Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Requiem for the Big Ten

R.I.P., the Big Ten. 1896-2012.

It had a pretty good run, more than a century. It's the oldest athletic conference in the country, home to some of the most storied programs and most towering figures in college football. It developed the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry, perhaps the most intense rivalry in sports.

But all good things have to come to an end, and that's what the Big Ten apparently is going to do today. Ironically, Rutgers--one of the schools that was involved in the creation of college football nearly 150 years ago--may be involved in its demise. It hasn't made a move yet, but the Maryland Board of Regents is expected to vote today on whether to leave its long-time home, the Atlantic Coast Conference, and join the Big Ten. With Maryland mega-booster Kevin Plank, the CEO of Under Armour--(the responsible party for those hideous uniforms)--behind it, expect a slim but controversial pass. After Maryland joins, Rutgers is expected to follow. Oh, we'll still have the Big Ten, but it'll be the BTIN--Big Ten In Name Only.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Why Disney's Star Wars Sequels Feel So Wrong

"Star Wars" began with a snub.

Forty-some years ago, a young George Lucas--fresh from making "American Graffiti" and "THX"--approached Italian film titan Dino De Laurentiis to pitch him his vision of a "Flash Gordon" epic. De Laurentiis certainly wanted to make a movie based on the iconic 30's star crusader--he had, after all, bought the movie rights, and his taste for spectacle would earn him the nickname "Dino De Horrendous." But he was perhaps expecting something a little bit more old-school, and was hoping to coax legendary fellow Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini--who had worked on the Flash Gordon comic strip decades ago--into directing. So Lucas was politely rebuffed.

And then, in a historic cinematic "Fuck you," Lucas went ahead and made "Flash Gordon" anyways, except he changed the name of the hero to Luke Skywalker. The resulting movie, of course, was "Star Wars," and it was the top-grossing movie at that point in history, revolutionizing Hollywood and redefining the blockbuster. De Laurentiis was forced to rush his own now-forgotten "Flash Gordon" epic through three years later, to mediocre reviews and horrible box office performance. (Poor old Dino had a habit of screwing up valuable franchises--he also sold away the rights to "Silence of the Lambs.")

Who knows how much the "Star Wars" franchise was worth from 1977 to 2012. But now, we know exactly how much it is worth from 2012 on--$4.05 billion. As everyone now knows, that's how much the Disney company paid George Lucas to buy LucasFilm and all of its intellectual property, to launch an new "Star Wars" film in 2015.