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How the Mighty Have Disappointed

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I read with sadness about the death of Kirby Puckett, the charismatic former star of the Minnesota Twins baseball team. Dead after suffering a stroke Sunday, he was only 45. Hard working, charming, exhilarating, dedicated, Puckett was one of my favorite players during his too-brief, but highly successful, major league career. Like so many others, I loved him as much for his winning smile and casual charm as for his baseball heroics–which is what made what happened after his retirement so painful for us, his fans.

After breaking into the majors in 1984 and leading Minnesota to World Series championships in 1987 and 1991, Puckett lost sight in one eye and retired in 1996. He was then voted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, in 2001–but later that same year, his trouble started, or rather, became public. His then-wife accused him of threatening to kill her and told police he had a history of physically abusing her. He denied the charges, but then was hit with another accusation, this time from a woman who accused him of sexually assaulting her. He was acquitted of all criminal charges but largely stayed out of the public eye after that.

Though the two stories are entirely unconnected, I can’t help but connect my feelings at Puckett’s death with the bombshell Sports Illustrated dropped today about home-run king Barry Bonds, rumored for years to be a steroids user. SI.com writes about an excerpt from a new book by two San Francisco Chronicle reporters who describe in excruciating detail Bonds’s steroids regimen. Based on records seized by federal agents in a raid on the lab that administered the steroids, the book seems to leave little doubt that Bonds’s storied career has been, indeed, too good to be true.

Lamenting the immoral behavior of athletes is a cliche by now–so trite, so last century. Yet I, forever an optimist, kept hoping the rumors about Bonds weren’t true, that somehow he’d clear his name and erase any doubts about the legitimacy of his record 73 homers in one season in 2001. And today, I can’t help feeling sad not just at Puckett’s death–whatever his misbehavior was, he didn’t deserve the lot life dealt him–but also at the fact that another champion failed miserably to live up to his public personae. I miss Puckett, but I’ve been missing him for five years now, ever since the Kirby Puckett I thought I knew was proven to be an illusion.

Take My Oscar, But Don’t Steal My Tagline

posted by burb

After “Brokeback Mountain” lost out to “Crash” last night for Best Pic honors, “Brokeback” screenwriter Larry McMurtry was quoted as saying, “Perhaps the truth really is, Americans don’t want cowboys to be gay.” And he wasn’t the only one implying that “Brokeback” offered too much man-love for Oscar.

Academy voters—said to be the blue-haired moms of the eligible, but too busy, actual ballot holders–do trend more conservative than Hollywood as a whole, but we’ll never know for certain if anti-gay sentiment had a hand in the surprise ending last night. All the same, was “Crash” producer Cathy Schulman wisest to thank the Academy “for embracing our film about love and about tolerance, about truth” when the suspicion is out there that intolerance cost “Brokeback”—a movie about love and tolerance—the Oscar?

On Sunday, Did God Create “Desperate Housewives”?

posted by ellen leventry

Those viewers who didn’t turn off the televisions directly after the Best Picture acceptance speech last night were treated to a bit of tasteless self-promotion by ABC. Pumping the return of its regularly scheduled Sunday night lineup–“Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” “Desperate Houswives,” and “Grey’s Anatomy”–the voice-over states: “Thank God for a new Sunday.”

Is it really appropriate to thank the Lord for a new episode of “Desperate Housewives”–which many viewers say may be “jumping the shark” with the stunt casting of Carol Burnett? Many “Desperate” devotees would, indeed, thank God for a new episode, Carol Burnett and all, but I am not so sure. And while I definitely look forward every week to “Grey’s Anatomy,” I still feel that that tagline thanking God is tacky, somehow going beyond simple irreverence.

However, the greater sin may be ABC using such unoriginal, cliche-filled copy.

Nine Big Moments–and the Missing One

posted by doug howe

As the cameras intrude further and further upon what used to be private Oscars night moments, we the audience get to witness fewer and fewer (truly) authentic moments. It’s an increasingly scripted evening, which is why some of my favorite moments of the evening were the unrehearsed ones, including:

• Hillary Swank jogging in her gown to catch Philip Seymour Hoffman for a hug and congratulations before the official line of interviews;

• George Clooney going backwards to hug fellow nominee William Hurt before going forward to the stage;

• Felicity Huffman with tears (and make-up) running at the surprise video greetings she got from “Desperate Housewives” gal pals during pre-show;

• Host Jon Stewart telling the group Three 6 Mafia, who won Best Song that “that’s how” to really accept an Oscar;

• Jennifer Garner’s slip ‘n slide, follwed by her great ad lib, “I do my own stunts;”

• Robert Altman’s “I’m not done”;

• The sheer celebration by everyone having anything to do with “Crash,” from all corners of the room.

Of course, there was one big moment we didn’t get to see. Just once, I’d love to see one of the nominees for a big award look really ticked, pissed, mad, sad, ripped off, angry, or disgusted when someone else’s name is announced. Now that would be an authentic moment.

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