Thursday, January 31, 2008

10 Moments that Should've Made XXL's 100 Biggest Moments in Hip Hop History

Honorable Mention: Rapper Shade Sheist feuds with humble internet columnist (January 2003)…Believe it or not, five years ago, Sheist was slightly less anonymous than he is today. I'd written a review of his debut album for 411mania and, for the next few weeks, engaged in some heated e-mail exchanges with Sheist and his management. In one email, they threatened to kick my ass then sue me for slander. To which, I responded: "Slander is oral defamation, not written". How gangsta was that? Very!

10: Puff Daddy introduces Sean John clothing line (1998)…Say what you want about Mr. Combs, but his upscale urban wear has been an unquestionable success. It's inspired dozens upon dozens of knockoffs and several failed attempts at attire from just about every other rapper in the industry. Hell, I own three or four Sean John shirts and this from someone whose only brush with "urban" is when my name appears alongside Mrs. Bootleg's first name on our bank statements.

9: Flavor of Love debuts on VH1 (January 2006)…20 years after Public Enemy brought societal urgency to the industry, Flavor Flav sends us all back to the coon age. I spent years in my column mocking Public Enemy frontman Chuck D's aging, militant liberal schtick, his still skin-tight jeans and faded Raiders Starter jacket, but, by comparison, he looks a lot better than ol' Bojangles Flav. Seriously, this one hurts my heart.

8: NBA institutes league-wide dress code for its players (October 2005)…Not about Hip Hop, you say? Nicka, please. Facing a frightened white fan base and a media too quick to affix "thug" to any Black athlete in baggy shorts, Commissioner David Stern decreed that his chattel would conform to a slacks n' jacket dress code for road trips, while bench warming an injury or during any other league-sponsored event. Good to know those $2,500 courtside seats are safe again for Bill Cosby and his hilarious race-hating ways.

7: Chappelle's Show premieres on Comedy Central (January 2003)…Aside from the occasional album promotional appearance on Leno or Letterman, rappers really aren't represented on network television. Cable ain't much better, with BET's insipid 106 & Park serving as the sound for the sixteen-and-under set. Dave Chappelle brought a knowledge and respect for the genre to a huge, umm, "crossover" audience through musical performances (loved the Common/Kanye team-up) and skits (Wu-Tang Clan drafted by the Asians!) Hell, he made Lil' Jon interesting…for a few minutes.

6: Eminem wins Oscar (March 2003)…For whatever reason, this didn't get nearly the media mileage as Three-6 Mafia winning it a few years later. The reasons, near as I can guess are (1) Em didn't show up to perform at the show or accept the award (2) IIRC, Eminem was everybody's "he just might win it" dark horse candidate, so it wasn't that big of a surprise and (3) in early '03, Eminem had been upstaged by his own protégé, 50 Cent. Hey, the third verse is the closest Mekhi Phifer will ever get to an Oscar and for us that counts. Speech! Speech!

5: Benzino & Dave Mays forced out at The Source…Throughout the 1990s, The Source was the preeminent rap magazine out there. Then, through a series of events including, but not limited to conflicts of interest between the publishers and the music that was reviewed for the magazine and, most notably, a transparently self-serving feud with Eminem and the sanctity of Hip Hop, The Source found themselves without advertisers and blackballed by the biggest names and labels in the business. Think of them as America and the music industry is "the rest of the world".

4: R. Kelly indicted on 21 counts involving sex with a minor (June 2002)…And, he still hasn't gone to trial! Isn't it the obligation of our justice system to try these high-profile cases before all the jokes are played out? Now, it's too late! I've seen Dave Chappelle pretend to pee on an underage girl. We've peaked! We peaked in '03! I'm pretty sure the victim's bathed since then.

3: Aaliyah dies in plane crash (August 2001)…At least, I assume this is huge, since Missy Elliott won't shut the f*ck up about it. I can't say I was a huge fan, but baby girl sold more than 30 million records worldwide, which makes me wonder how the deaths of Soulja Slim, Mac Dre and Proof made the XXL list. I assume she was decremented for her roles in the execrable Romeo Must Die and Queen of the Damned. Have you seen either one? Worse than death.

2: The Rise & Fall of Napster…Easily the most egregious omission from the XXL Top 100 list is any mention of music's move to the digital age. The seeds of the current state of the industry were sown almost a decade ago with the advent of P2P file sharing. Hell, my mother was illegally downloading music. Jalen's grandma! By the time Dr. Dre, Metallica and others filed suit against Napster in 2000, the dot-com bubble had burst and the internet's illusion of non-accountability went with it. Napster shut down for good in July 2001.

1: iTunes goes live (January 2001)…Should've been #1 on the XXL list, too. Choose your hyperbole: It forever changed the way we listen to music. It destroyed the CD and record store markets. It became the newest, most popular answer to that "if you were stranded on a desert island…" question. Anyone remember that jab from The Simpsons where Homer asks about Apple computers and the clerk responds, "What computers?" Well, who's laughing now, Matt Groening? OK, so you're rich, too, but you're not Steve Jobs rich, d*ck.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

XXL Magazine's 100 Biggest Moments in Hip Hop History

Last Saturday, I'm waiting for my barber's chair to open up while filing through the mountain of, umm…"ethnic" magazines that are required reading and mandatory ambiance at every "Sharp Cutz", "Fade to Black" and "N*gga, I'll Cut'cha!" barbershop.

I'd arrived at about 10:10 AM for my weekly 10:00 AM appointment, which meant I was about 20 minutes early. 40 minutes later, I was just getting to the chair, when I realized that I was intently reading a copy of Black Enterprise - the magazine for "Black Professionals".

The 100th issue of rap magazine XXL sat untouched like it was last week's Jet.

Now that I'm officially on a collision course with my mid-30s, could it be that rap music no longer has a place in my life? I've lost count of the friends and colleagues who've given up on the current product, with its trend towards kid-friendly 21st century minstrel shows. And, now I'm reading Black Enterprise at the barbershop? What does this mean?

Answer: It means I have a few months left on my XXL subscription and I'd read their 100th issue already.

This month XXL ranks the 100 Biggest Moments in Hip Hop during the run of their publication. So, we're looking at roughly the last 10 years. Thankfully, Tupac and Biggie died a few months before XXL debuted. We've all had quite enough of them, thank you very much.

Here are some highlights:

100: Cassidy v. Freeway – Battle Rap at The Hit Factory in NYC (May 2000)…How did I miss this?!? Pfft. Cassidy won, apparently. Freeway would go on to drop his debut album a few years later. I (negatively) reviewed it here. This led to the single greatest piece of feedback I've ever received, as a reader responded to my review with: "I used to think you were Black, now I have to question that."

98: The Game gets butterfly tattoo on his face (June 2005)…Just a thought, but maybe the writers at XXL should've trimmed this list to a "Top 97" or something. And, how does it feel to be a rapper who is any way involved with the TWO spots BEHIND this?

90: D-12's Proof dies (April 2006)…Eminem's best friend and hype man dies in a hail of gunfire at a Detroit bar. Can Em find the strength to continue performing in the wake of such a terrible personal tragedy?

87: Eminem steals the show during a live performance at The BET Awards (June 2006)…Here's our answer! I didn't see the show, but those must've been the illest two minutes in broadcast TV history. RIP Proof – six feet under, but only three beneath Eminem!

84: Belly opens in theaters nationwide (November 1998)…This was hailed as some sort of African-American cinematic accomplishment in the Hip Hop community. I've never seen it, so I'll ask: does it steal everything from Scarface, Carlito's Way and The Godfather or almost everything?

83: Big L dies (February 1999)Mathan still mourns.

82: Soulja Slim dies (November 2003)…Ahead of Big L? Umm, don't tell Mathan.

79: West Coast rappers broker industry-wide peace treaty….Sorry all former Death Row Records artists and former enemies of those former artists, but 1996 is not walking through that door. Christ, Sean Young didn't put up this much of a fight when everyone forgot her.

73: C-Murder convicted of murder (September 2003)…Sooo, was this irony or coincidence? That one's always bugged me. Also, for those scoring at home: rapper killing someone trumps rappers dying. Don't let that discourage you, Soulja Boy.

69: Superhead publishes tell-all book (June 2005)…"Superhead" is rap groupie Karrine Steffans. In subsequent interviews, she's compared herself to Gandhi and others who've "changed the course of history". I'll save y'all the $24.95 and tell you that, according to her (*spoiler alert*) rappers nail the chicks who dance in their videos.

67: Famed Houston producer DJ Screw dies (November 2000)…Just keep this in mind when you see what made #66 on the list.

66: 50 Cent crashes Evanescence's acceptance speech at the Grammy Awards (February 2004)…Yup.

63: Busta Rhymes' bodyguard (Israel Ramirez) is shot and killed at music video shoot (February 2006)…Extended rant coming in 3, 2, 1…

62: ODB dies (November 2004)62?! Look…even though the West Coast scene ignored everything coming out of the east during New York's rap renaissance in the early-to-mid '90s, I'd be a fool to deny the sonic impact and influence of Ol' Dirty Bastard and the Wu-Tang Clan. His passing was H-U-G-E. Notwithstanding all of the "subjective" caveats inherent with lists of this nature, this is absolutely bat-sh*t insane and an inexcusable insult. And, with all due respect to the family of Israel Ramirez, these two events aren't in the same solar system.

61: Spelman University students protest Nelly's sponsorship/appearance at on-campus bone marrow drive. (April 2004)…As far as I can tell, the only difference between this and every other anti-rap protest is that the bitching came from young Black folk, instead of old white folk. My favorite part: Nelly cancelled his appearance and the bone marrow drive. Better hope karma doesn't have leukemia, college kids.

57: Suge Knight files for bankruptcy (April 2006)…See #79.

54: 50 Cent makes reported $100 million from sale of his stake in Vitamin Water to Coca-Cola (May 2007)…Wait a minute: 50 is filthy rich?! Why has he never brought up his bank account in any of his songs before?

51: 50 Cent and The Game end their feud (March 2005)…Up to this point, their "feud" had lasted about eight days. This subsequent detente lasted about eight hours, before they went back to beefing – and have been ever since. Non-rap fans: think Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech. Same thing.

49: Bay Area rapper Mac Dre is murdered (November 2004)…New Rule: Someone…someone…must be able to name ONE of your songs before your death can place in the top half of a list like this. No disrespect intended, Mac.

48: Mase returns to rap (August 2004)…His 1997 debut sold more than four million copies. His 2004 Welcome Back album barely sold 500,000 and the title track sampled the theme from Welcome Back, Kotter. Me thinks Mase won't be coming back, again.

45: Elton John and Eminem perform "Stan" at the Grammy Awards (February 2001)…Way, way too low. This performance laid the groundwork for Em's Oscar win two years later and wrapped him inside a Teflon cocoon that kept the whole "n-word" controversy from hurting his career.

43: Jam Master Jay murdered (October 2002)…See #62, change the references from '90s to '80s and there ya go. With apologies to Chris Rock, I get that school will be open on JMJ's birthday, but there are not 42 moments bigger than the death of the DJ from arguably the greatest rap act in history.

40: Labelmates Baby and Lil' Wayne photographed kissing (October 2006)…Good ol' homophobia. It's still the one hate that unites the races.

31: Lil' Kim goes to jail (September 2005)…This one pretty much carried my old Friday Music News Bootleg column for all of 2005, so I may be a bit biased when I say this should've been #1. In fact, what's higher than #1? Is there a number higher than #1?

28: DJ Drama arrested, Feds seize mixtape inventory (January 2007)…How great is it to see our Federal Government protecting the copyright interests of rappers that they'll be arresting on equally trumped up charges later this year?

26: Three-6 Mafia wins Oscar (March 2006)…White people are still pissed off about this. Oh, and psst: this wasn't exactly a "listening to Joe Louis beat Max Schmeling" moment for African-Americans, either. But, after all this time, I don't expect you guys to drop your sanctimonious quotation marks from the word "song" when you reference "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp".

23: Big Pun dies (February 2000)…Ridiculously underrated by the casual rap fans who only knew him for that "Still Not a Player" song, he was a ferocious lyricist who fought obesity and died from respiratory failure at 28. That said, we're to believe his death hit the Hip Hop landscape the hardest? Here's a test: where were you when you heard he died? Anyone who didn't answer with "Wait, Big Pun is dead?!" is lying.

10: "George Bush doesn't care about Black people." (September 2005)…I still don't know if this is true or not, but can we all agree that "Then, how do you explain Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice?!" is a pretty sh*tty retort, Fox News? Cool? Cool.

8: Eminem signs to Dr. Dre's Aftermath imprint (March 1998)…Not too surprising as he and XXL have been in editorial bed together since Em's feud with The Source magazine from five years ago. But, what is surprising…

1: 50 Cent signs with Shady/Aftermath Records (November 2002)…is the #1?! Never mind that Eminem signed on first, created Shady Records, then agreed to split 50 with Dre's label. You can't have #1 without #8, damn it, yet #8 occurred four years before #1 and is somehow less important?!

And, that's why I now read Black Enterprise.

Next: 20 moments that should've made this list.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Aaron's iFAQ #2

"What's up with your Raiders and why come they don't get the Oakland love that you give the A's?"

This ridiculous story officially "broke" over the weekend, but it's been rumored in the local press going back to October/November.

Not that the opinion of a Raiders fan from San Diego – who doesn't even infrequently attend games either down here or up north – matters much, but if team owner Al Davis forces Oakland head coach Lane Kiffin out the door, I'm done.

And, by "done", I mean "done" until Al Davis no longer owns the team.

And, by "no longer owns the team", I mean that I'm now rooting for Al Davis to…

Jesus, how'd it get to this point?

Once upon a time, the Raiders were the only team I followed with any passion. In the early/mid 1980s, my dad was stationed on the east coast. This was well before sports became a 24/7 news cycle, accessible across dozens of electronic, print and broadcast media.

The Raiders were one of the "it" teams – part of a rotation that, at the time, included the San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins. Conversely, my Oakland A's could only be seen when one of them was represented at the All-Star Game (hey, Bill Caudill!) or with an "(n)" next to their game in the morning paper.

Those Raiders teams won a Super Bowl in 1984 and were the marquee AFC team with televised games all the time. However, in late 1985, everything changed.

My family moved back to California just before the end of the '85 regular season. It was then that I learned all about the NFL's blackout rules. Y'see, the Raiders played in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum – an outdated, archaic facility that was built with the intention of honoring World War I vets and holding the 1932 Olympics.

Capacity was north of 90,000 and while the Raiders were drawing well enough, I was often reduced to listening to the late Bill King call their games on the radio. Even in that pre-HD age of picture tubes and only 80 cable channels, going from TV to radio was like a bullet train back to the slave days.

That '85 team was arguably as strong as their championship 1983 team. RB Marcus Allen won the MVP award that year and the Raiders won their last six games en route to the AFC's #2 seed. A match-up between the Raiders and Dan Marino's (4,000+ yards passing, 30 TDs) Dolphins seemed inevitable in the AFC Championship…until the New England Patriots waltzed into town and ended the Raiders' season.

In 1986, the team lost four straight to end the season and missed the playoffs – highlighted by an excruciating loss to the Eagles at home, when Allen fumbled deep in the red zone in overtime, which Philly returned for a touchdown. The following week, the Raiders dropped a 37-0 stinkbomb on Monday night in Seattle (a game my boy, Vig, remembers with mocking clarity).

While still a fan of the team, it was brutal to follow them through scratchy AM radio and infrequent game highlights on the 11PM Sunday night local news.

Then, things got weird.

The Raiders pushed head coach Tom Flores upstairs and hired a young Mike Shanahan to helm the squad in 1988. He finished 8-8 in his first year with an aging, injury-riddled outfit that at least boasted an exciting young core (RB Bo Jackson, QB Steve Beuerlein, WR Tim Brown, DE Howie Long and DE Greg Townsend).

Then, four games into the '89 season, Al Davis fired Shanahan and hired former Raider Art Shell – the first Black coach in league history.

Shell was a pleasant enough guy, but a terrible, terrible coach. He got an extended media pass due to (1) the soft local press corps and (2) that whole "first Black coach in league history" thing. His strategic shortcomings were further handicapped by Al Davis' bizarre, inexplicable feuds with his own players.

After showing some promise in a starting role in 1988-89, Beuerlein was benched – at Davis' direction – for the entire 1990 season for reasons that have never been explained. That Raiders team did make it to the AFC Championship game, but QB Jay Schroeder would never have another decent season in the NFL. Beuerlein was traded to Dallas in 1991.

Around the same time, Davis began an embarrassing one-sided feud with future Hall of Fame RB Marcus Allen. As the washed-up remains of Roger Craig and Eric Dickerson led the Raiders in rushing in 1991 and 1992, the Raiders finished a combined 16-16 with a healthy Allen averaging about 290 yards and just 65 carries in each of the two seasons.

Cutting off his nose to spite his fans has become a f*cking art form for ol' Al.

He idiotically opened the vault for non-talents Desmond Howard and Larry Brown just because they each lucked into a Super Bowl MVP award.

He signed the notoriously self-serving, coach-killing QB Jeff George in attempt to bring back the vaunted "vertical game" approach – which went extinct for a reason in the early '80s.

He fired/traded head coach Jon Gruden after four seasons at .500 or better.

And, we haven't even touched on Davis' unapologetic embracing of the Los Angeles gang element during his stay in Southern California, the ruinously shady deal that brought the team back to Oakland while fiscally crippling the city's infrastructure or his brazen employment of open steroid abusers like Bill Romanowski and Dana Stubblefield.

I think I've put up with a lot in more than 25 years of following this team. But, if Al Davis forces out the one guy who can bring respectability back to what's become an absolute laughingstock of a franchise – and in exchange for Dennis Green, no less – I'm out.

Anyone know how to add "obituaries" to an RSS feed?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

TBG Reviews: Superbad

…or can a Black guy in his 30s enjoy a movie made for white folk in their teens and twenties?

The answer is a very definitive and unquestionable "yes"…with, a "but".

Superbad is absolutely worth the most of its hype (if not all its hyperbole). It's not just hyperventilatingly funny at times, but it might be the smartest movie where "f*ck", "d*ck" and "Becca" comprise 90% of the dialogue.

Since, as usual, I'm about eight months late to the summer movie praise party, I'll echo everyone else's sentiments: Michael Cera and Jonah Hill have some kind of on-screen chemistry. Their comedic synchronization is just phenomenal to watch, as their frequent bantering and bickering never sounds forced or phony.

Their "Evan" and "Seth" characters are in search of booze for a high school graduation party. If you don't know the plot, that about sums it up. Oh, and hilarity ensues.

Even though the movie is ostensibly about one night in their lives, it plays like a series of independent scenes that are only loosely tied together with the sophomoric story. That's not a dig, though (not even the "sophomoric" part). All of this just underscores the movie's frenetic vibe as tensions rise throughout the course of an evening gone awry.

Can't honestly say that everything works. The "Fogell" character and his "faux-negro" ways were annoying – and not in that "he was supposed to be annoying" way that the writers wanted. And, the whole excruciatingly extended sequence with him and the inept pair of cops had its moments, but it was more "miss" than "hit" for me.

Really, though, it's hard for me to find much else wrong. In fact, let's see how many Superbad references I can remember that had me howling out loud: the bloodstain, the Aladdin vest, the "division sign", the "Perfect 10", the "African Jew", the Asian kid in home economics, the Biggie Smalls song, the "little baby toes" nipples line.

That's seven or eight right there and I haven't even mentioned the backhanded McNugget of morality as it relates to drunk chicks and...well, y'know. Drunk chicks. Drunk!

The melancholy ending on the escalator was the perfect way to wrap up a movie about the waning days of high school, to boot. I'm not quite sure how this ended up on so many "Top 10 of 2007" lists (and, let's be honest, how did this awesomely raunchy cuss-fest escape the wrath of the same right wing kooks who abhor rap music? Don't act like you don't know the answer, either) but, it's surprisingly sweet and smart tones are a fine compliment for all the funny.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Occasional Obligatory Links Post

It's late and I've blogged quite enough for you people this year. Tonight, I'm That Boot-Link Guy…HAW!

Over at MachineGunFunk, my former co-worker Mathan Erhardt drops his top ten albums of 2007. See if Arcade Fire, Feist, Radiohead, Amy Winehouse can play nice with Jay-Z and Ghostface Killah.

Not to be outdone, the staff at BrokenDial have their top albums of '07, as well. Jesus, that's a big-ass list. Oh, and if you're having a bad day, this'll cheer you up. (Even if you don't know the guy!)

Movie Joe Reid has been in full-on Oscars mode this week. Dig his nomination predictions, his reflections on Tuesday's actual nominations and (especially) his thoughts on Heath Ledger.

M'man Tom Daniels is a New York Giants fan and life is good. Check out this great write-up before the Giants knocked off the Packers in Green Bay on Sunday.

Hate football? Love baseball? I just now came across the phenomenal Baseball Analysts website. There's been a weeks-long debate with ESPN's Buster Olney on the Hall of Fame merits of Jim Rice. Great stuff.

Monday, January 21, 2008

"Bourne"? More Like "Bored"! (Well, it wasn't THAT bad, but I needed a catchy title.)

A.O. Scott of The New York Times called the first one a "triumph". Peter Travers of Rolling Stone said "This one has everything…!" in describing the sequel. Meanwhile, That Bootleg Guy – of this sh*tty blog – is left to wonder if "everything" has passed him by.

Last week, I finally became the 275th millionth American to see The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy. Like most of you, I liked the inventive Identity a little bit more and while both films moved along at a snappy little pace, I wouldn't say either was more than "perfectly acceptable entertainment".

Look, I was born with one of those "suspension of disbelief" genes, but Midget Matt Damon as a balls-out action star? Bullsh*t. I'm certainly no cinematographer, but didn't it look like some of those fight sequences were speed-sweetened a la the closing credits on "Benny Hill"? Sure, maybe they all are, but I've never overtly noticed it before.

Now, I loved the first 20 minutes or so of Identity. Here's this amnesiac supreme killing machine who's struggling to understand his litany of abilities, while making awkward small talk with Franka Potente. Then, from the point that the bad guys crash through the window of his Parisian apartment, it's a lazy chase movie. It's not actively awful, but all of this "redefining the action genre" nonsense is insane.

Potente's "Marie" nearly killed it for me. She's driven to vomit at the sight of Bourne's handiwork, then she joins forces with him…and, then she's so repulsed by Bourne that she wants nothing more to do with him. You've seen the character before: she's the one that demands an explanation for everything when they should be running away or shooting something.

Thankfully, she's on the screen for all of 10 minutes in Supremacy, the first sequel.

It's the same movie as the first, save for the addition of Joan Allen who is, admittedly, dynamite. Matt Damon is running, things blow up and no one knows who to trust. Christ, and that ending – a quaint little chat with the girl whose parents…eh, the one person who still hasn't seen it could be reading this.

I've heard that The Bourne Ultimatum is far and away the best of the bunch, so I'll see if it can sway the series for me. For now, I'm sticking with Who's Harry Crumb? for my unconvincing action flick fix.

At least it's intentional.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

An Open Letter to McDonald's

I've got some issues with this commercial.

But, for now, let's ignore the use of "The Cha Cha Slide" song and just assume the clearance fee for "Whoomp! There It Is" was too exorbitant. Furthermore, can we all agree that the next family to break out the plates and come to the dinner table for McDonald's will be the first? Cool? Cool.

With that out of the way…

15 years ago, we were expected to believe that this father and this mother could produce this daughter.

20 years ago, we were expected to believe that this father and this mother could produce this daughter.

30 years ago, we were expected to believe that this father and this mother could produce this daughter (and this son.)

35 years ago, we were expected to believe that this father and this mother could produce this son.

Getting back to the above commercial, I'll axe y'all what I axed Mrs. Bootleg as this aired during the Chargers/Pats game: "Who is he, the neighbor's kid?"

Really…in 2008, is it asking too much for television and casting agents to try to understand the basic genetic elements of Black people?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Aaron's iFAQ #1

"How does a guy born and raised in Southern California become a fan of Northern Californian sports teams?"

I was never aware that there were rules for sports team loyalty until about 10 years ago. Seriously.

After graduating from college and joining the work force, the average age of my day-to-day peer group went from 20-something to 40-something. Growing up in the '80s and '90s, all my friends were Chicago Bulls fans or San Francisco 49ers fans or Dallas Cowboys fans. And, not because they were born in Illinois, Half Moon Bay or Fort Worth…it was because those teams won and front-runners trump all amongst the young.

By the time I joined the Unnamed Defense Contractor, I was working with people who'd set up decades worth of roots in San Diego and often asked, "Do you still have family up in the Bay Area?"

When I'd respond that I was born in Long Beach and had never lived in or around Oakland, they were incredulous. "You should be a Dodgers fan!", "You should be a Lakers fan!"…this was always followed up by the question that opened this post.

Here's your damn answer.

My sports fanaticism wasn't handed down from my father. Pops was from a small town in Georgia and only ended up in California because of the military. He watched football and basketball, but never had any attachment to any team. But, in 1980 (yes, I'm 76-years-old) the Pittsburgh Steelers were one of the early prototypes of the NFL teams that would transcend sports and become entertainment/pop culture fixtures.

Terry Bradshaw and the Steel Curtain Defense. Mean Joe Greene and that Coke commercial. The Steelers were superstars and I vaguely remember watching moments of them laying my "hometown" Los Angeles Rams to waste in Super Bowl XIV. The Rams! Warren Beatty's Rams! The Steelers beat 'em!

Several months later, the 1980-81 NFL season began and I very clearly remember plopping down in front of the family TV (the one with the "Jaws 2" Topps stickers on the side) to watch the Steelers and Oakland Raiders play on the October 20th edition of Monday Night Football.

(I can't take credit for remembering the date. I knew it was a Monday night in 1980. This website took care of the rest.)

Anyways, I watched the whole game and the Raiders won 45-34.

I don't remember much from the ensuing two months, until I caught the Raiders in a playoff game. They won again. Then, they won the following week and the week after that – advancing to Super Bowl XV in New Orleans to meet the Philadelphia Eagles.

Whenever I watch the Raiders, they win. Easy enough for an eight-year-old to understand. I watched Oakland's annihilation of the Eagles at my grandparents' house and, from that point on, all things Oakland had my allegiance.

A few months later, I came across this goofy logo (the early '80s were a rough time for marketing departments, I assume) and discovered that Oakland had a baseball team! If only I'd realized that the Golden State Warriors played there, I'd have had a basketball team, too. To make up for this omission in loyalty, I got in on the ground floor with these guys in 1983.

Of course, things got a little screwy when the Raiders moved to Southern California. They'd win another Super Bowl in 1984 and cement themselves as the team I'd never stop loving…until the A's overtook them on my pro sports preferential pecking order. In 1995, the Raiders moved back to Oakland, which – belatedly – was one of the primary reasons that the A's are now trying to leave Oakland.

And, I still live in San Diego.

Hope this clears things up.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Playoff Pickery - AFC/NFC Championship

Last Week / Overall


Joe: 2-2 (6-2)
Aaron: 4-0 (7-1)

Vs. the Spread

Joe: 2-2 (4-4)
Aaron: 3-1 (4-4)

San Diego at New England(-14)

Joe: I've given in to despair. Thanks a lot, Chargers. Couldn't have just thought of the greater good for once and let the one team with a chance to end this madness win the game. And not only that, you crippled yourselves in the process. Slow clap, morons. The outcome of this NFL season -- which has looked like a fait accompli since at least week 10 -- just doesn't seem to be in doubt anymore. Have I been reduced to hoping Shawne Merriman injures between three and seven Patriots players as he goes down with the ship on Sunday? Yes. Yes, I have.

New England 38, San Diego 17

Aaron: So, it's the team I hate most vs. the team I hate most, too. This is the worst of all worlds for me. Chargers fans - an almost universally clueless lot - are just happy to be there. They've talked themselves into thinking their team has a chance with arguments like "we're a different team than the one the Pats disembowled back in Week #2!" Meanwhile, Pats fans - an almost universally douchey lot - are concerned that the strength of Randy Moss' pimp hand could be a "distraction" for the team. I mean, who cares if he smacked that chick?! Can he and the team put it behind him?! No one wins here. No one.

New England 51, San Diego 3

NY Giants at Green Bay (-7)

Joe: This one looks like more of a contest, but again, the winner earns the right to wait two weeks and lose by double digits to the least likeable group of champions since those fratty assholes in 300. Maybe living here in New York and seeing the heartwarming turn of public opinion in Eli Manning's favor has got me feeling optimistic. Oh, which reminds me, true story: I'm at the Sabres-Rangers game at the Garden last night, and the Buffalo fans three rows back were chatting with the Rangers fans two rows back and made the unfortunate error of saying Eli sucked. Hey, can't blame 'em -- if ever there was a place to feel supported in your hatred of Eli Manning, it was New York City. Until last week. Ranger Fan: "Hey, hey, hey now. Eli took us to da championship game, a'riiight? He doesn't suck." Sabre Fan: "No-no-no-no, sure, he totally did. Credit where credit's due, absolutely. Please don't get the Don of your family to break my legs." Ranger Fan's girlfriend: "Yeah, but he does kinda suck, babe." But he keeps it close.

Green Bay 28, NY Giants 24

Aaron: For the Giants to reach this point, they went down to Tampa and dominated a rested and (I still believe) better team. They then went to Dallas - a even more rested and more better squad - and won again. The Packers, on the other hand, absolutely hand-delivered 14 points to a sh*tty Seattle team in the first four minutes and still beat 'em by 22. Which team is playing better ball against better opponents right now? In the playoffs, sometimes, that's all that matters. Sorry, Joe, but it's a New York City vs. Boston Super Bowl two weeks from Sunday. So much for February being the one month out of the year where sports fans have been able to avoid ESPN's most jizz-tastic two-city scenario.

NY Giants 22, Green Bay 21

Thursday, January 17, 2008

TBG Reviews: Burger King's Firecracker Tendercrisp Chicken Sandwich

Once upon a time, BK regularly served up the Spicy Tendercrisp Chicken Sandwich. And, it was good. Heavily-breaded chicken breast, lettuce, tomato and some traffic cone-colored sauce all wedged into a doughy bun. The "spicy" was debatable, but it was definitely a flavorful, two-hand sandwich.

Then, it disappeared.

A short time later, BK introduced a "Spicy Chick'n Crisp" to their Value Menu. For the low, low price of $1.00, you get a reddish-orange piece of chicken with lettuce and mayo. The artificial coloring is supposed to remind the customer that "red" = "hot" and while the sandwich had a little spice, it was a scrawny, lightweight imitation of its chicken sandwich master.

So, with five full years shaved off of my life expectancy, my arteries and I are proud to announce that not only is the Spicy Tendercrisp back – it's better than ever! (See, Burger King – I should be writing your next ad campaign with material like that.)

This time around, the sandwich is given a better name ("spicy" is now "FIRECRACKER") and the Technicolor sauce has a lot more kick. We're not talking a "10" on a Thai food odometer just yet, but it's a start. Everything else is back to where it always should've been: heavily-breaded chicken breast, lettuce and tomato…all wedged into a doughy bun.

And, it was good. Again!

Grade: 4 (out of 5)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

TBG Reviews No End in Sight

Yesterday, Netflix delivered Charles S. Ferguson's intense documentary on the war in Iraq. I'm almost ashamed to admit that I haven't been following the events over there as closely as I should, so I really wanted something that peels back the partisan rhetoric and provides some semblance of truth.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I should probably mention that I was against the conflict from the get-go and that stance hasn't wavered. On the other hand, I work for an unnamed defense contractor and, specifically, on several programs that support the American war effort. That's a whole 'nother post, though. In the interim, the conflicting layers of that dichotomy and why I do what I do can be summed up here.

Anyways…Ferguson's film opens up with President Bush's infamous "Mission Accomplished" speech. Admittedly, an easy target and one that charts the movie's direction for the next hour and 40 minutes. But, that's not to say that this is an unfounded hatchet job on the Bush administration. In fact, the hatcheting is quite "founded".

On the backs of several strikingly candid interviews with those who served under Bush during the current Iraq conflict, the film has a sense of credibility that carries it above the knee-jerk, ill-informed "liberalmedia!, liberalmedia!" mantra from the right. And, while the interviewees (including, among others, the former Deputy Secretary of The State Department and Colin Powell's former Chief of Staff) can't completely distance themselves from coming off as disgruntled, their insightful explanations for what's gone wrong is frightening.

Sure, it's one-sided, but that's kind of the point. These are hand-picked associates of the Bush Administration who've been to Iraq, seen the f*ck ups firsthand and felt compelled to share their stories. This ain't Michael Moore's Jive Time Ax Grinding Band.

No End in Sight could be faulted for being cloying or oversimplified, but it's also honest. Or, didn't you know that the war ended four years ago?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Fake Mexican Food Review(s)

Taco Bell has brought back their Cheesy Gordita Crunch for a limited time. Although, I swear that this menu item hasn't ever gone anywhere. I don't usually order the Gordita (as I prefer its deep-fried, crispier cousin Chalupa), but I know that I've seen it on the drive-thru board while I'm perusing for anything new.

Anyways, for argument's sake, it's "back".

Can't say it's anything special, beyond the whole "different textures" gimmick. Take a regular beef taco and fold it inside the Gordita flatbread with a three-cheese blend melted between the two "shells". You can get two of these and big-ass Coke for about $4.00. Why not heed your Uncle Aaron and go for the Grande Soft Taco, instead? It's the same general concept, except TB ladles out their nacho cheese sauce between two tortillas and then stuffs the inside with double the beef. It's one of the two best things off of their value menu.

Meanwhile, there's been a period of mourning here in Southern California as homophobic, arch-conservative kook Carl Karcher passed away last week. I'd feel bad about giving this hate-monger so much money over the years, if not for the fact that he was shoved out of his own company in the early '90s and then brought back as a human mascot.

His Carl's Jr. Franchise recently introduced something called a Huevos Rancheros Burrito, which was added to their breakfast menu. It's got refried beans, scrambled eggs, jack n' cheddar cheeses, Ranchero sauce and corn tortilla strips.

Mine was just OK. Everything was going fine until I reached the back of the burrito – where all of the beans opted to congregate. The beans were dark, dry and had an overcooked texture that implied they were scraped out of a vat that had been sitting on the stove for three weeks.

Tell 'em to hold the beans and double up on the sauce or just stick with their excellently greasy Loaded Breakfast Burrito.

Grade (Cheesy Gordita Crunch): 2 (out of 5)

Grade (Huevos Rancheros Burrito): 2

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Oakland A's Monday #21

News Item: CF Mark Kotsay (and cash considerations) traded from Oakland Athletics to Atlanta Braves in exchange for RP Joey Devine

And, so ends the Mark Kotsay Era – one of the worst signings of Billy Beane's tenure as Oakland's General Manager.

Kotsay was actually acquired via trade at the end of the 2003 season. Oakland sent disgruntled mediocrity Terrence Long and established young catcher Ramon Hernandez to the Padres for Kotsay, a former first round draft pick who'd spent three pretty good seasons in San Diego.

In his first season in Oakland, Kotsay put up several offensive career highs, including hits, batting average, on-base and slugging percentage. He became an instant fan favorite for a large segment of today's A's fans (squealing teens whose fandom stretches all the way back to earlier this decade) and, combined with his admittedly incredible defense in centerfield, seemed like a good candidate to lock up long term.

And, here's where Beane screwed it all up.

Kotsay has a history back troubles, dating back to 2003. In fact, the trade that brought him to Oakland was held up for over a week due to an extensive physical exam the A's put Kotsay through before finalizing the deal.

In July 2005, the A's signed Kotsay to a 2-year, $15M extension. Even though he was coming off of the best year of his career, I hated this move. Trust me, kids, this ain't hindsight:

(1) Kotsay's "career year" was obviously due to a fluky spike in his batting average. His .314 BA drove all of other offensive numbers and all because a dozen or so more hits fell in for him than in a typical season.

(2) Has anyone ever heard of chronic back injuries in baseball getting better with age? Forget the torque involved in swinging a bat, Kotsay plays one of the most physically demanding positions on the diamond that doesn't involve tools of ignorance.

(3) And, finally, my biggest beef – at the time of the extension, Kotsay had a team option on him for 2006. He'd be 30 years old after that season and the A's would have had two full years to determine if '04 an outlier or legit. Instead, Oakland guaranteed his option year and graciously added 2007-08 for grins.

By the end of 2005, Kotsay's numbers had fallen right back around his career line to that point. The following year, he lost nearly 40 points in slugging pct, before requiring back surgery in early 2007 and completely bottoming out at the plate (.214/.279/.296) in about 200 at-bats.

That the A's got anything at all for the squalid shell of himself that Kotsay's become says a lot about the Braves desperation to replace Andruw Jones in centerfield. That the small-market A's are paying most of Kotsay's 2008 salary, in turn, says a lot about their desperation to be rid of him.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Flipping Thru: ESPN – The Magazine (January 14, 2008 Issue)

About a year ago, I paid $9.00 for a four-year subscription to ESPN – The Magazine. And, even at $2.25/year, I wonder what the hell I was thinking. Much like the ubiquitous sports network, the magazine is so insufferably full of itself that I now understand what it must be like for you people to read me.

These days, the magazine serves as a time killer whenever I'm on bath duty for the boy. The trying-too-hard-to-be-hip journalism is instant comic relief, while the beach towel-sized pages make for a sweet shield whenever Jalen tries to surprise me with a bathwater splash or two.

That said, once in awhile, ESPN makes my minimal investment worth the effort. Here's a snippet from this week's cover story on Miami Heat superstar Dwyane Wade:

So (Dwyane) Wade has looked into acting classes and clothing design. He enlarges his vocabulary, one word a week. "Immaculate was one," he says. "Cohorts. Lethargic. As in, 'I've been busy trying to get this lethargic team back on track.'" He laughs.

He's not the only one.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

My Vigil Begins

From various news reports:

Nate Dogg suffered a stroke on December 19, according to a coordinator for the hip-hop crooner's recently formed gospel choir, Innate Praise. Reports had circulated that the longtime Snoop Dogg associate had been admitted to Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center in California after suffering a heart attack. Erica Beckwith, however, confirmed to MTV News that Nate Dogg was released on December 26 after being treated for a stroke and is currently in a medical-rehab facility to assist him in his recovery.

Playoff Pickery - AFC/NFC Divisional Round


Joe: 4-0
Aaron: 3-1

Vs. the Spread

Joe: 2-2
Aaron: 1-3

Seattle at Green Bay (-8)

Joe: Poor Matt Hasselbeck, still getting shit about that "...and we're gonna win!" crack however many years ago. It's like fate needed to balance things out after he managed to make going prematurely bald look good. Stupid fate. I'd like to say he has a chance at redemption here, but probably not. That spread looks tempting, though.

Green Bay 34, Seattle 21

Aaron: During a week's worth of ESPN's patented brand of hype, hype and more hype, I learned that Green Bay has lost two of their last three home playoff games. It's almost like the Worldwide Leader is in bed with the gamblers just daring me to take Seattle and this tempting bushel of points. Well, suck it Sean Salisbury. The Redskins all but gift-wrapped last week's Seahawks win. And, Brett Favre hates wrapping presents. His hands shake SO much.

Green Bay 27, Seattle 13

Jacksonville at New England (-13)

Joe R: I understand that this is the playoffs and you think the Pats have been playing teams close as of late and Jacksonville sure has looked good This gets ugly and quick.

New England 41, Jacksonville 7

Aaron: Yeah, what Joe said. But, don't let that stop everyone reading this from sending your prayers, good thoughts and truckloads of karma to the Jaguars today. Remember, every time the Pats win, an angel loses her wings. Then, she wastes her 20s/early 30s on the bar scene, before turning 35 and having to "settle" for a divorcee with three kids and a smack habit.

New England 35, Jacksonville 14

San Diego at Indianapolis (-9)

Joe: That's actually the perfect point spread because I am completely flummoxed here, particularly with Antonio Gates's injury status so up in the air. Indy's the better team, but the Chargers could play them tough, and...oh, fuck it.

Indianapolis 30, San Diego 20

Aaron: Even taking the Gates factor into consideration, the Colts have struggled this season with far inferior opponents than the Chargers. Throw in this week's weird Dungy distraction and Chargers RB Classy Tomlinson getting a chance to run indoors w/o the elements and WR Chris Chambers doing his best Gates impression. I got a bad feeling about this.

San Diego 24, Indianapolis 23

NY Giants at Dallas (-7 1/2)

Joe: Look, I don't like her either, and fun is fun, but it's not like Jessica Simpson's snatch is, in reality, filled with a strength- and talent-sapping serum designed to cut men down in their prime. That being said, Tony Romo (who I generally like) is an idiot for this whole Mexican getaway thing, if only because if Dallas does somehow falter, it's totally his fault now, and for bullshit "intangible" reasons. When we all know that the real reason they'll falter (if they do) is because you can't keep Wade Phillips from destroying a season forever. He'll find a way. ...Maybe not this week.

Dallas 27, NY Giants 24

Aaron: Joe is a Bills fan, people. So, direct from Wade Phillips own Wikipedia entry, I offer up a humble rebuttal: "The most successful coaching stop for Phillips was at Buffalo. He always kept the team competitive and in the playoff hunt." Wikipedia! Short memory syndrome, Mr. Reid? Anyways, Joe's 100% right about Romo, but I think the very tangible possibility of T.O. playing at half-speed and Eli Manning playing out of his mind will make for an "UPSET SUNDAY" headline in most of Monday's papers.

NY Giants 20, Dallas 19

Friday, January 11, 2008

TBG Reviews American Gangster

I wanted to love this movie. I really, really did. In the immediate aftermath of its early November release, there was some Oscar™ buzz accompanying the film and the performances of stars Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington. But, after two hours, I was a lot less impressed with…well, everything.

Crowe and Washington are solid – Crowe, especially so – but, neither performance rises above the loftiest work on their résumés. The story of Harlem gangster Frank Lucas, his rise and fall and the morally ambiguous cop who brings him down held my attention, but the story moves along in fits and starts with odd, occasional subplots (child custody hearings, a tryout with the Yankees?) that drag the proceedings into a soap operatic slog.

Director Ridley Scott's 1970's New York teeters between '60s sheen and '80s apocalypse (thanks, Reagan!), which makes for a damn fine backdrop, but I found my eye being drawn more towards the absurd (Cuba Gooding, Jr.'s scrunchy, furrowed "mad face" and rapper T.I.'s not-at-all-convincing spin as an unsigned pitching prospect – he's 110 lbs. and throws/catches like a girl). These were minor characters in the grand scheme, yet I can't shake their imagery from my impression of the movie. Pretty sure that ain't my fault, Ridley.

Still, everything finally hits its stride in the third act as the walls close in on Washington's Lucas – highlighted by an especially uncomfortable scene involving a search warrant and Vietnam War corpses. Then, just as the guillotine is about to drop, Lucas throws up his hands and joins the dark side…well, to him, anyway. This decision did lead to the unintentionally hilarious final scene, as Lucas is released from prison in 1991 with Public Enemy's "Can't Truss It" blaring in the background.

Lucas looks around, sizing up a world where New Jack City is a hit movie and Malcolm X has become a ubiquitous hat logo and it wouldn't have surprised me to see him turn around, pound on the walls and beg to be let back in.

Although, all bets are off if, in the DVD's deleted scenes, we see Washington asking his new boss at the supermarket for a bathroom break.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

We Have a Winner

Thanks, Nick'a.

This would be the I've-never-heard-it-before response song from all of New England towards the Chicago Bears prior to Super Bowl XX. The cheese is off the charts, kids.

A running diary would take hours to compile, so I'll leave you with two points: (1) Remember when you could pretend to kill a living thing on TV with a toy gun? (2) There's a line in here about hanging a bear from a tree.

Remember, readers: bear = OK

Tiger = suspension.

TBG Reviews The Biggest Loser: Couples

"I hate shows like this." - Mrs. Bootleg, at approximately 8:00 PM last night.

"You have (the DVR) set to record the whole series, right?" - Mrs. Bootleg, at approximately 9:00 PM last night.

Premise: Ten teams, comprising several contrived unions, compete to lose the most combined weight. There are physical challenges™, psycho physical trainers and dozens of plugs for 24 Hour Fitness.

(Physical Challenge is a registered trademark of Double Dare, Inc.)

Love: Watching people in worse shape than me stumble, stagger and fall through efforts like "run over there" and "eat without sweating". The deliciously manipulative challenges, such as this week's offer of $5,000 to the team who ate the most calories at a late-night barbecue – the night before they weigh in! And, of course, Ali Sweeney, the de facto dim bulb host whose wooden attempts at interaction with the contestants make it hard to fathom that she's an actress – on a soap opera. (I know!)

Hate: All of the usual "reality show" potholes – manufactured drama, a zillion commercial breaks (thanks, DVR!), a zillion commercials within the context of the show and uninteresting "confidentials".

Favorite Team: Brittany & Bernie – Brittany's only about 100 lbs. away from "possible hotness"…and just 10 from appearing in a Nelly video. Bernie is an uninspired load who was under doctor's order to take it easy the first week and ended up losing more weight than almost everyone. This week, he spent most of the episode with a newly-formed cold sore that no one acknowledged. Thanks, NBC and your litany of "intense" close ups on everyone.

Least Favorite Team: Jay & Mark – They're from Massachusetts.

In or Out: Oh, of course I'm in. Depending on how many biscuits I had for breakfast, I'm carrying around 180-185 lbs. these days. Twenty years ago, I was nearly a foot shorter and weighed about the same. These fatties speak to me.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

"We Got the Teamwork to Make the Dream Work"

Thanks to Sean in Accounting for the find.

For the love of God, please stick around until the end for the "celebrities".

Melba Moore! Mayor Koch!! Cameo!!!

(I'll explain who the last one is in a future post, white people.)

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


Couldn't let the day pass without acknowledging Goose Gossage's induction into baseball's Hall of Fame. Here's what I wrote two years ago, over at Inside Pulse, as part of my elongated feature on the HOF:

"And, sometimes there's more to a superstar than statistics. In an era where closers routinely went three innings and weren't pampered, Gossage was unquestionably the most powerful and intimidating presence of them all. So, is there a reason why the writers haven't voted him in yet?

310 saves doesn't seem like much these days and Goose hurt his per season save average by spending his final five years in middle relief. He averaged less than two saves in each of those seasons, which was a far cry from his heyday. From 1977 until 1985, no one could touch this guy. Six of those seasons were spent in New York, where he topped out at 33 saves in 1980 and registered an ERA of 0.77 the following (strike-shortened) year.

C'mon, people...has the magnificence of Mariano Rivera made us forget the impact that Gossage had on the game, while pitching in pinstripes?

In 1985, while with the San Diego Padres, Gossage notched 26 saves, with an ERA of 1.82 and gave up just one home run in 79 innings. At 33, it would be his last great year, but, by that point, he had already written up enough of resume to get into The Hall. Goose played eight more seasons at half-speed and those years have obviously done him more harm than good. And, that's just wrong. Verdict: In"

You can ogle Goose's stats for yourself at the world's greatest baseball reference site.

Since Gossage's peak occurred during the infancy of both my baseball fandom and ESPN, I can't say I remember much about his glory days. He did spend a few years with my A's in 1992-93. My only memory of his tenure is chatting with m'man Smitty about an appropriate nickname for Goose and his knack for turning a 7th inning 3-2 lead into an 11-3 immolation. We settled on "Goose Gas Can".

Anyways, everyone knows that Gossage's induction was just the opening act for 2009, when Cooperstown welcomes the greatest of all time. I've already told Mrs. Bootleg that I'll be attending those ceremonies.

Who's with me?!

Monday, January 7, 2008

"Silver & Black Attack" Music Video Running Diary

One of these days, I'll get around to explaining my long, strange relationship with the Oakland/Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders. But, for those of you who've wondered why I don't show them as much love as the A's, here ya go.

The year was 1986 and in the wake of the Chicago Bears' Super Bowl Shuffle song, sports teams were cranking out these posse cuts like hotcakes. The Los Angeles Raiders released their own brand of awful audio and there was no way I was passing up this blog fodder in a barrel:

00:07 – Free safety Vann McElroy(!) is carrying the Raider banner into the video shoot! And, he's running. If memory serves, all that's missing is the receiver ten yards in front of him with the ball.

00:20 – Dig those '80s special effects, baby. Pretty sure this was the first recorded "double split-screen effect". Like a game of futuristic four-square.

00:31 – The first "Al Davis" reference and we're barely 30 seconds in. He hadn't yet become one with the undead, so I'm surprised he's not on the song.

00:46 – And, the first solo verse goes to…Howie Long! 20 years later he'd be WWE Champion!

01:00 – Howie "loves to sit on those runnin' backs". I'm ready to crown this the greatest music video ever, but it's still early.

01:07 – Marcus Allen's on the m-i-c. After "Allen's my name, off-fense is my game", we're going to go ahead and say that Howie is a bit more "street". This should surprise no one.

01:21 – Marcus sounds a lot like Magic Johnson here, right down to the odd way he's screaming every word, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he's wearing microphone.

01:23 – Whoops…don't blink or you'll miss Allen's "this is how the white girls I date dance" impression!

01:31 – Marc Wilson! Raiders back-up QB Marc Wilson! He doesn't get a solo, but it's definitely him. I imagine him today in one of those old-timey unattached bath tubs still trying to Brillo pad-and-Borax the shame off his skin.

01:45 – Next up is our old tight end Todd Christensen. Those of us who remember him are in shock that he waited this long to say something. Not to scare anyone, but we're almost two minutes in and the white guys have a 2-1 lead in solos. It's still early.

02:06 – OT Henry Lawrence and…

02:14 – …an AWESOME shot of the infamous sledge hammer tape job on his hands.

02:31 – Jim Plunkett! Jim Plunkett! By gawd, Jim Plunkett! It would take another two decades for Public Enemy front-man Chuck D, 68, to pass Plunkett as the oldest to ever record a rap song.

02:40 – In our first "who invited Dan Akroyd" moment of the evening, 3rd string quarterback Rusty Hilger (#12) can be seen briefly. Fun fact: In 2006, Hilger was accused of stealing three million dollars from client escrow/operating accounts of US Credit Management Inc. in Irving, Texas. Royalty checks winding down, Rusty?

02:45 – Hey, it's that '80s music staple "the out-of-place guitar solo". Right on time, guy. Oh, and did you bring Messrs. Synth and Saxophone? Can't get enough of them. Wait…is that Matt Millen in a wig and pretending to play the axe?

03:05 – Pretty sure it was and, as an added bonus, he's next to flow. That backwards hat was actually a few years ahead of its time as Ken Griffey, Jr. was a good four or five years away from really popularizing it among athletes. Before the gigantism set in.

03:07 – Millen uses "turkey" in its 1970s Good Times derogatory sense.

03:27 – Raiders CB Lester Hayes was my favorite player growing up. His entire career was built upon a super-adhesive called "Stick 'Em", which he coated himself with before games. The league eventually banned it and Hayes was never the same player. He also had a well-documented stuttering problem, so it's with great love and admiration that I say there's no way in hell that's his own voice here.

04:00 – There appear to be a limited number of sunglasses to go around. Furthermore, it looks like the team agreed to let Allen, their best player, wear a pair throughout, while everyone else just passed one of the other six pairs of shades to the next guy over every 15 seconds or so.

04:10 – It's LB Rod Martin's time to shine. Career highlight: three interceptions in Super Bowl XV or this? You decide. By the way, we've reclaimed the lead in solos: Blacks are up, 4-3.

04:30 – Hall of Famer Mike Haynes makes it 5-3 with about two minutes to go. A quick check of proves, much to my surprise, that "frustrater" is actually a word. As a former journalism major, I plan to appeal.

04:57 – A (very) young Greg Townsend continues to lurk in the background. Someone better get him a solo. Quick.

05:13 – And, after more than five minutes of successfully identifying even the most obscure Raider in this dimly-lit setting, I finally have to cheat and look up the name of #60, OT Curt Marsh. He's as smooth as a man on the flying trapeze. BTW, it's now 5-4.

05:32 – Head Coach Tom Flores is on the mic! Now, don't go thinking you salvaged any credibility by not appearing at the video shoot, Tom. And, way to single-handedly sabotage the Mexican rap movement before it would go on to eventually fail on its own. We'll call it 5-4-1.

06:20 – It's still going. Jesus, what is this, Freebird?

06:40 – And, we're out.

Because it's Always Snowing Somewhere...

Has it really been 15 years? Wow.

Happy anniversary, Darrin O'Brien.

Sunday, January 6, 2008


Former No Limit Records recording artist and longtime Bootleg punching bag Corey "C-Murder" Miller wrote a book last year. For you non-rap fans, Miller is the younger brother of inexplicable zillionaire and erstwhile Dancing with the Stars farce, Master P.

If that doesn't help convey the shock that this clown is a published author, I went over to rap lyric site, clicked "C-Murder" and pulled the following lyrics from the first song I randomly found:

"Sometimes I want me a bitch, sometimes I don't
And sometimes I gotta bust a nut, and sometimes I won't "

Now, I know what you're thinking. And, for anyone who thinks I'm just cherry-picking the worst two bars in the song, here are the next two:

"Check it, from the Crips to the Bloods to the n*ggas sellin' drugs
Yet n*ggas pimp hoes in the muthaf*ckin' clubs"

Ah, hell, here are the next four:

"I'm the 'G' in gangsta
The n*gga that'll hang ya, the ship that'll sink ya
And the bullet that'll bang ya
I'm the hour in a clock, I'm the high on the rock"

Again…C-Murder, author.

His book, "Death Around the Corner", is appropriately titled for two reasons: (1) it's about a plucky urban scamp called "Daquan" (natch) who gets thrown into an Oz-like youth detention facility and (2) the title was also used by Tupac Shakur for a cut from his 1995 Me Against the World album. Y'see, Murder's entire career was built on lifting Pac's flow and stealing several of Pac's then-unreleased bootleg(!) tracks.

Anyways, it seems the book has been named the 2007 Book of the Year by something called "Conversations Book Club". I am not making this up. Here's a link to their (chuckle) comically poor layout. They're based in Jackson, Mississippi, which makes perfect sense. After all, when I think "literacy", make mine Mississippi!

The Book Club has arranged for readers to dial into a conference call with C-Murder to discuss his opus every Thursday at 8PM (5PM out here in Cali) through the end of February.

So, that leaves me just eight weeks to obtain a copy and plow through it, just so I can put myself through what must be quite the rigorous Mississippi literary screening process to discuss the book with Mr. Murder.

Bad investment, you say? Well, there are 24 reviews over at, where the book is averaging close to a five-star rating. Are you really going to doubt reader "M. Thompson" who said, "(C-Murder) could definetely (sic) make a movie out of this book." We won't tell M that every rapper already has.

Reader "D. Frazier – The Ghetto Fiction Queen" says, "There are no grammatical errors…", while fellow Amazonian "N. Klinker" says, "The story is well wrote…".

And, just like that, I've got a new addition to my Amazon Wish List.

Note: Aaron's birthday is March 30th.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Playoff Pickery - Wildcard Weekend 2008

"See Maggie, those silver-and-blue guys are the Dallas Cowboys. They're Daddy's favorite team. And he wants them to lose by less than five and a half points. Understand?" -- Homer Simpson, "Bart vs. Thanksgiving''

So, m'man Movie Joe Reid and I are continuing our friendly rivalry of pickery for the NFL playoffs. It's a little bit different this time around, as we'll be considering point spreads for your entertainment purposes.

Now, in advance of the avalanche of questions: no, this does not - in any way - affect my 2007 TBG/Low Resolution Regular Season Prognostication Championship. While I offered to put it on the line, Joe would have none of it. I will respect his wishes.

Washington at Seattle (-3 1/2)

Joe: Wow. Is this not the worst matchup of two really crappy teams in the playoffs that you've ever seen? Yikes. Normally I'd just take the points, but this Redskins team on the road, with the way Matt Hasselbeck has been throwing the ball this season and now that Shaun Alexander has reminded himself what an end zone looks like? Sorry, Ghost of Sean Taylor. Your posthumous playoff campaign ends here.

Final Score: Seattle 38, Washington 20

Aaron: I racked my brain trying to come up with a playoff meeting of two even poopier teams and drew a blank. I remember Tim Couch and Tommy Maddox crossing errant, overthrown swords in an '02 Steelers/Browns playoff game, but that was it (and it was a 36-33 barnburner, to boot). Anyways, after declaring the 'Skins "done" about a month ago, I think they have enough in 'em to keep it close against a schizophrenic Seahawks squad. And, an upset wouldn't shock me.

Final Score: Seattle 22, Washington 20

Jacksonville (-2 1/2) at Pittsburgh

Joe: For whatever reason, football pundits seem all too eager to brush off Jacksonville's victory over the Steelers three weeks ago. But look at the Steelers last seven games: a 3-4 record, including losses to the Jets and Ravens, with the only wins coming against Miami, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. This has become a bad football team. Crappy Pittsburgh weather keeps it close, I'm guessing.

Final Score: Jacksonville 19, Pittsburgh 16

Aaron: The Jags won by 7 when these two teams met three weeks ago, but that margin belies Jacksonville's domination that afternoon. Still, if Willie Parker were running the rock for Pittsburgh, I'd take the Steelers simply on the revenge factor. He's dead (or hurt or...something), so I'm a "Jax Backer" here. Feel free to use that for a few more weeks, Northern Florida.

Final Score: Jacksonville 23, Pittsburgh 3

N.Y. Giants at Tampa Bay (-3)

Joe: I know the Bucs didn't have much to play for the last couple weeks of the season, but it's hard to get behind a team that went 1-3 down the stretch. The Giants defied my prediction of yet another second-half team-quits-on-Coughlin meltdown, and now I'm starting to think this is an actual changed franchise. Changed enough to win here and then get the snot kicked out of them in Dallas, at least.

Final Score: NY Giants 31, Tampa Bay 28

Aaron: The Giants and their collective mucus won't even make it to Texas. Here's your subjective, cherry-picked statistic of the week, kids: the Patriots were challenged late in the fourth quarter by four teams this year: Indy, Philly, Baltimore and the Giants. The first three would lose their next game the following week (with the Ravens completely collapsing through the cavity where their hearts once beat). The moral: Tom Brady eats souls.

Final Score: Tampa Bay 20, NY Giants 16

Tennesse at San Diego (-9)

Joe: The Chargers are the better team here, certainly, but not by nine points. That number seems better suited for the uver/under on how many players Albert Hayensworth will attempt to cripple in regulation. If ol' Al feels the same way about the Bolts as our man Cam does, bet the over.

Final Score: San Diego 27, Tennessee 20

Aaron: Albert could never hate the Chargers as much as I. Unfortunately, the two of us will have to settle for a late hit or two on a classy Chargers RB and an eye gouge at the bottom of a scrum. The Titans have been ruined by injuries to the point I've heard they're talking about suiting up retirees Frank Wycheck and Kevin Dyson. After eight years of tormenting a sports city's soul, I'm told they're tanned, rested and ready!

Final Score: San Diego 21, Tennessee 6

Friday, January 4, 2008

Own-lay…in California

I'll defend West Coast sports fans until my last breath, but articles like this make me smile.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Oakland A's Monday #20

I decided to treat myself to one of those "teacher's vacations" and stretch my holiday from work for a few more days. Today, the wife and I took the boy to the Wild Animal Park and spent several hours staring at somnambulant species under overcast skies. Of course, you can't visit one of San Diego's most famous places without passing the largest mall in our city's north county, so let's just say it was a full day for The Cam Fam.

We got home, I fired up the laptop and found several variations of the same mocking e-mail subject in my inbox:

Oakland Triple-A's!!!

Seems my baseball team up and traded their best hitter from the past two years, OF/1B Nick Swisher. He went to the White Sox in exchange for LHP Gio Gonzalez, RHP Fautino De Los Santos and outfielder Ryan Sweeney.

Gonzalez and De Los Santos are considered the top two prospects in the White Sox's systems, while Sweeney, by most accounts, was their top prospect entering 2007 before concerns that his power development had peaked during a 10 HR season at Triple-A.

As for Nick Swisher, he reminded me a lot of erstwhile A's outfielder Eric Byrnes: loved by the casual fan for a lot of things that have nothing to do with winning (long hair, goofball personality, nice to kids and old ladies). His stats are nothing to sneeze at – 28 HR/season average, career OBP of .361, SLG of .464 – but, like Byrnes, his game is at least a little overrated.

Swisher gets into extended stretches where he tries to hit everything 10,000 feet, rolling over on mediocre breaking pitches and harvesting strikeouts in bunches. Worse, his "baseball IQ" leaves a lot to be desired as Swisher is from the "dive for the sake of Sportscenter" school. And, I've seen enough of him in the field to know that the next cut-off man he hits will probably be the first, to say nothing of his knack for throwing to the wrong base in the late innings.

Swisher wasn't a top tier player, despite the high-pitched howls of the teenaged harpies who infest the A's primary message board.

I guess I'm OK with the trade. The A's weren't going to the playoffs next year with him (and/or SP Dan Haren). I can't vouch for any of the kids we got in return, but the arms seem to have high ceilings according to every Minor League Baseball analysis site I've visited in the past six hours. Oh, shut up.

And, also, "shut up" to everyone already labeling this team "Florida Marlins West".

I've bashed A's GM Billy Beane a-plenty, but he's the only baseball executive on erf with the vision to acknowledge this team's near-term limitations and barren cupboard of prospects by blowing things up so spectacularly, yet so obviously rebuilding with a plan in place – develop a winning team to debut in their new stadium, expected to open…well, sometime.

The fact is, I've been a fan of this team for about 25 years and this has always been the way they operate. In 1984, they traded a 25-year-old Rickey Henderson to the Yankees for truckload of young talent. Some of those guys played key roles in bringing the team back to contention in the late '80s and one or two were later flipped, themselves.

The recently-expired eight year run of success was built (and re-built) the same way.

Well, I guess this is goodbye, Nick. I'll miss your 5'6" midget ways at the plate, but I've gotten used to rooting for the name on the front of the jersey, not the back.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

TBG Reviews: Snoop Dogg's Father Hood

Snoop Dogg and I have history.

His debut on the title cut to the Deep Cover soundtrack in the spring of 1992 was one of the first albums I ever copped just to get one song. (The single was pretty much sold out in every Wherehouse, Sam Goody and mom n' pop spot in Long Beach.)

Later that year, I bought one of the last cassette-ready Sony Walkmans ever made, just so I could play The Chronic, front to back, on my public transportation commute to and from school.

In November 1993, I stood in line at the legendary (well, in Long Beach, anyways) VIP Records to buy Snoop's solo Doggystyle debut at midnight. And, if that doesn't prove my dedicated fandom, all you need to know is that VIP Records is on the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and…Martin Luther King Boulevard. At midnight, people.

As the years passed, I picked up every Snoop solo joint – from the sh*tty (Tha Doggfather) to the really sh*tty (Da Game is to be Sold…) to the not as sh*tty as you might think (Top Dogg).

Hell, I used Snoop Dogg to introduce myself to some of you when I made my internet debut way back in aught-two.

So, it's with a heavy heart that I declare Snoop's new "reality" show, Father Hood, the worst show ever made.

In the interest of full disclosure, I normally loathe reality shows. I'm not sure how it is in the rest of the world, but California isn't exactly handing out government vouchers to solve a shortage of the preening and privileged. Consequently, I'll be damned if I'm going to willingly sit and watch them.

That said, it's still Snoop…right?

I had the first three episodes stockpiled on the DVR and used my holiday break to get caught up. Quick summary: Snoop Dogg juggles his career with his wife and kids. That's…pretty much it.

The first episode revolved around the Snoop Dogg family maid quitting. Her explanation is given in Spanish, with subtitles and that generic "La Cucaracha" music piped in for effect. You stay classy, E! Network. The second episode features a guest spot by David Beckham, who tries to teach Snoop's kids soccer, while Snoop introduces Beckham to Roscoe's Chicken & Waffles. The third and final one I saw takes Snoop to New York, while his kids act up at home.

Now, here, for your consideration, are all the reasons why this show really is the worst show ever made:

It's NOT real - I know! A contrived, manufactured reality show?! I could write 20 pages on this point, alone, so I'll leave you with the most egregious example: Snoop's wife wakes up at 4:00 AM one morning to find her husband eating an eight-piece box of fried chicken and watching TV. And, she's in full, perfect make-up! Take it from me, if a Black woman dozes off, she'll still wake up to take off her make-up and wrap her hair at 5:30 AM, even if she has to get up and get ready for work at 6:00 AM. Take it from me.

It's NOT funny - The central comedic figure is ostensibly a fat sack of fat named Anthony. He's described – with the help of on-screen graphics – as an "honorary son" with all of the yuks coming from his appetite, inertia and incompetence. 50 years ago, he'd be called "Rochester" and hoping his feets didn't fail him now. On Snoop's show, he asks an attendant if he can help himself to some candy in a bowl. He takes one piece, puts it on the table, then walks off with the bowl. HAW!

It's NOT real - Anthony parks Snoop's car in a tow away zone and hilarity ensues. While attempting to get the car back from impound, Anthony convinces the clerk to waive the $500 retrieval fee in exchange for one of Snoop's shirts and a pair of his house shoes.

Snoop's family is NOT interesting - His wife, Shanté, is repeatedly referred to as "Boss Lady". Having one of my own at home, I get that. But, this broad just loafs along from scene to scene feigning exasperation at everything. In the second episode, she calls a meeting of Snoop's staff, handlers and hangers-on to declare…no more junk food for Snoop. The ensuing 29 minutes were equally empty. And, his three kids are spoiled, obnoxious and idiots. If anyone remembers that MTV Cribs episode that featured Master P's bastard offspring Lil' Romeo (and I SWEAR it's the only one I ever saw), you'll know what I mean.

It's NOT real - Beckham, in a "camera confidential" soliloquy, professes his long-standing love affair with Hip Hop and rap. Snoop has an abject fear of needles (admittedly, one of the show's lone amusing sequences) and his doctor sends him to an acupuncturist to get him to relax. A blind, Asian acupuncturist who can't speak English. Snoop reveals that those house shoes the kids gave away were, in fact, were handmade and worth $5000.

Snoop…my n-word…it's over.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Xmas – The Return(s)

I returned the following three Christmas gifts last week. If any of you plan on getting these items for someone you supposedly love, please read on:

Gap Waffle Hoodie - Since my brother has only known me his whole life, it's possible that I never mentioned how much I hate The Gap. I'm a Black guy in my 30s. Even conceding that I don't know what "fashion" is, I know that there's nothing at The Gap for me. I'm about 100 pounds over the clothing store's mandated 80-pound male model weight limit and about eight shades past their acceptable race limit.

But, that didn't stop my brother from ordering a XXXL "jewel blue" hoodie from It's not that hideous. (Anyone know what's one level up from "hideous"?) It's just that…OK, see, here's the thing: I work Monday through Friday. Slacks, dress shirt, etc. Saturday and Sunday are my only two days to jettison the JC Penny's pants and oxford shirts. As an Oakland fan who moved to San Diego for college, I'm obligated to exclusively advertise this, this or this on my weekend attire.

The first for my baseball loyalties, the second for my alma mater and the third because if we don't support the mom n' pop American manufacturing operations, the Republicans have won.

Sorry, but if anyone in my hometown of Long Beach ever saw me in anything from The Gap, they'd revoke my visiting Crip visa – jewel blue or not. Besides, I just got off of probation up there from the seven years I owned a Saturn.

Exchanged for - Gap sweat pants and two pairs of novelty holiday draws – one with reindeer and the other with penguins!

Brookstone Surround Sound Earbuds - Most of you probably know Brookstone as that gadgety place in the mall. Most of their wares are a little out of my price range ($35 for an electronic tire pressure gauge?!) but Mrs. Bootleg knows how much the 1,000+ songs on my iPod mean to me.

Still, the cheapy earbuds that came with my iPod have served me admirably, so the need for an upgrade simply wasn't there. It's the first gift from the wife – for any occasion – that I've ever returned, so it was a little awkward around the ol' Christmas tree last Tuesday morning. Just a hint, fellas: when she says, "If you don't like it…" - just shut up and like it.

Exchanged for - Brookstone electronic tire pressure gauge. What?

Cell Phone Holster - Memo to Mrs. Bootleg: the only people who clip their cell phones to their belts are the same one who (1) wear shorts with their shirts tucked in (2) wear belts with their shorts or (3) wear belts. The wife got me a new cell phone with all the bells and whistles. And, while I'm about five years too late to truly appreciate the benefits of cell phone camera in a strip club, I had to straight call her out on the clip.

My earlier "hint" simply doesn't apply to cell phone holsters, which are essentially fanny packs 2.0.

Exchanged for - $10.76 back on the wife's credit card.