“Life is like sucking honey from a thorn. There’s good times and bad times. “-Robert De Niro in The Killer Elite
There are things to discuss and a fair amount of time has passed since my last posting here in the Buffa Rant Lounge, so let’s dive right in. In no logical order, I am going to fire off about a few things but I will give them a number. Here are 12 things to talk about.
First, an opening rant-I don’t like the assumption that baseball players aren’t as skilled as hockey players. Bullshit. That is a wrong statement. This isn’t a knock against hockey players but a simple correction. Let’s look at this bluntly. You could train a baseball player to skate and shoot a puck with a stick. It would harder to take a hockey player to hit a moving fastball or wait on a curveball or throw one. Hockey and football are games of supreme athleticism and skill, but it must be known that baseball involves the hard task of hitting exploding sliders and nasty offspeed offerings from some of the best pitchers on the planet. Baseball requires a mental and physical skill and in my opinion, is as skillful if not more so than hockey. Skating isn’t required in baseball but all you have to do is look at the old fashion matchup of pitcher and hitter to see how hard it is. Skating and shooting can be taught quicker than hitting moving baseballs and throwing them. You ever seen a non baseball player throw a baseball. It’s not pretty. Just saying. Let’s get on with it.
1.)The Cardinals. Yes, the rogues in red continue to play good baseball while remaining a step away from greatness. At 20-12, they are easily leading the feeble NL Central but are running into the gauntlet of outer divisional matchups for the next few weeks. After playing their own divisional foes for 30 plus games, the Cards battled the Diamondbacks and are welcoming the Braves at Busch this weekend. Last night’s 9-7 loss in 11 innings brought to light the wonder of this team and the question marks. The good part is our offense is powerful and firing on every cylinder available. Carlos Beltran’s signing looks like expertly invested cash. The vet is sitting with 12 home runs and 29 runs batted in and coming up with huge go ahead hits. In Lance Berkman’s absence, Allen Craig has cranked 4 homers and along with Matt Carpenter, is making first base a well oiled machine. David Freese continues his quiet assault on NL pitching, racking up 25 RBI as pitchers continue to think they can get him out on the outside corner instead of pounding him inside with heat. The Cardinals swept the D-Backs and battled the Braves close and it’s good to know this team can hang with better teams. Atlanta is the first team to give the Cards a true challenge, as the Central division teams only gave our Redbirds a chance to beat themselves. Losing two walkoff shots to the Cubs at Wrigley or failing to register a sweep of the Reds, Brewers and Pirates stung but didn’t reveal a real weakness. Sure, in July, the Cards will look back and wish they pushed the knife into the jugular when the chance was present, but April and May is all about winning series’ and establishing a solid form of play. This team has weaknesses. Their lefthanded relief isn’t strong, with Rzep struggling and JC Romero being the worst “flier” signing of the winter. Their starting pitching has shown flashes of brilliance and domination, but also has trouble collecting 6 innings of work. Adam Wainwright is looking better but has given up 7 home runs. Kyle Lohse got bruised against the Astros this past week, but rebounded against the D-Backs. Jake Westbrook is looking sharp but not getting run support. Jaime Garcia enjoyed a fine April but is getting blasted early in starts in May. Lance Lynn is the silver bullet of the rotation so far with a 6-0 record to go with a 1.40 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 38.2 innings. My two biggest appreciations fall in Beltran and Rafael Furcal, who is hitting .362 with 24 runs scored and 46 hits. Furcal is meeting the hype that his contract provided in January. He has become the leadoff bat that the Cardinals have been coveting for years and supplying the sure handed defense in the field. Many complained about the contracts of Beltran and Furcal and while their health is a walking question mark, their production right now is anchoring a lineup that isn’t at full speed. Imagine a lineup with Craig lurking as your extra bullet in the hole. The goal facing this team will be to maintain the offensive attack and get more innings from their rotation. For all the little bumps and bruises ran into by the bullpen, their work has been solid thus far. The lineup and rotation are the team’s life support lines and right now, each is strong enough to carry a team weakened by the absence of two of their top players in Berkman and Chris Carpenter. Are Craig and Lynn legit or mere 2 month band aides?
2.)The Blues. After beating the Sharks in the opening round, the LA Kings swept the Blues and ended their run. Taking the loss into perspective, the Blues season was a still a fiery success and something to build off of for the future. After Ken Hitchcock came on board and installed new styles of play and an attitude into the team core, the Blues were the best team in the NHL for the last 4 months of the season. Their defensive first approach and goaltender strengthened attack launched them to a 2nd place finish in the Western Conference. After early trouble, they quickly delivered a knock out punch to the Sharks to advance into the second round against the Kings. While hopes were high that the series would deliver a thriller, the Kings were too much for the Blues. The failure was on a group effort, The main issue was the Blues lost their two man attack in net. Jaro Halak injured his ankle badly in the Sharks series and his absence helped expose the weakening skill set of Brian Elliot. Elliot was stellar against the Sharks but against the Kings multi-layered attack, he allowed bad goals and in heavy doses. His play in front of rookie Jake Allen left the team with few options and led to the demise of the playoff run. The Blues defense, namely Carlo and Jackman, gave up two many odd man rushes and allowed the Kings to apply constant pressure in front of Elliot. The Blues took a ton of bad penalties and their disciplined play went missing in Game’s 2 and 4. Chris Stewart scored 3 goals after being benched in Game 2 but it wasn’t enough while most of the offensive players of the Blues didn’t provide anything. The biggest strength during the season for this team was their goaltending tandem. When Halak was weakening, the Blues were able to insert Elliot. When the backup was starting to crack, the Blues had Halak waiting. The strong play of both gave the Blues the protection against exposure. Neither were required to start 4-5 games in a row, and they racked up 15 shutouts together and carried the team to the playoffs. Upon Halak’s injury, the pressure was too much for Elliot, the defense weakened, the top 6 stopped scoring and the discipline disappeared. The Blues weren’t undone by roster depth but by their own play forced upon them by domination from the Kings. The LA Kings outworked them, beat them to pucks, were faster in their own zone and attacked our zone with more force and skated circles around our defenders, which led to Elliot’s fall. In the end, the Blues were fed a spoonful of their own medicine. Taking everything into account, the Blues accomplished something missing for 10 years. A playoff win. They collected 4 playoff wins and look to build on that with the new ownership in local businessman Tom Stillman and his group. The team has holes to fill. A powerful lefthanded defenseman and a proven goal scorer would boost the talents on this roster. The cost will probably be one of the kids on the roster. TJ Oshie or David Perron will have to be shipped out in a trade and my guess is Oshie, who is the less talented player of the two and a player that’s hard to gauge and build off of while measuring his excitement. Patrik Berglund is signed up through next season but I wouldn’t rule his departure out either. The core is David Backes, Alex Pietrangelo, and Andy McDonald. Stillman will work with John Davidson and Hitchcock and work to fix the leaks in this Blues attack that must build on the playoff success accomplished this season. You’re nothing if you take a step back.
3.)The Rams didn’t grab a flashy player in the NFL Draft but they filled holes. Michael Brockers didn’t knock the socks off anyone but he will fortify a strong defensive line with middle power. He will work on stopping the run attack that has hurt the Rams the past 3 seasons. The Rams grabbed Brian Quick, a running back from Appalachian State with great tools but needing work. A 220 pound 6′ 4” speed back who can complement Steven Jackson. CB Janoris Jenkins has off field problems but amazing abilities on the football field. He will team with offseason signing Cortland Finnegan and improve a terrible area for the defense. In order to add depth, the Rams picked up RB Isiah Pead and CB Trumaine Johnson. The Rams loaded up on players to fill holes instead of taking that big talent. That move is hard to grade until we see performances on the field and playing time given. I can say this team missed out on Michael Floyd, Fletcher Cox and Morris Claiborne but there is no proven guarantee that those players will pan out. The draft is merely a gamble and fake representation of promise. The Rams produced a helpful draft. GM Les Snead found players that suited Jeff Fisher’s style of play and this season will go down as a Fisher experiment. The Rams draft was bold, risky, impressive and unexpected overall. They did things the hard way and if Steve Spagnuolo was in charge, he would be hung with the lack of starry selections. Jeff Fisher installs a confidence in problem child picks and his pillars of winning football are under construction. He is no wizard but someone you feel better with in charge. We all wanted Justin Blackmon, including Fisher(whose reaction when Jacksonville stole the 5th spot was a simple “fuck”), but we live with the versatile picks.
4.)Being a greedy fan is part of the baseball. I may sound greedy fan when I say the Cardinals need to sweep the Pirates and Brewers while winning the series is substantial enough but there is a plan behind my madness here. Every game counts in this league. If I need to cement my case for that, look to the last day of the 2011 season. The Cards and Braves battling things out to the final out with the Red Sox and Rays doing the same thing in the American League. Wild Card matchups only get more intense with the one game playoff in 2012. You need to stick the knife into the other team’s jugular when you have the chance. Do it often because now that the outer division matchups have started, those easy roads will start to look more distant. As noted earlier, Beltran’s power presence is fueling a Cardinals attack that is scoring 65 more runs than their opposition. Success within the division is a double edged sword. The competition is weak but its good to know you can handle those team on a consistent basis. We face the NL Central the most so we need to be effective. When he is clicking, Matt Holliday’s violent swing can carry a team and one of the attributes of Holliday’s most forgotten by fans is his old school hustle. No one plays the game harder than Holliday. Watch him play day in and day out and make a case to differ with me and I will squash you. David Freese is the best hitter with 2 strikes and 2 outs.
5.)While I won’t divulge any movie reviews, I will provide a few notes on trailers. The Dark Knight Rises produced a second and eventful preview of Christopher Nolan’s finale to his Batman saga, and the final duel looks like a carbon copy of the Dark Knight with an additional amount of spice and political intrigue. Batman is faced with a new bad guy, terrorist Bane(Tom Hardy) who is looking to burn Gotham to the ground and not just expose Batman like The Joker wanted to. In Dark Knight, The joker didn’t just challenge the Batman straight up. He challenged Batman’s carefully constructed world. He thwarted Batman’s getaway plan by taking out Harvey Dent and his ambitions of being the new White Knight in Gotham. The Joker turned Dent into a mad man but killing Batman’s love, Rachel Dawes. He also turned the public against Batman by forcing him to go outside his justice comfort zone, challenging him to kill him and not merely arrest him. He went after everything in Batman’s life and while losing the battle in the end, he won the war and pushed Batman to take the rap for Harvey’s killing spree and ride off as a fugitive. In DKR, Bane is back and more deadly than the Joker because his plans are more bold and he brings something to the table the Joker did not and that’s the physicality to match Batman’s abilities. Hardy took a page from Heath Ledger’s memorable playbook and went after the devil behind the face with Bane, a well known mad man in the Batman comics. His scary voice, demeanor and physical power looks to have drained the older and casted out Caped Crusader. Nolan doesn’t waste a punch and I expect his last hurrah to be legendary and pack a wallop. Here is the trailer.
Also looking good in small dose tastings are The Expendables 2, Sylvester Stallone’s second ode to action heroes coming out in August. Sly’s escapism combo pack reloaded now includes Jean Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, and Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger in bigger roles. Think of this second chapter as bigger and badder when you think Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Jet Li and Randy Crews are returning. Stallone will tell you but this is a simple gathering of friends with one goal in mind and that’s blow shit up and look cool doing it. There is no bigger goal here than kicking ass and taking names. Action films carry an art of their own and no one gets that more than writer, producer and star Stallone. Look for this one to knock your socks off. I wouldn’t be far off if I asked for Sly and Arnold to square off once and for all to see who the real badass is.
6.) My new website, Film-Addict, is live and needs viewers and members. Eric Moore, Chris McHugh and I created this movie website with the goal of one day doing it for a living but for now the passion project is meant to entertain and inform. Tell a friend. Tell them to inform 20 others and spread this. My attempt at working for myself starts now. That’s what the idea is. The goal in life has to be working for yourself and leaving the days of working for somebody behind. That’s the real American dream. Making your own hours and doing it on your own. Film Addict has launched. Go there and enjoy the content. Go to Addicts Corner and post your questions and thoughts. Tell us if we are good. Comment if we are wrong or need a second look. Just give us some popularity by giving us your time. Spread this preferred film flavor like a cocaine brushed wildfire. That’s how these things go crazy and get interesting.
Instead of finding them here, go to http://www.film-addict.com/dose of buffa for my latest reviews on Avengers, Dark Shadows, Think Like A Man and Safe.
Once again, my website is http://www.film-addict.com and that is the place to find movie news, reviews, showtimes and fan forums that recreate connection in the film community.
7.)Miguel Cotto and Floyd Mayweather Jr. gave a reminder that boxing is far from dead by delivering a thrilling fight last weekend in Vegas. Puerto Rican champion Cotto gave Floyd his biggest challenge of his career and made the invincible legend sweat and bleed in a 12 round battle that produced the best fight I have seen in a few years and I have watched a lot. Cotto is the quiet proud fighter who went against the loud and flashy Mayweather Jr. and forced him to reach deep into his arsenal of tricks to win the fight. Floyd won the fight easily but this was the first time Floyd was hit hard and often by a fighter on prime time. Cotto hit him, forcing bleeds on Mayweather’ s nose and cheek and while Cotto took more damage himself, he never stopped coming and applying pressure. Floyd respected Cotto and gave him the pleasure of a non Floyd like post fight slam fest. Every boxer knows when he is hit and hit hard, and Floyd respected the challenge Cotto brought him. While MMA fights have taken over Pay per view and pushed boxing to the brink of extinction, this isn’t a case of the internet burning newspapers. The Cotto-Mayweather Jr. fight produced 1.5 million buys and 94 million in television revenue alone. Boxing is alive and draws like Cotto, Mayweather Jr., and Pacquaio are proof that the sport is far from hitting the canvas. Cotto’s future looks bright now that he has held his own against Pacquiao and Floyd, the two best pound for pound boxers. He looks to fight Sergio Martinez or Canelo Alvarez next. Canelo easily dispatched the old Shane Mosley on the undercard. Canelo’s powerful straight left hands and right hooks nearly sent Mosley to the canvas and this young Mexican is the future of boxing because he is good and marketable. Alvarez is a quiet deadly puncher who will soon enough challenge the likes of Floyd, Cotto and Manny. For now, he deals merciful beatings to clock punchers like Mosley, a champion far past his expiration date. Boxing is full of contenders and the best part about it is they haven’t faced each other soon enough. Life can be found in this sport if you pay any kind of attention. Cotto taking the unbreakable legend Mayweather to the brink of failure proved the strength still exists.
8.)DVD Selection of the Week-Haywire, a quick action packed solidly acted thriller that proves hard boiled Hollywood filmmaking can be still be done. Steven Soderbergh’s take on the female Bourne starring Gina Carino was a movie I really enjoyed. Also, it doesn’t waste any of your time with the 95 minute running time.
9.)Albert Pujols’ struggles don’t require a master class in observation. He is choking under the extreme pressure of a big contract with a new team under new expectations and hopes. I have no soft spot for Albert’s struggles or sympathy for his condition. He is a millionaire athlete who chose to leave a kingdom and now he will pay the price. Albert, I have a lyric from the Silent Comedy’s new killer song, Bartholomew for you, “And you best believe there will be hell to pay”. Look, Albert is facing the same kind of pitching he did in the National League. Major league professional class. Pitchers are busting him inside and making him reach for pitches off the plate. They are making him over-extend himself and expand his zone. Same tactics used in the first 11 seasons but now they are working. He walked today for the first time since April 26th. Last season, his walks were down and his ground ball rate was up. This season, Albert is hitting .195 with 1 home run and 13 RBI. He isn’t walking and he is striking out. He is grounding out to third and shortstop. He isn’t a difference. Last season at this time, he was starting to come out of his season opening drought. This season, I can’t tell you if he will because he doesn’t have the comfort of St. Louis to guide his recovery. The man is in a new city who wants the 25 million salary backed up with production. He chose this setup and will have to work his way out of it. As a good friend said, I respect the man and what he did here for 11 seasons but I have turned my back on him. I wasn’t crazy when I said the best place for him was St. Louis. He had the legendary status, the comfort zone and the surroundings to dominate. In LA, all he has are the expectations that his legend laid out for him to live up to the next 10 years.
10.)The Black Keys live from Chaifetz Arena produced a solid concert but one that left the diehards wanting more. The Oklahoma musicians played for only 75 minutes and while they sounded crisp and as good as the studio recordings, I wanted them to play for another 30 minutes. Their live music is great but their set lists need an extension. The set wasn’t worth 40 dollars and the gas and parking fee to boot. Their opening act, Arctic Monkeys, played the same exact same noise for nearly an hour before the Keys came on 90 minutes into the arrival time and played for a brief time that you forced the question, “Was it St. Louis or is this their gig?” In the future, I will reconsider the idea of spending that kind of cash on a tease. The band is one to die for but their live show is far too short.
11.)Vincent is 8 months old and nearly 24 pounds. He is becoming more of a man every day and is perfecting the one arm crawl and can also make his way into three different rooms. Being small and adorable makes it easy to escape and get away with anything. Vinny is a good little baby but he also presents challenges just like any new addition to civilization. He makes you stop what you are doing because he is discovering what you don’t do with electronics and also how hard a wood floor hurts when you slam your head on it. Normal concussion related moments and times where you try to teach him the warnings of life. It’s an ongoing process.
12.)Junior Seau’s suicide can only teach us that larger than life athletes can be fallible to the pressures and expectations life can place on you. Once he stopped being a football player, a new kind of challenge began for Seau and the problem most athletes face is replacing the adrenaline rush of the game they leave behind. Seau’s suicide will never be able to be deciphered completely because suicide involves so many details and private urges. What I saw on the NFL network was a happy ready to go individual and what I heard about was a guy putting a bullet in his chest to end his life. What you strive for in between is a reason that we will never get because the only man who can provide that is Seau himself. I don’t like calling suicide victims cowards because there are so many variables that go with each life and the different fuels required to remain happy. How can you label someone that if you don’t know all there is to know about their life? We don’t know Junior’s life so let’s celebrate what we did know. He was a great football player and a great guy off the field. A worthy soul was lost. Before people call Junior Seau a coward, know that there is a fine history and medical evidence stating the effect of concussions causing former athletes to go through bizarre mood swings, rapid depression and revert to suicidal urges. This is not an excuse, but a well documented claim. However, there is indeed a huge gray area in athlete suicides. Lot of details that will be buried with Seau. Family left to pick up the pieces.
Closing Rant-Last Sunday, I celebrated 10 years of being together with my wife, Rachel. 10 years since our first date. One of the perks of being married is the ability to talk to women without any pressure. Since I am happily married, I don’t have to worry about impressing women when talking to them. That is the greatest thing in making the right choice to get married. All the anxiety and pressure to go with the interaction with women is gone. The worry in the words isn’t there. I can walk up to any woman and say almost anything and I don’t have to worry about revealing too much, being too harsh or being a bit too kind. Single men have to worry about what they say. Saying too much may ruin a future chance at a kiss, sex or love. I don’t have to worry about that. I have found my woman. The rest can deal with my brutal honesty.
That said, it is time for me to check out of here. Get some things done, get set for the night and have a little fun. Work is a stressful process because the transition between Senoret and Woodstream is making the days at work a gut wrench at times and film-addict is forcing me to see bad movies more often than I want to. Life at home is great but produces its own challenge. The weekend is a time to unwind, but today a blog needed to be done. The unplugging of the mind is required to keep the systems fresh. Now that this is done, I can keep moving.
Thanks for reading and come back next time?
Dan L. Buffa