Saturday, April 12, 2008

Ohio State Football All 1990's Team

When the Ohio State football program, at the end of the 1980's, was in decline, the University turned to John Cooper to turn things around. Having had a brief but successful stint at Arizona State, in which he defeated the Wolverines in the Rose Bowl, he seemed like a decent pick for the job. But little noticed was the fact that Cooper, in three tries, never beat rival Arizona in their end of the season match up, managing only a tie during the 1987 campaign. This despite ASU having a record that was as good or better than Arizona each year.

What John Cooper did for ASU, he also did for Ohio State. He brought some top talent into the program, managed a Rose Bowl win, but performed atrociously against the eternal rival. In the 1990's Ohio State produced enough talent for multiple national championships. In no decade other than the seventies did so many top athletes put on the Scarlet and Gray, but only twice could they conquer the Maize and Blue.

It was a decade of great teams and terrible heartbreaks. There were some memorable wins but too many losses against teams that had no business beating the Buckeyes. Nevertheless, the talent from that decade is well worth celebrating. Here is your humble bloggers choice of the All '90's Team.


QB Joe Germaine - As good as Hoying was, no one had accuracy and grace under pressure like Joe Germaine. He deserves the nod for the 1997 Rose Bowl alone. It was absolutely criminal that he spent two years alternating with Stanley Jackson.

FB Matt Keller - The days of the Woody Hayes fullback were long gone at this point, but Keller was a good athlete and solid performer.

TB Eddie George - No explanation needed.


WR Terry Glenn - Possibly the most explosive receiver in Ohio State history.

WR David Boston - With his almost TE size, a good complement to Glenn. Great Hands.

TE Ricky Dudley - Ohio State is not known for its Tight Ends, but Dudley was a strong receiver and a decent blocker.


OL Orlando Pace - Could well be the best offensive lineman in Ohio State history, and that's a proud history! They invented the pancake block stat just for him.

OL Rob Murphy - If he had been academically eligible for his senior year, this one would have been a three time All-American.

OL Korey Stringer - It says something about your program when a lineman of this caliber is not the greatest Tackle of the decade.

OL Jason Winrow - Solid performer and All-Big Ten honoree.

OL Alan Kline - Four year starter, All-Big Ten from the early nineties.


DE Mike Vrabel - All time sack leader at Ohio State, perhaps the most versatile defensive end the Buckeyes have ever had. Led a ferocious defensive of the mid to late nineties. Two time All-American.

DE Jason Simmons - Finished career with 27 sacks, a stalwart on the '93 defense.

DT Dan Wilkinson - Only played for OSU as an underclassmen, but left an indelible impression. Oh what he could have done for the '95 team!

DT Ryan Pickett - Fickell was good, but we must give the edge to Mr. Pickett, also from the '98 squad.


LB Andy Katzenmoyer - Injuries ruined his pro career, but this All-American was everything a linebacker needed to be. Some belittled his '98 stats, but when Bailey, Diggs, Johnson, and Pickett all returned for the '99 season up front and the run defense was still far inferior, you knew something was missing.

LB Na'il Diggs - Without this All-American, the '99 team would have been a disaster instead of just a disappointment.

LB Steve Tovar - You can't argue with two All-American honors. It's a shame he never got to play on a memorable Buckeye team.


DB Shawn Springs - Ohio State has never had a better coverman than this All-American and #3 draft pick.

DB Antoine Winfield - Another in a long line of standout secondary men for OSU. All-American.

S Damon Moore - All-American, a starter for both the '96 and '98 powerhouses.

S Rob Kelly - There are many solid athletes to pair with Moore, we'll take this solid performer with a decent pro career.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Movie Review: Leatherheads

As the timing goes, so goes the comedy. Timing is, of course, important for any sort of film, but in comedies it assumes a role of such prominence that the success of the entire piece is dependent upon it. An unlikely character is pardonable; poor action choreography is of no moment; we can even forgive a distracted and unfocused plot, but if the comedic pace is off the comedy simply cannot be successful. In Leatherheads, George Clooney’s third directorial effort, there are sporadic moments where the project works, but these are islands in an ocean, and they grow sparser as the movie progresses.

It takes place in 1925, at a time when the popularity of football was centered around the college game. Jimmy ‘Dodge’ Connelly (George Clooney) is the de facto captain of a professional football team from Duluth, Minnesota, an impecunious squad which must forfeit a game because it does not have money to provide a second game ball when the first is stolen. They travel from blue collar Midwest town to blue collar Midwest town, drying their laundry by hanging it outside the train as they go, changing destinations if their next opponent goes bankrupt in the middle of the week. In an effort to achieve greater financial stability for the league, Connelly recruits a young Princeton star, Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski) to play for the team. But Lexie Littleton, played by Renee Zellweger, is a reporter who has been hired to try and uncover an embarrassing secret in Carter’s military service, and when she begins to travel with the team, Connelly and Rutherford both begin to fall for her.

As a football player, the smooth and handsome George Clooney is miscast. His character is a forty-something football veteran who has made a living for years doing little else. When his Duluth team temporarily disbands and he seeks employment, he comes face to face with the reality that he has no skills or education to make him attractive to an employer. And yet, this uneducated Midwestern football player, who gets in multiple fist fights during the course of the movie, is oh so smooth with Ms. Littleton, master of the frank look and the tilted head, the slight caress to the chin before his soft lips brush hers. No French noble was ever more debonair. My grandfather played semi-professional football for a blue collar Midwest city back in the 1920’s and I can tell you that this is not how he wooed his women. Nor, to judge from his stories, did his teammates operate anyway similar.

There is more than just Clooney’s effete charm that feels out of place. The radio announcers sound like they are working for ESPN, for instance. I have heard old time radio broadcasts and the cadences and rhythms and vocal tones of these men sound nothing like what one hears today. A couple hours with some archival tapes might have helped to add some authenticity to the picture.

The football action isn’t impressive either, not that this distinguishes the movie from any other football movie I’ve ever seen, but it would be nice for once to see a football movie in which the director was less interested in rigidly composing the action of a play to the point where it feels stilted and the camera interferes with the flow. Why not just line the boys up and let them play some football with the cameras rolling? This would have the added benefit of cutting down on plays which one sees two or three times in a season but in the movie one sees with a frequency that makes them boring.

But these are small complaints. A bit more problematic is the script itself, which often has trouble choosing a story to pursue and leaving many in their incipient stages. In the beginning of the movie some ado is made of a new recruit from high school that will be joining their team at the next train stop. It turns out that the teenager is a whale of a man and capable of beating the snot out of anyone who comes near him. But after this introduction, his importance in the movie is reduced to appearing in the background during some of the games. One wonders what the point was of spending time introducing him. There are a couple distracting scenes which seem to have been filmed simply because they were opportunities for slap stick comedy, not because any role they play in bringing us to the third act. And the third act itself is less satisfying than it might be because the various threads of plot are not brought together in a last madcap rush of adrenaline, but rather fizzle out one by one. The end of the second act, to the extent that I am even confident I know when this occurs, doesn’t leave one yearning for the third as it should, tingling with anticipation.

A comedy can survive, however, with a middling story if the scenes are funny enough. The Good Lord knows that Monty Python’s Meaning of Life is not as good as its predecessors, largely due to a wandering script with little cohesion between scenes, but many of the individual scenes themselves are hysterical. Leatherheads has moments when it is amusing in a charming and clever way – mainly when Clooney and Zellweger are interacting – but all too often the right notes just aren’t hit at the right tempo. And not enough hay is made with the different characters’ objectives, which are at cross purposes with the others, nor with all the deceit and trickery in which they might have engaged.

Worst of all, the movie can’t – or perhaps it is more correct to say refuses – to keep its momentum going. For all the other irritations, the worst part is when Carter’s back story, whose culmination is premature, deviates into some sort of government-worshipping morality tale when Congress assigns a commissioner to the professional league – something which, as far as I can tell, is entirely fictional – who starts to impose order on the affairs. What would we poor folk do without a government? The commissioner immediately imposes rules, licenses the players – God forbid that people start playing football without bureaucratic say-so! – and with a threatening stare and a tough-guy voice begins to generally throw his weight around. In a scene which flattens the momentum – a scene devoid of the quick banter that provided the most humorous moments – the story slows down so that the tough guy can deliver a lecture and, one cannot help but feel, so that Mssr. Clooney can lecture us a little as well. It was far too serious, too slow and too preachy for the movie in which it appeared.

For all that’s wrong with it, however, it still has its charm. Zellweger and Clooney have some very good moments filled with snappy dialogue, and Randy Newman’s score is the perfect compliment to the picture; indeed, his score is what the movie should have been: relentlessly lighthearted, brisk, old-fashioned and too caught up with having fun to slow down and get serious. Maybe Newman should have composed the score first and the script could have been written, and the scenes shot, while the artists listened to it on their IPods.

Final Grade: C+