It's just a teaser of things to come
In what was billed as the "Biggest July Ever," it definitely did not disappoint. From planned expeditions to unscripted roadblocks, this July was big and got bigger along the way.
I am endeavoring to chronicle the events of the July in my journals and various media, but fear not, What's Up will get the lowdown as well. All we are really waiting for now, is the pictures. Booyah!!!
So stay tuned for the recap of the... Biggest... July... Ever!
June 28, 2004
Lakers lose... and I'm ok with that.
I bill myself as a Laker fan (they are the home town team and we all know the Clippers are really the JV squad). I was a big Laker fan in my youth, did a little experimenting with other team allegiances in my teens, and then we all saw the Return of the Prodigal Fan recently, so go Lakers!
But even though I was rooting for the Lakers, I was pleased to see the Pistons win. I don't like the Pistons per se, but if I have one character flaw, it's that I'll root for the underdog every time. These Pistons weren't the "Bad Boys" of the early 90s, hated rivals that I wanted to lose. No, these guys were a team of random warm bodies that featured a guy in a 'fro, a guy in a mask, and a guy who's known as the "Walking Technical." They played in a such a significantly weaker conference that it was assumed that whoever emerged as Leastern Conference Champions would be the sacrificial lamb to the West Champ.
Well, it didn't happen that way did it? And if it weren't for Kobe's last second heroics in Game 2, these Finals would have been a sweep. So congrats to the Detroit Pistons on their NBA Championship.
...Plus the Stanley Cup
Oh, yeah, the Stanley Cup Finals just completed, too. And check this: the dude that owns the Pistons, 81-year old Bill Davidson, owns the NHL Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning as well. So I can imagine that one morning, this guy woke to find the Larry O'Brien Trophy on one side of his bed, and the Stanley Cup on the other. Bastard! (please note, I say this with the utmost respect!) Interesting tidbit; even though the Lightning were the better team, Davidson thought that the Pistons had a better chance of winning a title.
Just some quick hockey thoughts:
-Before the playoffs started, I predicted that Tampa Bay would be the team to beat. But as the playoffs went on, I just on the Flames bandwagon. At one point, I caught an internet radio feed during one of the Flames/Sharks matchups.
-I'm not be negative or nay-saying, but the entire 2004-2005 season will be scrapped due to the labor dispute. I'm not sure whose side I'm on during this issue either.
-Mario Lemieux will not move the Penguins out of Pittsburgh. But if a new arena is not built, I would not be surprised to see him sell the team to someone who would. Portland Penguins, anyone? (if Mario sold out and the team was moved, I'll stop being a Pens fan and be a full-time Ducks fan. It's that whole Return of the Prodigal Fan thing)
-The new World Hockey Association will not be as successful as people hope. Because while it gained respect for putting a team in Hamilton, ON, and Halifax, NS, it lost points by putting a team in Jacksonville, FL. [Personal Opinion]
How 'bout them Greeks?!?!
So Greece entered into the Euro 2004 tournament as an underdog. It was placed a group with Spain, Russia, and host Portugal. Now Greece has never won a game in a finals before. In any prior World Cup or European Championship that it did manage to qualify for (which hasn't been many), they are winless. 0 for ever. But in the opening match, against the hosts, Greece won... easily. Man, the party was just starting. Greece finally won a game in a major tourney. Oh, and then it tied Spain in the second game Greece beat Spain earlier in qualifying, forcing Spain to win a playoff to get in. So with Spain looking for blood, Greece scores a tie (which in the eyes of all Greeks, still very much a win, because now in this tourney, 2 matches, zero losses)
Greece lost against an already eliminated Russian side, but with a Portugal win over Spain, Greece advanced to its first ever tournament quarter-finals, as the runner-up in Group A!
And then over the weekend, in a game where pretty much, the Greeks were just happy to be there, they go ahead and pull the upset of year by beating the defending European champions, France. What?
That's right, Greece beat France for the first time in their history to earn a berth in the their first ever semifinals of the European Championship. Double what?
So I'm asking you, "How 'bout them Greeks!"
Speaking of Sports and Greece...
What of the Olympics and the fiasco of staging it? Somehow, things are moving. Somehow. If you're curious why the Greeks are finding every way to botch this, I'll sum it all up with the old adage, "Too many chiefs. Not enough Indians." Everyone has their say and think their way is the best. There is no compromise. Ever. And when it became apparent that the traditional infighting, that is such a part of the Greek political way of life, would show the country and its citizens in an embarrassing light internationally, it was too late. Now, in order to get projects done on time, it's going to cost them. A lot.
How bad was it? At one point, certain memos and phone calls were made to Sydney and Los Angeles. Why? To host an emergency Olympics if need be. When the 2003 Women's World Cup was forced to move from China because of SARS, the United States (the last host in 1999) offered its services to host. Thus the Cup was moved, and China gets it back in 2007. Could the same fate befall the Athens Games? Luckily, the Games get to stay in Athens. Luckily.
With about a month left, I imagine that workers will be at it 'round the clock until Opening Day. And I can guarantee that if the Games suck, everyone will be pointing fingers, passing blame. If the Games are a success, everyone will claim credit for their own. It's sad, but I know my people.
My prediction: If there is one thing I know about my people, is that we Greeks are a proud bunch. They will make these Games a success (even if it drives them into a wicked debt) simply in order to save face.
Sports and Hash
As I reread What's Up from time to time, I've noticed that I write about sports alot. I did a little reflection to determine why I write about the sport, and discovered that hey, it's what I like to write about. I don't like to write about politics, too boring. I don't like to write about religion, people tend to get pissy about stuff like that, and my faith's healthy without the need for self-expression. I don't like to write about Bronze Age Swedish art, because, I really don't know how to pronounce any of it. I don't like to write about history, did enough of that in college. I don't like to write about fiction, because when I finally finish my epic, I'm making you all pay for a copy when I do author signings at your local Book-opolis.
So looks like I talk about sports mostly. And other random stuff. Because I like it and make it funny. Ya, let's go with that.
Biggest July... EVER!
I might be able to squeeze one more issue of What's Up before July explodes with action. But if I don't, you all know why. If you don't know why, where the hell have you been? (See below)
May 11, 2004
BIG JULY - AMONG OTHER THINGS
The Big July
As was announced on the random radio show, the World of Demosthenes is going to have a BIG July. The Biggest Ever. In case you missed it, in July we will be celebrating Demosthenes XXX, Lost Expeditions will be heading to Zion National Park, and it all starts with the wedding of the year. Yours truly will be getting married, Greek style! Let's run it down.
TBJ: Demosthenes + Valerie
On July 10, at St. George in Downey, California, I will have the honor of marrying the greatest woman in the world, Ms. Valerie Joy Peters, in a Greek Orthodox service. I can't tell you how much that rocks. I am thrilled beyond words.
But before we go any farther, a disclaimer. Any reference to the cinematic classic "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" will be ignored. Come on people. Yes, we have seen the movie. Stop asking. Our wedding will be more or less like the one in the movie. Stop asking. No, our reception won't be at Athena's Garden. Stop asking!
It's going to be a great day. Be sure to look for more on this as the Big Day approaches.
TBJ: Lost Expeditions' Next Stop= Utah!
Lost Expeditions will be headed to the splendor that is Zion National Park in southern Utah. For those that are curious, Lost Expeditions is a venture to visit as many national parks as possible. We recently went to Joshua Tree, but Zion is going to be a nice trip because I hear it is absolutely gorgeous. Maybe, we'll take a day trip over to Bryce Canyon National Park as well.
TBJ: Demosthenes XXX
That's right! We are going to celebrate 30 Years of Demosthenes on July 24. I'm a little baffled by the fact that I'm going to be 30. Does this mean, I'll have to actively consider myself an adult?
Not much planning is going into the Demosthenes XXX event as of yet (I am getting married and going to Zion. What more could I want?) But we'll see what happens. Stay tuned for info.
And now on to other things....
Arsenal - Undefeated Champions
How 'bout them Gunners?!?! Arsenal played 38 games in the English Premier League, and didn't lose a single one. The first to go undefeated since Preston back in 1888-1889. That's right, over 100 years ago, and back then, they only played 20 games. And what's scary is that this team will remain pretty much intact next year, so other teams will need to find a way to solve the Gunners if they want to the dethrone the Champions. Will that happen? I'm guessing no.
And Arsenal went very deep in both the FA Cup and UEFA Champions' League, so they will be equally tough to beat in those tournaments as well. (on a side note, I bought the FA Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Manchester United on Pay-per-view, and I kinda knew it wasn't Arsenal's day when the Man United keeper made a save on an empty net header from flat on his ass).
Congrats to the Undefeated Champions... Arsenal Football Club!
I was talking to a friend of mine and when asked what I would do in Vegas besides gamble, and I told her that I would see a show, lay by the pool, visit the Liberace Museum... which prompted the response, "Who's Liberace?" What? She honestly didn't know who Liberace was. It's a sad day when Liberace doesn't carry the same cultural significance in the world like he used to.
For those that don't know, Liberace (full name: Wladziu Valentino Liberace) was born in Wisconsin to Polish parents. He was a world class musician and pianist and did TV work as well. And he put the word "flamboyant" in the English language. For more information, visit the website of the Liberace Museum at www.liberace.com.
So once again, being a member of the media has it perks as I hit the E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) at the Los Angeles Convention Center. This is the big trade show where all the new video games are unveiled. And I can sum up the entire day in one word, "Yawn."
I really was expecting so much more, but alas, I was left very much underwhelmed. The bulk of the show was dedicated to new games coming out, but most of them were all sequels. Jak 3, Metal Gear Solid 3, Resident Evil 4, Silent Hill 4, Kingdom Hearts 2, Final Fantasy XII, etc., etc., etc.
Yes, the new games are visual appealing and getting better all the time, and gameplay for some of the games were smoother than before, but nothing really stood out. Buzz from the floor of the expo confirmed this. One guy I spoke with likened this year to a period of refinement, where more emphasis was spent of tweaking what was already out there instead of forging ahead with something new. A gentleman at the Ubisoft booth said that the most game developers have the hit the wall because that's as far as the technology (namely the game consoles) will let them go. That's one of the reason for the sequels and more online play.
And there was serious redundancies with the expo regarding the games. Say you went to the PlayStation booth (when I say booth, I mean something the size of a small house with backyard), you could play FIFA Soccer 2005, for example. You could go to the Xbox booth and play it there as well. And then you could go to the EA Sports booth and play it there, on both systems. I guess this repetitive motif must be for the short-attention-span crowd.
There were only 4 things that tickled my fancy. Here they are.
4) Nintendo- Went to the Nintendo booth and asked the Media girl, "So what's new and exciting with Nintendo?" This was the dialogue that followed: "Are you kidding?" "No." "Well, we have the new Nintendo DS coming out." "What's that?" "Are you kidding?" "Uh, no. I haven't heard of it." "Are you with the U.S. media?" "Yes, I am." (when I got back to the KTST mega-studios, no one had any clue what it was either. Station Manager Connie, who has her finger on the pulse of technology, vaguely remembered hearing about it once I described what it was, but didn't know the name... so there Nintendo! :-P) Anyway, the DS is pretty much a Game Boy with two screens, but the bottom one is a touch screen as well. Cool? Yes. Exciting? Not really. When I was talking to some of folks checking out Nintendo, the general sentiment was that Nintendo luckily remains a player in the video game industry because it owns Pokemon and has utter dominance in the hand-held arena.
3) Mobile Phone Gaming- Cruised by the folks at Jamdat, makers of games for mobile phones. Incredible strides are being made in mobile gaming. With newer phones, these games have the look and feel of games from about 8 years ago on dedicated consoles, and that's high praise considering that the devices these games play on are primarily telecommunication devices. Learned a lot about game development for mobile phones (such as that it's harder to develop for phones because you can't debug on the device, and you have to tweak the game for each and every type of phone). I played some titles on the phones, and playing with the keypad kinda reminded me of my old IntelliVision. The mobile phone gaming exhibits was definitely worth coming to the E3.
2) Street Fighter II- The longest lines I saw for anything, were for the old-school Street Fighter II arcade machines. That's right, not the new console games, oh no, the action was at the Street Fighter games. And they were there because Capcom is going to release a 15th Anniversary Street Fighter game for the major consoles. 15 years? Man, I don't think I've ever felt so old when I realized that I played SF2 when it first came out and that was FIFTEEN FREAKIN' YEARS ago! I think all my joints tightened up when that dawned on me.
1) Phantom- Infinium Labs is unveiling what it calls the "Phantom." The premise is that it brings PC gaming into the living room, and is billed as the "First On-Demand Gaming System.". It's a box with a lap-keyboard, mouse, and game controller. For a monthly fee, you'll have access to all of Phantom's games for no additional charge. The best way to explain it concisely, would be say it's like cable, but instead of television programming, it's games. Games are stored on Phantom's server, and you download them as you play them, over a broadband internet access. And they'll even have "pay-per-view" games. Let's say you want to play Doom 3 the day in comes out, you can, for a small additional fee. They kept hyping the fact that if you sign a 2-year agreement ($29.99/month), you'll get all the hardware free. It's play standard PC games, but a lot of console games make the PC transition, so that's not really an issue. It's an interesting system that will launch this November.
So after having a quasi-boring time at the E3, I was asked if I would do this again next year. Without hesitation, my response was, "Oh hell yeah!" Honestly, why not?
And on telecasts, when they talk about a player, they talk about how he was allocated by a particular NFL team. Hey, how about talking about the team they're playing for now?
One rule in NFL Europe is that every other down must have a "national" player on the field. Each team carries a small handful of players that are native to the country they are in. So every other down, they get to go onto the field and run around. Usually, the national player is like the 3rd wideout, or a back-up lineman. Not really building bridges here are we?
One national player is wide receiver Scott Couper of the Scottish Claymores. He is the face of the Claymores franchise even now, in his 9th season, after he came out of retirement. Why? Because each year, the Claymores are made up of a fresh batch of 3rd and 4th stringers from the NFL, and if they are lucky, may get to spend 2 seasons with the same club. That doesn't really build brand loyalty.
Apparently, the NFL is absolutely content with the current situation. Even though London and Barcelona have folded, two new German cities stepped up willing to accept new teams. But I think a new, fresh mentality could and would liven up and elevate a very good league and concept.
First: While I don't anticipate it ever reaching a 50-50 ratio of NFLers and European nationals, I think you can and should have 2-3 nationals on the field for every down. A lot of these kids can play, they just don't get much of a chance. According to the NFL itself, amateur football is played all over Europe and is very popular. These players become your "national" players. And if there were more nationals on the team, people would gain legitimate interest in the team and their games.
Second: Here in the United States, we have a great minor league baseball system. Minor league teams are affiliates of the teams in the bigs, so everyone knows that these players may not stay in the minors all that long. For example: The Norfolk Tides are the AAA affiliate of the New York Mets. People in Norfolk know that these kids are playing to make it to the bigs, but these players aren't labeled as Mets trying to earn a spot and gain experience, these players are Tides, plain and simple.
That's what needs to happen in NFL Europe. You shouldn't be a Seahawk playing in Amsterdam. For 10 weeks, you are an Admiral and nothing else. That's how this league should be billed as.
Believe it or not, these simple two things will benefit this league immensely and improve the product as well. But of course, another one of my great ideas fall on deaf ears.