Friday, April 30, 2010

FVG Critics' Review: Basketball Wives

One of Lindsey's favorite shows these days is Keeping Up With the Kardashians, on the E! network.  Normally I hate this show, EXCEPT when Khloe Kardashian's husband -- a.k.a Lakers' forward Lamar Odom -- makes an appearance.  Then I'm interested.

So when I saw an ad for Basketball Wives, a new reality show on Vh1, I dared to dream that the network had struck FVG gold.  Real Housewives meets NBA BasketballKardashians with permanent Lamar Odom cameos? Could this finally be the show BOTH of us DVR?

The brainchild, executive producer, and star of the show is Shaunie O'Neal, fresh off her highly publicized divorce from Shaquille O'Neal, a player who needs no introduction, and isn't given one: We never see him. Shaunie flies to Miami to meet up with her friends and fellow cast members, whom we're introduced to one by one.

-Jennifer Williams (wife of ex-NBA player Eric Williams)
-Suzie Ketcham (ex-wife of ex-NBA player Michael Olowokandi)
-Evelyn Lozada (ex-fiancé of ex-NBA player Antoine Walker)
-Gloria Govan (fiancé of NBA player Matt Barnes)
-Royce Reed (mother of NBA player Dwight Howard's son)

If you think you read that wrong, you didn't. Not one of the "wives" is actually married to a current NBA basketball player. And one of them really is Dwight Howard's baby mama, and yes, she's the designated crazy one -- getting scolded in the premiere for inappropriate dancing with a stripper pole.

At the first commercial break, I asked Lindsey how Wives compared with her beloved Real Housewives.

"Are you kidding?  It doesn't compare. It's a lie. None of them are actually wives of a basketball player!"

I reminded her that Real Housewives at times was a misnomer, too, as some of the housewives had jobs, and others weren't actually married.

"Well whatever," she said. "The Real Housewives have personalities. These women sound like they're reading a script."

I agree. While all reality shows stretch the truth, this misrepresentation cut deeper. You can't base an entire show on a single premise and have it immediately prove to be false. It's like doing a reality show on midgets and having them all turn out to be tall (Wait, does that exist already?). Reality TV works best when it at least feels A LITTLE real, and then lets one or two TRULY crazy -- not reading-from-a-script crazy -- characters take over.

And besides, the show sucked.

FVG Grade: F

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Oklahoma City Thunder: FVG's '09-'10 Most Valuable Team

With a starting five averaging 23 years of age and zero games of playoff experience, it's unlikely the Oklahoma City Thunder will win, or even make it to this year's NBA Finals.  In fact, there's a pretty good chance they'll lose in the first-round.  But as far as Football vs. Girlfriend's concerned, that's irrelevant.  It's icing on the cake.

The Thunder are FVG's 2009-2010 Most Valuable Team.

What makes OKC the obvious choice?  Let's consider the usual "Most Valuable" criteria...

Can you win without them?  I'll put it this way.  If Lindsey (a proud native Oklahoman) is over and the Thunder aren't playing, we're watching 'Kell on Earth'.  My record of getting to watch basketball with Linds on a night the Thunder aren't (isn't?) playing?  Somewhere in New Jersey Nets territory.

Are they consistent?  Any team can be exciting enough to convince Lindsey to watch for a night. There's a whole host of storylines I can fabricate.  But like a patchwork pitching staff, it won't get you through a season.  The Thunder, however, are a joy to watch night in and night out.  This team doesn't take nights off.  And therefore, neither do I. 

Are they winners?  The New York Knicks are my favorite basketball team.  But for Knicks' fans, this season was over before it started.  There was NO WAY I could justify watching the Knicks to Lindsey.  I had enough trouble watching myself.  That's why the Thunder's remarkable turnaround in the wins column was so crucial.  Women lose patience with guys that don't work, clothes that don't match, and teams that don't win.  It's just the way it is.

Likability factor.  In 1947, Ted Williams lost the MVP race to Joe DiMaggio despite winning the league's Triple Crown.  Why?  A Boston Globe reporter left him off his ballot entirely, because he didn't like him.  Voters are human, and they have feelings too.  Fortunately, likability could be the Thunder's strongest suit of all. Take this quote from one of today's preeminent sportswriters, Bill Simmons:

"This is something like my 10th or 11th year with NBA Season Pass. I've never gotten attached to a non-Celtics team before, and I've never played favorites if there were multiple non-Boston games happening at the same time. This year? I find myself gravitating toward Thunder games night after night. It's a real team. They like one another. They're better as a group than they are as individuals. And (Kevin) Durant is the most special non-LeBron talent in basketball. Not only is there nobody like him, but there's also never been anyone like him..."

I sent this quote to Lindsey the other day.  I send her anything positive I read about the Thunder.

"Ooooo, so exciting!" she replied.

Sounds like a girl ready to watch every playoff game!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

GUEST POST: Yankees Suck, But Not Really.

by Robby Herman

I know, spring is upon us, the weather is starting to turn, Opening Day is right around the corner.  But I just don’t feel the same excitement this year.  I’m guessing this might have something to do with the fact that I am a fan of the lowly, incapable-of-doing-anything-right New York Mets.

Usually around this time, whether the experts predict it or not, I have a feeling that “this is the Mets’  year”, or “the NL East is the Mets’ to lose”.  But this year is different.  I don’t see any scenario in which the Mets can even challenge the Phillies in the division, let alone make a run for the World Series.  Even if Johan wins the Cy Young, which he will, and even if Reyes finally breaks out, which he will, there just aren’t enough weapons for this to be a playoff team.  In fact, the best thing going for the Mets might just be the Cascarino’s Pizza sold at the upper level of Citi Field.

I'm not usually one to admit that I've lost an argument.  Just ask my dad.  After 3 seasons of Jets' running back Thomas Jones rushing for over 1,000 yards, I still insist that he is the worst running back in the NFL, and maybe of all time.  But I have been arguing with my arrogant Yankee fan friends for years that the Mets are the superior team in New York.  And I finally admit that I am wrong.

Sure, the Yankees have 17 times as much money as any other team in baseball, and can therefore purchase any player they want.  And yes, 75% of their players are on steroids (I’m looking at you, Mr. Rodriguez).  But overall, they are pretty damn good.

Let’s take a look at Yankees vs. Mets, position-by-position.

Catcher: Jorge Posada vs. God Knows Who…Advantage: Yankees.  I’ve never been too fond of Jorge, but he still seems to be a safe bet for 20 homers a year.  Plus, it doesn’t take much to beat out the Mets’ catcher(s).  They’ve signed about 5 this offseason, and I’ve never heard of any of them.  And I follow baseball pretty closely.

First Base: Mark Teixeira vs. sigh..Daniel Murphy…Advantage: Yankees.  I hate Teixeira.  Everything about him.  The way he runs, the way he looks, the way he swings.  But his numbers don’t lie.  As for Murphy, so much fuss is made about his work ethic and his passion for the game.  But who cares? I could have those same attributes too!  You just can’t start for a whole year and only manage to drive in 63 runs.

Second Base: Robinson Cano vs. Luis Castillo…Advantage: Tie.  Cano’s stats may look better, but when you look up “clutch” in the dictionary, his picture is nowhere to be found.  I remember a stretch last year when he went 0-17 with RISP and 2 outs.  Impressive.  Meanwhile, Luis quietly hit .302 last year, and was one of the Mets’ only consistent bats.

Shortstop: Derek Jeter vs. Jose Reyes…Advantage: Yankees, for now.  One is a surefire Hall of Famer, the other will be in 10 years.  Mark my words.  Reyes hasn’t lived up to the hype yet, but his combination of power, speed, and the strongest arm known to man, will come through this year, and for many years in the future.  But until he wins a championship, or three, he’s not in Jeter’s class.

Third Base: Alex Rodriguez vs. David Wright…Advantage: Yankees. A-Rod is the best hitter in the game not named Albert Pujols.  Wright is not.  Enough about him being “Mr. Met”, and “the face of the franchise”.  He hit 10 home runs and had 72 RBIS last year.  That is flat out embarrassing for a “star” like him.

Outfield: Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, and Nick Swisher vs. Jason Bay, Carlos Beltran, and Jeff Francoeur…Advantage: Mets.  Wow.  Advantage: Mets.  That felt good to type.  Now that I think about it, the Yankees outfield sucks.  For a team paying its players more than 200 million dollars a year, that’s a pretty pedestrian bunch.  I know, Beltran’s out for the beginning of the season after his mysterious surgery, but the Mets still have the edge with the big bats of Bay and Francoeur.

Starting Pitching: CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte, Javier Vazquez, and Phil Hughes vs. Johan Santana, John Maine, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez, and Jonathan Niese…Advantage: Yankees.  One thing I will never admit is that CC is better than Johan.  In fact, no one is better than Johan.  No one has ever been better than Johan, and no one will ever be better than Johan.  But other than that, the Mets have had the same staff for what feels like a decade, and it’s never been good before.  What’s gonna change now?

Closer: Mariano Rivera vs. Francisco Rodriguez…Advantage: Yankees.  Only the Mets could take a 62 save guy and make him bad.  K-Rod had 35 saves, but a 3.71 ERA is pretty ugly and he never seemed to close the big games.  Not that there were many big games last year.  Meanwhile, Rivera’s the best to ever play the position.

The Yanks are loaded at almost every position; the Mets are not.  Even someone as stubborn as myself can’t honestly think the Mets are a better baseball team.  Just don’t let my Yankee fan friends know I’m saying this.  That would be the first argument I’ve ever “lost”.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Baseball: America's Relationship-Friendly Pastime

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know I like to tease baseball and give it a hard time.  But for all its flaws (too long, too boring, too nerdy, too confusing to bet on, etc.), baseball will always have a place in my heart.  It was the first sport I fell in love with, and to be honest, it still has a lot going for it.

Like, if getting along with your girlfriend or wife is important to you, baseball's the best sport there is.

To understand why, we must become familiar with the terms watchability and missabilityWatchability is the degree to which we can enjoy watching a game.  Missability is the degree to which we're OK with missing it.  Usually they're inversely related: Games with high missability (preseason basketball, golf) tend to have low watchability, and games with high watchability (NFL Sundays, March Madness) tend to have low missability.

And low missability is the #1 cause of fights with your girlfriend.

That brings us to baseball.  Now, I'm not going to pretend baseball's an easy sport to sit through.  It isn't.  But when your favorite team's playing, it absolutely is.  For me, Mets' games are pleasant, enjoyable, and never require my full attention.  As long as the Mets are playing -- and with the exception of the occasional travel day, they are -- baseball is very watchable.

Yet, at the same time, it behooves me to remember that that baseball game I'm watching is merely one out of 162!  That's roughly the equivalent of just six minutes of an NFL football game!  Know how your coach used to tell you after a tough loss "It's OK, it was just one game"? Well, in baseball, they mean it.  A single baseball game -- as exciting as a walk-off home run (or as agonizing as a bullpen-blown lead) can be -- just isn't a very big deal.  And that's what makes it so missable.

No other sport is so highly watchable and missable at the same time.  I can and will always enjoy spending an evening alone with the Mets (until around early August when they're mathematically eliminated), yet I'll never feel too disappointed if I can't.

What could be more relationship-friendly than that?