Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Golden Player Mine Since 1999


Now that the first decade of the 2000s is in a two-minute drill, it's time to write about what life was like before the turn of the century.
 
People looked starkly different.

For one, we stared ahead. Look around now. Everyone’s locked on their smart phone — eyes straight down.

For two, we followed muscular teams that today are pipsqueaks: the Rams, Broncos, Bills, Vikings in the NFL; the Orioles, Indians, Diamondbacks in baseball; the Knicks and Timberwolves in the NBA.

For three, we spotted the ragged that now are rugged: the Jets, Pats, Steelers, Bears, Falcons, Saints in the NFL; the Rays, Twins, Angels, Cards, Rockies in baseball; the Celtics, Mavs, Nuggets in the NBA.

For four, we tracked only big men on campus 11 years ago: UConn in basketball, Florida State in football. Butler back then was the punch line of a murder mystery. Now it’s in the national basketball conversation. As is Boise State on the gridiron.

What about sportsmen? Eleven years are eons in athlete lives. So many stars weren’t even in our conscious universe in 1999. Such as these 11:

Tom Brady. Sure, he started at quarterback for Michigan in 1999. But after he wallowed on the New England bench his rookie season of 2000 and took Drew Bledsoe’s job early in the 2001 season, a pile of fans said Tom who? His answer was an NFL title, then two more in the decade. Now he’s fifth on the list of greatest NFL QBs after Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, Bart Starr and Terry Bradshaw. Then again, the way he's darting toward Lombardi Trophy No. 4, he could rank No. 1.

LeBron James. What, we had sports without the man who would be king? ESPN lived before endless footage of James Jams? The NBA sold jerseys before Cav 23 and Heat 6? Yes, yes and yes. Eleven years ago, he was about to turn 15. OK, he could've made the Ohio State starting five. As it was, he skipped college, or kindergartren for him, and flexed right off in the pros. Yet talk about the emperor who wore no shorts. Millions put him on a throne, but what crown has ever won? None. He could turn out to be the Ted Williams of basketball. All underwear, no hardware.

Tim Lincecum. He was 15 in 1999, no doubt into grunge and video games. Just like at 26. Only now he’s rich and just about the best pitcher in baseball. Proof? He won the Cy Young Award in 2008 and ’09. And this year his clutch arm helped wing the Giants to their first world title since moving to San Francisco in 1958. Lincecame, all right.

Roger Federer. He’s dominated courts for so long, you can’t recall tennis without the Swiss Swoosh. Yet in 1999 about the only folks who knew him were Basel boosters. He didn’t start gripping the sport until 2003. Now he owns 16 Grand Slam trophies, the most of any man in history. Is that record untouchable? Hmmm, maybe by the next fellow.

Rafa Nadal. In 1999 he was a 13-year-old twerp living at home. So he’s still crashing with Mom and Dad in Majorca. At least he’s 24 and all man — muscular and mashing out Grand Slam tennis titles that add up to nine, already one more than Andre Agassi amassed in his two-decade run. As Henry Higgins would put it, the reign in Spain falls only when the forehand wanes.

Manny Pacquiao. In 1999 he was a Filipino Fly. The few fans who knew him were hanging around his hometown in the meat of Mindanao, way in the Philippine south. Good for PacMan that he chomped his way out of that Muslim haven toward one of the great careers in boxing history. Now he’s the Filipino Fist, full of 10 titles in eight divisions. Only this Fighter of the Decade could draw 42,000 to Cowboys Stadium to see him bloody Tony Margarito last month.

Sarah Hughes. In 1999 she was 14 and unknown. Now she's 25 and pretty much still foggy. Think great figure skaters and whom do you list? Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill, Michelle Kwan. And that last one didn't even win Olympic gold. Hughes did. When she was done with that magnificent final at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, the New Yorker was the Ice Queen, and California Kwan had melted in yet another Olympic competition. I'm no skating nut, but Hughes’ big-Game routine is my frozen-in-time moment of the past 11 years.




Ichiro Suzuki. Sure, he was huge in 1999. In Japan. And real American fans know that if the action isn’t here, it might as well be on one of Mars’ moons. In Ichiro’s case, he was swinging and sprinting for something called the Orix Blue Wave in 1990s. Then he took his baseball to Seattle and, man, did we wake up to more than a major leaguer. He was a general leaguer from the get-go, catching every shot in right field, pounding pitchers and vacuuming the 2001 MVP/Rookie of the Year trophies. The dude is a streak, swatting 200 hits in 10 straight seasons. No wonder he goes by the tag of a true star: his first name.


Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben. The Man of Steelers. You can’t miss that 6-foot-5 Berg in Pittsburgh’s backfield. Or his two NFL championships. But you couldn’t find him in 1999. He was 17, about to pass into Miami, and not even the Florida version. He was bound for the college in Oxford, and not the one in England. No, the guy with the marathon name went to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Seven pro seasons later, he’s rising toward the Hall of Fame.


Usain Bolt. The coolest name this side of Thabeet, which sounds like what you hear in downtown Memphis and is really the last name of the Grizzlies' 7-3 center. Back to Bolt, exactly what the Jamaican does to drive enemy sprinters Usain. What was he doing in 1999? Running around his Caribbean hometown like a fast 13-year-old. By 2008, Bolt was living up to his name something fierce. If you blinked from the Peking smog, you missed him Bolting to Olympic golds in the 100 and 200 meters and in sports' most exciting 37 seconds, the 400-meter relay. If not for Michael Phelps, this Usainity would've left the greatest mark on China since the wall.

Michael Phelps. In 1999 he was a Baltimore bass, 14 and hardly making waves. The only people watching him were parents and fellow teens. By 2004 he was a swimming shark, gulping six golds at the Athens Olympics. Then came Peking and his chance to lap the Spitz Seven. He did, winning 8 in ’08. The seventh gold, in the 100-meter butterfly, stopped the clock and every American heart. Phelps fished it out by 0.01 second. You get any closer, you push the timer to infinity. As it is, Phelps floats forever in Olympic lore.


Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern Califlornia who at the moment is euphoric over Mizzou and about to take the gaspipe with the Jets.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sack Football's Replay; Quit The Homilitary Charade; Pacquiao's Pow

Under review.

Under review.

Under review.

Bored yet?

Zzzzzzzzebras aren't. They're out to review more plays than Randy Moss teams.

Sideline catch? Review. End zone rush? Review. Cheerleader shake? Review. I wish.

Really, can we hit the kill button?

Tell it like it is. Pro and college football reviews exist for bettors. I mean, who else really cares if a cleat lands a millimeter out of bounds? I want the game to move it, not take a siesta every other down.

The NFL is supposed to spell entertainment, not PBS. If I want a dead screen, I'll turn to Charlie Rose.

As it is, games last longer than "Ben-Hur" while refs go through marathon research every other play.


Since we're stuck with this malarkey, I say kiss the turf for three other letters: DVR.

Don't ask, don't dwell. Notice Obummer's contortions as homosexuals try to come out of the military closet?

The prez indicates he's perfectly OK with a homilitary. Yet he sends his lawyers to court to keep homos stuffed in a duffle bag while he ponders whether he should give his brass the order to let them out in public.

What? Seriously, if Obummer twisted more dramatically, he'd make the rhythmic gymnastic team.

Contrast him with Harry Truman. He wanted to integrate the armed forces in 1948, so he ordered it. Period. No focus groups. No Capitol questions. He told the generals to mix blacks and whites in the barracks. Dismissed.

The man in charge now acts more like the commander in chef. If he were a true chief, he'd open the officers club dance floor to straights, detours, who cares and worry about the true enemy: Muslim terror.

As a lez pal tells me, what the hell; the uniforms would sure look snappier.

Speaking of rear echelon: Can we do away with the pandering gay tag? Homos are as blah as anyone, and 20% of Americans are even ment, as some survey figured. I don't buy that, but for damn sure hardly anyone is really upbeat.

As for unis. Please, NFL, trash these old school outfit. The Bears and Steelers show up in colors so foreign, you'd think NFL Europe is back.

Word to Commish Goodell: They're really uglier than a Favre sext shot.

I'm not a bitch. I'm certainly not you. What I want as I play off Christine O'Donnell's recent campaign ad is a lard-free government. That means cut the fat and the crap.

Cut government salaries 25%.

Cut drug laws and the billions in DEA waste.

Cut the Cuban embargo.

Cut D.C.'s education, energy and commerce departments.

Cut anti-gambling edicts.

Cut troops from South Korea and A-bomb the North if it trip-wires the DMZ.

Pac's the Man. If Manny Pacquiao had made Tony Margarito any redder Saturday, they'd have had a Bloody Mary. "Margarita shaken, stirred," came a friend's text.

Yet there was the Mexican after the raw rout spouting arrogance about not quitting. How about a dish of praise for the Filipino Fist? Call Jimmy Buffett and order some "Margaritaville" humility.

W. Great to see George Bush again. And not just in book tour interviews. Also on the mound, where he lasered that first pitch in the World Series. The Rangers could've used a giant like him.

Makes you go to YouTube for other Bush zingers, such as his 2002 anti-terror spiel to the press on the golf course followed by "Now watch this drive." Natch, perfect swing.

Now that's a replay worth watching.

Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs BuckyFox.com.

Friday, September 3, 2010

You Gotta Love Julie Banderas, Colt Helmets, 'Dr. No' And Other Hot Threes

Thoughts of threes while idling at the DMV before football’s kickoff.


Top helmets: Colts, Giants, Browns.


Snappiest baseball cap logos: Nats’ W, Bucs’ P, Mets’ NY.


Sharpest uniforms: Braves, Dodgers, Yankees.


DVR magnets: "Dark Blue," “White Collar,” “Justified.”


Screen dudes: Sean Connery, Matt Damon, Logan Marshall-Green, the "Dark Blue" slick draw.


Sexiest TV hosts: Julie Banderas of my namesake network, Elizabeth “The Best View” Hasselbeck, Dina Gusovsky of RT.


Automatic reads: Ann Coulter, Ralph Peters, Mark Steyn.


Leaders with pop: Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Dale Peterson.


Best chance to beat obummer: Rick Perry, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney.


Car I’d love to buy right now: Accord CR-Z, Mustang, Nissan GT-R.


On the way to watching 50 times: “Dr. No,” “The Bourne Identity,” “Kill Bill.”


Before I die: Korea unites, we recognize Cuba, we get bin Laden.


Hottest politicians: Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Nikki Haley.


Dem faces: Christina Romer, Janet Reno, Janet Napolitano.


Days I treasure: boating to Corregidor, sailing in Miami, marrying my lovely Filipino wife, Maria, in the Catholic Church.


White lefty cares nothing about: terrorists, deficits, Christianity.


Delish: Lasagna, filet mignon, picadillo.


Turn ’em up: The Beatles, Cream, Zeppelin.


Tune out: Sting, the Who, Creedence Clearwater Revival.


Top TV channels: USA, Travel, Military.


Far-out feats: Michael Phelps’ eight golds, Steffi Graf’s Golden Slam, UCLA’s 88-game winning streak.


Break up: ESPNESPNESPN. Enough with the monopoly.


YouTube bookmarks: “Lawrence of Arabia” theme music, Peter Nero’s “It’s Alright With Me,” “Rule Britannia” at the Proms.


Who watches: MSNBC, NBC, PBS.


Cities calling me: Heidelberg, Barcelona, Paris.


Greatest Americans in my lifetime: Eisenhower, MacArthur, Neil Armstrong.


Tech that works: Cell phone, DVR, radio.


Actresses who have it: Marsha Thomason, the “White Collar” babe who should be Jane Bond; Nicki Aycox, the "Dark Blue" bad-ass blonde; Beth Riesgraf, the “Leverage” pouter.


I could listen for hours: Pat Buchanan, Chris Hitchens, Liz Cheney.


Top structures: Hearst Castle, Heidelberg Castle, Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square.


Dialed in: Rush Limbaugh, Fox radio’s Stephen Smith and Vic the Brick.


Studs: Kobe, Manny Pacquiao, Brett Favre.


Electric events: Heavyweight title fight, Olympic track 400-meter relay, Game 7 of the NBA Finals.


Movie villains to vilify: The Joker in “The Dark Knight,” Oddjob in “Goldfinger,” the scum Hans Landa in “Inglourious Basterds.”


Books atop the stack: “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold” by John le Carre, “Before the Fall” by William Safire, “The Silence of the Lambs” by Thomas Harris.


If I had an iPod: Billy Idol’s “White Wedding,” the Doors’ “L.A. Woman,” Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 9 No. 1.


Super screen lines: James Bond: “That's a Smith & Wesson, and you've had your six.” T.E. Lawrence: “No prisoners!” Charlie Harper: “My weirdness bar for chicks is pretty high, but you are clearing it in street shoes.”


My zippiest interviewees: Pete Rose, coach George Allen, Roger Goodell years before he was NFL commish.


Speeches for the ages: Nixon’s 1968 nomination acceptance, W after 9/11 at the National Cathedral, Reagan's Pointe du Hoc classic in 1984.


Radio static: The Angels’ station has a corner on this one. Baseball? Lacking. Too much programming on AM 830 is paid shilling for pills. When sports finds its way on the station, you don’t hear Rex Hudler; he was dumped. You hardly hear Jeff Biggs and sidekick Jason Brennan; their drive-time hours were squeezed into minutes. What’s left? A losing team.


Love: jogging, tennis, steering clear of the DMV.


But hey, they just called my number. Who said it stands for Don’t Move Velociously?


Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs BuckyFox.com.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The OC Flyers Cook Up Fun


Finally a hot, happy summer.

Nothing like a sizzling night of minor league baseball to stretch my smile.

For too long, dis and content were teammates this season.

My brother-in-law, Charley Bogdonoff, died, taking his convincing laugh and Redskin loyalty with him.

Then my father-in-law, Procopio Dazo, died, and there went 85 years of wisdom.

The air was just as cold. Hey, this is California. Supposed to be dreamin' weather here, isn't it? This wasn't just June swoon, but more like summer bummer.

Then came Saturday night. If you were at the Orange County Flyers' game in the warmth of Fullerton, you grasped what keeps most Californians from leaving. Jarring taxes and traffic? They can't blot out year-round sun, palms and waves. All without mosquitoes.

Did I mention baseball? The state has five major league teams, two a short toss from my house. But to see the game at its grandest, I like cruisin' to Fullerton — between Dodger and Angel stadiums.

There sits The Station, where the choo-choo Flyers are on track with Golden Baseball League games.

For this double-header that would even the Flyers' record at 23-23, a crowd of 700 had a ball.

The sun-setting aura had the perfection of 1965 Sandy Koufax. Still, the plays weren't exactly that. This is farm ball, replete with shaky fielding.

So when the home side's Eric Pringle grounded to first (1) with the bases full (2) in a 4-4 tie and (3) in extra innings, you felt it was over.

By George, it was. The first baseman for the visitors — the St. George RoadRunners — fired something aimed at home but headed more toward the I-5, and the Flyers were 5-4 winners.

The OC nine sent St. George packing with a 10-2 smokin' in the nightcap, making the fans feel victorious.

Most, anyway. St. George is a town smack at the southern tip of Utah. The ride to Fullerton takes six hours. Yet plenty of RoadRunner fans sounded off on this mid-July eve.

Two were David and Roberta Salazar. They didn't need to drive 375 miles. Just a ways from their Pasadena area home. Why root for the visitors? Relatives. The St. George manager is nephew Darrell Evans, the former Brave, Giant and Tiger great who belted 414 homers. And the RoadRunners' first base coach is son-in-law Dan DiPace.

The Salazars were glad to catch their boys in Fullerton. The shorter trip, yes. And the utopian clime. As they pointed out, St. George is baking at 118 degrees.

Then there was Tyrone Richardson, another fan who trekked in to see the RoadRunners. Really, one Runner: center fielder Victor Butler.

Richardson, a college kid sporting a cap with the coolest logo in sports — the W of the Nationals — and 20 of his pals veered from the L.A.-Vegas pit stop of Victorville to cheer on their hero Butler.

Alas, Victor of his namesake ville couldn't do it. He popped up the first pitch he saw in Game 2 and came to a screeching halt with the rest of the RoadRunners.

As for the Flyer fans, this was party time. Their team won twice, yes. But minor league ball is so much more.

Seats are so close to the field, you sense the players and umps hear your advice.

A mascot — in this case, goofy Coal Train — makes the rounds, hamming it up to the music and PA exhortations.

And does the Flyers' public address guy ever deliver the hits. He's Chris Albaugh, who boosts his PA racket learned from years with the Raiders, Clippers, Angels and Dodgers to a wild level.

Albaugh said between games that when he took this job in the 2005 inaugural season, "I wanted to jack up the energy and have fun."

So he downloads movie sound bites and spits them out through the sound system.

When the Flyers get a man on, Albaugh punches in Tom Cruise from "Top Gun": "I feel the need ... the need for speed."

When a RoadRunner strikes out, the voice of Joe Pesci in "My Cousin Vinny" sneers, "I got no more use for this guy."

After another St. George player fans, out comes the "Top Gun" bald boss balling out Cruise: "Son, your ego's writing checks your body can't cash."

After one of a pile of St. George errors in Game 2, the voice of Tim Allen in "Toy Story" says: "There seems to be no sign of intelligent life anywhere."

And when a helicopter flies by, Cruise's voice blares: "Requesting a flyby."

Another "Top Gun" moment. Just as Manny Ayala's was. The Flyer righty from East L.A. College outgunned the RoadRunners in Game 2 and stands 7-0.

Maybe Ayala will follow other Golden Baseball League players who hopped to the majors — namely outfielder Daniel Nava this year in Boston, where he jacked a grand slam on the first pitch he faced in the bigs.

He can look up to the GBL managing lineup: Flyer skipper Paul Abbott, who pitched for the Twins and other MLB teams. Abbott's Flyer predecessor, Phil Nevin, the ex-Padre slugger now managing in the Tigers' system. And Nevin's predecessor, Gary Carter, the star Met who led the Flyers to the 2008 championship.

For now, Ayala and the other GBL players toil for squat, as one Flyer season-ticket fan put it. They keep at it for the joy of baseball and hopes of reaching The Show.

Reaping the rewards? The fans in this summer of sudden contentment.


Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs BuckyFox.com



St. George manager Darrell Evans and I flank big RoadRunner fan David Salazar.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Riding The Laker Wave


We were losing it.

Not the series. Our mind.

Such is L.A.’s hysteria these days with the Lakers.

Tied 2-2 with Oklahoma City in Round 1 of the NBA playoffs, fans freaked out. And watched the Purple and Gold thunder back to win in six.

Knotted 2-2 with Phoenix in Round 3, we reached for the gaspipe again. And saw Klub Kobe block out the Suns in six.

Now we’re in the meat of the NBA Finals. If you can call turkey hotdogs meat.

Fellow Laker loyalists dribbled over to my place to sow out on those and chips — with the requisite Diet Coke for a bow to balance — and worked it all off by sweating through … what? Our guys bounced Boston by 13. The only points in question were silly Jeff Van Gundy declarations on ABC.

My neighbor Tom showed up in his Laker jersey, matching my yellow T-shirt. My old buddy Ken came wearing his fanaticism. We comprised a trio in harmony — screaming and high-fiving over every Bynum dunk, every Artest three — while my sweet wife, Maria, came home to the chaos, took photos of the blast and escaped with a laugh.

No sweat. The Lakers are taller, quicker, younger, even meaner than the Celtics. This thing will be over six. And on this night we could kick back. Except when Van Gundy and sidekick Mark Jackson filled the telecast with wisdom on hamburgers, Scrabble and Chris Rock. This wasn’t an NBA broadcast as much as a Disney klatch.

Other than bitching about ABC’s missing graphics that kept us in the dark about fouls, we had one easy eve. A 52-inch Sony. High def. Unlimited food and drink. Which has to be killing sports bars. Why go there when you have a kick-ass aura at home?

And why were we going nuts? Because we love sports. Not for betting. Not for any other profitable motive. Just because. Tom, Ken and I might not click on political issues, but when it comes to the Lakers, it’s hug city. Plug the Koreans into this concept, and the DMZ would vanish.

And yet. The Lakers, the Celtics, the Angels, the Red Sox, doesn’t matter. They better get the message right now: Kiss the court and the turf for our fandom. Because this party is about to turn out the lights.

One day all of those teams will wake to empty stands. And lousy TV ratings.

Why? Two reasons:

1. Young people aren’t into making like hotdogs — steaming and resting on their buns — while mindlessly following the action. Kids today want to BE the action.

That means skateboarding, not vegging while some batter fiddles in the box.

That means video gaming, not remoting between the NBA and NHL.

Have you seen those video games? I saw Laker action on the screen that my grandkids were directing and was stunned by the cartoon’s authenticity. Kobe couldn’t have looked more real if he had hit his own 30-footer with five guys on him.

And this was two years ago. With tech’s progress, Kobe’s probably jumping out of a 3-D screen by now.

Hmmm: Sit while athletes do their thing? Or get in the game by pressing the video buttons?

You know what young people turned adults will be doing the next 20 years.

2. A dearth of dads. Or death of them, take your pick.

They’re just not around anymore. I don’t have the Census breakdown, but you know single moms rule these days. And are multiplying like the national debt.

Stopping that trend has about as much chance as the Clippers contending. Women are prospering on the job. They don’t need men, certainly not to bellow with such gems as “Hurry up.”

As dads disappear from houses, so does the force behind sports.

No dad, no pass with the football. No dad, no catch with the baseball. No dad, no oil in the mitt.

No dad, no drive to the stadium. That ultimately will end sports’ honeymoon as entertainment.

With dads, teams are on a fantasy ride. They play every night in Los Angeles and pack the place, 40,000 at Angel Stadium or Dodger Stadium. Think of how those thousands reach the park — via 20 miles of jammed highway — and fan loyalty reaches another level.

That fandom can’t last. And it won’t.

But that’s a quantum leap away. For now, we’re swimming in Laker Land. And loving it.


Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs BuckyFox.com.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Filly's Fab Flyers


The soaringest sportsmen this year have to be ... let's see:

The Sun-dousing Lakers? No.

The James-jamming Celtics? No.

The Mosley-mopping Mayweather? No.

The Mayweather-hunting, vote-producing Pacquiao? No.

The Favre-flogging, Super-balling Saints? No.

The Butler-besting Dukin' Blue Devils? No.

The Bobby Hull-reliving Blackhawks? No.

Getting warm.

Try another bunch on the ice, this one with wings in their logo: the Flyers of Philadelphia.

You want fabled? The Flyers of 2010 already are.

We're not halfway through the year, and they're flying at a historic clip.

The Flyers shot into the National Hockey League finals by:

1. Outshooting the New York Rangers in the regular season's last game to squeak into the playoffs.

2. Facing a 0-3 series hole and winning the next four games against the Boston Bruins.

3. Facing a 0-3 hole in that seventh game and finishing off those Bruins 4-3.

4. Meeting hockey's other playoff shocker, the Montreal Canadiens, and skating to a 4-1 series triumph.

Fightin', fantastic, folkloric. The Flyers rule the 4-F Club.

And who knows them? Philly fans, no doubt. A few of those loyalists might line your office. Other than them, no one would recognize Michael Leighton if he buzzed in. Or Peter Laviolette.

Introducing:

Goalie Leighton. The Petrolia, Ontario, native has his skate to the gas, with the Flyers riding him to what they hope is their first title since 1975. And what a shift into high gear. Leighton was always how he sounded — late in games. He played backup in Chicago, Nashville, Carolina, even Philly until taking over for an injured starter. Now Leighton is simply IN, stopping every shot that matters. Three shutouts in the five-game mauling of Montreal? Talk about a re-enactment of Ken Dryden circa '71.

Coach Laviollete. He's that rarity in the NHL, a stud American. He directed Carolina to the 2006 Stanley Cup and has Phenomenal Philly on the brink. Boston fans surely are bummed a neighbor nailed them, what with the First Flyer hailing from Norwood, Mass.

Speaking of Boston, it also had to be sickening to swallow its own medicine. Recall the Red Sox rose from 0-3 in the 2004 pennant series. That nuking of the New York Yankees capped baseball's greatest rebound. Six years later, Bostonians had to feel queasy.

The Flyers of 2010. The Sox of 2004. Makes you ponder sports' top comebacks.

How about:

The Giants of 1962. Sure, Bobby Thomson's Giants of 1951 gave New York drama worthy of Broadway. But the San Francisco version 11 years later was more improbable. Behind by four games in the standing with seven to go, the Giants were done. Really? Somehow they rallied to tie the Dodgers and force a three-game playoff. Then in the deciding game, the Giants looked dead again. They trailed 4-2 in the ninth inning. Yet they woke up to walk over Los Angeles for the pennant.

The Bengals of 1970. They started 1-6, hardly surprising for a team in just its third season. Forget it, right? Wrong. Winning its last seven games, Cincy gave Paul Brown the AFC Central title.

The lesson: Never say bye.


Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs BuckyFox.com.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Maria Bartiromo's Barometer


Maria Bartiromo came alone.

That alone was a show stopper.

I figured when she entered the office for our interview, she'd have an entourage worthy of Floyd Mayweather.

After all, Bartiromo is a heavyweight, a few classes above the unbeaten welterweight. As host of two shows on CNBC, she's all business.

She's also a knockout, the original Money Honey.

Now she has a new book out. It's called "The 10 Laws of Enduring Success." After our chat, I can see why she's expert enough to have written it.

The main reason? She sure seems like the woman who arrived without airs. The only thing she carried was a smile.

Here's how she put it in her book: People respond to authenticity, even if you make mistakes or trip over a few words. They want to see a live human being, not a cardboard cutout.

Indeed. More reasons to like Bartiromo and her "10 Laws":

She's armed. Ready to throw out the first pitch before a Yankee Stadium game, I was in front of 60,000 screaming fans, with the wind blowing in my eyes and home plate looking a million miles away, and I thought, "Oh no, I'm not going to do it. I'm going to be booed." And then I took a deep breath and said, "You're exactly where you're supposed to be." And I threw the ball. It sailed over the plate into the catcher's mitt, and the crowd went wild.

She's nails. On her 34th birthday came 9/11. And she found herself in the midst of the terror attack's smoke. One woman was crying hysterically, and I remember thinking that this was not the time for panic or tears, that we had to keep our heads. I went over to her and said loudly and firmly, "Please calm down. It's important that you calm down." And she did, even as the floor we were standing on began to shake with the force of the second tower collapsing.

She's of solid stock. It would never have occurred to my parents to gripe about how hard they worked, to think that their lives were tougher than other people's or to feel entitled to have more for less effort. Even today, if I complain about being overworked, my mother rolls her eyes and says, "Come on, Maria, you're not chopping trees."

She's resourceful. Thinking of switching networks in the early '90s, I convinced my boss to allow me to work longer than the typical day. After my regular shift, I'd go into the field with the morning crews and pick up the news and sound bites when the markets opened. I'd write out scripts, and when I was alone with the crew, I'd ask them to shoot me on camera, reporting, so I'd have some clips. ... With their help I created a portfolio of clips: "Maria Bartiromo, reporting for CNN Business News."

She's upbeat. She quoted chess champion Garry Kasparov as saying, "Most people scrutinize their mistakes. ... I always scrutinized my victories." ... I thought his insight was priceless, and it clearly came from the mind of a competitor.

Bartiromo draws wisdom from another guy on top of his game: Joe Torre. It’s all part of a book stacked with wealthy knowledge.

And when Maria said goodbye after our chat? She signed her book, “Thank you so much for everything.”

To that, I'm still sighing "you're welcome."


Bucky Fox is an author and editor who runs BuckyFox.com and is devoted to his own Maria, wife Maria Fox.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Butler's Shot Was Almost The Greatest; Giants Sizzle; Angels Hollow On Air; Braves Title Bound; Bare Baylor


Gordon Hayward from half-court! No good!

One inch to the right, and Butler wins the championship!

Wow, was that ending for all time or what?

What, really. With the miss, Duke beat Butler 61-59 last Monday for college basketball's crown.

If Butler had cashed in that Hail Hayward? We'd be calling it the shot heard round the universe.

Because it would've been otherworldly. Think of the greatest plays to finish championships. None would touch the Butler Bomb.

Consider the backdrop. Tiny school. Against a hoop giant. Down by two. Full court to go. Heave. Ho, if he had only hit it.

As it is, Coach K's crew won the Carolina college's fourth title.

And the boys from Indiana will forever recall their "Hoosiers" moment — when Jimmy Chitwood's winning movie basket almost replayed in Indianapolis.

After Hayward's wayward shot, I thought of other plays for the ages.

Basketball. Keith Smart. His baseline jumper as the clock melted really was a Chitwood re-enactment. It gave the Indiana Hoosiers the title over Syracuse in 1987, the year after the movie came out.

Baseball. Bill Mazeroski. Game 7 of the 1960 World Series. Pittsburgh and the nuclear New York Yankees were tied 9-9. Bottom of the ninth. Pow. Maz mashed one over the left-field wall at Forbes Field. The fans poured over the Pirates.

Football. Adam Vinatieri. The 2002 Super Bowl. New England was tied 17-17 with St. Louis' big-time favored Rams. Bang. Vinatieri nailed a 48-yard field goal with no time left to give the Patriots their first NFL title.

Hockey. Bobby Orr. Boston led the 1970 Stanley Cup Finals three games to zip. But St. Louis had fought to a 3-3 overtime in Game 4. Orr shot. He flew over the ice. The puck pounded the net. The Bruins were on top.

Too bad Butler didn't do it too.

The good news. Duke and Butler reached the final with a unique concept — upperclassmen, players who attend class. The Kentucky types who rode one-and-done talent went nowhere.

The Duke-Butler way puts the college back in basketball. And gives hope to my Missouri Tigers. Mike Anderson coaches our guys to get degrees on the patch to wealth after hoops. Now that could mean an NCAA title as well.

Giant stuff. You notice San Francisco's sizzling start this baseball season? Brings back memories of "The Giants Win the Pennant" 1962 album that filled my ears. There was Lon Simmons saying, "The Giants were looking for more than hamburgers. They were looking for steaks." Time for more calls like that in Frisco.

Speaking of calls. Can't get into Angel TV and radio games. The knifing of Rex Hudler and Steve "Light up the Halo" Physioc leaves the Orange County team with zero on-air vibe. I'll just have to catch games at the stadium.

So who wins it all? You have to like the Yankees' chances to repeat. I mean, all they did was add silver bullets to their ordnance. But I hate picking the obvious. Mark me down for Atlanta to give Bobby Cox the World Series trophy in his last season as skipper.

Don't look now. But isn't Baylor women's hoop center Brittney Griner a guy? Sure dunks and talks like one. Better check him out, especially after the track people uncovered South African impostor Caster Semenya for what he is.


Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs BuckyFox.com.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

PacMan's Pounding Of Pack-It-In Man


The best bet was on the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders.

Did they ever beat boxing to the punch the other night.

Whereas the welterweight title fight had all the sting of a swatted bee, the Cowgirls sang like miked butterflies.

Did you catch their act? The trio — decked out in stars and not much else — made "The Star-Spangled Banner" flutter. Their a cappella voices had as much beauty as their bodies.

And after "home of the brave," every fight fan was indeed ready to rumble.

Only the main event wasn't much of an encore.

It featured Manny Pacquiao living up to his PacMan billing — chomping nonstop for 12 rounds.

But from the other corner? A turtle, as an office colleague called Joshua Clottey. He crawled all the way out of Africa to spend the whole fight in a shell.

Shades of Ali's 1974 rope a dope in the Congo. That time it turned into Foreman's stumble in the jungle.

This time it was a grope a dope in Texas. With that cover-up plot, Clottey was a Ghana, all right.

So what were fans to do? The 50,000 at Dallas Cowboys Stadium — most of whom had to be Filipinos — erupted for their hero. And booed stuck-like-a-blood Clottey.

Why join them? Glad I avoided the marathon drive from the West Coast and $50 parking. The best way to watch was at a Filipino party near Disneyland. Deep dishes of Philippine food, topped by cheering. The only thing that tasted bad was my $5 raffle ticket. I pulled out a 3, off by nine rounds.

So what's next on the menu? PacMan and whoever else he wants to devour.

The Filipino Fist stands 51-3-2 and on top of the world. Make his win total 52 if he captures his congressional seat he's fighting for in May.

The Honorable Manny Pacquiao would then fly back to strafe Mayweather or Mosley in one rich goodbye party.

Talk about political pull.

With PacMan calling and dealing the shots, he better corral the Cowboy cheerleaders for another national anthem.

That would be the patriotic thing to do.


Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs BuckyFox.com.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

'My Fair Lady' Did It


Let’s set the record — or DVD — straight.

“My Fair Lady” is the heavyweight champ of musical comedies.

The melodies hit the ears with snappy jabs.

The dialogue deals the senses uproarious uppercuts.

The lyrics clinch the performance with one killer knockout.

Left standing: Rex Harrison, who put the pro in professor Henry Higgins.

Harrison’s depiction of the speech fusspot properly led to his 1964 Oscar along with the film’s.

Movie viewers can kiss the Ascot turf that Harrison carried his Broadway act to the big screen. Hollywood blew it on the distaff side, passing on Broadway babe Julie Andrews in favor of Audrey Hepburn.

Talk bout a wayward punch. In Andrews, Warner Bros. had the top singing talent in the stable. No one could touch her voice.

Tough to fathom, but Julie didn’t have the star power of Audrey back then. So the movie “My Fair Lady” is stuck with a pouty player who can’t sing. The dubbed-in music voice belongs to Marni Nixon.

Enough of the nitpicking. “My Fair Lady” rocks because of its superior content. The song package alone stands octaves above any other in musical history.

Let’s strike up the winning strains:

1. “Why Can’t the English”

2. ”With a Little Bit of Luck”

3. “The Rain in Spain”

4. “I Could Have Danced All Night”

5. “On the Street Where You Live”

6. “You Did It”

7. “Just You Wait”

8. “Show Me”

9. “Get Me to the Church on Time”

10. “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face”

This could be a top 10 on the song list of musical comedies. And we’re talking about one show.

Even the atmospheric tune at the embassy ball has one fine flow.

This is pure prolificacy from melody maven Frederick Loewe and word whiz Alan Jay Lerner, who should’ve won the screenplay Oscar.

What did Lerner do? Simply produce stinging verse:

Higgins: By right she should be taken out and hung,
For the cold-blooded murder of the English tongue.


Alfred Doolittle: Oh, it's a crime for man to go philanderin' — but
With a little bit of luck, with a little bit of luck,
You can see the bloodhound don't find out!


Higgins: I'd be equally as willing for a dentist to be drilling
than to ever let a woman in my life.


Eliza Doolittle: Never do I ever want to hear another word.
There isn't one I haven't heard.


Higgins: One man in a million may shout a bit.
Now and then there's one with slight defects;
One, perhaps, whose truthfulness you doubt a bit.
But by and large we are a marvelous sex!


Eliza: You, dear friend, who taught so well,
You can go to Hartford, Hereford and Hampshire.


Put that humor and depth up against more modern productions such as “The Phantom of the Opera.” It has, what, one memorable song?

Even musicals in the running for the showtime trophy — “The Music Man,” “The Sound of Music” — can’t compete in the sophistication ring.

Maybe I was brainwashed with “My Fair Lady.” While growing up, I’d wake up on Sundays to a tape of the show’s music that my dad habitually played.

He’d then pay the ultimate compliment to Lerner by using “jawohl” in his vernacular.

Now I do it. Does this bring back memories of Higgins’ landing “you did it” plaudits for his climactic triumph? And put the crowning touch on this all-time smash hit?

Jawohl.


Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs BuckyFox.com.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Jets In The Clouds


The Amazin' Jets?

You bet. By reaching the playoffs. By winning their first-rounder in Cincy. By sticking it to San Diego in Sunday’s second-rounder.

The Jets have fans like me flush with green bliss.

Watching the Sanchise tame the Bengals two straight weeks trumped Broadway Joe in one respect. Namath faced the Oakland Raiders twice in the 1968 American Football League season and could only split.

Only? What Joe Willie did was lose the Heidi Game, then black out Oakland in the AFL final. That gave New York a ticket to the Super Bowl, where Namath backed his guarantee with football's greatest upset, beating Baltimore 16-7.

The Jets looked Super in their all-white unis and helmets that sport the second coolest NFL logo after the Colts' horseshoe. And haven't won a championship since.

Buddy Ryan was an assistant coach on those Jets. His son Rex is head coach of these Jets. And made a Namath-like call heading into this month's playoffs. "We should be the favorites," Rex said two weeks ago.

Now here the Jets are calling out the Colts again, this time for the AFC championship.

Even if the Jets don’t make it to the Feb. 7 Super Bowl — in Miami, just like 41 years ago — they've been the shock of early 2010. What other surprises can we expect the following 11 months?

February: Lindsey Vonn. As the Olympics hit the snow of Vancouver midmonth, the Babe of Burnsville, Minn., hopes to shed memories of 2006. That's when she crashed while training for the Torino Games and failed to win a medal. Since then, she's skied past them all on the World Cup circuit. Will she come through in Canada? Yes.

March: Manny Pacquiao. The Filipino Fist is coming off a battered eardrum during his otherwise safe pounding of Miguel Cotto last November. With that injury, PacMan is sure to be shaky as he enters the ring against a gun from Ghana named Joshua Clottey. Nah. Pacquiao will somehow pull the trigger on this triumph in Texas in time to return home and win in the political arena.

April: Mizzou. My Tigers own exactly one national championship. It came in baseball in 1954. Now make it two, with the Tigers leaping atop the Final Four in Indy.

May: Andrew Bynum. I've been on a trade-Drew campaign recently. Now he makes me and fellow naysayers look silly by standing tall for the Lakers. Right in the thick of the NBA playoffs.

June: Jo-Willie Tsonga. The Muhammad Ali double jabbed to the 2008 Aussie final, but needs a knockout to put him on tennis' list of big hits. He'll swing his way there with a Paris-poppin' performance in the French Open.

July: Lance Armstrong. He pedals all the way back to the peak — over the Alps and into Paris to grip his eighth Tour de France championship. And we thought he really was done after his seventh straight Tour title in 2005.

August: Tiger Woods. Gotta admit I loved seeing this stealth thug mug himself with his thong chasing. But kiss off his career? No way. Thanks to his new sex appeal, Tiger will roar beyond the rough. In time to win the PGA in Wisconsin.

September: Justine Henin. The Belgian Waffles keep stacking up tennis titles. Kim Clijsters won the U.S. Open in 2005, retired a couple of years later, changed her mind, then won it again in 2009. Henin also owns two Open crowns. Her last came in 2007. The next year she left the court as No. 1 in the world. Now she's back and conquers New York for Open trophy No. 3.

October: Garrett Gilbert. No one but his family heard of this alliterative ace. Until he almost won college football's national title game to start the year. Now the Texas quarterback's in his second season. Or in the vernacular of the TV dopes, a true sophomore. And winging the Longhorns past Oklahoma in the Red River Shootout.

November: The Mets. No way they'll let the Jets steal the Amazin' tag all year. New York's National Leaguers claimed that crown in 1969. Now they wear it again, with Carlos Beltran joining Jason Bay in time to power atop the World Series.

December: Pacquiao-Mayweather. Just when you thought this megabout was KO'd, off the deck it comes. Only kidding, says Pretty Boy Floyd after his drug slap at PacMan. The Filipino isn't laughing. He bloodies Floyd's smirk and perfect record. Now Pacquiao stands 52-3-2, on top of the world. And waving bye to boxing.


Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs BuckyFox.com.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Great Nixon


President Nixon would be turning 97 next Saturday.

The Richard Nixon Library will celebrate the birthday, with special huzzahs from daughter Tricia. Can't wait to meet her. I'll make a beeline there since the Yorba Linda birthplace is just down the highway from me.

You can imagine the fireworks in three years for RN's 100th. All the living presidents are sure to show up.

They better. In Richard Nixon, they'll be toasting one of the best of the 43 men to run America. There's George Washington, yes. And Lincoln, Ike and Jefferson.

For pure accomplishments, give me Nixon.

America keeps rising because we have always played for high stakes. Thomas Jefferson put serious chips on the Louisiana Purchase. Abe Lincoln bet hundreds of thousands of lives on preserving the Union. FDR gambled on D-Day. They all won big.

Then there was the greatest card player to reach America’s highest office: Richard Nixon. The man who cleaned up playing poker in the Pacific during World War II played for huge pots as president and collected.

Let’s count President Nixon’s winnings for America:

China. This was Nixon’s ace. He saw the world’s biggest population in darkness and drew open the curtain. Since his 1972 drama, the Chinese have been performing an economic boom on the world stage. Amid all that buying and selling of our goods, watch for another act that comforts America: China rejecting communism.

Vietnam. Nixon had a winning hand in January 1973. He ended America’s longest war. South Vietnam looked like it would stay free the way South Korea did. Only when Congress pressured the President to resign the next year and surrendered in Southeast Asia did that hand fold.

Air and water. Nixon started flushing the grime from America’s skies and rivers by opening the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970.

Voting age. Nixon shuffled the law to let 18-year-olds vote. His signature on the bill in 1970 lowered the age limit from 21 in federal elections. The next year the 26th Amendment to the Constitution made the age change for all elections.

Israel. Nixon proved to be a stud at what he called nut-cuttin’ time. He saw the Jews losing steam amid the Yom Kippur War in 1973, so he stepped on the gas. He shipped every aircraft in sight to Israel’s defense. It turned out to be a bigger airlift than the Berlin version of 1948-49 — and saved our ally in the desert.

Desegregation. Nixon faced a weak hand when the Supreme Court ruled in 1969 that schools had to bus children to achieve racial balance. He displayed bluff and brilliance, somehow steering the buses past livid parents and through a Southern Strategy that turned those states his way in the 1972 landslide.

Killing the draft. After China, this is Nixon’s lasting chip. He pledged in his 1968 campaign to end the draft, and he came through on July 1, 1973. Thus started the all-volunteer Army. With soldiers who want to fight for America and earn the good money that comes with service, the Nixon-born military has grown into the most muscular in history.

The moon. Nixon oversaw all six manned lunar landings from 1969 to ’72.

Think big. Act big. That was Nixon.

Just take those moon landings. Each one came while America was in the heat of the Vietnam War. Did Nixon wring his hands like lefty did five years ago over dealing a lousy 4% of Social Security taxes into private accounts? No. The President stared at the cards he was dealt and raised the stakes.

That’s what makes America No. 1.

Now deal. We have a birthday to party for.


Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs BuckyFox.com.