Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Change Gonna Come...(Anniversary of A View From Paris)

When I first started this blog, I didn't quite know what I wanted to get from it. I knew I wanted it to be an outlet for me to get my opinions and thoughts out. A place where I could riff about sports, political issues and at rare times of personal waywardness, a place to vent. Kind of like now. This is probably the most random, but introspective thing I've written in a long time. Since I no longer have Facebook, Twitter or any other form of social media, that means I have no way to promote this so God knows who's actually going to read it.

I think sometimes in life I don't take time to take stock in what I have. Like most people, I tend to focus a bit too greatly on the things I no longer possess than appreciate the many things I still have or have been given. It's hard to do that in life sometimes. To show thanks for the little things. The little moments and little gifts that God (or whatever you believe) chooses to give us. I'd say that's one of my biggest flaws as a man. An acute inability at times to recognize just how truly blessed I am.

After having spent just over a year in Los Angeles, California I've experienced a lot. As a struggling writer, I spend most of my days lost in fantasy world I'm creating on my MacBook. Crafting characters and worlds, trying to escape the depressions of my own life. Trying to write that next great story that'll make me a millionaire. But as anyone will tell you that's a creative person, it's hard to escape your reality if your said reality has the weight of two full sized F-150s. That's the price of being a writer. The soul crashing self-doubt and countless failures one must endure for so few moments of success. And that's what I ask myself at times... Is it all worth it?

In this year, I've been lucky enough to eat, (most days, there were a couple I didn't, but that was very few and far in between) sleep in an apartment and work in my field of choice. Far better circumstances than a lot of my peers from college, so I'm thankful. I didn't lose any family or close friends and save for getting stabbed (too long of a story to tell), I've had my health. Besides that, I got a chance to get close to my oldest brother Zeph. So often people see us interact never knowing we hadn't talked or seen each other in over ten years. Not from malice or ill will but from growing up in different homes. Funny how blood is a bond that ties us and helped us pick back up like we never skipped a beat. I can say he's one of the best friends I have and I'm thankful I have him in my life again.

On that same note of long lost siblings, after four years of no contact, I was able to spend a few months with my daughter Aaliyah and I actually got to see both my kids together at the same time. First time they had been together since 2008 in fact. What a joyous week of watching them play, fight, laugh and share moments together. Just get to be brother and sister again. It's honestly the highlight of my year. Weird to say, but I never thought that day would come.

The soul of a man is a deep and lonely place at times. We're taught to hold in our emotions. Not to cry, not to feel but to "suck it up" and be "tough". "Be a man", people say. I think it's why us men end up so broke up after heartbreak or lost. A lifetime of being taught to bottle our emotions causes us to fall apart when things go south. (End up listening to old Sam Cooke and Otis Redding songs, like I am at this very moment when writing this.) My father once told me a story of how his father never once told him, that he (Zeph Sr.) loved him (Zeph Jr, my father). "I understood and knew that he did love me, but he never said the words to me", my father said to me. As a point, my father always tells me he loves me after every phone call. No matter how long or brief the call, my father always tell me. It's one of the few things in life I can count on.

In the end, I've learn one sure thing about this thing we call "life". Sometimes, you can do all the right things. Love your fellow man, read the Bible, pray daily, help old ladies cross the street and STILL end up with a shitty existence. All the while, the biggest assholes or untalented hacks can end up rich beyond measure, drive the nicest cars, date the prettiest girls, live in the grandest homes and have the best luck. The sun shines on the just and unjust alike. That sometimes nothing you can do will change the fact that you are just meant to have the short end of the stick. But through it all you can't get bitter. You can't let things like jealously, anger or doubt consume you. You have to stay on your path, no matter how long or tough your path is. It's your path to walk and your "cross" to bear. I say all that say, life is not fair and no matter how unfair it is...It goes on. And with that said, next time back to sports. Thank you for reading... if you did.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

History On the Horizon (My 5 Biggest Questions Going Into the 2013-14 NBA Season)

Jordan’s Bulls. Shaq and Kobe’s Lakers. Russell’s Celtics. Miken’s Lakers. That’s it. Two titles in a row is nothing to sneeze at by any means, but three in a row is the stuff of legend. NBA immortality. That’s what’s at stake for LeBron James and the Miami Heat going into the 2013-14 NBA season. James enters his 10th season CLEARLY, whether you like it or admit it or not, entrenched as the league’s best player. Never has his “King” moniker been so fitting as James is the reigning and consecutive NBA MVP, Finals MVP and NBA champion. (Something only Jordan and Russell did by the way.) I mean, you just gotta give it up at this point. The man is one of the best basketball players ever and he's at the apex of his powers. You're going to get to say you watched LeBron James play basketball and that's going to mean something one day. (Plus this commercial is cool as hell. It's getting harder and harder not to like this guy.)

In the offseason, Miami added former number one pick, walker, zombie, Greg Oden and the always complicated, Michael Beasley. These are low risk, HIGH reward moves that could help Miami cement themselves into NBA history, but here's the issue with that. The last team to make three straight finals where the Los Angeles Lakers from ’08-’10. That team could only win two of three and the Heat are in the same spot as my Lakers a few years ago. After three straight years of going to the edge of the playoffs, does Miami even get back to the Finals let alone win it?

Getting to the Finals four times in a row is damn near impossible. (The last team that did it was the Boston Celtics from ’84-87. And they only won two of four. And that was with the original "Big Three" Bird, McHale and Parrish.) The injury bug has merely “nipped” at the Heat's heels and nagging injuries to Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh didn’t derail their title hopes these past two season, but does that luck last? No matter who your team is, if you love the NBA and the history of the game, you have to at least understand why this is the biggest question going into this season. CAN THE HEAT THREE-PEAT?

2: Can Rose rise with the Bulls?

The Chicago Bulls are the best threat to beat the Heat almost by default. With the return of superstar guard and former MVP Derrick Rose, the Bulls looked primed to truly challenge Miami. To play devil's advocate, a few years ago, and at full strength, the Bulls still fell to Miami in only five games, so what’s different now you say? Maturity.

You always have to wait your turn in the NBA. The Bulls were 41-41 in 2009-’10 before they took a huge leap to 62-20 in 2010-'11. Teams never get that good and win right way. Rose got hurt during the playoffs the next year and last season the Bulls lost to Miami again in five games. But now the Bulls are more seasoned, they have a much better two-guard in Jimmy Butler, Deng and Noah are improved and healthy to boot. There are a few challengers in the East but none as intriguing as the Chicago Bulls and Derrick Rose.

3. How will Dwight Howard play now that he’s “happy” again?

A few years ago I watched Dwight Howard’s Magic play Derrick Rose’s Bulls live in Orlando and I took away two things from that game. There are a lot of hot women in Orlando and Rose and Howard were All-Stars for a reason. You could ALWAYS tell them apart from the other players on the court. I didn’t have bad seats but they weren’t great, but Howard and Rose popped off the court the same way they popped off the screen at home. They were that much better than everyone else. Rose looks like the same guy I saw in Orlando after a few preseason games but Howard doesn’t look like THAT guy anymore.

Howard played with a level of athleticism that no one else in the league did. Not even LeBron James. He was a defensive anchor and could jump instantly but not anymore. He has to bend to leap now when he just use to rise up almost effortlessly. I give him credit for his time in LA if only because he came back months before he was suppose to, played on a bum shoulder and STILL led the league in boards. Primadonna/wish-washy behavior aside he’s still the best center in the league.

Playing in Houston with James Harden, Howard’s finally got a young elite player that can flank him. Kobe Bryant wasn’t the kind of player that would ever work playing with someone like Howard. Kobe doesn’t play games. He doesn’t joke. It’s all business all the time and it’s ALWAYS HIS team. As great as Harden is, he’s going to take second billing to Howard and without any issue in doing so. All the excuses are gone for him this season. He’s where HE chose to be. He’s got a great YOUNG team. He’s healthy. Let’s see what you got Howard.

4. Which West “window closing” team can come back?

ESPN ranked Oklahoma Thunder forward Kevin Durant and teammate Russell Westbrook number 2 and 5 respectively. Houston’s James Harden was ranked 4. Damn! According to this rankings, had OKC kept Harden, the Thunder would three of the top five players on the planet. Westbrook is going to miss the first few weeks of the season and they lost Harden’s replacement in Kevin Martin but the Thunder are still going to be good because they have the second best baller in the world in KD but is that enough? 

Kendrick Perkins is a complete waste on the court and forces them to play 4 on 5 when he's in the lineup. (I have a higher plus/minus for the Thunder and I don't even play for the team!) Plus we don't even know if Westbrook comes back the same. I really think OKC screwed themselves by taking Harden's failure in the Finals versus the Heat too much into account when it came to keeping him. OKC was banking on Serge Ibaka getting better so they payed him instead of Harden. They should have amnestied Perkins when they had the chance, took the cap hit by resigning Harden because it's looking more and more like their title hopes left when Harden did.

San Antonio Spurs got about as close as you can get to winning the title without actually winning it. Now they’re a year older and the Rockets, Warriors and Clippers are all on the rise in the West. Each year I keep expecting Tim Duncan and the Spurs to fall off a cliff but it doesn’t happen. Greg Popvich keeps finding ways to get the best out of this team. On the plus side, Tony Parker is going to be healthy and Kawhi Leonard looks like a budding All-Star so the Spurs aren't totally out of it. But does Duncan have enough left in the tank? Especially after laying it all on the line to win last season.

The last "window closing" team in the West is the Memphis Grizzlies. They seemed so close to winning the title when Zach Randolph looked other worldly and Marc Gasol stepped up but fast forward a few years later and all that has changed. They got rid of a great coach in Lionel Hollins, shipped off their 3rd best player in Rudy Gay and still didn't improve their horrid outside shooting. It was a struggle for Memphis to get to 90 points and in the NBA nowadays that's a huge problem. I say Memphis is a 50 win, lose in the second round type of team at best.

5. What the hell is going to happen to the Lakers?

I know, I know. There are a TON of other great questions going into the season. Are the Boston, Brooklyn Nets too old to win it all? How will the Knicks look? Will the Pacers take the next step? Can Doc Rivers get the Clippers off the hump? Which team is going to suck bad enough to get Andrew Wiggins? If not from a historical perspective, the Lakers are just fascinating from a pure intrigue standpoint. Let's face it, the Lakers are always a story when you're talking NBA basketball. (And this is my list, I’m Laker fan and I’m going to talk about my team. So yeah, deal with it!)

They lost two of their best players from a season ago, only Steve Nash is under contract past this season and Kobe Bryant is trying to come back from one of the most devastating injuries any athlete, regardless of age and sport, can have. But the Lakers two biggest issues continue to be off the court, in my opinion anyway. They STILL have the wrong coach in D’Antonio and Jim Buss is about as fit to run this team as the lady that was giving me my popcorn in Staples last week.

A year ago it just "seemed" like Mike Brown wasn’t the right fit, so the Lakers smartly removed him from the position. Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Kobe were in full swing, and Phil Jackson was itching to coach, but what does Jimmy Boy do? Hire a coach that cares about defense the same way the French care about fighting back in a war. A coach that NEVER adjusts to his players and forces them to play his style NO MATTER WHAT. Until the Lakers fix this mistake THEY’LL NEVER, and I'll say it again, NEVER, win an NBA title.

When Kobe comes back (Because we all know he's crazy enough to suck the blood from his daughters' necks if meant getting back on the court sooner.) there is NO WAY he lets the Lakers suck. The team was horrible last year and he STILL dragged them, kicking and screaming no less, into the playoffs. But why do that again this year? Why kill yourself for this team Kobe? Lakers fans I'm sorry to say this, but the boys got no shot and you know it. Why not bottom out and get one of the lottery picks in the best draft since ’03? Am I the only one that knows that being in NBA "no man’s land" is the worst thing ever. You’re not good enough to win the title but with Kobe you’re just good enough to sneak into the playoffs as an 8th seed. And what does that get you? No lottery pick and a first round ass beating. (Milwaukee Bucks fans are SCREAMING at their computers right now.) You want to be contending for a title or sucking your brains out. Those are the only real places to be in the NBA and smart execs know that. Winning titles or rebuilding. Not treading water.

The Lakers are going to have the cap space to rebuild via free agency and I’m still not sure who the team attracts to Los Angeles. Melo, LeBron, Wade and Bosh could all become free agents in the offseason, but I don’t see any of those guys coming specifically with a coach like D’Antonio at the helm. (Lakers fans get over it, Melo ALREADY got a dose of D'Antonio, so you think he wants to sign with LA to get coach by a guy he hated. That's like becoming roommates with your ex-wife.) I'm not sure if LA has the pieces to make a splashy trade like they tried to do for Chris Paul (I’m STILL mad at David Stern!) and they did do for Dwight Howard. They're going to suck and if they do make the playoffs it's not going to be pretty, but when you’re the Lakers you're always going to have people talking. Love 'em or hate 'em, basketball is better when the Lakers are in the mix.

It’s time to rebuild in LA and here’s hoping they do it. But what do you guys think? I know I missed a few, so leave me a comment below telling me what you think is the biggest question going into the season. Follow me on Twitter @ParisLay. Thanks for reading and as always ENJOY THE VIEW!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

12 Years A Slave Review: The Black Schindler's List

Here's your Best Picture of 2013.

It’s over. It’s over and it’s not even close. I just saw the best film of the year. Director Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave is easily, and I mean EASILY, the most powerful film I’ve EVER seen. EVER. Point plank and period. Few words can truly and accurately describe the emotions I felt sitting in that theater last night. Intense, soul crashing anger and rage at White people. Dumfounding confusion at the idea of a "God". How could a people be so loyal and praise a God so much while He lets them suffer so greatly? Overwhelming sorrow and pain for the Blacks that endured slavery. Gut-wrenching shame in my people because even when there were times when Blacks outnumbered whites, WHILE holding axes and knives no less, they did nothing to free themselves. 

Let’s get into the details. 12 Years A Slave is the true story of a Black man that was born free in the northern United States during the 1800s named Solomon Northup. After being lured to Washington D.C. under the promise of a job, Solomon is drugged, kidnapped and sold into slavery. Solomon workes as a slave on various plantations in the south before being freed 12 years later. (Thus the name.) Again, this is a TRUE story. All these events actually happened as the film is based on Solomon’s own memoir, for which the film shares it’s namesake.

I must first warn you by telling you that this film is very, very brutal and definitely uncomfortable to watch at times. As a Black male, I can tell you there were more than a few moments where I almost became physically ill. A few scenes even caused me to have involuntary "verbal" protests. You think Passion of Christ was a hard watch? There is a whipping scene that would make even David Duke (Leader of the Klu Klux Klan) turn away in horror and shame.

Films like Django Unchained are more satirical and cartoonish in their depiction of slavery. The true barbarity and malevolent nature of White people was far more abhorrent and 12 Years A Slave is unapologetically honest with its portrayal of the torture and debasing slaves endured. Scenes of Black men and women standing naked while White men poke and prod them like simple livestock aren’t violent, but the scene is just as unnerving and sickening to watch as bloodier ones. There's a scene where a woman pleads to be sold with her children but is still separated that is particularly difficult to watch. Especially when you remember all these things ACTUALLY happened.

Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor gives the most remarkable performance I’ve seen since Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln. Like Day-Lewis, there is never a time where you feel as if you’re watching Ejifor “play” a character. He BECOMES Solomon Northup. Ejifor's performance is utterly mesmerizing as Solomon's fear and fight for survival is never forgotten for a single moment when Ejifor is on the screen. You have to remember that Solomon was a freeman. He had never encountered the horrors of slavery or the cruelty of White people. Solomon's reactions are that of a Black person from 2013 placed into a time machine and sent back to 1840. There are so many subtle, but impactful moments in Ejifor’s performance that I could honestly write a whole review on just his acting alone. Ejifor is the readon Michael B. Jordan won’t be winning Best Actor this year for his lead role in this summer’s excellent Fruitvale Station.

Paul Giamatti and Michael Fassbender play two of the most unlikeable villains I've ever seen in a movie. Both make Leonard Dicaprio’s Calvin Candie look like Mother Teresa. Although Giamatti isn’t in the film very long his screen time is still meaningful and effective. However, Fassbender is really the other standout of the film besides Ejifor. He plays an evil plantation owner who uses and twists religious scripture to justify his acts of inhumanity. I’m never going to be as comfortable watching Fassbender ever again and I've had to remind myself that he was just "acting" several times since the film ended. Yes, his performance was that good.

Sarah Paulson does fine work as Fassbender’s equally cruel wife and newcomer Lupita Nyong’o is very impressive as the eyes of “masters” desires as she plays a slave girl named Patsey. Whenever Nyong'o's on the screen she dominates it. Brad Pitt, Paul Dano and Alfre Woodard all turn in fine supporting performances also. Oscar nods will be given to most, as well as to most of the talent behind the camera. McQueen perfectly paces and explores a difficult subject matter with such ease you'd think he's lived through slavery himself. While cinematographer Sean Bobbit's captures the beauty of those grand ole southern plantations, while never shying from showing us, in explicit detail, the unspeakable evil that lurked their grounds.

There are so many moments and things I want to say about this film but I can't. You’d be here all day and so would I. If you’re a White person and you’ve ever wondered why Black men always seem to have a chip on their shoulder, THIS is why. If you've wondered why educated Black men work hard but seem to have an underlining sense of urgency in their actions while still holding a deep anger inside? This is WHY. Why Black people always make EVERYTHING about their race? This is why. This is why the world has so many "Angry Black Man". Even though there isn't a person living that was responsible for the tragedy of slavery, and of course I didn't live this, that doesn't make me and many other African-Americans any less angry about it. If your skin isn’t Black you DON’T UNDERSTAND it and that’s okay.

This film should be seen by everyone, but it absolutely MUST be seen by ALL African-Americans. Specifically African-Americans that weren't conscious adults in the 1960's and 1970's or earlier. Most African-Americans seem to forget what happened in this country so long ago. Most of us seem to think that we’ve always been free to go and learn and work and do as we please. This film acts as a huge reminder of what it use to mean to be Black in this country. And even if I weren’t a Black man I’d say this is the best picture of the year. What Saving Private Ryan is to a World War II vet or what Schindler's List is to a Jewish person, 12 Years A Slave is like that to African-Americans. Like those films, 12 Years A Slave is a hauntingly authentic illustration of a historical event that CAN'T be truly felt without a personal connection to the characters or source material. All who see it will be affected but ONLY a Black person can truly understand the pain that's on the screen and that’s fine.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Breaking Bad Finale Review: And Tonight… Nothing Shall Remain

Spoiler Alert! If you haven’t seen the finale of Breaking Bad leave now!

Let’s get started. If I had to use one word to describe the finale to Vince Gilligan’s magnum opus it would be either “neat” or “fitting” or “satisfying”. Walt’s dead. Lydia’s dead. The Neo Nazis and Todd are dead. Skyler’s off the hook. Walt Jr’s going to get the money. Walt got to have "his" proper goodbye with Skyler and the kids. Maria gets to bury Hank. And of course, Jesse lives. (Personally after seeing the trailer to Need for Speed, I think that film is just a continuation of Jesse’s story. I mean did you see how fast he was flying out of that compound plus he still had scars!)

Literally no “T” or “I” was left uncrossed or undotted. It pretty much was the “best” possible outcome the show could have. I’ve said all along this was the story of Walter White's rise, fall and redemption. Walt had to die. The show couldn't end any other way. You don’t get to do the things Walt has done and live. And he had to die a violent death too. Somehow, and this is strange to say, suffering through cancer would have been way too easy. 

It was noble of Walt to save Jesse and actually sacrifice his own life in the process. He's had to save Jesse throughout the show, so it was only fitting that he did it one last time. Walt's always tried to help Jesse and do what he thought was best for him. When you think about it, Walt letting Jane choke to death was just his twisted way of looking after Jesse's best interest because she was totally destroying Jesse's life at the time. Even nobler was him blowing Uncle Jack’s head off as he tried to use Walt’s money as a bargaining chip. At that point, money meant nothing to Walt. Finally!

The most cheer-inducing scene of the episode was Jesse choking the life out of Todd. When the dust settled after all the bullets stopped flying, I remember screaming at the television, “Choke him Jesse! Use your chains and choke that bastard to f**king death!” How ironic was that. Jesse's chains of bondage turned into a weapon of freedom.

I thought the much anticipated stand off between Walt and Jesse was very lackluster. I really wanted them to say more to each other. It was a mostly muted moment for two characters that have gone through so much together. Jesse refusing to give Walter the satisfaction of a quicker death was expected, as Walt was already dying anyway. Jesse isn't that cruel or vindictive like Walt. (In fact new theory: The Neo-Nazi compound didn’t have too many roads in and out of there I’m guessing and the way Jesse sped out of there, I think he got caught. Think about it. Someone reports a ton of gunfire. The police is racing to the scene and some maniac in an El Camino zooms by them coming from the direction they’re going. I’m going to say the police may want to send a car or two and stop that person. So I like to think Jesse's right back in chains.)

Another standout moment of the finale included Walt scaring the living hell out of Elliot and Gretchen. If you noticed in Marie’s phone call to Skyler, about Walt’s activities in his return to town, there was no mention of his visit to the Schwartzes. Which means they got the message and the plan worked. Which is much more “sinister” to me. Even after they give the money to Walt Jr, they’ll always be looking over their shoulders. A fate far worst than death if you ask me. Also, I really enjoyed the reveal of Badger and Skinny Pete as the would be “assassins”. It was nice to see those "clowns" one last time and they added a much needed dose of comic relief before things really got started.

The best scene of the episode, for me anyway, was the scene between Walt and Skyler. The last time they talked was pretty nasty, so it was great to see Walter get to explain a few things and Skyler actually listen to him. It was the perfect moment for an estranged husband and wife to have. Skyler even makes mention to Walt “looking like shit.” It’s totally what your ex would do if they saw you like that. The icing was Walt finally admitting to Skyler he did everything because HE WANTED TO and because HE ENJOYED DOING IT. If you’re the best at anything, be it football or meth making/drug lording, you have power. You have power and you're good AND you get to wipe out your competition at the same time! You’re going to feel something and chances are you're going to like it. For a man as weak as Walter his transformation was so fitting. He was finally “alive". I'm happy he stopped using his family as an excuse for the mayhem he caused.

Walt's final time with Holly was so well done and Skyler’s subtle smile here was just perfect. For that moment, Skylar saw him not as a monster but just a father. A man who loved his kids. Someone who wanted to do the best by them, but went totally off-the-rails wrong doing it. The scene was him going from Heisenberg back to the real Walter one last time. Walt was weak and human for the first time in a long time. I truly felt sorry for him and that's something I haven't felt in a while. Last week, I didn't feel sorry for Walt at all, because I felt like he was getting what he deserved. But this was different. In this scene he was a broken man that just want to do what he could to at least try to salvage what was left of his family. The scene made me start to dread his impending death and really help remind us of the great person Walter White once was.

In the end, two things stopped this episode from being truly epic. First, it was way too predictable. The chaos and edge-of-your seat uncertainty of Walter’s world is what made Breaking Bad so great. The show had a great way of never going the way we wanted or thought it would go. The finale had none of that. It was just too perfect at times. The second thing that held it back was the flash-forwards with the ricin and machine gun. Sure, earlier in the season seeing those things was awesome but as we got closer and closer to the end, we could kind of guess what would happen. Even though most of this episode was telegraph it was still cool to actually see it happen.

Breaking Bad's series finale was much like Usain Bolt's 100M race in the Summer Olympics in 2008. Those first 90 meters Bolt blazed ahead, crushed everyone and he still set the world record. But he coasted, arms out in celebration those last 10 meters and had Bolt pushed himself he could have done something really special. That’s what this episode was like to me. A gentle coast to the finish line to a race already well in hand. It was great, but it wasn’t nearly as thrilling as “Ozymandias”, which I’m convinced is the greatest hour of TV ever. Since everything was wrapped up so nicely, it’s kind of hard to really complain. So many shows leave things unanswered or go on too long but not this show. Nothing is left to the imagination with Breaking Bad and it was just the right length as well. No fat at all. No wasted frame or scene or episode or season. There are no "throwaway" moments to be found in this show. 

I’ve already “waxed poetically” about the show’s greatness and the finale doesn’t change how I felt then or now. This has been one hell of a ride and I’m glad I watched it. Blood was spilled. Tears were shed. The meek man that rose from the ashes of obscurity to become an unstoppable force of brutality fell to the same whirlwind of violence he created for so many around him. For in this life, or the next, we ALL must pay a price for our sins. And on September 29, 2013, Walter Harwell White Sr finally settled his debt.


Monday, September 16, 2013


Breaking Bad is going for broke in it's final season.

74. 85. 89. 96. 99. Those are AMC’s Breaking Bad's Metacritic scores for each season…in order! It's literally gotten better each year. It’s the only show ever to do that. (To be fair, Game of Thrones is currently on track through three seasons.) The show's fifth and final season's score of 99 is the highest in the history of TV for the website. No TV show EVER has done that. So far, it’s TV drama at its absolute apex. What we’re witnessing is the equivalent of watching a pitcher throw a perfect game in the 7th game of the World Series. 

An even more accurate baseball analogy of what Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad’s creator) is trying to do, would be to say, he’s trying to hit a walk off homerun (The fifth season) WHILE throwing a perfect game (The Series). He’s attempting to send Breaking Bad off like no other show in the history of television. The Wire didn't do it. The Sopranos didn't do it. Mad Men isn't going to do it. The Wire had its missteps. Mad Men seemed like it was only going up, until Season 5 and Season 6 dipped a bit. In fact, it may have peaked in season four.

The Sopranos is still the best show ever... for now.

The Sopranos suffered from the syndrome of “more”. HBO wanted more and more from David Chase, (Creator of The Sopranos) so that show had entire seasons that were "missteps". TS went on a little too long and it had the worst ending ever for a show. (Half the damn country thought their cable went out so that’s a fail. Off that alone it ALMOST wasn’t the greatest show ever.) To be fair to TS, the death of actress Nancy Marchand in 2000 forced David Chase to reshape the show. Some of the best moments of TS were with James Gandolfini’s Tony and Marchand’s Livia. Chase originally planned to explore more of the relationship between those two characters. So we’ll never know what truly should/could have happened. Although, the end product was still very good.

Walt and Jesse haven't just being cooking blue meth.
They've cooked up television gold for five seasons.

What Gilligan really has working is the creative freedom AMC has given him. He’s getting to tell HIS STORY. On HIS TERMS! Think about it. No other showrunner's had this much control of their story. We went over TS's issues. The Wire got cancelled, so it’s kind of left untold or rushed. Mad Men seems to be "making it up" as they go along at times, but not Breaking Bad. Gilligan’s had every step planned out from day one. Every move. Every moment. Everything has been written, so to speak, before the cameras ever rolled. Walt’s fate has been sealed for years. And that’s why the show is so great. The show is as hot as ever and it’s better than ever but it’s ending. What show has EVER done that! The ratings and network executives usually dictate how much longer or shorter a show lasts. Sometimes ending a show prematurely or forcing viewers to "suffer" through an extra season or two as a cash grab. (Better Call Saul, the prequel spin-off to Breaking Bad is that cash grab. AMC can't totally let the show go right now.)

As Breaking Bad winds down, all I'll say about the plot is this. I’m not sure exactly what happens in the end, but Walt has to die. No one can be THIS evil and live right? Ultimately, Breaking Bad is the story of how a very dangerous, but complicated man lived and died. I think we're watching the twisted tale of Walter's meteoric rise and fall. Walt's metamorphosis from meek and cancer ridden chemistry teacher, that was looking to save an extra buck for his family, to psychotic and ruthless drug lord, that's hell-bent on having it all, at any cost, has been unlike anything I’ve ever seen. 

Walt makes you go through every emotion that you can have for a character. We’ve felt sorry for him. Sorry for his weakness and for the bad cards he had been dealt. We’ve feared for him. Feared that he'd get caught or worst. We've been happy for him. Happy when plans work out or when he's managed to stay a step ahead. We’ve hated him. Hated the things he's done and choices he's made. We’ve FEARED the man himself at times. Feared the lengths he'd go in order to get what he wants or to survive. I've physically felt my heart start to beat faster at times when watching this damn show! Nothing else on TV can take that claim.

There can only be one king in the history of television.
If there were a Mount Rushmore of Best TV shows, regardless of genre, it’d go, Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The Simpsons and The Wire. With The Sopranos being the best ever. It hurts to type this but, I gotta take The Wire off the mountain and replace it with Breaking Bad. Sucks but it has to be done. I mean, there's only four spots so what can you do. On its final season, I’ve come to realized that Breaking Bad is not only going for the Heavyweight Championship Belt of "Best Final Season" (Which the show already has by the way). Breaking Bad wants the "Best Show" belt too. Like Walt, the show itself wants it all.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Some Like It Hot! 1st Annual NFL Head Coach Hot-Seat Power Rankings

Bill Belichick and Rex Ryan; You could say they're two guys
on polar opposite sides of the Power Rankings.

Do you feel it? Do you see it? The chill in the air. The browning of the leaves. All annual signs that it’s the start of a new NFL season and with it the chance/hope your favorite team can continue their excellence or return to its former glory.

As much as I love seeing which teams will step forward and which ones will fall back, I get just as much joy in the NFL coaching carousel. Watching NFL coaches squirm and wither away from the ever-mounting pressure of losses, the fans and ownership is as entertaining as the games themselves at times. In honor of all this “morbid” fun, I’m starting a new annual tradition. Let’s take a look at all of the coaches in the NFL and the level of job security each enjoys (Some are "enjoying" job security like a hard kick to the nads.) in my 1st Annual NFL Coaching Hot-Seat Power Rankings.

Dead Man Walking (Norv Turner Award)

(Named After the Coach that survived the most seasons as a Dead Man Walking.)
Coaches here already have their pink slips under their office chairs, even if they don’t know it. These guys could literally be fired by the time I finish typing this. Only an improbable Super Bowl victory saves their jobs. 

Rex Ryan – New York Jets 

Oh Rex! How we’ve all enjoyed the "funny" press conferences, Sanchez tattoos and foot fetish videos but it’s all over. Rex Ryan is the example of a guy that reached a job that far exceeded his qualifications. He’s a defensive coordinator at heart so we shouldn't be so surprised he backed the wrong QB and his team has zero offensive firepower. Rex’s seat is so hot, he may not last a full season in New York.

Blazing Hot 

The Coaches here are probably done after this season. Miss the playoffs and it’s over. Make the playoffs and it still may be over. They at least last through the season, but they’d need 10 plus victories and at least one playoff win to get another year.

Jim Schwartz – Detroit Lions

Schwartz is your classic case of a head coach with a seemingly talented team but he isn't winning. He's got a franchise QB, superstar playmakers on offense and defense, so why can’t he win? Look, dude did takeover a 0-16 team, so some credit has to be given but the team is far too talented now to be going 4-12.

The Lions have been horribly undisciplined at times and that always points to a lack of leadership from the head coach. Detroit MUST make the playoffs for Schwartz to come back in 2014. You can’t keep wasting the prime years of guys like Calvin Johnson and Matt Stafford.

The Texas heat isn't the only thing Garrett is feeling.

Jason Garrett – Dallas Cowboys 

I don’t care what Jerry Jones says about Garrett’s job security, this guy is toast if Dallas flops again. Few teams go into each season with as much unwarranted hype as the Cowboys, (Much to they’re own doing most of the time.) so the guy that coaches Dallas will always be under pressure. With Garrett at the helm the Cowboys have gone 5-3, 8-8 and 8-8. Far below the number of wins a team with this type of talent should have.

Bill Callahan was brought in this off season to handle the play calling duties, which still doesn't make any sense to me. I thought that was supposed to be Garrett’s strongest quality as a NFL coach, his unique and aggressive play calling. It’s like having a great pastry chef at your restaurant but when the restaurant starts failing you decide to bring in another pastry chef and move the great one you already had over to the grill to cook steaks. Makes no sense. 

Ron Rivera – Carolina Panthers

Unlike the two coaches above him, Ron Rivera doesn’t quite have the same level of overall talent, but his biggest issue is he seem's to have a franchise QB in Cam Newton but he can’t get the best out of him. There are few things worst/annoying than owning a fast car (Newton) and always driving under the speed limit. (Winning fewer than 8 games.)

In Rivera’s defense, in both of his two seasons as the head coach, the Panthers played much better in the second half. Carolina needs to get off to a much faster start in 2013 and at least be above .500. They win at least 8 games and Newton looks improved, I say Rivera could be safe for another season. Anything less and it’s over.

Mike Munchak – Tennessee Titans

This team really doesn’t look to be going anywhere under Munchak. They don’t look good or average. They’re bad but they don’t look like a complete dumpster fire either. Jake Locker doesn’t seem to be the right guy at QB and Chris Johnson hasn’t been the same since he sat out for his new contract. Playoffs and 10 plus wins saves Munchak’s job. 6-10 and no playoffs again and he’s unemployed.

Hot & Heating Up

Coaches here are in some trouble. Expectations are high so they must win but if they loss too badly they could be out.

Kubiak needs to win big to stay safe beyond 2013.
Gary Kubiak – Houston Texans

I was really close to putting Gary Kubiak in the list of coaches above, but he’s had too much recent success to say he’s in that much trouble. Unlike the Cowboys, Lions and Panthers, the Texans are coming off a season where they had 12 wins, won the division, made the playoffs and won a playoff game. 

Kubiak has the team moving in the right direction the only question is the same question you have with the team’s QB Matt Schaub. Can he get you over the hump? Like Schaub, you can win games with Kubiak, but can he win you Super Bowls?

Mike Smith – Atlanta Falcons

Mike Smith faces the same questions and situation as Kubiak. You could honestly read the above thoughts, replace Kubiak with Smith and Texans with Falcons and it’d be pretty “spot-on” for what Smith is going through in Atlanta. Including the same questions with his QB. The Falcons however, have far more aerial offensive firepower and Matt Ryan is probably a more talented QB than Schaub. Besides that, the Falcons are to the NFC what the Texans are to the AFC.


The coaches here aren’t in any real trouble but all bets are off if they lose 10 plus. Coaches here are relatively safe if they win 7 or more games.

Marvin Lewis – Cincinnati Bengals 

Marvin Lewis has been the coach of the Bengals for over a decade now with "mixed" results. His best team in 2005 looked primed to win big in the playoffs until Carson Palmer got his knee blown out and that was that. Palmer hasn't been the same since and neither were the Bengals. The Bengals really seem to be on the right track since they got Andy Dalton and A.J. Green but Lewis better start winning playoff games soon. There always seems to be some heat on Lewis so he can coach under the pressure, but 10 years, no playoff victories and underachieving with a team that looks to have great balance on both sides of the ball is not a good look. But he’s a Black coach and I gotta support the guy. It’s a Black Law. Like defending OJ and hating George Zimmerman.

Shanahan is pretty safe in Washington thanks to RG3.
Mike Shanahan – Washington Redskins

I really hate this team's nickname, so when addressing them I’ll only type or say “Washington”. Shanahan finally has his best QB since John Elway and he almost immediately screwed it up. Washington wasn’t expected to do anything in 2012, so getting 10 wins, the NFC East crown and making the playoffs should be seen as a huge success. Shanahan put a lot of pressure on himself by his mismanagement of Robert Griffin III's knee injury in the playoffs.              

That pressure has only increased after Shanahan said the team has Super Bowl or bust expectations. If Washington makes the playoffs again in 2013 it should still be seen as a great season. Especially seeing where the team’s coming from the past 15 years, but not making the playoffs isn’t the end of the world either. Shanahan would have to lose at least 13 games, get RG3 injured or killed, drive down to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and slap President Obama to lose his job.

Leslie Frazier – Minnesota Vikings

I’m sure even Frazier himself didn’t see the Vikings having a playoff season in 2012. Namely because his best player Adrian Peterson was coming back from ACL surgery, his QB was “subpar” at best and his defense was aging fasted than milk left out on the counter on a hot day. But Minnesota won anyway.

Peterson had the greatest season ever for a running back, won the MVP, carried the team into the playoffs and probably saved Frazier’s job in the process. The Vikings could and should slip a bit in 2013 and Frazier would still return, but if they lose 10 plus, and look bad doing it, he’s gone. I was "this" close to putting Frazier in "Hot and Heating Up", but remember he's Black.


These coaches are just safe. They could lose 10 plus and still come back, but they definitely see more heat in the next season if they do that. Most of these coaches either just got the job or are in year two of the job. The ones that have a year of service start to move up or down after this season. But for this season, they could win or lose and they still return.

Carroll's all smiles in Seattle.
Pete Carroll – Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks looked primed and ready to do big things in 2013. They have all the talent in the world on both sides of the ball and Carroll really looks to have the team focused on bigger goals than the division title. Russell Wilson just might be the greatest draft day steal in NFL history and could probably run for mayor of Seattle and win in a landslide.

Carroll isn’t in the next group of coaches because he’s missing that sustained or exceptional playoff success. Win or lose he’s safe to return in 2013. Win big and Carroll goes up a level in job safety. Lose big and he goes down a level. Carroll would have to have the Seahawks lose 13 plus and run plays with their helmets on backwards to get fired. 

John Fox – Denver Broncos

John Fox is one of the best coaches in the league that hasn’t won a Super Bowl. He took Tim “I Can’t Complete a Five Yard Out” Tebow and turned him into a playoff winning QB. He went to the Super Bowl with Jake Delhomme! (RE-READ THAT LAST SENTENCE!) So it comes as no surprise to me when he got Peyton Manning last season, he won 13 games including 11 in a row. 

Fox had one of the freakiest stats in NFL history at one point. Teams he coached had a record of 50+ and 0 when his offense scored at least 24 points. That all changed versus Black Jesus Black Tebow Ray Lewis and the Ravens last year. Fox and the Broncos have Super Bowl dreams again, and like Carroll, he could move up or down on this list depending on his team’s success in 2013.

Gus Bradley – Jacksonville Jaguars
Andy Reid – Kansas City Chiefs
Rob Chudzinski – Cleveland Browns
Joe Philbin - Miami Dolphins
Chip Kelly – Philadelphia Eagles
Marc Trestman – Chicago Bears
Jeff Fisher – St. Louis Rams
Greg Schiano - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mike McCoy - San Diego Chargers
Bruce Arians – Arizona Cardinals
Chuck Pagano – Indianapolis Colts
Doug Marrone – Buffalo Bills

Dennis Allen – Oakland Raiders


Nothing to say because the coaches here aren’t going anywhere. They’ve got Super Bowl appearances and/or Super Bowl wins. They'd have to lose 10 plus for a few years before they feel an ounce of heat. These guys basically quit/retire to lose their jobs.

The Harbaughs are going nowhere anytime soon.

Jim Harbaugh – San Francisco 49ers
John Harbaugh – Baltimore Ravens
Mike Tomlin – Pittsburg Steelers
Tom Couglin – New York Giants
Mike McCarthy – Green Bay Packers
Sean Payton – New Orleans Saints

God Mode (Saban Award) 

(Named After The Coach With Greatest Job Security in the history of football.)
This slot is saved for the one guy that could lose every year for a decade and still not move. When this guy retires, the team is going to try to talk him into staying longer. This guy is NEVER EVER feeling heat. He has statues outside of the stadium, fans name they’re babies after him and water towers in his hometown have his name painted across them. He doesn’t lose the job until he quits the job and if he wants to come back, you fire the guy that replaced him on the spot if it means he coaches your team again.

Bill Belichick – New England Patriots

Join the debate by leaving a comment below. Did you like my list or no? Did it get it right or wrong? Feel free to let me know. You can follow me on Twitter @ParisLay. Thanks for reading and as always Enjoy the View!