Sunday, March 23, 2008

Knight Court

Category: Sports Review

In his time on ESPN, Hall of Fame coach Bob Knight has done a remarkable job as a basketball analyst and commentator covering the NCAA men's tournament. He has kept his cussing in check, and he has displayed a sense of humor that is fresh and perhaps surprising to many. For all the litany of controversies in the man's career and a longstanding disdain on his part with the media, Knight had adjusted quite well to life in the ESPN studios.

What is more remarkable than Knight not uttering a profane remark as of this writing is the fact that he can actually operate and put together coherent statements while Dick Vitale is slobbering all over him. Vitale's over-the-top hero worship is positively embarrassing. During the NCAA Selection Show, Vitale turned everything uttered into a chance to sing the praises of Bob Knight. Case in point: Vitale was asked about UCLA in the West bracket, and this was his reply: "But you know, when I look at that West bracket, I see Duke. And when I see Duke, I think of Mike Krzyzewski. And when I think of Mike Krzyzewski, I think of Robert Montgomery Knight." Or another case, when Knight told Vitale to come up with a nickname for a player who had made a good pass during a game, Vitale replied, "The greatest nickname I have ever come up with was for Robert Montgomery Knight, whom I dubbed 'the General.'"

Sunday evening, during ESPN's SportsCenter, the basketball chat featured a remote of Vitale from his home (versus earlier in the week, when he had been in the studio sitting next to Knight). Perhaps Vitale had to return home for a doctor's appointment (he missed two months earlier in the basketball season because of vocal chord problems and was afterwards limited in the games he called). Perhaps he got on Knight's nerves so much Bob threatened to use a whip on Vitale.

Bob Knight definitely has a future in the studio as an analyst or courtside as a commentator. One thing is for certain, though: he and Dick Vitale cannot be on the same show together unless Knight is issued one of those "mute" buttons that Toni Reali uses on Around the Horn to shut Vitale up.

The Wright Way is All Wrong

Category: TV Show Review

The Travel Channel has a new program, America the Wright Way, which debuted last Monday evening. Being a Travel Channel fan, I was all set to watch it. The notion of a British tourist traveling the U.S. and seeing the things we as Americans take for granted was especially appealing.

It is a rare instance when I cannot make it through a show I specifically picked to watch. In fact, America the Wright Way is the first time it has happened this decade. However, I found Ian Wright so annoying I could not make it until the second commercial break without changing the channel.

What's wrong with Wright? Imagine Billy Mays with an English accent. Or worse, remember that British chap from the infomercials who just would not shut up? Roll them together and you have Ian Wright. He tries to be funny, but in the few minutes I was able to endure the show, it appeared that even he realized he wasn't funny. It was pathetic. He wants to be England's answer to Samantha Brown in the worst way, but Samantha has far more personality and humor (even when her jokes are old and obvious) than this guy.

I'm glad I have other things planned for Monday night than to suffer through this series. If I didn't have something planned, I would find something.

Travel Channel's show site

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Farewell Sgt. Kinchloe

Category: News/Obituary

Ivan Dixon in a dual role in the Hogan's Heroes episode
"The Prince From the Phone Company"

Ivan Dixon, best known for his groundbreaking role as the radio operator on Hogan's Heroes, died Sunday (March 16) of a hemorrhage in Charlotte, North Carolina. His daughter reported he had also been suffering from kidney failure.

Dixon was a highly-honored actor who appeared in movies (A Raisin in the Sun, Car Wash), plays, and television shows as guest stars. He was nominated for an Emmy for his role in "The Final War of Olly Winter," a CBS Playhouse presentation, in 1967.

Bob Crane & Ivan Dixon

It was his role as Sergeant James Kinchloe, nicknamed "Kinch," for five years in
Hogan's Heroes that brought him his greatest popularity. Dixon had a leading role on a popular program in the 60s, when blacks were few and far between on television. Highlights during his five years on the show included the episode "The Softer They Fall," where the racism of Nazi Germany was a prominent part of the story (General Burkhalter warned Colonel Klink about the repercussions should a Nazi soldier be defeated in a boxing match by a black American prisoner, mentioning that Hitler left the stadium in 1936 when Jessie Owen won gold over Hitler's "master race"), and the first season episode "The Prince From the Phone Company," where Dixon played a dual role as Kinch and African prince Makabana.

Dixon is survived by his wife of 53 years and two children. He was 76.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Gross Never Looked So Good

Category: Television Review

Andrew Zimmern, ready to dive in to a grub

The second season of Bizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmern is in full swing on the Travel Channel. Zimmern is one of a number of food-based shows on the Travel Channel (joining Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, various "food factory" shows, Taste of America with Mark DeCarlo, and others). Lest one think that the Travel Channel is becoming Food Network 2, these shows do feature food in various locales.

Zimmern puts a twist in his show. He j
ourneys to countries to sample the nations' cultures through their food. And that can be rather disquieting, to say the least, to the average American eater. In short, don't look for Zimmern in a Barcelona McDonald's. However, are you looking for the Beijing restaurants that serve donkey or the male reproductive organ of various animals? Zimmern is so there.

And, while the food he eats is admittedly grotesque (such as this week's sampling of putrefied shark meat in Iceland), gross has never been so much fun. Part of it has to do with Zimmern's warm, funny personality. Unlike his fellow native New York chef/Travel Channel show host, Anthony Bourdain (who is positively annoying), Zimmern endears his audience to him as he explains the rituals of various food cultures, as well as the history behind them. He does not stop there, though: he also eats them. If that means pan-fried coconut grubs freshly harvested from the Amazon Rain Forest or a mad search for criadillas (please, look that up yourself if you're curious) in Spain, so be it. As Zimmern explains in the opening of the show, "I tend to stray far from the predictable culinary path." Boy, is that an understatement!
Best of all, Andrew does occasionally find something (e.g., stinky tofu from the "House of Unique Stink" or durian) that, as he puts it, "beats" him.

The commercials for the new season of Bizarre Foods are almost as fun as the actual show. One shows Zimmern in the workplace lunch room, offering co-workers worms that are "great with turkey." As he pulls out his lunch, the room quickly clears out. At the end, a man with his lunch cooler comes to the door, sees Zimmern in the lunch room, and quickly backs away. Another shows Zimmern breaking a snack machine that failed to dispense his selection. "What's a guy got to do to get some fish heads around here?" he mumbles as he walks away.

Bizarre Foods may not make you hungry for haggis or yearn for yak; however, the history of how people in other countries came to eat foods that we Americans would not touch with a ten-foot fork is entertaining, educational, and most of all, fun, thanks in no small part to its host.

Andrew Zimmern's web site
Bizarre Foods site at the Travel Channel

Saturday, March 8, 2008

ESPN's New NCAA Commentator

Category: Sports News

Fresh off his sudden retirement as men's head basketball coach at Texas Tech, Bob Knight has been hired by ESPN to provide in-studio commentary.

Knight will go to work during "Championship Week," the week that features the tournaments for most of the college leagues to determine champions and automatic bids to the NCAA tournament, on March 12. He will also provide analysis during the NCAA tournament pre-game and post-game coverage.

Given Knight's legendary ("infamous?") use of profanity, a seven-second delay would be the wisest option. However, ESPN has stated that Knight will be live.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Jeff Healey Dies

Category: News

Rock/blues/jazz guitarist/singer Jeff Healey, best-known for his rendition of the John Hiatt song "Angel Eyes," died of cancer Sunday (March 2) in Toronto.

Healey was blinded in infancy by cancer; specifically, retino blastoma. Various cancers attacked him for most of his life. In January of this year, he had a cancerous tumor removed from his leg, then cancer was found in both lungs.

Healey, a native of Toronto, played the guitar as it rested in his lap. He was hailed as a virtuoso on the instrument early in life. In 1988 his album See the Light was released, and the single, "Angel Eyes," became a major hit.

However, Healey preferred jazz to rock and turned his music in that direction. He also became a DJ on CBC radio, hosting the show My Kinda Jazz.

Healey's final album, Mess of Blues, is scheduled for release April 22. He is survived by his wife and two children, his father and stepmother, and two sisters.

Jeff Healey was 41.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Basketball's 800 Win Club Has a New Member

Category: Sports News

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski became the tenth college basketball coach to reach the 800 win mark on Saturday (March 1) when the Blue Devils mounted a come-from-behind 87-86 victory over nearby rival North Carolina State.

With the problems in college basketball, not to mention all of sports, Krzyzewski is a shining example of how to correctly succeed in the game. His teams have won three national titles (1991, 1992, 2001), and he has never been mentioned in the same breath as "NCAA violations." It can be done.

Congratulations, Coach K.

Winningest NCAA Basketball Coaches
(*denotes still active) (win total as of March 1, 2008)

1. Pat Summitt* - Tennessee (women) - 972
2. Bob Knight - Army / Indiana / Texas Tech - 902
Jody Conradt - Texas (women) - 900
4. Don Meyer* - Northern State (Division II) - 886
5. Dean Smith - North Carolina - 879
6. Adolph Rupp - Kentucky - 876
7. Jim Phelan - Mount St. Mary's - 830
8. Clarence "Big House" Gaines - Winston-Salem State (Division II) - 828
9. Eddie Sutton* - Creighton / Arkansas / Kentucky / Oklahoma State / San Francisco - 801
10. Mike Krzyzewski* - Army / Duke - 800