Saturday, January 29, 2011

Get Rich or Die Tryin' (Part 1)

In twenty years, some idiot is going to goof around on Wikipedia, find out about a guy named Curtis Jackson, look at his record sales and start a blog declaring “50 Cent” the best rapper of this decade. My 15-year old son will then believe this blogger, blindside me with a definitive statement about 50 Cent while we drive to the Poconos, and leave me speechless as my wife massages my arm and gives our kids another box of Dunkaroos to keep quiet.

And then, I’ll re-read this article. And laugh. And show it to my son.
How quickly we forget.

Remember 2003? It was a crazy year. President Bush started the War in Iraq, Darko got drafted over Carmelo and Wade, and Martha Stewart was busted in the insider trading scandal. That summer, on every Top 100 radio station, a guy with a raspy voice and kindergarten rhymes bopped into our hearts with his insistence on rapping around sex, drugs, and getting paid. The guy’s name was 50 Cent. And we enjoyed every minute of it.

50 Cent came along at the right time. Thanks to Jay-Z’s success, the pressure on New York City to find the next Notorious B.I.G. to soothe a global hip-hop craze died down, but still…an opportunity existed for someone to co-exist and steal some hearts. Jay-Z was a cool dude and solid rapper, but he looked like Joe Camel. Not someone an easily malleable teenager from Queens is totally sold on patterning his life after.

50 Cent was gully, which was more than enough for us. 50 was from Queens (unlike Jay-Z, who made it a point to claim his Brooklyn heritage). 50 had tattoos and muscles. 50 got shot NINE times, a fact that was recited more times in ‘03 than the Pledge of Allegiance. Everyone had the prerequisite “I SWEAR, 50 Cent was on Jamaica Ave. last Sunday!” story, which made this rapper a man of the people. You know, even though he owned a house in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

My track team bumped the mess out of 50 Cent’s music: from his hit song “In the Club” (which convinced me to sport a white tee and fake earring one summer) to his passionate “21 Questions” ballad (which made it OK to be a lover and a fighter). Apparently, we weren’t the only ones – 50 topped the Billboard charts that year (back when people still bought music) and earned a Grammy nod, ultimately losing to Outkast’s “Speakerboxx/The Love Below” dual-threat album. (In a related story, Nelly’s “Sweat/Suit” followed suit and impressed no one.)

Like all teenagers, I grew up. I stopped wearing baggy jeans and fake earrings, I listened more intently to Jay-Z music (The Black Album came out later that year) and soon realized that Jay-Z was the better rapper, even if he looked like a recurring character from The Banana Splits. Honestly, I thought the argument was moot…until I goofed around on and saw this telling stat under their “Artists of the Decade” rankings:

Eminem (#1). 50 Cent (#6). Jay-Z (#10).

Wait, WHA?? Granted, this is based on Billboard’s album sales count and hot songs charts (note: everyone stopped buying music in 2006) but still, some idiot who wasn’t old enough to see the progression of 50 Cent and Jay-Z will make the ludicrous claim that 50 Cent was better. It’s up to us (the teenagers and fans who lived through the 50 Cent saga) to explain to future generations that 50 Cent couldn’t hold a candle to Jay-Z in the rap game.

Here’s the problem: Since the mega stats back it up, Idiot Future Blogger will have a legitimate argument. Yikes.

And this is where I insert the sentence comparing 50 Cent to Kobe Bryant. Yup.
In about a week’s time, Kobe Bryant will pass Hakeem Olajuwon’s scoring mark and move to #10 on the All-Time Scoring List (the Punnett Square of NBA Stats). Since Kobe’s point totals have dropped an average of 153 points per season since the 2007-08 season, we can roughly assumed (given how Kobe takes care of his body) that Kobe will score around 1,817 points this year (’10-11), 1,664 next year (’11-12), 1,511 in Year 3 (’12-13), and 1,358 in Year 4 (’13-14) in his 17th NBA season (age 35). To place it in perspective, only Kareem and Karl Malone lasted that long and scored more in their 17th years, and both had HOF point guards (Magic, Stockton) giving them bunnies. Amazing.

(By the way, by the time Kobe’s 36th birthday rolls around, it’s not inconceivable to believe that he’ll be sitting at #3 on the all-time list behind the aforementioned Malone and Kareem (with over 33,284 points). WOW.)

This begs the argument: What’s worth more: quality or quantity? Do we give the G.O.A.T. title to Kobe because he’ll quantitatively top Jordan (barring injury), or does M.J. get it based on MVP seasons, title belts, and the fact that his peak dwarfs Kobe’s in every respect? I’ll save you the time. Of COURSE M.J. is better...but you still had to think about it. A scary proposition indeed.

For the fun on it, I’ve extrapolated the careers of Kobe and 50 Cent. Both have measureable talent (athletic ability, mental dexterity), both have taken the world by storm (one teenage suburban girl at a time), and both need to be examined thoroughly to prove to my 15-year-old son that Kobe/50 Cent < M.J./Jay-Z.(I’m splitting this post in two, if only to let you get back to work before your boss peers over your shoulder to see you staring intently at a picture of a shirtless 50 Cent. (By the way, if I ever saw my assistant looking at a picture of 50 Cent at his/her desk, I would point, laugh, and say “Stay thirsty, my friends!” as I hit the water cooler. Yes, even if that’ll be fifteen years from now and they’ll miss the joke.)

- M.B., II

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Stylish and Versatile

Stylish and versatile.

I've been called many things in my life, but usually stylish AND versatile aren't included. Stylish? Only on the day I wore my Allan Houston jersey to a Javits Center car show. Versatile? I guess. I'm as versatile as an ottoman in a beauty salon.

OK, enough jokes. Currently there's a movement afoot by bloggers far and wide to name their favorite writers who they feel are "stylish and versatile" on their blogs. My blogger buddy that nominated me has probably never seen my treasure trove of Aeropostale cargo pants and rugby shirts. Chain letter? Possibly. But who am I to forgo an opportunity to talk about myself?

As promised, here are seven things about me and some bloggers who's game I respect...but I'm gonna spice it up POT-style.

I promise...I'll write about hoops again soon.

1. I'm a die hard Knicks fan, and I really like the way Raymond Felton's playing ball.
Ray Felton reminds me of a young Chauncey Billups, back when Billups was Boston's 1997 consolation prize (they were gunning/tanking for Tim Duncan, if you remember), got a ton of money (no rookie scale yet), failed at handling the Boston atmosphere (black athlete + Boston = WE GET IT) and was shipped out 50 games into his rookie season to his Denver hometown. Similarly, Felton was the sucker's pick after Paul/Williams were off the board, a NCAA champion with an average UNC game that was meh in comparison to those studs. Yes, this was before the days of Larry Drew II. Eeek.

Like most guys, he played hard under Larry Brown, worked off the baby weight, and got a new deal. Unlike most guys, he carried this HUGE Paul/Williams shoulder chip to the Big Apple, learning the Amare P&R in a month and carrying a new playoff noise on broad shoulders.

A few months ago, Felton was our consolation prize in the LBJ sweepstakes. Now I can't wait to name my pit bull after him. (Wait, wha?)
2. I love laughing out loud and criticizing a movie while I'm watching it.
If this makes me similar to 99.9999999999% of African-American movie-goers, so be it. DON'T GO IN THERE!

3. I appreciate (and kinda dig) it when ladies (note the noun used here) can comfortably pull off the "Candace Parker".
After spending some glorious years at black college (Howard!), I've run across my share of weaves (yes, I've literally run across tracks of hair on the sidewalk), strewn stiletto heels, and bad makeup jobs. A friend of mine once said that a girl we knew wore SO much makeup that "you could butter your bread with it." Gross but revealing.
What is the "Candace Parker"? Simply put, it's wearing clothes that fit the occasion but don't impede your ability to have fun. If you're going to the gym, skip the makeup. If you're going to a picnic at a state park, wear sneakers and jeans. If you're going to a gala, wear a dress. If you're going to the beach, wear sunscreen. If you're going to a Super Bowl party, DON'T wear a pink jersey. Very important.

To me, the "Candace Parker" screams confidence and exudes beauty in a simple yet elegant way. It says, "You guys are going to have a volleyball net at your BBQ? SWEET! Of COURSE I'm going to wear sneakers!" (Aside: These girls almost ALWAYS pass the Mom Test.)
4. I love to encourage others by laughing at their jokes, even when they dive bomb.
The opposite of this would be doing what Reggie Miller does during a TNT hoops game or Mike Francesa used to do when he rode shotgun with Chris "Mad Dog" Russo: leaving your sidekick hanging. Francesa wold rather leave an awkward 10 seconds of dead air than give Chris ANY credit for tossing up a half-decent joke. I give him credit for being a complete jerk.

5. I'd love to play 3-on-3 hoops with Obama on the White House lawn.
People always talk about shooting hoops on the POTUS basketball court, but how is that different than shooting jumpers in an empty park? BORING. It's like beating the first Ninja Gaiden for NES with no one watching. Ultimately, it only counts if there's a witness.

So, why be stingy with my imagination? I'd say we go all-out, a 3-on-3 tournament where I'd get to play alongside Kobe Bryant (hyper-competitive, wouldn't let us lose) and Obama (who's status at POTUS along with a tricky left-hand release would rattle the bejeesus out of our competition). Or, we get a crazy game of Knock-Out going, with the Knock-Out line stretching all the way across the National Mall for the illest all-day tourney. If Obama was in front of you in line, would you DARE knock him out? I wouldn't.

6. I have a twin sister. OK, so we're not twins, but my sister and I are really close. I taught her about sports and how important it is to love the Knicks, and she taught me how to dress, to jump on a hotel bed as soon as you arrive, and to love God above all. I love our relationship, from the looks we give each other to make the other one laugh uncontrollably to the gifts we send to each other just because we'd know the other one would like it. She's super protective of me and vice-versa. We're a better bro-sis combo than the Wonder Twins.
7. I think Jesus Christ is a pretty awesome dude. Not a bad guy to be best friends with.
As far as my top bloggers go, here's the list. Don't blink, or you might miss it:
T.G.I.F.T. (Brenton Harrison), Eights and Weights (Suzanne Brume), The Big Lead (Jason McIntyre), Club Trillion (Mark Titus), Fundamentally Unsound (Johnathan Tillman), True Hoop (Henry Abbott), NBA Playbook (Sebastian Pruiti), Forever Chasing After You (A.B.).

Thanks for letting me indulge. Back to hoops, after these messages.
M.B., II

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I'm Game For "The Game"

Will my friends make fun of me?
I remember when "The Game" premiered on the CW, if only because my sister was singlehandedly getting Wendy Raquel Robinson's clothes dry cleaned (only 2.1 mil viewers). I'd checked out a few episodes and bailed, simply because none of my friends were watching. It was a back-door "Chick Sit"(com), and I wasn't going to be the fish to get baited with the hook.

If I watch, do I have to hand over my Man Card?
This is the question that needs to be answered to get real men in the door. That's why studios sign meat heads like Vince Vaughn to do rom-com's, that's why Hank Moody beds a girl an episode, and that's why Martin Lawrence needed Marsha Thomason in Black Knight. Funny guys and attractive bodies are sure-fire ways to hook the strays.

I'm not going to lie...I wasn't trying to be the first guy to dip my toe in BET waters. Ultimately, the wave of excitement bowled me over and forced me to analyze the BET premiere. Hey, it's got athletes! I'm a sportswriter! You KNOW how much I like to analyze black sitcoms! I picked out the one-liners and keeper quotes, and circled my arguments such. Have fun.

I'd like to believe I kept my Man Card. You be the judge.
BET's "The Game" - Season 4, Episode 1
Derwin Davis drives up with sports car, arrives at the Essence photo shoot, points to the paparazzi and shouts, "Everybody out here better be a Sabres fan." (Crowd erupts) Inside, Melanie (Tia Mowry) is posing for the magazine, making sexy poses as Boss Lady from The Steve Harvey Show leads a one-woman peanut gallery. Jason appears to have made the transition to sports talk radio, Kelly is hosting a reality TV show and spending his alimony checks, and Malik is, umm...reaping the benefits of being a starting QB. The scene culminates with Derwin & Melanie posing for the cover, when Boss Lady exclaims:

“GAME ON B******.” (cut to intro)

Great cold open. We get snippets of our featured players, and enough rapid movement for us to cheese and vicariously revel in the glitz and glamour given our Hollywood icons. Then, we dug into our bowl of Spaghetti O's and realized how poor we really were. Sigh.

“I don’t know about you, but that looks like a cover I wanna have sex with.”
WHOA. We’re clearly on cable TV now. Even though the way Boss Lady described the Essence cover would make me feel like a horny teenager if I picked the magazine off a luncheonette counter.

“She WAS looking at my purse.
Oh NO…she was coveting what you GOT! Baby Mama 0, Wifey 1.”

And we have our A-story exposition! Derwin was on the outs, but rebounded well. He married well, scored a monster contract, and is assured career success and prestige for the foreseeable future. However, he’s fathered an (adorable!) son with the ex-woman, and has to deal with Black Sitcom Story Arc #1 – baby momma drama. And we have our rising action.

By the way, glad to see Tia Maury involved in black comedy again. It’s her calling, just like its DJ Steve Porter’s calling to make me laugh with press conference remixes. Let’s encourage her to keep doing these until she’s unsightly and tiresome (is Betty White still doing stuff?).
“I’m doing what most American women have forgotten how to do…I’m holding out until I get the respect I deserve.”
Chris Webber is excruciatingly awful at these cameo roles. I'd say almost pantheon bad, like Magic in the “Remember the Time” video. My boss and I argued about Webber’s vitality as an analyst: he’s got good insights, smart instincts, does his research, and is camera friendly. But I think he still wants (and needs) to make his cameo rounds, A few more of these should whet his appetite and put him on track to evolve into the next Charles Barkley, when Barkley becomes governor of Alabama.

“Does your mommy take you to the barber shop, or the salon? (Baby laughs in tub) AH HA! Avoiding the question! I think he’s hiding something…explain why he’s so yellow then?”
Light skinned jokes and kinky hair jokes. Classic. If any white folks made the trek over from the CW, the high yellow jokes definitely sent them right back to One Tree Hill and Gossip Girl.

By the way, "The Game" uses the laugh track like once a scene. What's up with that? Commit to the laugh track. Make it a sitcom with punch (Girlfriends), or embrace the drama route (New York Undercover). Going halfway makes it seem like there’s only writers and producers over-laughing in the studio. (Wait, that's all there was? Oops!)

“Or…I can just do this (opens towel).” (Dramatic pause)
(Next scene) “Girl, I am SO SORRY I’m late…”
Bow-chica-WOW-WOW! Terrance J! Making skinny guys everywhere proud!
By the way, the parental rating jump from TV14DL to TV14DLS from the commercial break gave the ENTIRE scene away. Also, it feels like the scene was only this long because the producers needed to stretch the premiere into an hour.

I hate when TV execs get in the way. It's like a parent telling their kid what to major in because they're paying for college. I'm averaging a great GPA. Don't interrupt my flow until I screw up.

“Gentlemen, gentlemen! I think that’s enough business for tonight. I need ALL of my man’s attention.”
Didn't know this then, but this may be the longest line Meagan Good has in the premiere. Not counting sexual grunts, Meagan Good probably says four lines the entire episode.


Meagan Good LIVES off her sexuality. She literally just embraced her sexual powers and hasn't worked on her acting skills at all. Every line she says now just drips with sexual innuendo, like “Well, I’ll try anything once…”. Come ON. And here I thought she was on pace for a big career post-Skeeter. She’s the Vince Carter of black actresses.

“OHMYGOD, OHMYGOD…this is my friend with the test results.
Ignore the speck, Melanie…it’s still a pretty picture.”

Best advice of the episode (for Melanie and the audience). Shortening this sitcom down to a half-hour should eliminate some of the flaws from Act 4, scene 1. Too bad I can’t ignore the cross fade dissolves, the awkward audience laughter, and my stupid impulse to jump through the TV and yell, "DNA puppets? What's up with that?!"
“Tee-Tee…how can I get caught when the rules don’t apply to me.”
Hmmm. This + Meagan Good screams all we need to know for now (we’ll revisit this later). By the way, how often do you think Malik in real life asked BET about borrowing that Ferrari after hours?

“Market and 4th, Tasha! MARKET AND FOURTH! I’ll be handing out ass-whoopings and lollipops, and I’m all out of lollipops!”
Money line from Kelly + Boss Lady smoking a Black & Mild? NICE touch, BET.

“You smell good...Why don’t you initiate sex with me?”
Most unintentionally funny comment of the night. Looks like a writer fell asleep at his desk, leaned on his MS Thesaurus Quick Key, and said, "Eff it, they're both sexy anyway." Definitely something Matt LeBlanc would say.

“As far as I’m concerned, DJ’s my son…Even though you should probably know he’s not yours. (GASP!)“WE NEEDED TO KNOW THE TRUTH DERWIN!?!? SHE JUST WANTS WHAT WE HAVE!” (punches wall)
Most spine-chilling scene in the premiere, and I still laughed. You gotta love Derwin’s intense acting face before he decks the wall. It’s like the director stopped after Take #1 and told Derwin to squeeze more eye drops out, look like he was just gutted with an epidural needle, and think about that John Singleton role hanging in the balance.
“What the hell was that? It all depends, is it still management?”
Just had to stop here to point out how the white club owner looks like Wally Szcerzbiak. So THAT’S where he’s been since the ’08 playoffs! Nassau County’s leading scorer everybody!!!!
“If you let the rumors circulate that THE Malik White was in your club having relations with a young (looks back) 'woman', and broke the sink…guarantee your club will stay hot for another six months....So let’s let the insurance adjuster handle it, right? He’s our man, he’ll fudge the report…you’ll get a better sink.”
How the hell did they get Tee-Tee across San Diego in less than 10 minutes? He’s running his Cluck Truck, bumping uglies with Natural Hair, and making moves selling street meat to construction workers. Think he'd be way across town cleaning up his truck, right? WRONG.

Also, if Tee-Tee hates Malik, why does he pick up his phone and cut across traffic to help a dude that treats him like an adult boy? Does anyone else smell what the Rock is cooking?

In addition, love how Wally Szcerzbiak rolls the mop in, Malik grabs it and hands it to Tee-Tee, and walks out with the girl he was boning (Meagan Good). Pretty sure that’s the definition of "getting played" in the dictionary.

Tee-Tee, its OK to hit "Ignore" when Malik's name pops up on your Droid. We won't judge you.

“Just wearing a vest and tie in a dimly-lit park…what could go wrong?”
“You stink, smelly. You stink of desperation, with your Duran Duran hair, your spray-on tan, and your skanky clothes…probably gonna get attacked by a pair of Eskimos.”
“The Game” gave Jason the BEST lines. Period. His lawyer deserves a cigar and a raise.

“I DIG you. I dig talking to you, I dig hanging out with you…you know I dig DIGGING you.”
By the way, here are our storylines so far:
A-plot: Is it mine? (Derwin + Tia)
B-plot: Will the boss catch me? (Malik + MG)
C-plot: Look! I'm robbing the cradle! (Boss Lady + Terrence J)
D-plot: I hate you! No, I hate YOU! (Jason + Kelly)
E-plot: Treat me like a MAN! (Malik + TeeTee)

And that's without all the in-drama bound to happen. If the show wants mileage, congratulations. There's more happening this hour than in a classic Bret Hart-WWF Royal Rumble. They can milk an easy 40 episodes out of this.

“I tell you no one’s playing anyone...Even a garbage can eats a steak.”
Terrence J is right, Boss Lady. What does that mean?

“Your hair may be a little different…but you know what? We got Indian in our family, right?”
We can now add "Indian hair jokes" to the list of things that make white CW watchers go, "Whaaaa???"

“Listen son, listen to me. Be aware of women alright? They’ll get you with the okie doke EVERYtime…just don’t want you to fall with ‘the banana in the tailpipe’ like your Dad.”
Roped me in with the Eddie Murphy reference from Beverly Hills Cop. NICE. This is how you keep your fringe male viewers from changing the channel. Typical Girlfriends move.

“Mike Vick? Cover…broken fibula. Donovan McNabb? Cover. Torn ACL. Brett Favre? Cover…torn bicep. Hey, well…Ms. PacMan did it, and she’s fine…so maybe you will be too!”

Another Jason line. So far, he’s on the fast track to become my favorite UPN athlete since Flex Washington. Even though the video game jinx is a SUPER old and clich├ęd theme, he banks it home with the Pac Man line. No reason to doubt why they picked him as the starting QB for the mock pro team. Wait, he's the WR? Then how did he gain 2,500 yards last season?
“I can take him…I need to put some work in on my dissertation anyway...Yeah, Let your little wing-tern take me. Hey, look…her’s name Allison, she used to be my intern AND NOW SHE’S MY LIFE PARTNER!...Hey, I appreciate you baby.” (Yells) “FYI, we are GAY! AS IN HAPPY!”
Tee-Tee lets his girl drive home with a known sexual predator. Nice. This is the same guy that openly admitted the rules didn't apply to him, like the rule NOT TO BONE your best friend's girlfriend. For a guy who convinced Wally Szcerzbiak to drop the charges, TeeTee's sure stupid.

Also, who the heck STARTS working on their dissertation past midnight? Forget the heck do you have time for Ph.D. research AND a full-time job shelling fried food from a chicken truck? You couldn’t have predicted the future sex scene faster if Ron Jeremy walked by with a trey of finger food at that very moment.

“Come ON, I’m not trying to steal your show! I’m just reminding you that I AM the show…anybody want to get a reaction of THAT?”
I know it’s the D-story, but Jason’s nailing more punch lines than Ludacris post-Crash. He's the only guy who worked on his acting during the hiatus. The Wil Chandler of the Game, if you will. (Knicks!)

Fashion Note: Jason’s wearing the same sweater-vest from the earlier scene. The things you find out with TiVO.
“Allison?!? That wasn’t just some random girl man…THAT WAS MAH GIRLFRIEND!” (pouts, runs away)
Poor Tee-Tee. Like I said on Twitter, you get no credit for seeing this coming, like someone who gets hyped solving Blue's Clues with two clues already given. Side Note: Love the random bouncer at the top of the steps eating a sandwich while asking Tee-Tee for chicken. By the way, he's not FAT...he played football in college.

“I made a mistake. I ran it again, ran it a few times…it IS his baby. I’m so sorry…I’ve been working on no sleep. You’re lucky you don’t have to do this residency, it’s KILLING me.”

“I’ll talk to you later.” (B.O.B’s ‘Don’t Let me Fall’ plays)

Someone just lost a best friend. Ouch. But that’s why you don’t get a resident doctor to run your paternity test on the cheap. Didn't you see Scrubs Melanie? Young doctors work hard!

Also, the B.O.B. song just BLARES in. No rising fade, no audio editing. Come ON.
"Game" brought a lot to the table. We need a good black sitcom like Paul Pierce needs a shave. Unfortunately, the show also took an equal amount OFF the table. No transition music. No bumper shots. Dissolve-cut over jump cut. YIKES. Did BET just round up sponsors and ask the AV Club from Hampton University to do their best? (Shots fired)

"The Game" is like your crazy uncle at Thanksgiving who bakes a new sweet (peach cobbler!), but brings a new sweet - with her two kids (surprise!) But we need that crazy uncle in our lives, just like we need "The Game" on our TV menu. Sounds like a C+ premiere to me.

Can't wait till next week.
M.B., II