Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cowboys Need to Punt on New Stadium's Video Screen

You know, only in this universe, in this galaxy, in this solar system, on this planet, in this country, in the state of Texas, in the city of Dallas, at this time in history—only there and then could the owner of the highest-profile professional football team in existence build a $1.2 billion football stadium/palace/shrine, and then install in the middle of it 1,500 square yards of video screen that's hung so low that an NFL punter can hit the damn thing with a punted football during regulation play.

I know it didn't occur to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones that any punters would reach his video colossus with their kicks, but that fact that the Titans' A. J. Trapasso—not even the team's regular punter—did it in Friday night's pre-season game can mean only one thing: You hung the damn thing too low, Jerry.

If there were even only a .0001 percent chance that a kicker would hit the video screen, then YOU'VE HUNG THE DAMN THING TOO LOW, JERRY. And protest all you want that Trapasso was trying to hit the monstrosity on purpose. The fact that he DID hit it, and thus introduced into NFL play something totally unique—the do-over punt—means that not only did you hang the damn thing too low, Jerry, but now you must rectify the situation ASAP.

Even if you're feeling a little pimped, Jerry, it's really embarrassing to have the visiting team's punt carom off your ginormous state-of-the-art video screen. The fact that it happened in the very first game ever played in the new Cowboys Stadium maybe means you're lucky. What if it had happened for the first time in the final minutes of an NFC Championship game and somehow cost the Cowboys a Super Bowl berth? How would THAT feel, Jerry?

Everything's bigger in Texas. Especially the egos. And apparently also the desire to have the gaudiest and most foreboding piece of hardware possible hanging directly over the field of play in a new athletic facility conceived in nothing if not excess.

(Hey, has anyone checked all the nuts and bolts on that thing? It's not gonna fall down on top of the Redskins' offense during Monday Night Football, is it? Now there would be a headline: COWBOYS' VIDEO SCREEN CRASHES; PORTIS, CAMPBELL, 9 OTHERS DEAD.)

Talk about unnecessarily drawing attention to one's self. Anyone could have read Jerry's mind at that moment: "WTF?" And you know, Jerry? It doesn't matter if it was never gonna happen ever again. You STILL have to get your overhyped dumbass video screen hoisted up another 20 yards—just to be on the safe side. And if you can't, then maybe you'll just have to take the thing down. (Maybe put it in your rec room?)

Of all the shortsighted, unimaginative decisions a boss-man could make in designing his new football stadium, this one probably ranks highest. I mean, really, Jerry...REALLY?

Never has someone else's unexpected headache seemed so damn funny. But it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. Unless it were Al Davis.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Maria Advances

In Toronto last night, unseeded and former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova defeated 14th-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, 6-2, 7-6 (7-5) to advance to the Rogers Cup semifinals.

After a straightforward victory in the opening set, the Russian-born Sharapova rebounded from an early break of her serve in the second set, eventually winning a hard-fought tiebreaker to take the match. Sharapova battled a few instances of "double-fault-itis," but otherwise looked strong, lithe and beautifully intense. Her previous, most recent WTA victory, in Los Angeles, was over Radwanska's younger sister, Urszula. The Radwanskas are both "ginger kids," and Maria has their number.

Sharapova now faces Alisa Kleybanova in the semifinal round. The unseeded Russian Kleybanova surprised No. 5 seed Jelena Jankovic of Serbia 6-7 (6-8), 7-6 (9-7), 6-2, in a marathon three-hour match. Jankovic was last year's U.S. Open runner-up and last week's champion in Cincinnati.

After Los Angeles, Sharapova's world ranking moved from #61 up to #49. The tennis goddess, a three-time Grand Slam champ, continues to rehab her way back from rotator cuff problems and once again move into the higher echelons of competition.

Maria blew kisses to her fans after the match, and even managed a little Mona Lisa smile during her subsequent interview with ESPN. She appeared relieved to have finished off the spunky Radwanska, who, like her sister before her, simply could not ultimately compete with Sharapova's blistering forehand.

Say it loud and there's music playing,
Say it soft and it's almost like praying."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Titans, Colts Vie for AFC South Divisional Crown: SMA Co-Produces with

Sports Media America serves up its second entry in its new video production program. Nashville sports journalist Henry Nichols raps with fellow football freak Sean Vinett on AFC South rival Titans and Colts. Who will win the division in 2009?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

SMA Produces Video for

Sports Media America has waded into the video production world. This is our first, very humble effort, produced in conjunction with sports journalist Henry Nichols. Henry and fellow "talking head" Sean Vinett analyze the impact of Brett Favre's signing with the Minnesota Vikings. Yes, we know: This is sort of the "Wayne's World" of sports video, two earnest guys just talking at home. (We added the barking dog to add reality to the shoot. She-ahhh! Right!)

But we can already see ways to improve the presentation of these features, so expect to see more of SMA-produced material on video outlets.

Thanks for watching!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria’s?

Okay, I have a passing interest in tennis. But I don’t really follow the sport. I have general knowledge about the big names, and sometimes have been known to drop what I’m doing and start to watch a match on TV, willing to settle in if the competition compels.

I am also not one of those guys who tends to glom onto sexy lady athletes just because they look incredibly attractive in a tennis skirt or golf togs. Like, when Anna Kournikova was all the rage—a fine piece of Russian jailbait in her time—I didn’t really care. She is a fetching lassie, but now 28, pretty much retired from the game, she’s pursuing grown-up life with her boyfriend-singer Enrique Iglesias. (I looked that up!)

I’ll be damned if I remember watching Anna actually play tennis. But Thursday night just past, I watched Maria Sharapova defeat Urszula Radwanska of Poland, 6-4, 7-5, in straight sets in a quarterfinal of the L.A. Women's Tennis Championships. Now I’m all abuzz.

Yes, Maria is beautiful. She’s a goddess, for chrissake. All of 22 years old, Maria’s been around, I guess, but, again, despite knowing of her, I don’t recall watching her play tennis. (I’ve caught the Williamses in recent years on the telly, but that’s about it.)

Maria hurt her rotator cuff last year and had to suspend her game, undergoing surgery and intense rehabilitation to put herself back on the road to competitive play. Now, I don’t know what she was like on the court beforehand—really good apparently, as a three-time Grand Slam champ—but I understand that her voluble grunting and howling was always a part of the drill. Okay, well, she still does that, with every serve and return: if there’s such a thing as a Russian banshee, then she is one.

But this was no simple, dominant performance by a fine athlete. It was instead practically a Greek epic, with the Medea figure struggling mightily with her demons, striving to put everything back to the way it used to be.

In besting her feisty, smaller opponent—at 5'9," the 18-year-old “ginger kid” Radwanska looks even more petite—the 6’2” Sharapova clearly put her tussle with the gods of corrective surgery on display.

Three successive times, Sharapova double-faulted. I don’t recall seeing even mediocre tennis players do that. She double-faulted numerous times more—13 times altogether—and clearly, as she works her way back into the tennis spotlight, she is struggling hugely with her serve. The speed is there—the radar clocked her at 107 MPH at one point—but Sharapova is so all over the place in this critical area of her game, that she seemed clearly relieved to turn the service over to Radwanska, knowing full well that the powerful Sharapova forehand made breaking service the more viable offensive strategy. (Try pulling that with Serena Williams and surviving.)

Sharapova’s on-court intensity is dramatic—some might say unnerving. Her long, lithe arms and legs splay this way and that as she moves about the court, almost spasmodic yet also controlled by a curious animal instinct that is distinctly her own. With her lovely blondeishness, her ponytail bobbing and swinging with every furious slash of her racquet, her stoical Cassandra-like facial expression unchanging, and her grim determination, Sharapova is a compelling court presence, exuding stardom even when she drives yet another errant serve into the net or out of bounds.

The serve is a big problem, something she hasn’t reclaimed with any consistency since the surgery. But she’s still a potent volleyer, gifted with Amazon athleticism and a powerful right arm still capable of vanquishing opponents.

Yet Saturday, Sharapova lost her semifinal match with Italy’s Flavia Pennetta, #14-ranked in the world currently. Sharapova began the day at #61, a long way from the rankings of headier days. She extended the match to three sets, losing 2-6, 6-4, 3-6, while registering 16 double-faults, even worse than Thursday.

I don’t know about you, but I adore giraffes. They are rare, wondrous creatures. And now, having watched this uniquely physical giraffe of a young woman, I’m a fan. But rehab’s a bitch, even at age 22, and Sharapova needs to go get that serve fixed. If not, well, she’ll still be incredibly beautiful, which is all well and good.

But now I wanna watch her play...again. Hope it’s not too late.