Famous Ramis and the “Caddyshack” influence

When Harold Ramis passed away last week, America indeed lost a national treasure. Men who have ever gone to college or lived with a group of buddies lost the comedic genius whom they could always recognize as a Ghostbuster, but really got to know as co-creator/director of the greatest sports movie of all-time: “Caddyshack.”

"Ghostbusters" co-stars and co-writers Ramis, left, with Aykroyd.

“Ghostbusters” co-stars and co-writers Ramis, left, with Aykroyd.

You could make a strong argument for at least 10 different sports or sports related films worthy of being heralded as the Industry Standard for the respective genre. But what makes the debate so complicated is actually as simple as identifying a very real gender discord. A big part of why “Caddyshack” stands at No. 1 sports movie for me hangs on my theory that all attractive women despise the film. And that’s totally cool. Women know love, and guys know juvenile behavior. I’m not going to try and pretend I know where “The Notebook” or “Ghost” ranks in the pantheon of mushy films.

There are some exceptions in the catalogue of sports film for which both sexes typically agree on. “Field of Dreams” is a borderline filmmaking masterpiece. And I get that it’s a movie about playing catch with your old man. But my old man and I, given a choice, are taking “Caddyshack” every time. I’d rather watch “Field of Dreams” with my girlfriend, mom or even solo. Same with “Rudy”, “Hoosiers”, “Miracle” and probably even “Rocky.”

If and when you feel comfortable enough to open up a little with your significant other and reveal your guilty pleasures, beware of “Caddyshack.” If you’re shameless enough to make it the main attraction for the evening, by the :45 minute mark she’s usually saying, “I don’t get why you like this movie.” Or, “What’s the point of this movie?” If she’s your wife, she’ll start cleaning the house at the :25 minute mark, and soon enough, begin nagging you as if your life is a mirror image of Carl Spackler.

Now you’re in the dog house, not the big dog house, but a dog house, nevertheless. The only way to get out of this is to skip both Sunday AND Monday Night Football in successive evenings. But you’ll never think less of Ramis’ “Caddyshack.” I assure you.

If you’re in a hopeless relationship and looking for a classy way to turn off the girl, show her “Caddyshack.” If she’s not going down easy, proceed to “Animal House” (for which Ramis co-wrote). Any order works, but only a freak of nature can muster both.

Ramis’ Legacy

Critics will say that while Mr. Ramis may have been the leader of the production on paper, “Caddyshack” was a star driven movie led by comedy Hall of Famers Bill Murray, Rodney Dangerfield, and Chevy Chase that the film’s gopher himself could’ve directed.

Well if sportswriter Sam Smith’s best-selling book, “The Jordan Rules” taught me anything about self-centered stars, it’s that Michael Jordan does not materialize into a championship-grade performer without Phil Jackson’s impressive aptitude in the field of project management. A comparison could be made with the way Ramis coached showbiz phenoms Murray, Dangerfield and Chase during Caddyshack. Ramis had to manage all three of his megastars differently. Murray had just a few scripted lines. Chase did not have the improvisational chops Murray did-not to mention the two had a history of not getting along. Dangerfield knew little about acting.

Take a look at what the script read for Bill Murray’s famous “Cinderella story” scene, as displayed in the film’s featured DVD documentary “The 19th Hole”:

EXT. CLUBHOUSE (SAME DAY – LATE AFTERNOON)

The sky is beginning to darken. Carl, the greenskeeper is absently lopping the heads off bedded tulips as he practices his golf swing with a grass whip.

Obviously Murray went on to improvise an entire monologue that every sports fan can recite. But Ramis didn’t just get comfy in his director’s chair and call out, “Action!” As told by Ramis in the feature, the director gave Murray food for thought before rolling the film.

“Bill, whenever you’re playing sports,” as Ramis remembers it. “Do you ever talk to yourself like you’re the announcer? I used to try jogging for a while and pretend like it was the Olympics…

“…So then Bill says, ‘I know exactly what you mean, say no more.’”

"Former groundskeeper about to become Masters Champion."

“Former groundskeeper about to become Masters Champion.”

When you talk about Murray’s greatest film hits, with the exception of “Lost in Translation”, Ramis has been an essential part of the equation: Ghostbusters (co-wrote and co-starred), Caddyshack (directed and co-wrote), Stripes (wrote and co-starred), and Groundhog Day (directed and co-wrote).

Chase went on to reveal a little known fact that Ramis was responsible for inspiring the Clark Griswold character made famous from the hit National Lampoon’s “Vacation” series. Ramis earned a writing credit for the original “Vacation” as well.

“And with Ty Webb the same thing,” Chase recalled in “The 19th Hole.”

“(Harold Ramis) gave me the attitude.”

Clark W. Griswold is yet another timeless mark left by Ramis.

Clark W. Griswold is yet another timeless mark left in part by Ramis.

For Dangerfield, “Caddyshack” served as the comedian’s very first part in a full-length feature film. “Rodney needed every word, every syllable in place,” Ramis recalled. In order to take his method acting approach as real estate tycoon Al Czervik, to what one of the producers described as, “next level comedy,” Dangerfield needed to rehearse his lines the night before shooting his biggest scenes with the director himself.

Place your bets indeed on Ramis and Caddyshack for best sports flic ever. The Chicagoan became a comedy filmmaking expert who never appeared to compromise the integrity of his craft in exchange for fame and wealth.

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What the NBA is telling us about America

Style and substance have become enemies in America, and the latter appears to be getting overwhelmed in the form of Candy Crush, Flappy Birds, the Kardashians, Chris Christie (-his job, of course), et al. Heck, bearded members of one of the great music bands this country ever produced, ZZ Top, can’t go anywhere these days without being mistaken for a homophobic reality TV star!

Quick: Duck Dynasty or ZZ Top???

Quick: is this Duck Dynasty or ZZ Top???

Turn on the tube for some sports highlights and the likes of Dairy Queen will shamelessly try and sell you a 1,500 calorie “$5 buck lunch.” The rubber stamped “Fan Food” ad features a 140 lb. young male licking his chops while digging his paws into a towering burger that holds as much nutritional value as a Milk Bone. Once that insult concludes, SportsCenter makes it’s presence felt with a revving host of obnoxious intro graphics that would quiet even the likes of Tom Arnold’s mind. The anchor begins by teasing Carmelo Anthony’s record scoring night as if it were the greatest accomplishment you will witness in your home since the advent of pizza delivery. It turned out that Anthony netted a New York Knick record of 62 points. There was no mention that he also tied Spike Lee’s franchise mark in futility for total assists in a game.

If you need more evidence that our standards for excellence in America have become a complete farce, look no further than the National Basketball Association’s All-Star roster from out of the Eastern Conference. Not only will you see more players representing the second-place team than the first place team (in overall seeding), you may also notice the player who leads the league in triple-doubles, Lance Stephenson, is missing all together. Not only is Stephenson an essential member of an Indiana team who indeed owns the best record in the NBA, but he’s putting together the best season of his own career by consistently executing two of the most honest statistics in all of sports: assists and rebounds.

Stephenson in front of a guy who probably voted for scorers over producers.

Stephenson in front of a guy who probably voted for scorers over producers.

As a careless result of granting the fan community complete voting control in selecting its all-star game’s starters, the NBA awards “hero ball” pretenders like Kyrie Irving and oft-injured players like Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade starting positions for the event.

So when it was up to the league coaches to place Stephenson on the roster as a reserve, they instead made the trolls look sane by adding Heat F/C Chris Bosh, who stands 6’10” and averages under seven rebounds along with just one assist a game-for a second-seeded team, nonetheless. I get that life isn’t fair, but it doesn’t have to be stupid.

At what point did complacency become the way? When did style find the ninja skills to dominate substance? We simply can’t take our eyes off of performances that encompass all things low iq, or instant gratification over long term satisfaction. Most people say they watch Fox News not because it’s “Fair and Balanced,” but because it’s entertaining. I thought news was supposed to be honest, informative and in turn boring. O’Reilly and Hannity have replaced Cheers and Seinfeld, while Obama versus the Republican party has replaced heavyweight boxing. It’s as if the media has created a fourth branch of government to keep us distracted from what really matters. (Respected print media outlets are no longer infallible, either: I don’t want a Rolling Stone reporter to tell me about Drake’s insatiable appetite for indoor pools. We know performing artists live lavishly. I want to know why he lifts his shirt to point to his nipple on stage, why he wears his pants halfway down his rump, and why he doesn’t tie his boots. Then I want a paragraph detailing the way he reacted after you ask him that!)

To paraphrase what Charles Barkley, pro basketball's No. 1 ambassador, recently told Dan Patrick: "The quality of play (in the NBA) is embarrassing."

To paraphrase what Charles Barkley, pro basketball’s No. 1 ambassador, recently told Dan Patrick: “The quality of play (in the NBA) is embarrassing.”

Please get ahold of yourself, America, and stop shoveling coal into the hopper. The NBA product is insulting an impressionable fanbase that’s all too happy to enjoy all things “Fanfood” related. Start with something simple: don’t watch the NBA All-Star game this Sunday night. If the ratings are low, the league, new commish and all, will do something different next year. It’s a baby step, we know. But a step in the right direction, nonetheless. We’re not asking you to skip the Finals…this year.

The majority of the NBA fan agrees that the overall quality of the game itself has significantly diminished since the original Dream Teamers handed over the establishment to the neck tattoo generation. Part of the reason our kids underperform in school is because their heroes, let’s use sports figures as an example, are now guys whom are marketed as “accomplished stars.” Yet they don’t lead (Dwight Howard), grind (Bosh), share (Carmelo Anthony) or win (Irving). Meanwhile, the NBA’s leading renaissance man for 2014, Lance Stephenson, will watch the game from home.

Mr. Positive, Magic Johnson recently told DJ Sway, "Few players of this era could have played in my era." Heartbreaking.

The always positive Magic Johnson recently told DJ Sway, “Few players of this era could have played in my era.” A step further: non original Dream-Teamers Isiah Thomas and Dominique Wilkins would be the third and fourth best players, respectively, in today’s game.

In case you were wondering just how Stephenson, a Brooklyn product who nurtured his game growing up at the famed Rucker Park, handled the news that he was an All-Star snub? He took care of business on the court, recording another triple-double to help the Pacers win.

This wouldn’t fly in the Big Apple, so why is it flying in Seattle?

The Seattle Seahawk fan, otherwise known as the 12th Man, should be worried about losing Super Bowl 48 in New Jersey tomorrow-and it has nothing to do with the Denver Broncos.

The Seahawk fan should be worried that, they too, may have an out-of-touch owner. An owner who may not get that the 12th Man is the most honest symbol-if not the only symbol that doesn’t lie to the common fan in sports. By taking it upon himself to raise the beloved flag, he’s messing with an unwritten social rule, perhaps even a universal energy balance in a country longing for some semblance of economic equality and fairness.

Whether he meant to or not, by taking it upon himself to raise the 12th Man flag, Seattle billionaire owner Paul Allen marked his territory during the NFC Championship game. The Seahawk fan fake cheered in reaction and was probably thinking to himself, “Are we becoming the Cowboys? Or will this just curse us like the Cubs?”

Mr. Allen should seriously consider creating a 12th Man Committee: an assembly of season ticket holding fans in charge of appointing the responsibility of raising the flag to a rotating group of individuals that respects and understands what the 12th Man is all about. Will there be corruption? Sure! But at least there’s dignity in common man corruption-perhaps you’ve heard of The Sopranos? All due respect to Mr. Allen, but win or lose in the Super Bowl, I guarantee you that the last person such a committee would ever consider appointing would be a guy reportedly worth 15 billion. Keepin’ it real to keep it real.

12man

If Allen has enough disposable income to throw towards the possibility of leasing an SL Flying Saucer, what makes Seattle fan ignore the idea that purchasing the Seahawks itself was nothing more than a PR stunt? What did he really have to lose when buying a pro football franchise with a loyal fan base?

He invested in a football team in 1997, which was like buying a Van Gogh before he committed suicide. Now the piece no longer hangs up in your den. The piece is seen by everyone in a fancy new museum-known as CenturyLink Field.

And until the Seahawks became Super Bowl contenders in 2005, like most respectable owners, Allen stayed in the comforts of his luxury suite. Until it was championship game time. No Tiny Tim’s. No Archie Bunker’s. Not even a soccer player! Commander-in-chief raised the flag and the Seahawks eventually finished second.

But this issue really isn’t about winning and losing as much as it is reminding Mr. Allen, cordially, that beyond the rolling hills of cash, reality, down here in Hooverville, still remains.

Fans of a sports franchise should demand that their owner pays his bills, hires a general manager to run the team, and stays out of everyone’s way. Steinbrenner is the exception to the rule because he demanded excellence from everybody and he paid his players handsomely for it. Big Stein’s MO was holding everyone accountable and the word “championship” was thrown around like eggs at a Bieber slumber party. Jerry Jones just loves being a star. I never quite understood what “he must like to hear himself talk” meant until I became acquainted with the Cowboys owner. Remember the Dallas owner of the ’70’s when they were becoming “America’s Team”? Neither do I.

The tradition the Seahawks have with the 12th Man is unparalleled, but it walks the fine line between charming and gimmicky. When Mr. Allen raises the flag, it’s not like he’s channeling Caesar, but it’s certainly not Mara, Rooney or Kraft-like, either.

Thanks for keeping the Seahawks in The Great Northwest, Mr. Allen. Now let the fans have unequivocal control of what’s theirs: The raising of the 12th Man flag.