Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Return of the Association 

The NBA is back tonight, the regular season tipping off with a couple games -- one of them being Suns v Lakers. So, with the NBA back, that means Lakers chatter is back, too.

I, for one, am well aware that this team still has deep flaws -- specifically on the defense -- but there is a feeling of optimism in Los Angeles (one that I share) that this squad can build on their strong showing in last season's first round playoff series (except for game 7, of course) against Phoenix. A series in which they were just one rebound away from winning. That Lakers squad came of age, then. There was a definite growth and it showed particularly with one player -- the key to our season: Kwame Brown. If Kwame can maintain a solid 12 pts/8 rebs a night average, the LakeShow will look a tough side to deal with. What excites me most about this season's squad is the collection of forwards we have. It's a deep mix and one that can give teams fits. I fully expect Lamar Odom to return from his grieving period as focused as he's ever been. If he returns to All-Star form, look out. Add a healthy Chris Mihm at center, servicable and steady, to pair with Kwame down low in the post and the Lakers have a legit starting frontline. Ronny Turiaf has proven himself a sparkplug and a bulldog on the boards and bringing in Vlad Radmanovic via free agency gives us a lot of versatility at both forward positions. Brian Cook is like a lesser version of Vlad, but an excellent catch-and-shoot perimeter player. Hopefully, the two of them can provide a consistent 3-point threat that the team is lacking. And, oh yeah, the kid Bynum. He'll probably still only get scrub minutes, but by season's end, may have come along nicely.

All that without even mentioning our point forward, Luke Walton, who has stated that he finally feels comfortable playing within the triangle offense. This is beyond significant as Walton sees the floor incredibly well. I strongly believe that a team needs to play to it's strengths. With that in mind, I'd start Walton as a third forward alongside Odom and Kwame with Kobe "Black Mamba" Bryant as the lone starting guard. Why bow to convention and start Smush Parker as the other guard when you can insert a superior player and distributor of the ball with Walton? My desired lineup:

Starting Lineup
C - Chris Mihm
F/C - Kwame Brown
F - Lamar Odom
F - Luke Walton
G - Kobe Bryant

C - Andrew Bynum
F - Vladimir Radmanovic
F - Ronny Turiaf
F - Brian Cook
G - Smush Parker
G - Sasha Vujacic
G - Jordan Farmar

G - Maurice Evans
G - Aaron McKie
G - Shammond Williams

Losing Slava Medvedenko alone makes this team three games better. Younger without Devean George. Dynamic with rookie point guard Jordan Farmar. The rookie has played very well in the pre-season, but the triangle offense doesn't really require a true point guard like himself. It'll be interesting to see if he's able to meld into the squad's regular rotation. Hopefully he can take minutes away from Smush, as Farmar is a much smarter player. Sasha Vujacic figures to be taking a step back this season, but it never hurts to have big guards.

So there it is. Kobe Bryant will be on a mission to nab an MVP trophy (and he may well get it), but this season he'll have the luxury (assuming he persists with involving his teammates) of playing on a deep squad that could conceivably run 11-deep, regularly. I like the depth. Our biggest strengths entering the season 1) Kobe 2) depth/size in the post 3) rebirth of Lamar Odom. Add it all up and what do you get? Probably a finish in the Western Conference somewhere between 5-7 and a first round playoff series that goes to the limit. Depending on the opponent, Lakers could find themselves in the second round of the playoffs. We've also got this Phil Jackson guy still patroling the sidelines. And by "patroling" I mean "comfortably seated with his legs crossed, admiring the game as though a distant observer."

NBA predictions...

Eastern Conference
Atlantic Division
1. New Jersey *
2. Boston
3. Philadelphia
4. Toronto
5. New York

Central Division
1. Cleveland *
2. Detroit *
3. Chicago *
4. Indiana *
5. Milwaukee

Southeast Division
1. Miami *
2. Washington *
3. Orlando *
4. Charlotte
5. Atlanta

Western Conference
Southwest Division
1. San Antonio *
2. Dallas *
3. Houston *
4. NO/OKC *
5. Memphis

Northwest Division
1. Denver *
2. Minnesota
3. Seattle
4. Utah
5. Portland

Pacific Division
1. Phoenix *
2. LA Clippers *
3. LA Lakers *
4. Sacramento
5. Golden State

Eastern Conference Finals: Miami over Cleveland
Western Conference Finals: San Antonio over Phoenix (I'm assuming the Suns won't be 100% healthy)
NBA Finals: San Antonio over Miami


Monday, October 30, 2006

Not dead yet 

It would appear that reports of the death of Studio 60 have been greatly exaggerated. Now, whether the show experiences a boom in quality is something else.

Also, not terribly surprising, but this year's World Series received the lowest ratings of any fall classic in history. Pretty embarrassing, MLB. Maybe if one out of every, oh, let's say seven baseballs supplied to the umpires were actually disguised plastic explosives -- perhaps then we'd see a ratings increase.

There's some concern out there that the Borat movie is being overhyped and that expectations are excessively high. For anyone unfamiliar with the character, I could see that as a problem. But for those who have seen him on Da Ali G, I think we all know exactly what to expect. The movie, by all accounts, is just an extension of the tv series, so to set expectations too high seems virtually impossible. Anyway, bring on the moviefilm.


The last few days, quickly 

This was the weekend for all the killer Halloween parties, but none compared to the madness of Thursday night. Psychic Bunny Productions party at The Derby. Madness. Booze. Ladies. Bad decisions. Stumbling into work on just under four hours of sleep and totally wrecked the next morning. Yeah.

Friday was my hell day. Even with the shower and copious amounts of Gatorade and water, I'm sure I still was rank with the vodka. Pounding headache. Hurting. And then the allergies kicked in. Any thoughts of partying on Friday night? Tossed right out the window and then pissed on. I felt sick and over-tired. It was an early night, for me. Fortunately, though, I did get to see the Cardinals win the World Series over Detroit in just five games. The Tiger's fielding was just comical throughout the Series. Where was Curtis Granderson? Where was ALCS MVP Placido Polanco (0-for the Series)? Hell, aside from Sean Casey, none of the Detroit bats showed up. And now, my Dennis Green impression: "The Tigers are exactly who we (I) thought they were! You wanna crown them? Then crown their ass! But they're exactly who we (I) thought they were!" Seriously, people shouldn't be too shocked that the Tigers crapped the bed. They looked just as weak as the Cardinals did heading into the playoffs. Also, they have "Detroit" written across their jerseys. Congrats to Tony LaRussa and company. Everyone was so quick to say the American League champ would surely beat the National League, but this is no big upset. The '04 Lakers losing to the Pistons, the '01 Rams losing the the Patriots -- those are actual examples of a dominant conference's champion losing in the final.

Battlestar was pretty meh.

Next morning, Saturday, rise and shine at 7a.m. to watch the mighty Reds play perhaps the best half of futbol all season, pounding Aston Villa 3-1, handing the Villans their first loss on the season. I got so much joy out of that, especially after their pitiful display against ManUre the week before. The ship appears to be righting itself. Quite a relief. And I feel recovered, too. From there, SATURDAY MORNING CARTOONS!

Well, basically. Asa and I powered through the dvds of Justice League Unlimited (which is pretty damn sweet, save for a couple episodes -- ahem... Booster Gold sucks). I ate Lucky Charms cereal. I was 9 again. I loved it.

Still no Halloween costume, though, and the parties were only hours away. Quick! What can I cheaply and easily pull off with inspiration from my dvd collection? Requiem For a Dream. That's pretty grizzly. I'm Jaret Leto and his festering wound. Done. A little sunken face, a little bruising, oozing, bleeding from the left arm, and voila: a perfectly fine, anything but stunning, Halloween costume. Parties were fine. Drinking. Ladies. Fun. Nothing compared to Thursday, though. The arm makeup was a bit of a bitch to get off, too.

Woke up the next morning and surprisingly had the shakes. I mean, genuinely surprising. I didn't think I had all that much to drink the night before, but when I got downstairs to watch football on the couch, I couldn't help but get into the fetal position as I just felt the vodka and gin sitting in my chest like a cancer. Ugh. Fortunately, God invented turkey melts. Problem solved.

The NFL was not kind to my picks, again, but at least I got the consolation of another Oakland Raiders victory. Beating the defending Superbowl champion Steelers, at that. And without scoring even a single offensive touchdown. We're like the Bears! Almost. Three in a row against Seattle next week? It's on the road, but Seneca Wallace and Maurice Morris are no Matt Hasselback and Shaun Alexander. There's a chance. Losing faith in: Carolina Panthers. Confounded by: Jacksonville Jaguars. What's happening to: Philadelphia Eagles. Untested, therefore unproven (even if they can hang 40+ points on the 49ers): Chicago Bears. New (yet seemingly always) worst team in the league: Arizona Cardinals. A believer in: New York Giants. Still don't believe in: Dallas Cowboys. Their staggering inability to stop the run will eventually kill them: Indianapolis Colts.

I know I missed the boat a couple years ago on this one, but I finally saw Saw last night. Wow, that movie is terrible. I'm mortified (yet, sadly, unsurprised) that such a crappy movie could spark such a successful franchise. I mean, for crying out loud, people. Interesting twist at the end, but it in no way redeems the dull, amateurish, mundane 1hr 40 mins that preceded it. Like Doug said, this movie feels as if it's written and acted by a bunch of 15-year-olds pretending to be adults. That's a pretty dead-on assessment. Saw sucks.

And now it's Monday. Where's the fun in that?


Sunday, October 29, 2006

For posterity 

NFL Week 8:
Ny Giants
New Orleans
Kansas City
Ny Jets
San Diego
New England

Already down a couple. Sunday's are for rest.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Viewing enjoyment 

A couple YouTube clips for you to delight in.

First, apparently this was on Defamer this morning, but if I had to pick one word to describe this video, it would be "stunning." I wonder if Kubrick made copies and passed them out to his friends when they were feeling blue or perhaps he and his buddies -- his reclusive buddies -- would just get drunk at his place sometimes and pop this in the VCR. Either way, just watch.

Second, Evegeni Malkin is a 20-year-old rookie from Russia for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Some are already calling him the best player, currently, in the world. High praise? For sure. But I submit this, Malkin has played four games and has a goal in everyone of them. This is his fourth and it's probably the goal of the season. And yes, I'm aware that we're still in October. First Ovechkin and Crosby last year, now Malkin. It's good to be a hockey fan, now.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

My dinner last night was... 

Some birthday cake, a few potato chips, and two beers. I am a golden god.

Can you believe that last night's Monday Night Football game between the Giants and Cowboys was the highest rated program in the history of cable television?!? Stunner!

Absolutely no surprise, by the way, that the Giants mauled Dallas. Here's an excerpt from the recap on espn.com that I find particularly hilarious:

After Bledsoe's sack-filled first half performance ended in an interception, Tony Romo trotted in to start the second, when he was greeted by a standing ovation and chants of his last name.

Then, on his first snap, Romo threw an interception.

So telling. So funny. Like I've been saying, the Giants are contenders in the NFC. The Cowboys are definitely not and will be incredibly lucky to make the playoffs.


- If you had a sketch comedy show and saw a standup comic that didn't tell jokes, would you hire him for your staff?
- What's the probablity of getting an STD from a hooker in Amsterdam?
- I don't have a costume for Halloween and I don't know that I could be bothered. I should probably scrounge up something, though.
- Nobody loves you like your mama loves you, but who's loving your mama? I am. I am.
- Remember when Col. Tai killed his wife?! Holy frak! (I deserve no less than nine lashings for typing that. I will not enjoy it.)
- Game 3 of the World Series tonight. I really hope the Cardinals win this thing. A) I've got latent Oakland love for LaRussa. B) Screw Kenny Rogers. C) Where did all these Tigers fans come from?
- Who do I have to sleep with to go make TV in England, damn it?! I must know.
- You know, if you combined Norway and Brazil... well, then you'd have Norzil. Stupid.


Monday, October 23, 2006

It figures... 

I stay awake through the drunkeness and the night on Saturday so that I can drag myself to Ye Olde King's Head Pub in Santa Monica at 5 a.m. to watch Liverpool vs Manchester United. Liverpool gets thoroughly out-classed on every level and embarrassed 2-0, leaving me annoyed and over-tired at 7:30 a.m. (when I finally went to bed). At least, through the daze I was in while driving home, I could appreciate how damn cool Santa Monica is on Sunday at 7a.m. A heavy fog sets in off the coast and the few stray homeless guys puttering around lend an atmosphere not unlike Silent Hill. Seeing a larger than life, bright red sun staring me in the face while on the 10-east was pretty sweet, too. But fuck, Liverpool are a massive cut below ManUre. Any thought of a championship is dead and buried. Hopefully, that will aleviate some pressure and allow to just focus on winning games and placing in the top four in the league.

Ironically, while making an arguous effort to watch Liverpool resulted in them losing, skipping the Raiders game yesterday afternoon actually resulted in them winning. The hell is going on here?!? Is it me??? A giant relief to get that first victory (thank you, Arizona Cardinals!!), as I really thought we'd go winless this year. Just when I think I have the NFL figured out, something ridiculous like week 7 happens and nearly every underdog wins, blowing my weekly pool to shit. A big "fuck you" to Jacksonville, who was a 9.5 point favorite yesterday to hapless Houston and ended up losing (coming off a bye week, mind you) 27-7. That one cost me the suicide pool I was in. Damn it!

At least the movie I saw instead of the Raiders game was good. The Prestige. (If you want to go into the theater clean, then why are you still reading?)

Pretty fun, engaging, perfectly logical within it's world -- everything makes absolute sense when all is said and done -- Wolverine, Batman, and Alfie are all great. However, as is so often alluded to with the magic within the film -- and as the film concedes within the closing narration -- once you find out the "how" of the prestige, the reveal, it can't help but be a little underwhelming. I'm not sure that there is any way to avoid that emotional letdown either, assuming everything in the movie remains as is. Without giving too much away, any competent viewer should be able to key in on the "prestige" of at least Wolverine's trick well before it is ever revealed, so to that end, you're just waiting to figure out "how." Much like magic. And once you find out the "how did he do that" that goes with the "what is going to happen next," eh... Wolverine and Batman play total jerks, by the way, which could play a part in how I felt as the credits rolled, so I'm not sure I was ever cheering for one to best the other. Their professional rivalry, however, is just great and at times takes on an almost "Spy vs Spy" feel (specifically, every time they don disguises). I like this movie. It's good. Very good. But I don't love it.

I'll wrap this up by saying that from Thursday night to Sunday morning, I was breathing alcohol. Almost. Three birthday parties in that time. I could certainly feel the vodka in my lungs everytime I coughed. Sundays are for detoxing. Also, heads up for anyone in LA, don't go to "Red Buddha." Ever. That place sucks.


Friday, October 20, 2006

Back on the horse 

Have you ever encountered one of those people in your professional field that, while your equal, just really excites and inspires you? Makes you feel like your career isn't a lifeless mistake? I met that person today, an editor, and we just started working on an episode together. I must admit, this gig has had me anything but interested during my first two weeks, until this person popped up. You'd be amazed what a combination of vibrant energy, talent, and the ability to listen can envoke in another person. Now? Now, I'm into the show (one of the two, that is). Feels good.

A killer "B" weekend coming up:
Baseball - If the Cardinals can get past Justin Verlander, this is anyone's Series. Seriously. The Tigers may yet win, but they won't sweep.
Baby oil
Boo (for this list)

Week 7 NFL picks - pretty much the same as Bill Simmons, only I like the Giants to beat Dallas and Arizona -- in a battle of horrible horribleness -- to win, but not cover against Oakland. And while they won't cover, Denver, Indy, Miami, and Seattle all win, too.

Not sure if I've said it here, but it's worth repeating that Tracy Morgan is freaking hilarious on 30 Rock. I may watch the whole show just for him. Alec Baldwin is a pleasure, too, but Morgan has all the laughs. "I've got this character 'Ching Chong' who likes to play ping pong." Not the greatest series, but dudes... Morgan.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

There's little rhyme or reason 

- You haven't experienced "bizarre and random" until your mother fires up a discussion with you about how much you'd love Brazil because the beaches are filled naked women.

- Brazil, Rio specifically, is one of the places in the world that I'd like to visit before I die.

- Just as one side is correct and the other is baseless and retarded in the evolution vs creationism "debate," the same is true for any discussion regarding Moneyball (the correct position is that Moneyball works) and the B(C)S (the correct position is that playoffs in college football are a superior system).

- Friday Night Lights is probably the best new show on television. And it isn't even that amazing. I'm officially done with The Nine and am pretty over Studio 60 which, as rumor has it, is on the chopping block. Not undeservedly, either.

- Can't argue a lick with Jeffrey winning Project Runway. Michael's collection was a tank job, Laura was the weakest designer of the final four, and Uli (though she had just as good an argument for winning) probably doesn't quite have the edginess and diversity that Jeffrey does. Would've been happy with an Uli win, too, but nothing wrong with giving it to the second most interesting character on the show. (That's right, Vincent. Who loves ya?)

- Baseball is largely decided on luck. Not a popular position, but it is. I feel a rant coming on... In no other sport is execution of schemes and tactics from players not guaranteed. And what I mean by that is that in baseball, you can have all the talent in the world, but there is no play call or design to ensure victory. Why? Because in every other team sport, the ball is always in play. Be it football, basketball, hockey, soccer, whatever, the ball is always in play, thus allowing teams to perform plays and schemes that they have practiced. Baseball managers are the equivalent of sorority den mothers. Some are more adept at preparing teams and filling out a batting order than others, some have a better idea of when to pull a pitcher off the mound, none have instituted a system that wins games. In football and basketball, you call a million plays a game, each specifically designed to score. You cater to your team's strengths (Triangle offense, 3-4 defense, etc.) In hockey, you practice special teams formations diligently (umbrella, box and one, etc). Aside from superior pitching (which, itself, is unreliable when determining who will win, game-to-game), there is little to determine which team will be champion at the end of the day. The Detroit Tigers are a team of nobodies, Ivan Rodriguez, and suddenly good young pitchers. A year ago, they were 20 games below .500. Now, they're being crowned World Series champs before the National League championship has even been determined. This is the same Detroit team that went a pitiful 19-31 in it's last 50 games, capped off by when they were swept by the Royals, baseball's worst team, in the last weekend of the regular season. Win just one of those final three games and Detroit win's the division. What? They didn't want to win the division? So what does this team with zero momentum do after losing game 1 to the Yankees? Rattles off seven straight. There was no momentum there. The St. Louis Cardinals back door their way into the playoffs and are just one game from reaching the World Series. There was no momentum in 2004 when the Red Sox won in an improbable eight in a row to end the season. There was no momentum at all in the Dodgers' 2006 regular season. 11 straight losses here, 15 straights wins there, streaks both high and low all over. Baseball is a staggering 162-game-long season. Winning just 95 of those 162 is considered an immense success. That's just 14 games above .500, a miniscule number. Now, I'm not suggesting that there aren't good teams and bad teams. What I'm suggesting is that baseball is completely unpredictable. So much so, that any pre-game analysis is almost entirely pointless. It's a tenant of Moneyball that you can only prepare and equip your team so much before the fates -- be they real or otherwise -- take over. The Yankees dynasty of the late 90s was perhaps the last of that kind we will see for maybe a generation. An anomaly? With today's free agent market and the blueprint out there for any team, big market or small, to compete... I think so.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Just to spruce it up 

The NFL has got me winded, so here's some other bits...

- "You can do better" should always, always, always be considered an ego boost.

- Girls love the Superman hair curl... provided you look like Superman.

- Oh yeah, Battlestar... right there... yeah...

- Chocolate chip bagels: still tasty!

- My mom turned 58 yesterday. My dad is already 61. With seemingly everyone around me getting married and lamenting the fact that they're entering their late 20s/early 30s, there is really nothing, when contemplating your own mortality, that compares with how old your parents have become. That's the one that gets me. If I were one to be got, that is.


Same old Cardinals... 

Six weeks into the season and we've gotta talk about it. Well, I do. 10-3 straight up on picks, but only 7-6 vs the spread.

Wow, last night's Monday Night Football game was the game of the year, perhaps for all the wrong reasons. Unless you're a Bears' fan, that is. Arizona, who if not for them being "Arizona" should've been 3-2 (now, 4-2) entering the night instead of 1-4, pulled off the unthinkable. Up 23-3 with 10 seconds left in the 3rd quarter, they managed to lose 24-23. But wait! During that comeback, Chicago never scored an offensive touchdown and Rex Grossman turned the ball over six times. 4 Rex Grossman interceptions + 2 Rex Grossman fumbles = everyone in the country jumped the gun (for no apparent reason, it seems) on the Bears being the best team of the century. Chicago was able to overcome one near-fatal Grossman blunder against Minnesota, but six?!? When the rookie, Hester, returned a punt for the go-ahead score to make it 24-23, I was laughing so hard. Of course this happens to the Cardinals. They're the Cardinals. They've never played with a 20-point lead before. They've proven time and again that they don't know how to finish games. While the Hester punt return for a TD had me in hysterics, the missed chip-shot of a field goal by Neil Rackers, which would've won the game for AZ, had me in stunned silence. Wow. Words cannot describe this team's futility. Losing in Oakland may be in the air, but in Arizona, it's in the blood. And holy crap, the two play each other next week! Must-see-TV. A couple points about last night's game:

1) Matt Leinart looks like an All-Pro. I've been on the Leinart bandwagon for some time, now, firmly of the belief that he'll be a stud in the pros. I just didn't expect him to look so good just two starts into his career. This with a terrible offensive line (there isn't a fan in the country, right now, who doesn't know the name, "Oliver Ross," the offensive tackle who is almost single-handedly responsible for letting the Bears back into the game) and absolutely no running game. None! Edgerrin James averaged less than two yards a carry last night. LESS THAN TWO! Do you know how pathetic that is? My grandmother could do better than that and she's dead! All this, plus Leinart didn't have Larry Fitzgerald available to him last night and he still performed well. If not for the missed Rackers chippy, we'd all be singing his praises as the second coming, right now. The kid is phenomenal. He's going to be a star -- even if he stays in AZ.

2) I took great pleasure, last night, in seeing the Bears exposed like they were. Everyone and their mailman had the Bears penciled in to win the next five Superbowls because they could rack up 40 points on Buffalo and beat a Seattle team whose defense is average and was without Shaun Alexander. And, oh yeah, anyone who beats the Packers and Lions, this year, is untouchable. My point is, Chicago hasn't really been tested and last night, they showed how drunk they were on everyone's praise. Now, the showed the mark of a good team, by coming back to win. But how good are they? If anything, Rex Grossman brought everyone about six pegs down by reminding the world that he is not the flawless QB who is above making silly mistakes. Hell, Kyle Orton looked better all of last season than Grossman did last night. The Arizona defense isn't gangbusters, either. Look for Chicago to bump up to 8-0 before falling in week 10 against the Giants in New York. If Chicago has to play like the team that won last year without a QB and bombed out in the playoffs, then the results won't be any different this time around. Every online poll was asking which NFC team will be good enough to face Chicago in the NFC title game. I wonder, will Chicago even get that far? Take your heads out of your rectums, folks. We're only a third of the way in.

Moving on to the rest of the league, the team I tabbed as the NFC's best (and I'm sticking to it) has been quietly riding a five-game win streak since opening 0-2. The Carolina Panthers, provided Steve Smith stays healthy, are the team to beat in the NFC. Not the Saints, who have overshadowed their division rivals so far, but the Panthers.

Speaking of New Orleans, it goes without saying that they're the surprise of the league thus far. Drew Brees' performance is a complete and pleasant surprise -- overcoming shoulder surgery and adapting quickly with a new team, turning them into a decent club. And while Reggie Bush has only one touchdown this season, make no mistake that just like his USC teammate in Arizona, Bush's presence alone makes the Saints a better football team. The offense is completely opened up and with a competent quarterback at the helm, the Saints will be competitive for the rest of the season. I've made the comparison that Houston drafting Mario Williams ahead of Reggie Bush is like the Portland Trailblazers drafting Sam Bowie ahead of Michael Jordan and have, on occassion, been met with criticism for it. To say that Portland didn't need Michael Jordan because they already had Clyde Drexler doesn't hold water with me. Hell, did the Saints need Reggie Bush? Deuce McAllister is having an excellent season and is an elite running back when healthy. But is New Orleans better for having him? Unquestionably.

People have the nerve to be surprised at how well Donovan McNabb is playing this season. How freaking short are the talking heads' memories, I wonder? Are you kidding me? McNabb was physically broken last season, so we should just forget his amazing track record before then? The guy is on pace for one of the most amazing statistical seasons in NFL history and I, for one, am rooting for him. By the way, Eagles and Giants on top in the NFC East with Dallas chasing and Washington struggling? Yeah, I remember saying that back in August.

I should probably reiterate that any venom I'm spewing regarding the NFL is directed squarely at the national media and any yahoo jackass who calls into local sports radio, only to parrot what he's heard on SportsCenter. "The Bears are unbeatable," "Why are the Eagles good," another that's been sticking in my craw this season is, "What's wrong with Pittsburgh?" For crying out loud, the answer is "nothing." Let's see how many other teams come through a stretch of Jacksonville, Cincinnati (before their wheels began falling off), and San Diego 0-3. I bet it'd be most. Big Ben Motorcycle is getting better with each game and needed to feast on Kansas City the way he did Sunday. But here's the thing with Ben: he has never proven in his NFL career that he can be the guy to lead an offense to victory by throwing 50 times a game. Never. He has proven that he is capable of guiding an offense that relies heavily on the running game and minimizes mistakes. That much, he can manage. But with Jerome Bettis retired, Duce Staley's health a constant question mark, and the coaching staff lacking confidence to give Willie Parker 30 carries a game, guess what? The whole philosophy of the offense changes. And with that, you can expect some growing pains. So, a brutal early schedule + a new way of offense with a recovering QB = still a good football team. The Steelers will be fine.

I glossed over Cincinnati beginning to fall apart. They need to right the ship immediately to bar a major slide. The offense can get yardage all day, but is suddenly struggling to score points. The defense is lacking in personel either through injury (David Pollack may never play football again) or for legal issues (Odell Thurman is a year away from prison). You have to trust that Marvin Lewis will flex his coaching muscles to somehow keep the Bengals in playoff contention down the stretch.

There is no "best team" in the league. Or rather, no single dominant team that stands head and shoulders above the rest. We saw all the reasons why Chicago is not that team, last night. The Chargers (whom I'd rate #1, right now, if pressed) stumbled in their first challenge of the season to Baltimore. But last I checked, Marty Schottenheimer was still the head coach, so you know a Superbowl isn't in the cards this year. Indianapolis? Which is more inspiring of confidence A) the narrow escapes against the Jets and Houston during their last two games b) their total lack of a running game c) the innate knowledge that they'll fold again in the playoffs?


Saturday, October 14, 2006

Who are the Tigers, anyway? 

Bunch of nobodies, that's who! Good enough to sweep Oakland, anyway. "Inept" is the word to describe the A's during this ALCS. Pretty rough way to go out: walk-off homer. Oh well, at least we got out of the ALDS.

Sad but true: watching TV on the internet is a far more pleasurable experience than watching on an actual television set. I refer you to exhibit A, Studio 60, which I watched on NBC.com this week. Though the show itself is starting to slip away from me, the lack of commercials actually gave it a flow -- something it's never had before (and something I wouldn't credit to the actual content either). Lack of 20+ minutes of commercials = good.

George Lucas showing up on Colbert Report on Wednesday was freaking hilarious.

The Nine isn't very interesting, two episodes in. I think that perhaps the burn is a little TOO slow. I'll give it one more chance before dumping it. Speaking of slow burns...

Lost wasn't very good last week, save for the last five minutes with the "Red Sox" bit. I think that one scene redeemed the entire episode for me. But Sayid's plans are still always retarded.

I think I'm looking forward to three movies and only three movies this season:
The Prestige
Casino Royale

I don't know of anything else out there worth thinking twice about. Not yet, anyway.

Week 5 in the NFL, I went 13-1 straight up (had to pick the Raiders, didn't I?), but only 6-8 vs the spread. Week 6...
These teams to cover:
San Diego
NY Jets

Take the points:

Dogs to win outright:
NY Giants

On to another night of mayhem and debauchery...


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Last night 

Caught the game, caught some TV. There is no "perfect" TV out there.

Friday Night Lights - If pressed to say, this early, what is the best new show out there, I'd probably go with this one. It's very well put together and the drama and madness inherent within the setting -- whether you understand a lick of football or not -- is undeniable. It may, in the long run, be a more satisfying experience than the film of the same name because time constraints are such in a movie that you can never delve too deep -- or sometimes, even at all. I'd chalk this up as another "pro" under why television is a more compelling storytelling medium than film. There's actually time to play and experiment. I think most people know my stance on sports films: they're mostly shallow and could never possibly capture the authenticity of the real thing. Why would I watch a sports movie when I could watch sports? We've heard all the backstory before, right? So that's a credit to the developers for putting FNL into a long form. However, the show's biggest strike against -- and I don't see this changing, sadly -- are the wall-to-wall music beds underneath each and every freaking scene. For crying out loud, have a little faith that the dramatic content on screen is strong enough to stand on it's own without some ridiculous driving electric guitar noise. Because those tense moments do exist within FNL. I'll be damned if the stupid music doesn't take me out of a scene each and every time. I hate it. You just know that it's a network note, too.

Veronica Mars - Last night's episode was pretty damn mediocre. Veronica's in college, now, but you wouldn't know it because it took but two episodes to re-establish a haves (09ers/Greeks) vs have nots (PCHers/Independants) theme on the show. And once again, our heroine is caught in the middle. Can't make it too different, huh? I have a bad feeling, however, that the complexity of Veronica's predicament won't be that grey. Please, please, please don't let this rape mystery be as transparent as it's been set-up to be. If I've learned anything from this show, it's that we probably saw the villain during this episode (my money's on the "intimidating girl") and with Rob Thomas apparently out for shorter mystery arcs, well, we'll see how quickly they can come up with something... The Greeks are bad! The Greeks are bad! I'll tell you what, it's played out and just too easy. Surely, there'll be more to it, right? The guys (aside from Keith who had a nice walkabout) on this show have forever been fading into obscurity, but I wonder what, if anything, they're going to do with Logan this season. He's slowly being relegated to Duncan-status. That's bad. Hey, remember when Rider Strong guest-starred on this show? That made me laugh.

Game 1 ALCS - Just a miserable performance from Oakland, Zito getting battered in the 4th inning. Had, what, ten chances with runners in scoring position and blew every single one of them. Four double-plays. The silver-lining, however, is that the A's were able to get on base. The hits were coming, just not when they needed them most. Hopefully, we get that one big hit against Verlander today.

I call bullshit -- again -- on the national sports media. Game 1 of the ALCS was last night, but your lead story -- and all anyone could talk about -- was whether or not Joe Torre would be retained as manager of the eliminated New York Yankees? Fuck you.

And while I'm riding the national sports media, I'd just like to take a moment and chuckle at the fact that Drew Henson, everyone's can't miss golden boy QB, just got cut from the Minnesota Vikings practice squad. "Oh, but it doesn't matter that he's been out of football for three years, he's totally proven! Heck, he should've been the #1 pick in the draft! He's going to take the Cowboys to the Superbowl! I know they just signed him a week ago, but he should be starting right now! He's a pro-bowler!" Remember all that baseless bullshit? I do. Eat crow, bitches.

Soon, I'll share with you just how quiet my new job is. I think I just saw a tumbleweed roll by. And this family I'm watching... wow... go America...


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Worst team ever 

It's not just that they lost this one, it's the manner in which they lost. Staggeringly pathetic and clueless. That's Oakland Raiders football. 0-16 looks like a strong reality. There's never been a tougher team to cheer for in perhaps the history of North American sports. No exaggeration.

At least Oakland's baseball team is making it happen. Excited that the A's will play the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS, as I prefer their chances against Detroit rather than the Yankees. I call infinite bullshit on the Tigers' excessive champaigne celebration in the stands after beating the Yanks, though. You just won the ALDS, not the World Series. At least pretend you thought you'd get this far. Should be a good series, anybody's game, but I think Detroit's focus is in doubt after watching how ballistic they went after merely advancing to the ALCS. Just happy to be here? A's in 7.

The one criticism you could possibly have about the season premiere of Battlestar Galactica is how unbelievably heavy-handed it was. I mean, bludgeon you over the head with thick metaphor, heavy-handed. However, that doesn't terribly diminish how awesome the 2-hour episode was. One of TV's best shows is back in a big way. I was particularly a big fan of how "big" Apollo has become. That shit was great.

Fake moustaches: they're great.


Friday, October 06, 2006

Meet me at the Liz Claiborne outlet store 

Last night's Office was one of the funniest in quite some time and the first time that I've felt comfortable with having Jim outside of the Scranton branch. That's due largely in part to "Call of Duty," but it feels like there's finally something meaningful starting to happen there, rather than just stalling until he returns to Scranton. But last night was a Dwight episode and, man, was he on fire. Brilliance. It strikes me as sort of amazing that a show as bland and meh as My Name is Earl can be paired with The Office.

Can the A's finish off Minnesota today? They had better or else I'm cracking open the whiskey and not turning back. Why the urgency? Well, the A's have become infamous for blowing 2-0 leads in a best of five series. Get this monkey off their back and they may just make a run all the way. Who knows? Another Mark Kotsay inside-the-park homerun would be nice.

Battlestar Galactica returns tonight and I am excited about that. Cylon occupation? Delicious. I can only hope and pray that they don't waste any time filling in the "year in between" since settlement. Seriously, it would be a colossal waste of time to do so. Everything you ever needed to know about that year was explained in the last ten minutes of last season's finale.

Speaking of things that returned this week of which I was happy about, both Lost and the NHL satisfied. Though the former wasn't mind-blowing by any stretch and the flashbacks continue to drag on, it was a good establishing point. I really enjoyed that they just focused on the prison camp. As far as I'm concerned, the more screentime Henry Gale has, the better. While Ecko and Locke are still my favorite characters, their stories pale in comparison, now, to what's happening with the prisoners.

Yeah, hockey! Kings drop the puck on their season tonight against Anaheim. They'll play the hated ones an additional seven times this season, after tonight. If they can nab three wins off the Ducks, I'll be psyched. It's a brutal start to the year, but fortunately they've got St. Louis on Saturday night, so hopefully it evens out. I need to go to some games this year. Saw eight last season and it was the bees knees. You know... if bees were cool and had knees or whatever. But they're not, they're just stupid bees!

NFL week 5 is upon us. Another tough week. Here goes...
(pointspread winner in bold)
-11 Chicago over Buffalo
-6 New Orleans over Tampa Bay -- The Bucs are starting Bruce Gradkowski at QB. Bet against them!
NY Giants over Washington +4
-19 Indianapolis over Tennessee
-9 Carolina over Cleveland
- 9.5 New England over Miami
St. Louis over Green Bay +3
Minnesota over Detroit +6
Jacksonville over NY Jets +7
-3 Kansas City over Arizona
-2 Philadelphia over Dallas -- Even with the injuries! And shut up about T.O.!
+3.5 Oakland over San Francisco -- Why do I do this to myself?
-3.5 San Diego over Pittsburgh -- Best game of the week. Steelers offense still rusty? I like the Chargers at home.
-4 Denver over Baltimore -- Monday nighter should be good, too. Broncos at home, coming off a bye week. Ravens are fighting uphill all the way.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The return of things I like! 

Two things, specifically: Lost and the NHL. Both are back as of this evening. Sweet.

Needless to say, I'm excited about the whole new set of stories that are likely to unfold with "the others," now that some of our heroes are prisoners. Also hopeful that Michael and Walt actually left the island for good. As I said a few months ago, it would just make the season 2 finale that much better and have that much more weight if those characters actually did make their final appearance on the show and those couple storylines from the first two seasons were closed.

Because Project Runway is airing one of those stupid reunion specials tonight (enjoyed by sycophants and mouth-breathers, exclusively), I believe that I'll give The Nine a shot. I have no idea what to think of that show other than it seems like a one-season mystery show that'll have to reboot come next year.

Couple shows I saw last night: Friday Night Lights and Veronica Mars. Wasn't planning on watching FNL, but the reviews were extremely good. Most of the same people, including Peter Berg, are on board behind the scenes. The pilot felt like a Cliff's Notes version of the film's first act... only with moderately happier ending (broken neck aside). Well done, but I'm not sold just yet.

As for the Mars, man, that new title sequence is just awful. It's as if the producers felt pressure to blend in with all the other CW drek. And what was with those aereola girls blabbing to each other about the show during commercial breaks? Is that supposed to be interesting??? Anyway, the show itself was fine, nothing particularly special. Some funny moments for sure, but already, Keith has the far more interesting storyline. I'm intrigued by the prospect of Dick becoming a complete character. There's a slight implication that he's responsible for Mac's roommate's new hairdo -- which of course means that he has nothing to do with it.

Okay, onward to the National Hockey League. I have to admit, this coming season literally snuck up on me. Like, I didn't fully realize that the first puck dropped tonight until a few days ago. Predicting the outcome of an NHL season is sort of like guessing where lighting strike on a desert plain; there's seemingly no science to it. And I think that that is a credit to not only the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the construct of the game. To a degree, the baseball postseason is very similar. All depends on who is hot and who is healthy at the right time.

As many of you know, I'm an LA Kings fan 'til the end. This year, our prospects look very poor indeed. I'm talking 'one of the bottom three teams in the Western Conference' poor. After enduring the most painful second half of the season collapse in living memory (LA plummeted from 2nd in the conference to out of the playoffs entirely), the team has had a near complete overhaul, including new GM, coach, and tons of players. Trading away Pavol Demitra to Minnesota makes me want to tear my hair out. Losing Joe Corvo to Ottawa hurts a ton and even Nathan Dempsey's departure weakens the defense. Coming in: An old Rob Blake, some role players, and the goalie who had prevented Vancouver from being a real Stanley Cup threat the last few seasons, Dan Cloutier. Yeah, you could say that I don't believe in Cloutier. Our new coach, Marc Crawford, is great, but he's got his work cut out for him. We're going to need Conroy, Frolov, and Visnovsky to stay healthy all season long.

Expect all the usual suspects to be in the mix, again -- Detroit, Philadelphia, Dallas, Colorado, New Jersey. Carolina figures to defend their title well. Calgary will be a force. Vancouver is a team on the rise, now that they have Roberto Luongo in net. San Jose will be potent with Joe Thornton playing a full season there. The Rangers could be a big letdown after the way they sputtered out last season. All depends on Jagr's health. One of the league's best, already, Aleksander Ovechkin, will probably endure another long year in Washington. Sidney Crosby is joined by the next NHL rookie sensantion, Evgeni Malkin, but the Penguins probably still don't have the defense to make a run in the East, let alone make the playoffs. If anyone, Atlanta is the team in that conference who will surprise. Edmonton will struggle, just as they did last season, to return to the playoffs.

Does Ottawa finally have what it takes to win it all? They always seem to find a way to disappoint, but they're soooooo damn good. Key acquisitions this year make them look even better. But do they have that toughness that was clearly absent when they were easily brushed aside by Buffalo in the playoffs last season? That's the big question.

But the best team -- and I was a bit stunned to find that Barry Melrose agrees with me -- regrettably, looks like Anaheim. The Ducks (they dropped the "Mighty," thankfully) are STACKED from top-to-bottom. Best goalie duo in the league (Giguere, Bryzgalov), they'll have at least one of either Neidermayer or Pronger (if not both) on the blue line at all times, loads of young, skilled forwards like Joffrey Lupul and Dustin Penner. And, of course, Teemu Selanne. GM Brian Burke has put together a hell of a team entering just his second season in charge.

Just for laughs:

Eastern Conference
Atlantic Division
1. New Jersey x
2. Philadelphia x
3. Pittsburgh x
4. NY Rangers
5. NY Islanders

Northeast Division
1. Ottawa x
2. Buffalo x
3. Montreal
4. Toronto
5. Boston

Southeast Division
1. Carolina x
2. Atlanta x
3. Tampa Bay x
4. Florida
5. Washington

Western Conference
Central Division
1. Detroit x
2. Nashville x
3. Columbus
4. Chicago
5. St. Louis (still the league's worst team)

Northwest Division
1. Calgary x
2. Vancouver x
3. Colorado x
4. Edmonton
5. Minnesota

Pacific Division
1. Anaheim x
2. San Jose x
3. Dallas x
4. Phoenix
5. Los Angeles (D'oh!)

Eastern Conference Finals: New Jersey over Ottawa
Western Conference Finals: Anaheim over Detroit
Stanley Cup Finals: Anaheim over New Jersey in a rematch of 2003.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Quick shout out 

I am wearing a new job. Starts Monday. I'm pleased about it. Yes, it's more reality TV, but I do that. Thanks to Hollywood for getting me in the loop on this one. I appreciate it, yo.

Frank Thomas! I love you! 2 HRs for the Big Hurt today. Still in the 9th inning, up 3-1. Am I jinxing the A's even more?



Go A's!


Biggest show in 14 years 

I'll say this about Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and then won't talk about it for a while. Probably. Under no circumstances -- none -- is present day Rob Reiner (or any incarnation of Rob Reiner, for that matter) going to pull your highest rated show in 14 years. I'm sorry. No. Standard SNL-esque show + guest host Rob Reiner = Not your most successful show in 14 years. Just an observation. There's little-to-no merit with this show and, after just three episodes, it seems like everything is wrapped up -- except for Matthew Perry and Sarah Paulson. But they'll get back together, so whatever. Know who is better on this show than Sarah Paulson? Amanda Peet. Like, by a LOT. Still waiting for this show to kick up a notch, but I'm not sure it's ever going to happen.

Anyway, A's are up 2-1 in the 8th inning against Minnesota in game 1 of their series. Did I just jinx them?




Go A's!


Monday, October 02, 2006

My sorry ass: hating football, thinking about baseball? 

And it's all thanks to my favorite Oakland Raiders. They're the only team in the league that can blow a 21-3 lead in the second half against Charlie freaking Frye and the Cleveland Browns. At home! Given how clueless this franchise is, I wouldn't hesitate to call them hardest team to cheer for in sports today. Let's just give up and assassinate Al Davis, for crying out loud.

Horrible week 4. If Philly beats Green Bay tonight, I limp to a poor 8-6. If they cover, 5-9 vs the spread. Yaaargh... I don't know what I'm doing. But here's a running list of why the NFL can lick me, right now.

- Can't go ten seconds without hearing about Terrell Owens and it's only going to get worse when two teams I could give a crap about -- Dallas and Philadelphia -- play this Sunday... and then again, later this season.
- Peyton Manning is the face of the league and, by extension, the face of America. I think he's commercially endorsed by pretty much everyone. This is what we want? The yokol who puts up pretty numbers and has nothing to show for it? Great.
- The very thought that Albert Haynesworth might not be suspended for the rest of the season for stomping on an opposing player's exposed face with his cleets. Twice!
- Have I mentioned how frustrating it is supporting the Raiders?
- The idea that the NFL's return to New Orleans means it is a real city again. Sorry, no, it'll never happen. It was devastatingly poor before and it won't get any better.
- Fantasy Sports. I'm done with them. Did fantasy football almost every year up until this one, was very good at it -- won a few times -- then stopped caring. The fact that Tony Kornheiser has to mention every single fucking week in the Monday Night Football booth that so-and-so playing in the game is on his fantasy team just compounds it.
- Tony Kornheiser in the Monday Night Football booth.
- The Raiders, again.
- Vince Young gets more hype than LaDanian Tomlinson.
- FOX's pre-game/halftime/studio show.
- Al Davis: not dead.

Time to start caring about baseball, I suppose. The playoffs start tomorrow. Damn Detroit for losing yesterday to Kansas City. The loss means that the Tigers get the AL Wild Card while the dangerous Minnesota Twins clinch the AL Central. Why does that matter? Because the Twins are going to knock off the A's in the divisional playoffs. Detroit wouldn't have. Incidentally, it's weird that a DH should be a team's MVP, but that's exactly what Frank Thomas is for Oakland.
Twins over the A's (I hope I'm wrong) in four games -- Twins are hot and the A's pitching is too erratic.
Yankees sweep the Tigers -- Detroit has looked utterly average during the second half of the season and they're too young to deal with the Yankee mystique - even if Randy Johnson is out.
It's so easy to just pick the Yankees every year, but they haven't made it to the World Series since 2003 and haven't won since 2000. They're not the lock every casual fan thinks they are. Minnesota's pitching staff maybe be a bit questionable after Johan Santana, but they're the hottest team in the American League and recent history tells us to bet on them. Twins in six games over the Yanks.

Oh yeah. The National League. Forgot about them.
Mets in four over the Dodgers -- Not having Pedro Martinez may throw NY's rotation off, but they're good enough to beat LA.
Padres over the Cardinals in four -- Talk about backdooring your way into the playoffs, no one is less deserving of postseason play than St. Louis. With Pujols, anything is possible, but San Diego just looks the better team.
Since about July, everyone has been penning the Mets in as the National League rep for the World Series. They're loaded from top-to-bottom in the batting order and their pitching has been great. BUT... again, I have to come back to Pedro not being there. I really do think it's a bigger deal than people are willing to admit, even though he missed a few stints during the regular season and the Mets did okay. How much of that had to do with a weak National League? In the playoffs, you win with pitching, and I'm not convinced that the Mets -- with all their might -- can avoid a chockejob in the NLCS. Padres overcome homefield disadvantage, win in seven.

World Series
Twins vs Padres? Aside from being the new "lowest rated World Series in history" winner, it might be a good series. Then again, it might not. You want more? Suck it. Twins in five.

No food and no drink make Homer atone for his sins.

I'm bothered that it's already October.


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