February 20 - Live From New York... It's one of the most successful shows in TV history.
Tonight, NBC is airing a prime time special about the first five years of Saturday Night live - the John Belushi years that put the show on the map and brought the genre known as sketch television back into vogue and made it hip again. The show is now on for 30 years (I know, I can't believe it either) and has produced some of the biggest names in TV and movie history - Belushi, Murray, Murphy, Crystal, Martin, Myers, etc, etc, etc.
As a life long fan of the show, I still watch it all the time. Not just at 11:30 on Saturday nights, either. The reruns on E! whenever I'm home and they are on (which is always). I even use the DVR for the ones overnight on Saturdays - the real old ones, when you have no idea which season they are going to throw on that night, but always come from the first ten or so. With those, you get a flashback to the Belushi years, or the Murphy years or the 1984-84 Billy Crystal/Martin Short season that might be the funniest in the history of the show (but since it was not run by Lorne Michaels, continually gets shunned by NBC these days).
All of this got me thinking.......Who are the greatest cast members ever on the show? There are so many to choose from, it makes it real difficult to decide. Here are the criteria I think are important for the decision: longevity, memorable characters, carrying sketches, career outside the show DURING their time on the show (not post-SNL, though). Each carries different weight for each cast member, obviously.
I know these criteria rule out just about everyone from the '84-85 season. That season was my favorite ever - think about some of these sketches - the Synchronized Swimmers, Ed Grimley, the guys that like to torture themselves, the Minkmans and my favorite sketch ever, "The Jackie Rogers Jr. $100,000 Jackpot Wad". It also rules out almost the entire current cast, as most of them have not been around long enough to create their legacy yet (Horatio Sanz and Amy Poehler are well on their way, though). By the way - there was one season where all of the following were on the show: Mike Myers, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider, Kevin Nealon, Chris Farley, Phil Hartman and Adam Sandler. That is truly amazing in retrospect. That said, though, I think the Top Five are pretty clear......
Ten Other Contenders (in no particular order) - Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Joe Piscopo, Dana Carvey, Jon Lovitz, Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, Chris Kattan, Molly Shannon. There are others, too, but those are the ones that jump out at me. No. 5: Will Ferrell - One of the truly funniest cast members on the show. You laughed at just about everything he ever appeared in. He didn't explode until he left the show, though - His popularity was growing as he left. But on the show itself, he might be the funniest ever. Has a couple great characters, but not as many as everyone else on the list. But man, could he carry sketches. No. 4: Mike Myers - He meets every requirement on the list, but falls a hair short compared to those above him (in my eyes, at least). Wayne's World launched him on the show and launched his movie career off it. His characters are his legacy - Wayne and Dieter are still quoted to this day. But he couldn't carry sketches like the others. No. 3: Phil Hartman - The longest tenured cast member ever. Created memorable characters....Frankenstein singing Christmas carols always cracked me up, Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer (Johnny Damon's muse) is still brilliant. He was one of the greatest impressionists the show ever saw, with spot on imitations of Frank Sinatra (his "Sinatra Group" sketch is still hysterical on the 50th viewing) and Bill Clinton. He didn't have the best career outside of the show, compared to the others, although Lionel Hutz is one of the great "Simpsons" characters. He could, though, carry sketches better than just about anyone. It might be a surprise to see him this high on the list, but look at the big picture and it makes more sense. It is just a shame he is no longer with us. No. 2: Eddie Murphy - The big star of my early viewing years. He just burst on the scene and dominated the show like no one ever has. His characters are more memorable and numerous than anyone else's - Gumby, Buckwheat, Mr. Robinson, Velvet Jones, etc. His career outside the show was amazing - 48 Hrs. and Beverly Hills Cop were enormous hits while he was on the show, with Trading Places soon to follow. He didn't carry the sketches he was in, he dominated them. The longevity isn't there like some of the others, but the other categories are so strong that he would be at the top of the list if it wasn't for who is. No. 1: John Belushi - He put this show on the map. It might have been an ensemble show, but he was the star. He could do it all and aces all the criteria. The characters, the movies, the ability to carry any sketch. He could do it all. And he wasn't a flash in the pan. He even died like a star. A no-brainer pick to top the list.
I'm sure this list is open to some conjecture, but then again, this is my blog.
February 19 - More Ramblings Lots of little things to talk about, so it is bullet points, once again.
--So, The NHL and NHLPA are talking again, hoping to bang something out to save the season. In fact, ESPN is reporting that a deal is "imminent". Well, I'm taking the conservative approach to all this. Emotionally, I really don't want to (or can't afford to) invest any more into this. I would rather be very happily surprised that an agreement has been reached than build up my hopes, just to see them let down yet again. So, just tell me when a deal is done. I will be very happy when it is. But until then, I can't worry about it. --Keri and I were watching "Grease" this morning and I asked the question, "Demure Sandy or Slutty Sandy"? I guess it is the same thing as the Ginger versus Mary Anne debate, of course. And after originally saying Demure Sandy, Keri gave me a look and I changed my mind, agreeing with her that it is definitely Slutty Sandy. --Pitchers and catchers are in camp and I'm already tired of all this Yankee versus Red Sox basking. Please stop. It makes the Yankees look like sore losers and the Red Sox look like sore winners. Let's just move on, please. I'm all for the rivalry, and know this comes with it, but position players haven't even reported yet.. --As I write this, I am watching Vermont play Nevada as part of Bracket Buster Saturday. Both of these teams are very impressive and deserve NCAA bids even if they don't win their conference tournaments. In a down year for conferences like the Pac-10, Big Ten and SEC, if either of these teams is not in the field of 64, something is terribly wrong. Vermont, in particular, looks really good. They have two big time players, Taylor Coppenrath and T.J. Sorrentine, and are currently number 15 in the RPI rankings. Two of their four losses are against Kansas ans North Carolina. A win today in Reno and htey should be a lock. Of course, I'm still crossing my fingers that Stony Brook upsets them in the America East tourney and gets the bid. --It is NBA All-Star Weekend and I still find it weird to not be there. After six of them, this is my second year away from the madness of ASW and, after not watching a second of it last year, I will do the same this year. As much as I hated the stress the Weekend brought with it, there were a lot of positives. I miss the parties, the celebrity sightings and, as the person in charge of the player's tickets, being visible and in a position to earn some favors. But I always hated the stress, the finger pointing, the lack of communication and cooperation between departments and the chaos that was more prevalent than the good stuff. In the long run, I am happy I am not there. --I now have 17 writers lined up for the upcoming columnists area of the site, with another ten listed as possibilities. The more, the merrier, I always say, of course. It looks like it is going to be a lot of fun, so you are still welcome to join us - just let me know.
OK. I'm outta here. Let's see what happens with hockey. Keep your fingers crossed - that is all I will do right now.
February 16 - It's Our Puck and We Are Going Home With It I really don't know how much strength I have to give to this topic and I certainly don't have anything to say that hasn't already been said. But as anyone who had something tangible riding on the outcome of these negotiations can tell you, the whole thing sucks. And since I am one of those people, I am entitled to my opinion and, since I have the forum to express it, here goes.
The NHL lockout is costing me, as well as thousands of others, a lot of work. Whether you are a vendor, bar owner, usher, broadcaster, public address announcer, referee or, yes, a statistician, money has now been taken out of your wallet for a full season. Owners and players can bicker and negotiate and posture and sling mud and spew as much rhetoric as they want. But when that next paycheck comes for them, they will make more in that one check than most people in my position earn in a year. The owners? They wouldn't be owners if they didn't already have more money than most people dream about. It reminds me of a story. Right after the 1994-95 NHL lockout, I was in the Islander locker room talking with one of our trainers. I had just gotten a speeding ticket, but the trainer knew someone who might be able to fix it for me. As we were talking, one of our players, Mick Vukota, walked by. He heard our conversation and said to me, "Mirl, did you get paid during the lockout?" When I told him yes, his reply was, "Then pay the ticket and stop moaning about money around here. We didn't get paid for months." After a stunned moment, I reminded him of something very important. "When you get your next check," I told him, "you will be holding in your hand more money than I make in a year." The conversation was over and my point was made.
This lockout is about money - they all are. All labor disputes, be them in sports or not, are. Labor wars will never go away, either. That is life. We all know that. However, when it is millionaires fighting with millionaires, and when the leadership of both groups is as stubborn as these leaders are, the common person loses sympathy. If this were another sport, there would be a public outcry. But not with hockey. An ESPN poll today showed that 69% of those voting did not care that the season was cancelled. 69%!!!! Yet, these millionaires are still think this is more about the fan losing sympathy rather than using common sense and realizing it is apathy.
As for the leaders of the two sides, Gary Bettman today came off a lot better and more in control than Bob Goodenow. That is for good reason. His side wins this war when it ends. The players will never receive an offer as "good" as they turned down today. I say "good" because it all depends on your interpretation of the offer - I won't go into details about it. But the $42.5 million cap that the payers turned down is higher than anything they will ever see when these negotiations restart. And, of course, all future offers will also include the 24% salary rollback that the players offered, too. Figure the next offer to be around $30 million or so, with the players lucky to end up at $35 million. And they will have no leverage whatsoever to counter it. The owners have already set themselves up legally to declare an impasse, opening the door for them to use replacement players come September. Once players start crossing the picket line, and plenty will, the union is dead. Just like in football in 1987. Of course, their salary system is the best in pro sports. They are the only sport with a hard salary cap. And no guaranteed contracts. See where this is headed?
And Bob Goodenow? He comes off like a sore loser. In his press conference today, all he was doing was pointing fingers and slinging mud at the NHL and Gary Bettman. Where does that get him, now or in the future? Maybe he should have realized he just buried his constituents. I think he thinks his union is as powerful as the baseball union, and therefore, he can use the same negotiating tactics that the baseball union does. Of course, there are two major differences. One, the baseball union is the most powerful union in the country, not just in sports. And two, people in the U.S. actually care about baseball. There are casual fans. Hockey fans are very territorial and proud and, therefore, defensive about this, but they need to admit that there are no casual hockey fans out there and that Americans, in general, don't care about the sport of hockey. And there is the rub right there. The union has lost sight of this. Canadians? Yes, this is a painful day north of the border. But in the U.S.? It is a "Who cares?" attitude. And 24 of the 30 NHL teams are in the States. Markets like Pittsburgh, Raleigh, Nashville and Atlanta, just to name a few, were already struggling. How will they survive once the game comes back, when their already small crowds dwindle even more?
And that brings us back to the real losers in all this. Not the fans, not the owners, not the players. People like me and many of my friends. Anyone who just lost a decent to large part of their annual income. Because we are never going to get this money back. And in many cases, that money is money that can't afford to be lost.
Of course, Gary Bettman, Bob Goodenow, the owners and the payers could care less. They still have their millions and big houses and nice cars. Enjoy them, folks. And sleep well tonight. At least I'll have my conscience when I wake up in the morning.
February 14 - Weekend Thoughts Lots to talk about from this past weekend, so its bullet point time.....
--I worked the Lakers at Cleveland game for ABC on Sunday. It was my first opportunity to work with Hubie Brown, who was partnered with Mike Breen for the game. I have to say it was a great chance to work along side one of the greats the sports broadcasting industry has ever seen. I've always been a huge fan of Hubie as an analyst, but sitting that close while he is doing it gives me a new appreciation of just how good he really is. I don't exactly know how to describe it, but he is up there with the great analysts ever. --The game also gave me a chance to see a LeBron James-Kobe Bryant battle. Kobe was far from 100%, having just been activated from the Injured List, but it was still a great matchup. LeBron wins this one with 25 points, 9 assists and 8 rebounds, not to mention a Cav win. --I also got to see one of the funniest in-game acts I have ever seen. We were treated to a performance by "Beefcake on the Lake". I will never be able to fully pass the hilarity involved, so just click on the link. Trust me on this one. --The NBA also saw the retirement of two legends in the last few days. First, Reggie Miller made it official on Thursday that this is his last season. And on Sunday, Karl Malone did the same. I had the opportunity to deal with both of them at All-Star Games in the past and, while my first experiences with The Mailman were not the greatest, he mellowed his last couple seasons in the league and, by the end, my experiences with both of them were a pleasure. Both are first ballot Hall of Fame locks - it is just a shame neither had the chance to win a championship. --College hoops saw two amazing comebacks on Saturday night, but both were on the West Coast, so many people in the East may have missed them. First, UNLV comes from 10 down with 30 seconds to play to win at San Diego State in OT. Then, Pacific comes from 8 back in the last 23 seconds on the road to knock off Utah State. If you get a chance to see either set of highlights, do it. Great stuff. --I got home in time to catch the tail end of last night's Grammys and was awestruck by the performance of "Across the Universe" by the crew that they put together. With Velvet Revolver backing (Slash from Guns N Roses is their lead guitarist, Scott Weiland from Stone Temple Pilots the lead singer), the following artists collaborated on a tsunami relief benefit song: Bono, Norah Jones, Stevie Wonder. Brian Wilson, Alicia Keys, Time McGraw, Steve Tyler and Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong. Amazing is the only way to describe it. Its available on iTunes, with all proceeds going to tsunami relief. --Happy Valentines Day, Keri!!!!