Inception: A Largely Moot Review

No spoilers… When you’re done, read SC favorite Kyle Rancourt’s review here. He manages NOT to sound like a blowhard movie critic crossed with a 10-year-old schoolgirl. Plus, clicking on the link will impress him with the sick traffic we get.

There are surprise endings, there are surprise endings, and then there’s Christopher Nolan’s brainbender “Inception,” which has one final twist, yes, but after 2 1/2 hours of finely orchestrated, backdoor dream-weaving, really shouldn’t come as a surprise.

The whole damn movie is a twist. You should’ve expected nothing less.

“Inception” works with a premise that could’ve been boiled down to summer blockbuster cliches and belief-suspending sci-fi appeal. It’s essentially a one-last-job heist movie: break into the mind, plant an idea, get out alive.

If only it was that simple. Instead Nolan constructs a captivating labyrinth of plot and counter-reality in which characters play by an entirely original set of rules.”Going under” plunges one into the mind’s subconscious. Death in a dream either awakens the dreamer or sends him deeper into the dream state. Architectural models (the one’s you’d see in a university studio), once built in the “real world,” can then be replicated in the mind. And most importantly, the mind-hacker can enter deeper levels: dreams within dreams – or in the case of the epic finale – dreams within dreams within dreams within dreams.

The setup, then, goes something like this: Business kingpin Saito (Ken Watanabe) hires Dom (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his team of thought guerillas to break into the mind of a rival energy tycoon and plant an idea convincing him to break up his father’s monopoly. Success would give Saito a superpower of his own and Dom the freedom to get back to his children.

Waterworld.

There’s more, of course – physics-defying dream properties, counter-insurgent mind security, Dom’s own tortured psyche and a ghostly love interest hellbent on f*cking the whole thing up. The film is so intricately crafted that it’s at times hard to keep up. Yet everything is ultimately held together by one overarching line of questioning: what is real? what is dream? how do you know the difference?

In thrilling juxtaposition, Nolan manages to put the audience in the exact same dilemma as the characters themselves – namely, trying to distinguish where reality ends and imagination begins. Likewise, both Nolan and his characters push the boundaries of their dreamworld to the brink of collapse, so much so that you’re left awestruck by the simple fact that at it all holds together.

The final half hour, for instance, masterfully harmonizes four separate universes – all working in drastically different settings, all with different concepts of space-time, all to one deliriously exhilarating end. To belabor a point that needs belaboring: Nolan works like a Motzartian maestro, harnessing the notes of a million disparate instruments to create a perfectly in-synch concerto.

His deft accomplishments wouldn’t be possible without the top-shelf performances you’d expect from such a cast. Though DiCaprio and confidant Ellen Page turn in nonchalant excellence, it is partners in crime Tom Hardy (as the searingly witty Eames) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (DiCaprio’s cucumber-cool wingman Arthur) who give the ensemble the juice it needs to keep pace with the plot. In a film short on comic relief, the duo delivers the kind of coyly slick and super-stylized banter you’d expect from Tarartino-lite. Dileep Rao (dream-inducing specialist Yusuf) also excels as the more jaded version of the bleeding-heart doctor he played in “Avatar” and Nolan cohort Cillian Murphy, though unspectacular, capably pulls off the crucial tear-soaked climax. The only week link for me – relatively speaking – was Tom Berenger’s Browning, who stood out on account of being Tom Berenger (minor distraction more than anything – his role as down-home family adviser required him to be nothing more).

I’m not sure how to describe Marion Cotillard other than to say that she damn near stole the entire film, managing to one-up love interest DiCaprio (a modern-day Romeo in his own right) in every moment of every scene. She’s nothing short of entrancing, not just in her old-Hollywood beauty, but in the way she simultaneously embodies both angelic elegance and gothic darkness. Cotillard is the girl that emo kids place on a pedestal – the girl for which they listen to The Cure and write poetry in blood. At one point, she asks, “Do you know what’s it’s like to be a lover? To be half of a whole?” and it’s like she burning those words on your soul. This may go without saying, but she is the class of her contemporaries.

Throwback Cotillard.

A review, as I said, is rendered largely moot by the facts that A) the film’s $60 million opening weekend suggests that most have already seen it B) everybody seems to agree that it’s something of a virtuosic landmark and C) trying to put “Inception” into words is a self-defeating endeavor. You simply have to see it for yourself.

Or twice, like I did.

The visual acrobatics will leave you genuinely slack jawed, as they are perhaps the most technically and stylishly accomplished of any film. Though I would’ve said something similar about the second and third “Matrix” installments, it’s hard to imagine anyone besting the realness or creativity evident in Nolan’s dreamscapes. They are gorgeous, wildly imaginative and wholly seamless.

The writer and director revels in the intricacies of a lost city. He creates brain-teasing structural paradoxes. He turns splashing bath water into something out of “Fantasia.” He deconstructs one world as five and, with Gordon-Levitt’s first gravity-defying fistfight, forever changes the way you’ll look at a hallway.

In short, he makes dreams come alive.

The only flaw in this brilliant tapestry is perhaps an over-reliance on explanation – one too many scenes where a character, usually Arthur, tells his partners exactly what’s going on and of the dream properties that make it all happen. For a film that loses many in its complexity anyway (I’m 0 for 2 seeing it with someone who “got” it), Nolan might as well have let the plot unfold without the occasionally stale layman’s interpretation. Those left behind be damned.

“Inception,” like the faux-world it erects, is grandiose, towering, aesthetically arresting. It is a big movie by which all other big movies will be measured, and it introduces the concept of the “kick” – that feeling of falling that awakens you from dreams. That feeling, once the lights go up, that you’ve just had the rug pulled out from under you.

– Robbie

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Brooklyn Decker: An Unfocused Look at the Past Week in the World

Because this week was boring.

Not a whole lot to say. Robbie is already here

In America we have traditions.

On New Year’s Eve, we drink our faces off. On the Fourth of July, we blow things up. On Thanksgiving, we eat too much. On the week of MLB All-Star break, we rake our eyes out with boredom.

For many, baseball serves as the unappreciated girlfriend during the summer months. She’s not beautiful, sometimes you feel like she needs to change things up and you occasionally find yourself waiting for something better to come along (read: NFL). But dammit all if she’s not the most reliable young lady in the world.

She’s there when you’re bored at home and she’s there when you need a little entertainment while out on the town. It’s only when she’s gone that you realize how gaping of a void she can produce.

So baseball took it’s annual “do you appreciate me now?” leave of absence this week and left us with nothing but an awards show and golf in a giant field.

Americana.

As most know, there was pretty much one big story this week and it was kind of tragic. I’m going to make my job even more difficult by not mentioning that particular story. Wish me luck. Let’s do this.

I’m going to begin the campaign now. I want to be Rory McIlroy when I grow up.

No, I don’t care that he is technically two months younger than me or that he didn’t have a great second day at The Open Championship. He is the man, and I am thoroughly jealous of him.

One can only imagine a day in the life of a 21-year-old Irish golf star. I’m guessing something like this:

  • Wake up, go to the driving range.
  • Come home, eat an Irish person kind of breakfast. First girl of the day.
  • Go play a practice round of golf. Wind down with second girl of the day.
  • Go to a local pub, go through a couple of glasses of Jameson. On the house, of course.
  • One  more trip to the driving range. Avoid legions of girls on the way to your car. Find one good one, make her the third girl of the day.
  • Go out at night. Rinse and repeat.

Good for you, Rory. Good for you.

Pre-whiskey binge

The ESPY Awards took place on Wednesday night. I personally was not able to watch the show, but general consensus points to two important factors in the vent. The first being that Jeremy Shockey thought that everything was absolutely hilarious. Much like this post, that may or may not have been the direct result of alcoholic products.

The other groundbreaking piece of information is that Brooklyn Decker is one of the single most incredible individuals on the face of the earth. This is one of the most serious statements that you will ever read on Sports Casualties and it cannot be stressed enough.

Umm, did I mention there’s a golf tournament going on in Scotland?

I could kill some time by talking about wrestling… Didn’t watch any of that this week either.

Remember when Rick Reilly was a somewhat entertaining sportswriter and not a destructive menace to all of television?

I personally think that it’s very nice that ESPN pays Scott Van Pelt a respectable amount of money to re-create the same job that he once held on the Golf Channel.

Speaking of the Golf Channel, there are some pretty good-looking women on the new season of “The Big Break.”

I’m currently watching the Marlins-Nationals highlights. I think I might have just seen Robbie in the stands, but it could have just been one of the other 200 people in attendance.

He's there!

On Thursday night, I saw Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman out at MacDinton’s Irish Pub, it took everything in my power to not set up a ridiculous plot to destroy his ACL.

Southern Methodist University has declined a couple of football prospects because of their academics, and the football program is not too happy about it. Craig James says that he knows exactly what everybody needs to calm the situation.

“Jersey Shore” returns to television on July 29. Who’s excited? ME! ME! ME!

Robbie may or may not be in an episode of the new season. You’ll only know if you watch.

The Yankees blew the All-Star game and ruined the awesome streak of the American League. Oh sure, play your sappy mourning card. Like that’s going to work.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m struggling pretty bad to dig any relevance out of this week. This is not good.

I think I’m going to quit now.

Brooklyn Decker.

This is funny, I think.

-Bryan

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“Breakthrough?” and Other Google Trends: The Week in Review, Redux

Guess who I'm pulling for.

It’s Tiga Tiga Woods, ya’ll.

Does it speak to my cruel sensibilities that I get almost as much joy from watching Phil carry himself like a plus-sized Care Bear than I do from seeing Tiger’s name on the first page of the leaderboard at my favorite golf tournament?

Was that sentence too long to understand?

I appreciate the fact that Phillis has to keep things tight with Amy – allowing his wife to dress him without any regard for what his bros may think. But come on…

Like a puff pastry with hair.

Man up, Phil.

As you already know (because you woke up at 4 a.m.), three-time Open champion Tiger Woods shot an opening round 67 at personal whipping post St. Andrews. Tiger stands one behind cautionary tale John Daly, three behind a guy I’ve never heard of, and four behind personal inspiration Rory McIlroy (pictured below).

Time to reevaluate pink? Hmm... no.

On a side note, crazy kudos to Mike Tirico for saying he “wouldn’t be at all surprised” to see John Daly pop up on the leaderboard. That takes balls… and the wherewithal to know that nobody watches ESPN2 at 5:30 on a Wednesday.

Here are some random observations from the 15 or so minutes I’ve been awake with the TV on (timeline: Thursday, 9:30 a.m.) .

1) St. Andrews plays like your local hackers’ course when the weather cooperates. Does it hail in Scotland? If so, I’m hoping for a Friday hail storm.

2) It’s hard to tell whether ESPN’s on-course reporter Wendi Nix is genuinely hot, or whether she’s just benefitting from the British crowd.

3) My father and his snap hook are no doubt heartened by the news that “long and left” plays at the Open.

4) There’s a whale on the fi Mark Calcavecchia is on the fifth green.

5) (via last night) Props to ESPYs standout Erin Andrews for her classy hotness. If 98 percent of Gainesville was as classy-hot as Erin… we wouldn’t have a “Midtown.”

Erin at the ESPYs

6) Props to ESPYs standout Michelle Beadle for her classy hotness. If 98 percent of ESPN was as classy-hot as Michelle… we wouldn’t have a Jenn Brown… who’s just kind of skanky.

So hot all the other pics were burned.

7) Props to ESPYs standout Brooklyn Decker for… just everything, really.

Brooklyn: The Sixth and Seventh Boroughs

8) My pops asked me yesterday if I’d wear a LeBron jersey if his friend could land us opening night Heat tickets. I told him I’d wear a white headband and a crown, too. My motto: forgive, forget, join bandwagon.

9) I’m either going to see “Inception” or Stephen Strasburg Friday night. Either way, my head will explode.

10) The Dallas Mavericks’ Omar Samhan lauged (via Twitter) at one of our jokes last night. This is noteworthy because Shrek has never laughed at our jokes before.

Just kidding, Omar. Go Gaels.

11) Just realized Tiger was wearing pink, too – obviously to mock Phil. Obviously.

Pink, for the ladies.

12) “For us, he was like mannah from heaven.” ~ T-Wolves GM David Kahn on Darko Milicic. Seriously. Watch the rest of his transcendent interview with SC favorite Chris Webber right here.

(You didn’t click on the link, did you… I promise that the 4:53 mark will make your day immeasurably better. Click on the damn link.)

13) Robb Hilson – the aforementioned “pops” – is riding an unprecedented hot streak. His temporary stay in The 305 heralded the arrival of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and UM stud recruit Seantrel Henderson. He’s also factored prominently in Tiger’s hot start – “I was up at 3. Watched the whole round.”

14) I’ve just managed 14 observations in 15 minutes. This is some kind of record. Let’s finish the week up so I can pat myself on the back.

__________

On Monday, Arizona’s Chris Young, New York’s Nick Swisher and Milwaukee’s Corey Hart participated in the Home Run Derby. Capitalizing on this wave of momentum, I entered an ’87 Fiat at 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Yes, David Ortiz won the Derby and, no, that mysterious package marked “sharp objects enclosed” was not what you’re suggesting it was.

Smart ass.

Sticking with All-Stars, Boston third basemen Adrian Beltre announced that a tweaked hammy wouldn’t keep him out of the Midsummer Classic. In similarly relevant news, Publix held a 10% off sale on disposable Gillette razors.

On Tuesday, ex-Cleveland center Zydrunas Ilgauskas signed with the Miami Heat. Makes perfect sense to me – foreign refugees generally flee to South Florida to escape deceptive, egomaniacal leaders. Just one tiny hang-up…

In “no sh*t” headlines, RE: CNN – “Obese children at risk for acid reflux.”

Over the weekend, American cycling star Lance Armstrong suffered a hopes-dashing crash at the Tour de France.  In a possibly related turn of events, bike trails in Miami are seeing a drastic decline in grape smuggling.

You see where I'm going with this?

On Wednesday, the New York Red Bulls signed former French National star Thierry Henry to a multiyear contract. Though Henry will face lesser competition in the MLS, American rules will prevent him from using his hands.

Cheating: a staple of the international game.

Said Henry on the competitive fire that burns deep within his soul:

Also on Wednesday, aforementioned T-Wolves GM David Kahn traded 25-year-old stud power forward Al Jefferson to Utah for two heavily protected draft picks. Not to be outdone, Braves GM Frank Wren traded 27-year-old shortstop Yunel Escobar to Toronto for journeyman Alex Gonzalez and his career .294 OBP.

The winner in all of this? Wal-Mart, the former poster boy for “race to the bottom.”

On Friday, the U.S. swapped Russian spy Anna Chapman for Heat spy Dwyane Wade, cash considerations and a player to be named later.

Last Saturday, Cincinnati Reds rookie Travis Wood came within three outs of throwing 9 perfect innings in an eventual 1-0 loss in extras to the Phillies. On a day when New York’s Javier Vasquez and Baltimore’s Chris Tillman took no-hitters into the sixth and seventh innings, respectively, Wood’s efforts almost resulted in the third perfect game and fifth no-hitter of the season.

On Sunday, disgruntled fans filed a motion to reintroduce what made them love baseball in the first place.

Steroids.

In the span of two weeks, I will have watched an Atlanta Brave win an All-Star Game MVP and the ‘Canes land the top recruit in the country, received a Pearl Jam shirt as a gift from a friend, and attended a Smashing Pumpkins concert. In other words, I’m still living in 1994.

On Wednesday, fans of redemption set their alarms for 4:09 a.m. Fans of bra fat slept in.

Have a subpar weekend.

– Robbie

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What the Hell, David Kahn?

Bill Simmons' personal nemesis/ fellow sportswriter.

There’s only one word appropriately aggravating enough for what I’m about to write… KAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHN!

A paid analyst over at NBA Fanhouse actually suggested Tuesday that an avocado could run a franchise better than Minnesota Timberwolves’ GM David Kahn.

Well we all know that avocados can’t survive apart from tropical climates, let alone run a professional basketball team. But I see what Tom Ziller is getting at: namely, Kahn is a laughably incompetent executive doing his damnedest to destroy the NBA in Minneapolis.

One can bank on fresh impetus for such strong remarks roughly once every seven days, so I could’ve chosen to write my WTF? post a week ago when Kahn signed all 5 points, 4 boards of Darko Milicic to a 4-year deal. But I just assumed throwing $20 million at the biggest bust in NBA history would’ve gotten him fired by now… Nobody wants to beat a dead horse.

A lean, mean, bench-warming machine.

Fortunately for the sake of high comedy (/unfortunately for Minny’s collective emotional welfare), David Kahn survived another Tuesday, in which time he traded the most talented player left on his roster for two heavily protected future draft picks and, ironically, an avocado.

Al Jefferson, whose spot will now be filled by the aforementioned Darko, was shipped to Utah Tuesday for Memphis’s 2011 first-rounder (which can’t crack the top 9) and Utah’s 2011 first-rounder (which won’t be in the lottery because, um, the Jazz just landed a 25-year-old All-Star caliber power forward to pair with the best point guard in the NBA).

What makes this move all the more mindf*cking is that Kahn justified it by saying with a straight face that he needed to free up minutes for Darko.

(*shakes head* –> *hides sharp objects in case fan of common sense in building* –> *screams into pillow*)

I’d relay experts’ reactions to the AJ for Darko swap (C’mon son/mind-numbing stupefication/human victory cigar), but I don’t want to hea…

Okay fine. Here’s my favorite:

The deal for Milicic is extraordinary considering in February he wasn’t playing and said he was giving up the NBA to return to Europe. ~ Chad Ford, ESPN

Seriously, Kahn? SERIOUSLY? I mean, I don’t know what’s more of a red flag: having a potential front court of all white guys or the fact that the Wolves have successfully purged themselves of every single player acquired in the Kevin Garnett deal.

Some have suggested that Jefferson, who backed up an injury-shortened 23-11 ’08-09 with an ACL-recuperating 17-1o campaign, was cranky in Minnesota and couldn’t get along with fellow power forward Kevin Love – that his DUI in February was the last straw.

Jefferson: The happiest man in America.

I swallowed that argument right up until Kahn traded for pot-fiend/headcase/Spongebob enthusiast Michael Beasley. That guy was an asylum candidate surrounded by beautiful Latin women and one of the best players in the league. You’re telling me 12-degree Decembers and 60 losses helps his psyche?

It’s still unclear whether Kahn understands the fundamental objective of basketball (i.e. winning) or whether he’s simply been drunk for the last two years. This offseason doesn’t go far in clearing things up. After entering the free-agent signing period with cap room aplenty, he sunk $13 mill into 24-year-old Serbian prospect Nikola Pekovic and then double-downed on underachieving, Euro 7-footers hours later.

Kahn’s burned all but $5 million of the team’s remaining purse on the likes of castoffs, no-names and Martell Webster and will look to spend the rest on somebody that can take the Wolves to the next level. Possibly Brian Scalabrine, if he’s still available.

Not one to (intentionally) pile on, I’d like to give the man’s work a chance to speak for itself. Here are all of his transactions I didn’t mention.

Via Matt O’Brien at SB Nation…

________

  • Traded Mike Miller and Randy Foye for the 5th pick in the 2009 Draft
  • Drafted Ricky Rubio (a point guard) 5th overall, who has refused to play for Minnesota
  • Drafted Jonny Flynn (another point guard) 6th overall, passing on the consensus better player in Stephen Curry
  • Drafted Ty Lawson (another point guard) 18th overall, traded him to the Nuggets for a future first-rounder
  • Drafted Nick Calathes (another point guard) 45th overall, who went overseas to play in Greece before the T’Wolves traded his rights to the Mavs for a future second-rounder
  • Signed Ramon Sessions  (another point guard) to a four-year, $16 million deal
  • Signed Sasha Pavlovic (not a point guard!) to a one-year deal
  • Traded Jason Hart (another point guard) for Alando Tucker…who was subsequently waived
  • Traded Brian Cardinal for THE Darko Milicic
  • Drafted Wes Johnson (a small forward) fourth overall in 2010, passing on the much better and much younger Demarcus Cousins
  • Traded the 16th pick to the Blazers for Martell Webster (another small forward)
  • Drafted Lazar Hayward (another small forward) with the 30th pick

__________

I hope you caught those first few – Kahn essentially gave away Mike Miller and Randy Foye for the Chance In Hell to land PG Ricky Rubio, then spent his next three draft picks on point guards who either didn’t want to play in Minnesota (i.e. “pulled a Rubio”) or were talented enough to be shipped elsewhere… (or, admittedly, were drafted for other teams/trade partners)

In a your-kidding-Hilson turn of events, Minny signed free agent POINT GUARD Luke Ridnour to a 4-year, $16 million deal over the course of this very post.

It’s easy to blame the Wolves’ owner. It’s easy to say, “Well this is what happens when you hire a sportswriter to do a Jerry West’s job.” But being an amateur sportswriter myself, I genuinely feel that I could outdo David Kahn. Or at the very least, best an avocado.

– Robbie

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David Reutimann Comes Full Circle

No. 00

David Reutimann kisses his wife Lisa and climbs into his No. 00 car which is covered in advertisements for Tums. He will be starting in seventh in the Saturday night Lifelock.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Just outside of Tampa is a small town by the name of Gibsonton. In Gibsonton is East Bay Raceway Park, a 1/3 mile dirt track located beside a phosphate pit. The track is dubbed “The Clay by the Bay” by some and is mildly famous for its Ybor City restarts and its annual Winternationals event.

On most Saturday nights, East Bay is home to the best people-watching in Hillsborough County, two announcers who seem oblivious to the fact that their microphones are turned on and a driver that is simply introduced as “The Living Legend.”

The Legend.

The Living Legend drives a No. 00 open-wheel modified car sponsored by Aaron’s. It’s very rare that anyone gives him much of a fight. It’s even more rare to see him not win a race. He has the best equipment and the most fans. His name is Buzzie Reutimann and he is the 69-year-old father of current NASCAR Sprint Cup driver David Reutimann.

While not nearly as nationally prominent as an Earnhardt, a Petty or an Allison, the Reutimann name is famous at race tracks all over the state of Florida.

David’s grandfather, Emil Reutimann, Jr., was a regular at short tracks throughout Central Florida. He especially raced frequently at Tampa’s three old local tracks: the fair grounds, Phillip’s Field and Golden Gate Speedway. Tampa was a given for the family’s drivers as the Reutimanns were based roughly 40 minutes away in Zephyrhills.

Racing became a staple for the Reutimanns. By the age of 13, Buzzie was working on race cars even though his mother was firmly against it. He soon began following in his father’s footsteps, running Chevrolets on a regular basis at Tampa’s trio of short tracks. He lived for short tracks and even made one appearance in a NASCAR race, a tenth place finish in the only NASCAR event ever held at Golden Gate Speedway on November 11, 1962.

One thing remained consistent for all of the racing Reutimanns. They all drove cars adorned with the No. 00.

In 1970, the Reutimanns welcomed the member of the family who would go on to carry their legacy the highest. But David was born just three years before tragedy struck. In 1973, Emil was driving on Highway 301 in Tampa on his way to a race. His youngest son Dale and Dale’s good friend Gordon Stone were also in the car when a drunk driver crossed into the opposite lane. The crash killed all three of them.

In the early going of the Lifelock.com 400, Jimmie Johnson is dominating. Looks like another predictable night at the track.

David Reutimann first flirted with the more glamorous side of stock car racing in 2002 when he raced in a handful of events for the then Busch Series. In 2004, he began his first stage of a partnership with the Waltrip family when he signed on to race in the Craftsman Truck Series for Darrell Waltrip Motorsports.

As part of the initial movement to usher Toyota vehicles into NASCAR, Reutimann was rather successful in his introduction to trucks. He was able to finish 14th in points in 2004, a feat good enough to earn him Rookie of the Year honors. However, in an evolving NASCAR where stars are made at 18 and drivers are considered grizzly veterans by their early 30s, a 34-year-old truck series rookie is not exactly ideal.

In 2005, Reutimann had what would be his first and only victory in the truck series at Nashville Superspeedway. Maybe the biggest legacy that he would leave in the truck series was from some of his crashes. Plenty of commercials for the truck series featured video of his No. 17 truck getting destroyed in a bad wreck.

Quite a legacy.

Reutimann made his name slightly more well-known in 2006 when he was not only able to finish third in the truck series final standings, but he also managed to run in 15 Busch series races, finishing in the top 10 four times.

During the 2006 season, I met him at a sponsor event before a Busch race at Daytona. Having been at the truck race the night before, I talked to him about that before briefly shifting the conversation to his family. I told him about how my grandpa used to watch Buzzie, Emil and his Uncle Wayne race in Tampa and how it was only natural for our family to become fans of his.

As humble as most anyone that I’ve ever met, he seemed genuinely surprised that anyone knew his name, much less his background.

After three somewhat successful years in a truck, David moved from Darrell Waltrip’s truck team to Michael Waltrip’s Nextel Cup team. Michael’s group was an upstart team and one of the few proponents of Toyota during its controversial first year in the Nextel Cup.

Reutimann would be driving a car with a split sponsorship between Burger King and Domino’s Pizza. However, what was more important than the sponsor was the number that adorned the car. No, 00, just like Emil and just like Buzzie.

Jimmie Johnson slides through the grass, drops to 24th and then soon hits the wall to drop two laps down. Meanwhile Reutimann is consistently running in the top five.

The 2007 Nextel Cup Series rookie class consisted of a 27-year-old Paul Menard, a 22-year-old David Ragan, a 26-year-old A.J. Allmendinger and the 37-year old man from Zephyrhills.

Michael Waltrip brought in Reutimann to be a catalyst for his new team along with veteran Dale Jarrett. The move was the NASCAR equivalent of adopting the pimply 16-year-old in an orphanage full of adorable toddlers. And, to be honest, there were plenty of days when the move didn’t seem completely logical.

Reutimann failed to register a single top 10 finish during the 2007 season. To make matters worse, Michael Waltrip Racing’s three cars failed to qualify for a combined 39 races in 2007 and none of them were able to achieve a top five finish.

Fun while it lasted, or not.

Domino’s and Burger King left MWR after the season, leaving Reutimann in search of a sponsor. Dale Jarrett left Reutimann his No. 44 UPS car after he retired a few races into the season. This shifted the No. 00 car, now sponsored by Aaron’s, over to rookie Michael McDowell.

But UPS signed into NASCAR because they wanted a big name like Jarrett representing their company, not a low-profile guy without a top 10 finish on his resume. Reutimann was able to get 4 top 10 finishes in 2008, but it wasn’t enough to impress UPS, who left for a team that MWR had recently become an arch rival of, Roush Fenway Racing and driver David Ragan.

Now in second place, Reutimann trails only Jeff Gordon. Crew chief Rodney Childers encourages David to wait for Gordon to make a mistake.

“Are you kidding?” Reutimann replied. “He’s Jeff Gordon. When’s he going to make a mistake?”

Reutimann is able to take the lead on lap 213.

Reutimann was brought back to familiarity in 2009. Painfully loyal to David, Michael Waltrip gave him back the No.00 Aaron’s Dream Machine car in 2009. The result was a fresh breeze of success. He finished the 2009 season with 10 top 10 finishes, five top five finishes and one bittersweet Monday afternoon in Charlotte, N.C.

Reutimann won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, NASCAR’s longest event and one of its most prestigious. It was his first career victory in the now Sprint Cup Series. However, the race that Reutimann won was actually the Coca-Cola 340.5, a rain-shortened event that ended with little celebration or satisfaction.

He said all the right things after the win. He’d take whatever he could get. It was a shame they couldn’t run the whole thing, but a win is a win. But deep down, the victory would kind of haunt him for the next year. He had reached the crowning moment for a family that revolved around racing, but plenty said that it wasn’t legitimate.

So one year, one month and 15 days later, Reutimann came to Chicagoland Speedway, still in the unique process of gaining redemption for a win. He drove the same No. 00 Toyota Camry, this time with secondary sponsor Tums plastered across the hood. He carried the same humble demeanor that has become linked with a slightly more fiery nature.

David Reutimann holds off Carl Edwards to cleanly win the Lifelock.com 400. There are no drivers calling it illegitimate, only guys talking about what a great guy David is and how deserving he is of this win. The only rain comes in the form of confetti and a variety of liquids in victory lane.

Brad Keselowski finishes in 18th. This is important because, as my grandpa would say, as long as Keselowski is running, David is only the second ugliest driver.

The moment is emotional. Crew chief Childers tells reporters that he doesn’t have a lot to say about this, but his tears say it all.

The post-race becomes the first notable stage for media to bring up Reutimann’s free agent situation. After the 2010 season, his contract with MWR is up, and he is free to go wherever he would like. On the heels of the LeBron “Decision” nonsense, plenty of jokes are made during the late television coverage.

But this is not a selfish superstar, this is the hard-working product of generations of drivers who never made it this far. He pledges his loyalty to MWR and insists that they have made a “handshake deal” that will soon be translated to paper.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Reutimann said. “I’m going to be at Michael Waltrip Racing. I may be cutting the grass, but I’ll be at Michael Waltrip Racing.”

In a word, refreshing.

-Bryan

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George Steinbrenner, Yankee Legend, Dead at 80

Icons in the Bronx.

I told my mother this morning that George Steinbrenner had died. “He was the Yankees’ owner, right?”

Even she knew.

It’s been a tough week for the Yankee greats. Two days after stadium announcer Bob Sheppard died at 99, George Steinbrenner, the Yanks’ flamboyant overseer since 1973, passed in his home in Tampa, FL, of a massive heart attack.

The Boss was 80.

If Sheppard was to baseball “The Voice of God,” Steinbrenner was God’s Deep Pockets. He was, if not the richest, certainly the most influential owner of his time, paving the way for a generation of Mark Cubans and Jerry Joneses.

He was the first Super Owner of the modern era. He made money talk. He made it not only acceptable for the owner to manage from the luxury box, but a tactic that didn’t go far enough.

The men who really cared were right there with their teams – in the clubhouse, on the sidelines, down the third base line.

Like most Yankees legends, Steinbrenner was larger than life. He had the physique of Ruth, the ego of Jackson, the will of Jeter. He was a celebrity in his own right and, 38 seasons after he purchased the most storied franchise in sports, nothing short of a fixture in American culture.

George Steinbrenner has a band hall named after him at the University of Florida. He is so big that even the band geeks look up at the silver lettering and say, “He’s the Yankees guy.”

New Yorkers aside, there will not be an outpouring of love, as there was for Gehrig or Mantle or even Phil Rizzuto. It’s not typical to write “dictator” or “loudmouth” or “madman” in a piece that reads like an obituary, but George Steinbrenner was all of these things – only he was so good at his job and commanded such respect in his later years that these words can only now be taken as terms of endearment.

After suspension No. 2.

There would be no New Yankee Stadium without Steinbrenner – it is the House That George Built. There would be no Alex Rodriguez, Champion. There would be no $200 million payrolls. Aviator glasses wouldn’t be quite as intimidating.

And there would be no Dan Gilbert without first a George Steinbrenner, though the two were opposites of sorts. The latter’s impulsive tirades and maniacal vindictiveness produced results. He spared no expenses, pulled no punches, never tread lightly in pursuit of the almighty W.

George Steinbrenner, above all, was a winner.

He purchased a depressed franchise from CBS on Jan. 3, 1973 for $8.7 million. By 1974, the Yankees were in a renovated stadium; by 1976, in the World Series; by 1977, world champions. Steinbrenner ushered in the era of free agency with the signing of Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson, and all told, spent over $1.8 billion to bring in new talent.

He was the longest-tenured owner in sports at the time of his death. The Yankees won 16 division titles during this stretch, 11 American League pennants and 7 World Series. They endured 22 managerial changes (five including Billy Martin), a couple devastating post-season failures, the ouster of the beloved Joe Torre, and Hideki Irabu.

Through it all, Steinbrenner – with a little help from Jeffrey Maier and Mark Wohlers – erected a modern-day dynasty, complete with a multi-million dollar media platform, the most accomplished players in the sport, and an equal legion of diehard fans and flaky bandwagon jumpers.

He made a name for himself by cracking skulls, busting balls and picking fights. He was not liked by those who did not know him, but those who did insisted that his iron fist gave way to a soft heart. He handed Bible verses to Andy Petite before big starts, put poor families through college, facilitated the legend of Derek Jeter.

Steinbrenner with Martin: a love-hate relationship.

It’s perhaps fitting for a man of extremes that the depths of his lows matched the peaks of his highs. Steinbrenner was banned twice from Major League Baseball – the first time for illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon, the second for his association with a small-time gambler. He became a running joke on the most popular sitcom in television when his team continued to struggle in the early-to-mid ’90s.

He is the face of what became known as The Evil Empire and alienated the occasional employee to the point that Ken Griffey swore he’d never don pinstripes.

Still, to era after era of sports fan, his flaws were duly glossed over by the fact that he excelled at seemingly everything.

He made his first millions as a visionary shipping tycoon. He won a national title as a graduate assistant to Woody Hayes. He hired the first African American head coach in professional sports as owner of the ABL’s Cleveland Pipers. He was with the same wife for 56 years. He even produced a Tony-nominated Broadway play.

He turned an $8.7 million investment into a staggering $1.5 billion national institution.

A myriad of talking heads and famous athletes have taken to the mike today to recount beloved memories and express the extent of Mr. Steinbrenner’s generosity. I can’t speak to these things. But I do know this: George Steinbrenner forever changed a sport I love. Baseball in America will never be the same again.

– Robbie

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Another Dan Gilbert Letter

"Heyyyy, fogettaboutit!"

On Friday, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert wrote this about former employee LeBron James. On Tuesday, he came to his senses and crafted the following.

__________

Dear Cleveland,

All Of Northeast Ohio and Cleveland Cavaliers Supporters Wherever You May Be Tonight;

I’d first like to make it abundantly clear that losing a quarter of a BILLION dollars overnight makes you a cranky, cranky man. Ever gone through a nasty split up with the love of your life? Internalize that feeling for me. Now imagine she was worth a quarter of a BILLION dollars.

As you now know, our former hero, who grew up in the very region that he deserted this evening, is no longer a Cleveland Cavalier.

This pains me because 1) I thought he’d spend his entire career wasting away on an otherwise mediocre team and 2) because he was worth a quarter of a BILLION dollars.

Like you, I’ve only had a handful of hours to digest this soul-crushing news. I’m in a world of hurt and confusion. Like you, I feel betrayed – like I’ve just been dumped by my long-time Shuga Momma (who was worth a quarter of a BILLION dollars). I’ve yet to gather my thoughts, and in the immediate Le-fallout, I’ve shouted things that would make a Tourrettes-stricken George Carlin blush.

So naturally, I’ve published all my innermost thoughts on the internet… not to “light my credibility on fire” or to “be a sore loser” or to “overuse quotations marks in the interest of abrasive snark,” but to tell you what a “D-BAG” LeBron James is.

His announcement was made with a several day, narcissistic, self-promotional (insert other vitriolic descriptors) build-up culminating with a national TV special of his “decision” unlike anything ever “witnessed” in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment.

This was way more narcissistic than when Tiger Woods starred in his creepy Nike ad and then staged a “press conference” in front of a hand-picked group of “friends.” And I remember that, Cleveland fans, because it happened like five months ago.

This was even more narcissistic than the time Alex Rodriguez looked Katie Couric straight in the eye on network television and swore he’d never taken steroids. And then after he had admitted to taking steroids, kissing himself in the mirror for Details Magazine.

I think LeBron James is a big fat narcissist – like Brett Favre mixed with Kanye mixed with OJ mixed with Hitler.

Clearly, this is bitterly disappointing to all of us.

The good news is that the ownership team and the rest of the hard-working, loyal, and driven staff over here at your hometown Cavaliers have not betrayed you nor NEVER will betray you.

Excuse my triple negative. What I’m trying to say is that I won’t betray you. NEVER.

(note to self: don’t sell team until last remaining Cavs fan dies)

Cash strapped? Can’t make payments on that 6-bedroom home you overpaid for? Visit Quickenloans.com today to sign up for our limited-time 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, starting at just 3.99% (4.187% APR)!!!

There is so much more to tell you about the events of the recent past and our more than exciting future.

Think “super exciting.”

Over the next several days and weeks, we will be communicating much of that to you. Daniel Gibson has already communicated that to you.

I hesitate, though, to share his remarks as they might draw attention to the fact that we’re building our future in part around a guy named “Boobie.”

You simply don’t deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal. I’m talking about LeBron leaving, not the class action lawsuit filed against my company for withholding overtime pay.

You have given so much and deserve so much more… even though you ranked dead last in attendance the year before we landed LeBron.

In the meantime, I want to make one statement to you tonight:

“I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE”

(SUCK ON THAT, JOE WILLIE NAMATH!)

You can take it to the bank.

Bear Stearns, to be exact.

If you thought we were motivated before tonight to bring the hardware (2x4s, hammers, nails – we’re shuttering up The Q) to Cleveland, I can tell you that this shameful display of selfishness and betrayal by one of our very own has shifted our “motivation” to previously unknown and previously never experienced levels.

For instance, I am now selling LeBron Fatheads for $17.41 to commemorate the birth year of Benedict Arnold. I’ve just lost a quarter of a BILLION dollars – will an 80% hit on remaining LeBron inventory really make a difference?

Some people think they should go to heaven but NOT have to die to get there.

(Here’s a list of other metaphors I thought about using:

1) Some people think they should get free text messaging without “upgrading to the unlimited texts” package.

2) Some people think the elevator to the top of the mountain only has an up button.

3) Some people think they can make a hit television sitcom with Tina Fey without running their lines during breakfast rehearsals.

4) Some people think that you can compare Mo Williams to Scottie Pippen and he will magically become Scottie Pippen.

5) Some people think they can have their cake, when really they can’t.)

Sorry, but that’s simply not how it works.

It’s better to get lucky on lottery night and snag the No. 1 pick in the best draft in 20 years.

This shocking act of disloyalty from our home grown “chosen one” sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn. And “who” we would want them to grow-up to become.

Namely, children “who” don’t randomly hyphenate words, mix metaphors and “overuse” punctuation.

But the good news is that this heartless and callous action can only serve as the antidote to the so-called “curse” on Cleveland, Ohio.

The self-declared former “King” will be taking the “curse” with him down south. And until he does “right” by Cleveland and Ohio, James (and the town where he plays) will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma… So yes, I’m acknowledging that there was a curse on Cleveland, but not anymore. Now it’s in Miami.

By does “right,” I mean… I want him to come back? I want him to apologize? I want him to offer himself as a human sacrifice? This is unclear to me as well, even though I wrote it. I will be communicating to you what I mean in the near future.

Just watch. Jessie Jackson will compare me to a slave owner.

What an OVERREACTION.

Sleep well, Cleveland.

Tomorrow is a new and much brighter day (low 68, 70% chance of rain, tornado warnings).

I PROMISE you that our energy, focus, capital (what’s left of it), knowledge and experience will be directed at one thing and one thing only:

DELIVERING YOU the championship you have long deserved and is long overdue…. because you are such classy fans.

Dan Gilbert
Majority Owner, For Now
Cleveland Cavaliers

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