Saturday, January 31, 2015
Friday, January 30, 2015
Sunday, January 25, 2015
Friday, January 23, 2015
Thursday, January 22, 2015
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
VIA Bleacher Report: Confetti flew and fireworks roared inside the Superdome in New Orleans at the close of WrestleMania 30 in April. More than 75,000 people, at least one from each of the 50 states and thousands more from 37 countries around the world, chanted in unison with the unlikely center of attention, Daniel Bryan, inexplicably, almost unbelievably, the new champion of the world.
"A miracle on Bourbon Street," announcer Michael Cole screeched, voice cracking, all sense of objectivity gone in what was essentially an extended morality play. "The impossible dream has become reality."
Spanning more than eight months, Daniel Bryan's struggle to the top and ultimate triumph is one of the greatest storylines in WWE history. And it was one that almost didn't happen, rescued from the abyss by chance, circumstance and, most of all, the fans.
WWE granted Bleacher Report unprecedented access into its normally closed world, detailing how a story like this makes it from the writer's room to the board room and finally into the ring.
For much of wrestling history, the action in the ring was called on the fly, with talent deciding how the match would proceed based on the crowd response and their own sixth sense about what would be effective. Interviews were done in a similar style.
Today, WWE is a completely different beast. Much of a televised wrestling match is designed with the help of agents backstage, former wrestlers with a knack for in-ring storytelling. Likewise, the interviews, once off-the-cuff diatribes, are carefully scripted by a team on the fourth floor of WWE's Stamford, Connecticut, headquarters.
"We have a whole department, a creative writing department. We have more than 20 writers at this particular time," said WWE Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events and Creative Paul Levesque (aka legendary WWE superstar "Triple H"). "They come from everywhere. From soap operas to late-night television to movies to theater to former wrestlers. Storytelling is storytelling. Some of them are fans and have a wrestling background. Others don't. They might be really good at the relationship part and somebody else has to help them bring it back to the ring. ... It's a staggering job. The thing is it's never-ending. It's not just they write Monday Night Raw. They write about 10-15 hours on any given week of original content."
It's a job that requires both copious creativity and a nimble willingness to meet change head-on. A new week begins Wednesday, after Raw ends Monday night and SmackDown tapes on Tuesday night, with several meetings to flesh out ideas for the next week. Eventually, the rough ideas end up being presented to the lead writing team and senior brass, including WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon, in a giant conference room with a long sturdy table.
On Monday, after days of development, the script hits the hands of the talent and the road team of agents and experts. For main event angles, top talent like Daniel Bryan get a chance to add their voices to the mix. While he'd normally share his thoughts with a road agent assigned to his matches, working with heavyweights like Triple H eliminates a step in the process.
"When I'm working with Triple H, it's easy," Bryan said. "I just tell Triple H what I think. He's very smart as far as what works. If he's bringing you something, it's usually a pretty good idea.
"He's got years of experience working with these top-level, high-level storylines. My brain doesn't work like that. I was on the independent scene so long, I think in terms of matches. 'Oh, this would be a great concept for a match or this would be a great story within the context of a match.' ... And sometimes we might not necessarily agree, and we'd go and talk to Vince."
Once talent has had its cut, the entire creative team gets a final chance to perfect the finished product. Even then, it's not considered truly complete until it hits the air on the USA Network in front of an average audience of between four and five million viewers a week.
"We're tweaking that thing until it's out the door," Triple H said. "It's not done until it's live. And even then, it's living and changing. [John] Cena can go out for segment one, come back and say, 'I'm not feeling this for later.' And he's right.
"The hardcore fans cringe when we say this. But the reality of it is, the story is the magic...and the truth is, though all of our storylines have to end up back in the ring and the wrestling part has to deliver to the point fans say, 'That was awesome, what a payoff,' we're not boxing. ... It's about characters and their relationship. That's a storyline. We are more like the Rocky movie than we are like a sport. The storylines are what's important."
In the end, every pitch, every discussion between creative equals, every argument, ends up adjudicated by a single decision-maker.
"The final call is Vince," Triple H said. "He gets all these suggestions and ideas, and he weighs in on them. It's a collaborative effort, but there's one general. And that guy makes the final call. There's never an open-ended debate between four people about what should happen on the shows. ... At some point it gets to Vince, and Vince goes, 'Here's what we're going to do.' And that's what we go do."
Listed at a generous 5'10" and an even more generous 210 pounds, and sporting a beard that would make a Brooklyn hipster proud, Daniel Bryan doesn't resemble the wrestlers of our childhood. His muscles, though sturdy, would never be described as bulging. His interviews, likewise, are toned down from the screaming fits that characterized wrestling in the 1980s. His is a different kind of sports entertainment: fast-paced, hard-hitting and realistic.
Many of WWE's most ardent fans believe that cult sensations like Bryan, and their burgeoning popularity, fly under the company's radar—that crowd favorites are somehow invisible to those in authority, or worse, politically unpopular, unable to overcome perceived resistance from decision-makers at the top level. But in our exclusive interviews, a different picture emerged. Contrary to fan complaints, WWE was watching Bryan's ascent closely and waiting for its time to strike.
"Our fans do have a powerful voice. They do influence our decision-making and our storytelling," Vince's daughter and WWE Chief Brand Officer, Stephanie McMahon, said. "When our fans got behind Daniel Bryan in the beginning...that absolutely was a key indicator to us that Daniel Bryan was an A-plus player, not just in our minds, but in our fans' minds.
"He was absolutely a talented in-ring performer. That anyone could see. The fact that our fans were connecting with him on an even more emotional level—and then when we started telling the story the way they got behind him, we just knew that he was the right guy."
In Daniel Bryan, eternal underdog, Triple H knew he had a great good guy. What he needed was a villain worthy of him.
In the end, only one choice made sense—the McMahon family themselves.
Vince, now 69, was no longer a regular television character and couldn't resume that role opposite Bryan full time. Instead, Triple H and Stephanie decided they would step into his shoes, returning from time off-screen to take a lead role on television in much the same way they had behind the scenes. Neither, of course, was any stranger to the ring. Triple H was an icon in his own right, a performer who remained relevant across the eras and over the years.
Stephanie, too, had spent years on camera as part of WWE storylines, later graduating to take over the company's creative department, preparing to one day step forward as the face of what is now a corporate behemoth. But this would be a creative role unlike any she had ever played.
The two saw a pair of distinct but related missions as they decided to go forward with this story. The first was well under way—making fans fall in love with the unlikely Bryan. The harder job, they thought, would be making Stephanie one of the most believable, gleefully evil characters in WWE history, a match for her father in every way. Because while Triple H would be there, his legend and physical presence lending strength and credibility, the true villain was Stephanie.
"It's important to understand I have an advantage over most," Stephanie said. "I literally grew up with my father, who is not just the chairman and CEO, but ultimately the head writer. I had the unique opportunity to really grow and learn from him directly. To hear his feedback on other characters and performers. To ask questions, to not only him but to my husband, who is really an expert psychologist. To learn the whys of what we do. Then you can focus on the how."
Years in the creative department had honed Stephanie McMahon's ability to deliver exactly the kind of character the script called for, shifting effortlessly from noxious charm to sneering superiority with the flip of a mental switch.
"It's really just the experience I've gained while I was off the air," Stephanie said. "I became a mother three times over. I grew as an executive in my corporate role. The boardroom can actually be just as intense as WWE's ring. I think I just really broadened my perspective. I'm able to bring a lot of that experience and a lot of that learning back into my character."
After conceiving the plan, the company put Bryan through a series of challenges that made him a legitimate contender. No longer the unsung hero, he was right in the middle of the top storylines. Vince McMahon himself made a rare return, questioning Bryan's fitness to represent his company and forcing him to prove himself by running a gauntlet of top stars to earn his place in a match against WWE's top star John Cena at SummerSlam 2013.
In storyline, Cena had chosen Bryan as his top contender. In reality, he was taking some time off to deal with a torn tricep. This wasn't just any match—it was the main event. This was the top of the top, a huge leap for both Bryan the character and Bryan the performer.
"To me, the hallmark of a great performer, either in the ring or in an interview segment, is your ability to bring up the people you're working with. I was very lucky, because my natural promo ability is not that great. I'm not overly talkative, and in person, I'm kind of quiet,'" Bryan said.
"Working with John really helped me. He gave me a lot of advice as far as, 'Hey, if it's not you out there, if it's somebody trying to put words in your mouth, it won't sound natural to you. And it won't sound natural to the audience."
Bryan beat Cena cleanly in the center of the ring, something that almost never happens in WWE. It was a career-defining moment—or so it seemed. But just seconds after winning the biggest match of his career, Triple H, the guest referee, kicked Bryan in the gut and slammed him face-first to the mat.
Randy Orton—who had previously won the Money in the Bank event, allowing him to challenge the champion at a time and place of his choosing—then cashed in his guaranteed shot at the title, effortlessly taking the championship from Bryan's hands. Thanks to Triple H's assault, Bryan's new title was ripe for the picking.
He had been champion for less than a minute.
The next night on Monday Night Raw, Stephanie returned with a purpose, establishing herself as Bryan's main opposition. Standing a few inches taller than him in enormous heels, she calmly explained that making Orton the face of the company was simply "what's best for business."
It was a sneering tour de force of condescension, one meant to appeal to anyone who's worked for even a second in today's corporate America. And it was brilliant.
"Stephanie is so good with facial expressions and looking so bratty, it's easy to play off of," Bryan said.
What followed were weeks of televised torture, with McMahon, Triple H and their minions doing everything in their considerable power to break Bryan—and the fans. Stephanie was particularly brutal, attacking his height, looks and capability to headline WWE cards.
"What we do is a form of method acting. We try to make the situations as real as possible," she said. "I know when I'm performing I absolutely try to become my character.''
Her interactions with Bryan felt so personal, so real, that some were afraid she was doing too good a job convincing fans he wasn't worthy of their affections.
"The whole idea is for people to feel bad for him because of what we said. To have sympathy for him and want to see him shut us up," Triple H said. "When we can do something that makes people forget that someone wrote this, that's the art form of what we do.''
In seven shows in a row between August and September of 2013, Bryan was abused in the ring. While some in the wrestling media thought he needed to be thrown a bone now and then and that his push was being mismanaged by WWE writers, it was Bryan himself who insisted on being beaten down again and again.
"I thought, 'If I'm going to be beat up, I need to be really, really beat up.'" Bryan said. "I thought it was important to get what we call heavy heat on me in all of those segments. To get that sympathetic response."
In a strange collision of the real world and the WWE Universe, Bryan's story came to a screeching halt in October 2013. Just weeks after he had failed once again to secure the WWE Championship from Orton, Bryan ran into an even fiercer opponent—the stock market.
The preliminary numbers for SummerSlam were in—and they weren't pretty.
"They didn't buy the attraction," Vince McMahon told WWE investors during a conference call. "And these PPVs are attraction based...SummerSlam was not the right attraction. That was a swing and a miss."
WWE fans, the ones who were invested in the product financially and emotionally, were left unsatiated. Economics, combined with the early return of Cena from a tricep tear, spelled the end of Bryan's run as the top good guy.
There was no feel-good moment. After three months of being stymied at every turn, Bryan never triumphed. Rather than culminate, it was a story that just seemed to fizzle out. On WWE Raw, the attention shifted to Big Show, billed as the world's largest athlete and a company mainstay, who was suddenly the show's protagonist.
The Bryan Movement Lives
The fans, however, weren't willing to let go quite so easily. On the December 9, 2013 edition of Monday Night Raw, in Bryan's home stomping grounds of Seattle, chants for the new superstar were so deafening that he actually broke character and broke out into a laugh as Triple H attempted to speak over the din.
By the Royal Rumble in January, fans had had enough. When Bryan wasn't a surprise entrant in the Rumble, the winner of which goes on to WrestleMania to challenge for the WWE title, the crowd at Pittsburgh's Consol Energy Center was livid. They booed Batista's win with a derision that was hard to miss.
"I think the moment that really changed the tide for me was something I actually had nothing to do with. And that was the Royal Rumble match. It was not being in it, and the fans being really upset that I wasn't in it, that changed the course of my trajectory for WrestleMania," Bryan said. "To me, that was the moment. It's funny, and maybe fitting with my personality, that in my big moment I wasn't even there."
It suddenly seemed like it was time to bring Bryan back into the fast lane, to reward him, and his fans, with a high-profile match for WrestleMania, WWE's Super Bowl. There was only one problem: CM Punk.
"Triple H was trying to make it me and him at WrestleMania," Bryan said. "It was originally on the schedule as him versus CM Punk, but Triple H thought that after the story we had over the summer, it would make so much more sense for us to continue that story."
The internal debate ended abruptly with Punk's departure from WWE just 30 minutes before the start of Monday Night Raw on January 27, 2014. Now, there was nothing standing in the way of Bryan's return to the top of the card.
When the company prepared to renew Bryan's push behind the scenes, his Rumble snub became part of the storyline, with Bryan encouraging the fans to continue their vocal support. Dissent from Bryan's aborted run on top and Punk's departure was brewing among WWE fans. Again, Triple H and Stephanie say they saw it as an opportunity in disguise, a chance to make Bryan the face of a fan movement.
"We had the evil corporate guys, and we had the little underdog," Bryan agreed. "I'm quirky and independent, like all the little mom-and-pop shops fighting against the big box stores. It just resonated with people. It's something we're going through as a society."
That anti-authority sentiment among fans led to a mass social media movement that peaked at Monday Night Raw on March 10, 2014 in Memphis, Tennessee. "There were even threats to riot if they didn't get what they wanted,'' Triple H said of the "Hijack Raw" movement fueled by the fans. "We said 'Alright, let's do it. Let's base it around Daniel and go down that road.'"
WWE's challenge was taking that kind of organic energy, even negative energy, and molding it, using it in their storytelling in a way that doesn't diminish its power or feel fake.
"We actually used it as an opportunity to help Daniel Bryan's character," Stephanie said. "When he went out on TV that night, he talked about 'Hijack Raw.' And he encouraged our fans to take control. His character believed there was strength in numbers and that the people could eventually overcome any abusive authority figures. We used that Hijack Raw campaign to bring what appeared to be a horde of fans into the WWE rings and the surrounding areas and holding almost like a sit-in."
Bryan, who kept his hand on the pulse of the audience throughout the storyline, was afraid it might be overkill, believing the angle's success or failure would depend entirely on the mood of the crowd that night. If they weren't willing to play along, well, he was going to look awfully foolish.
"But then, when the people in the ring were so enthusiastic and the people in the building were so enthusiastic, halfway through I thought, 'This is going really well,'" Bryan said.
While the gathering wasn't a truly independent gaggle of fans, consisting in large part of dozens of the 130 WWE employees who staff Raw every week, there were real fans involved. And with non-participants came an element of danger.
"There was a whole unpredictable feel to it because you didn't know what was going to happen,'' Bryan said. "In wrestling, I'm confident I can go out there and put on a match that people will enjoy. But when it comes to some of these story elements, I'm not as confident. Instead of 'Yes,' I'm thinking 'I hope, I hope, I hope, I hope, I hope that these people will like this.'"
After weeks of begging for a match at WrestleMania 30 with Triple H, and being told over and over again that he wasn't worthy of that kind of honor, Bryan's storyline sit-in changed the equation. Finally, after months of nothing but setbacks, Triple H knew the time was right for Bryan to finally get a win under his belt.
Bryan got the match he wanted—then pushed for something better. Instead of an opportunity at revenge, Bryan secured a promise that the winner of the match would be inserted into the night's final match, a bout for WWE's newly unified championship.
There was now the small matter of execution. This was where Bryan felt most comfortable. The pressure now, assuredly, was on the broad shoulders of Triple H.
The two men had never met in the ring. And while that's not always a problem for two seasoned professionals, they come at a match from very different mindsets. Bryan is all action, move after move, an assault on the senses that never seems to cease.
Triple H, at this point in his career, is a minimalist. He can work long and often elaborate matches while often using just a handful of moves. It was an experiment that was bound to be interesting if nothing else.
For Triple H, not doing too much served two purposes. While protecting Bryan for a second match was important, he also wanted to make a point that sometimes, cliche or not, less is really more. That was his imprint on the match, making everything that happened in the course of 25 minutes matter.
The two reached a middle ground that ended in a classic match, the two styles melding perfectly in a match that somehow represented the respective ethos of both men.
It ended, as it had to, with Bryan's hand held high. But just as it had been throughout the storyline, his moment of glory was fleeting. Stephanie slapped Bryan—and slapped him hard.
Though it must have stung, it was just a distraction for what was to come. Triple H pounded Bryan's already injured shoulder with a steel chair. A limp, quivering mass on the ground, Bryan would, as he had throughout, enter the main event as a decided underdog.
Crowning the Champion
After eight months, the story culminated with good triumphing over evil. Could it have ended any other way?
In the end, Bryan made Batista tap out. This time there were no buts, no evil management team just waiting to take it all away. This time it was for real.
"It was all very crafted, and it was an incredible story that took us on quite a ride," Stephanie said. "We're really proud of Daniel, and we're proud of the story we were able to tell."
In some ways, it felt like an ending instead of a beginning. The Daniel Bryan era, even then, seemed unlikely. Every metric, in fact, still pointed to Cena as the true face of WWE, no matter how mixed his response from fans at live events.
But that was boardroom thinking. That was a concern for tomorrow. In the moment, as the fireworks blasted and the confetti fell, it felt like something special. Because it was.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Monday, January 19, 2015
Sunday, January 18, 2015
The three of us went camping in a remote area of Death Valley National Park. We thought we were in total isolation until this F-18 fighter jet proved otherwise. The jet is estimated to be flying at around 500 ft. between speeds of 400-500 mph
VIA: After Ship Your Enemies Glitter went viral this week, the site’s owner shut it down after being overwhelmed with orders. It seemed no one would get to see a glitter bomb in action. Luckily, someone recorded the consequences of opening a similar device and uploaded it to YouTube.
Friday, January 16, 2015
Thursday, January 15, 2015
WWE: USA Network President Chris McCumber has announced that groundbreaking WWE reality series "Tough Enough" will be returning to television on USA Network.
"I am pleased to announce that USA is bringing back 'Tough Enough,' the action-packed competition reality show from the ratings juggernaut, WWE," McCumber said in a speech today during the Television Critics Association winter press tour. "The show will have a completely new format, with live elements that will truly make this event television."
McCumber continued, "After signing another multi-year deal for Raw and SmackDown, this is the perfect time to bring back the series and capitalize on the enormous audience appeal of sports-entertainment."
Stay with WWE.com as more details about the return of "Tough Enough" are revealed.
ESPN: The New York Giants have selected Steve Spagnuolo as their new defensive coordinator, reuniting him with the team he helped win Super Bowl XLII while serving in that role from 2007 to '08.
Spagnuolo, 55, replaces Perry Fewell, who was the Giants' defensive coordinator for the past five years but was fired last week after a 6-10 season in which the team finished 29th in total defense.
"I was hoping to take the next step, God willing, and be a coordinator again. I'm ecstatic that it's with Tom Coughlin," Spagnuolo said. "Tom is the highest character guy I know. The feeling I have is one of excitement. We're going to work our butts off, and hopefully we will do great things together."
The Giants also interviewed former Oakland Raiders head coach Dennis Allen, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach and current Washington Redskins defensive backs coach Raheem Morris, and former Giants linebacker Pepper Johnson for the position in the past week.
"We spoke to a lot of very good candidates," Coughlin said. "The energy, enthusiasm and strong personality that we saw before in Steve Spagnuolo, all of that was very evident again. His desire to be a Giant again was very, very obvious."
Spagnuolo was the Giants' defensive coordinator in 2007 and '08, before moving on to unsuccessful stints as head coach of the St. Louis Rams and defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints.
His first Giants defense helped deliver the franchise's third Super Bowl title, as a pass rush that featured Hall of Famer Michael Strahan upset an undefeated New England Patriots team in Super Bowl XLII.
In his one season in New Orleans (2012), the Saints' defense set an NFL record for yards allowed.
The Giants also hired Tim Walton as their new cornerbacks coach. Walton was the defensive coordinator for the Rams in 2013.
Spagnuolo has spent the past two years as a defensive assistant with the Baltimore Ravens.
He joined the Ravens in 2013 as a senior defensive assistant and was named assistant head coach/secondary coach before last season. Injuries and ineffective play in the secondary led to the Ravens finishing No. 23 in pass defense this season.
The Ravens will have their third secondary coach in three seasons. Before Spagnuole's one-year stint, Teryl Austin was the Ravens' secondary coach for three years (2011-13) before becoming the Detroit Lions' defensive coordinator.
The secondary will be a major point of emphasis for the Ravens after the pass defense finished No. 24 in the NFL and gave up the most passing yards in franchise history.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh can only hope this is the only change to his coaching staff. The Denver Broncos have requested permission to interview offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak for their head coach opening. If Kubiak leaves, quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison and tight ends coach Brian Pariani are expected to go with him.
The list of nominations for the 87th Academy Awards
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
Alexandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game
Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
Marion Cotillard, Two Days One Night
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild
Best Supporting Actor
Robert Duvall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Laura Dern, Wild
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Emma Stone, Birdman
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods
Birdman – Emmanuel Lubezki
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Robert Yeoman
Ida – Lukasz Zal & Ryszard Lenczewski
Mr. Turner – Dick Pope
Unbroken – Roger Deakin
Best Foreign Language Film
Best Adapted Screenplay
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
Best Original Screenplay
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Guardians of the Galaxy
Best Original Score
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
Best Original Song
“Lost Stars,” Begin Again
“Everything is Awesome,” The LEGO Movie
“Grateful,” Beyond the Lights
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me
Best Animated Feature
Big Hero 6
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of Princess Kaguya
Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
Best Film Editing
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Best Production Design
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Into the Woods
Best Animated Short
The Bigger Picture
The Dam Keeper
Me and My Moulton
A Single Life
Best Live Action Short
Boogaloo and Graham
The Phone Call
Best Sound Editing
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Best Sound Mixing
Best Visual Effects
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy
X-Men: Days of Future Past
Best Documentary — Feature
Finding Vivien Maier
Last Days of Vietnam
The Salt of the Earth
Best Costume Design
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Into the Woods
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
The Cavs Are Such A Mess That One Report Says Players Are Running Their Own Plays And Assistant Coach Tyronn Lue Is Calling Timeouts Behind David Blatt’s Back
PHOENIX -- Still wearing part of his uniform after another loss, Kevin Love emerged from the visitors locker room Tuesday night and immediately buttonhooked into the adjacent practice gym at US Airways Center. Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin was on his heels.
Love hadn't played at all in the fourth quarter of the Cavs' 107-100 loss to the Phoenix Suns, which surely seemed like a result of Love's role in opposing power forward Markieff Morris racking up a career-high 35 points. It was the second time in the past few weeks Love was benched for the fourth quarter for defensive purposes and the second time it seemed to be a prudent decision by coach David Blatt.
A few minutes later, Suns big man Miles Plumlee casually strode in with a basketball under his arm, presumably looking to get some shots up after he didn't get one in his brief, three-minute stint during the game. But after realizing what he'd walked in on, he turned on his heel and canceled that plan.
That right there is this Cavs' season. It's one fire to put out after another without the badly needed winning that puts the ugly stuff under the carpet.
One day it's an offensive quote, such as when Blatt, in the midst of attempting to belittle a reporter Gregg Popovich-style without the cache or depth of knowledge of the CBA, tripped on his own snark when inaccurately referencing Love's salary this week. Another day it's LeBron James' moving Blatt aside in the midst of an argument with a referee in the first half against the Suns, a move that unfortunately for the Cavs fit way too easily into a shareable social media clip.
Ironically, James' trying to keep his coach from getting a technical foul while the coach was vigorously defending a call that went against James was one of the healthiest coach-player moments of the season between James and Blatt. If anything, that could go on the extremely brief highlight reel of their relationship thus far.
It's fun to be first in team merchandise sales, be on national television 30-plus times and play in sold-out houses every night, but there sure are downsides that come along with it. And when you've lost 9 of 10 games to fall to 19-20 on the season as the Cavs have, there's very little fun.
When the casinos were making the Cavs the favorites to win the title last summer, the idea of a prop bet that the Cavs would be under .500 39 games into the season was so ridiculous, no sports book would've taken action. You'd have had a difficult time getting anyone to take such a bet even if they were a pessimist who was a Miami Heat fan who just wanted to make a self-gratifying revenge wager.
It isn't just the casinos that are agape at how this is playing out -- the Cavs were 4-15 in their past 19 games against the spread coming in to Tuesday -- so are league scouts, executives and rival players.
They see players appearing to run different plays than the bench calls, see assistant coach Tyronn Lue calling timeouts literally behind Blatt's back during games, and hear Cavs players openly talking about coaching issues with opposing players and personnel. Not once, not twice, but frequently over the past several months. For weeks now, the small talk when league personnel run into each other at college games, airports or pregame meals has frequently started with: "What the hell is going on in Cleveland?"
Griffin and the Cavs media relations staff have been run ragged attempting to manage all of it. Griffin has been slapping Band-Aids on everything from intrateam relationships to his roster while dealing with what now seem like impossible expectations. All with half his team on stress-inducing, one-year contracts while working for an owner who chews through executives and coaches on a regular basis.
There is a common perception that James is the de facto general manager of the team. His role in getting Love traded to the Cavs in July and talking Mike Miller, among others, into signing in Cleveland only bolstered that.
But over the past few months, the Cavs didn't come to terms on a contract extension with Tristan Thompson, who is close to James and represented by the same agent, and then issued a strong public backing of Blatt despite what has been an obvious disconnect with veteran players, including James.
It was no doubt meant to take some media pressure off the struggling first-year coach, but also was a message to the players that any passive-aggressive coups in progress would be fruitless and needed to cease. It was also a pretty strong message that, no, James may run the plays he wants and play the position he wants, but he isn't running the franchise.
Plenty of James' quotes in recent weeks have been parsed, both by the media and by the team. But one seems to burn true, when he said: "I don't pay no bills around here; listen man, I play."
Meanwhile, the Love situation continues to befuddle. In the preseason there was a little bobble when Love complained about not getting the ball as much, but after that he's said nothing but team-supportive things. That includes Tuesday night after Blatt decided to play James Jones ahead of him.
"If you told me I was going to sit out the fourth quarter, maybe I would have thought it would have been tough. But we had a great rhythm going," Love said. "I thought the group that we had out there was doing a great job of getting us back into the basketball game, and more than anything, they gave us a shot."
This was just after Love told Cleveland.com that he was not planning to opt out of his contract and become a free agent next summer, something that was deemed a foregone conclusion when he signed the deal three years ago. Not only is it remarkably supportive of the team, but odd considering opting out makes significant financial sense even if his intention is to immediately re-sign in Cleveland. Anyone giving Love objective advice would recommend opting out under any circumstance other than devastating injury.
When the Cavs executed the trade to get Love last summer, they were granted a rare pre-trade meeting. What was said or promised in that meeting has been kept secret because any deal struck about contractual provisions would be against NBA rules. Whatever was said, the Cavs traded the past two No. 1 overall picks and a future first-rounder.
Like everything else done in July and August, Love couldn't have foreseen all these contingencies. His defense has been predictably shoddy much of the time, but as a team, the Cavs' transition defense and overall communication are routinely abysmal. The Cavs got down by 19 against the Suns before making a comeback, mostly without Love, but James and Kyrie Irving's combined 13 turnovers were more of a culprit than Love's defensive issues.
On offense, where Love should be a monster, he hasn't been very often.
"I've seen Kevin fall down with the ball more times this season than the rest of his career combined because he's always in positions where he's uncomfortable and he's forced into trying to make some sort of move to get a shot, and that has never been his game," said one veteran NBA coach. "They almost never put him in position to get the ball that he did in his last few years in Minnesota and I can't figure out why."
This litany could go on and on. There isn't an NBA team that doesn't have a lot of problems or one that doesn't deal with slumps, disgruntled veterans, issues with the coach, playing time issues, injuries, tough periods in the schedule and the like.
But no team as talented as the Cavs has been this bad for this long in a very long time in this league. As it is, no team with James has been in this position, more losses than wins, at this point in the season since his rookie year in 2003-04.
What the Cavs do have is time; it's the most gracious aspect of the league. There is always time. The Cavs, sitting in sixth place in the wonderfully forgiving Eastern Conference, still miraculously have all their goals in front of them. For that, they can truly be grateful.
They have James back, and his 33 points, seven rebounds, five assists portended that not only are his knee and back better, but he is now out of "chill mode." They have new players who, in theory, should help once they get settled. Their coach has been given a quasi-promise that he isn't getting fired. They have three max players who would give them a legitimate chance in any playoff series if they ever got their act together.
They are still a long way from having a lost season. But, wow, are they a long way off course.
That's why you need a true boss in the front office like Pat Riley.
DOVER, Del. — The NASCAR driver known as “The Outlaw” testified Tuesday he believes his ex-girlfriend is a trained assassin dispatched on covert missions around the world who once returned to him in a blood-splattered gown.”Everybody on the outside can tell me I’m crazy, but I lived on the inside and saw it firsthand,” Kurt Busch said when his attorney, Rusty Hardin, questioned why he still believed Patricia Driscoll is a hired killer. In an interview late Tuesday, Driscoll called Busch’s assertion “ludicrous,” saying he took it “straight from a fictional movie script” she has been working on for eight years and that he has proofread. Busch, appearing in court again over Driscoll’s request for a no-contact order, continued the push of his legal team to discredit his ex as a scorned woman out to destroy his career, portraying her as a character fit for a screenplay. Busch said Driscoll repeatedly asserted her assassin status and claimed the work took her on missions across Central and South America and Africa. He recounted one time when the couple was in El Paso, Texas. He said Driscoll left in camouflage gear only to return later wearing a trench coat over an evening gown covered with blood. A day earlier, Busch said his ex-girlfriend told him she was a mercenary who killed people for a living and had shown him pictures of bodies with gunshot wounds.Busch said Tuesday that Driscoll had claimed that a female character in “Zero Dark Thirty,” a film depicting the CIA’s hunt for Osama bin Laden, was a composite of her and other women. Driscoll also asserted that she was a trained assassin for the U.S. government and once told him, “I take down foreign governments. I own Washington.” In a telephone interview with The Associated Press late Tuesday, Driscoll dismissed Busch’s assertions. “These statements made about being a trained assassin, hired killer, are ludicrous and without basis and are an attempt to destroy my credibility,” Driscoll said. “I find it interesting that some of the outlandish claims come straight from a fictional movie script I’ve been working on for eight years,” Driscoll added.
Oh You Thought Kurt Busch Was Lying About His Girl? Well How About This Video Of Her Being A Weapons Expert
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Monday, January 12, 2015
Best TV Series, Drama: The Affair
Best Actress in a TV Series, Drama: Ruth Wilson, The Affair
Best Actor in a TV Series, Drama: Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
Best TV Series, Musical or Comedy: Transparent
Best Actress in a TV Series, Musical or Comedy: Gina Rodriguez,
Jane the Virgin
Best Actor in a TV Series, Musical or Comedy: Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent
Best Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television: Fargo
Best Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie: Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Honourable Woman
Best Actor in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television: Billy Bob Thornton, Fargo
Best Supporting Actor in a TV Series, Miniseries or TV Movie: Matt Bomer, The Normal Heart
Best Supporting Actress in a TV Series, Miniseries or TV Movie: Joanne Froggatt, Downton Abbey
And for all you movie buffs out there…
Best Motion Picture, Drama: Boyhood
Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama: Eddie Redmaybe, The Theory of Everything
Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama: Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical: Michael Keaton, Birdman
Best Director: Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Best Foreign Language Film: Leviathan
Best Screenplay: Birdman
Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Best Animated Film: How to Train Your Dragon 2
Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical: Amy Adams, Big Eyes
Best Original Song in a Motion Picture: “Glory,” Selma
Best Score in a Motion Picture: The Theory of Everything
Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Harvey Updyke Jr. has paid the first half of $700 in restitution ordered by a Lee County judge, who warned he would be arrested if he failed to pay the amount by Feb. 11.
Updyke, who pleaded guilty to poisoning the live oaks at Toomer’s Corner in Auburn, was ordered to pay $350 by Jan. 9 and the remaining amount by Feb. 11 or arrest warrants would be issued.
Court records show money orders for $50 and $300 were received Thursday.
Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob A. Walker ordered Updyke to make the restitution payments during a hearing in December after finding the 66-year-old willfully in contempt for failing to make regular payments in 2014.
Updyke was ordered in November 2013 to pay nearly $800,000 in restitution to Auburn University for the poisoning of the trees, beginning in December 2013. Auburn University removed the stricken trees in April 2013 and plans to plant two large replacement live oaks on the corner in February.
Updyke was ordered to pay $816,679.98 in restitution, legal and court fees, and fines. His balance currently is $815,934.98 after being credited with paying $745, according to court records.
Updyke unsuccessfully challenged an order to make payments in $500 monthly installments on the grounds it would be a substantial hardship. He asked for the rate to be set at no more than $50 per month.
Updyke, who currently resides in Louisiana, is scheduled for a review hearing on Feb. 13, where the matter of probation revocation could be taken up.
Published: Thursday, January 8, 2015 at 10:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 8, 2015 at 10:52 p.m.
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In addition to the question of restitution in December, the court listened to brief comments from attorneys and a Lee County probation officer about whether alleged social media interactions by Updyke on Twitter and Facebook constituted a violation of his probation conditions.
Under the terms of his probation, Updyke is forbidden from attending any collegiate sports event, has a 7 p.m. curfew, cannot talk with the media, is banned from any AU property and is required to abide by all of the directives of the judge presiding in the case.
Walker amended the conditions of Updyke’s probation in December, forbidding him from having any social media accounts. He also ordered Updyke to cancel unnecessary or noncritical services in his home — such as cable television, smartphone service and the Internet — to free up more funds.