Do You Believe in Miracles?

“It was the greatest sports moment of the twentieth century” – Al Michaels

Hopefully most of you know what I am getting at by now, but this post is on the Miracle on Ice: The 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team beating the Soviets and winning the gold medal, which took place exactly 31 years ago. This is by far my favorite moment in sports history, although I wasn’t even alive for it. I’ve seen my football and baseball teams win championships. I’ve seen my college teams win the conference crown and knock off #1 teams, but nothing compares to the Miracle on Ice.

I really don’t want this to be me just rambling on about why this even is the greatest in American sports history, but some background is necessary. I can quote the HBO documentary on it that I’m watching now, so I’ll hit some highlights.

  • The Russians (Soviets, CCCP, Soviet Union, etc.) had won gold at the last 4 olympic gold medals, outscoring their opponents 175-44, and this was considered their best team in years. They went on to win the next 2 gold medals until the Soviet Union split.
  • The Americans had one player who had been in the Olympics before and six months of practice together. The Soviets have been together and competing in the games for years.
  • The Russians had perhaps the best goalie in hockey history, and numerous other legends.
  • A couple of days before the Olympics, the Soviets embarrassed the NHL All-Stars 6-0 in Madison Square Garden.
  • “They played hockey the way we play basketball.” – Jim Lampley.
  • The Russians beat the American Olympic team 10-3 in an exhibition game 3 days before the games started in which “the score made it seem closer than it was” – Al Michaels.
  • The Russians weren’t just favored. They were 100% absolutely supposed to win. There was only one team who was even thought to have a slight chance at keeping with the Soviets, and the Americans were picked to finish sixth.

Aside with the numeric stats, the environment around the world had perhaps the biggest significance on the game. The Cold War was heating up, and the USA even boycotted the Summer Olympics in Moscow later that year for political reasons. Everyone was preparing for a war with the Russians. Imagine playing Germany in soccer in 1936. Gas prices and unemployment soared. The Russians invaded Afghanistan and we couldn’t get them out. Americans needed a reason to wave a flag and feel proud about themselves. Who knew it was going to be a bunch of college kids to give the USA that lift?

The lift for the team came from the head coach, Herb Brooks. He created himself as the enemy for the team, helping create a close bond between kids from so many different backgrounds. He was one of the toughest coaches in history, but he would always stand up for his players. I could go on and on about all the interesting and effective techniques Brooks uses, but the bottom line is he made the team believe they could win when nobody else did. The speech from the Disney movie isn’t word for word, but it’s very very close.

If this doesn’t give you chills, you’re either a Russian or you have no soul. Or both.

You honestly couldn’t have written it any better. I’m a huge fan of nonfiction stories and this is as intriguing as any gets. Ever. This one game changed not only the US forever, but the world. Name one other sporting event that has done that.

America.

Advertisements

Hollywood’s Trending Topic: Unoriginality

I’ve seen this coming for a while, but it seems this year the corner is going to be turned. Hollywood is abandoning original screenplays and going for stories based on books, movies, history, graphic novels, and other copied medium. I’ve read three articles in the last two days saying the same thing: Hollywood is going down the toilet because of this unoriginality. The proof is in the pudding.

2011 will break the record for sequels. There are 27 total sequels coming out next year. The most in history. They range from The Hangover: 2, to that unspeakable franchise that is on its 8th movie. Hollywood is done taking risks. They take something that has made money once and beat it to a pulp, ringing out every last penny that the movie can make. Some deserve it: (The Hangover, Toy Story, The Bourne Identity). But far too many don’t.

Even aside from sequels is the absolutely massive practice of taking a story from another media source and turning it into a movie. This year, of the ten movies up for best picture at The Oscars, only two have original idea screenplays: Inception, and The Kids are All Right. Both of which have little to no shot of winning the prize. For every one original movie made in hollywood, there are three sequels, prequels, remakes, reboots, or adaptations. I’m not saying I don’t want True Grit or Black Swan to win best picture, because I do. But hollywood needs to start taking chances on original screenplays, or the magic of a great writing mind might be lost forever.

Of course we all know why these risks aren’t taken: money.  Hollywood is a business. And what does Joel Poor teach you about business marketing the first day of class? NEVER MASS MARKET. You always need to segment the market into quadrants and then pick where you want your product to fit. The movie business is no different. There are 4 main quadrants, young boys, young girls, old men and old women. This is going to freak everybody out, but typically, the age cutoff from young to old is 25. Yeah I even feel old. It’s rare when a movie can cross all boundaries, and when that happens, you make the most money of all time. Avatar did just that. The widely accepted most responsive market segment is young boys. The testosterone filled, ADD, tough guy teenagers will go see anything with boobs and/or an explosion. Transformers is example A. With that prototype, we can begin to tie back in sequels too. (The third is coming out this year, and Shia LeBouf was quoted as saying that it won’t suck like the other ones. Don’t believe that). Just think of all the testosterone fueled movies that come out these days.

Where do a lot of these movies get their ideas from? Graphic novels and comics. A podcast I listen to (Film Vault, check it out it’s great) had a guest on the show who once pitched an idea to one of the big hollywood studios and was literally told to come back with an idea from a graphic novel.  I don’t read a lot of these, so I can’t genuinely comment if they are good or not, but the movies that are constantly spat out aren’t. They will keep coming, however. Why? You guessed it: because of the money. Ghost Rider (based on a graphic novel) was widely considered a turd movie. 5.2 on IMDb, 26% on Rotten Tomatoes. Yet, it earned $228 million, more than doubling its expenses. And yes, the sequel gets green-lit. Look away from it in 2012.

I’ll say it again: Hollywood is a business. And evil big businesses always have an uprising of small genuine companies at some point in time. Micro-brews are on the rise currently against Budwieser and MillerCoors. There is a similar movement against Hollywood in the form of film festivals, and one is right here in Columbia. I’m ordering my pass to the True/False Film Festival today. Some of these movies are based on other medium, but they are all made without dollar signs in the eyes and cash register bells in the ears. Give ’em a try. You might surprise yourself.

I love all types of movies, and I’ll always be a mindless dollar sign to the industry, consuming whatever they put out there. But I really think this year a page is turned and the chapter is permanently finished on originality in Hollywood.

Agree or not (you probably don’t). That is what I Think I Think.

Sources:

2011 Will Break All Time Record for Movie Sequels” – Germain Lussier

Inception May Be Oscar’s Last Chance to Award Originality” – Eric Eisenberg

The Day The Movies Died” – Mark Harris

It’s All Mental

I ran into a great article in the USA Today this morning that had an interesting little nugget of scientific information: There is no cure for the common cold. This may not be a big surprise to some of you, and it really isn’t for me. It goes right along with an opinion that I’ve had for awhile now.

One of my two favorite sayings from this summer in Ireland was “It’s all mental.” The other was “Builds character.” A typical exchange would go as follows:

Friend: “I can’t go out tonight I’m sick”.

Me: “No you’re not. That’s all mental.”

Friend: “No I literally feel like death.”

Me: “Just go out it builds character.”

I haven’t missed a day of school for sickness in over 5 years. Before that it was only about two days a year tops. I’ve never called in sick to work. I know people that didn’t miss a day of school for sickness their whole 13 years of elementary through high school. Are we just elite? Do our immune systems just kill everything the world has to offer? I really don’t think so. If I did, then I would be an egotistic prick and I’m not. I really truly think that if you don’t allow yourself to be sick than you won’t be sick.

Now wait just a second before you x-out of this window and think that I’m a nut. I know there are viruses, bacteria, and all that junk out there. I get cancer, appendicitis, and all that real serious stuff. I acknowledge that, don’t worry. I’m talking about the common cold, the sniffles, the sore throat, the cough, and the sneezing. Those actions may exist, but I think if you mentally don’t allow them to take over your day than you aren’t allowing them to exist.

I’ve lived in dorms and frat houses. I’m around viruses that probably haven’t even been named yet (old beeritis?). I maybe have gotten those sniffles and a sore throat once a semester, but I don’t care. I go to class. I go to work. I go out. I go to… okay that’s about all I do. Some days are easy to get through and some days aren’t. Just live your life without letting these microscopic germs affect you.

Some people have this huge fear of germs that I think is kind of pathetic. I agree with everything the late great George Carlin said:

We’ve all heard those random facts about germs. There is more germs on the average doorknob than the average toilet. Handling money is dirtier than handling poop. Germs are all around us. Don’t avoid them, embrace them and use them to make you stronger so you can go to school, work, and out.

So eat food off the floor, sneeze on your friends, ignore those germ-x bottles and dispensers that the university put around every corner, don’t wash your hands after using the bathroom (you’re saving water and paper too for you hipsters). Build up your immune system and build up your character.

Like it or not (you probably don’t) this is what I think I think.

Guest quote from Max Powell: “The only defense to the common cold is not allowing yourself to think that you have one.”

Talking Politics and Religion

In my quest to find other subjects to blog about besides movies and beer, I find myself just sitting in the new student center at Mizzou catching up on reading and tea. My reading consisted of a book called “Religion in American Politics,” for my Junior seminar religion class. Most of my former religion classes had very interesting books, from “Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality” to “Religion and Popular Culture in America,” they usually keep me entertained. This one now is especially interesting because it talkes about the two aspects that people aren’t supposed to talk about, Religion and Politics. And it discusses them together.

Ask the ol’ girlfriend Blair, I love talking about religion. I’ll always remember the late night at Steak ‘n Shake in high school with two Catholic guys vs. two Baptist girls. It was great to finally hear first hand what others believe and good to know you can defend your own faith. There were many “that sounds pretty ridiculous,” but it was all done with an open mind. And in the end, there wasn’t a “winner” in the religious arena, just friends that were glad they could ask questions they’ve always wondered.

Ask the roommates Dan and Evan, political arguments can be tough too. In the end, it did become more of an argument instead of a discussion, and I had to stand up and yell, “One more point each! Then we are done!” And I decided that even though there is a major called Political Science, politics are not an exact science at all. I find politics more difficult to discuss than religion, maybe that’s because I don’t keep up 100% with the news from DC, but who does.

Back to the book for religion class. I just started it, but chapter one is a very good insight to the beginnings of America and how religion has shaped that. Are we a Christian nation? Maybe. Is our government guilty of religious persecution at some point in history? Absolutely. There’s been a lot of change from those beginnings, but I think ultimately we won’t be able to answer a lot of the questions people want to ask. We can discuss those topics though to get a better understanding of America and religion.

Ultimately, we all want the best for America, ourselves, and each other (I hope). There are many ways to get there, but I think communication and discussion are extremely important in knowing what your path is to getting there. So talk it up. Ask me about religion and politics and I’ll be happy to converse.

Relax… Have a Homebrew

I’ve had a few failed hobbies in my day, but you learn from each one. I’m not sure what skateboarding taught me, but I sure did suck at it. My next hobby combines two of my favorite things: cooking and beer.

Saturday, I started my first batch of home brewed beer. If there’s one thing it takes to brew beer, it’s patience. That, and a kit of course, which isn’t cheap. I don’t know how many batches of beer it will take to make my money back, but $45 per batch that makes 5 gallons is pretty cheap beer.

Back to the patience. First you make it, and I won’t bore you with the process. If you really want to know, ask me and I’ll enlighten you. After you make it and put it in the big jug called a caper, it ferments for 2 days then sits for a week. Then you bottle it and age it for around 3 weeks. I have to wait a month to see if my Pale Ale is going to be good or not. I’m so nervous! The book about brewing I bought is very good about calming me down though. At the end of every page it just says “Relax… Just have a homebrew.”

So if you would like to try a bottle of Landwehr Beer, I’d be happy to give you one (only if it’s good though). If you want a little credit for it you can save pop top bottles for me cus I need around 50 per batch!

So stay safe in the snow, and relax… have a homebrew.