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Lou Pickney's Online Commentary

Out Of Place

June 30, 2005

Right now there are some American Express commercials running with Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski talking about the Detroit Pistons in reverent tones, as if they had just won the NBA Titles for a second straight season.

Only one problem: they didn't win! They lost to the Spurs. The spots would have been perfect last year, but this nonsense is really out of place. Yes, Detroit has an excellent basketball squad. Yes, they play well as a team. But c'mon Coach K, let go, it's over. UNC won the national title this year, not Duke. Likewise, the San Antonio Spurs are the NBA Champs. Why not runs spots of the 1994 Houston Rockets and have Krzyzewski talk about how Rudy Tomjanovich got that team to really play as a unit? It really makes AmEx come across as second-rate when they do that. Too bad they don't have those great Robert De Niro ads anymore; those were tremendous.

Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro is convincing in nearly anything he does.

After the successful selling that I did on eBay, I've been trying to buy the game Risk for the original PlayStation on there. For some reason, it's a really rare game. It received great reviews from the online sites (which I always refer to before shelling out cash for a title, unless it's something like NCAA Football 2006 or something), but the PS2 version of Risk (called Risk: World Domination) was universally panned and received sub 3.0 scores, which is almost unheard of in the video game world. I mean, that is really bad. Apparently the company responsible for the PS2 incarnation tried to "produce it up", as the Executive Meddler used to say, but ended up creating a nearly unplayable game.

Meanwhile, the original is simply a well-ported video console version of the board game classic. When you don't have several people around wanting to spend hours playing (Risk is one of those games that can take forever to finish, especially if someone is holed up in Australia and the Ukraine, or wherever), it is a nice thought to be able to play against a computer opponent, even if the graphics are of the crude PSX variety. Plus, you can play for an hour, pause it, and play later. That way you don't end up needing to store the board "at a neutral site", like that classic episode of Seinfeld where Kramer and Newman were playing and needed to stash their game-in-progress at Jerry's place.

I never expected to be bidding on a PSX game again, but there I am, seeing the game cross the $10 mark (plus shipping) and looking on with a mix of shock and surprise. Scouring the local used game stores has proven fruitless (though there are PLENTY of copies of Madden '97 or NBA Live '99 out there, if that's your bag). I did see NBA Live 2003 for the PS2 for sale really cheap at EB Games today, and I nearly bought it (except for the fact that I own NBA Live 2005). But the chance to create Yao Ming with John Kerry's haircut -- that's a rarity!

Okay, before I finish this, let me finally explain what that whole story is about, as I've referred to that a few times on here, and it's a rare inside joke that is neither incriminating nor salacious in nature. My friend Scott Massey (of "my friend Scott Massey" fame; seriously, do a Google search with that four word phrase in quotes and see what happens -- it's almost as good as doing a search for "Executive Meddler" in quotes) had NBA Live 2003 for the PS2, which was the game that should have had Yao Ming in it for his rookie NBA season with the Houston Rockets. Unfortunately, due to the delay in getting Ming's rights worked out from China and having him become officially signed with the NBA Player's Association, EA Sports was unable to get him in that game. So Scott did his best to make a create-a-player of Ming, but unfortunately Ming's spiky hair proved challenging. The end result ended up looking more like Senator John Kerry's haircut than Ming's, something that I ribbed Scott about to no end.

Keep in mind that this was in 2002/2003 that we came up with this, well before Kerry came into the national spotlight as the 2004 Democratic candidate for President. Visionary humor from Scott and I? You'd better believe it!

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