Sunday, August 24, 2014

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Haters: Chill Out Please

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge at my work
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

By now you've heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  It's sweeping the United States as a fundraiser for the ALS Association.  For those who don't know, ALS is a disease for which there is no cure.  It essentially leaves the person living with it a prisoner of their own body.  They lose the ability to walk and talk.  Most people with ALS only live two to five years after the diagnosis.  Learn more here.

I finished, so I took a selfie
The challenge has not only helped to raise money for research, but awareness about ALS as well.  As of this posting on August 24, the ALS Association has received more than $53.3 million dollars from 1.1 million new donors.  That is amazing to me.  But of course whenever something good happens, there are those who have to take the air out of the tires so to speak.

I'm not looking to create a war of words by any means, but I am going to voice my opinion about the people who have been posting the memes and other comments about how the challenge is a waste of water and people are doing it to get out of donating.  Everyone I know who has taken the challenge has made a donation of some kind to the ALS Association.  Even if some are "getting out of it", the group has raised more money with this challenge than in a previous year of fundraising.  

Now on to those who say it's a waste of water.  I understand your point about that, but I ask you these three questions.

1. Do you jump right into the shower without running the water first to warm it up, and do you turn off the water while brushing your teeth?

2.  Have you donated to one of the many groups that provides fresh water for those living in countries that don't have access to it?  (Check out what The Water Project does.)

3.  Do you pay any of the bills of the person taking the challenge?

If you answered Yes to all three of these questions, then please continue your postings on social media. Otherwise, consider doing these things and stop being a hypocrite.

More coworkers getting involved
Another aspect of the challenge that is drawing criticism from pro choice groups is that the one study by the ALS Association is using embryonic stem cells.  But the Association says most of the studies underway use adult stem cells, and donors can stipulate which research their money is going toward.  I respect the opinions of those people and hope that folks will still consider making a donation.  

I did it with my friends at work.  My family did it too. We donated in memory of Les Higgins.  He recently died of ALS.  Les was a retired sheriff's deputy in our community.  He had a farm filled with everything from donkeys to mini long horns to camels.  On several occasions he opened up his property to our Cub Scouts.  We also recorded a Wild Wednesday segment there for News 3 This Morning and a video called "Down on the Farm" for All American Pro Wrestling.   Rest in peace Les.   We also donated in honor of Don "Donut" Morgan who is currently battling this horrible disease.  Again, check out the ALS Association to help out or find a cause close to your heart and donate.  Let's be positive and move forward folks.  We all could use a little more happy news in our lives.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Brock's Win Could Benefit Dolph Ziggler

The new champ
Photo courtesy: WWE

By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents

This is certainly not an original thought on my part, but with Brock Lesnar's big win over John Cena at SummerSlam, other champions on the roster now have a chance to step into the spotlight.  I'm basing that on the assumption that Lesnar will remain a part time player in the months to come.  I don't have a problem with that, as I remember growing up, title defenses and appearances on TV by Hulk Hogan were few and far between.

Now if Lesnar maintains his "part time" status like I think he will, this is a great opportunity for others to step up and shine.  I'm looking at U.S. Champion Sheamus and the new Intercontinental Champion Dolph Ziggler specifically.  I'll be curious to see if Lesnar will defend the WWE World Title at Night of Champions in five weeks.  

The WWE Creative team can put the focus on the secondary titles in the meantime.  I think both belts have been lost in the shuffle for way too long now.  Sheamus has been paired with Rob Van Dam recently on Main Event.  And look at how long Dean Ambrose held the U.S. Title without defending it.  I'm always optimistic when a new champ is crowned, thinking the focus will be put back on the title.  I'm hopeful that this time it will happen, especially with Dolph.

New champion, too!
Photo courtesy: WWE
I've always been a fan of Ziggler, and think he was short changed with the World Title run in 2013.  While he may never reach the very top of the mountain ever again, I think he's got a unique opportunity now to be the go to guy, if WWE gets on board with putting an emphasis back on the IC and U.S. Titles.  The fans clearly are behind Ziggler, and maybe now WWE will be too.  I'm also not opposed to a unification match between the IC and U.S. titles, although under the current circumstances, I don't think it's necessary.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Ten Years in Zombie Mode

One of my first newscasts at WSIL
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

August 2004 I was asked to be the fill-in anchor on News 3 This Morning on WSIL-TV.  It was supposed to be a temporary gig.  Mark Kiesling, who had anchored the show up until that point along with Lindy Thackston, was filling in on the 5 o'clock news because then anchor Angie Wyatt was going on maternity leave.  About a month into the gig, it was announced Mark was staying on the 5 with Angie and I would be the permanent co-anchor with Lindy.

Back then, my wake up time was 3:15 a.m.  I would jump in the shower, get dressed, and head to work. I'd get there by 4, eat my breakfast (back then it was Debbie Cakes and Mt. Dew), and help write scripts.  The show was only on from 6 until 7.  

I believe this was 2006 or 07
National Dispatchers Week
Through the years, the show evolved, not just with content, but start time.  In 2007, we launched a 90 minute show, with a start time of 5:30 a.m.  That meant getting up earlier.  I stopped showering in the morning and started showering at night to get an extra 20 minutes of sleep.  When the alarm goes off at an ungodly hour, every minute counts.

Marking National Squirrel Appreciation Day
By September 2012, the show moved to two hours.  We begin at 5 a.m.  Now I get up at 1:30 and am at work before 2.  It's an adjustment, but I enjoy my job and coworkers immensely.  Never did I dream ten years ago that I would still be doing this.  I appreciate those who have supported me and stuck behind the show as it evolved into what it is today.

Celebrating my 40th birthday on the air
In the ten years that I've been anchoring News 3 This Morning, I've had six "permanent" co anchors and countless fill-in co anchors.  There have been four "permanent" meteorologists (and a handful of fill-ins along the way).  I've had nine producers.  Five directors and five chyron operators.  And since August 2004, I've worked with 39 associate producers.  Reading that list, some may think I'm hard to work with.  I'd like to think I've helped everyone find new and exciting opportunities.

Despite being sleep deprived, I do have a really good thing going with News 3 This Morning.  I'm glad to be a part of this team and grateful to have been in the right place at the right time. Thanks again to all of you.  Now enjoy a new round of bloopers with a few old favorites in there.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Not That There's Anything Wrong With That

Seinfeld: "The Outing"
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

I debated writing this blog, because I wasn't exactly sure what the point of it was going to be.  But after I started writing it, I realized what I want you to learn from it. Think before you speak, whether it's a racial slur, comment about someone's sexuality, or an insensitive comment. It might be just a word to you, but it can destroy the self esteem of the person you're saying it to.  There needs to be more uplifting in the word and less tearing down.  Parents, we owe it to our kids to lead the way.

Long before Jerry Seinfeld tackled the subject of homosexuality with the now famous phrase "Not that there's anything wrong with that.", I found myself saying it and quite a bit.  If you haven't seen the episode in question, it's called "The Outing",  and you can read a review of it here.  Long story short, a reporter overhears Jerry and George talking and comes to the conclusion that the friends are actually partners.  Things are taking out of context and it just adds to the hilarity of the situation.

Interviewing Buff Bagwell
I'm 41 years old, married with three children.  People still ask those who know me if I'm gay.  It doesn't bother me anymore, but back in the day it did.  I guess I understand why someone who didn't know about my family might question my heterosexuality. I'm obsessed with a sport that involves muscle bound guys covered in baby oil and rolling around in skin tight shorts.  Heck, I've even done it myself. Then there's my love for The Golden Girls and don't forget that I never missed an episode of Desperate Housewives during its run on ABC.

8th grade... WOW
The questioning of my sexual preference started in the 8th grade and by someone who might surprise you.  It was a teacher who made a comment to me in front of the class questioning whether I was gay.  Some of my classmates laughed at the statement, which I can't even remember anymore.  What I do remember I was embarrassed and humiliated and couldn't wait for the bell to ring. I also remember the kind words of the girl who sat in front of me in that class.  She told me not to listen to the teacher or the laughter.

The college years...
All through high school I had several classmates and coworkers ask me if I was gay, despite the fact that I had a crush on several girls and made my infatuations obvious (I'll refer you to this blog) Looking back on it now, I'm not bothered by the fact that people assumed I was gay.  It bugs me that it bothered back then.  Like Jerry and George said, there is nothing wrong with being gay. But to a teenager with an already poor sense of self and fragile ego, being different, even when you're really not can be devastating.

This may not help my case...
Fast forward to adulthood.  I've lived in this community for more than a decade. Recently, a friend told me a mutual acquaintance thought I was gay when we first met.  I laughed about it and made an inappropriate joke, but it was okay, because we were with a friend who really is gay.  That makes it better, right?  Another friend refers to me as the gayest straight person he knows.  Twenty years ago, that would have bothered me, but today I take it in stride.  

Kids (back then and today) hurl insults at our friends, calling them "gay" or worse.  While we didn't think the person in question was really gay, it was certainly meant to be an insult.  The thing I still don't get is, WHY is being gay an insult?  Do homosexuals call each other "hetero" or "straight" when they're fighting?  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I Wanted to Be Mork

Fonz & Mork
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

I'm old enough to remember when Robin Williams appeared on Happy Days as Mork.  He brought so much energy and life to the role.  But as a kid, it seemed like Mork was the villain, as he did battle with the ultra cool Fonz.

Loved those suspenders
It wasn't long before that role lead to the sitcom Mork and Mindy. The show became a favorite in my family as we followed the adventures of this odd couple each week.  When Mork wasn't wearing his trademark space suit, he donned a pair of rainbow colored suspenders.  There was a pointing finger on one side and a half moon on the other.  That set a fashion trend back in the late 70's and early 80's.  My brother and I both had a pair and wore them all the time, thinking we were cooler than cool.

Mork in action figure form
Marketing was a big thing back then too.  I had a Mork action figure, which came in a plastic egg with a window.  It modeled his mode of transportation on the show.  It wasn't until his death and looking at old clips of the show that I was remind I owned this toy.
We'd also go around uttering that memorable line, "Nanu nanu" in an effort to be more like our favorite out-of-this-world character.

Through the years, Williams would play countless roles.  He brought Popeye to life on the big screen.  We saw that at the movie theater when I was seven.  Robin was the frog and the prince on Showtime's Faerie Tale Theater. But there were adult roles too, like The World According to Garp.  It was Rated R, but somehow we ended up watching it on cable when I was 10.  
I'll never be able to pick a favorite role, but there are plenty that stand out to me.  My short list includes Genie in Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Armand Goldman in the Birdcage.  I must admit I have not seen Dead Poet's Society, but I plan to change that soon, and I've only got faint memories of Good Morning, Vietnam.  It's a film I plan to reexamine.  

Robin Williams was a genius who entertained the masses.  He left a lasting impression on pop culture and his works will live on forever.  I've mentioned it before, if you ever have suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.  Don't be ashamed and don't suffer alone.  There are people who care and want to help.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Strange Obsession with Celebrity Deaths

@my123cents on Twitter

The bulk of this post is going to be Chad's, but since we both wanted to weigh in on the death of Robin Williams, I figured I'd tie it into one post.  My thoughts will be short and sweet. 

Remember the alien who made us laugh in Mork and Mindy.  Remember the Genie who made us believe in ourselves in Aladdin.  Remember the teacher who inspired us in Dead Poet's Society.  Williams' apparent suicide has created an open dialogue on the issue of mental illness, depression, and suicide.  He was not selfish in his actions.  We don't know the pain he was going through.  That's the thing about mental illness.  People suffer in silence.

I think we as a society need to acknowledge mental illness is a very real medical condition just like cancer, diabetes, or heart disease.  The stigma needs to be broken.  It's okay to get help. I know several people who have ended their own lives because they felt there were no other options.  If you or someone you know is considering suicide, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline anytime, 1-800-273-8255.

Chad's take on things

Monday at work my coworkers got into a discussion about the death of Game of Thrones actor J.J. Murphy. They were trying to figure out which character J.J. portrayed on the show. Since I don’t watch Game of Thrones and don’t think I’ve ever seen J.J. Murphy before, I got up and walked around for a bit to get away from the conversation. When I came back, they had all gone back to work. I sat at my computer and decided to check the news sites to see if anything interesting was going on in the world before going back to work myself. That’s when I saw Robin Williams had been found dead.  This led to a brief talk with the coworkers as they had seen the news and talked about it while I was gone.

Again, I realize what I’m about to write is going to be more of the cynical, angry old man side of me that seems to be coming out more and more lately. That isn’t my full intention. This is more of an observation and curiosity I have towards human behavior.

Photo courtesy: Disney
After news broke about Robin Williams’ death, literally for the next hour every single posting on my Facebook timeline was either a RIP comment or picture of Robin from one of his movies.  I understand the death was shocking due to Robin not being ill but I what I don’t understand is why celebrity deaths impact people so much.

On the way home from work I was talking with a friend and she made two valid points. I have a lot of friends who work in the film/television industry. In a sense, Robin was a peer. That could explain all the postings. I’ve had other people I’ve worked with on shows die in the past few years and everyone who knew them posted similar comments to those being posted about Robin. Difference being fewer people knew these behind the scenes persons and so there were less comments.

The second point my friend mentioned was a nostalgia factor. Robin Williams has been a star for nearly 40 years. From Mork to Popeye to Mrs. Doubtfire to Genie and others that had a lasting impression on the audience, Robin Williams leaves a legacy of quotable and memorable characters.  Anyone who grew up with these characters understandably feels a loss due to Robin’s death.

The issue I have is not so much why people would be sadden by the death of Robin Williams but why one person’s death gets heralded while others get mocked or ignored.  Maybe it’s because I don’t idolize celebrities the way society tells me I should. Yes, there are celebrities I am huge fans of but at the end of the day, I realize they are just people like everyone else and if I actually knew them, my opinion of them could be radically different.

Kevin Ward, Jr.
Photo courtesy: USA Today
Getting back to the first part of the last paragraph, on Saturday night, racer Kevin Ward Jr. was struck and killed by Tony Stewart during a race at Canandaigua Motor Sports Park in upstate New York.  The few comments I’ve seen regarding the incident put more blame on Kevin for being on the racetrack than showing compassion for his death. Granted, Kevin shouldn’t have left his car and walked onto a racetrack while cars were still driving. Does that make Kevin’s death any less tragic than Robin Williams’ death that would make it okay to mock or trivialize it? 

Ferguson riots
Earlier on Saturday in Ferguson, Missouri an 18-year-old male, Michael Brown was shot by a police officer. This story went primarily unmentioned until riots and looting broke out in Ferguson. I do not know most of the details involved in this case. Does that support what I’m trying to say in this writing? Police shoot a person and a town breaks out into mass chaos yet as of this writing four of the top six stories on Yahoo are about Robin Williams.  Even President Obama has issued a statement regarding the death of Robin Williams yet has been silent about a town in turmoil.

Last month Islamic state fighters stoned two women in separate towns in Syria to death for allegedly committing adultery. In 2014 people are still being stoned to death and it doesn’t make the news for several days.

Again, I understand Robin Williams had universal appeal and recognition. I think part of my issue may also be the manner in which Robin died. The current story is he committed suicide after suffering from depression. While his life is being celebrated and remembered, how long before people move on and “forget” about the reason for his death?  Mental illness seems to be a growing problem in society yet how much is being done to treat and cure (if possible) this disease?  That’s an honest question, as I have no clue what to the answer.  I’ll save that tangent for another time.

Good Morning Vietnam
Robin Williams was a hilarious comedian and talented actor. His death is shocking due to the nature of how it happened. But I am jaded and cynical to the point where the death of a celebrity doesn’t take precedence over actual events in the world that will have more of a lasting impact.  I simply don’t understand the culture of celebrity society promotes. Being rich, being famous, being infamous doesn’t mean anything to me. People are people.

Good thing my123cents has Kevin around to keep things light and fun.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Night I Angered WCW Security

Me and the Brain in 1998
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

I spent the first 18 months of my career working in Florence, Alabama.  I was barely on the job two months when I learned that WCW would be doing a live Thursday Night Thunder show in Huntsville.  It was an hour drive from the station and with the help of my news director, I was able to secure a couple of media passes for the event.

I really didn't know what to expect when we arrived at the Von Braun Civic Center that chilly January night in 1998.  We were greeted by the media relations people and told we'd have the opportunity to talk with a handful of WCW stars.  My photographer, Brian, was also a wrestling fan.  We both hoped that Ric Flair would be a part of the group.  But those dreams came to a quick halt when we were informed Flair wasn't there.  

One of the competing stations was interviewing The Giant live for the 5 p.m. news.  We stood and watched in awe at the mountain of a man.  I'd hoped he'd be available for the lil' podunk station from Florence, but he was quickly whisked away after his live hit.

It wasn't long until we were introduced to Ray Traylor (aka The Big Bossman).  We started rolling as I asked him what his plans were for the night.  He stayed in character the whole time, vowing to get revenge on the nWo.  He'd just split from the group and was angry. The interview was short and sweet and he left the area where all the reporters and photographers were standing.

Since we had some down time before our next guests (I ended up interviewing Goldberg, Bobby Heenan, and Buff Bagwell that night), I figured it would be a good time to get some extra video footage.  The crew setting up the ring caught my eye and I asked Brian to start getting some shots.  He started rolling when WCW head of security Doug Dillinger approached us.  I could tell by the look on his face he was not happy and when he asked what the hell we were doing, I knew he was pissed.

He means business!
I explained we need some B-roll for the story and thought the ring set up was interesting.  Dillinger told us we did not have permission to record the ring crew and immediately demanded the tape.  I promised him we would not use the footage and pleaded with him to let us keep our video, because my interview with Traylor was on it.  I told him no one had told us not to get video of the set up.  His anger increased and demanded that we hand it over.  I didn't want to get kicked out, so I gave him the cassette.  He did say he'd try to make sure the production team didn't erase the interview with Traylor, but made no promises.

Flustered and frustrated by what had happened, it was time to move on to the rest of the interviews.  Brian brought an extra tape and everything went flawlessly after that.  We stayed and watched the two hour show and chatted amongst ourselves and the other reporters about why Dillinger was so mad.  Then as the main event, which featured The Giant versus Scott Hall, things became clear. During the melee that ensued the angry Giant destroyed the ring with his bare hands.

The Giant destroys the ring
That night was the first time I'd ever seen a ring being put together. Since then I've helped put together my fair share of rings.  I've got to assume that they had this one rigged to come apart when The Giant trashed it and that was the concern over the video footage we got.  Maybe though, the company wanted to keep that part of the business protected.  I really didn't think about it as potentially exposing anything.  I just wanted to share a rarely seen perspective.  I don't blame them for that, I just thought the reaction was a bit over the top.

Anytime I hear Dillinger's name brought up in an interview I think of that night and how he cussed at us for getting the footage.  It was a memorable night none-the-less and remains one of my favorite stories I did while working in Alabama.  By the way, click here for those interviews, Blogger isn't letting me embed the actual video for some reason.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Randy Orton: Bully or Victim

Randy Orton and the fan in question
Photo from Twitter
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

I'm sure by now you've heard about the Randy Orton incident with a female fan.  If you missed it, Orton recently retweeted a pic referring to the woman as "Latino Ms. Piggy."  (If you speak or read Spanish, it should be Latina, but I digress...)  This is the exact tweet...

"Look @kimklro I met the Latino Ms. Piggy today at the gym. I wish you were there to have a good laugh with me! #MsPig"

The fan in question has apparently been stalking Orton and his girlfriend for quite some time.  Randy has since deleted the tweet and issued an apology.  

"I apologize if any of my previous tweets offended anyone. The answer to bullying isn't more bullying..."

This is just my opinion, but I think that Randy Orton did the wrong thing by posting what he did about the fan.  I understand that this woman probably has been bugging the hell out of him and his girlfriend on social media and even in real life.  But there was probably a better way to nip that in the bud.

I work in local TV news.  I am in no way comparing the exposure I receive in my market to what WWE Superstars go through.  But I have been harassed online, on the phone, and even in person.  I've never resorted to flinging the insults back at the person in question. Pardon the pun, but it's bad for business.

Orton in action
Photo courtesy: WWE
WWE is a publicly traded company.  They are the creators of the "Be A Star" campaign aimed at ending bullying.  Going on social media and calling this woman a pig has done nothing but make Orton look like a bully.  I get the frustration, but find a different way to deal with it.

Acknowledging fans who are seeking "15 minutes of fame" gives them more fuel to keep targeting celebrities.  I don't know the fan's motive, but it seems like if she's making things public on social media, she's seeking attention.  When a celebrity gives a response, good or bad, it satisfies the fans' need for notoriety and likely encourages others to do the same thing.

I don't want to leave you with the impression that Orton (or any harassed celebrity) shouldn't stand up for themselves when it comes to overzealous fans.  But it's important to do it in a way that doesn't end up backfiring and making the star and the company they work for look bad.  Besides, I've always found that when someone is hating, there are plenty of other supporters to take care of the negativity.

Bottom line, what Randy Orton did was wrong.  And from what I've read, what the fan did was wrong too.  Yes, we're paying customers, but it doesn't justify stalking anyone.  We all know two wrongs don't make a right.  I hope that Randy will be the bigger man next time and perhaps let the WWE and the police (if necessary) handle the situation.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Time I Thought My Gremlin Was Really Alive

Gizmo, the toy
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

The summer of 1984 saw some pretty epic film releases.  The Karate Kid, Ghostbusters, and Gremlins are just a few of the flicks I saw at the theater.  I was 11 years old at the time, and like all the kids my age, I got caught up in the hype of the marketing machine. I sported a Ghostbusters shirt.  My brother and I shared the Indiana Jones action figures.  And I had one of those Gizmo figures (it wasn't a doll). 

Just like Billy did in the movie, I made a little bed for Gizmo.  I set it on the nightstand next to my bed, careful each night not to let too much light shine on him.  We all remember the rules from the movie, no bright light or your Mogwai will die.  I also kept him away from water, because I didn't want Gizmo to multiply. Obviously, I didn't feed him after midnight, as he didn't open his mouth.

I don't know why I had it in my mind that these things could actually happen to my toy.  To me, Gizmo was real.  I guess it was partly wishful thinking, and partly just having an imagination.  I think a lot of kids believe their toys are just like the ones in the Toy Story movies, coming to life when no human is around. 

It's what I miss about being a kid.  Suspending belief and believing in the impossible.  Despite all the electronics and handheld devices children have access to now, it still happens from time to time.  I remember a boy who turned 11 years old and anxiously awaited an acceptance letter to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. That letter didn't come, just like Gizmo never multiplied when I dropped him in our swimming pool.  But having that belief is what being a kid is all about.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Feeling Less and Less Marvel-ous

Guardians of the Galaxy
Courtesy: Marvel/Disney
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter

If I were one to subscribe to hyperbole I’d say that what I’m about to write may cause a bit of controversy. Instead, I’ll start by saying I realize I am quickly growing out of the target demographic Hollywood favors. Therefore, I know I’m not the ideal audience for the latest big budget action movie to hit the multiplex. Also, I haven’t read a comic book since GI Joe issue 75 back in 1988. So not only am I not the target audience for a big budget action film, I also don’t have the geek cred for comic book movies. Why do I mention all that? Over the weekend I saw Guardians of the Galaxy and unlike 99% of everyone who saw the movie, I walked out of the theater thinking, “I’ve seen this already.” 

Don’t get me wrong. I thought the movie was enjoyable and certainly understand why others would like the movie. I just feel like I spent another two hours watching something I’ve seen too many times recently in the theater.

Since Marvel ushered in the era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with Iron Man in 2008, they have released ten movies in the last six years. Seven of those have come out in the past three to four years. That’s a new comic book based movie on average every six months without taking into consideration other Marvel films like X-Men or Spider-Man and the DC comics Dark Knight series or Superman movie. 

Personally, I think I’ve hit the breaking point for superheroes.
I want to stress again, I’m not saying Guardians of the Galaxy wasn’t good. Simply saying with the exception of a prolonged origin story for the protagonist and villains, the plot and action were very reminiscent of other Marvel films. The biggest issue, for me, is how most Marvel movies revolve around the same storyline. Villain wants powerful crystal/element that can cause mass destruction. Hero has to stop villain from destroying humanity. Large CGI destruction porn battle takes place. Hero saves the world. Lather, rinse, and repeat.

Chris Hemsworth at Comic Con
I understand that I just described basically every single plot of every action movie ever made. There are two points I’d argue. The first, as already mentioned, you can write out the storyline for a Marvel film then cross out the superhero and villain names and replace with characters from another film and there’s no difference. What’s separates Captain America from Thor from Guardians of the Galaxy?

The second point is suspense. Watching a Marvel movie, I never get caught up in the film to the point where I feel the heroes will fail. I don’t even feel like they’ll get to a point where they need to regroup and rethink their strategy. Given the majority of the MCU set up other films, why doesn’t Marvel leave some of the films with a cliffhanger? It worked with The Empire Strikes Back, and the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit/Harry Potter movies.  Like an engrossing television series, leave the audience wondering what will happen next and give them a reason to come back next time. 
Instead, the movies wrap up nicely then leave the audience with a thirty second tease for the next film after making them sit through fifteen minutes of credits.

Thanos at Comic Con
I’ve read (again, not that knowledgeable on Marvel comic books) all of the powerful elements from the MCU films are items Thanos needs to power his Nintendo Power Glove and that’s the stage all these films are setting. If that’s the case, again I ask why does every film end with the heroes winning the battle?

Rocket Raccoon
Perhaps my biggest complaint is the overuse of CGI. This is probably the hollowest complaint because if CGI didn’t exist these movies couldn’t be made.  I’m just at the point where CGI environments aren’t impressive anymore. Instead of being used to add to a story, they’re becoming the story. Before anyone comments on it, yes, I thought Rocket Raccoon and Groot were very well done and believable characters. My complaint is with the climaxes of these movies being nothing more than destruction of cities. That’s why I enjoyed X-Men: Days of Future Past. It broke the formula and told a somewhat interesting story.

I realize comic books are the fad at the moment, and with Guardians of the Galaxy’s 90 million dollar opening weekend there shows no signs of studios rethinking their decision to make more movies based on colorful picture books. Honestly, I don’t really have a problem with movies being based on comic books or graphic novels. I just wish the writers would change up the script and give a different story for a change. Can we get Professor X and Magneto staging a My Dinner with Andre style conversation?

The sad part is that even though I know I’m tired of comic book movies, I will still be there opening weekend for Avengers 2, Ant Man, Captain America 3, Dr. Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy 2. I have an addiction that may require an intervention. In the meantime, I’ll just have to counterbalance loud, flashy action movies with more gentle films such as The 100 Foot Journey and Get On Up.

Monday, August 4, 2014

LA KISS Season 1 Thoughts

Chad meets Paul Stanley 
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter

I was inducted into the KISSArmy at the age of 5.  About a year ago, I sat down at my computer at work and saw the headline, “KISS TO BRING FOOTBALL BACK TO LOS ANGELES.” Being a fan of both football and KISS, I was intrigued. Clicking on the article revealed by “football” the headline meant Arena Football and “Los Angeles” meant Anaheim.  The article made mention of season tickets going on sale that morning. Since I have a tendency to make questionable impulse decisions, as soon as tickets went on sale I submitted a request for two field level tickets. Before that day my only knowledge of arena football was 1) it was played on a smaller field than the NFL, 2) the AFL had shut down recently for one season and 3) Jon Bon Jovi was part owner of the Philadelphia Soul team.  Point three is one of the most important reasons for my purchasing tickets. I wanted a rivalry to be born between the Soul and KISS. Who wouldn’t want to see Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons and Jon Bon Jovi trash talking each other and making public bets on the game? If the Soul wins, KISS has to cover “Livin’ on a Prayer” in concert. If KISS wins, Jon has to wear KISS style makeup during a concert. I have weird reasons for making decisions. 

When I ordered my tickets, the AFL had yet to announce the schedule for the 2014 season. Unfortunately for me, the game makers failed to consult me in the decision making process. Once the schedule was announced, I found out due to my travel plans for the months of April and May, I was going to miss three out of the first four home games.  This was disappointing but there were seven other games that I would be able to see.

The fans!
Again, because I make questionable impulse decisions, my season tickets were six rows off the field. At the time of order, my thinking being close to the field would be most exciting. Between ordering the tickets and attending my first game, I embarked on my trip of hockey fandom and got accustomed to sitting in the upper levels of arenas where I could see the entire field. Attending my first LA KISS game, I was excited to be near the field but also felt my view was hindered by being to the left side of the LA KISS bench, which blocked my view of plays on the near side of the field beyond the 25 yard line.  Also, I was seated next to a season ticket couple that spent the majority of the first quarter telling me how upset they were with how small the seats were and how they wouldn’t be renewing their tickets. Needless to say, the first impression of the environment left a bit to be desired.

Once the game started, however, any negative thoughts were quelled. Now, I’m not going to sit here and pretend LA KISS were a great team this season. They finished the season with a 3-15 record. I don’t think any fan expected them to be great. They were an expansion team playing their season. Barring some type of miracle this was going to be a learning season. The true test will be the next 2-3 seasons to see how they improve on the foundation that was laid this season.

As stated earlier, I wasn’t too familiar with AFL before becoming a KISS ticket holder and I failed to really expand my knowledge during the season. Part of that is due to a lack of coverage the AFL gets in mainstream coverage. By that I mean Yahoo sports and the ESPN score app doesn’t list scores or news. I am also a sports fan that doesn’t focus much on stats. My basic following of sports is, “did the team I like win” and “did the team I don’t like lose.”  I am trying to become a knowledgeable fan. It just hasn’t happened yet.

Paul Stanley
With the regular season of the AFL finished and LA KISS missing the playoffs, it’s time to look toward next season. It’s pretty clear the standout player for the KISS this season was the 2008 Rookie of the Year, Donovan “Captain” Morgan.  I would like to see KISS get behind Morgan and promote him as the franchise player.  Or at the very least, market a jersey with his name and number.

From my untrained eye, the two areas that need the most work in the offense are Quarterback and Pass Defense.  After starting the season 2-8, KISS traded Quarterback J.J. Raterink and acquired 18-year AFL veteran Aaron Garcia. Towards the end of the season, Garcia suffered a shoulder injury and was replaced by rookie, Kenny Guiton. While Garcia is an AFL legend, if I’m the one in charge of a new team, I would look towards the future and go with a younger QB who can be molded and have a team built around his strengths.

Since arena football is mostly passing plays, pass defense is a key part to the game. At the last few home games, there were way too many times where the receivers for the visiting team were pretty much standing alone on the field. The field is about half as wide as an NFL field so when a receiver has no one around him, there’s a problem.  I’m not going to sit here and armchair quarterback how to fix this problem because I would sound even more like an idiot than normal.  I trust the coaching staff does know how to address this issue and will take the necessary steps during the offseason to try and rectify the lack of coverage. 

The best thing I can say about the games is they were fun.  After the first game, the people sitting next to me never returned. Instead, fans that were into the game and into the team surrounded me. Even when the team wasn’t doing well, the fans were there to offer support. No one left before the end of the game no matter the score. They cheered the team even after a bad play or two.  Most of all, I was thrilled there were no annoying belligerent fans in my area. The positivity and fun atmosphere made me rethink my decision to get tickets in the upper deck next season.  Instead, I renewed my tickets for the same seats.

Paul Stanley & Schuyler Hoversten
LA KISS management needs to be commended for their dedication to the team. I may be na├»ve, but hearing Paul Stanley speak to the fans during halftime (not to mention actually sitting in seats near the field instead of in a luxury box) and team President Schuyler Hoversten addressing the crowd at the final home game, you can tell this is management that cares about it’s team, about it’s fans and wants to put the best team on the field.

As of now I don’t have any major travel plans on the calendar so when the schedule is announced, I should be at every game proudly wearing my LA KISS “Stanley” jersey (unless they start selling a “Morgan” jersey) and rooting on the team to victory.  It’s exciting to get a chance to support a team from their beginning. Now if I can just learn more about the team so I can talk about them in more context of did they win or lose.