Monday, August 30, 2010

Mad Mentor: When Roger Met Don

On the eve of Don Draper's first Clio Award for television advertising excellence, Roger Sterling walks down memory lane to how it became possible. When he met Don, the fur guy. And it's kind of a hazy path considering how much they each drink along the way. Just consider Roger's ramblings in the dictation of his book.

And for Don the award is a culmination of his crooked path to the highest heights of his profession. And after the win, the calculated Draper lets his guard down. First comes the most exaggerated case of hubris, then the drunken blur.

Don still didn't pull a Duck Phillips, ranting out in a crowded banquet room, but his spouting at the mouth caused him to inadvertently steal a slogan from an idiot he interviewed earlier. Then naturally he winds up in bed with a waitress he doesn't remember.

For Roger, the alcohol reveals the truth in his feelings. He's jealous of Don, who always gets the credit and naturally he transfers his anger to any target he can find.

Ultimately, Roger's behavior is damaging his own company. Lane Pryce, the London corporate lackey who runs the nuts and bolts of the agency said so much calling him a "child" in his empowerment of Pete Campbell. This ultimately begs the question, "Who runs Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce?"

1. Don Draper - He's the face of the firm, but ultimately a creative diva who goes off the reservation whenever he fells like it.

2. Roger Sterling - A buffoon who is tied to Lucky Strike, the company's biggest client. But he's a loose cannon (see what he did with the Japanese Honda people?) who isn't up to date in 1965.

3. Bert Cooper - Older than Sterling, his presence is mostly ceremonial.

4. Lane Pryce - He really is in control of everything with a dollar sign attached. But he's just an operational wizard who doesn't do accounts or creative, and is still an outsider.

5. Pete Campbell - This is the best character arc in the 4 seasons of the series. He went from a conniving kid to a savvy, confident exec who is well on his way to running the show.

Pete has been challenging Roger this season, and took the balls of his former colleague/competitor Ken Cosgrove while hiring him back.

The next generation is on the rise on the creative side as well with Peggy taking the balls of her creative cohort in the art department in a metaphorical game of strip poker. "Let's get liberated!"

When she "won," she was promptly tagged as "the smuggest bitch on the planet."

Just another major character evolution on a show where the kings are becoming the jesters, and their loyal servants are becoming enlightened.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

When The Men In Blue Don't Have A Clue

Being a Major League umpire is a pretty thankless job - nobody disputes that. But there are occasions like Wednesday's Tigers/Yankees game, when Home Plate ump and crew chief Eric Cooper brought it upon himself.

Let's rewind for a second to Monday night, when the Tigers turned a dramatic game-ending DP to take the series opener at Yankee Stadium. The Tigers completed the play despite a vicious takeout slide by the Yankees Brett Gardner, that landed Tigers 2B Carlos Guillen on the disabled list.

Now I am a Yankee fan, but not a Yankee apologist. Gardner's slide, with the game on the line, was a bit overzealous (I refrain from using the "d" word). Yankee broadcaster Michael Kay called it a clean slide live, though you could hear him biting his tongue on the replays.

I recognized right away that with 3 more games in the series, that this situation wasn't resolved. I even tweeted as such at the time. The Tigers, managed by old-school Jim Leyland, sat out the situation on Tuesday as not to involve their ace starter Justin Verlander.

But on Wednesday with Brett Gardner leading off the bottom of the 1st, Tiger starter Jeremy Bonderman returned fire on the very first pitch of the game.

But Bonderman didn't put one in Gardner's ear. He went for the legs of a guy who makes his living with them (34 Stolen Bases), since Gardner injured Guillen's knee.

Gardner didn't charge the mound, he took his base. The Yankee dugout didn't empty. This was the type of baseball justice that's been going on since the game began. You could almost see Joe Girardi tipping his cap to Jim Leyland that the matter was resolved. Except Umpire Eric Cooper injected himself into the situation by warning both benches.

So now fast forward to the 8th inning, with the Yankees holding a 9-4 lead. AL MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera, who already homered twice in the game stepped in and was plunked in the back by Yankee reliever Chad Gaudin.

Whether Gaudin intended to hit Cabrera or not, the scenario plus the warning made it a no-brainer. Eric Cooper had to eject Chad Gaudin and his manager, Joe Girardi. But he did nothing.

Was Cooper intimidated by the pinstripes? Or the Yankees crowd? Either way, he proved to be a chump for not following through on his own warning. Jim Leyland rode Cooper relentlessly, until Cooper had no choice but to eject him. And Leyland was still pointing the finger, quite righteously, as he took his walk.

So the situation continued to take on a life of its own, and the umpires had lost control of the game. So in the bottom of the 8th, Tigers reliever Enrique Gonzalez threw behind Yankees captain Derek Jeter.

And the Yankees had to sit there and take it, just like the Tigers did in the previous frame. So despite an early warning, the umpires didn't follow through.

Now the Yankees and Tigers play for the final time in 2010 at 1 PM today. Has the bad blood continued to elevate, or is the matter put to bed? Either way, the umpires, the policemen of the game, were invisible as it played out.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday's Step Up Squad At Whistling Straits

There's a little matter to be settled on some lakefront property in Wisconsin today. And everyone is talking about the "young guns," the 20-something band on the front page of the leaderboard. But to look forward, you first have to look back to the last PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.

In 2004, everyone was hailing this unique setting, which presented the challenges of a US Open with the look of a British Open. It was going to be brutal - except Vijay Singh was -12 through 3 rounds. But on Sunday, everything got tightened up. Singh shot 76 with no birdies until winning in the playoff.

I look for history to repeat itself and 29-year old Nick Watney's -13 and 3-shot lead to go by the boards long before the end of the day. That leaves a very precocious group to seize the trophy.

Exhibit A: Rory McIlroy (21).

While Tiger Woods' grip on the #1 World Golf Ranking will be over fairly soon, who immediately succeeds him (Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood) is a mere formality.

McIlroy is the next world's-best-golfer. He owns the year's most dominant performance with a 66-62 finish in Charlotte, blasting past Phil Mickelson in the process.

McIlroy also pounded St. Andrews with an opening round 63 at the British, before he got hammered by the weather in Round 2.

Exhibit B: Dustin Johnson (26).

The 6-foot-4 South Carolinian makes you take notice. He's got "extra" length off the tee, and can routinely out-drive Tiger. He can dunk a basketball.

And just watch him swing and watch him walk - everything exudes confidence, except his face. He's a "flat-liner," and maybe with the Sunday US Open blowup in his rearview, he may become the next face of American golf.

Exhibit C: Jason Day (22).

This is the wild-card. He's been flying under the radar until taking The Byron Nelson this year in Dallas.

While McIlroy blows you away with his moxy and Johnson with his talent, Day has all the tricks in a short game reminiscent of someone twice his age.

While these men may represent the next Big Three in professional golf, you never know what the future holds in such a tenuous profession (see: Garcia, Sergio).

And we don't want to write Tiger off too soon, though he won't win this tournament. He could find his way from 31st place to a Top 10 finish. That would give him three Top 10 Majors in a tumultuous, transition year in his life, a season 98% of PGA Tour golfers would probably trade their career for.

And the winner today will be: Rory McIlroy. His first of many career Golf Major championships.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hard Knocks Ready To Take Off

It's T-minus one week to the Season Premiere of HBO's Hard Knocks, and I can't remember a higher-profile training camp than the beloved New York Jets, bunking in Cortland, NY in August 2010.

There are plenty of reasons that GM Mike Tannenbaum and Head Coach Rex Ryan should be looking up. But the real hard knocks have begun already with the holdout of Darrelle Revis.

Clearly the Jets brain trust anticipated this situation with their all-world corner, and signed an accomplished cover guy Antonio Cromartie from SD (10 picks in '07) and drafted a major playmaking corner in Kyle Wilson from Boise.

Rex Ryan's attack defense requires outside guys to take care of their island while he throws everyone else at the quarterback. The Jets may be set up there with or without Revis. So the Jets actually have some measure of leverage against the NFL's king of coverage.

From Revis' standpoint, he is living off the 6-year, 30-million dollar deal he got as a 1st round pick in '07. The one player in the League that is equal or better than Revis at his position, the Raiders' Nnamdi Asonugha, got a 3-year, 45.3 million extension in March of '09.

Whether or not the Raiders overpaid for the #1 ranked player in Madden 2010 is a matter of historical debate. But Revis feels he's entitled to that sort of deal, and that has been backed up by the Jets' brass, who said last year that he'd be taken care of.

While the Revis situation has vaulted to the #1 headline in an August that will be filled with them, HBO will still have plenty to enjoy.

> Rex Ryan: Year 2

> Mark Sanchez: Year 2

> LaDainian Tomlinson: Career 2

> Kris Jenkins return from torn ACL

> Moving Targets up top: Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes

> Pass rusher Jason Taylor: Can he still bring it?

> Pass rusher Vernon Gholston: Can he ever bring it?

Plus there's hard news: QB Erik Ainge has checked into rehab for drug dependency. And there's the collateral tabloid damage that's developing from the Jets situation with Brett Favre in 2008.

Most importantly it's the Jets' most anticipated season maybe ever. Let's hope it doesn't peak on pay cable.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Don Draper's Unlucky Strike

While Don Draper isn't too fickle about who he sleeps with, he knows he fucked this one up.

After leaving the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce Xmas party, Don had left his keys in his office in his usual drunken form. While he was ready to jump on the firm's psych consultant or the cute nurse across the hall, there are some lines Don doesn't cross.

Which of course he did when he nailed his own googly-eyed secretary after she came to the rescue with the keys in one of the queasiest scenes in the show's history. Alcohol is a hell of a drug. Just ask Freddy Rumsen, returning to the agency clean and sober after 16 months.

So what makes Don so different from Big Tobacco heir Lee Garner, Jr.? While the Lucky Strike prince can make any demands he wants (they are the #1 client responsible for some 70% of SCDP's billings), he does so in the brashest possible fashion.

Lee Garner, Jr. can threaten to fire the agency if he isn't accommodated by Art Director Salvatore Romano in a same-sex tryst. That was the likely tipping point for the likable character's departure from the firm last year.

Or he can pull out his swinging dick (figuratively of course) and demean the boss, Roger Sterling, in front of the entire agency, forcing him to be Santa at the Xmas party and putting his hands on Roger's wife. But Roger handles it with charm.

Nobody seems to know exactly what Roger Sterling does. When he comes back drunk from a client meeting, Peggy says, "I can't believe that's his job." But it's the ability to keep the big fish clients, the quirky, greedy, selfish perverts and their insatiable appetites...happy.

So back to the scoundrel tale of the tape:

Lucky Strike's Lee Garner Jr. is a bully who gets what he wants through sheer power and intimidation.

Don Draper uses his power to persuade and use and hurt people to get what he wants, from the same people who only want to please him.

"The morning after" meeting with his secretary was just as icy and sad as it could possibly be. He thanked her for bringing him his keys, which translates into "last night never happened." Allison gets a $100 bonus on a generic holiday card, while Don walks out of the office with the presents for his kids that she shopped for and immaculately wrapped.

Who is the more dangerous predator?