A Very Flip Side Christmas, with special guests Mailman and Romo

My grandma gave me this sweatshirt. She sends me these on Christmas, and I love them.

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That picture is from Monday night. I wore it while watching the Lions play the Ravens. The Ravens used to be the Browns, you might know. Until they left Cleveland, changed their name, and won Super Bowls.

Goodbye forever, football. You’re too fucking mean.

!&<

The negativity toward Karl Malone and Tony Romo is stupid because winning is fun.

Malone started more than 1,500 games in his career. He won all the time, and averaged 25 points and 10 rebounds. He made it to the NBA finals twice.

Romo’s different. He’s The Dallas Cowboys Quarterback. He throws interceptions at the end of close games sometimes, but half the time he wins, with a gunslinger’s bravado that indicates he appreciates the raw fun of football.

Have you ever been playing a game and gotten caught up in the competition? Started trying like hell to win? That’s Mailman and Romo. They want to win so badly. They just screw up sometimes.

!&<

With eight minutes to go in the second quarter Monday night, Lions receiver Calvin “Megatron” Johnson caught a quick slant for eight yards. As he was falling backwards with the ball he took a diving shoulder from Ravens inside linebacker Jameel McClain, who weighs 250 pounds. The shoulder went through the back of Megatron’s helmeted head, hard enough to snap it forward unnaturally, with awkward violence. Megatron got up and leaned left and bounced on just his left foot. It would be so Megatron to take a hit like that, that truly hurt him, and pretend like it was nothing. He knows everyone knows he’s the biggest and strongest.

!&<

Seven years ago my fantasy team Pee Hole Fisters went winless. A defeated 0-13. That had never happened before in Burque League, and hasn’t happened since. I think I started Mark Bulger and Donald Driver and Jeremy Shockey. Hines stupid Ward. Jesus.

I was writing a weekly fantasy football advice column that season, for the late, great Albuquerque Tribune daily newspaper. I’ve been pretty mediocre since. Undone by injuries, usually. Jamaal Charles scored five touchdowns yesterday for the Chiefs, but when I had him he missed the last 14 games of a season.

This year, my guys kept winning. My late-round running backs were amazing, a rotating foursome of 100-yard, one-touchdown games: Lacy, Knowshon, Bernard and Jackson.

And I was on the insane RG3 train. I was at work one day last week refreshing ESPN.com every 15 minutes because there was supposed to be an RG3 press conference, where the Redskins’ psychotic coach would announce whether his young franchise quarterback was gonna play the last three games or not. The decision was he would not.

What a ride it’s been.

11-2.

Just great.

!&<

A huge hit again, for the first play of the second half. This time Ravens safety James Ihedigbo nails Megatron flush in the air, shoulder into shoulder. Megatron hangs on for the 20-yard gain. He stays down, lifts his head, and shakes it back and forth. “And he is shaken up right there,” says the TV color commentator, Jon Gruden.

I was wearing my Browns sweatshirt while I watched Megatron drop the next two passes, which would have been for big gains. The ball hit him in his huge gloved hands, but he didn’t close his grip in time.

!&<

I lost by two points. A little less than two points, actually. I had Megatron, and my friend Ian I was up against had Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker. With less than one minute left in the game I was wearing my Browns sweatshirt, and my fantasy team was winning by three points, and Tucker was lining up for a 61-yard field goal to win the game for the Ravens. And Ian. It seemed like that ball hung in the air forever. Then it seemed a bit too far right, and a bit short. Then it dropped inside the goal posts by inches. Inches.

Inches. Al Pacino was right.

The Baltimore Ravens kicker scored 22 fantasy points, and even talked about his fantasy value in the post-game interview. Megatron scored 9.8 points in the fog.

And I lost by by 1.6. I will remember this night forever. I’d been winning and winning and winning, week after week. It was so much fun. Then this one nail-biter and I’m done. If only Jimmy Graham had caught a touchdown. If only Megatron hadn’t gotten concussed. If only. If only. If only. OHGOOOODDDDDWHYYYYY!!!!?!?!?!?!

I was wearing my Browns sweatshirt I got from grandma for Christmas.

Goodbye, football. Goodbye forever. You’re too fucking violent. You’re too mean.

!&<

I have to go to bed. I started late, but I’m drunk now on Scotch.

Goddammit I hate the Ravens.

Eat Money 2: The Governor is Dirtier

Ex-colleagues of mine are doing fine work, continued:

Last week we saw the spectacular portrait of New Mexico Puppet Master Jay McCleskey. Photographer Steven St. John, formerly of the late and great Albuquerque Tribune, perfectly captured the look of a soulless liar contentedly selling out necessary democratic debate for talking points and fat campaign donations.

This week, UNM Daily Lobo alumnus Eric Garcia comes with this great cartoon.

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Teachers have been quitting, and wearing all black, and talking about striking. They’re being told exactly how to do their jobs, by politicians who never taught. Teaching in New Mexico is hard. Poverty and all its consequences make it difficult to get through to kids. They’re disinclined to learn, and they’re even less inclined to sit and take boring, state-mandated tests.

Only someone with an uncouth agenda would institute policies that are so unhelpful.

Their arguments are polished talking points as they’re taking money out of public schools. This is why Hanna Skandera got the top education job despite never having taught (in violation of the state’s constitution): You have to consciously ignore what’s really going on to prioritize testing and evaluations. You have to have no mercy. Micromanagers with shocking conflicts of interest are deciding how schools should be run. The governor is so dirty.

“Breaking Bad”: Jesse’s Box

Why was Jesse laughing as he sped like a maniac from the Nazi compound? He’s been a slave, basically, whose best escape attempt failed and got a dear friend capped by Todd. When Walt looks at him in that trailer, he’s looking at a broken, hopeless dog.

Recall when Jesse told Hank, “Mr. White, he’s the devil. He is smarter than you. He is luckier than you. Whatever you think is supposed to happen, the exact opposite of that is gonna happen.”

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These men have history

Imagine that last scene from Jesse’s point of view. Mr. White is there? And he kills all their enemies with a rigged machine gun in his trunk? That’s exactly what Jesse was talking about—Walt had to be brilliant and lucky. He was. From out of nowhere.

Walt told him about Jane, in “Ozymandias,” so they were done. There was nothing left to ever say. But for Walt to appear and set him free was the final perfect act of Heisenberg. Kill some bad(der) guys and end things with a nod. Classic.

There was a short flashback in that final episode, of Jesse making a wooden box really carefully, lit pretty with angelic music playing over soft closeups of the meticulous crafting. Then we see him tortured, face cut up and swollen, chained to the roof in a Nazi meth lab. He is imprisoned and forced to make drugs.

It’s not so easy to make a box like that. That box was about Jesse’s potential. In a 12 step meeting back in the third season (episode: “Kafkaesque”) he describes making the box when a teacher challenged him to do his best. He built multiple boxes. “By, like, box No. 5, I had built this. . . thing. You should’ve seen it, it was insane. I built it out of Peruvian walnut with inlaid zebrawood. It was fitted with pegs, no screws. I sanded it for days until it was smooth as glass. Then I rubbed all the wood with tung oil so it was rich and dark. It even smelled good. When you put your nose in it and breathed in, it was perfect.”

Aaahh. He lies and says he gave it to his mom. When his sponsor starts to tell him “It’s not too late,” Jesse interrupts to say he didn’t give it to his mom, he traded it for an ounce of weed.

Where does Jesse go after fleeing the Nazi compound? Someplace to fulfill his potential. He can do that now because Mr. White freed him. Holy crap “Breaking Bad” was great.

“Gravity”: Ryan Stone’s Daughter

In “Gravity” . . .

Spoiler alert.

. . . Ryan Stone says she had a four-year-old daughter who died suddenly one day for no good reason. Just from falling. This becomes a recurring element of the film. She’ll speak of the daughter as her angel, and ask dead George Clooney’s wise ghost to give the girl’s spirit a hug.

Manipulative, right? Contrived?

No. It’s called storytelling. Duh. “Gravity” is brilliant and amazing.

Remember the movie “127 Hours”? That was about a real guy who fell down a canyon and had his armed pinned by a boulder. He cuts the arm off with a dull pocket knife at the end. He decides he has to live no matter what, and the movie shows us pieces of his life—regrets and joys, mostly—to demonstrate why survival matters.

“Gravity” is similar, but better. “127 Hours” was cool, but it’s insanely busy, with tons of fast editing and obvious camera tricks like getting us inside the bottle of piss as he drinks it. “Gravity” is in space, and that’s flashy, but it’s a much smoother ride.

When she can hear the dog and the baby on the radio, Ryan Stone decides it’s OK for her to die. The death of her daughter definitely adds incentive to accept death’s peaceful bear hug. It would make more sense for this woman to want to die than practically anyone else.

Thus the epic triumph of surviving. Click here for an “analysis” of the movie’s spiritual values by Religion News Service. The article asks to whom Stone is speaking when she says “Thank you” into the beach at the end:

And that takes us to the “nones,” the religiously unaffiliated who make up one in five Americans these days. If they’d all sign up on a list, only the Catholic Church could claim more members in the U.S. The whole point of being unaffiliated, of course, is that they don’t want to sign on to any constraints. When asked to identify their faith on a list, they’ll choose “none of the above.”

That’s right. Absence of religion in a movie about why life is great makes perfect sense. It’s one of  many reasons “Gravity” works so well.

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Jon Hamm for Emmy

SPOILERT ALERT When Walt watched Hank die in last week’s “Breaking Bad,” he fell sideways into the dirt with his mouth wide open in a gaping sob. The mouth looked like a black hole, like it might be a digital special effect. The darkness went on forever.

Don-Draper-Jon-Hamm-creat-004Bryan Cranston will win an Emmy for the current, final season of “Breaking Bad.” It will win everything, deservedly. But tonight’s Emmys are for the previous “Breaking Bad” year, when Walt did the “Say my name” scene and killed Mike. Absolutely great stuff. But Jon Hamm, as Don Draper, was better.

He couldn’t get over thoughts of death and how he deserved to go to hell. The episode when he got high on speed and flashed back to the motherly hooker who took his virginity was an all-timer. His eyes are slammed red and he loses an entire huge gap of time. We lose it with him. Peggy gets flabbergasted.

That wasn’t his best scene, though. His best scene was riding the elevator after Sally caught him with the neighbor. Desolate. So ashamed of himself. So sad. Don Draper is made pathetic by the extreme drama of his personal and professional lives, with a past to thank for weird self-esteem and sexual issues. Jon Hamm makes him real. I really hope he wins tonight.

Kevin Spacey, incidentally, was totally memorable as Evil Congressman Frank Underwood. But he didn’t really disappear into the role like Hamm does. That’s not completely his fault. Spacey’s been in so many good movies we’re a little too familiar with his tricks now. (Creepy charm included.) Hamm was an unknown when he stepped into the Don Draper role, but he had chops from years as a working-class grinder paying bills via quick supporting parts. That helps Hamm, but he’s also playing a better character on a better show.

I got Mandy Patinkin from “Homeland” for Supporting Actor. Very masculine sort of sensitivity he exudes, like the ultimate dad-boss. The beard helps. Aaron Paul’s gonna win next year because, again, “Breaking Bad” will deservedly win everything.

If “Game of Thrones” comes back, though, that’ll be a major deal.

The bandwagon-jumping “Game of Thrones” internet fans who are anti-Song of Ice and Fire won’t like this, but fuck them: The Tyrion story is about to get really insane. The next “Game of Thrones” season will be owned by Peter Dinklage as the cunning dwarf. Dinklage is definitely winning an Emmy next season for doing what the show is about to call on him to do.

Dinklage Vs. Paul will be a good one. This year? Go Hamm.

 

Snowboard Season Debrief

So, it’s definitely over now.

This is Bloc Party’s “Banquet,” and to me it’s a perfect snowboarding song:

Stevie Wonder’s “Part-time Lover” also applies here.

Sometimes – while walking the pooch on a sunny, warm day – these songs will pop up randomly on Shuffle, and I’ll be magically transported back in time to a particular sweet run on my snowboard. I imagine acid flashbacks are similar. Those songs are fast, and they bounce in this great way that fits so well with flying down a mountain on soft, smooth powder. There’s a balance between hard-core pump-up song and hang-out song that must be achieved in the ideal snowboard jam. Those two and many, many others* achieve that balance.

These jams blast in my ears as I blast past skiers I judge both silently and out loud (“You wish you could do this!” “Texas forever!”) for their methodical meandering.2506_1126013434593_291567_n

This winter I got a minimum-wage job at the Ski Santa Fe hill here. I was a lifty. We lifties run the mountain, scanning tickets and putting butts gently onto ski-lift chairs. It was an honor, and a lot of fun. The big perk of being a lifty is the free ski pass, obviously. And when it’s not busy, there are chances for “run breaks,” which probably does not need quotation marks.

Even though I live in Santa Fe, I’d only been to Ski Santa Fe a couple times, years ago. When I wanna ride I almost exclusively drive the three hours to Wolf Creek, in Pagosa Springs, Colo., because it gets amazing snow. I bomb the face at Wolf Creek to those two songs and others* over and over and over and over. I love Wolf Creek.

But I’m a Santa Fe man now. It wasn’t consistent, granted, but when there was good snow at Ski Santa Fe the runs were a revelation, a perfect combination of fast easy groomers and plush, untracked romps through trees. (Such fun was had in Sunset Glade.) I had maybe seven really fantastic powder days, with hours of riding, up at Ski Santa Fe. Good, Godly glory.

I’m not sure I’ll be back next season, but I’m grateful to that mountain for a terrific winter. I made lines to those songs I’ll flash back to for the rest of my life.

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* Golden Earring, “Radar Love.” Gnarls Barkley, “When Was the Last Time You Danced?” Pretty Lights “Chicago Bulls Theme Remix.” Pearl Jam, “Rearview Mirror.” The Bravery, “An Honest Mistake.” Death Cab for Cutie, “Soul Meets Body.” Rob Zombie “Never Gonna Stop.” (Not all snowboard songs need the balance.)

Rare is the Man Who Takes a Stand/For God and Sweetest Father Land: “Bioshock Infinite”

I won some raffle at a fair, and my prize was to chuck a baseball at an older biracial couple, tied up on-stage. There was a whole crowd of bigots in bonnets or suspenders cheering lustily all around me, pressuring me to really nail one of these two people.

F*ck that, right? I chucked the ball at the fat, tuxedoed M.C. on the stage. Then police grabbed me, so I took them all down.

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From the game.

A recent NPR story on “Bioshock Infinite” asked quite seriously whether this video game is art. It absolutely is, but duh.

“Infinite” takes place in 1912 Columbia, a city in the clouds which has seceded from the U.S. The people there worship, literally, the Founding Fathers. We see massive statues of Washington, Franklin, Jefferson and the others, where people kneel and pray. There’s a man running the city named Zachary Hale Comstock, who considers himself a prophet and is represented in huge statues whose plaques say things like “The Seed of the Prophet Shall Sit the Throne and Drown in Flame the Mountains of Man.”

(The statues in “Infinite” are awesome to look up at. Another huge one is of John Wilkes Booth, the staunch secessionist who, of course, assassinated Lincoln.)

There’s this whole backstory that reveals itself slowly, about the history of this cloud city Columbia. There were battles, where important figures distinguished themselves. Comstock’s wife was apparently very powerful, and there’s some major mystery surrounding her. These pieces fill in among the shootouts against heavily armed officers in patriot gear, and robot George Washingtons with bazooka arms.

And I’ve been having fun in Finkton, a steamy manufacturing community where labor’s so weak the workers compete for who’s willing to be paid least for a job. The rich leader Jeremiah Fink is heard over loudspeaker, telling them all to be more like the bee, which is the world’s greatest animal because it works its ass off without sick days or vacation.

This political subtext ties together who many of us were then (racists) and who many of us are now (anti-government Fox News viewers), but there’s also a plot here. The story in the game is about a war-veteran detective and a girl with a bounty on her head, fighting their way through this madness together. As that NPR clip notes, you don’t play “Bioshock Infinite” for any kind of score. You play it because you want to know what happens to these characters.

I’m not a big gamer. I usually only play NBA 2K. But there was too much chatter in the ether about this game for me to ignore it, and I’m glad I paid heed. Not only is it fun to see a society where religion and Founding-Father worship combine into creepy dystopia, it’s also fun to blast my way through it.

“Jurassic Park 3D”: Let’s Never Clone Dinosaurs

No one gets gutted in Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park.” This is probably a good thing, for obvious reasons, but it makes it easy to miss the harsh existential lesson of this blockbuster man-versus-nature story.

“Jurassic Park” is out now in 3D movie theaters, 20 years after it was first released to the sleepless delight of 11-year-old me. Spielberg’s film holds up nicely, even in the modern age of $200-million blockbuster comic-book monster movies. The giant T-Rex still looks real, attacking humans in a nighttime downpour or gallimimus on a clear blue afternoon. The velociraptors are still terrifying as they stalk Tim and Lex through the long metallic kitchen.

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The sense of wonder and respect for these animals is captured perfectly by Spielberg, but what about respect for science? The real theme of Michael Crichton’s classic novel gets muddled in translation. “Jurassic Park” is a movie for kids more than adults, so the story’s violence, and thus its impact, had to be ramped down.

There are still hints of theological conflict, though, as we watch rock-star mathematician Ian Malcolm, dressed all in black, debate responsibility with wide-eyed optimist John Hammond, the creator of the park, dressed in all white.

“I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here,” Malcolm (played in a fine performance by Jeff Golblum) tells Hammond (played by Richard Attenborough), “it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. … Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think about whether they should.”

He’s talking about whether or not they should clone dinosaurs. Malcolm is an expert in the field of Chaos Theory, which posits that systems like nature are inherently unpredictable. Hammond can create a theme park filled with cloned dinosaurs, but any notion of control on his part is an illusion, because math tells us forces like animal nature are too wild. Make all the dinosaurs female and they will still find a way to breed. Put electric fences up around powerful, once-extinct creatures and those fences will fail.

Malcolm and Hammond both survive the events of the film, but, again, this is a movie mostly for kids. Their fates in the book are packed with meaning. Malcolm dies slowly with a smile on his face, muttering that “everything looks different… on the other side.” Hammond perishes horribly, alone and helpless on a broken ankle, poisoned by the bites of small precompsognathus (compy) dinosaurs who eat his neck while he watches.

The violence in the book is actually pretty amazing. Remember Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight, best known as “Newman” from Seinfeld) getting spit on and then mauled off-screen? In the book he gets blinded by the dino’s spit “And then there was a new, searing pain, like a knife in his belly, and Nedry stumbled, reaching blindly down to touch the ragged edge of his shirt, and then a thick, slippery mass that was surprisingly warm, and with horror he suddenly knew he was holding his own intestines in his hands. The dinosaur had torn him open. His guts had fallen out.”

Newman!

This is just one of multiple main-character disembowelings that occur in the novel. Dr. Wu, the island’s geneticist, “was lying on his back, his body torn open by the big claw, and the raptor was jerking its head, tugging at Wu’s intestines even though Wu was still alive, still feebly reaching up with his hands to push the big head away, he was being eaten while he was still alive….”

The survivors survive because they’re lucky, and because they fight back against dozens of raptors with grenades and bazookas.

There are only three raptors in the movie, because the action had to be necessarily scaled down – as an author, Crichton was limited only by his imagination; as a director, Spielberg is limited by the physical facts of what’s possible with animatronics and early-90s computer effects.

Spielberg also wasn’t about to make a rated-R gore-fest. It’s almost too bad, because the book is better for its brutality. Think back on Steve Irwin, the famed “Crocodile Hunter” who cuddled up to wild animals on television until a sting ray stabbed him fatally through the chest with its tail. The amazing Werner Herzog documentary “Grizzly Man” presents Timothy Treadwell, who tried to befriend grizzly bears in Alaska and wound up screaming as he was torn apart.

Brutal, but that’s what we get without humility before nature – killed horribly.

Steve Alford’s Soulless Black Eyeballs

It’s lousy to wish ill upon another person. We’re all people, so let’s hope for the best for each other. Steve Alford committed to staying with the University of New Mexico Lobos for 10 years and then, within days, he changed his mind and took the head coaching job at UCLA. He’s a man and he has a right to do what he wants.

But Lobos fans in New Mexico, this infinitesimal percentage of the people on the planet, are going to loathe him. And that loathing will be justified.

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***

Alford’s press conference after the loss to Harvard was amazing. He was such a dick.

“There’s no way,” he said, “if you’ve got any kind of basketball intellect at all, where you could say we had a bad season.”

That’s true. The Lobos had an amazing season, one of their best ever. But the sports cliche goes that it hurts more to lose than it feels good to win. And you just lost to Harvard in the second-biggest upset in this entire March Madness tournament. (Thank god for Florida Gulf Coast.)

“We wanted to advance,” he said. “It’s not so much the Sweet 16 thing, though. I will say that. I haven’t lived here 40-50 years.”

So f*ck your tio! The Lobos never make the Sweet 16, meaning never advance past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. This year, people on television were picking UNM to make the Final Four.

Harvard! You think Zuckerberg and Romney watched this game together in some cigar bar above the clouds, drinking brandy and singing songs of the noble Crimson? Because I do. I can’t believe it was Harvard.

Here’s the best line, though: “I gave a lot to stay here. I took away incentives that I’ve made for five consecutive years. Six consecutive years. I took those out of my contract. I think it was a pretty big commitment, not only on the school’s part, but it was a pretty big commitment on my part, especially what’s out there and the opportunities that are out there to show my loyalty to UNM and how much I appreciate UNM and how much I want to continue to build this thing.”

Yes, a pretty big commitment. Liar!

The day the Lobos were to play Harvard – their opening-round tournament game after the best season of Alford’s tenure – the announcement was made that Alford had “agreed in principle” to a 10-year contract extension that could, with incentives, pay him $2 million per year. So, the conversation in the media and among fans turned not toward the great players who’d just strung together this awesome season and were primed for a killer tourney run, but the coach and his contract and his money. There was bad juju hanging over UNM in that game, and they played like it. They played like it wasn’t any fun.

(UNM athletics director Paul Krebs said on the radio that Lobos fans could expect an increase in ticket prices to cover the contract. This is what they were talking about right before tournament games started.)

Alford’s gonna get $2.5 million per season to coach UCLA, so good on him. But wouldn’t it have been great if he’d thought to himself “You know, not only have I made a commitment to stay here, out loud to all the fans and in writing to my bosses, but I also just lost to Harvard in an ugly upset. I’m not going out that way. Sorry UCLA, I just gotta stay here and make this right.”

***

Bob Knight has soulless black eyeballs. Check them out:

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Knight was Alford’s college coach at Indiana. They won a championship together there. Knight is also notorious for being perhaps the meanest man in modern sports history. Young Alford was told by Bob Knight that he couldn’t lead a whore into bed.

“How can anybody play four years in this system and not learn one thing about playing defense?” Knight asked Alford during a practice. “I’ve wasted, totally wasted, three years trying to teach you, and the minute you go into a defensive crouch I hear people laughing in the stands.”

There’s lots more. Google their names and enjoy.

Knight must have had a major effect on Alford, and I don’t say that just because of their eyes. Knight hated most members of the press and was a complete jerk to reporters. (“All of us learn to write in second grade, and most of us go on to better things.”)

Alford hates reporters too, I think. I’ve interviewed him before and I can tell he doesn’t like being interviewed. (Maybe it was me.) But while Alford has adopted much of Bob Knight’s traits, what he lacks are Knight’s massive, throbbing gonads. Knight could, and would, be crazy and nasty. Alford doesn’t seem capable of that. So what we get instead is someone thin-skinned and mopey. Dickish. Knight was aggressive-aggressive; Alford is passive-aggressive. One of those is better than the other.

• • •

What if all of UCLA’s best guys go pro, and he loses out on some big recruit he’s targeting, or some big injury hits a key guy, and Alford’s first season at UCLA winds up mediocre, and he misses the NCAA Tournament altogether? He’ll have to answer for that, and there are so many more sports writers in Los Angeles than there are in Albuquerque, and they like writing snarky stuff that fires up the sorts of fans who call in to radio shows with hand-written, two-minute rants about why their team’s coach sucks. If he doesn’t do well, Alford’s gonna get grilled. He’s gonna hate it. He probably won’t react well.

So congratulations, UCLA. You gave up a coach who went to multiple Final Fours to poach a liar who couldn’t beat Harvard with the 10th best team in the entire country. The state of New Mexico hopes you suck. You’ll understand soon.

An Oscars Rant for Oscars Night

Liam Neeson’s beautiful wife, in real life, died. Since that happened he has acted in a lot of violent rolls. He also starred, last year, in “The Grey,” as a suicidal widower battling a pack of wolves in a snowy forest. Neeson channeled the sadness of an ultimate real-life tragedy into a poetic, angry performance. It is total crap he isn’t nominated along with Daniel Day, Denzel and Joaquin Phoenix. F*ck Hugh Jackman.

As any character other than Wolverine.

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Phoenix seemed an Oscar lock when “The Master” came out in September. He drinks chemicals, fights fat strangers, fingers a sand lady and becomes the broken dog of a cult leader. Daniel Day hit the party late, on Christmas, because that’s how real gangsters roll. Of course he would crush it as Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln: [pounds his hand on a table as his cabinet squabbles] I can’t listen to this anymore. I can’t accomplish a goddamn thing of any worth until we cure ourselves of slavery and end this pestilential war! I wonder if any of you or anyone else knows it. I know! I need this! This amendment is that cure! We’ve stepped out upon the world stage now. Now! With the fate of human dignity in our hands. Blood’s been spilled to afford us this moment now! Now! Now! And you grouse so and heckle and dodge about like pettifogging Tammany Hall hucksters!

There’s a blockbuster article in the new Esquire about the SEAL who fired the shots that killed Osama bin Laden. He scoffs at the raid scene in “Zero Dark Thirty,” but calls the portrayal of the CIA analyst who found bin Laden “awesome.” He’s right, it is awesome. Jessica Chastain is awesome in that flick, and she would probably win, except Jennifer Lawrence was such an intimidating, likable, unpredictable widow in “Silver Linings Playbook.” Lawrence freaks us out, befriends us and lets us into her damaged psyche. Bradley Cooper must have this woman; she’s too intriguing to let go.

And Robert De Niro destroyed it as a classic movie dad and a sympathetic nod to all the tortured sports fans out there.

Speaking of Esquire, the magazine also had a short writeup of “Django Unchained” headlined “Catharsis of the Year.” It included this: “(N)early three hours is filled wth slaves being whipped, dogs chewing slaves to death while bystanders watch, slaves being forced to gouge out one another’s eyes, slave women being given to houseguests the way one might give a basket of decorative soaps, slaves dying of thirst in burning holes, slaves having their balls cut off with red-hot blades, and so on. The amazing thing about watching all this is that it’s all perfectly Tarantinoesque, but it’s also for the most part historically accurate. Tarantino himself has neatly pointed out that you cannot make a film as lurid as slavery was in reality. He’s right. While you’re watching the filmic violence, the fact that these horrors really happened keeps intruding. The monstrosity of real history in the United States surpasses any pretend violence. It’s physicality is why Django Unchained is so necessary. … Lincoln is oddly bloodless.”

In “Avengers,” a team of superheroes battles an alien horde coming through a hole over Manhattan. In “The Hobbit,” dwarfs fight monsters. “Life of Pi” is about a boy trapped with a tiger on a life boat in the middle of the ocean. And “Prometheus”? “Prometheus” is a state-of-the-art atheist creature feature and the only film all year to harness the 3-D medium’s potential to make eye-popping artwork. These are the special effects nominees, and I don’t know how you pick a winner. More than any other, that’ll be the race I’m watching tonight.

The fat tear Anne Hathaway blinks off during her singing scene in “The Miserables” is so perfectly timed that she’s gonna win an Oscar for it.

Go Denzel.

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