Monday, April 26, 2010

Things Breaking Very Badly For Hank Schrader

The thing with the new modern drama is that the bad guys are often the good guys, and the good guys are lesser good guys.

I think about the dogged Agent Harris, always coming up short against Tony Soprano. Tony was the show's hero, but the Keystone cop feds were one step behind and hard to dislike.

Or master criminal Stringer Bell toying with the squad from The Wire for the better part of 3 seasons, until getting caught in the crosshairs of two more vicious criminals.


In the case of the new best-show-on-TV, Breaking Bad, DEA Agent Hank Schrader isn't a perfect character, but he is a top-notch investigator. Unfortunately, he can't close on the elusive "Heisenberg," the local meth kingpin - who just happens to be Walter White, his brother-in-law.

While Walt is the perfect anti-hero, Hank's personal drama has won us over as well.

Hank is the ultimate bad-ass fed, but is dealing with some post-traumatic stress after a Mexican drug cartel blew up his border task force. So now he's having panic attacks, general anxiety, and behaving very erratically. His professional life is in limbo, and he can't talk to anyone - including his wife - about it.

But he still has his instincts and is right on top of the mysterious RV, the Blue Sky meth, and ultimately Walt. But Walt has the jump on him, since he knows his enemy.

When Walt and Jesse are cornered in the rolling meth lab, Walt pulls a fast one (with a major assist from "Better Call" Saul Goodman), arranging a fake car accident involving Hank's wife, knowing it would pull Hank from the scene.

When Hank finds out its a ruse, he gets dragged down one step further toward his emotional basement.

Now not only is he aware of the problems in front of him. He doesn't even know about the relentless evil "Twin Reaper" who now have made it their mission to chop him into half-a-dozen pieces.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Heritage Hodge-Podge: Who Will Emerge?

It was a wild Saturday in Hilton Head to say the least. At one point there was a 9-way tie for the lead. Jim Furyk ultimately emerged as solo leader (-11) over Brit Brian Davis, with seven others tied just two shots back.

But it doesn't stop there - there are actually 23 golfers within 5 shots. And you'd have to say just about all of them have a shot. I attended Thursday, my 3rd year in a row catching at least one day of the action and in following this closely, the better scores are generally recorded earlier in the day before the greens toughen up and the wind picks up.

That's why Stewart Cink was able to win in 2004, entering Sunday 9 shots back. He's one of the group 5 shots back this year. Then again last year, Brian Gay's final round 64 took him to -20 and a 10-shot victory laugher.

Who else to watch? Two-time champ Boo Weekley is 9-under. Personal favorite madman Stephen Ames lurks in the same group. As well as young guns Luke Donald and Ricky Barnes.

Former champ Aaron Baddeley is at -8 with Camillo Villegas, and Zach Johnson is a legit threat at -7.

My pick? Barnes. The man with the cool hat and the cocky grin has already scared the leaders in some majors. Now it's time to claim his first PGA win and the coveted tartan jacket.

He's already a fashion outcast, might as well add some plaid!

Friday, April 9, 2010

2010 Masters Midpoint: Union Jacks are Better

While everyone is infatuated with Tiger Woods and his return and return to form at Augusta, it's the Brits that are leading the charge.

First there's 36-year old Lee Westwood, the one-time phenom whose steady climb has got him up to the world's #4 ranking. But he is just the co-leader, joining his countryman Ian Poulter...He of the ultra-flashy clothes and the ultra-steady game.

Poulter, 34, won the prestigious matchplay event earlier this year (his first PGA win) and has climbed to #7 in the world rankings.

Poulter is notorious for a quote from 2008:

"I know I haven't played to my full potential and when that happens, it will be just me and Tiger."

Now Poulter has his chance to back up his words and his wardrobe. He is playing the best golf of his career, and while he will be playing with his chum Westwood in their 3rd round pairing, neither seems likely to self-destruct. That's two Top-10 guys in the world sharing a two stroke lead. Tiger's not chasing Chris DiMarco or Rocco Mediate, not in this Major.

There are more factors that forecast Tiger's chance for a 5th Green Jacket as slim at best. Forget the two guys ahead of him for a second. He's still tied with Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim (who won last week), as well as Saturday playing partner K.J. Choi. Those are all world class guys.

But most importantly Tiger's aura of invincibility is seemingly gone. The events of the last several months have shown Woods to be at least human if not vulnerable. And even more tangible to the golfing world, in Tiger Woods' last Major, he was thumped head-to-head.

It was one of the most surreal moments in sports history watching relatively unknown Korean Y.E. Yang celebrate on the 18th at Hazeltine last year while Woods finished up in his shadow. Yang is also in this mix at -5, just one back of Woods & company and three shots back of the leaders.

Traditionally, Saturday at The Masters is about hanging on. The historic runs are made Sunday on the back nine (final six actually). So expect Tiger to be very much alive for Sunday even if he shoots 72-74 in the 3rd Round. It will surely be a blockbuster for CBS.

But the bottom line is too many others will be there with him, and ahead of him. Especially with Bangers and Mash at the top.

I just hope Poulter's not wearing pink trousers when he puts on the Green Jacket.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

College Hoops' Newest Heart-throb

"There's 15-Year old Brad Stevens, in his 3rd season coaching the Butler Bulldogs"

ESPN's Sean McDonough, December 2009
Actually Brad Stevens is 33, though he looks much younger and acts much older. And while comparisons continue to be drawn from Hoosiers, in which the fictional championship game was played in Butler's actual home gym - Hinkle Field House, the Bulldogs don't play or act like underdogs.

So you think Brad Stevens is destined for bigger things, a greater spotlight, truckloads of cash?

You're probably wrong.

Because Stevens is a Hoosier, if not an IU one. He grew up in Indiana (Zionsville), eating, drinking, and sleeping basketball. He went to Division III DePauw (Greencastle) to play point guard and earn Academic All-America honors. Then he got an assistant job at Butler (Indy) before moving up to head coach.

Maybe the Indiana or the Purdue job would be bigger than the one he's got, but neither of those jobs are open. You'd have to think Stevens is staying put. He was once asked if he would leave Butler. He said, "I guess if they kicked me out."

And Stevens has seen how the big jobs have eaten up his predecessors. His Athletic Director, Barry Collier, had a great run at Butler before spending several mediocre seasons at Nebraska. Then Collier left Nebraska to return to Butler in a administrative position. Stevens' mentor, Todd Licklighter also achieved great success at Butler, then swooned in three seasons at Iowa.

Collier took a chance on the baby-faced head coach three years ago, and obviously made the right call. Doing things "The Butler Way" now has Stevens and his squad one step away from immortality against perennial powerhouse Duke. How will it all end?

Don't jump to any conclusions. Not with this program.