmly in place: Being named head of creative in his brokered deal means that he can literally become Don Draper. And on a show where everyone's trying to be someone else, it makes perfect sense for Duck Phillips, who slowly realized this season that it was Draper who had been running things at Sterling Cooper (or at least getting too much credit).

    More highlights:

    • Roger encouraging Duck to go all Pac-Man Jones and go out and "make rain" if he really wants to show he's been worth bringing on to Sterling Cooper.
    • January Jones had a lot of heavy lifting to do over the past three episodes, and tonight we only got that brief shot of her at that bar in Don's vision in California.
    • Pete notices something different about Peggy when he returns home. Ken's response: "Kurt's a homo." Out of everything that hurt Sal, Ken's reaction to having a "queer" around has to hurt him the worst. It's not enough to have the young Smith come right out and announce his sexual preference in front of everyone, something Sal couldn't do. But then to learn Ken is repulsed by the whole thing, you have to worry about Sal.
    • Joan may have officially lost the interest of Roger, but the "straight" Smitty is clearly smitten by her. This might be the first time somebody younger than Joan has shown an interest in her, and it throws her for a loop.
    • Not sure why, but I don't buy the fact that Jane tells Roger that their souls are the same age. Perhaps it's her horrible attempt at poetry.
    • Poor Peggy: "I always pick the wrong boys," stating the obvious.
    • Don's fascination with Joy isn't at all surprising, considering that unlike Betty's father, Joy's dad treats her simply like a friend. He even walks in on them in bed together as if they were just sitting at the table having coffee. Joy even tells Don her father will take care of him because he's "beautiful and doesn't talk too much."
    • Don having that moment of clarity while watching the show on nuclear missiles. It serves as the moment that he goes from being Don Draper back to being Dick Whitman. It's never safe to make guesses on what happens next with "Dick Whitman" after that phone call, and my haven't we come a long way since the Jimmy and Bobby Barrett arc, but you have to think we'll get some resolution on who Don/Dick called at the end of "The Jet Set".
    • Even if Duck's boozing gets him what he wants (in particular, becoming Don Draper's boss), he'd still have to deal with the fact that he doesn't have Don's talents. Duck might be able to scheme with Don on leave, but he's still no match for a determined Don Draper in that office.


    Saturday, October 11, 2008

    Game 6: Texas Tech 37, Nebraska 31, Overtime

    Now that we don't have Billy C to kick around and blame for all of society's woes, the finger pointing on why Nebraska lost it's last two home games -- or more importantly, let Missouri come into Lincoln and turn a nationally televised night game into the equivalent of a spring game -- became the flavor of the week going into today's Texas Tech game. The Corn were 22 point underdogs, and like last week, nobody expected them to win or even play the Top 10 rated Red Raiders close. The general mood had everyone hoping that Nebraska just wouldn't get embarrassed, you know, like they did the last time they went to play in Lubbock. Ladies and Gentleman, your improving 2008 Nebraska Cornhuskers, now officially 3-3 and win less in conference games. Before we dissect what might have been today, let's recap the two big rumors that fans suggested had Nebraska trending down. What we're hearing, and separating what could be real from what's just horseshit (or as TO would say, horse pucky).

    Shawn Watson and Bo Pelini Are Not Seeing Eye To Eye: Watson's big problem is that Husker fan doesn't like him, has never liked him (after all, he's the one responsible for THIS mess from 2001) and never will. Because he flirted with Nick Saban, that silly bastard. Because too many people still can't get past the fact that he's a CALLAHAN guy. He'll never win Husker Nation over, and most of these folks think/wish Watson's gone at the end of this year no matter how things turn out. Watson is still a great football coach, a great offensive mind. And let's not forget, after everything that went wrong last year, Nebraska certainly had quite an offensive display going for them, at least during the second half of the season.

    In the Husker home opener, Quarterback Joe Ganz picked up right from where he left off last year (now again, this is, or was, a GOOD thing). Ever since (well, until this afternoon at least), Ganz looked as uncomfortable running the offense as Joe Dailey was during year one of the Billy C experiment. In games 2 and 3, against much weaker opponents than Western Michigan was in week 1, the Huskers offense lost it's identity. They tried the option a few times. They looked for anything that could resemble any sort of running game that just wasn't going to happen. The whispers around Lincoln have suggested that Pelini was nixing a lot of what Watson wanted to do. We always figured that with Watson on board, Bo would put his major emphasis on the defense and let Shawn figure out what to do offensively. Whatever the hell it is, just figure out whatever plays would work for the players they have now and go with that. It looks like that finally happened with today's game. Could be just a coincidence that the Huskers looked awkward during their last four games (at HOME no less), only to hear this suggested rumor and have Ganz throw for over 300 yards today and almost beat a team ranked 7th in the nation on the road. Did we mention Ganz was 36 of 44 throwing?

    Pelini Isn't As Tough With His Players As He Is With The Media: One of the best parts of the season so far have been the Tuesday Bo Pelini Press Conferences. So far, they've been the slow burn to what a frightened pack of media members assumes will lead to a Mike Gundy-like Meltdown. God these are fun to watch, only to hear somebody shitting their pants while asking Pelini a question. Bo has these guys on eggshells. Anyone who covers that weekly press conference goes in with only one goal in mind: To NOT be the one who makes Pelini go batshit crazy and create a youtube/Sportscenter moment. The better way to go about this at this point is to actually try to be that guy who asks the question that makes Pelini snap. But you can't go in too confident, because Bo can smell fear, which means he'll jump on some poor soul from the Hastings television station who's on his first year at the job. Should be you, Travis Justice. But Justice would use the moment to spin his way into the limelight. Don't worry, we'll save "Travis Justice is Nebraska's Jay Marriotti" comments for another post, but you can't blame a guy for wishing a ravaged Pelini scream, "I'M A MAN, I'M FORTY" in Trav's face, and then curb stomp him.

    But back to the rumor at hand. It was suggested that Pelini hasn't taken full control of this team shaped in his attitude because some of the players are "too sensitive" and he's waiting until he has all of his "own" kids to do that. Sorry, not buying it. Pelini's been all about changing the atmosphere since day one. Sure this is his first head coaching gig, and maybe he hasn't come in with the crazed intensity of when Jimmy Johnson took over the Dallas Cowboys. We've already seen Pelini give it to an official (in a move that cost his team a possible win against Virginia Tech). And if he's thisclose to boil at the local media every week, you know it's gotta come out somewhere. Hell, the kids are at least practicing in PADS this season, something they didn't do over the past four years.

    Pelini's problem today, as it has been all season, has been the costly penalties. Nebraska had eight today, Tech only had two. Of course die hard Husker fan is blaming the refs on this trend (and really, it's good to hear these guys again, isn't it? We haven't had fans blaming the officiating from Husker Fan in quite some time, I was beginning to miss it). Somebody needs to really press Pelini about those holding penalties at this week's press conference. I vote for Sean Callahan.

    Everyone sure feels better today than they did during the week. But let's not forget that Nebraska is now officially just a .500 team. If today is that first real step in the right direction, is everyone still confident this team can find those three more wins to, you know, get invited to a Bowl Game? As good as the Corn looked in the 4th quarter today, that doesn't mean they'll win in Ames next week, or even when they come back home to host Baylor. You want momentum, how about an actual win. That would really have shook shit up.

    Mike Leach and Bo Pelini have the exact same nose. But Leach looks more like the overweight guy in accounting from your office who wears a short sleeve shirt with a bad tie. Yes, we're aware that Leach has his own fits with the media, but if you had to pick which nose you'd want with you in a knife fight, you have to pick Bo. As crazy as it was when Leach tried to draw the Huskers offside on that 4th and 5 play from their own 36, you had to be impressed with with Pelini's later call on that fake field goal.

    Yes, this really was the first ever overtime loss for the Huskers. They were 5-0 before today. Just when you thought Callahan killed every streak, here comes Pelini to ruin just one more.

    Last week, Chase Daniel and company looked like they were going to waltz all the way to Kansas City to face Oklahoma for the Big 12 Championship. Then crazy Mike Gundy of all people has to go and shatter that plan. Considering Texas has to play Missouri, Oklahoma State and then Leach in the next three weeks, they're not the safe pick to win the South. One has to wonder what Mark Mangino thinks of all of this?

    Sunday, October 05, 2008

    Mad Men: The Inheritance

    Before we get into the spoilers for "The Inheritance", tonight's Mad Men offering, a lot people discussed the often contentious relationship between the creatives and the sales people when it comes to advertising. One aspect around the entire Don Draper character is that he's both. He controls the relationships with the clients, as he understands that the one who owns the creative, owns the clients, and the one who owns the relationships, owns the clients. This was on full detail tonight when he was prepping Pete Campbell, an account executive on a business trip. "You're there to sell," Don tells him. And when Pete refers to the client as "controlling the purse strings", Don vehemently reminds him, "No...they're the customer."

    "Nothing's changed. We were just pretending."

    Don and Betty are still separated, but another stroke from Betty's father brings them together, at least for perhaps a final visit to her parent's house. This is the second stroke for her father, and Betty, who's had just about enough of all of the secrets being kept from her, is reaching the breaking point. This second stroke happened three days before Betty found out about it. Now her father is so far gone he confuses Betty for his dead wife (even groping her in an uncomfortable scene), but he does at least recognize something she can take to heart about Don. "He has no people!" he shouts regarding her husband, "You can't trust a person like that." Betty lets Don sleep in the same room as her at her father's place, but not the same bed. Don has what seems like a dream where Betty approaches him in the middle of the night, looking for physical affection as if to suggest all is forgiven. But on second viewing, it appears not to be a dream, that Betty needs this sort of interaction after the long day at her father's.

    But the family maid -- who's really the only person left at her family's house who Betty trusts -- let's her in on the truth. "It's just going to get worse" regarding her father. "It's all good outside that door." Those last words give Betty the strength to keep Don from coming back in. She realizes this is just the opportunity for him to use his charms to come back home. But Betty's at least recharged: "I know how you feel about grieving."

    So Don's still out of the house, but he still lives by the Draper "Moving Forward" mantra. For the first time we can remember, he shows up to work not in a classic grey suit, but rather a sports coat and pants. Don notices a print piece for the Rocket Fair in Los Angeles he was sending Pete and Paul to attend, but true to his mantra, decides to go "move forward" and go on the trip himself. Don says his motto is "moving forward", but an even better one for him is "running away."

    This pushes Paul out of the trip, but offers him a chance to go to a rally with his girlfriend Shelia in Mississippi. Interesting note here: James H. Meredith was the first black student at the University of Mississippi on October 1, 1962. The event was a flash point in the civil rights movement. Considering last week's episode took place during the suicide of Marilyn Monroe, it's suggested we're close to this moment in history at this point of the series.

    Pete meanwhile is dealing with his own family issues. He won't even consider adoption ("It's someone else's child"), and even admits to Peggy of all people that he hates his mother, and admits his worry about flying on an airplane for the first time since his father died. Peggy being Peggy eases his anxiety ("Statistically speaking, it's not likely to happen twice in the same family"), but Pete still doesn't think another crash would be the "worst thing that could happen."

    Betty is still drinking during the day, but she's at least cleaning up better than she has the past few episodes. Then that creepy kid Glen shows up. Betty invites him in after he admits he's been running away, even cleaning his clothes and putting him into one of Don's own undershirts. It isn't until Glen tries to hold Betty's hand that she realizes this kid is more lost than she had ever been. Betty calls Glen's mom Helen Bishop to come get him. "I hate you," Glen tells Betty. "I know," Betty replies. "I'm sorry." Finally Betty finds somebody she can let in on her own little secret, telling Helen, "Don isn't living here."

    The episode ends with Pete and Don flying off to California. Pete's nervously wearing a blindfold in flight, while Don's smokes another cigarette, looking out the window at all he's running away from.

    Highlights and notes:

    • Cooper walking in during Harry Crane's baby shower: "I just want to say, Happy Birthday."

    • Joan making it a point to simply walk by when Shelia comes to the office to meet Paul for lunch. She always has to know everything that's going on at Sterling Cooper.

    • Well, we did at least get the Roger and Jane affair confirmed, and oh the look on Joan's face when Harry got that Tiffany's box from them.

    • Joan didn't need to type up a memo explaining to Paul why he wasn't going to California. Going right up to him at Harry's party was the only way to go.

    • Pete: "Everything's so easy for you." Peggy: "It's no easy for anyone, Pete."

    • Another episode for January Jones as Betty to shine. Seriously, if she's at least not nominated for an Emmy next year, the entire voting's a joke.
    • As always, the episode title reveals everything, and here it's all about what we pass down to our children. But what is it that Don Draper/Dick Whitman inherited?

    • Glen admitting to Betty that he doesn't like ham. Interesting parallel between Don's son asking what his own father liked to eat in the "Three Sundays" episode: "Ham".


    Game 5: Missouri 52, Nebraska 17

    It'd been exactly 30 years since Missouri won a football game in Lincoln. You couldn't fin find anybody (and seriously we mean anybody) willing to go out on a limb and suggest Nebraska remotely even had a chance last night. These are two different programs. Nebraska's on it's third coach in 5 years. The Tigers have their version of Tommie Frazier in Chase Daniel. None of these Missouri players were even a dirty thought in 1978. And yet somehow, last night's blowout-with-ease effort is easily right up there with the worst losses in the past 10 years, equally embarrassing as some of the other biggies as we play "Remember When" here in a second.

    And let's not forgot: Chase Daniel sat out the entire 3rd quarter. The score was MU 52, NU 10 as the 3rd quarter ended, and that was really it. Missouri brought in anyone who didn't have a jersey dirty yet to get in on what would be their longest (at least according to the clock) drive in the 4th quarter.

    Nebraska is still so desperate for answers that they wound up switching punters. Missouri didn't punt once. Nebraska had 10 penalties before Missouri even had one.

    Read that last paragraph again, and remember this game was in Lincoln, and the Missouri punting unit could have spent their trip to Lincoln trying to find Melissa Midwest or the other two Playboy Playmates who were down at the N Zone. Mizzou hung 52 on Nebraska (again, this was IN Lincoln), and this wasn't even a team coached by Callahan.

    Oh, for those of you scoring at home, or even if you're alone, let's look at those biggest losses of the Post-Osborne Era, and fuck it, we're even in the mood to rank 'em:

    • Colorado 62, Nebraska 36: First official sign that Frank Solich was in trouble, but again, this game was in Boulder, CO at least.

    • Kansas 76, Nebraska 39: Final nail in the Callahan coffin

    • Missouri 52, Nebraska 17: Only the worst home loss since 1955. You know, before Elvis, and we don't mean Elvis Peacock

    • Texas Tech 70, Nebraska 10: First real sign that this whole Billy C act might night work in Lincoln; Pollyanna Husker fan will use this score as a barometer for next week's game ( least they didn't lose 70-10 like they did the last time they played there...").

    • Oklahoma State 45, Nebraska 14: Final nail in the Stevie P experiment, and until last night, the worst home loss anyone could remember

    Tonight was a statement game for the Pelini era. Let's remember some very important things. Frank Solich recruited kids to come to Nebraska based upon the style of offense he wanted to run. Billy C brought in (alleged) 5 star recruits who could run his West Coast Offense. That means different quarterbacks, linemen, receivers. The biggest difference was that Solich, unlike Callahan, recognized he needed to make a big change and find the right guy to fix his defense. And of course, we know what happened. Solich (with a strong recommendation from Pete Carroll of all people) made the right decision, hiring the guy who just now happens to be the current Head Coach at Nebraska. Callahan forgot there was a need to play defense, and his loyalty to Kevin Cosgrove was a liability.

    Pelini's other problem perception-wise is he can't use the "I don't have MY players" excuse that Callahan sold everyone on. Billy C kept Joe Dailey in as quarterback for all of that brutal 2004 season to suggest to everyone that Solich left the cupboard bare, and that he had to have the RIGHT quarterback in place to orchestrate his complex offense.

    Last night, Nebraska committed 14 penalties. Missouri had only 1. I'm sorry folks, but that's coaching.

    As bad a taste that Callahan left in all of our mouths -- so much so that the Husker Radio Network won't even mention the guy by name, something that is completely telling and funny itself -- you can't say he didn't leave at least some talent for Pelini and company to work with. He still has a competent quarterback in Joe Ganz, but since game 1, it seems that neither Shawn Watson nor Pelini know which direction to move Ganz.

    The Husker Sports Network spent the 2nd half saying things like "This team just needs to forget about all of this and just move on" and "We told you earlier there would be bumps in the road. This is just one of them, and you fans just need to get past this and move on."


    Let's listen to what the Corn's new fearless leader had to say to find the truth (and if anything else, you have to give credit to Bo for at least being completely blunt): "It all starts with me. We got out-coached tonight. We weren't well enough prepared. We got beat and we got beat soundly. I'm the head of this ship and I take full responsibility for it. I have to do a better job."

    That's refreshing to an extent, but can it help a Husker Nation who woke up this morning (or is probably still asleep following a game that didn't officially end until after 11:30pm central time) wondering if this team is going to win another game this year. None of the remaining 7 games are gimmies. Not Iowa State at Ames. Not Baylor at home.

    So how much of a pass are we going to give Pelini five games into his regime. The expectation level was that he'd finish this 5-game home stand at least 4-1, and if they somehow lost to both Virginia Tech and Missouri, they had at least better keep both games close and play with that old-school passion.

    Missouri brought back the Billy C ghosts. The Huskers let a much better Missouri team waltz into Lincoln and made it look like a Spring Scrimmage. This was worse than last season's USC ass-whooping in Lincoln. Fans certainly love Pelini's honesty in standing in front of the media and taking all the bullets and blame for this mess. But what will they say when this team finishes 3-9?

    The best anyone can hope for is that the Huskers find a way to beat Iowa State on the road, use what (at leased used to be) home field advantage to beat Baylor, grow by the point that when Kansas and Colorado come to Lincoln that the Corn can squeak wins out of those games, letting Pelini finish year one 7-5 and draw a Bowl Game. Others think a win at Manhattan, KS is still a possibility.

    But from what we saw last night, this Nebraska team isn't going to win another conference game this year. Through the litter and the wreckage of the past four years, Nebraska fan is bloated with entitlement, and walking dazed and drunk. It is important to remember that this is the first head coaching job Pelini's ever had. He's still a very young guy and very much learning on the job. You'd just like to think his first year is going to finish better than his predecessor's first one did.

    Another huge difference between the past two opponents worth pointing out: Despite both teams traveling very well, we mentioned how rather friendly the Hokie fans were. They made numerous efforts to make friends with everyone, and to Nebraska's credit, they didn't want to hold hands with all of them and sing "Hands Across America", but everyone had very nice time. But regarding Missouri fan...the best way to describe them (and this impression was made BEFORE kick-off mind you) is "white trash". It's not that they weren't well-behaved, nor did Nebraska fan want to pick fights with any of them. They just weren't a rather impressive group, those Tiger fans. Maybe a lot of that has to do with the fact that, you know, they're still trying to understand this whole concept that their football program is currently one of the best in the nation, and they have a quarterback who very well is going to walk away with the 2008 Heisman Trophy.

    The most telling quotes regarding both fan bases. Va Tech fans left last Sunday morning letting any Husker loyalist by saying, "We all had a very nice time here, thank you all for your hospitality." Of course, after going home with a satisfying win can put anyone in a good mood. This, though, came from those in Missouri colors: "Man, you guys just suck. Sorry." CLICK TO READ ENTIRE POST!

    Thursday, October 02, 2008

    Weekend Preview: Mad Men, George Brett, Huskers Apathy & Cubs Misery

    It's the top of the 7th inning of game 2 of the Dodgers/Cubs NLDS, the Cubs are down 6-0...and Carlos Zambrano is still pitching! And he's thrown 105 pitches. I'm sure Cub fan is calling for Lou Piniella's head right now, pinning what could be another collapse on someone. Sort of like Don Draper is doing with Duck Phillips on Mad Men. Or George Brett would on the crab legs at the Mirage.

    After all that's gone on with Mad Men over the past several weeks, one of the biggest mysteries surrounds that of one Herman "Duck" Phillips, or at least how he is the antagonist regarding Don Draper's character. Duck is a tortured soul, albeit a talented one who in season two of the series is slowly building to someone Don can pin most of his problems on.

    The big mystique surrounding Duck is why he was let go of a what Cooper called a very good gig at Young & Rubicam in London. It's been obvious since we first met Duck that he's had a battle with booze, which is what makes him such a fascinating character in the Sterling Cooper world. Victories and problems are met with a simple trip to the liquor cabinet, something Duck doesn't partake in. It's part of why he was so eager to cut Freddy loose, a statement that boozing on the clock is frowned upon. And the Don versus Duck battle has been brewing since this season's first episode, when Duck strongly suggests younger talent is needed for Martinson's Coffee. Duck's instincts are correct, as we see in the later episode "The Gold Violin", but Don is frustrated at bringing in new blood. "So, now that I've given you your babies and your Xerox machine," he says do Duck in the second season's first episode, "Should I throw in a couple of elephants? I don't want there to be an excuse when you can't bring in Martinson's Coffee."

    The relationship is further tested in the very next episode, when American Airlines has the crash that ironically kills Pete's father. Duck knows an old friend at American Airlines, but not the true decision maker. Never mind the fact that Don has been trying to build Mohawk Airlines as the agency's "big" airline. Duck is so desperate to make an impact at Sterling Cooper that he uses his contact at American -- and then ultimately Pete's confused emotions over his father's death -- to impress Roger and Bertram into dumping Mohawk for a chance to land the American Airlines account. Don, for all of his flaws and secrets, knows better. Dumping Mohawk for a possible "foot hold" with American is the wrong business move. This is further confirmed when Duck makes the staff come in on a Sunday (during the "Three Sundays" episode) to get ready for a Good Friday pitch to American. Duck's contact is fired on the very day of the pitch to American, infuriating Don further.

    The boiling point happens in the "Maidenform" episode, where we begin to learn more of what haunts Duck. We meet his ex-wife, two kids and family dog Chauncey. His ex-wife is going to re-marry, his kids have accepted their new life, and oh by the way, the new husband is allergic to Chauncey. All the while, Duck has suggested to Don that Playtex wants new creative, as in creative similar to the material the Maidenform folks are doing. As much as we, the audience, know about Don, we also understand he's extremely smart when it comes to the Sterling Cooper clients. Yes, Don Draper is an unfaithful husband and an uninterested father, but he knows the advertising game. Playtex is kicking ass sales wise, and there's no reason to fix what isn't broke.

    But Duck is adamant on presenting a "Maidenform" campaign to the Playtex folks. "You've been pitching the clients ideas to me more than you have ours to them" is what Don tells Duck in one of the series more telling moments. Roger had sensed the growing tension between Don and Duck, demanding they schedule a lunch to call a "truce". Since Don is too busy nailing Bobbie Barrett and going to the movies, a simple meeting in Duck's office will do. The two reach an understanding regarding the American Airlines/Mohawk fiasco, while Paul Kinsey presents a rather clever idea for Playtex (the Jackie/Marilyn campaign). The Playtex brass are impressed with the new idea, but they're more comfortable with what's working and pass on Paul's idea.

    Which of course leads to one of the more talked about scenes of the season. It's another wasted chance for Duck to impress, and his immediate reaction is to find the nearest bottle of the hard stuff (something very easy to find at SC). But as an attention-starved Chauncey stares at him, Duck refuses the drink. He walks Chauncey out of the building, and throws him out on the New York streets. Chauncey's too much of a reminder of the past he's thrown away, and he can't even accept the loving admiration of a dog that he wishes his kids would keep to remind them of their father.

    The mystique regarding Duck's falling off the wagon has been one of the greatest parts of this season. We assume through further episodes and crafty editing that Don is back to to bottle, especially, in the next episode "The Gold Violin". Matinson's Coffee is now going by "Martinson", and the two new young creative sparks help land the account for Sterling Cooper. Duck is a more confident soul in knowing the young lings "who think young" can land the account, and this moment redeems Duck's status at the agency. The young Smith team impresses the Martinson folk enough to sign with SC, and Don finally recognizes Duck's "Good advance work" in getting those who think young to ink them. Duck suggests landing the account could now lead Sterling Cooper to get "Life Savers", but his brief moment in the sun is tempered as Cooper gives Don all of the credit, another opportunity for Duck to turn the bottle. Again, we never actually see falling off the wagon, but it's implied in his frustration with not getting the deserved credit that all is not right in his world. Don celebrates, as usual with a celebratory toast, even asking Duck if he'd like for him to bring in "something for him", but actor Mark Moses' acting suggests his pain is too great to resist temptation.

    Duck plays his sobriety at the Draper dinner party perfectly, suggesting he'll have a drink with dinner while just drinking tomato juice while everyone else liquors up before the meal. We even get a close up of Duck drinking from an empty wine glass during a toast. But then there's the Freddy incident, dividing Don and Duck even further. Don's the one who gave Duck a chance at redemption by bringing him to Sterling Cooper when his career was wrapped around a tree and losing his plush gig in London. Now, as Freddy suffers an embarrassing drunken incident, it's Duck who demands the firing. The irony isn't lost on Don, and this is all going to lead to a big blow up over the next four weeks. (And special thanks to Nobody's Sweetheart for that great illustration above).

    Since the start of the Missouri/Nebraska game is so late (8pm central time, believed to be the latest kick-off time ever at Memorial Stadium), the NLCS could be all set with the Phillies/Dodgers by then. Here's the state of Nebraska football right now: Everyone's so convinced Chase Daniel and company is going to come rolling into Lincoln to make a big statement that Husker fan seems to be content if the Huskers can just keep the game close. And Missouri hasn't won in Lincoln since 1978. Even CALLAHAN'S teams beat the Tigers in Lincoln, even though he was embarrassed both times in Columbia. But seriously, nobody's picking Nebraska to win on Saturday night. Kevin Kugler is suggesting a Missouri 56, Nebraska 26 final. If that's the case, the Pelini honeymoon is beyond over. Even after everything that's happened with the Husker Football program, shouldn't the element of playing at home -- in a night game no less -- offer some sort of advantage? Or has everyone just given up after the Virginia Tech loss?

    The George Brett video has drawn a ton of interest for good reason. It's that good, and we don't think it's anything for him to be ashamed of. It's one of the greatest baseball stories ever. It doesn't diminish his legacy as perhaps the greatest third baseman ever. It's a great moment, granted one where he didn't realize there was a camera following his every move. But everything about it is such comedy gold. It's better than anything Ron Shelton could have put in Bull Durham. At times, it reminds one of Bill Murray's "Dali Lama" speech to the scared caddy in Caddyshack. Brett is and forever will be my favorite baseball player, and that video should actually serve as a sales piece in getting free agents to come to Kansas City to at least enjoy spring training.

    But right now, it's Cub fans who are literally shitting their pants. And a Boston media what a World Series that would bring Joe Torre, Manny Ramirez, Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Lowe would be like.