Saturday, October 14, 2006

Pungent Punditry

ESPN's resident sports satirist Bill Simmons is known for his sarcastic insight and analysis of prominent athletes. After the Dallas Cowboys recent foibles, he offered some thoughts on Drew Bledsoe and T.O. Here are his comments from's Page2:
"Drew Bledsoe has added a degree of difficulty for blowing big games. In the old days, he'd just throw a backbreaking interception at the worst possible time. But because everyone knows that's coming now, he added a fascinating wrinkle: An improbable play to throw us off and make us forget he's about to blow the game (like last week's fourth-and-18 bomb to Glenn), followed by the backbreaking interception that becomes doubly backbreaking because of the preceding events."
While there is truth to Simmon's barb, has Bledsoe been any more disappointing this season than Duante Culpepper, Brett Favre, Steve McNair, Ben Roethlisberger or Kurt Warner? I would consider each of the aforementioned QB's (except Big Ben) reasonably comparable to Bledsoe by age, experience and performance, but only McNair's Ravens (4-1) have a better record than the Cowboys (2-2). Lets face it, Bledsoe has never been consistent -- except that when he needs to throw the ball he holds it, and when he needs to hold it he throws a pick. However, I can't think of anyone more steadfast than Bledsoe's coach, Bill Parcells, and I believe he is still determined to get the best out of Bledsoe this season. That being said, last week's 3rd-and-goal interception by Philadelphia's Lito Sheppard made me consider moving to New Orleans and following the Saints to the Super Bowl.
"If you're broadcasting a game with Terrell Owens involved, it's important to blame him at all times for whatever bad things are happening to his team, even if his QB and secondary are the ones blowing the game. And it's imperative that the production crew shows every possible replay of T.O. yelling at someone on the bench without anyone wondering whether he's yelling because it's so deafening in the stadium that nobody can hear. Keep playing it this way until we can CGI fake footage of him punching teammates. He's clearly the Antichrist."
Okay, T.O. is a distraction, Bledsoe has A.D.D. and the secondary are narcoleptics. Blame is an easy thing to toss around. Blame Jerry Jones for paying Owens $10 million. Blame Parcells for his stoic philosophy. Blame the media for the spotlight that magnifies T.O.'s every action. It seems like simple logic: T.O. scores touchdowns; throw him the ball. Owens may not have been responsible for the Cowboys loss to Philadelphia, but he is in control of the negativity that follows him around. Nobody is manipulating T.O.'s sideline demeanor or post-game comments. Ostensibly, T.O. is unhappy because he's not being given the opportunity to help the team win. When was the last time Owens was happy about anything? For Cowboys fans, it is a hard pill to swallow coming from a guy who has repeatedly proven that he's not a team player.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Morbid Curiosity

A 2005 triple-homicide in Tacoma caught my interest primarily due to the arrogant contumacy of the killer. Now, more than a year later, the wheels of justice are clunking absently along, giving the accused a chance to declare himself "guilty as charged," thereby avoiding the death penalty. Some of the more interesting facts of the case are coming to light, including the dubious character of all involved players, Caesar-esque tragic irony in the form of murder delivered by a comrade, public messages exchanged on Myspace, and the comical ignorance of the so-called "mastermind."

It seems that Daniel Varo, Darren Christian and Ulysses Handy knew eachother well. Christian was a known drug dealer who befriended Handy, an ex-con. Whether Christian or Varo knew the full extent of Handy's background is unclear. However, an altercation led Handy and accomplice Sirree Mohammed to murder the two, along with Lindy Cochran (who is the definition of "being in the wrong place at the wrong time"), during the course of a robbery. Handy got caught by having the audacity to return to the crime scene.

The most fascinating aspect of this story was the Myspace ripple effect -- the exchange of messages leading up to the killings, and the sympathetic or vindictive messages left afterwards -- taking place in full view of the public. Handy himself seems like a walking contradiction, cold-blooded enough to murder his friends, foolish as to leave incriminating messages on Myspace, and insolent enough to remain remorseless.

Handy (left), with Darren Christian.

This consequential fallout of this story illustrates how portraits of people can be painted, often inaccurately, post mortem. Even if one knows and supposes nothing about these individuals, by browsing through the myriad interwoven threads the picture become less obscured -- and presents an inherent and unavoidable duality. News coverage of violent crime tends to focus on the atrocity of the crime itself, often glorifying the killer and divulging little about the victims. The Myspace ripple, in this case, reveals the victims and their ostensible social circle as money-loving, hard-partying, motorcycle-riding speed demons. The ripple, while meant to provide tribute to the victims, may result in a decreased probability of empathy from the common objective reader.

That is not to say that the victims are to blame for their own murder; Handy executed Christian and Varo without provocation for what he deemed to be a disrespect issue, and murdered Cochrane because she was a witness. However, the irony of leaving behind a visual reference of the fast-lane lifestyle that resulted in the owner's demise is too substantial to go unmentioned. The depth of information on Myspace serves a greater purpose in that it brings to light the circumstances under which these people lived and died, and may act as a deterrent to others who seek to appease their morbid curiosity by perousing those blogs.