Saturday, May 31, 2008

Kimbo Slice Is Not The Face Of MMA

The sport of mixed martial arts makes its network debut tonight on CBS. The two hour fight card is headlined by the infamous Kimbo Slice. Touted as the face of MMA, rival (and I use rival very loosely) to the far superior UFC, Elite XC has gone the route of many other fledgling MMA leagues by pumping up one individual superstar to carry the entire league. In this case, they have found pay dirt in Kimbo, the former backyard brawler. He carries just enough general popularity and curious intrigue to make MMA and non-MMA fans alike tune it to see what many neophytes in the country think will be a wild swinging/punching brawl that ends in a brutal knockout. That, however, is not what MMA is as a sport, nor what it should be marketed as. The complexities of mixed martial arts is far better understood through what each fighter brings to the octagon/cage/ring as opposed to what is perceived on the surface level.

To Kimbo's credit, he has ridden the wave of MMA popularity to bring himself money and notoriety. He certainly has the strength and punching power to put on a good show, but he lacks the overall polish elite fighters in the sport possess. After knocking out two cupcake fights in the form of Ray Mercer and Tank Abbott [with Abbott's only shot at winning was being powered by his immense hatred for minorities (no, I'm not joking)] Kimbo is hyped up enough to bring in some pretty decent numbers for tonight's TV event. While I'm sure he has been training hard to improve his MMA pedigree there is only so much ground he can make up.

Take for example, UFC Heavyweight Champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. "Minotauro" is a 6'3 241 lb. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master from Brazil. Along with a background in Judo and boxing, Big Nog has also ran through some of the top talent in MMA. Beating the likes of Mirko Cro Cop, Dan Henderson, Josh Barnett, Tim Sylvia, and Mark Coleman. Far from the Mercer and Abbott victories Kimbo has. Now, no one has attempted or even considered putting Kimbo in the same league as Big Nog or any of the previously mentioned heavy weight fighters. The point remains that for Kimbo to be considered by popular culture as an "icon" in the utmost superficial meaning of the word would be misappropriated and borderline enraging to true MMA fans.

There are two types of opinions people have about MMA in general. Either it is brutal and barbaric, a poor man's version of boxing or true MMA fighters are some of the most talented and well-versed athletes in the world today. The product being pumped through the waves of CBS tonight is MMA in some form. There are respected fighters on the card, but as far as Kimbo being the fighter to represent the whole spectrum of he certainly is not. So when he does fight, or when you read about it in the paper or online, keep in mind that at this point he is more circus sideshow than world class MMA fighter.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

My First Year Being A Soccer Fan

One of the last articles I wrote on the old (oldest) site was my initial tackling of the English Premier League. While this may not seem like all too big a deal, the prospect of picking up an entirely new sport, league, and culture was a lot to handle in one season, but I feel like I made some major strides. Thanks to soccer fantasy leagues, ESPN Soccernet, Fox Soccer Channel, and a myriad of blogs on the Internet I've caught on pretty quick. For those of you that haven't read the aforementioned article, after my selection process was over I selected Arsenal as my team.

No matter where my sports alliances lie, it appears to be that I may be the source of bad luck because as soon as I pledged my loyalty to Arsenal they lost one of their all time great players, Thierry Henry and were threatened to be taken over by foreign investors. However, as the season began, things turned around. The remaining players pulled together and were leading the Premier League by the half way point. This was quite remarkable and many people left Arsenal for dead (which in the Premier League means finishing in 4th place), but nonetheless Arsenal's ability to play beautiful football and out play other teams was impressive for sure.

Of course, I wouldn't be lucky enough to actually have the luxury of choosing my sports team, then have them win a championship that very year. No, no. After the half way point, Arsenal grew tired and fatigued lacking the depth and experience necessary to carry out a full season. Players, like Cesc Fabregas (pictured) and Emmanuel Adebayor hit cold spells, and before you knew it, Arsenal was out of every major competition for the year. It was pretty disastrous and a huge let down for me, let alone the fans that have rooted for Arsenal all their lives.

Now the team is on the rebound, per se. Their salary structure is under fire as teams like Manchester United and Chelsea basically have none, and this stinginess is causing a lot of gripping among players on the team even causing two starting midfielders, Matthieu Flamini and Alex Hleb to leave for more lucrative deals. Arsenal appears to be changing their ways slightly offering new contracts to Cesc Fabregas and Gael Clichy. Arsenal is also hot on the tracks of several young stars from France, most notably 20 year-old Samir Nasri. Don't let the goofy uniform fool you, the guy is tabbed as the next Zinedine Zidane. Now, Arsenal must move forward and add the depth necessary to sustain a full season in all tournaments. The problem with this is that Arsenal has always leaned towards young, inexpensive players (which I enjoy) and they are also in huge debt due to their new stadium and no foreign billionaire backing their spending. Now, this is a viable way to sustain a team as many European soccer teams are losing money due to the global economy and increased player salaries. Personally, I think Arsenal can win this way, but there must be some common ground in order to hold onto players like Cesc, Adebayor, and go get skilled veteran players that can help now.

Overall, European soccer is fannnntastic. The games are exciting, the format is great, and once they get HD programming, it's all over. It's a great way to spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, and I always enjoy a new sports pursuit. I suppose the most surprising (in a good way) thing is how much I took to really rooting for Arsenal. By the end of the season, I felt the same way about an Arsenal win/loss as I would with the Phils or Flyers.

So, if I haven't pumped you guys up enough for soccer, try to check out the Euro 2008 that starts on June 7th. It's an international clash of all the top Euro teams in a month long tournament. You'll find about 95% of the world's best players taking part, and it is easily accessible on ESPN2. Now, my biggest problem is what team to root for. Japan isn't European, and I guess my default would be Germany, but I really don't associate myself too much with my German heritage. I kind of like the French team because Arsenal has so many French players, and I kind of want to root for Portugal just so I have a reason to root for Cristiano Ronaldo. I think it's gonna either be France or Germany. So we'll see. But check it out, hope you'll be joining me next year (which starts in August!).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Movie Review: Iron Man

Iron Man kicks off the Summer Blockbuster Season. Stop me if you've heard this before. Yes, it is true, Summer and Summer Blockbusters are coming. Screw plot, acting, and intelligence, let's get some CGI, explosions, sequels, and overly attractive people that can't act. While Iron Man applies to to most of those stereotypes, the reason I didn't write off Iron Man all together is that Iron Man is portrayed by Robert Downey, Jr. Also, with this whole "origination" superhero movie that started with Spider-man and was taken to a new level by Batman Begins, superhero movies have gone up a notch beyond just parading guys in tights in front of the screen.

To be honest, all I really knew about Iron Man were a couple of cartoon episodes I watched when I was a kid, and of course the Jerry and George debate on Seinfeld as to whether Tony Stark aka Iron Man wore some sort of undergarment beneath his suit (the answer is yes).

Commercial break: I'm watching TV and this Budweiser commercial comes on. It's talking about the 100+ years of brewing tradition and how it is the "Great American Lager." Listen guys at Bud...we all know Budweiser sucks. It tastes horrible, leaves your stomach in knots, and isn't of high regard for most people. Technically, it's not even a beer, let alone a lager. The ingredients make Bud more of a rice wine than a beer. Give it up, Bud. You're not fooling anyone.

So what I was really looking for from Iron Man was his origins. Unlike Superman, Batman, Spider-man, etc. I wasn't sure what made Iron Man tick or why billionaire arms developer, Tony Stark took on this new persona. The beginning, although slow, was really the main point of interest for me. Ok, so Tony Stark was a kid genius, inherited his dad's weapon manufacturer, and as many spoiled genius kids are...they develop a drinking problem and live a lavish life womanizing and driving awesome cars. Oh, the second best part of the movie, Tony Stark's Audi R8. It is an amazing car, and coincidentally, I saw an all black one rolling down the streets of Philly the next day. That's $110,000 base model, folks. I would kill for less.

Anyway, back to the origin, Tony Stark is captured and fill in the spoiler blanks, he becomes Iron Man. That part, as I said was slow, but not unbearable as long as there is a pay off for it. However, there was none. Iron Man slacks once it gets into the whole fighting the villains, plot part. There are a couple of interesting moments where Iron Man dismantles a terrorist network in some generic Middle Eastern city, as far as the action is concerned, but there isn't any real drive or purpose behind the action, the villains, and why Iron Man is taking these people down.

The villain is obvious from the get go of the movie, laying waste to one of the worst "Surprise! You thought I was a Good Guy Guys" ever. Then, who is Iron Man fighting? Terrorists? The "SYTIWAGGG?" There needs to be some focus there. Also, I'm not appreciative of the whole, generic terrorists angle. There was no reason why they did what they did or reasoning as to why they acted the way they were. We were just supposed to assume, oh these guys are from the Middle East somewhere, they must want to kill the United States and destroy our way of living because that's what Middle Eastern people do. Just a little more thought to certain aspects like that are what separates a great superhero movie from an average superhero movie.

Also, it looks like Iron Man just deals with global problems. He doesn't stop bank robberies or local problems like your typical superhero, but he uses his suit to tackle world issues. I'm not sure if that is a good thing or not, but it appears to be the situation.

Iron Man tries to be an outstanding superhero movie though. As I mentioned, they cast Robert Downey, Jr. as a superhero, which is odd to say the least, and they went after Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Terrence Howard to round out the main players. All of them had particularly forgettable roles and weren't given much to work with character wise. They were all very one dimensional and just second fiddle to Downey's role.

Director Jon Favreau does an admirable job with his first Blockbuster, but his lack of experience does show on the major plot and story points. He seems to be more concerned with the effects, rather than the character development that has made him a successful director up to this point. Despite the wide palate of possibilities Favreau is presented with, he keeps this movie pretty by the book. There aren't any truly memorable moments, nor was there much creativity on Favs part. He even gave himself an overdone cameo as Stark's bodyguard. Plus, would it have killed him to throw in an answering machine scene?

Overall, Iron Man does kick off the Summer Blockbuster season with the hype, promotion, effects, and big box office returns that one would expect. This is not Batman Begins more Fantastic Four (minus Jessica Alba). Major Boo points. Anyway, this movie will entertain those that want to be entertained, but beyond some improvised lines from Downey and the R8, Iron Man proves to be pretty forgettable.

Acting: 7.5/10
Plot: 4.0/10
Re-Watchability: 6.0/10
DVD Purchase: 2.0/10

Overall: 4.5/10

EDITOR'S NOTE: Just picked this up after I posted my review, but I left out the best thing about the whole movie experience. I went to see it at the Ritz in Voorhees, and who should walk in the lobby as I was enjoying a coffee, but Brian Dawkins. That's right B-Dawk was in the house looking as if he wasn't trying to be noticed, except for the fact that I know what Dawk looks like and I'm betting the average movie goer isn't ripped to shreds like he is. Sure enough, he was going to see Iron Man with two guests. Of course I went in after he entered the theater and sat about 10 feet away from him. It was a cool experience, but I didn't say anything because I didn't want to ruin his evening and draw attention to him. Good times though.

Yes, that is a photoshopped picture of a fully uniformed Brian Dawkins making love to Jessica Simpson while Romo cries. Guess it was funnier when Romo and the uglier Simpson sister were still together. Oh well, funny nonetheless.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


I'm reworking the site. It's not done yet so lay off me!! In the meantime, enjoy the sleepy kitten.

Coming up:

Iron Man Review
Wrap up of my first season following the English Premier League

Also, check out the Foo Fighters reference link on the side of the site. I had a nice conversation with an ACTUAL Foo Fighters fan!