Monday, August 24, 2009

Knightfall: The Movie

As I considered the news this weekend of Bob Knight's impending induction into the Indiana Hall of Fame, I recalled the drama surrounding his punishment, firing, and subsequent coaching resurrection at Texas Tech.

No matter what you say about Coach Knight (and make sure you call him coach, otherwise you'll be involved in an altercation with him), I think it's apparent that IU's olive branch to him is appropriate and long overdue. For almost 30 years, Knight WAS Indiana basketball. Along with it came the temper, the rude behavior, the antics, and the adoring fanbase that let him do whatever he wanted. But make no mistake about it, Bobby Knight remains one of the sport's finest coaches and deserves better than to be "Pete Rosed" out of IU's lexicon of champions.

Will the coach take this opportunity to sooth the personal hurt he endured in his ouster? Will he seize the day and show everyone he deserves that legend moniker everyone is so quick to give him? I don't know. In his mind, he probably doesn't need this welcoming back. However, if he can set his ego aside and embrace IU, funnel away some of those hurt feelings and his pride, the fans and school will embrace him in return. And while Knight still won't have left Indiana University on his own terms, at least he could return on them. A school driven solely by winning has made dubious missteps since Knight's exile. Now, fans are eager to feel the sense of legitimacy Knight brought to IU basketball in addition to all those soundbites, technical fouls, thrown chairs, and temper tantrums. Under Knight, IU won. The program did it without cheating, without text messaging, and without shame.

IU fans want to believe that again, and for that reason I hope Knight takes the opportunity not only for himself, but for the sake of the fans who once loved him, who still love him, and for betterment of Indiana basketball.

That said, I also began to think, if you were to cast a movie based on this whole convoluted story, who would you cast as the principle players? And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I'm writing this.Brian Cox as Bob Knight. Cox is a terrific actor who's graced movies like The Bourne Identity, Troy, Manhunter, X-Men 2, and SuperTroopers. To me, he has the "bullyish" aura one must possess to play Knight, along with the raging, slow-burn temper and physical presence the role demands. I haven't actually seen him throw a chair, but I think he can do it.Ron Dean as Rick Greenspan. Calculating, thuggish, standoffish. These are the kinds of behaviors that come to mind when I think of Rick Greenspan. He's a man in denial, one who doesn't want to be challenged, one who isn't afraid to cross the line between acceptable and conspiratorial behavior. No actor fits this better than Dean...who's steady work includes turns in blockbusters from The Fugitive to The Dark Knight. I think there's a definite physical resemblance here as well.Ian McDiarmid or David Strathairn as Myles "Money" Brand. Finding the right person to play Myles Brand is essential. He's a key character in this drama; one some would consider the "villain" of the piece. Brand demands someone bureaucratic, someone who is capable of scheming in front of the public while hiding his true intentions. He needs to be willing to advance his own interests over those of his university, and unfraid of making a name for himself by toppling a legend. I could go either way on this one...McDiarmid would be good, but Strathairn's one of the best character actors around.Eric Roberts as Fred Glass. Some would call Fred Glass a snake oil salesman, others a charismatic figure destined to lead IU to future greatness. He plays no crucial role in the Knight Drama until much later, as the coach's fateful career comes full circle and he considers returning to Indiana University. Roberts gives off that enthusiastic, high-class salesman vibe that Glass exudes. Definitely a good fit.Wes Studi or Danny Trejo as Kelvin Sampson. This was probably the hardest to come up with. Sampson really doesn't look like anyone...he has a distinctive face and an odd body type. Perhaps if Forrest Whitaker were Native American, this would be much easier. However, I think I found two very good candidates. The first is Wes Studi of Last of the Mohicans fame. Obviously, he's of Native American descent. He has a prideful look to him...like Sampson. Another candidate is Danny Trejo, best known for his role in the Machete spoof from Grindhouse. Trejo looks pretty rough, his face distinctively lined much like Sampson's. He probably puts off the duplicitous vibe better than Studi...but considering Sampson was a smooth operator, Trejo's rougher edges may not work.Andre Braugher as Mike Davis. Were Brock Peters still alive, he'd be way too old to play Mike Davis, but it's something I had to mention, if just to get a screen capture from Star Trek VI. Although if you look at To Kill a Mockingbird, there's definitely a resemblance. However, Andre Braugher is an excellent candidate. Roughly the same age as Davis, I think Braugher could pull off the conflicted coach who never should've been in the situation he was thrust into; the guy everyone thought would be gone "the next year," yet managed to hang around.Cameron Thor or Jeff Daniels as Dan Dakich. Of course, Dan Dankich would have to play a central role somewhere along the line. A friend of Knight's, he rose to the occasion when the basketball program needed him most. He didn't get much of a thanks for that. Whenever I think of Dakich, I think of that guy from Jurassic Park who plays Dodgson. It must be the nose. Seeing as the obscure actor, Cameron Thor, hasn't been in much lately, I say we darken Jeff Daniels hair and give him consideration as well. He's a bit heavier than Dakich, but there's something about Daniels that reminds me of him.

Now before I finish this off, just one more thought. While I like Brian Cox as Knight, there's one shortcoming. And it's literal...Cox is only about 5'8". Anyone who knows anything about Bob Knight knows he's a man of impressive stature...well over six feel tall. While the camera can make up for the height disparity, there were a few other actors I did not seriously consider, but had to mention anyway.The first who came to mind was Liam Neeson, mostly because he's tall. However, Neeson has too much inner calm to pull off Bob Knight. But you have to admit there's something about the sweater he's wearing in Kinsey that evokes Knight.I got a real chuckle out of Alec Baldwin. Certainly he possesses the temper needed to portray Coach Knight. Taller than Cox at about 5'11", Baldwin's in the midst of a career resurrection thanks to 30 Rock. If he could turn off his "suave" setting, he might just be able to pull it off.And finally, what about Russell Crowe? I thought about his performance in the Insider and was impressed with how he transformed himself in that movie both physically and from a behavioral standpoint. He has a sense of machismo and swagger needed to play Knight as well, although it'd be hard to think of Maximus as a basketball coach.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Introducing FSPN

8:15 a.m. (Mississippi) Brett Favre wakes up

8:17 a.m. Brett Favre urinates

8:19 a.m. Brett Favre decides how to urinate on legacy

8:21 a.m. Upset over "excessive" Michael Vick coverage, Brett Favre decides to come out of retirement (again); sends text message to Brad Childress and smiles diabolically as he realizes his latest campaign of "player leaks" has been successful

10:00 a.m. Brett Favre and wife board plane to St. Paul

12:30 p.m. (Minnesota) Brett Favre and wife arrive in St. Paul; Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress serves as chauffeur in a preview of how the chain of command will work for this season with Favre under center

12:34 p.m. Brett Favre asks Childress to pull over so he can urinate; chopper vids show Favre exiting vehicle and stepping into local rest stop with large security detail

12:45 p.m. Brett Favre and wife eat caviar dinner; Childress acts as server, making sure Favre's champagne glass is consistently refilled

1:00 p.m. Vikings start practice

1:15 p.m. Construction crew finishes erecting golden throne next to Favre's locker

1:20 p.m. John David Booty has #4 jersey removed against his will and is pelted with silly string before being kicked repeatedly by Vikings staff

1:21 p.m. Brett Favre surveys golden throne and diamond-encrusted locker at Vikings practice facility

1:23 p.m. Brett Favre feels urge to urinate yet again

1:25 p.m. Brett Favre handed #4 jersey from John David Booty

1:26 p.m. Finding the jersey unsuitable for him, Favre demands clean, red jersey and kicks Booty for good measure

1:28 p.m. Favre joins Vikings for practice; angels rejoice

1:30 p.m. Booty emerges, visibly shaken, now wearing #9 jersey

1:35 p.m. (Minnesota) Vikings pre-order Lombardi Trophy

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Preseason football rocks

Preseason football is fool's gold.

Or the now-defunct Applebee's dessert once known as the "Low-Fat and Fabulous Fudge Brownie Delight."

At first glance, you get excited about it.

It looks like the real thing.

Then you take a closer look and you realize it isn't real gold, the dessert is absolutely atrocious no matter how hard you try to like it, and the football is fake.

In fact, fantasy football is much more exciting than the preseason.

Why did I watch the whole game Friday night? I really couldn't tell you. I'd like to complain about the lackluster effort from the entire team. However, with 15 starters injured, it's hard to get too caught up in that. In addition, the Colts don't put much stock into the preseason. Tony Dungy's methodology was always that preseason football gave him the chance to evaluate players and that the score didn't matter.

Judging by the results Friday night, Jim Caldwell is taking the same approach...although he said something to the effect that preseason football matters because they keep score. Or something like that.

Anyway, I wasn't really too impressed with the Colts. The first-team offense led to a first down and Peyton was sacked three times. The defense felt reminiscent of last season, when the Colts could force teams into third-and-long, but couldn't get them to punt. Of course, the entire (and I mean THE ENTIRE) starting secondary was missing, so maybe that had something to do with it.

Only two players really impressed me during the game: Donald Brown and Pat McAfee. Brown has a nice burst and seems like the type of back who can finish off runs. McAfee can punt the ball like 120 yards, which would be extremely useful if the field spanned 150 yards. I kid...I kid. The guy's got a good leg...but when the PUNTER sticks out as one of your positives, you know things aren't going well.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Starting to feel it...

Training camp started today.

Thank goodness.

The Colts have all their draft picks signed and ready to go. It sets up a pretty interesting season for the Horseshoes.

It's kind of like that line from Face/Off, "It's like looking in a mirror, only not."

In many regards, the Colts are the same as they've always been. Manning under center. Jeff Saturday anchoring the line. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis at defensive end. Howard Mudd directing an offensive line that no one will talk about while quietly performing as well as anyone else in the league. Tom Moore pacing the sidelines as he assists Manning with the offense.

Then again, so much has changed. Where's Tony Dungy? Where's Marvin Harrison? Dominic Rhodes? What's a consultant, exactly? Who's Larry Coyer? What happened to Ron Meeks?

They (football writers) keep branding this as an Era of Change for the Colts. I suppose they're right...no more 18-to-88 action...but have things changed that much? Some reasons I sure hope so:

1) Run defense. The Colts have some big, nasty thoroughbreds in the stable. With the return of Ed Johnson and the addition of Fili Moala and Terrence Taylor, the Colts have size and depth at defensive tackle. That should help bolster the running defense, which has been a running joke for several seasons.

2) 3rd down defense. How many times did we see the Colts get an opponent in third and long, only to watch them give up the big pass play? It happened way too much last year. Fans can only hope Larry Coyer has a few crafty tricks up his sleeve. The "bend but don't break" philosophy snapped far too often on third down last year.

3) Third and two. Third and one. One thing the Colts must emphasize is being nasty at the point of attack and sticking with the running game. It's been a frustrating truth of the franchise: you'd rather see third-and-six than third-and-inches. Put the ball in Manning's hands on third down. It's not a bad philosophy--Manning is usually brilliant when third down comes a-knockin'--but the Colts need to change their mindset. I hope Mike Hart pushes Joe Addai for playing time. Hart runs hard...and could be the short-yardage back the team needs. (Or he could get cut next week, who knows?)

4) Postseason mindset. With the exception of a terrific Super Bowl run, the Colts have done nothing but break my heart year after year. It typically involves the New England Patriots or (more recently) the San Diego Chargers. Instead of sitting on pins and needles, how 'bout the Boys in Blue show us some postseason dominance?

5) Actual "special" teams. A quick perusal of the statistics shows the Colts ranked 28th in kickoff returns. The punt return game? DEAD FREAKING LAST. In kickoff coverage, they ranked 24th in the league. Punt coverage was statistically better at number 15, but that's nothing to brag about. On the plus side, they didn't surrender a return touchdown, so I guess that's something. The point is, though, they have to be much better on special teams. With Adam Vinatieri hurt, a new special teams coach in place, and Hunter Smith doing his own version of "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," this will be a phase of the game to keep an eye on.

The way my Reds are playing (losers of six straight, 11 games back, and tied with the PITTSBURGH PIRATES, for cryin' out loud!), I can't wait until I see some preseason football and long for the day when we're watching future grocery store clerks fight it out in the trenches during the fourth quarter.