Out of print for more than 30 years, now available for the first time as an eBook, this is the controversial story of John Wooden's first 25 years and first 8 NCAA Championships as UCLA Head Basketball Coach. Notre Dame Coach Digger Phelps said, "I used this book as an inspiration for the biggest win of my career when we ended UCLA's all-time 88-game winning streak in 1974."

Compiled with more than 40 hours of interviews with Coach Wooden, learn about the man behind the coach. Click the Book to read the players telling their stories in their own words. This is the book that UCLA Athletic Director J.D. Morgan tried to ban.

Click the book to read the first chapter and for ordering information.

Swing Vote (3/10)

by Tony Medley

Casting can make or break a movie. How would you have liked to have seen Richard Pryor in the lead as Bart in “Blazing Saddles,” (1974) instead of Cleavon Little (who?). Wishful thinking, say you? Not so! Richie was a writer on the film and auditioned for the lead. Mel Brooks, who produced and directed, didn’t have the courage or judgment to hire the then unknown Prior, so the film, with the ineffective Little, was relegated to a relatively unmemorable film. But with Prior as Bart it could have been one of the greatest comedies ever made.

And that explains one of the main reasons why “Swing Vote” is such a failure. It’s not funny basically because Kevin Costner, who plays the lead, Bud Johnson, is not blessed with comedic talent. It is actually painful to watch Costner work so hard to try to be funny. This was a role that would have been made to order for a younger Ryan O’Neal. O’Neal was an exceptionally talented light comedian, in the mold of Cary Grant. His work in films like “Paper Moon” (1973), “What’s Up, Doc” (1972), and “The Main Event” (1979) still resonates. Alas, Costner is no O’Neal and it shows. Absent O’Neal, had I been casting the film I would have given my right arm for Hugh Grant, who could have made this at least enjoyable, despite its cop out with one of the most cowardly endings in Hollywood history, causing me to leave the theater thinking that I had completely wasted my time. Not to worry; one of the plusses of being a critic is that I do get to write this scathing review, so all was not lost.

The representation is that the film has no political POV. Says production designer Steve Saklad, “We wanted it clear that we were taking no particular side in the telling of this story.” Yet the people cast from the real world playing themselves represent a substantial left wing bias. Here are the members of the cast who played themselves from the media and political world: Tony Blankley, Aaron Brown, Campbell Brown, Tucker Carlson, James Carville, Matt Frei, Mary Hart, Arianna Huffington, Larry King, Anne Kornblut, Bill Maher, Chris Matthews, and Lawrence O’Donnell. Except for Blankley (if you blink you miss him and I must have blinked) and Carlson, they are all from the far left, especially the two Browns, Carville, Maher, Huffington, Matthews and O’Donnell. Hardly balanced.

The setup is more believable than I had anticipated. The story is that the Presidential election has come down to one vote, Bud’s, so both campaigns target him. Bud is a bum, an alcoholic, production line worker who slacks so much he’s fired. His 12-year-old daughter, Molly (Madeline Carroll), is the adult in the family. Bud is made to be such a jerk that he defies credibility.

The point of the film is twofold. First is to poke fun at the hypocrisy of politicians, and anyone should be able to applaud that. But the second is to try to make the point that every vote counts, and that that’s what the “founding fathers” wanted.

In the latter view, the filmmakers show their ignorance of history, and Huffington gets to show her personal ignorance when she wonders what “Franklin and Jefferson” would have thought. Well, Thomas Jefferson had nothing to do with the Constitution or setting up how the President would be elected. He was in Paris when it was written, and was ambivalent about the Constitution, at best. It took all of James Madison’s gifts of persuasion to keep his close friend Jefferson from opposing it. Jefferson never warmed up to the Constitution, insisting on the Bill of Rights, and finally forming his own political party to oppose the Federalists, the start of the two-party system.

In fact, the Constitution wasn’t written to ensure democracy; it was written to get rid of the true democracy that had been granted under the Articles of Confederation. That’s a long and involved story, but the “founding fathers” didn’t like how much power the people had under the Articles of Confederation and wrote the Constitution to take that power away from the people and enshrine it in the few elite. Madison and others wanted Senators elected for ten years (by state legislators, not the people in a direct vote) and the President for life. Very few were for a Bill of Rights. It was only agreed to be added because the federalists knew they couldn’t get the states (or Jefferson) to agree to the Constitution unless they promised to come up with a Bill of Rights to add to the undemocratic Constitution. The Constitution was written in 1787. By January of 1788, only 5 of the 9 required states had ratified it. It clearly would not have been ratified had the federalists not finally agreed to a Bill of Rights. A majority of the new Americans opposed it because they realized that it robbed them of power. The Bill of Rights was finally added to the Constitution December 15, 1791. But even then the first intended amendment, that made Congressional Districts substantially smaller than the federalists wanted (because it would give the “people” too much power), was rejected and has never been ratified.

So, to answer Arianna’s question, what would the “founding fathers” have thought? They would have been appalled that a member of the hoi polloi would have the power to choose the President, directly contrary to what Arianna implies. I know that screenwriters write scripts, but actors have an input. If Arianna Huffington is as knowledgeable as she wants us to believe, she should have seen this discrepancy in the script immediately and rewritten the line. The only conclusion is that she’s ignorant of the fact that Jefferson had nothing to do with writing the Constitution, a pretty dismaying fact for someone who constantly lectures the nation on civics.

This film has a great cast. In addition to Costner, there are Kelsey Grammer, Dennis Hopper, Nathan Lane, Stanley Tucci, and Judge Reinhold. Unfortunately, they have to work with a lame script by Jason Richman and Joshua Michael Stern, and wooden direction by Stern. It’s tough for actors to create laughs when the lines aren’t funny, the leading man is miscast, and the direction is hardly Capraesque.

July 28, 2008