September 12, 2004
Stuff from the Weekend (and Bill James!)
- I finally saw Mystic River over the weekend. The movie was nominated for "Best Picture" last year and its director, Clint Eastwood, was nominated for "Best Director." Plus, Sean Penn won the Academy Award for "Best Actor" and Tim Robbins won for "Best Supporting Actor." Needless to say, my expectations were pretty high.
The movie didn't disappoint. It is one of the better films I've seen in the past couple years, although I'd call it "very good" and not quite "great," simply because there were a few things that weren't completely "right" in my mind. However, the acting was superb, particularly from Penn, and I thought the film was shot brilliantly.
I wasn't a big Sean Penn fan until the last year or so, during which time I've seen him in Mystic River and 21 Grams, which both gave me a new appreciation for him. Add in good stuff that I'd seen him in before, like Carlito's Way, Dead Man Walking and Bad Boys (the original, not the crappy Will Smith remakes), and I think it's safe to say Spicoli is one of the better actors of his generation.
Overall, I'd give it an eight out of 10.
- Here's why I hate fantasy football ... Even if you make a good pick in the draft, it can become worthless if you don't pick the right weeks to play the right guys.
For instance, I thought before the Baseball Think Factory league draft that Curtis Martin was going to have a sort of "comeback" season this year, so I picked him fairly high. Then yesterday, in his first game of the season, he rushed for a career-high 196 yards and scored two touchdowns. Nicely done, right?
Not quite. Martin is my third running back, behind Edgerrin James and Brian Westbrook, so those 196 yards (203 actually, including receiving) and two scores just sat on my bench yesterday. Now, those among you with 20/20 vision might say I should have started Martin, but I don't see how I could have benched either James or Westbrook in favor of him on the opening weekend of the season.
Plus, both James (171 total yards) and Westbrook (161 total yards) had good games, although neither scored a touchdown and neither were as good as Martin. And you know what will happen next week: I'll bench one of them in favor of Martin, they'll score three touchdowns, and Martin will go for 65 yards and no scores.
- I read an extremely good book over the weekend -- Ben Mezrich's Bringing Down the House, the story of MIT students who used card counting to "beat" the casinos for millions in the 1990s. I had heard some very good things about the book and it lived up to expectations, and them some.
It's pretty rare to find a great, unique story that is told in an exceptional way, but that's exactly what Mezrich was able to do. He was solely a fiction writer prior to doing Bringing Down the House, and I think that really helped him tell this (non-fiction) story in a way that matched the quality of the subject. Also, Mezrich involved himself in the story in a way that definitely added to the book, which is also rare.
The book was so good that I may have broken my own speed-reading record, which is saying something, because when I get really into a book I almost always finish it in one sitting. I blitzed through Bringing Down the House and its 257 pages, and then was extremely disappointed when I got to the end, not because the ending was a poor one (it wasn't), but because I wanted to read more.
Since I seem to be handing out ratings today, I'll give it a nine out of 10.
- The Vikings won big over the Cowboys yesterday behind Daunte Culpepper's 242 passing yards and five touchdowns. I thought the offense was extremely good and running on all cylinders, despite being without Michael Bennett. However, while it's tough to find fault in a 35-17 win, I think the defense definitely needs some work before I can put aside memories of the defensive collapses of the past few years.
Yes, they held Dallas to just 17 points, but the Cowboys are not a good offensive team by any stretch of the imagination. They ranked 21st in the league in points per game last year and they've now got 41-year-old Vinny Testaverde at quarterback. Testaverde had a nice game, throwing for 355 yards and a touchdown while averaging 7.1 yards per pass, and the Vikings didn't get to him once for a sack, despite the fact that he's about as mobile as I was after my trip to the Chinese buffet on Saturday afternoon.
When a team has Richie Anderson and some guy named ReShard Lee as their running backs for most of the game and the quarterback attempts 50 passes, it's not a real good sign when you can't bring him down once. Like I said, it's tough to complain about an 18-point win, but the offense being good was never really in question. As usual, it's going to come down to the defense.
- The Twins' "Magic Number" is 11. They have 20 games left to play and so do the White Sox. And as if that weren't enough, Luis Rivas hasn't played in two weeks.
- And finally, there's nothing new from me over at The Hardball Times today, but we do have a very special guest column from Bill James. Some of you may have heard of him before ... he's written a few books. It's a real thrill to have him involved in a project that I'm behind.
To read Bill's column (which is, of course, excellent), click here.
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