Saturday, May 2, 2015

Mayweather-Pacquiao: Hype of the Century

You ever notice that the best sports movies are always about boxing? Seriously, think about it for a second. Aside from The Natural, Field of Dreams, Hoosiers and maybe Slap Shot, the vast majority of great sports films are stories about boxing. It makes sense. Unlike other sports, boxing is strictly one on one; there's no team (aside from the supporting cast known as the corner men), just two individuals against each other, each usually with a trait that makes them heroic or detestable. And that's the rub; everything may be more interesting in shades of grey, but movie producers still prefer a clash of good vs. evil. No other sport over the years has created that atmosphere quite like boxing can, which is why it has continued to have its stories told on the big screen over the years.

Of course, there's more to it than that. You see, once upon a time, boxing actually meant a whole lot to the world of sports, hell the world in general. It was a place where giants, and worlds collided, where a man with nothing could become a man with everything, where a man could become a hero, a champion, no matter the color of his skin or the place of his birth. The great stories of boxing are limitless, whether it be journeyman fighter James J. Braddock working his way from poverty to the World Championship against all odds, Joe Louis (the greatest fighter you've never heard of) breaking color barriers and defending the title with the weight of a country on his shoulders or Muhammad Ali overcoming racism and political pressure to become the Greatest of All Time. These men, these stories, once made boxing matter, once made it one of the most popular sports all over the world, and once made it bigger than sports. Now, years after boxing has fallen to the waste side of the sports and pop culture lexicon, some would like you to believe boxing is about to do it again.

Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao. You know it, even if you aren't a sports fan. You'll certainly know it by the end of tonight, after the fight between boxing's best pound for pound fighter (Mayweather) and his closest competitor (Pacquiao) concludes. To say this is the biggest fight since Tyson bit off Holyfield's ear nearly eighteen years ago is an understatement. The price of the fight for PPV is just short of $100 dollars. To get into the fight at the Caesar's Palace, you either have to be famous, a male reporter (sorry Rachel Nichols and Michelle Beadle), a member of Mayweather or Pacquiao's entourage or some wealthy heir to an overseas fortune. What does this mean? It means the fight is expected to make, in total, more than $300 million tonight, more money than most people will make in a lifetime. Basically, big is too small a word to describe Mayweather vs. Pacquiao. No wonder everyone, including the promoters, seems to be calling it the Fight of the Century.

The more appropriate title, however, would Hype of the Century, because the likelihood is the fight will never live up to the enormous buzz that has followed it. This isn't just anticipation generated over the course of several weeks; no, this goes back 2009, when Mayweather and Pacquiao first started negotiating over this super fight. In the end, it took over five years before the two agreed to terms, largely because Floyd ducked Pacquiao and Pacquiao initially refused to do blood testing of a whole slew of stupid issues that only made the public's hunger for the fight grow. Casual fans craved it because it appeared the two may never come to blows, a sports crime if you will. The media craved it because it would allow them to properly evaluate the legacy of each man, while also give them a reprieve from talking about supporting players like Bob Arum, Freddie Roach and Mayweather promotions. Sane viewers of ESPN First Take crave it because it means Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith can stop embarrassing themselves by giving the most biased boxing analysis in history. Whatever the reason, the buzz helped build the fight's anticipation all the way to its Fight of the Century title. But the price of hype is expectations, and the expectation here is one that Mayweather-Pacquiao cannot reach; the fight that saves boxing.

The last fight that actually mattered

Yes, boxing does need saving. As a massive sports fan, the last time I remember boxing getting this much play was the second Holyfield-Tyson fight, which, again, was a high school graduate ago. Since that fight, boxing has only been relevant on a couple of occasions (you can't count them on one hand), and has watched MMA and a lack of stars cripple the sport's popularity. No matter how much they want to deny it, hardcore boxing fans and media members are definitely putting their hopes into Mayweather-Pacquiao, that's it's indeed the fight to save the sport. It's a nice fantasy. But in reality, the only way it can save the sport is if it winds up being one of the five greatest fights in boxing history. I'm talking Thunder Meets Lightning, Rumble in the Jungle, Thrilla in Manila, actual Fight of the Century (the first Ali-Frasier bout) quality here. And if we're being honest, the chances of this fight equaling or surpassing one of those bouts is every unlikely.

That's where the five years of hype has become the problem. If this bout had in fact taken place back in March of 2010 as originally planned, this could've been the fight that saved boxing. Instead, five years have passed, and all we are left now is way too much hype and two once excellent fighters who are merely just good. Furthermore, for all the hype, there isn't really anything interesting about either guy, another unfortunate thing we learned over the past five years. Everyone hyping this fight wants you to believe that Floyd Mayweather is the modern day Muhammad Ali, while Pacquiao is the plucky underdog ala Braddock, Wepner, and George Foreman circa 1994. You know, the good vs. evil angle. The attempts, in my opinion, have been laughable. As great as Mayweather has been, the only comparison between him and Ali is that they were both loathed at their peaks, and even that's spotty. The negative reaction the public had towards Ali was because he lived in a time where racism and intolerance still ran rampant in this country; Floyd is hated by many because it appears like he's kind of a terrible human being. I don't know anyone other than Stephen A. Smith who is watching this fight and rooting for Mayweather. As for Pacquiao, aside from his journey to boxing, he's not all that interesting either, largely because everyone has been saying he has no chance at all tonight. Why are you supposed to care about a dude who evidently has no shot? It also doesn't help that, once you dig deeper, Pacquiao may not be as nice of a guy as you believe either.

So let's recap; this is the so called Fight of the Century, the fight to save boxing, and yet it features two past their prime fighters who are at best polarizing and at worst uninteresting? And again, what exactly is on the line here? Both Mayweather and Pacquiao are evidently champions, but they've won and unified so many titles that only the most diehard of diehards would know what is actually being defended or not this evening. For all intents and purposes, this is really just a massive exhibition bout for a whole lot of money between two guys who don't hold a candle to the greats of the past. And this is supposed to save boxing? I'm really not sure what to say about that. I'm all for being hopeful and trying to look on the bright side. I really am. But I don't see it here. All I see are a bunch of fans and media members hyping up a fight to be something more than it actually is. The fight that is going to save boxing should have meaning, it should have massive potential, it should give you the same feeling you got when watching Foreman achieve the impossible dream or when Buster Douglas beat Mike Tyson. I ask you, what does this fight give you? Really, what does this fight give you?

I won't be watching Mayweather-Pacquiao this evening; I guess that puts me in the same category as Michelle Beadle and Rachel Nichols (two women who were bold enough to call out Mayweather for his domestic violence cases). Instead, I'm going to re-watch Cinderella Man, a biopic on James J. Braddock that remains one of Ron Howard's best films. There's a lot to like about the film (the performances, the fight scenes, the way it captures Depression era America), but the most important thing is that it captures what was great about a boxing match. The guts, the glory, the will to fight for something beyond your reach, and most importantly, the will to fight for something. That's what is lacking from Mayweather-Pacquiao, that is what keeps it from being the fight that saves boxing and that's why I don't feel the need to waste $99 dollars of mine. I'm not saying it won't be an event worth watching. It'll be a spectacle, it'll be memorable, it likely will be at worst a decent fight. But as someone who would like to see boxing get saved, as someone who would like to see it be more than a relic of another age, I need more than an over hyped spectacle to believe. I need the spirit of the sweet science that movies like Cinderella Man and Rocky captured. I need more than a maybe.

Russell Crowe in Cinderella Man
But hey, I know I'm not going to change your mind. So for those of you reading this who are going to order or attend the fight, I wish you nothing but a fantastic time. I hope I'm wrong, and I hope this does end up doing more for boxing than it appears. I hope this is more than the Hype of the Century. But ask yourself; if it isn't, what are you, and what is boxing, going to do tomorrow when the hype is all gone?

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Friday, May 1, 2015

Out Cold: A Cult Tribute

It's Cult Tribute time guys! Yes, after a few days of wrestling and sports, we're heading back to the confines of entertainment to look at another lost national treasure. Today, we'll be talking about the 2001 film Out Cold, one of my favorite cult comedies released in the past fifteen years. Get it? Got it? Good. Let's not waste anymore time. ON WITH THE SHOW!

Out Cold: A Cult Tribute

What You Already Know

Easy; Out Cold was that snowboarding/party movie released in 2001 that was directed by a couple of music video dudes (The Malloys) and stars one of the London brothers (Jason). You at least know that; the London's are very distinct after all. Plus, there were a lot of snowboarding movies released in the early part of the new millennium that can easily be distinguished. You remember the one with Pete Sampras' wife, Rufus Sewell and the dude from Idle Hands? Pepperidge Farm remembers. Unfortunately.

The opposite of Out Cold. And Batman

What You Didn't Already Know

Out Cold is, for all intents and purposes, a comedic, snowboard adaptation of Casablanca. Yes, THAT Casablanca, the one with the million dollar quotes, scene stealer Claude Rains, Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, a whole lot of Nazi's and the stiffest second banana since Hayden Christensen. While it doesn't follow everything from Casablanca's plot, the general theme is the same; boy named Rick (London) meets girl (Caroline Dhavernas) in exotic location, they fall in love, girl disappears and breaks boys heart, only to crash back into his life years later with a new, less interesting dude. The only differences is the exotic location is Cancun instead of Paris, Rick's hometown is an Alaskan town called Bull Mountain, the girl strands the guy with a duel bicycle instead of a train station, and the new dude (Todd Richards) is actually not a stiff. Oh, and there's a bunch of yuppies trying to invade the mountain and change it from a fun loving paradise into corporate Alaska. There was none of that in Casablanca that I can recall.

What you'll also find surprising is how many decent names there are in Out Cold. Seriously, there's quite a few. Lee Majors, the Six Million Dollar, is the villain, and probably one of George W. Bush's favorite creations ever. Criminal Minds star AJ Cook plays one of the other love interests for Rick. The dude from White Collar is around, acting all weird. Thomas Lennon appears several times, most notably on a lesbian chat room of all places. Model Victoria Silvsted (playmate of the year) plays the daughter of Majors' character and any male viewer past puberty will enjoy every second she's onscreen. And then there's Zack Galifianakis and David Koechner. Yup, long before Galifianakis was starring in the Hangover movies and long before Koechner became the funniest sports reporter in film history, these two were mucking it up on Bull Mountain. And thank goodness, because they help make this movie the cult hit it is. Galifianakis is exactly what you'd expect him to be, and it's easy to see why he achieved the fame he did. If he only he hadn't decided to violate the Jacuzzi during the film's midway point. And goodness he's too funny here. Serving as the most unreliable narrator since all three guys in Rashamon, Koechner opens and closes the film with two monologues that are as funny as they are ridiculous. Don't believe me? Call Alan Greenspan, he'll tell you.

Best Performance

For what many would call a stupid comedy, there's a lot to like from the performances here. Galifianakis and Koechner, as already stated, are hilarious. AJ Cook handles herself well. The always underrated Caroline Dhavernas is splendid. And I haven't even mentioned London (wonderfully channeling his Pink character from Dazed and Confused on a more adult level) or Flex Anderson and David Denman, who are both effective as a timid snowboarder and the most oblivious man to ever be in the closet. But in the end, I think they'd all tell you that the best performance comes from Derek Hamilton, a relative unknown before and since who plays Pig Pen, brother of Galifianakis' Luke.

To say that Pig Pen is a stupid character would be an understatement; he is so dumb that he makes Jessica Simpson look like a Rhodes scholar. The only things he appears to be good for is hanging out, chasing women, quoting Planet of the Apes films or helping his friends get residue out of their bongs. Characters like that are generally more annoying than they are good. And yet, Hamilton acquits himself quite well, making the character's shortcoming less annoying and more likable. You want to root for Pig Pen, and best of all you want to laugh with and at him. In a movie with great comedic guys like Galifianakis and Koechner, Hamilton manages to be the funniest of them all. It's a shame he didn't get more work for this. But hey, at least Hamilton had this movie. It's not every day you can be this funny playing a character that can't spell romantic, or advise. Or bong.

Galifinakas and Hamilton

Best Moment

I could say everything, but that would be cheating. And we don't cheat here, unless it's with video games. So I'm going to go with the scene earlier in the film where Rick, Luke and Pig Pen are driving around. It's here where we get London's best line and the back story of his whirlwind romance with Anna (Dhavernas) that sets up the rest of the film. It features some emotional elements (London even sheds a tear), Galifianakis doing Galifianakis things and Hamilton killing it as Pig Pen. You'll love his constant drifting in and out of focus, and his final, glorious line of the scene, "Yeah, carpe THE diem! Seize the...carp!". Classic.


I don't think anyone out there, including the cast or crew, would claim that Out Cold is a classic film in the traditional sense. It's not, and it's understandable why a bunch of critics didn't enjoy it and why it quickly faded from the pop culture lexicon. But a good film doesn't always have to be Blade Runner or the Bridge on the River Kwai; sometimes it just needs to be a good time. Out Cold is a great time; it's funny, it's good natured, the soundtrack is really good and there's a whole lot of cool snowboarding footage. Plus, who doesn't love a goofy homage to Casablanca? If you're having a bad day and just want a laugh or if you're looking for a good cult film late at night, Out Cold is your flick. Go and rent it, order it, buy it, or stream it now! Seize the carp!

That'll do it guys. I'm off till tomorrow. Till then, watch Out Cold, go Canadiens and Wild, lay off the mini pizzas, fist pump for every fan in Cleveland that avoided the Sam Bradford era, boycott the Avengers: Age of Ultron (Free Whedon!), bring back Surge and Salsa Doritos, and as always, don't forget to do the DUCHOVNY!

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

NHL Eastern Conference Preview: The Second Round

We are a little more than two hours away from the official start of the second round of the NHL playoffs. What does that mean? Last minute prediction column for the Eastern Conference. Don't say your buddy Cult doesn't come through for you in a pinch readers! But let's not waste time, we have a deadline to meet and Dion Phaneuf gifs to post. ON WITH THE SHOW!

New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals

Major Storyline: Is this finally the Caps year? How many times have we asked that question now. Each year, we all wait to see if Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom and company can finally get over the hump and win the big one. It never happens. Can this year be different? Or are the Caps about to relive their past all over again like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day? Or is Edge of Tomorrow the better comparison?

Secondary Storyline: How many people wish this was the Rangers vs. the Islanders instead? Look, we all know Gary Bettman loves Ovechkin as much as he loves the idea of hockey succeeding in Arizona, and the thought of him joining Crosby as a Stanley Cup winner would be a big deal for the league. But come on, Islanders-Rangers? Tavarez vs. Lundqvist? Long Island vs. Manhattan? The best team in the East going up against a team looking to keep their stadium alive? That would've been big money, even if it didn't have a star like Ovechkin involved.

Rangers Player to Watch: Henrik Lundqvist. He's one of the best goalies and coolest cats in the NHL, and he was stellar against Pittsburgh in the first round. The Rangers may be loaded with talent all over the ice, but this team will go as far as King Henrik carries them.

Capitals Player to Watch: Alex Ovechkin. Who'd you think it was going to be? Watching Ovechkin play has always been a treat for me; he has the scoring/playmaking ability of Crosby, but he also has physical attributes of a Mark Messier (not defensively mind you. Please don't think I'm nuts). He's just never been able to put it together on the big stage, which is why the Caps have never gotten over the hump during his tenure. He has to be otherworldly in this series for them to do so, and even then, it may not be enough against a team like the Rangers.

Winner: Rangers in five. It's not that I think the Caps are bad; I like a ton of their players and Braden Holtby is one of the most underrated goaltenders in the game if you ask me. But the Rangers have too much talent and too much motivation to get back to the Cup after last year's defeat, and I don't see them falling before the next round. You know what that means? More King Henrik! Play that guitar solo big man!

The Jimmy Page of guitarist who are goalies

Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

Major Storyline: Who will P.K. Subban piss off this time? I mean, what else is there to go with? Neither team has any bad blood with the other, and going with whichever goalie plays better is like hitting the easy button. Plus, we all know that the polarizing defender is going to do something to get under Tampa's skin at some point. The ultimate fun is guessing who it ends up being. My guess; Steven Stamkos. At least it would get him involved in something for once.

Secondary Storyline: None. Again, there's no bad blood here, Carey Price is more than likely going to outplay Ben Bishop, and Montreal's crowd is going to be louder than Tampa's crowd. Man this series is boring to talk about. I'm pretty sure there are Roman Reigns promos that are more interesting than the buildup.

Canadiens Player to Watch: Brendan Gallagher. I am going way, WAY off the page here with this choice. Yes, Subban might be Montreal's best skater, Max Pacioretty may be their best offensive player and Price might be the best player in the league. But the heart and soul of the team is most certainly Brendan Gallagher, a 5'9 former fifth round pick who scratches, claws and earns everything he does on the ice. He only had two points against Ottawa, which means we've yet to see his best hockey. If he can play up to his standards and continue to do the little things he does so incredibly well, Montreal will win this series.

Lightning Player to Watch: Steven Stamkos. Tyler Johnson has been absolutely brilliant for the Lightning all year and through the first round, but Stamkos remains the best player they have. He unfortunately hasn't played like it; in the seven games against Detroit, he only tallied three points, two of them coming in Game 2.  If Stamkos had problems scoring on Petr Mrazek, how do you think he'll do against the best goaltender in hockey? He best get his act together, otherwise the Lightning will be in trouble. Although they may be anyway if Ben Bishop continues his inconsistent play from round one.

Winner: Canadiens in six. Carey Price is just too good, and while the Canadiens have offensive issues, Ben Bishop's troubling play is enough to make me believe they'll get some goals. It'll be an entertaining series at least, a lot more than the buildup would have you believe.

That's it guys. I am off till tomorrow; not sure what the topic will be. Till then, more DUCHOVNY memes!

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