Sunday, November 21, 2010

Baba Booey Strikes Again

Baba Booey, also known as Gary Dell’Abate from the Howard Stern Show, threw out perhaps the worst first pitch in the history of baseball earlier this year at a New York Mets game, beaning the umpire in the process. Having finally lived that down, Dell’Abate literally struck again recently, hitting an audience member with a baseball while trying to redeem himself on The Jimmy Kimmel show.

To make matters worse, Robin Quivers, Stern’s sidekick, threw a perfect strike on Kimmel’s show just a few nights later in a dress and high heels.

For his part, Dell’Abate blamed Kimmel – a friend of the Stern show -- for unexpectedly springing the baseball bit on him. That blame was misplaced. Kimmel really did Dell’Abate a favor. After all, even with a best-selling book, Dell’Abate was lucky to get booked on Kimmel’s show. He isn’t exactly a household name outside the Stern universe. By breaking out the baseball, Kimmel managed to make Dell’Abate’s appearance not only interesting, but memorable, probably selling him a few books in the process.

Of course, Stern had a field day with the dell’abacle on his Sirius radio show. And that was before Quivers upstaged her Stern show cohort… so it’s only going to get worse.

Among other things, Stern said Dell’Abate should have refused to throw the pitch I respectfully disagree. In that case, Baba Booey would have come across as a baba bad sport. By participating in the bit, Dell'Abate came across as a good guy with a bad arm. There are worse things that could be said about him. And at this point, it’s more important for Dell’Abate to be pitching books than baseballs.

Friday, November 19, 2010

An Artful Documentary

If asked to name my top five favorite film genres, documentaries wouldn’t make the list. Yet, for some odd reason, I always seem to find them when channel surfing and seldom seem to leave them. Such was the case with the oddly named “Dad’s in Heaven with Nixon.” I happened to run across this documentary on Showtime one morning when getting ready for work. Next thing I knew, I was running late.

The first time I watched it I thought it was about a dysfunctional father’s struggle with a bipolar disorder and how it affected his family. The second time I watched it I thought it was about a man who overcame disability to become an artist of some renown. Or maybe it was about a mother’s love. Come to think of it, it was really about all three.

I know this sounds disjointed. By all rights, it should have been, if not for the efforts of filmmaker Tom Murray. He’s probably the only person in the world who could have pulled it all together. For him, it was a labor of love. After all, the dysfunctional father and heroic mother are his parents; the disabled artist is his brother.

Murray tells the story of his father’s fall from grace, including anger, alcohol and financial troubles as well as the birth of a disabled son. Through most of it, Thomas E. Murray II refuses to acknowledge his problems. One day, after a chance meeting with the filmmaker, he swims out into the ocean and never returns. He was apparently overcome by the tides, but I couldn’t help but wonder if he committed suicide. The specter of this unpredictable man was so powerful that it remains over his family decades later.

Meanwhile, Christopher, who is said to suffer from autism as a result of not getting enough oxygen to his brain during birth, exceeds all expectations, thanks primarily to the loving and unwavering efforts of his mother. Christopher teaches himself to sketch following his father’s death. He turns out to be quite good … so good that his artwork, consisting mostly of multidimensional cityscapes, gains acclaim. There’s even a waiting list to purchase his work, although he sketches at his own pace.

Tom Murray tells this story artfully through home movies, interviews with family members and a well-chosen soundtrack. You can’t help but wonder how he maintained such distance while peeling back something so raw and personal. At times, you even think he’s pushing his own family members too hard for a response. No matter how he accomplished it, Murray created a film that is melancholy and hopeful at that same time.

Even when the documentary was over, I couldn’t stop thinking about this family and its struggles, past and future. There are clearly obstacles ahead for them with an aging matriarch and a son who, although talented, still faces many of challenges. How could they maintain stability? What would happen next?

That kind resonance is the mark of a good story. I always seem to find them …even when I’m not looking for them.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Perseverance Pays off for Burke

In 2009, before the University of Louisville football team had been fully infected by Kragfluenza, I followed the Cardinals to Lexington for a game against archrival Kentucky. For awhile, it looked like a storybook day for Louisville and its quarterback, Justin Burke.

Burke, who grew up in Lexington not far from the stadium, completed 15 or 28 passes for 245 yards. He had a lot of friends and family members in the stands. I know. I think I exchanged high-fives with all of them after nearly every completion.

Unfortunately, the celebration eventually ended. Louisville led until late when Trent Guy fumbled a punt, resulting in a Kentucky touchdown and a 31-27 Wildcats’ win. Nevertheless, it seemed Burke, an N.C. State transfer, had firmly established himself as Louisville’s quarterback. Like the win, that wasn’t to be either.

Burke played just two more games before being injured and replaced in the lineup by Adam Froman. That could have been the end of his story … and his career. It seemed like it would be until Saturday afternoon. That’s when Burke replaced an injured Froman in the lineup against Syracuse, leading visiting Louisville to its most important win of the season. I suspected Burke might rise to the occasion, based solely on the obviously flawed sample of a single game in Lexington in 2009.

It’s unclear who will play quarterback for Louisville this weekend as the Cardinals host another Big East foe, South Florida, with bowl eligibility at stake. If Froman is healthy, I suspect he’ll once again replace Burke … just like he did in 2009.

But no matter what happens, Burke will always have Syracuse. I’m happy for him. His success shows that perseverance pays off. My only regret is I couldn’t be there at Syracuse exchanging high-fives with his family members.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Smooth Sailing to UL Game

On my recent trip to a basketball game at the University of Louisville’s new downtown arena, the only traffic I encountered was barge traffic.

My son, Trent, and I avoided the regular bumper-to-bumper by boarding a boat called The Spirit of Jefferson in Jeffersonville, Ind., and taking it across the Ohio River to U of L’s beautiful new arena. Around 15 minutes later, we were dropped off just three blocks from the KFC Yum! Center. Following the game, we walked back to the river, boarded the boat again and were returned safely to the sunny side of Louisville.

The roundtrip cost $10 per person, which is really a bargain. We easily could have spent that on parking alone. But the real selling point is the aggravation you save. Once you’re back to the car, it’s smooth sailing all the way home.

A tip of the Cardinal cap to Jeffersonville Mayor Tom Galligan for envisioning this innovative transportation alternative. Galligan will evaluate the program after six games to see if it’s successful. If so, it will continue the rest of the season. Here’s hoping that happens. I’ve been told around 2,500 U of L basketball season ticketholders live in southern Indiana. Surely, many will want to get on board with this, so to speak.

Galligan, of course, hopes boat riders will linger in Jeffersonville before or after the games and support its attractions. I, for one, have no problem repaying Galligan’s kindness with hot wings and cold beer.

In the meantime, there are a few tweaks that would make the trip even better. Primarily, the boat’s management needs to communicate more with passengers. They should make announcements as the boat departs and arrives, direct you to the arena, tell you when to return, etc. It wouldn’t hurt to wish the Cards well while they’re at it. In other words, just make the trip a little more hospitable.

I’m sure they will refine things over time. After all, this was just the maiden voyage … and a darn fine one.