Waiting for Vizzini
Midway through The Princess Bride * - best FRED SAVAGE-SEAN PENN'S WIFE collaboration ever - MANDY PATINKIN's slobbering drunk, swashbuckling, "not left-handed" Spaniard *Inigo Montoya (quick pause here for everyone to run through the requisite speech - aaaand "...prepare to die!" Okay. Done?) invokes a metaphor we've found particularly resonant in recent days: "I - am - waiting - for - Vizzini..."
For the uninitiated, Inigo is one of a pair of misfits - the other being Fezzik (Andre the Giant, of deceased ex-pro wrestler fame) - whose allegiance has long been sworn to an obnoxious little squirt of a tyrant played to hilarious, lisping effect by WALLACE SHAWN, aka the other guy in My Dinner with Andre. (Different Andre, but who amongst us wouldn't pay to see *that *movie?!) Having been bested by "The Man in Black" (not the one in Oakland) and separated from their ringleader, Inigo and Fezzik "go back to the beginning," to the Thieves' Forest, per the Sicilian's strict instructions. (Thanks to a goblet of wine laced with fatal traces of Iocane powder, along with an apparent unwillingness to develop an immunity to it, Vizzini is dead. And when we say "dead," we mean ALL dead, not just "mostly-dead.")
So there they sit, defeated, rudderless, despondent, aching for direction. Like a protagonist in a BONNIE TYLER song ("I need a hero...I'm holdin' out for a hero 'til the end of the niiiiight..."), like Celtics fans on the wrong end of a RICK PITINO rant ("Larry Bird is not walking through that door! Kevin McHale is not walking through that door! Robert Parish is not walking through that door!"), much of New England finds itself lately in this disorienting, leadership Black Hole (again...no, not Oakland), regardless of what the scoreboard said on Sunday. Let us 'splain. No, there is too much. Let us sum up: Patriots Nation is faced with a frantic fan-base unaccustomed to fits and starts and stops on 4th & short, and faced with a team - minus the Harrisons, Bruschis & Vrabels of yore - on a quest for identity, mojo, inspiration. A team waiting, in other words, for Vizzini.
Sure, there's BRADY and FAULK and WILFORK and the next generation of locker room leader in JEROD MAYO. So far, though, they seem better suited to leading by example, which, ordinarily, would suffice. But this team is way past "even-keel" talk; it's running out of "one game at a time" time. The moment (and maybe the rest of the roster) is crying out for something monumental, a game-changer along the lines of Shakespeare's Saint Crispin's Day speech. And so, in that spirit, and for lack of anyone else stepping up, Out-Takes has one humble, two-part request: Whether you're trapped in the Pit of Despair or attempting to scale the Cliffs of Insanity, please consider us as an alternative to suicide. And throw us the rope.
First off, a message, ladies and gentleman and everyone in between (this means YOU, whoever leaked Late-Gate to SHALISE MANZA YOUNG). Hear this now: Out-Takes will always tell it to you straight. (We are men of action, lies do not become us.) Sunday's win over Carolina notwithstanding, this recent spate of games has offered humiliations galore. You feel like someone's just sucked one year of your life away. After a decade of unbridled success, it's easy for a team, and its fan-base, to forget: Life is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something. As seasons of smooth sailing fade in the rearview, it's almost inconceivable that a team like New Orleans could cruise along so easily, the breeze at their backs. You can't help but think, "I wonder if they are using the same wind we are using."
To the fans, we say...take a breath. Are there rocks ahead? Sure. (We know the chocolate coating makes it go down easier, but why sugarcoat things?) The fact is, there's a long way to go if you're hoping to go a long way, and only three regular season games are left to right this ship. That doesn't leave much time for dilly-dallying. Up next are the BILLS who, if you'll allow us to jog your memory, really should've won on opening Monday Night. Then come the JAGS, who are starting to play like anything but. You finish up on the road against another AFC South team, and while we're not DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN or anything, our inner historian reminds us how certain other iconic, New England-based dynasties finished up in Texas. (Rather than break down the Zapruder film, let's just say it doesn't go well.) But Buffalo-Jacksonville-Houston ain't exactly Murderer's Row. A three-game sweep is possible. Maybe you get momentum. Maybe you get dangerous. Maybe you start believing, "It's never too late to be what you might've been."
For the skeptics out there, those with fear behind your eyes and a whimpering "Kill me quickly!" in your throats, be warned - this next part might put a damper on our relationship. (AHEM) Listen, you warthog-faced buffoons, you miserable, vomitous mass(holes), if you're so convinced that it's absolutely, totally, and in all other ways inconceivable (you keep using that word...) to go deep into the playoffs like that crappy Arizona team did last year, then DROP. YOUR. SWORD. And bear in mind that worse teams than this one have gone on bigger runs than the local Chicken Littles are predicting. This is a team armed not just with a man named Brady, but with a pair of seemingly six-fingered guys named WELKER & MOSS. And, oh yeah, it's also got BILL BELICHICK. Now, we know what you're thinking. (Woo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much...) You're thinking, "Why didn't you list that among our assets in the first place?" Well, apologies for being five minutes late. Perhaps you'd like to send us home for the day. Speaking of which...
To the players...for the love of God, STOP WAITING FOR VIZZINI. Be your own damn Vizzini! Show up on time, study your film, shut your mouth and DO YOUR JOB. When you look across at the guy you're meant to beat, finish him. Finish him your way. If he's giving you some trouble, well, you give HIM some trouble! Mark the words of the Dread Pirate Roberts, both the false one ("My men are here! I am here! But soon YOU will not be here!") and the future one ("There will be blood tonight!") and remember the charge of Henry V and William Shakespeare, a man who, I think we can all agree, had a great gift for rhyme:
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day!
Gentlemen in (New) England, it's conceivable that you're only lying there because you lack the strength to stand. But, then again...perhaps you have the strength, after all. Get some rest. If you haven't got your health, then you haven't got anything. The season is in your hands. This noble cause will play out - good, bad or ugly - as you wish.
Have fun stormin' the castle.
~ Run-don't-walk - maul your way through a scrum, if you must - to see MORGAN FREEMAN (Nelson Mandela), and MATT DAMON (Francois Pienaar, the South African Rugby team captain), in CLINT EASTWOOD's Invictus. We can't say enough good things, but here are a few:
It's a good, solid sports movie with smarts; it's based on a true, truly inspiring story; it's relevant (a newly elected President of color and a country grappling with issues of race and change), and it features two of Hollywood's good guys. Why do we like "Good Will Hunting" and "That Electric Company Guy" so much? Both exude "talented" and "down to Earth" and "low maintenance," and...you know what it is? They seem like grown-ups. (And, for showbiz, that in itself is quite a feat.) So take your girlfriend, your wife - heck, take your kids. Just don't take your time. 'Cause someone's gotta knock that TEENAGE VAMPIRE CRAP off the big-screen and Variety's top grossers page, and soon.
~ Unlikely Headline of the Season: DERRICK BURGESS Surges Toward Popularity! (Or, at least, toward a second chance.) Following last week's wintry mix-up, New England's stand-up LB addressed the issue like a man, head on: "What is there to say? I was late. My disappointment was in me. Who else can I put it on?" Good answer, Derrick. And good question, too. Consider asking it around the locker room. (Maybe start in the linebackers section.)
~ There are few people Out-Takes has been more merciless toward than ERIC MANGINI - CUTLER, FAVRE, JET FAN and REX RYAN (redundant?) come to mind - but even we aren't so heartless as to ignore last Thursday's win over Pittsburgh. The victory clearly meant a lot to the Browns players, to their fans and to their coach. And given how much crap he's had to deal with - the least significant of which came from this page - it's nice to see the sun shine on this dog's ass, at least once. So, happy holidays, Mangenius. Helluva win. (P.S. You're fired.)
~ How many catches might WES WELKER have had on Sunday if the PANTHER D hadn't rolled the dice - GAMBLE'd, one might say - in putting all their eggs in the "shut down # 81" basket? Just wondering.
~ According to the Carroll County Times, after Baltimore's blow-out of the Lions on Sunday, noted reckless lunger TERRELL SUGGS kvetched, "They went right after my knee!" Considering what went down earlier this year against the Patriots - Brady-called-for-the-flag-Gate! - Suggs whining about someone going after his knee is a bit like his ex-D Coordinator REX RYAN taking issue with over-the-top, macho-er-than-thou trash-talk coming from anyone besides him. Take a breath.
~ Lost in the shuffle of all the Moss talk this week - former all-world receivers CRIS CARTER and JERRY RICE can kindly shut their respective pundit pie-holes - was the stellar performance of kicker STEPHEN GOSTKOWSKI, who twice converted in big spots, from long-ish range. Given the mental state of the Pats and their struggle to put points on the board, those FGs were, for a non-playoff game, pretty darn clutch. Big-time kicks don't always have to come as the clock hits double-zeroes. And speaking of double-zeroes, let's get back to the mediots, Carter and Rice...
~ All thoughts are with Cincy this weekend, and with one family in particular. CHRIS HENRY, we hardly knew ye. RIP.
John Cockrell is a screenwriter, whose other work has run the gamut from "Sesame Street Parents Magazine" to Playboy TV's "The Weekend Flash." (He figures everything else is pretty much in-between.)