Friday, June 23, 2006


Just a few thoughts as we head into the weekend

To be completely honest, Our Man in LA can't think of much that's interesting or angering him today - at least not anything big enough to justify a whole post. So rather than subject you to his version of one of those "Do you know how hard it is to write a column" posts so popular in college newspapers, I just thought I'd send you off on your weekend with a couple of bits and pieces that float in and out of what's left of my brain.

1. The Heat won. It seems unfair that I didn't write anything about the Heat's historic first NBA Championship just days after I extolled the virtues of the small market Carolina Hurricanes and the TV-unfriendly National Hockey League. But the Heat won, and America's now heard of Dwayne Wade, the latest in a long line of "next Michael Jordans." Anyone who follows basketball knows that this list has included a number of other players, from the talented but personally disgusting Kobe Bryant to the nice but injury-prone Grant Hill (remember him? he's in Orlando!) to the completely ridiculous Harold "Baby Jordan" Miner (anyone remember him? anyone at all?).

Which is not to say that Wade doesn't deserve the praise. He's a great player, one of my favorite young stars to watch. I'm hoping that he'll be one of the anchors of a new Golden Age in the NBA. Hopefully, years from now, we'll equate the coming time of Nowitzki, Wade, LeBron, Nash, and Elton Brand with the 80s/90s grouping of Jordan, Bird, Magic, Isaiah, Barkley, et al.

I mean, if you watched the games this year, and you closed your eyes for a second, didn't the Mavericks and the Heat feel a little like Boston v. LA?? Just a little? The crazy-looking white guy (that'd be Nowitzki or Bird) taking on a team from a warm weather vacation destination (Miami or LA) that featured a young hotshot star (Wade or Magic) and an older, amazing superstar (Kareem or Shaq).

No, it's not perfect. But it's more parallel than perpendicular. I'm just saying.

2. The Americans lost at the World Cup. Show of hands. Who's surprised.

Yeah, me either. But I'll say this for the World Cup. It actually kind of got me interested in soccer on TV. I haven't been interested in soccer in any medium since I played on a fairly pathetic team for the Kettering Rec Center league in the third grade. My junior high soccer team was terrible, and I couldn't have cared less (being on the team was compulsory at Dayton's Miami Valley School). In high school, Archbishop Alter High's team, which didn't feature me (and which actually I never saw live in action) won two state titles in a row. Still I couldn't care less.

But this World Cup thing - with its ads featuring Bono, with its crazed fans, and yeah, with America going down despite our nuclear superiority and war-mongering party in office - well, it's pretty cool. I'm going to keep watching. Which isn't to say that I completely understand everything. The way the second round plays out, for example.

No matter. Count me in. With the US out, maybe I'll get behind the UK! Or Ghana!

Or maybe best of all, Australia. After all, as Jon Stewart points out, they're just like us.

Only drunk.

3. Spider-man revealed his secret identity. After years and years of working overtime to keep it a secret so that no bad guy will ever harm pretty, sweet Mary-Jane Watson or, God forbid, sweet, sickly old Aunt May, Peter Parker finally revealed to the Marvel Universe that yeah, he's Spidey. Been Spidey since he was a teenager. What do you think of that?

Honestly, I'm kind of under-whelmed.

I mean, I'm a comics guy. I love big changes from time to time. But this just feels like stunting of the worst kind. Sure, it's not as tacky as when DC Comics let you call a 900 number to determine whether Robin lived or died, but in another way, it's worse than that.

Like OK, take the tacky 900-number scenario. Let's say Robin lived (he didn't, but he's back). You know what the result is? Interesting stories. Let's say he died (which he did, but he got better). Result? Interesting stories.

Or look at the Death of Superman. Did anyone - anyone at all, besides a few moronic, gullible newspaper reporters (probably working in the Bush White House as we speak) - really believe that the last son of Krypton was gone for good? No way. We all knew they'd resurrect him, and they did. But along the way, you know what you got? Interesting stories.

Which brings me to Spidey. So the cat's out of Pete's particular bag, right? Well, the stories will be interesting. For a very little while. And then . . . they'll be really boring. Because once we've dealt with what it's like for his friends and enemies to know that he's been pulling one over on them for years, they'll . . . adjust, get over it, and move on.

And we'll miss all the fun tensions of Spider-man. How he was going to hide his ID from his aunt. How he would pay the rent without taking pictures of himself so a hack newspaper publisher with questionable ethics could villainize him in the press. You know. That stuff.

Now? We'll see him fight bad guys. Which is cool, but it was never the coolest thing about Spider-man. I mean, when it comes right down to it, plenty of super-heroes fight bad guys. He'll be sort of like . . . Moon Knight. Or Booster Gold. Or any one of the heroes you haven't heard of but show up in big super-hero events, mostly to get killed so that the big heroes can mourn.

And that's all. I'll admit that I'm put off by this because I like the secret identity. It's a great chestnut for the super-hero genre. Superman without Clark Kent is just a powerful, kind of boring guy who beats up big robots. Who identifies with that, or even finds it very interesting? Batman needs to be billionaire Bruce Wayne. He just does.

But more than that, I feel like the writers have done us all kind of a disservice by not looking ahead. Because like all of you, I fully expect that in four or five years, Spider-man's true identity will be a secret again. He'll be Peter Parker, and he'll be worried about keeping it quiet. And what that probably means is that some magical, mega-powerful character will have to wipe everyone's memory clean with a spell or something.

And those stories are always REALLY BORING.

Because look, it's the world of comic books. Killing someone off is easy. Bringing them back to life is easy. Both are pretty interesting.

Making everyone (including the reader) forget? That's hard. Really, really hard. And like a secret that got spilled a long time ago, kind of boring, stupid and irrelevant.

Have a good weekend, y'all.

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