Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Forgotten Dream Team

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,
Saturday night, Dizzy & I headed out to Sacramento for a birthday party at Hamburger Patty’s… and we had a pretty damn good time shutting that place down. I was the DD & was quite responsible… but had a great time seeing Dizzy’s friends again (most of which I’ve met a few times now) and showing the Birthday Girl that we were willing to drive COMPLETELY out of the way to make sure she had a good time. I brought the house down with “Chocolate Salty Balls” and everybody else got good & tipsy. We finally got home around 4 AM for some sleeping. Good times! Happy birthday, Birthday Girl!
Sunday was pretty short… but I downloaded & played the PS3 video game “Ducktales: Remastered” which is basically a modern day version of the 1989 Nintendo game (which I owned & loved). It’s hard to believe that this game has been around basically 25 years already… but yeah, based on the popular Disney TV series and starring the likes of Scrooge McDuck, Huey, Dewey, Louie, Webbie, Mrs. Beakley, Launchpad McQuack, Gyro, Flintheart Glomgold, the Beagle Boys, Magica DeSpell, Gizmoduck & all the usual characters… and a classis sideview adventure game where you’re trying to find five treasures across the globe. Also… you get to take a dive in the Money Bin… and that’s almost worth the $10 anyway. I highly recommend it for an easy game that anybody can play & enjoy… and of course for the catchy theme song.
Also, I realized that I didn’t mention softball last week. Yup, it’s back in action. I missed the first game due to the Oregon trip… but now the games are Tuesday evenings for the next few months. Last week’s game, I played sparingly as we had a lot of players, but I was walked twice & ran in for scores both times. No real chances to show off the hitting power (which may or may not exist) and no real action playing in right field for two innings, but the important thing is that we won… actually it was slaughter ruled towards the end as I think we were up 18-5 or something like that.
This week’s game… we just couldn't get any solid hits... so we ended up losing 6-2 in a defensive struggle. They actually scored all of their runs in one inning, so other than that, it would've just been a boring game pretty much. Oh well, it was to the team that's always in the championships with us... so I'm guessing we're just luring them into a false sense of security. It was bound to happen eventually... even the greats lose from time to time.
Sunday night, I watched a movie that I had anticipated for a while called “Aftershock” from director Eli Roth (“Hostel”). It’s essentially a disaster/horror movie set in Valparaiso, Chile during the big 9.2 magnitude earthquake that hit them in 2011. It follows an international group of young partygoers experiencing the Chilean nightlife (which goes until the break of dawn EVERYDAY… Tuesday, Wednesday, whatever) and fun fact, the earthquake happened at like 3 AM on a Thursday… while thousands were in dance clubs. The first half of the movie is the set up of the characters & atmosphere, basically there’s a rich Chilean guy (who looks like Zach Galafinakis but isn’t) paying for everything, nobody else in the group speaks Spanish, and then when the earthquake hits… it’s basically a struggle for survival. Now, there are a LOT of realistic liberties taken with this movie. After the earthquake, yes, there was some panic… and 300+ people were killed… and many more injured… but it wasn’t a complete breakdown of society & social norms for the most part. This movie took it the extra step with not only including massive panic, paranoia, everything falling apart, looting riots, the language barrier, and all of that… but also throws in an entire prison escaping so everybody is getting killed & raped… and of course with any giant earthquake, there are the threats of aftershocks & tsunamis (Valparaiso is right on the shore). Now, I’m intrigued by the concept of society basically breaking down in the light of a disaster & those being protective of theirs… so it really intrigued me. I was worried that this movie was going to turn into “torture porn” like most horror flicks are nowadays… and there are some points where that’s the case, but more implied than previous movies in the genre… though yeah, there’s still a guy set on fire, plenty of impalements, crushings, rape, etc… but not a full fledged gore-fest. All in all, it’s a decent flick… and beautifully & intriguingly shot at times… but towards the end just gets a little out of hand. (Also, I feel like I knew how the movie was going to end based on the usual “horror flick rules” & how some things were passive mentioned in foreshadowing) I’d still say check it out if you’re into horror flicks… but it’s gonna be gory for most.
Monday night, I watched a movie that I noticed on a preview for Aftershock called “Solomon Kane” starring James Purefoy, Max Van Sydow & the late great Pete Postalthwaite. From the director of “Silent Hill: Revelation” Michael J. Bassett comes this story about a pirate captain named Solomon Kane (Purefoy) back in the year 1600 who after a life full of piracy, killing, stealing, murdering, probably raping & all that other fun piratey stuff (Disney?) finds out that the Devil has come to collect his soul. Well, he escapes the Reaper by jumping out of a window and landing into the ocean (about 1000 feet below). When he comes to, he decides to live a pious life at a monastery… but of course, he’s kicked out of the church to start his own life again instead of hiding… and along the way he meets a peaceful family whom he befriends… and they get killed and/or kidnapped by an evil army led by a mysterious giant warlord & a powerful wizard named Malokai. Well, now he’s on a mission to save the daughter of the family (and maybe all of Europe?) fueled by sweet, sweet vengeance… but it won’t be easy. The movie is pretty much what you expect. Lots of special effects & magic this & that… but overall, a pretty good flick. If you’re looking for a quick medieval tale of redemption & full of decapitations, then it’s on Netflix so check it out.
Last week though, I saw a wonderful documentary called “The Other Dream Team” that I thought it was rather important that I shared with you because… it’s one of my favorite stories in all of sports. Okay, so… how many of you remember the 1992 USA Dream Team? Everybody, right? Without a doubt the greatest basketball team ever assembled… and I dare say, best team possible throughout the history of basketball at any given point in time. Some may say something like a 1968 Dream Team would’ve had the likes of Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Lewis Alcindor, Elgin Baylor, Bill Russell, etc… but many of them were either at the tail ends of their careers or in college. Anyway, so we all know them. How about who got the Silver Medal in 1992? Some of you may be saying Team Croatia & would be correct, led by Drazen Petrovic, Dino Radja, Toni Kukoc & others. Who got the Bronze Medal that year? This is the story of that team…
First off, I just want to get a little personal. When I was a young’un, I recorded the Gold Medal game of USA vs. Croatia and watched it a few times… okay, more than a few. I remember a lot of plays, NBC showing the picture of my favorite basketball player David Robinson & his newborn son, and watching a fantastic first half… and then the USA basically dominating the 2nd half. I also remember highlights from the earlier bronze medal consolation game being a real nail-biter & having some pretty major historical significance… but more on that later. However, during the medal ceremony, I remember watching the team that won the bronze medal coming out in these red, green & yellow tie dye t-shirts… and basically getting an applause probably louder than the gold medal winners & wondering “What’s up with those shirts? And why are they so much cooler than those ridiculous things that Team USA is wearing?” But being in an age when history classes never get past WWII (still the case?) and before the internet, so I couldn’t just Google that sh*t & find out… I never really knew the whole story. This documentary tells it… quite well, definitely better than my paraphrasing that you’re about to read.
In 1988, the USA lost in the Olympics for only the 2nd time ever to the Soviet Union team. Four of the five starters from that Soviet Union team came from a little country of 3 million people called Lithuania… but they were under Soviet rule… and had been for over 40 years at that time. These players & that whole nation had struggled to keep their identity yet be under the harsh regulations & environments caused by the communist government. They weren’t paid well, had to stand in lines for bread, civil liberties were taken away, sometimes political uprisings were squashed violently, family members disappear, corruption, all that stuff. All the while, the NBA is finding out about some of these amazing players that are coming out from “behind the wall” like Arvydas Sabonis, who’s accurately described as “a seven-foot-three Larry Bird, eh can do everything” and guard Saranus Marcuilonis. However, the USSR won’t let them leave.
So the wall comes down in Berlin in 1989… and even then Lithuania has to fight for its independence… they declare it… and then Soviet tanks show up. The documentary goes into great detail about this (and I highly recommend that you watch it) but long story short, they are declared a sovereign nation in 1991, just in time to qualify for the Olympics in Barcelona by winning the European championship. One little problem though… the recently independent nation is completely broke. They can’t afford to go.

In 1989, Sarunas Marcuilonis was drafted by the Golden State Warriors & was the first Russian player to enter the NBA (and only after a heated trial with the Soviet gov't where basically the two possible outcomes were be granted his freedom to play in the NBA... or go directly to jail for treason & abandonment). His aggressive style of play made him a fan favorite almost immediately. Shortly after Lithuania became independent, he was on a road trip in Detroit & went to a Grateful Dead concert… and was invited backstage to meet the band. Well, being from San Francisco, they were huge fans… and fans of liberty… so they told Saranus that THEY would sponsor the Lithuanian basketball team for the Olympics (being bazillionaires I assume). So to repeat… the Lithuanian basketball team… was going to be sponsored by The Grateful Dead… so they could be in the Olympics. Yup.
During the Olympics, they lose to the USA in the semfinal… but this little nation of 3 million people is to play in the Bronze Medal consolation game… against the Unified Soviet Team that they had recently declared their independence from… and had actually lost to earlier in the Olympics during the seeding rounds. This game wasn’t only for a bronze medal… but to show that they weren’t just a Soviet state that got away… they were Lithuania!!! I think you know how this is going to end… but after a hard-fought close game… they won… and displayed those amazing tie dye t-shirts courtesy of the Grateful Dead during the medal ceremony. F**king fantastic story, right? One quote from the movie that really stuck with me was "The medal in '88 was Gold... but the bronze medal was our Soul." That's deep. Anyway, I really enjoyed it…
On that note, I will bid you adieu… and I’m gonna see about getting me a Team Lithuania Skullman T-shirt… and you just wait… maybe one day you’ll hear about me leading the newly independent Team Quebec to a hockey medal. VIVA $TEVE LOVE!!! VIVA QUEBEC!!! Have a great day everybody!!!

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