CHICAGO, Illinois - At the end of the movie "Ghost and the Darkness, the narrator says, "Even now, if you dare lock eyes with them, you will be afraid."
Not entirely true. The two infamous Tsavo maneating lions wanted no part of me when I locked eyes with them at the Field Museum in Chicago (Full disclosure - both lions are dead).
This place is taxidermy heaven, and stuffed (get it? - My God, that's outstanding) with quality exhibits for adults and kids. Among the more fascinating is the display of The Tsavo Maneaters.
In 1898, British Col. Henry Patterson was in Kenya leading a bridge-building venture that was halted by these two lions. No, they weren't union leaders fighting labor practices. These lions just liked to eat people. Col. Patterson estimated the two lions killed around 135 people, but historians later figured that the more accurate figure is 35.
As to why the lions preferred humans over, say, burger and fries - Mr. Bruce Patterson of the Field Museum emailed me that it was because one of the lions had bad teeth, which prevented it from taking down the normal lion prey (zebras, buffalo, McDonalds, etc.)
Col. Patterson eventually shot and killed both. He had them both turned into rugs, but the owner of the Field Museum eventually bought the two skins for $5,000. The lions were mounted - albeit at a shorter stature - and put on display in this museum.
My career and massive amounts of stolen, earned - and unearned - wealth have allowed me to travel the globe, and stay in some nice hotels, but nothing has ever touched this place: Lake Point Tower in downtown Chicago.
There is posh, and then there is Lake Point Tower.
It's called an apartment building, but that is an insult to this building.
I was 18 when my father took me on a trip to Chicago to watch the White Sox. Dad had a friend who had a friend who had a friend who had a friend that owned a place at this location. There were rumors that Oprah Winfrey lived here, and while those were denied plenty of famous and painfully wealthy people who do.
I had NO business being in this place, other than to clean the toilets.
Lake Point Tower opened in 1968, and for a while it was one of the tallest apartment buildings in the world. It's unique design allows for residents to see the city - including the then-Sears Tower - and Lake Michigan simply by walking from a bedroom to the kitchen. This place has a 2-1/2 acre, wooded park, indoor/outdoor pools, outdoor BBQ, restaurant, on-property dry cleaner, dentist, spa and grocery.
The windows in the apartments are nearly ceiling to floor, and the views are something out of a museum. If memory serves, the floor we stayed on was in the 40s.
I spent one evening there, and it will likely remain the nicest place I will ever stay.
To just to be clear - Baylor University is a great place with a lot of wonderful people who work there, and are alums of that fine institution. With that lollipop firmly applied, the following is just as true as the first statement - the athletic department and now the entire school is behaving like elitist, spoiled crooks. I mean that in the best possible sense.
My continued harping against Baylor is not some personal bias born from my roots at TCU and Fort Worth. My continued harping against Baylor is the school's gaming of a good ole' boy system, highway robbery of its fans, and now obnoxious pandering made possible because it has money.
Baylor is betting that despite this new college football playoff format, it is still about who you know as much as who you beat.
This is a school that used politics to enter the Big 12 back in the mid '90s, and threatened legal action to ensure it would have a place in the country club when the conference looked like it would implode a few years ago.
Hiring a PR firm to make sure we all know how good their team is would not be an issue had the school had the foresight not to compile a non-conference schedule that is both insulting, and robbery. We all know Baylor is good, and we all know they are trying to do an end around into the playoff$$.
Here is the AP top 15 and their best non-conference opponent.
1. Alabama vs. West Virginia ... Neutral field. Legit. 2. Oregon vs. Michigan State ... At Oregon. Totally legit. 3. Florida State vs. Oklahoma State, Notre Dame, Florida ... Legit. 4. TCU vs. Minnesota ... Turned out to be far more legit than originally predicted. 5. Baylor at Buffalo ... A joke. 6. Ohio State vs. Virginia Tech ... Hokies are a .500 team, and this win in Columbus remains shocking. 7. Michigan State at Oregon ... Legit. 8. Arizona vs. Nevada ... Nevada is 7-5, but this is garbage. 9. Kansas State vs. Auburn ... Legit. Auburn won. 10. Mississippi State vs. Southern Miss. A joke. Hail State used its SEC West hall pass on this. 11. Wisconsin vs. LSU ... Neutral field. Legit. 12. Georgia Tech vs. Georgia ... Rivalry. Legit. 13. Ole Miss vs. Boise State ... Neutral field. Legit. Boise is Top 25. 14. Missouri vs. Indiana ... A Power 5 team in name only, but .... The best part is IU won. 15. Georgia vs. Clemson, Georgia Tech ... Totally legit.
Baylor fandom has been screaming - "They all play nobody", but as the above Top 15 suggests, that's not true. There is Minnesota, and then there is Buffalo. There is Boise State, and there is Northwestern State.
No Power 5 coach should schedule a death row for non-conference, but one legit team is the way to go.
Baylor's fans should be leading the charge on some of this. They are the ones paying to watch garbage.
For Baylor's two non-conference home opponents this season, it charged $75 for a single game ticket against SMU, and $40 against Northwestern State. The irony is Northwestern State was probably the better opponent than SMU. As a ticket-buying customer in search of entertainment for an afternoon, this is a waste of money.
Should Baylor defeat Kansas State on Saturday and be included in the college football playoff, it will have served notice to every other Power 5 team that there is simply no need to play a real opponent in non-conference unless there is a TV executive pointing a giant pile of money at their head.
If Baylor is included in the Final Four, good for them. We are talking about a program that had been dead for decades that is as relevant as Ohio State, Florida State and the rest.
It will be how Baylor reached the Final Four that no one - even their own ticket-paying fans - should like.
This is one of the most amazing and inspirational stories you will ever read, or watch. Let us just get this out of the way right now - there is no way this film can do justice to the bio written by Laura Hillenbrand and carved by the man himself. There is so much to this man's life that it feels like it could be a triology.
Zamperini's story has been chronicled before, by Hillenbrand, and other news organizations but like many scripts and concepts it had never been made into a movie until Jolie's weight and pull aligned moons and planets.
Like any film that attempts to adapt a beloved or best-selling book, there are numerous challenges for the viewer familiar with the initial impressions by the first release. The problem for the film Unbroken will not be that as much as the chronicling the sheer number of incomprehensible events this man endured in a standard feature length film. The film is 137 minutes, and that feels about three hours too short to properly do this man's life justice.
This man's life is too much for one movie.
In the 1930s, Zamperini was a distance runner and on his way to becoming one of the best in the world. He competed in the '36 Olympics in Berlin. When World War II broke out, he joined the Air Force.
On a mission over the South Pacific, his plane crashed and he and two men were adrift at sea for about two months. The survived shark attacks, no water, enemy fire, etc. This story of survival could be a movie.
When he returned after the war, he went through a long depression that nearly ended his marriage, and then his life. He didn't begin his climb back until his wife drug him to a spirtual gathering led by a then very young Billy Graham in Los Angeles.
Zamperini would eventually return to Japan, and personally tried to forgive all of those Japanese soldiers who abused him, and his friends, for so long. He would never find The Bird, whose life itself could have been a movie.
This story and this life are so incredible there is no way Jolie can screw this up. All they have to do is get out of the way.
Despite the inherent limitations of a Hollywood movie, and some of the tough editing cuts that must happen, it is better that Louis Zamperini's life finally made it to the big screen so more people can learn, and be inpsired, by such an amazing man and life.
Foxcatcher has been in the works for years, and the eagerly-anticipated movie from director Bennett Miller does not necessarily disappoint but it will leave you feeling hollow. Something is missing, which maybe is the point.
The tragic true story of eccentric billionaire John Du Pont and Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz and his coach brother, David Schultz, is finally out on the screen ... just in time for Oscar voters (not a coincidence). Comedian Steve Carrell as Du Pont is memorably creepy, and will likely receive a nomination for Best Actor.
If you are unfamiliar with this true story that happened in the '80s and '90s, avoid reading about it until after you have seen the movie.
While Miller (Moneyball, Capote) does a nice job of focusing on but the three main characters in the film, the audience is going to find no connection to any of the trio. This is ultimately a sad story of people led astray, the often tragic power of wealth, and the sadness that can simply happen in life.
The story: Du Pont is the real-life heir to the Du Pont fortune, and he led an isolated life with complicated relationships with his family. He can do whatever he wants because of his money, and he creates an image for himself as a patriot who uses wrestling to regain America's lost sense of identity.
What he really appears to be is a closet-homosexual who never had the need to be good at anything. He recruits a lost soul in wrestler Mark Schultz to train at his massive estate in Pennsylvania, and ultimately buys a faux role as a wrestling coach even though he comically knows little about it.
Du Pont is surrounded by enablers who do whatever he wants, including filming a documentary about his role as a coach, because he has more money than he can count.
He eventually recruits (buys), David Schultz to come to Pennsylvania with his wife and two kids to run the USA wrestling program that the program basically turns over to Du Pont because he donates half a million dollars every year.
The characters: Channing Tatum is outstanding as the quiet, angry, shy and easily swayed Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz. He wrestles because he is good at it, and his older brother - David (played so subtly well by Mark Ruffalo) knows what he is doing. Tatum does an exceptional job of never being comfortable.
Du Pont is core of the film as the eccentric billionaire manipulating Mark Schultz, who eventually becomes irritated and angry with his former "mentor" that he eventually realizes is a fraud. Carrell is so good you forget he is a comedian.
All three men are memorable in their own way, and Ruffalo is wonderful as the one person who passively fights the preposterous role that Du Pont creates for himself.
Does it work?: Much like Capote (the one with the late Philip Seymour Hoffman), Foxcatcher works in the sense that the story is compelling, and you want to see how it ends. It is a deliberately paced, and slow, film that uses minimal soundtrack or noise. This is an exceptionally quiet film, but it is not going to connect with viewers because there is a sympathy chip missing.
The problem: You are not going to care, or feel sympathy for, any of the three people. This film was ripe for sympathy, and it's miss on this vital element defines the film.
Oscar Winner? Except a slew of nominations, but no major wins with the possible exception of Screenplay.
Should you see it: Yes, but wait for it on home video.
@MacEngelProf firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook Mac Engel
FERGUSON, Missouri – There are no burned out buildings, and few obvious physical signs of what happened here more than one month ago. There are, however, more “I Heart Ferguson” signs in front yards than there are signs that protest the shooting of a young black male by a white police officer that has re-defined this area.
Ferguson is now synonymous with racial unrest after the shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9.
Most of the evidence of what happened here is in the people themselves, the sadness they feel, and a dread that is undeniable.
“I’m telling you – if that police officer is not locked up or it doesn’t come to trial, Ferguson is going to burn down,” Siobhan, 30, of Ferguson told me. “This won’t be national, this will be international.”
(In this story, all of the people interviewed will go by their first names).
The day after the Dallas Cowboys played the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, I ventured to Ferguson to see for myself what the citizens think about their community, and a story that is indeed international. This is not the ‘hood, and the people who live here don’t wear hoods either.
It is a suburb that, as my wife who grew up just minutes from this area, said, was hurt by white flight decades ago and its economic recovery has been sporadic. To define all of its citizens as looting riotous thugs is ignorant. These are good people stuck in an awful situation that potentially could get worse.
This is a community that in the past 40 days has been characterized as racially divided, and a source of unrest between its black citizens and white police or leaders.
This suburb, which is only about one mile from the quaint University of Missouri-St. Louis campus, looks like many others in St. Louis. There is a pleasant main drag with restaurants, auto repair shops and throwback looking bars with character.
The houses are older, smaller; some of the architecture is Victorian. Like every other place in America there are fast food places, gas stations, and any number of other chains that litter the modern day USA city.
You don’t drive by the sign that reads “Ferguson – Michael Brown Was Killed Over There.”
“You have to go down the street to see where it all happened,” Siobhan told me.
Indeed, and the neighborhood where Michael Brown was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson is one of the sad cases of low-income housing where many problems are condensed and intensified because of proximity. This area is not to be confused from the pages from the script of The Wire, but it is not ideal. It looks like low-income housing, and it’s not easy.
Since the CNN, Fox News and other national media outlets have left to cover Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice or the NFL’s next PR fiasco, life has calmed down for the Ferguson residents, but it is not the same.
“It’s different now. Before there was always a little bit of, I don’t want to say mistrust, but it was uneasy between (black residents) and the police and now it feels worse,” a young man named Drake told me. “There was stuff just the other day I was hearing about between guys and the police.”
Drake is 20, and born in 1993. He does not remember the Rodney King riots.
“I was a baby then,” he said. “But if that cop doesn’t go to jail it’s going to be the same thing all over.”
In 1991, motorist Rodney King was video taped as members of the Los Angeles Police Department beat him with batons. In April of ’92, the four white police officers were acquitted of the beating. In a five-day stretch of rioting, more than 50 people were killed, 2,000 were injured and the estimated cost of the damages was over $1 billion.
Of the half-dozen Ferguson residents I spoke to, all of whom were black, all agreed with Drake’s point. There is a resignation that mass rioting will occur if Wilson is not punished with a jail sentence.
According to a story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Wilson recently testified to a grand jury. By law, that proceeding is not open to the public. According to the report, the grand jury consisted of nine whites and three blacks.
CNN has reported that a St. Louis County judge has extended the grand jury’s deadline to Jan. 7, 2015. That is when the residents of Ferguson fear their home once again will be the epicenter of another tragic chapter in America’s history with race relations.
Two of the people I spoke with are braced for the news that the conflicting reports about what happened between Wilson and Brown will ultimately lead to an acquittal, and more rioting and mistrust between blacks and police and civil leaders.
I asked Siobhan that had the police officer who pulled the trigger been black would the reaction been the same.
“I think it would have been,” she said. “To me, this is about racial profiling and the police using excessive force.”Joe is a part-time contractor and employee at local auto plant. He has lived here his whole life and said he has three daughters in college. He looks like a guy simply trying to live his life, pay his bills, and enjoy himself when he can.
Joe, 52, looks like Ferguson.
“All of the rioting and looting and all of that happened right after – that should not have happened,” Joe told me. “What the guy did, he didn’t deserve to be killed. And there was a way to protest. There is a way to peacefully do it without all of that.
“It’s too bad, because St. Louis has really made big improvements in terms of race and diversity in the last 20 years or so, and now all of this happened.”
There genuinely is not that much to see in Ferguson because it’s not that much different than any other older American suburb. The whites live here. The blacks live there. The Hispanics are over there. There are schools. There are churches. And, for the most part, people get along.
If you drive through Ferguson, there are no signs that read this is the new face of racial unrest in this country. It’s here. It’s in the people. And the fear is as real as the sadness that these problems continue to exist.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The man himself will tell you that big pimpin up in N.Y.C. is not the easiest thing, but by the time Sunday night was over the biggest pimp – Jay Z – was upstaged by a rookie, and then by his own client.
Hip hop’s biggest star, Jay Z, was at the Cowboys-Giants game on Sunday, which allowed him to witness one of the greatest catches in NFL history by Odell Beckham Jr., and one of the more timelier performances ever by Dez Bryant.
By the end it was Dez, who is represented by Jay Z’s agency, was indeed the biggest star of the evening. If there has ever been a catch any better than Beckham Jr.’s 43-yard-touchdown reception in the second quarter, we are talking a matter of 1a., 1b, 1c.
"It was a ridiculous catch," Cowboys defensive tackle Henry Melton said.
"I thought Odell was one of the finest players I've seen in the NFL," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told me.
“The man’s a monster,” Dez Bryant said. Dez is no weenie.
As dominant was Beckham Jr. was in the first half – 8 receptions for 125 yards and two touchdowns – in the second half he was indeed just a man. The Cowboys held Beckham Jr. to two catches for 21 yards in the final half.
Dez was held without the type of how-did-he-do-that catch made by Beckham Jr., but he was the more dominant player in the second half.
Some of it had to with the fact the offensive line gave his quarterback all month to throw. Dez finished with seven receptions for 86 yards, and two second half touchdowns. His TD catch with 61 seconds remaining in the game will not qualify as a Hall of Fame reception, but it did what it was supposed to do.
He became the second fastest player in team history to reached 50 touchdown catches, and seventh quickest in league history. “I did?” he asked. “I didn’t know that. That’s cool.”
For what will surely be a Pro Bowl season for Bryant, he has gone for more than 100 yards just three times this year.
If the current statistical projections hold he will not post a career-year (BTW - he is on pace for a career-best 15 touchdowns), yet this is the best year of his Cowboys life. The Cowboys don’t need him to be anything other than what he is, which while it may not feature the type of Beckham Jr. catch this season it has been enough.
On Sunday night, it was enough to trump one of the greatest catches in NFL history, and the presence of the biggest pimp up in the NYC.
Running back DeMarco Murray ran for the quietest 121 yards conceivable. His longest run was 18 yards, and in the first quarter he just missed what would have been a 25-yard touchdown run. The problem was tight end Jason Witten was unable to secure Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul on the seal block, and Murray was tackled to prevent the big play. In fairness, most people in this world are unable to secure edge blocks against JPP.
Other than that, Murray was fairly boring and without the types of runs that he has made routine this season.
He has gone over 100 yards in every game but one this season, and right now is on pace for 1,969 yards. And the Cowboys are now 18-1 when he rushes 20 or more times.
You may have guessed that was Cowboys receiver Cole Beasley’s best game of the season. Two catches for 66 yards and a touchdown. The 66 yards are a season-high, as was his 45-yard TD catch.
… In the first half, the Cowboys allowed the Giants to convert seven-of-seven third downs, and three touchdowns.
"The first half scared me with our defense," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said.
With good reason. This defense looks like it is often gasping right now, and if it can't pressure the passer, the secondary is exposed.
In the second half, the Cowboys forced a pair of three-and-outs, safety Barry Church had a gift interception of an Eli Manning pass inside the red zone, and the tackling was dramatically improved.
"There was a little discussion at the half of that's not who we were," defensive tackle Henry Melton told me. "It was, 'Are we going to show up and play? Or lay down and let these guys get a win?" It was a talk like that. We came out with a different demeanor."
Melton just missed a pair of second-half sacks, as Manning did his best to avoid the loss and intentional grounding on a pair of near plays.
"You are (mad) you don't get the sacks," he said. "It's a loss of 10 yards or whatever, and a few times he did some crafty stuff to get out of it."
This is odd: The Cowboys are 5-0 on the road, the only undefeated team in the NFL away from home. No other team has more than three road wins.
New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre Paul did give Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith a few problems – Smith was called for holding in the third quarter that erased a long Dez catch – but when it mattered the Cowboys offensive line made the Giants defensive line non factors, and non existent.
In the Cowboys’ game-winning drive, despite the presence of four pass rushers, the offensive line gave Tony Romo so much time he could look at every single option available.
"They were playing a scheme that did not have an all-out rush; they trying to defend the pass," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "I thought our group did an outstanding job of protecting Romo all night long."
Romo may be good on his feet, but he could have been a statue on that final drive and completed every pass he did.
To demonstrate how good the offensive line was against the Giants – DeMarco Murray ran for more than 100 yards, Dez caught two touchdowns, Romo threw for four scores, and the first player NBC sideline reporter Michelle Tafoya asked to interview for the postgame report was right tackle Doug Free. That has to be a first for Free’s career.
Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said he thought it was a run, but the shovel pass from Tony Romo to his bestest buddy was another touchdown reception. Witten's four-yard touchdown shovel catch in the second quarter made the score 14-10 Giants, and was just about the last thing anybody expected from Witten.
"It was a great call by (offensive coordinator) Scott Linehan," Witten said after the game. "We have been working on that for a few weeks. I don't think they were expecting that. I thought it was a rushing touchdown, but we'll take them any way we can get them. Gutsy call."
UP NEXT: The Cowboys host the Philadelphia Eagles on Thanksgiving Day at Jerry World for - I can’t believe I am writing this – first place in the NFC East. Eagles starting QB Nick Foles is out but Mark Sanchez has done a decent job in his place. The Cowboys will play the Eagles twice in the next three games. If the Cowboys get a split, call it a big win.
I began this season with $50 of Monopoly money. I will mock bet, against the line, five games from college/NFL every week. Over the last two years, I am plus $110 which confirms what we already know - I am a winner.
Another tragic week. Another 1-4 week. So much betrayal. And so (fake) broke. Overall record: 26-33-2
LAST WEEK: 1-4 1. Oklahoma (-13) at Texas Tech. SOONERS. LOSS 2. Auburn at Georgia (-2.5). TIGERS. LOSS 3. Missouri at Texas A&M (-4). AGGIES. LOSS 4. Broncos (-9.5) at Rams. MANNING. LOSS 5. Lions at Cardinals (-1). CARDS. WIN
THIS WEEK: 0-34 1. New Mexico at Colorado St (-21). RAMS. This is a very good team. 2. Okie State at Baylor (-32). BEARS. All about style points. 3. Arizona at Utah (-4.5). WILDCATS. Should be close. 4. Browns at Falcons (-3). FALCONS. They have a division title to play for. 5. Cowboys (-3.5) at NY Giants. COWBOYS. Quittin' time for the Giants.