Sunday, October 31, 2010

NFL Week 8: You Crap The Bed

This week, You Crap is brought to you by The Rally For Sanity, highlights of which can be found here. I know it's an odd choice of sponsor, but it's nice reminder that just because other people are soiling their shorts, that doesn't mean you have to as well.

You all know how the game works. Each week, we give you the chance to match, um, wits with men that are paid to make decisions in professional football games. Now, without further ado, let's all play... You Crap The Bed!

1) You are Dallas coach Wade Philips. Down 14-3 with 15 seconds left in the second quarter at home against the Jaguars, you have a fourth and goal on the Jaguars 1 yard line. On third down, RB Marion Barber was stopped for no gain, giving him 6 carries for 8 yards on the day. You have had five drives in Jacksonville territory today, and have just the three points. Do you:

a) Go for it and use QB Jon Kitna, who is 16 for 22 for 193 and even has a few yards scrambling, since the only thing he's really done wrong is have the bad luck to have two tipped balls snagged for INTs, and try to throw for it

b) Get the ball in the hands of hotshot rookie WR Dez Bryant, also known as the only guy that Dallas Fan feels good about this year

c) Bring everyone in tight and run a toss sweep to RB Felix Jones, who looks like Barry Sanders when you compare him to the broken down mule that is Barber

d) Kick the chip shot field goal, endure the boos from the few people left in Dallas who still care, and keep the game to a one possesion situation at the half

e) Give it to Barber again up the gut, because there's no way that Kitna and he will have a botched handoff, or that the Jaguars can be expecting that and pack the middle, or that he could fail and have this be yet another defining moment of failure in a nightmare season of suck

If you chose (e), preferably while calling your wife to make sure that the movers are using bubble wrap instead of those damn packing peanuts... congratulations! You Crap The Bed! And you've won the mocking laughter of the entire nation of Cowboy Haters, all of whom are going to miss you very, very much. (Oh, and we all appreciate that you got Barber his touchdown in the fourth quarter, cutting the Jaguar lead to 28-10.) Well done!

2) You are Vikings coach Brad Childress. With just under two minutes left in the first half on the road in New England, QB Brett Favre takes a checkdown to RB Toby Gerhart, who gets it just inside the one yard line. The game is tied at 7. With four and goal with 1:07 left, you choose to:

a) Direct snap it to WR Percy Harvin, who has been your best player today and gives you more of an option to avoid a packed in, defend less space kind of play call

b) Put the ball in Favre's hands, and see if he can get it to TE Visanthe Schiancoe on play action

c) Spread the defense with multiple WRs, and have Favre take it in on a sneak

d) Kick the field goal and take the halftime lead, knowing that when you have a 2-4 (soon to be 2-5) record, it's not as if you can get cute, especially on the road

e) Channel your inner Wade Philips and give the ball to RB Adrian Peterson on a relatively slow starting run to right tackle, because it's not as if the defense will be keyed on him at all, especially when there are no other skill players on the field

If you choose (e), then watch Peterson got smoked in the backfield, congratulations... You Crap The Bed! And you've won the shrugging acceptance your fan base, along with my grateful appreciation, since I started writing up this entry EVEN WHILE IT WAS HAPPENING, since I've got such faith in your abilities. Well done!

And fnally...

3) You are Redskins coach Mike Shanahan. It's 31-25 Detroit with 1:50 left. Starting QB Donovan McNabb is 17 for 30 for 210 yards, with one pick and one touchdown. After the kickoff return, do you:

a) Work the middle with TEs Chris Cooley and Fred Davis in an attempt to get the ball close enough to take a shot at the end zone, seeing how McNabb has a big arm

b) Roll McNabb out to try to avoid the Detroit pass rush, and go for emerging deep threat Anthony Armstrong

c) Throw a bubble screen to Santana Moss to make sure that you can get that first move of the chains, since momentum is always key in the two minute drill

d) Run a draw to second string RB Keiland Williams, since first string RB Ryan Torain is out with an injury, or

e) Pull McNabb for Rex Grossman (no, seriously, Rex Grossman), watch the Rex Cannon give up a touchdown on a fumble, then compound the post-game awkwardness by claiming that Rexy gave you the best chance to win since he's better in the two minute drill

If you chose (e)... no, seriously? You'd choose to throw down with Sexy Rexy in clutch time, when he's ice cold and one of the worst players to ever play the position? And it's not as if McNabb has stunk up the joint here; his QB rating nearly 90 in a road game with pretty mediocre weapons, with an offensive line that can't keep him clean. Wow. You really can't be serious, can you?

Well, you've crapped the bed, all right. You've also created a QB controversy before a bye week, given the Washington media a chance to spend weeks discussing McNabb's contract situation, made Redskin Fan think that you are Jim Zorn 2 in terms of intellectual rigor, and given every football fan in America reason to question your sanity and/or senility.

All for Rex Freaking Grossman. Honestly, I'm speechless. After all this time honoring Norv Turner and Andy Reid, You Crap has to seriously consider moving Shanahan past them, from this single unspeakable turd. And with the Skins next game being a MNF affair at home against the Eagles in which McNabb is said to still be the starter, the potential for season-ending sheet befoulment is entirely in play.

Anyway... that's all that we have time for this week. We'll see you here for Week Nine to see who, exactly, has Crapped The Bed! Good night, everybody!

Top 10 NFL Week 8 Takeaways

10) When Rex Ryan calls for an unsuccessful fake punt on a long fourth down, leading to the Packers taking an early lead in a game where points are at a severe premium, that just means he's gutsy and confident in his defense, rather than criminally insane

9) The Cowboys are now 6-6 lifetime at the Jerruhosoleum, with most of the noise today coming from "Let's Go Rangers" chants

8) Redskin Fan is, officially, no longer excited about the Donovan McNabb Era

7) I am contractually obligated to say something about Brett Favre here, and the really nice thing about Favre these days is that it doesn't really need to have anything to do with football

6) The Bills have gone from a team that crushes the hopes of their fans by never being in the game to crushing the hopes of their fans by never being out of it

5) Giving Vikings' coach Brad Childress a challenge flag is like giving a four-year-old a loaded gun, but only if the four-year-old is particularly addled

4) Multiple NFC West teams won games that were not intra-division, proving that parity has reached every corner of the NFL

3) Bengal Fan is certain that he never liked QB Carson Palmer now

2) Charger punter Mike Scifres has been blocked so many times this year, he's just kind of amazed when it doesn't happen

1) I'm not prepared to live in a world where the Raiders are good

Top Ten NFL Week 8 Ad Questions

10) If Southwest's baggage handlers are driving around asking people about online ticketing options, doesn't this mean my bags on a Southwest flight are toast?

9) If I take Uloric, do I have to carry a monstrous beaker of green acid around with me, even while fishing?

8) Is Old Navy selling mannequinns now, and if not, why did they spend 25 out of 30 seconds in their ad shilling for them?

7) Does anyone in their right mind think that Chris Berman eats at Appleby's, or understand why a news crew might go there for any reason other than a salmonella outbreak?

6) When your Cadillac sedan goes from 0 to 60 in less than 4 seconds, does it help you to forget that you're driving an ugly car that's favored by pimps and old men?

5) Does Coors Light really have enough liquor in it to make the portraits on the wall start talking?

4) How did someone greenlight an action movie starring a train?

3) Why is Domino's kidnapping people to take them to farms, and how does that sell what they refer to as pizza?

2) How do black and white commercials that give me close ups of ears help to influence my choice of airlines?

1) If I get an AT&T Blackberry, when will the hallucinations that amusement park rides have replaced everything in my life end?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Top 10 reasons why Allen Iverson signed with a Turkish basketbal team

10) Istanbul is not Constan-tinople, and it's also said to be lovely this time of year

9) Has been assured that prison won't happen

8) Fairly certain that he won't have to come off the bench there

7) Had to do something newsworthy and sad, since it's been months since he made me depressed about the way things have gone

6) Wanted some really odd last lines on his Hall of Fame plaque

5) Thinks he can popularize cornrows, tattoos and hip-hop in the Mideast

4) If he takes a job in the NBA, as last year's All-Star Game voting shows, he's just going to get voted into the game no matter what his actual role is

3) Probably hasn't banked nearly enough of that salary over the years, and that divorce and child care will also take a bite

2) Wanted to get back to his great memories of international basketball, and enjoys not always being the smallest guy on the floor

1) Relative lack of practice (practice?), the chance to sell merch, and millions of dollars that he's not making from anyone else

Should The Cowboys Tank?

One of the ways in which football is different from, say, baseball or basketball is that franchises don't really get enough out of down years. When a baseball team fails, the organization will sell off assets in July and August, bring up young players from the minors, and maybe find a pitcher or position player that you can build around next year. Similar plays happen in the NBA, particularly now that the D-League exists. (And if you doubt the power of the D-League to produce rotation minutes on the cheap, you're wrong -- there's over 50 guys on opening day rosters in this year's Association that did time in the D, and it's only been open for a few years now. But I digress.)

The NFL isn't like that, mostly because it's relatively rare for a team to have more than a handful of games that are meaningless, or anyone on the practice squad that are more than special teams ballast. Plus, the games cost so much for tickets, and there's only eight home games a year, so you get the sense that teams are really not looking to throw in the towel.

But then there's Dallas -- a 1-5 team that just lost starting QB Tony Romo for what might be the year, with a suspect and injured offensive line, and a defense that looked like they just plain quit on SNF. There's talent here, of course -- the team drafts relatively well at the skill positions, and they were a Final Eight team last year -- but if you see more than 6 to 7 wins out of them this year, you are probably on something. And even in the unsettled and inconsistent NFC, you're going to need 9 wins to have a shot at the wild card.

So... well, why are they still trying to win games?

The current starting QB, Jon Kitna, is 38 years old, with one more TD than INT, in an awful lot of NFL time. His career passer rating is 76.6. He's a reasonable enough backup, especially if he comes cheap, but the accuracy has never been a strength (sub 60%), and if he actually stays healthy at his age behind this line, it would have to be considered something of an upset. He's not going to lead them to the promised land.

If I were a Cowboy Fan, I'd be a lot more interested in seeing if RB Tashard Choice could give me a spark in the Marion Barber role than, well, Marion Barber. I'd also rather watch WR Dez Bryant over WR Roy Willimas, to the point of just not giving Williams snaps, and... drumroll please, I'd much prefer 25 year old rookie QB Stephen McGee over Kitna.

McGee isn't a complete longshot to providing value. He's a fourth round pick from Texas A&M -- there's a win for Cowboy Fan -- has good size and speed, and preseason success in the last game against the Miami scrubs. He's a multi-sport athlete according to the Web, has a track record of ball security, and is signed for the next four years, which would help them get away from the sunk cost that is Romo. (Independent of your opinion of Senor Tony, he costs big cash, and has one playoff win in 3+ years under center.)

If you start McGee, it's a no-lose situation. If he wins games and looks good, you've got a great new story of a home-state rookie making good. If he's totally horrible, you know you need to start again. And if he's somewhere in between, he's basically, well, Kitna, but with hope.

So what does Cowboy owner Jerruh Jones say about the McGee possibility? Only that he's "adamantly opposed" to the idea of promoting McGee to the starting role. And as an Eagle Fan, all I can say is... You Go, Tight Skinned Old Freak. Hold tight to your dreams of a Super Bowl appearance for the home team, so much so that you do long-term damage to your franchise. You are slowly but surely becoming my favorite NFC East owner.

And if you want to make it easy on Cowboy Fan, broach the subject with a good classic rock anthem from the early '70s. It's not quitting, Cowboy Fan -- it's walking away. Walking Tall Away, even!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Top 12 Takeaways From Game One of the World Series

12) Since the team that wins Game One takes the Series 61% of the time, we only have to pay 3/5ths of our attention to this now

11) The 18 total runs scored shows that the hitters have no chance at twilight

10) Nothing quite says San Francisco more than the fact that a medical marijuana dispensary is giving away free joints every time a Giants player hits a home run, or that a fat shortstop (Juan Uribe) got everybody toked up

9) In the Year of the Pitcher, with Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee on the mound, of course it will be a slugfest

8) In a related story, Lee may have lost his Jedi powers, and should clearly never pitch on eight days rest

7) Pirate Fan, assuming he still exists and likes to watch baseball past the month of May, had to enjoy seeing Freddy Sanchez do well

6) Yankee Fan is bitter that the Rangers saved up all of their nerves and bad defensive play for the Series, rather than the ALCS

5) Perhaps having the better part of a week off at this point in the year wasn't the best thing for the relative sharpness of play

4) Lee, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt each have one lifetime post-season loss, and all of them came to this Giants team, because a club that's weak on defense and hitting is just going to do that

3) The Rangers are now a combined 0-10 in Pacific Bell Park, SBC Park, AT&T Park and The Barry Bonds Nancy Pelosi Gavin Newsom Home For Steroids, Socialism and Sodomy

2) Exactly 21 years ago today, the Giants resumed their series against the A's, but considering that series ended in a sweep for Oakland, you can kind of make the point that the Giants never really resumed the Series

1) In their attempt to overcome Fox Cablevision Armageddon, Cablevision is refunding a $9.95 access charge for their customers, which means that we can finally put a per-minute price on how much the Series is worth

NFL Week 8 Picks: Beyond Disguise

Fresh from a highly encouraging week -- four more of those, and I get to keep my thumbs! -- we move on to Halloween Week in the NFL. This is the time when we are distracted from the watered-down bye week horror to see the always encouraging sight of cheerleaders dressing in costume, because their normal costume clearly isn't pushing enough of our buttons. FTT greatly encourages this, but I'd like to see more creativity shown by the squads, seeing how they are the only people on the field that all (or nearly all) viewers approve of. You rarely hear someone's hate of the laundry extend to the poon; even loyalty to your own laundry's poon isn't absolutely required of fandom. It could even be argued that your lecherous fantasies of Enemy Poon add to your enjoyment of the spectacle, since that means you can do dirty, awful, unspeakable things to her.

Perhaps I've said too much.

Anyhoo... why can't the pep squads do more than your superheroes, nurses, maids and other skintastic solo outfits that they are probably recycling on the side for their own pedestrian office parties? This is the National (breath) Football (breath) League, dammit; we have billions of dollars in a time of economic hardship and systematic retrenchment, and if this circus is not enough to take our minds of our troubles, we might up and get involved in Important Things, to what I'd presume would be disastrous effect. Give me pompom Voltrons that form into five tiered stars of poon, sexy Tetris pieces that interlock in ways that are straight from my more geometric daydreams, pressure activated suits that change color when tagged for a synchronized game of Tag / Disease Outbreak, and much, much more. Halloween, with the joy of grown women dressing down in ways that we'd normally have to pay hard currency for, comes but once a year. I request -- nay, demand! -- spank bank ammo that doesn't look exactly like what was provided to us last year.

And with that... on to the picks!

MIAMI at Cincinnati (-3)

QB Carson Palmer is some mobility and comedy away from embracing his destiny as The New Aaron Brooks -- i.e., the guy that puts up huge numbers when behind, mostly from his own actions, providing enough fantasy value that some discount shopper will wind up winning his league by managing the position and going big everywhere else. He's also targeting WR Terrell Owens to downright irresponsible levels, mostly because TO runs the safe routes now, and Carson is tired of seeing his TAInt on highlight shows. But the Bengals have bigger issues than the QB, in that they aren't running the ball effectively (I've seen this Cedric Benson year before, otherwise known as three yards and a cloud of suck), and the defense is a far cry from last year's peppy bunch.

Miami has been a solid enough road outfit, and their defense will make just enough picks and plays to help their own earthbound offense get the job done. It also doesn't hurt that the Fish's own possession passing game -- WRs Davone Bess and Brendon Marshall, TE Anthony Fasano -- has been moving the sticks steadily, if not with a lot of explosion. Against this year's Bengals, it will be enough. Just barely.

Dolphins 24, Bengals 20

Jacksonville at DALLAS (-6.5)

On some level, as an Eagles Fan, I'm actually kind of rooting for Dallas to recover their season now. I don't want them to have a real high draft pick, and if they play .500 the rest of the year, maybe they decide that QB Tony Romo is the whole problem, and we'll go back to the good old carousel days of Quincy Carter, Ryan Leaf, Drew Bledsoe... oh, those were good times, my friend. Romo may not be the second coming of Roger Staubach, but he's clearly the best they've had since Troy Aikman, and if there's any way that the franchise's baser instincts can be brought to the fore in this lost season, I'm all for it.

The Jaguars, perhaps the league's least essential team, come into town with an unsettled QB situation, a nationwide audience of disappointed Maurice Jones-Drew owners, and 40+ players on the roster that your average NFL fan could not pick out of a police lineup, even if they were in full pads. Even backup QB Jon Kitna, with a week of practice to oil up the joints and work out the rust, can go for 225 yards and 3 TDs against these clowns, especially when he gets a short field.

Cowboys 31, Jaguars 16

Washington at DETROIT (-1.5)

Historically, this game is a stomping of fairly comic proportions; I don't have the all-time numbers in front of me, but I think the Skins are something like 666-1 against Detroit, with the one loss happening in the Jim Zorn Era, which probably means it doesn't count. However, I don't really put much faith into all-time records in a league with as much turnover as the NFL, and this Skins team really looks like less than advertised. Despite the winning record and a half dozen turnovers from the ever-giving Cutler Bears last week, they could only manage a three point win, mostly because RB Ryan Torain really isn't very good, and he's still better than the other Skin skill players... who are also better than their train wreck of an offensive line. On the road in a loud dome with a peppy Lions DL, it'll get disappointing for them. Kind of like what happened a month ago in St. Louis, which is to say, Detroit West. And on offense, watch for speed back Jahvid Best to give Washington nightmares, and for WR Calvin Johnson to make some plays as well. Skins CB DeAngelo Hall will miss his Cutler Star Day much.

Lions 23, Redskins 17

Buffalo at KANSAS CITY (-7.5)

Signs of life from the league's last winless team? Yes, indeed; the Bills led by two touchdowns twice against the Ravens in Baltimore, terrifying suicide pool players and Raven Fan alike, before spitting the bit late with their failure-insuring defense. Despite the super Mario powers of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to keep the desperate Bills-playing fantasy leaguers off the ledge, the team from downstate Toronto is still a hot mess, and the Chiefs continue to be the most consistent team in the AFC West. They also can run the ball, and QB Matt Cassel is no longer (a) stinking up the joint, or (b) playing against defenses that can make a mediocre QB look horrible. After this week, they'll be 5-2, and well on their way to a first round playoff loss...

Chiefs 31, Bills 20

Carolina at ST. LOUIS (-3)

On some level, I'd really like this Rams team to win the NFC West this year. At least that way, it would feel like more than slapdash work was being rewarded, and that they were building to something. There's even the chance that they could surprise, since QB Sam Bradford is a serious talent, and RB Stephen Jackson has been among the most noble warriors in the league for the past few years.

This week at home against the no longer winless Panthers, who came back last week against the Niners at home to win with defense and once-again starting QB Matt Moore. The Panthers aren't going to be a comfortably bad team to play; the defense still has a pulse, and they won't quit on head coach Jon Fox, who has never had a team give him a double digit loss year. But that was then, and this is now... and Bradford will find a way.

Rams 24, Panthers 17

Green Bay at NY JETS (-4.5)

Coming off a bye at home against a Packers team that had an emotional tight win against the Packers on SNF, I'm not sure why the spread is this close. The Jets come from the superior conference, have the best starting cornerbacks, should be able to run the ball well, and are at home. I get that the pack has a national fan base and are close in every game, even the ones they lose... but it's hard to see how the Pack keeps QB Aaron Rodgers clean in this one, or how they win if they don't. It also really doesn't help that TE Jermichael Finley and WR Donald Driver won't be around to provide a security blanket.

Jets 27, Packers 20

DENVER at San Francisco (in London) (-1)

What, exactly, does Great Britain have to do to get out of these sad exhibits of American football? The games are always in a mud slog, between teams that never play a sharp game. We all have to pretend that there's something fun or novel about this, other than the simple theft of a home game from one franchise, or another reason for foreigners to hate our country. Here, rest of world, is Troy Smith and a Denver team that just got curbstomped by the freaking Raiders. And we're supposed to pick a winner from this?

Well, OK. Give me the Broncos for a bounce-back game, as QB Kyle Orton does some good work on a short field. The only real moment of suspense left in the Niner year is whether coach Mike Singletary gets run in mid-season, or if he'll get the whole year to fail.

Broncos 24, Niners 17

Tennessee at SAN DIEGO (-4)

Time for the Norv Turner Chargers to pick it up for their mid to late season playoff rush. It will be aided and abetted by a Titans team that somehow flicked the switch in a game they had no business being in against the Eagles at home. San Diego proved last week that they could move the ball even without WRs Malcolm Floyd and Vincent Jackson, and with TE Antonio Gates at half speed. The Titans won't be able to get WR Kenny Britt off the same way, which is right up there with predicting that the second sexual encounter of your life won't last as long or be as memorable. Well, duh...

Chargers 28, Titans 19

Seattle at OAKLAND (-2)

How did this Raider teams put up 59 points last week on the road in Denver? That's more like three games worth of scoring for this earthbound team, especially when they've got QB Jason Campbell behind schedule, and WR Louis Murphy on the shelf. But 59 points happened, mostly because they ran for 325 yards on short fields, with lead RB Darrin McFadden putting up the best numbers ever on your fantasy bench. (And yes, of course, he was on my bench. You had any doubt?) Meanwhile, the Seahawks were smacking the Cardinals so much that they actually went back to QB Derek Anderson. No, seriously. Yeesh.

This week, I like this wildly inconsistent but talented bunch to actually come through in back to back weeks, mostly because the Seahawks are terrible on the road, and the NFC West can't have a team that actually takes care of business. But if you want to imagine that McFadden puts it on the ground twice and the Raiders fall apart, I'm not going to say that won't happen, either...

Raiders 23, Seahawks 20

Minnesota at NEW ENGLAND (-4)

What a perfect week for the Patriots to catch the Vikings. QB Brett Favre is hobbled, WR Randy Moss still doesn't know (or care about) the playbook, the defense looks gassed, and the Vikings special teams are quite vulnerable to a Patriots club that does that better than they have in years. This isn't a very good Pats' team -- the move of Moss shows that they know the ceiling isn't very high, and QB Tom Brady has reached the stage of his career when he can be both very good and tremendously overrated, all at once -- but they'll have enough to take care of this ready to die Vikings team.

Patriots 26, Vikings 21

TAMPA at Arizona (-3)

The Bucs snuck out a win last week at home against the Rams with one of the worst rushing games in the league, and a passing attack that mostly consists of emerging QB Josh Freeman making chicken salad out of chicken... else. But you've got to appreciate the job that second year coach Radio Raheem Morris is doing here, and more importantly, just how terribly vulnerable the somehow .500 Cardinals -- negative 82 points in differential! -- are. It's amazing to think a .500 team makes more sense as a winless outfit, and it's even more amazing to imagine them as a home favorite.

Bucs 24, Cardinals 17

PITTSBURGH at New Orleans (+1)

Another heat check pick for the Steelers, who used a questionable referee call on a goal line dive/fumble to QB Ben Roethlisberger to get past the Dolphins, but not cover a tiny point spread. This week, they go to New Orleans for SNF against the mendacious Saints, who are somehow just a one-point dog despite spending last week getting their hands handed to them by the low-margin Browns. So how they are supposed to stay close to a team that might be the best in the league, or score like it's 2009... well, I'm really not seeing it. Look for the Steelers to score on defense, put QB Drew Brees on the ground several times, and control the ground game. The NBC crew, of course, will use the opportunity to equate Big Ben's "comeback" with Brett Favre's plight, because there's nothing they like to discuss more.

Steelers 27, Saints 20

HOUSTON at Indianapolis (-5)

Huge counter trends here. Picking against the Colts on a nationally televised night game is usually death. But this week, with their wideouts hurt and against a Texans team that's seemingly been designed strictly to get past them? Well, it's tempting... which is why this spread is right in that middle ground spread choice, and makes me pick the Colts to win, but not cover. You have to love Vegas for putting you in these moments. (And while I'm picking on split hairs, give me Texans RB Arian Foster fumbling in a key point, or PK Neil Rackers having a fatal miss.)

Colts 31, Texans 28

Last week: 8-4-2

Year to date: 43-52-10

Lifetime: 323-329-21

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Top 10 Heat - Celtics NBA Opener Takeaways

10) When one of the oldest teams in the league wins at home on opening day against a team with limited time together, it tells you everything you need to know about the season to come

9) Our long national nightmare of not having Ray Allen's Mom on our screen is over

8) It's nice of Shaqulle O'Neal to actually be in shape at the start of a season for once

7) If Eddie House gets 26 minutes for the Heat, you have a serious bench problem

6) When Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh combine to shoot 7 for 29, it's all LeBron James' fault

5) While Rajon Rondo's 17 assists were impressive, he really should have more rebounds when he misses 7 of 9 shots frm the floor

4) The Heat had 17 turnovers, 15 assists, and for some reason that defied understanding, no interest in a faster pace

3) Ziggy Ilgauskas was +17 in just over 10 minutes for the Heat, proving that plus/minus is pretty damned random

2) It's early and all, but wow, Chris Bosh looked like the most overpaid player in the NBA

1) The Heat are on pace to go 0-82 while scoring only 80 points a game

FTT Off Topic: Micro Sleeping

Another in a series of posts in which we do some Personal Sharing that's only partially related, at best, to sports. You've been warned.

One of the things that happens to you when you get older -- or, at least, I hope happens to the plural you, because if it's just me, that's a little disturbing -- is that you will not get enough sleep. This has become much worse for me over the past few years. Between the commute (about 17-18 hours a week, spiking occasionally up to 20 if the delays get obnoxious), the day job (45 hours, for the most part, in that I enforce a hard stop and pick it up again on the train or at home if there's more to do), the childcare (10+ hours during the weekdays, as I take them as soon as I get home, and another 5 to 10 on weekends of just general hang out time), the gym (another 2 hours a week, just because it's close enough to my house that I can squeeze in a pretty continuous amount of work, and I'm not trying to get ripped here), and the blogging (OK, I do some of this on the train, but not nearly enough, so let's call that another 5 on its own, in that there's more than just writing to it...)

Well, we're already up to 85 out of 168 hours in the week, or over half of my waking life, booked solid. And we're not even getting into yard work, shopping, time with the Shooter Wife, the actual watching of sports (different from blogging), poker games as a side income, and so on, and so on.

The writer David Sedaris posits that every human life is a four burner stove in which only three of the burners work. These burners are Health, Family, Work and Romance, and you really only get to have three of the four. If you really want to get good at something, you make it two burners. Famous, one. It's a depressing little thought, but I think there's merit to it.

I like to beat myself up for taking too much time in the writing. You'd be amazed at how quickly 70% of a list can come, and how slow the last bit of it goes. But the awful truth is that the more efficient you are in the time that you spend doing it, the worse it will probably be. A writer who takes shortcuts is one that is letting the self-editing go; typos and word repeats are sure to creep in, along with common phrase choices, template moves, etc., etc.

And sure, some of that is just finding your voice and knowing your audience and having confidence, but there's only so much self-justification that you can do for hackwork. Or ignoring your own typos and other mistakes. It is what it is.

So it should be clear by now... for me, the off burner is health. The secondary off one is Romance, in that I've been married for 11 years, and the great and good benefit there is that when you sacrifice your spouse for your family or work, they get that it's not an entirely selfish act, and sacrifice with you. But getting back to health. While I try to eat well, get exercise and take vitamins and only necessary medications, there's just not enough time in the day. I sleep about five hours a night on average,

That sounds, and is, horrible... and is probably the root of many an ailment and overall negativity about things. It's also something of a life pattern. In my last semester at college, with a 70-hour a week job, internship and 18 credit hours, sleep was more or less forgotten for a four month period. It wasn't pleasant, but it got done, and it taught me a valuable lesson: I'm capable of great things if I can simply convince myself that there are no other outs.

Flash forward to today. I'm on the train as I write this, eyes closed as my fingers type these words. Ten minutes later, I jerk back to consciousness, and write another line. This will happen, assuming I don't focus hard on whatever task is at hand, 2-3 more times before I get home, and can happen 2-3 more times after I get the kids to bed and finally give up the ghost. By the end of the week, it's hard to get through a day in the office without coffee, the occasional walk, more coffee or forcing myself to walk around the place and interact with coworkers offline.

Eventually, balance will be achieved. Maybe my commute will be lessened, or my kids will take up less of my time as they move into adulthood (not counting on that one), or I'll give up the blog or the fantasy sports or the poker, or the house work goes away, or something. Or I'll just get OK with the micro sleeping, since it's not really a negative yet -- it hasn't happened while driving, at the poker table, or during a busy day. I haven't even missed my stop on the train. Yet.

Besides, you'll sleep when you're dead, right?

FTT Off Topic: Gambling At The Dentist

In which we discuss things that aren't really entirely about sports, under the theory that if you come here often enough, you just like my writing, or something, and I can spread my little wings and learn to fly. Or maybe I'm just working out new material for a future stand-up appearance; you make the call. Let's have at it, shall we?

I have a real problem with dentists, mostly from physical oddness. My mouth is fairly small and ratlike, with the teeth all jammed up in each other's business and crooked. I come from want and Shetland Human Genes, and as the youngest of three, enjoyed the benefits of a beaten down parent when it came to the optional expense that is cosmetic braces. It's never really held me back, beyond the semi-annual (yes, I don't go enough) retribution sessions in the chair. I once let a full decade ride between cleanings, to no great negative effect.

But when I went for my most recent cleaning (and if you have one of these and get out without cavities or the need for further work, doesn't that mean that skipping is just a winning bet where you cashed?), I had the distinctly enjoyable experience if the hygienist giving me a pass for a relative lack of flossing. Why? Because she had the damnedest time doing it, too, and hell, that's the way she makes a living. She eventually wound up shredding the floss, pulling it out of my choppers the long way, and just expressing amazement that I ever did this, or that even the super-expensive treated floss worked for me. Either that, or she was taking pity on me for being old, or making sure that I didn't have such a crappy experience that her business wouldn't see me for another good long while.

Plus, she told me that I was brushing too hard and need to ease up for the sake of my gums, and that was oddly flattering. I am so strong, so physically dynamic, that I'm a danger to my teeth. Pardon me while I flex in my bathroom mirror, the very picture of Too Much Man. With great teeth brushing power comes great teeth brushing responsibility, and I had an aunt that died once from a too-stiff brushing. Or something.

One more thing about that: kudos to the dental pushers out there for the post-session goodie bag of free trial products to try to get me to change up my lifelong product affiliation. Canny marketing, that. Too bad your product (a toothpaste for sensitive teeth and gums) tastes like ass, and made me want the mouthwash halfway through the job. The mincy little job that my over-powered arms can no longer do in the manner in which I was accustomed.

Which doesn't mean that I can let it go, of course, or continue to make my let it ride bet of office neglect. It's hard enough to get my kids to the dentist as is, without me looking like a hypocrite. And for the record, I don't really abuse my teeth, or punish the world with terrible breath. I brush and use mouthwash a couple of times a day, and even have a brush and toothpaste at my desk for post-lunch treatments or the ability to rid myself of coffee breath on days when I need the caffeine whip.

But it's just this: middle age requires you to spend more time on everything just to stay in place, and you have to set a positive example for your kids, even when you don't really want to. I go to the gym more now than I did when I was younger, and see less visible results. I take flu shots now, even though I hate needles and usually feel like I can't move my arm for two days afterward. I clean when the mess isn't mine, maintain things (the yard, mostly) that I don't really care about, dress better for work than I have to, and so on, and so on. There are other examples, but you get the gist. And you'll also be here one day soon, my friends...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Top 10 ways to celebrate Cowboys Elimination Day

10) Make your own Tony Romo pinata and break it at the clavicle

9) Book your ticket for the Super Bowl, secure in the knowledge that the locals will be selling their seats

8) Schedule your local high school football team to play against the Cowboy defense, so they can get a confidence boost

7) Arrange for a tour of Wade Philips' house, since it will be be up for sale very soon

6) Offer up pity offers in your fantasy league to the guys that own Dez Bryant, Feliz Jones, Miles Austin and Jason Witten

5) Ask the Cowboy Fan in your life -- and don't wait on this, seeing how Cowboy Fan disappears faster than free beer at a frat party during losing years -- how much they enjoyed the last 1-win season

4) Take a good look at the upcoming schedule for fantasy defense streaming and gambling purposes

3) Make lowball offers on StubHub and eBay for home game seats, since it's not as if Dallas Fan will actually want to go to any more of these games

2) Plan the best Thanksgiving in years, since the Saints will come to Dallas for an utterly adorable beatdown

1) Give solemn and devout thanks to any and all deities that you believe in for allowing you to love long enough to see the earliest and most enjoyable Cowboy Elimination Day ever

The World Series Pick: Rangers in Five

Let's make this as short and interesting as the Series will be, which is to say not very. Cliff Lee beats Tim Lincecum twice en route to the World Series MVP and a 5-year, $100 million contract from some MLB+ club. The Giants' defense finally comes back to bite them, the Ranger bats don't quit, and the entire thing disappears from the nation's conscience within a week. I'm also really not liking the prospects for Jonathan Sanchez and Matt Cain against the top-to-bottom production of the Ranger lineup.

Giants Fan is cheated out of even the Big Dramatic Loss that they are secretly craving to continue to make them special, seeing how similar fan bases have won in the past decade and become ordinary. And if you watch the games (I won't be, even if Fox Cablevision Armageddon ends), you'll have to endure countless shots of George Bush (either of them), Tom Hicks and Nolan Ryan, as if Ryan has suddenly become cute and cuddly in his old age, when the reality is that he was always a headhunting bully.

Oh, and we'll also get to hear a lot about how wonderful Pac Bell is. Not that any of that will stop the ratings for next week's SNF game (Pittsburgh at New Orleans) from being three times higher than Game 4, or the national sports media from spending most of their time talking about what the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies and Mets will do in the offseason, rather than these games. They'll also talk about whether baseball is completely doomed in the long term due to the low low ratings of the current series. (Answer: Yes, but it's got nothing to do with the Series, and everything to do with the salary inequity that's slowly squeezing the life out of the exercise. Besides, we'd all rather watch football.)

So, um, woo baseball. And congrats to the Rangers and Giants for making it this far, and for solid players like Josh Hamilton, Buster Posey, Andres Torres, Ian Kinsler and others for getting to the big stage, and proving that big markets don't always go all the way. Too bad it won't be close. (And yes, this is also what I predicted prior to picking a Yankees-Phillies Series. So there's that.)

FTT Off Topic: Stupid Personal Honor

In which we discuss things that aren't really entirely about sports, under the theory that if you come here often enough, you just like my writing, or something, and I can spread my little wings and learn to fly. Or, more likely, just pump up the sad impression count for the advertisers. Moving on.

In my fantasy football roto league, I own both Oakland running backs (Darrin McFadden and Michael Bush). McFadden was a flat out stud for the first month of the year, then suffered a hamstring pull (he's prone to that) and hit the bench for Bush. Bush is actually a pretty great back in his own right, but McFadden is more explosive and the better play for fantasy. After last week's game, in which Bush got the ball a lot but didn't do much with it due to the Niners selling out to stop the power game, I was resolute. As soon as McFadden was healthy, he was going back in to the starting lineup, but with the back himself only saying that he was 70% for this week's game in Denver, I hesitatingly put him on my bench, but reserved the right to change things on Sunday afternoon.

Fast forward to yesterday. With the Fox Cablevision Armageddon, I watched the Eagles (my laundry) at my gym, and did a 3-hour cardio session during the game that I'll probably be paying for over the better part of this week. (Two words: Oww, Owww, Owwwwwww. OK, three.) So I didn't get back to my computer in time to put McFadden in for Bush, the way I probably would have, had I been sitting at my computer around 3:30pm, rather than being at the gym.

Then the game starts in Denver, and McFadden becomes the biggest scorer in fantasy football last week, with 4 touchdowns and 40+ points in a startling Raider runaway. The road team goes for something like 325 yards on the ground, and at least Bush picks up a garbage time score to keep me from finding a bottle of pills.

And this scenario is more or less an ordinary fantasy sports bad beat story, and about as interesting as any other... until I click on the Commish Tools section of my league.

You see, I'm the commish of my league. And being as such, I Haz Powers to fix problems, or even (the horror) retroactively change the starting roster. And yes, the technology works just fine. I'm not even sure that the other owners in my league would have noticed. And had McFadden's owner (provided, of course, that person wasn't me) got in touch with me and swore up and down that he meant to run the better back...

Well, it would have probably gone to a vote, with much puling from the hard cases in my league, and maybe a new rule put in place, and yada yada yada. The long and short of it is that I have the ability, provided I am devious and quick, to sneak my bet into the stack and claim that I was holding these mucked cards all the while, for a monster pot.

And no, I left Bush right where he was, because I'm just not wired to take the short cut, no matter how tempting it might be. But that doesn't mean I wasn't tempted, or kind of mad at myself for not being wired that way...

NFL Week 7: You Crap The Bed

And we're back after a one-week outage due to Fox Cablevision Armageddon, with the game show that gives you the chance to put your wits against actual NFL personnel, making actual NFL money, in your bid to see if you are smarter than someone who is going to be subjected to national ridicule.

Today's show, as a make good for the past week and a half of profound irritation and as part of YardBarker's new deal with our Fox Overlords (Welcome, Fox Overlords!), is brought to you by the World Series, which will be more or less completely ignored by more than half of the country, and can't be seen at all by millions of people in the country's most prosperous media markets. (Oh, and with the Eagles on a bye week in Week 8, ESPN in Week 9, and NBC in Week 10, this also means that you can safely ignore this problem until Thanksgiving. And I'm sure we'll all get a big discount on our cable bills!) Plus, you get to either root for George Bush and Tom Hicks, or Barry Bonds and Brian Sabean. Catch it!

Now with that bit of commerce out of the way, let's all play... You Crap The Bed!

1) You are Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. As the second half of your game against the Titans in Nashville progresses, CB Ellis Hobbs is having an increasingly difficult time staying with WR Kenny Britt, who is a size mismatch and the Titans' only explosive weapon on a day where Chris Johnson is held to less than three yards a carry. Do you:

a) Reconfigure your defensive scheme so that top CB Asante Samuel locks on Britt for every play

b) Double cover Britt on every play, and try to get a jam on the line for each and every play, possibly by rotating in fresh backs on a day when the Eagle offense has controlled the ball for most of the day

c) Blitz Titans QB Kerry Collins from Britt's side, so that he's less able to plant and find the second-year wideout

d) Replace Hobbs with reserve backs Joselio Hanson, Dmitri Patterson, Jorick Colvin or Kurt Coleman, since it's not as if they could be doing any worse of a job than Hobs did in the second half, and this would allow you to tell the useful fiction that he was hurt, rather than just useless

e) Continue to more or less put Hobbs out on an island, and watch Britt collect over 80% of the Titans passing yards on the day, along with the most receiving yards ever registered against the team in over 75 years of play

If you chose (e), congratulations... you've crapped the bed! And you've won the team's first road loss of the year in a game that was yours for the taking, against a 37-year-old immobile back-up QB who was playing with a ruptured tendon in his hand. And you've also won serious doubts that Hobbs will ever be trusted or useful again, and that the defense is about to go on a merry-go-round of instabaility in the backfield. Well done!

2) You are Minnesota coach Brad Childress. Up 17-14 in your SNF game at Green Bay, you have two timeouts left and a first and 20 at your own 24 yard line after an offensive pass interference against Randy Moss negates a 49-yard play. There are 43 seconds left in the first half. Do you:

a) Continue to air it out, since Moss is the most dangerous deep threat alive, it's not like a field goal lead is going to stand up, and a get-even PI call could be huge

b) Give the ball to the electric Percy Harvin, who already has a touchdown earlier in the game and plainly terrifies the Packer faithful

c) Run Adrian Peterson, who has your other touchdown and is averaging 5 yards a carry, to see if you can move the sticks again, knowing that if you do, you can call timeout, and if you can't, the half ends without risk

d) Throw it to TE Visanthe Schiancoe, who is winning most of his matchups and could stretch the field down the middle

e) Decide that your single shot to Moss is more than enough excitement by running Peterson for a big gain, but just let the time run out, since those two timeouts will look good in your pocket in the half, and it's not like the entire nation won't remark about what a remarkable numbuts you are

If you've chose (e)... you've crapped the bed in a way that only Brad Childress can. And you've won your own offensive players, including the ever-committed Moss, question your judgement and confidence in their abilities before the half, setting the stage for a multiple pick second half by Favre that delighted every non-Viking Fan in the country. (Oh, and it also secretly delighted Viking Fan, too, seeing how more and more of them hate Favre and want him and Childress gone, too.) And we're not done with that SNF game...

3) You are Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy. Up 28-24 at home with just over 12 minutes left, you have QB Aaron Rodgers complete a short pass on third and six on the Vikings 39 to WR Greg Jennings, who catches the ball in front of the sticks, but is marked behind by the linesman. As NBC shows clear evidence of Jennings being a yard or more in front of the sticks, do you:

a) Have the play reviewed, seeing how the first down is a real big damn deal

b) No, seriously, just throw the damn challenge flag; even if it fails, you have the lead and two timeouts left

c) Really, you aren't going to throw the challenge flag? Minnesota has a great run defense, especially in short yardage, and your team doesn't do that well. Besides, with the measurement, you've got a ton of time to look at it, and it's not as if you are going to get to the line and quick snap it to catch the Vikings defense off guard

d) Well, OK, if you are that paranoid about looking like Andy Reid for using a challenge to go after a spot, just get the team to the line and have Rodgers sneak for it, seeing how it's left than six inches, and Rodgers might be your best runner, sadly

e) Don't challenge, don't hurry, and call the exact same short yardage play call (a dive to fullback Jon Kuhn) that you tried three plays ago on fourth and one from the Vikings 45

If you've chose (e)... kudos, sir, for crapping the bed in a way that just makes every Packer Fan wonder what the point of replay is, if you don't ever actually use it. But thanks to your defense and Harvin not managing to get his second foot in bounds, you win the game anyway, so your bed crappery will mostly miss the national meme. But keep it in mind, Bed Crapping Enthusiasts... this McCarthy fellow? He has promise.

That's all that we have time for this week. See you next week when we see if... You Crap The Bed! Good night, everybody!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Top Ten NFL Week 7 Ad Questions

10) Does taking Lipitor make you dive into lakes?

9) How does endangering infants sell Hewlett-Packard printers?

8) Should you choose your life insurance from a provider that lets a beagle pilot a ship through jungle rapids?

7) Why does Dish Network feel compelled to demonstrate a foot fetish?

6) Why does the E*Trade baby's parents allow so much expensive computer technology in the crib of a person who fouls their own pants on a routine basis?

5) Should DirecTV's criminal activities and willingness to assault and drug minimum wage movie projectionists be rewarded with patronage?

4) Are you allowed to drink Corona in a non-beach setting?

3) Is anyone else creeped out by the bad touch avatar?

2) How does the possibility of flight sell jeans?

1) How big of a loser do you have to be to care so much about the Bud Light commercial "innovations" that you give up your Facebook information to get it?

Top 10 NFL Week 7 Takeaways

10) Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather celebrated a non-fined non-penalty big hit that came after a Chargers first down, because he's just that bright

9) If the Bills can't win a game when they lead by 14 points on the road twice in Baltimore, it's starting to get hard to see how they win any game this year

8) Niners coach Mike Singletary is still talking about the playoffs despite being 1-6, mostly to give people in the Bay Area any reason at all to pay attention to them, rather than the Giants

7) Bears Fan wants to turn Jay Cutler over to the opposition very, very badly

6) Ben Roethlisberger had his way with the refs late despite it being really tight and marginal, and Steeler Fan sees nothing wrong (or funny) with any of that

5) The Bengals blew another game where QB Carson Palmer threw for big yardage, because they have completely forgotten how they won their division last year

4) Bill Belichick did everything he possibly could to keep Norv Turner from being fired, but failed

3) Everyone can now agree that the Saints aren't the same team that won the Super Bowl last year

2) The Raiders ran for 328 yards in a 45-point win in Denver, which means that the usual Bronco collapse has come two months early

1) Arizona QBs were 12 for 33 for 114 net yards on the road in Seattle, proving yet again that Cardinals coach Ted Whisenhunt was absolutely justified in starting the year with Matt Leinart and Derek Anderson under center

Top 10 Eagles-Titans Takeaways

Today's takeaways are brought to you by my local Retro Fitness, which had the game, since it's on satellite, rather than a victim of the Fox Cablevision armageddon. Which meant that I got to do three hours of jittery cardio and weight liftng while I watched my team fall apart. So the day wasn't a total loss...

10) It's very hard to lose a game by 18 points when you have six more first downs, lead by nine in the fourth quarter, don't give up a return touchdown, hold the opponent to 4 of 13 on third down, have only 2 less total yards and are only -1 in turnovers, but they managed

9) We can safely call the Michael Vick vs. Kevin Kolb controversy dead

8) It's also now quite apparent that DeSean Jackson is better than Jeremy Maclin

7) There is no more overrated Eagle or TE in the NFL then Brent Celek

6) Kenny Britt clearly needs to get in more altercations at night clubs

5) For the first time in his NFL career, Nate Allen was a big problem

4) If you want to look on the bright side, Chris Johnson didn't do much, David Akers was awesome and Sav Rocca kiled the ball

3) The bye week couldn't come fast enough, really

2) This may be the most penalty-prone team of the Andy Reid Era

1) By the end of the game, Ellis Hobbs had made every Eagles fan forget Lito Sheppard, Will James and Sean Considine

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Top 12 Consolations For Phillies Fans

12) With any luck, you won't ever have to watch Chad Durbin in the laundry again

11) You really wanted to put your full attention on the Eagles' season anyway

10) Fox and MLB are going to make about a third of what they were hoping to make from a Rangers-Giants World Series

9) As ESPN's Bill Simmons notes, it's very, very important that the games happen in a ballpark that's pretty, so you should feel better about the games being in Pac Bell, rather than Citizens Bank

8) It's not as if this still isn't the best era ever to be a Phillies fan

7) You won't have to watch Cliff Lee torture your team in the next round

6) The NL East is still their bitch

5) You can safely ignore the Fox / Cablevision dispute now

4) Less time with Joe Buck and Tim McCarver isn't exactly a problem

3) No matter what a set of George Bush, Tom Hicks and insufferable rednecks (or Barry Bonds, Nany Pelosi and insufferable yuppies) will be crushed

2) With the WS games being on Central and Pacific time, they'll be even easier to ignore

1) As someone who counts Terence Long's stare at a called strike to end a series as one of the worst moments of his life as a sports fan can attest, it's not as if a season-ending strike call at home from a reliever who is struggling with his control will produce any long-term bitterness

On Hating Giants Fan

Something that I kept meaning to write, but have mostly whiffed on this week due to Fox and Cablevision conspiring to make me not care about baseball (Nice job, guys!)...

I realize that the national perspective of Philly Fan is one of the most negative in the country, and that we (they? It's not like I live there, really... aw, hell, we) frequently live down to it. But we aren't the worst fan base left standing. In fact, we're not even the worst fan base in the series. Yes, I'm looking at you, Giants Fan...

I know of which I speak here, people. I lived with Giant Fan from 2000 to 2006, in the height of the Bonds Era, perhaps the greatest feat of collective municipal myopia this side of Germany in the 30s and 40s. As things went from bad to worse to unspeakable, and gravitational wells developed around Barry's Enormous Head, Giants Fan just clasped him to their bosom all the more. As the team also went from a collection of mildly intriguing and clutch talent to a walk-free, flat-out terrible offense despite the Ruthian exploits of the centerpiece... well, Giant Fan just kept on coming to their sweet little jewel of theft and lies.

Meanwhile on my side of the Bay, the A's were almost always a better team, and received about as much attention as a minor league team. Even something as simple as getting a radio signal of the A's game was tricky, but you could hear the Giants stumble to their pointless pace from space.

And the attendance matched it as well. Going to Pac Bell? Never a problem to get someone to take the ticket and pay for the price. Going to Oakland, a much easier commute on the BART train, a much cheaper night in every way? Good freaking luck finding someone to go with you on that one. The A's were the team with championships in this lifetime, 90+ win clubs with adorable young players, a farm system that kept churning out A-level talent (pitching, at least), the annual playoff runs and 20-game winning streaks. The Giants had Bonds and their stadium, a 5 to 1 edge in attendance, and a 50-to-1 edge in media coverage.

It Rankled.

So did Giant Fan, to be honest. Before handheld phones were everywhere, Giant Fan was texting to the point of simmering rage, usually on dot-com money that made the whole Going To Pac Bell experience seem like some part of the amusement park that you weren't allowed it. Parking cost nearly as much as my entire evening in Oakland. And you got to also hear about how bad the Dodgers were, and how much Giant Fan hated the Dodgers, and Tommy Lasorda this and Tommy Lasorda that.

Basically, they are Red Sox Fan West, only not as dedicated. (Yes, I said that, Giant Fan. When your team loses, you go home to live in one of the most beautiful parts of America, where snow is simply an elevational phenomenon, the product is always organic and lush, the wine is almost as nice as you think it is, and the women are second only to SoCal in terms of per capita quality. When an East Coast team loses, their fans go home to stare at the walls for six months. It's not really the same.

So I honestly do hope the Phillies win the NLCS in seven, and that there are at least three to five (more) heart-breaking defensive failures and/or tragic moments for Giant Fan to endure. For Bonds, for the price, for their unconscious insufferability, and for embracing as much bad karma as any team ever (the whole stealing a team thing, Juan Maricahl nailing a guy with his bat, Humm Baby, Keith Mitchell, Will Clark, Dave Dravecky's crushing injury, Dusty Baker nearly getting his kid killed, Bonds and all the rest... you deserve pain. And lots of it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Why Isn't Anyone Blaming Selig and Goodell?

For the past five days and counting, over three million people in the greater Philadelphia and New York regions (and, um, that would include me) have been held hostage by Fox / Cablevision Armageddon, where the broadcast network and the cable company have been in a seemingly endless battle over retransmission rights. (And if you want to know who is in the wrong, it's pretty clear that it's Fox, but rooting for Cablevision is like rooting for the Mets; they be less odious than the Yankees, but you are still rooting for the Mets, which is to say an overpriced failure with tinges of outright moral depravity. And when you pay Cablevision, you pay the people who own the Knicks. So if either party was on fire, and I had to take a piss? No sale. Moving on.)

Anyhoo... more or less taking a PR pass on this mess has been NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, aka the most powerful man in American sports, and MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, aka the most loathed man in American sports. And both of them have, rather than taken any action, let this Russian roulette routine go on, costing their leagues revenue in the short and potentially long term, and making fans of their leagues wonder just who, exactly, has their best interests at heart. (Answer: No one.) And if you think that just because you don't use Cablevision, you aren't affected, or that if you just bite the bullet and switch to satellite, everything will be fine... well, wrong. Fox sees this as a revenue channel that needs to be created in a down economy, and due to the remarkably poor PR of cable and satellite providers, they are going to go after this with aggression. Today, Cablevision; tomorrow, very likely, your system. (And yes, I'm sure that Fox has cause for some revenue from this channel, in that I'm sure that bedbugs and other loathsome parasites have some cause for existence. But it's not exactly a position you need to defend, unless you're getting paid by the Bedbug Lobby.)

The timing of this is, of course, directly related to the calendar. There is no time of the year that Fox's viewers are more in thrall to their offerings; it's the start of the new season (I have to have my "Glee", because I don't get enough "High School Musical" -- and yes, that would be sarcasm) and the games that baseball and football fans want to see the most. Had this gone down in, say, August, the only thing that would have happened is that you'd have more people cutting off their cable for a Web-only play, the way that a third of under-35 Netflix users already have done. And if there's one thing that sports fans and "Glee" devotees can agree on, it's this: being used as a bargaining chip is more or less intolerable.

It could, of course, end tomorrow with one simple decision by Selig and Goodell. They could allow for a free broadcast on their Web properties of the affected games, and eliminate the cable and broadcast middle-men. This would, of course, prompt threats of lawsuits from Fox, but more importantly, it would help to end the impasse with Cablevision, and perhaps persuade Fox to undergo the binding arbitration hearings that appear to be the only way out of things. (As to why Fox hasn't accepted arbitration, it's simple: they'd lose, and set a precedent for losing when they try this nonsense in other parts of this company.)

And in the long term, especially if they can promise a broadcast with limited commercial interruption? Both leagues could get more for their product, control the "news" coverage of their leagues to an even more Orwellian degree (no more of those hard-hitting journalist stories from the purveyors of Fairly Hyped and Balanced Hyped), and ensure that their fans -- particularly the younger ones who get hooked on playoff baseball in ways that last a lifetime -- don't miss the games that matter the most.

So, Bud? Do something popular and right for the fans, for once in your miserable life. Put the game on your site, and let Fox's lawyers be hanged.

And Roger, isn't this a better thing for people to be talking about your league than, say, concussions and/or the advent of contact-free football?

Top Ten NLCS and ALCS Takeaways

10) It's good that the Giants and Phillies aren't starting Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay three times, since neither has been all that great

9) The Yankees would feel a lot better about their comeback chances if they could sign Cliff Lee now, rather than in a few months

8) Jayson Werth is making himself a ridiculous amount of money, which means he'll finally be able to buy a razor

7) It's good that the ALCS is going back to Texas, since when the games are played there, people are actually in the front row seats

6) This Buster Posey kid is going to be really good once his voice changes

5) The Rangers are just a win away from their first World Series appearance in the fifty year history of the franchise, and the Giants have not won it in 52 years on the West Coast, but Cub Fans have had it much, much more rough (just ask them)

4) Giants Fan is just a big old ball of positive thinking right about now, since their history is just filled with positive post-season memories

3) Bud Selig is more than a little thrilled that the series are going to go long, and that we're not necessarily doomed to Rangers-Giants

2) Ryan Howard still hasn't driven in a run in this series, so his .400 OBP and .471 SLG means nothing, and the 2-3 series deficit is all his fault

1) The Giants might have already won this series if they could just stop kicking the ball around and being fat tubs of goo

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Top 10 ways the NFL is going to help defensive players avoid dangerous hits

10) Show all defensive players that if they behave violently, they are giving aid and comfort to Matt Millen

9) Change the jerseys of offensive players so that they have designated Hit and No Hit areas

8) Make offending players wear the breast cancer awareness gear all year long

7) Let them know that when ESPN puts you on their highlights, part of their soul dies

6) Change the big hits highlight package to videos of proper wrapping up

5) Convince wide receivers to just stop running so fast, so that the inevitable collisions aren't so dangerous

4) Just call pass interference on more plays, since that seems to fix everything

3) Every time a QB throws a pass that puts his WR in harm's way, he has to change positions with the wideout and run the same pattern

2) Either improve helmets so much as to prevent concussions, or remove them entirely, so that guys stop hitting each other with them

1) Point out that they can still drink, screw, gamble and hurt people in their 40s and 50s, so they actually have a reason to live that long

NBA 2010-2011 Predictions

Now that my fantasy team has been chosen, it's time to share my incredibly astute predictions for what's going to happen this year. Let's get right into it, shall we?

Rookie of the Year: John Wall. I'm not entirely sold on Wall; I think he's going to have trouble finishing against NBA talent, his jumper is still far from reliable, and defensively, he's going to be a sieve on a team that doesn't need another one of those, especially if he's paired for long with Gilbert Arenas. But there are more important things, especially to people who vote for awards, than actually helping your team win, especially when your team has been as DOA as the Wiz. Wall will play big minutes, score big points, and have big highlights; he's basically going to have the Allen Iverson rookie of the year campaign. And if we're lucky, this will be the worst year of his career. (Runner-up: DeMarcus Cousins, Sacremento, who will actually be a better player, but will struggle for minutes and have an insanity moment during the year that will cost him a lot of votes.)

MVP: Kevin Durant. Assuming health, this is a lock. The Miami Three are going to counter each other, and the only way that one of them would win and overcome the PR problem is to go for 70 wins for an injury-riddled club. Chris Paul won't win enough, Kobe Bryant won't play enough, and Dirk Nowitzki isn't sexy enough. Amar'e Stoudemire will be lucky to make the playoffs, and no Celtic will emerge from the team. So it leaves Durant and second-tier candidates like Brandon Roy, Deron Williams, Dwight Howard... and the Association is a points league. KD in a walk, and it won't be his last. Besides, he's the only top gun in the Association that everybody still likes.

First Team All NBA: Durant, Howard, Bryant, Nowitzki and Chris Paul.

Second Team: Roy, Deron Williams, Pau Gasol, Stoudemire and Al Jefferson.

Third Team: Steve Nash, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Danny Granger and Marc Gasol.

Sixth Man: JJ Reddick. Orlando is still going to be good this year, and Reddick made his name in last year's playoffs, when such things happen. With Matt Barnes gone, Vince Carter prone to injury, and the Association's voters looking to do anything but reward Miami Vice, look for the voters to go for the Dookie.

Coach of the Year: Jerry Sloan. This is usually a kiss of death award; by the time you win it, you can pretty much put the house up on the market, because you are about 18 to 24 months away from getting run. The Association is not kind to genuises; it's more like coaxing effort from thoroughbreds, rather than a traditional my way or the highway experience. Utah, of course, is not like that, because the organization doesn't bring in talent that won't play in this single team market, and they are coached by one of the very best to ever walk the sideline. Sloan's offense gets good looks for limited players, keeps a team that's not dripping with athleticism scoring easy hoops, and it would all work so much better if they only had a guy to guard Kobe Bryant. The whole last ten years would have been very, very different. Anyway, the Jazz will win 50+ games this year yet again, and Sloan will make enough noise about getting too old for this, so they'll finally give him the nod.

Defensive Player of the Year: Howard. I'm not saying he doesn't deserve it; the man is a beast on that end of the floor, and utterly essential to the Magic's scheme. But the telling thing, really, is that short of injury or some disastrous drop in numbers, Dwight's winning this thing for another five to ten years. There just isn't anyone like him, and whether it's fair or not, blocked shots and boards just has more of a feel of dominant defense than lockdown positioning or steals. And it's going to take an awful lot of nerd work to convince anyone differently.

Playoffs: In the East, it'll be Miami, Orlando, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Milwaukee and Charlotte. But you can be safe to only care about the top four in that list. The top four win in the first round, with Miami taking out Chicago in the second round, and Orlando disposing of Boston in the second. Your conference champion? Miami. But it will be a war.

In the West, it'll be the Lakers, San Antonio, Utah, Oklahoma City, Denver, Dallas, New Orleans and (shocker!) Memphis. In the first round, the Lakers, Jazz, Thunder and Hornets (shocking the Spurs) go through. In the second round, it's the Lakers and Thunder, with the Lake Show going to the finals.

Finals: Lakers over the Heat in six in Phil Jackson's swan song. And yes, he's leaving after this one, because Coach Philip doesn't like to play unless he's got the best hand, and after this year, he won't have it.

And the real story... Nuclear Winter, aka a potentially league-destroying lockout and/or strike, is on the horizon. The Association has some tremendous advantages going forward. Alone among the American major sports, it has global appeal and the world's best athletes, with nearly every continent now represented. It translates well to HD, 3-D, mobile and online. Merch sells well, the game appeals to a broad cross-section of women and kids along with guys, there's no worries about the players not being able to walk or chew gum in their 50s, and there's rampant geek love in the advanced statistical analysis of the game. The Heat have the chance to be a truly polarizing / captivating team, and to shake things up from the pure Boston / LA mix; if Chicago also ascends, there's an awful lot of big media markets to push the ratings up a bit. I feel a lot better about the long-term popularity of the gam than, say, baseball.

But the attendance is not good in this economy, and dozens of franchises start each year with no realistic chance at a championship, despite the presence of a salary cap. Real gambling and nerd gambling (fantasy) doesn't really work for more than a niche audience of degenerates. There's still a strong smell of racism in the hatred of the league, and there probably always will be. And if the league presses the button and eats a significant portion of the year, in a time where people are losing their homes, hating the banks, freaking out over immigrants and more?

Well, there's an awful lot of potential for a bloodbath here.

Personally, I don't think it's going to happen. All Father Stern doesn't want to go out like that, and the NBA players union has been his speed bag for decades now. Many of these guys live paycheck to paycheck despite the sums involved, and there's an every man for himself ethic, especially among the stars, that's going to seriously wreck any chance of solidarity.

But the danger is still there, because like MLB in the 90s, this isn't about the owners versus the players. It's about the large market owners versus the small market owners versus the players. And when that happens, that's when leagues lose years.

Anyway, let's enjoy hoop while we can. It's going to be an amazing year.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

NFL Week 7 Picks: The Spread Is Too Damn High

Ladies and gentlemen, I come to you today a changed man. It's all thanks to Jimmy McMillan, our next governor for the great state of New York, and a man who speaks (and raps, kind of) truth to power. He's inspired me to change my ways, and I can tell you now, after six weeks of doing the work of picking NFL games in a way that would fail a properly weighted coin, one plain and simple truth.

The Spread Is Too Damn High.

For Crying Out Loud.

(puts on leather gloves, finds that it's impossible to type while wearing them, takes them off)

How are you supposed to pick games in this current climate and provide for your children, when the spread is too damn high? Last week, we had three outright pushes and two losses by a half point. And yes, the pushes hurt. If the Twitter feeds that I monitor are to be trusted (hah!), some poor schmuck went 15-0-1 in his ultimate sucker bet of picking every game in a casino, and got stoned. Further proof, not that you needed it, that God has a sense of humor, but that He isn't laughing with you. Also, that gambling is going to get you killed. For Crying Out Loud.

(spends 30 minutes cultivating elaborate facial hair)

As someone who also knows karate, I will not speak ill of any other source for picking games. So let's just get funky, forget our troubles, and Do It, Do It. We embrace the push. At least when it's fun-kee.

And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

Cincinnati at ATLANTA (-5.5)

A dicey little game for the suddenly reeling Falcons, who were never in the road game last week in Philly, and now have the bye rested Bengals coming to town. I like the home team to recover, mostly because I think QB Carson Palmer will ensure that the Falcons win the turnover battle, and I don't particularly trust Marvin Lewis and his coterie of VH-1 divas to do much good with extra time to prepare. I also have too much faith in QB Matt Ryan's abilities, but at home, it's not that critical a failing.

Falcons 27, Bengals 20

WASHINGTON at Chicago (-3)

The Skins get after the QB, and the Bears are just reeling when it comes to protection schemes; that undefeated start to the season seems like a long time ago, especially after you blow a home game to the immortal Marshawn Lynch and the Seattle Seabags. (Hey, here's a hint: when you can't protect the QB, maybe you should run the ball? Nah, perish the thought, since Mike Martz is still here.)

Besides, there is a reason why QB Donovan McNabb wins so many of his lifetime starts, and QB Jay Cutler, well, doesn't. RB Ryan Torain has about 2-3 more quality games before he gets hurt, and HC Mike Shanahan throws some other no-name into Brief Fantasy Football Relevance, but for now, the Skins roll.

Redskins 24, Bears 20

PHILADELPHIA at Tennessee (NL)

There was no line on this one due to the question of whether it will be QB Vince Young or QB Kerry Collins behind center for the Titans. I suspect that it's going to be Young, which might actually work out to the Eagles' benefit, given how they've generally fared better against younger and more mobile QBs, at least in comparison to people who've seen a few blitzes in their life. Take a good look at Collins now, with his Very Old Man Hair, and it's not as if you are going to frighten him with a free rusher, or that he doesn't know how to get it to the hot read.

So I'm going with the road laundry, and will probably regret this, in that there is no good reason to think that an NFC team can go on the road against the AFC and win, let alone against a quality RB... but there's something not quite electrifying about Chris Johnson this year, and the Titans do have a short week. I also have to think that the run defense stoning Michael Turner last week mattered, and even the Jags kept Johnson under wraps on MNF until the Titans force-fed their stud to the delight of CJ's fantasy owners. So long as QB Kevin Kolb doesn't get another WR killed this week, I think the Eagles win this one and go into the bye week with as much claim as anyone to being the best team in the NFC. Oh, and I apologize in advance for the jinx.

Eagles 27, Titans 20

Jacksonville at KANSAS CITY (NL)

For Crying Out Loud... when the Jags lose, they lose with complete and utter abandon. This week, they look like they might be going with QB Trent Edwards, who actually looked better than QB David Garrard in that wipeout of a MNF game, in that a solid turd looks better than a hot mess. On the road in KC, they'll have no aerial game -- the Chiefs are actually sneaky good on defense, as per witness in their almost-cover loss to the Colts in Indy -- and won't be able to hold up in the long run against a patient and potent run attack. This is also another game in which the Chiefs' up and coming special teams should make a difference, and Arrowhead is alive again as a home field. (And if you are hurting for a defense this week, use KC with abandon. The Jags don't travel well, RB Maurice Jones-Drew is looking suddenly long in the tooth, and they don't have a QB on the roster that scares anyone but their fans.)

Chiefs 24, Jags 13

PITTSBURGH at Miami (+2.5)

Heat check time for the Steelers, who welcomed back QB Ben Roethlisberger last week and nearly failed to cover against the Browns, with a rookie QB, at home. Mostly because they didn't clamp down on the check down options, which is kind of indefensible, seeing how the Browns have no one capable of beating a quality CB deep. Yes, I'm actually a little concerned about my AFC Juggernaut, but they've earned enough trust in the first six weeks to pick them here regardless.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins won in overtime in Green Bay, which would be more impressive if the Pack weren't walking wounded, or if the Fish didn't need long figgies, didn't get roasted by WR Greg Jennings, and didn't make meh RB Brandon Jackson look competent. So it's not as if they come into this one firing on all cylinders, either.

Look for the Fish to move the ball in this one, but fail in the red zone and lose the turnover battle. And for the Steelers to actually get a big play or two in special teams against the suspect Dolphin units.

Steelers 27, Dolphins 19

CLEVELAND at New Orleans (-14)

You knew this was coming, right? Right.

(clears throat, puts on gloves)


The Saints finally showed up in 2010 as a relatively close approximation to last year's pinball machine against the Bucs last week, with rookie RB Chris Ivory breaking the 150 yard mark. But I don't think they do it again. The Browns have too good of an offensive line to get the speedy possession changes that lead to an exhausted defense, and RB Peyton Hillis somehow went for 90 total yards in Pittsburgh last week at less than full power. The Saints are not the Steelers, particularly in the defensive front seven, and if rookie QB Colt McCoy could move the sticks in Heinz Field in his first step, a road game in the Superdome isn't that terrifying, either. The home team will win the game, but they won't cover this big of a number, simply because they won't get enough possessions. Also, the crowd just won't care enough to really go for blood, since they'll be up and relatively comfortable all day.

Saints 27, Browns 17

St. Louis at TAMPA BAY (-3)

At the start of the year, this one looked like the kind of game you'd show to prisoners, but now it's surprisingly frisky game, due to the power of two intriguing young QBs. The Rams are the last (only?) hope for a fun NFC West division winner, as rookie QB Sam Bradford appears to be well on his way to winning Rookie of the Year. But they are also the same club that got hammered in Detroit. Tampa has shown that when sparky young QB Josh Freeman turns it over (Pittsburgh, New Orleans), they are roadkill, but otherwise they are plenty tough. Coming off the spanking, I think they show too much pride to roll over in successive weeks. And assuming the young guns stay healthy, this will be a playoff game in a year or two.

Bucs 23, Rams 17

San Francisco at CAROLINA (+3)

The Niners finally got a win last week against Oakland, and they face a team with nearly as bad a QB situation here. The Panthers are going back to the past with opening week starting QB Matt Moore taking the job back from Jimmy Claussen, who made Panther Fan remember Chris Weinke in his time on the job. The Panthers certainly aren't good, but with two weeks to prepare for a team that doesn't travel well and struggles with a coach that seems more interested in motivational ploys than making his team better... well, I've got just the slightest inkling of faith in head coach Jon Fox, and none in the Niners.

So let's take the home team with the surprisingly frisky defense, and put to rest any delusional notion that the Niners are going to make a year of this. Besides, Moore is at his best when there are absolutely no expectations, and it's not going to take a ton of points to win this one. (Admittedly, "best" is stretching it.)

Panthers 17, Niners 13

Buffalo at BALTIMORE (-14)

Charm City will break out the Angry Whipping Stick for this week's game against the hapless Bills, who really should start getting consideration for a winless year right about now. It will be a good week to own the Ravens' defense in your roto league, and while Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has the potential for sneaky fantasy goodness, that assumes he stays conscious for the whole thing. After last week's tight and no fight loss in New England, look for the Ravens to prove a big nasty point in this one.

As for Buffalo, countdown to winless starts in earnest this week, despite Fitzpatrick's Mario-esque scamper powers. I keep waiting for them to give the ball to CJ Spiller 15 to 20 times, just so that he'll get hurt and finish off that small moment of Bills Fan Hope. This franchise just needs to move already, so that the fan misery changes.

Ravens 31, Bills 13

Arizona at SEATTLE (-6)

How can you pick against the Seabags after a big win in Chicago? You can't, of course, especially against another one of their weak division sisters. Arizona does get back some weapons in WR Steve Breaston and Early Doucet, which will help rookie QB Max Hall look like he's got a little bounce in his step... but the real home field advantage will come into play here, and the Arizona defense has just been awful for much of the year. The really scary thing about this game is that the winner is going to have serious playoff hopes. (Mind you, it will be a home game in which they get beaten by double digits. But still serious.)

Seahawks 27, Cardinals 17

Oakland at DENVER (NL)

At what point do we stick a fork in the idea of the Asomugha Effect? The Chargers' Malcolm Floyd went for over 200 yards against them. Niner QB Alex Smith didn't lose his game. The few big plays that the defense has made this year have mostly been off pressure from the front seven. And the man got paid big a few years ago, and has to watch QB monstrosities like Jason Campbell and Kyle Boller (this week's likely starter / stooge) on a routine basis. You'd stop trying, too.

As for this game, look for Denver QB Kyle Orton to throw for big numbers from getting the ball back with alacrity, seeing how the Raiders will be playing a QB (Boller) that's more notable for what he's banging (Carrie Prejean, that clueless gay-bashing Republican fundie Miss America) than anything else in his professional life. Someone needs to tell the world why fourth-rate NFLers like Boller and Hank Baskett land this level of tail. (Oh, because the tail has nothing between the ears? Thanks, that explains things.) Raider Fan will find the inevitable Jesus Teblow touchdown disagreeable.

Denver 31, Oakland 16

NEW ENGLAND at San Diego (-3)

The classic trap game for the team with the long flight, and the Chargers are a different team at home... but with hobbled receivers Antonio Gates and Malcolm Floyd, the Chargers just don't have enough (Patrick Crayton and Butch Davis, really?) to sustain drives. That's deadly against the Patriots, who also have the encouraging sight of their defense coming up big to help last week's wins. And if the Rams -- the Rams! -- can put QB Philip Rivers on the ground repeatedly, in a game where he had the use of Gates and Floyd for at least part of the game... yikes.

But look on the bright side, Charger Fan. Norv's sure to get tossed for this year, right? And maybe AJ "Lord Of No Rings" Smith as well, for the whole Vincent Jackson fiasco. Maybe you can get Marty Schottenheimer back. (Er, no.)

Patriots 34, Chargers 17

Minnesota at GREEN BAY (-3)

The cringe-inducing SNF Hype Game this week sees Brett Favre (with, one presumes, L'il Brett in tow) coming back to town for the second time to face what one has to think will be a united wall of hatred and disdain from Packer Fans. And Packer Fan, BTW... if you don't give this man your united disdain, you are soft in the head. It's been a decade since the Super Bowl that Reggie White won. He quit on your franchise. He plays for your biggest rival. He's an unmitigated attention whore and commercial sellout, a clumsy sack of harassment, and a turnover machine. Boo him with your whole heart, and be free.

As for the game itself, the secret shame of the Vikings this year is that they do not get to the QB nearly as well as last year's club, and while it's still tough to run on them, it's no longer impossible. Look for QB Aaron Rodgers, a week away from his concussion and motivated to end any and all whispers about being a liability in close games, to make this one... not close.

Packers 31, Vikings 20

NEW YORK at Dallas (-3.5)

Dallas needs the game; New York doesn't. But New York is actually a decent road team, with the ability to run the ball and rush the passer, with the best weapons at wideout in Eli Manning's career. Speaking of Manning The Lesser, he's an October menace, with a career 19-4 mark as a starter. That's the best record among modern (post Super Bowl) starting QBs with 20 trips to the post. And well, the Cowboys just seem snakebit to me, and would have made a coaching change if they still felt this year was salvageable. When you start force-feeding your limited and overweight speed back (Felix Jones), rather than seeing what you have with Tashard Choice... well, here's the only thing that you need to know about the Cowboys.

Number of wins: 1

Number of excessive celebration penalties following touchdowns that have directly led to losses: 2

So much for home field in the Super Bowl, Jerruh. And that's too *damn* bad.

Giants 24, Cowboys 20

Last week: 4-7-3

Year to date: 35-48-8

Lifetime: 315-325-19

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