29 December 2010

Wednesday Football: In a blizzard. Uphill. Both ways.

Why, when I was a teenager, I did all my calculus homework on a slide rule.  Outside, while walking two miles through a meter of snow to my school-bus stop.  Uphill, both ways.

That statement is silly, of course, but not much more ridiculous than Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell's ill-considered criticism of this week's postponement of the Vikings-Eagles game.  For me, broadly speaking, it's what Tom Kinslow said over at Bleacher Report.  And that's as many column millimeters as I want to blow on this.


2010 fantasy football wrap:  Well, the third time was indeed the charm, and that was bad news for the Fluttering Horde.  I did what I could, and even made up for Andre Johnson's last minute injury, but my running backs and tight end failed me.  Even if they hadn't, Anything But Last had just too much firepower.  After beating ABL twice during the regular season, the Horde lost the league championship, 122-96.  Still, for a team that never got two decent running backs together all season long, and finished 9-7, I'm pretty freakin' happy.  More importantly, it got me a 3:1 payoff and fantasy silver.  Yay, Horde!

The Middlemen also finished 9-7, pounding the Juken' Jockstraps, 127-68, in its fifth-place game.

My most valuable players:
  • For the Fluttering Horde:  For the second year in a row, St. Louis wideout Danny Amendola saved my skin.  At the beginning of the year, the Rams tried to make him a full-time receiver, so I didn't draft him.  Soon enough, though, the Rams made him their lead kick returner.  I picked him up, and he delivered 10-18 points week in and week out.  No one was more reliable.
  • For the Middlemen:  Chicago running back Matt Forte also gave me solid numbers every week, even as everyone else on the team, including the much-ballyhooed Chris Johnson, sputtered.
I'm going to try to get them both next year.


25 December 2010

Hoping your Christmas Day is going well

Well, here at the edge of Chicagoland, we've been treated to another white Christmas.  All the snow came yesterday during a day-long shower.  It's pretty enough, but the temperature is right around the freezing point of water.  The show on the streets iced up, so even walking got slippery this morning.

Oh, well.  It's Christmas, and we didn't have plans to go out.  The salt can wait until tomorrow.

Merry Christmas, one and all!


21 December 2010

Tuesday Football: Happy returns

On a landmark week for kick returners, it makes sense to debate which spectacular return was the week's best:
My vote is obvious:  in only one of these cases did someone go through the trouble to simulate the play on the glorious Tecmo Super Bowl game.  Enjoy!



After the actual play, the FOX cameras panned onto Giants coach Tom Coughlin, yelling at his punter. While the ball should've been kicked out of bounds, no team should ever be punting in the closing seconds of a close game.  To his credit, Coughlin didn't fire his punter, so he probably realizes that he deserves blame for leaving his team to punt that way in the first place.


Fantasy football update:  Sometimes, the last minute of a real game directly affects a fantasy game.   With Green Bay driving for a winning touchdown Sunday night, the Fluttering Horde led its semifinal match by only 2.4 points. A Packer touchdown would have cost the Horde three points and the game.   Instead, the Patriots' defense came up with two sacks (+2 points each) and the game-ending fumble recovery (+2).

Final score: Fluttering Horde, 103; Southside Hitmen, 95. The Horde advanced to 9-6 and a date with Anything But Last. I've already beaten ABL twice, but this one is for the league championship.

The Middlemen got a break when Adrian Peterson suddenly bowed out of last night's blowout loss to Chicago.  Without Peterson, the Warriors didn't have enough to rally.  Their 116-102 win puts the 8-7 Middlemen into the fifth-place game against the Jukin' Jockstraps.  The good news is that Michael Vick will again lead the Middlemen.

The bad news is that Vick will also be leading ABL.  Peyton Manning had better be on his best behavior.


14 December 2010

Tuesday Football: Where every seat is cheap

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! (FOX Sports)
Sensational as it is, Sunday's failure of the stadium roof in Minneapolis points to some rather disturbing facts.  In the first place, this is not the first time the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome roof has collapsed under a lot of snow.  After the third one in 1983, and a wind-related failure in 1986, Metrodome officials made some technical fixes to strengthen the roof system.  Unfortunately, it now appears that the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, the body that maintains the stadium, may have ignored warnings about the fiberglass roof itself.  Replacing the roof would cost 12-15 million dollars, and I wonder whether the MSFC just thought that investment was too expensive.  The answer to that question doesn't matter now, I suppose.

But stop and think about this:  According the the people who designed and built it, the roof has "has exceeded its service life of 20 years."  Seriously?  The good people of the Twin Cities spent tens of millions of dollars on something that with a lifetime of only 20 years?  Just to keep an effing sports team?

That question also occurred to the folks over at Treehugger, who noted that the Metrodome was built both quickly and cheaply.   I had always wondered why the Pontiac Silverdome, once home to the Detroit Lions and host of the classic Super Bowl XVI, ended up selling for only $500,000 after the Lions abandoned it.  And, what, I wondered, was the point of building the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis if the Colts were going to dump it in only 25 years?  For that matter, what about other huge venues that didn't make it to their 40th anniversaries?  The Kingdome?  Veterans' Stadium?  The NBA arenas in Orlando and Charlotte?

These things got built because, in order to keep their beloved sports teams from moving to some other city (or, in the case of Indianapolis, to steal a team) municipalities had to build new arenas, and build them right now.  Again:  what's the point in redirecting tens -- now hundreds -- of millions of taxpayer dollars on a major building if it's not going to last that many decades?  So the sports team(s) can make millions, not a dime of which goes back to the city?  So the cities and/or states that spend that kind of money can do it again in 20 years?

A 100,000-seat stadium full of dog manure, that's what it is.  I don't care who's spending a billion dollars for a new stadium.  For that much money, the Cowboys and New Meadowlands venues had damned will better withstand a hell of a lot more than a meter of snow.


Fantasy football update:  Well, what'll you know?  Both my teams won this week.

Victory came too late for the Middlemen (7-7), whose struggles kept tracking with those of Antonio Gates' feet.  For once, the Middlemen got a team on its worst week.  Again, the performance was weak, but it was enough for an 84-74 win over the playoff-bound Tin Men.  It didn't matter, alas, as fourth-place No Clue also, relegating the Middlemen to the consolation bracket.

I'm not going to stick God for all the blame for wasting a team as talented as the Middlemen.  [In the family league, top-seeded Anything But Last shares no fewer than five players with them.]  Its fast start surprised me, and also blinded me to the possibility that I could lose key players to injury.  I waited too long to find substitutes, and it hurt.  Also, I never did find a steady defense.  [This week's squad, Oakland, scored zero points.]  The Middlemen's bigger problem, though, was bad luck:  they seemed to catch every opponent on its best week.  As I've discovered to my regret, the most talented team in the league is doomed if it has to rack up 110 Yahoo-standard points to win every week.

On the other side, the news is much happier for the Fluttering Horde (8-6), 111-56 quarterfinal winners over Osogood.  The match was over once the Patriots, whose defense the Horde uses, blew out my beloved Bears.  On Monday, Andre Johnson and Ahmad Bradshaw pitched in 44 points that the Horde really didn't need.  Up in next week's semifinal:  an earlier Horde victim, the Southside Hitmen.  Now that Peyton Manning's earned his way out of my doghouse, I like my chances to finish in some money.


07 December 2010

Tuesday Football: Shoulder leads

So the Pets Jets were irretrievably exposed as fakes last night in Massachusetts.  Normally, I'd dismiss a 45-3 loss by a 9-3 team as an outlier, but they're now running out of secondary personnel.  On a team as dependent on defense as the Jets, that's a staggering blow.  They'll advance to the playoffs, but only because the sick bays filled up faster in Indianapolis and San Diego.


The death of Don Meredith, just a week after Leslie Nielsen passed on, is really saddening.  Too much funny is going away too quickly.

I'm too young to remember Meredith the Dallas Cowboy quarterback, but his years as co-commentator with Howard Cosell made some of the best sports television ever.  "Dandy Don" got Cosell to lighten up just a bit, and Howard conviced Meredith to take himself a bit more seriously.  Those little bits made them a great team, rendered Frank Gifford irrelevant, and made every Monday night game watchable.  If nothing else, I could look forward to hearing Meredith croon out the Willie Nelson chorus that became his signature:
Turn out the lights
The party’s over
They say that
All good things must end
Call it tonight
The party’s over
And tomorrow starts
The same old thing again
Godspeed, Don Meredith.


Fantasy football update:  Success for the Fluttering Horde, more frustration for the Middlemen.

Anything but Last, the Horde's opponent, lost Percy Harvin early, but it turned out not to matter.  The Horde lineup fell only six points short of its optimal score, blowing away my former in-law, 121-102, and stopping a two-game skid.  ABL won the regular-season crown at 10-3, but I'm proud to say that the Horde accounted for two of those losses.  The Horde finished the regular season at 7-6, good for a #6 playoff seed.  Next up: my nephew and the commissioner, Osogood.

The Middlemen also faced an eight-man team, thanks to Brett Farve's injury, but then the Pets Jets screwed up.  Their defense cost me a critical point, and sent the Middlemen crashing to their fourth straight loss, 95-89.  It's also the third loss the 6-7 Middlemen -- who started 4-1 -- have taken to a short-handed opponent.  But for the fact that the team has "allowed" the most fantasy points in its league, I'd have decided to just let Yahoo! set my lineup this week.  As it is, I might be adding streaking Saints RB Christopher Ivory to the team.  If I can pull that off, the Middlemen still have a shot at the playoffs.



30 November 2010

Tuedsay Football: The Butter Fingers of God

The Ghost-Grey Cat hereby presents its first Tweet of the Month.  [I'm not actually on Twitter, so don't expect many of these.]

From Twitter (naturally), via TMZ
Here's what happened:  After his Buffalo Bills had forced visiting Pittsburgh into overtime, the Steelers left wide receiver Steve Johnson wide open for a winning touchdown pass.  Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a perfect strike... which Johnson then dropped.  The Steelers later won with a field goal.  If the post-game press conference didn't make Johnson's distress clear, his later Twitter message drove it home.

The reaction was swift, negative and, as typified by TMZ's snarky remark about the tweet, utterly wrong.  We often see athletes who score a winning play thanking God; why not, as George Carlin once suggested, blame God once in a while for a failure?  Johnson deserves a shout-out, not condemnation, for admitting to blaming God.  In any event, it's not as though he hadn't already blamed himself for that dropped pass.

Enough with the flames, people.  Most of you would do exactly what he did.


Fantasy update:   Well, my season is going to the dogs.  Key players keep failing, and some with high profiles are now headed to my benches.

Exhibit A:  overall first pick Chris Johnson, who gained a grand total of 7 yards in Tennessee's 20-0 loss at Houston.  Any kind of decent performance would've put the Middlemen in striking distance, but instead, they lost to No Clue 2010, 120-104.  It didn't help that No Clue had Tom Brady, Wes Welker and BenJarvus Green-Ellis (total: eight touchdowns), but with Antonio Gates still hobbled, I needed help from C.J.  He provided none.  Until the Titan offense regains its senses, starting C.J. is pointless.

Exhibit B:  Peyton Manning, who also had his worst game in years.  It contributed mightily to The Fluttering Horde's 99-74 loss to Flying Hawai'ian 3.  Theoretically, Manning should bounce back next week at Dallas.  In reality, his Fluttering Horde season has come to a shockingly early end.  Injuries have taken away the Colts running game and most of their receivers.  I'm sure Manning will perform well, and he may even win out.  What he can't do now is score fantasy points, so Atlanta's Matt Ryan will assume quarterback duties for the rest of the season.

Both teams are 6-6 and falling.  Look out below!


26 November 2010

The Ghost-Grey Cat Presents: (8) The Woman Who Wanted to Live

Episode 1322:  The Woman Who Wanted to Live
First aired:  14 June 1982
Author:  Bryce Walton
Dude, it's on!
I should do you a favor?  Walk to my place of execution? -- Liza to Ray Bardon
Hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving.  Here's a hint for the future:  Achiote and cilantro turn out to be excellent ingredients for your turkey-basting sauce.  It sounds crazy, but the meat is delicious.

The CBS Radio Mystery Theater had almost a year's notice of its cancellation.  CBS permitted the 1982 season to proceed, but declined to extend it into 1983.  Perhaps not surprisingly, producer Himan Brown opened RMT to all sorts of experimental scripts.  With Tammy Grimes assuming Marshall's host duties, the 1982 season featured some of the series' worst episodes, some of its best, and a few that reached just beyond their grasp.

"The Woman Who Wanted to Live," which aired in June, might be the best of the 1982 lot, so it was disappointing to learn that it was originally an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.  Two decades after penning the original screenplay for the half-hour AHP, Bryce Walton expanded it into the hour-long radio episode.

It's literally a dark and stormy night on the Gulf Coast.  Convicted murderer Ray Bardon (Larry Haines) has escaped from prison, but at serious cost.  The gunshot wound he's just suffered doesn't require immediate attention, but it has left him too weak to keep running on his own.  If he is to avoid recapture, someone else will have to drive him to another state.

His first chance to bum a ride comes at an isolated gas station, whose hapless attendant informs him that the vehicle parked outside is actually disabled.  A disbelieving Bardon kills him; but before he can hide the body or move on, the titular woman (Roberta Maxwell) pulls into the station.  By now, word of Bardon's escape has spread, and young Liza makes the mistake of identifying him out loud.  Bardon is ready to kill her on the spot, too, but Liza stays calm.  She convinces him that killing her would be a mistake; that would still leave him stranded.  Instead, he carjacks her.

To buy time, and maybe a way out of her situation, Liza agrees to help Bardon -- but she doesn't submit.  As she drives him past this flooded-out road and that police checkpoint, she's engaged him in a serious battle of wits, and he knows it.  But does he really understand the severity of this battle -- or the lengths to which she will go to survive the encounter?

The joy of the story isn't in its outcome, but in the path Liza takes.  She may start out as a damsel in distress, but that image fades quickly.  She quickly gains advantage and initiative, but we have to wait until the end to discover whether she can use either.  It's Liza's trip that makes "The Woman Who Wanted to Live" one of RMT's best episodes.

Rating:  98/100.

Notes:
  1. The 1962 television version featured Charles Bronson as Bardon.
  2. Act I is one of only two in the entire series -- 4197 acts -- that consists of a single, continuous scene.  The other is Act I of "A Ring of Roses" (Episode 13).  [Perhaps not coincidentally, "Ring" is also one my favorites.]  Furthermore, these are two of only 22 RMT episodes in which all three acts share the same musical curtain.  [To be fair, as a sign of the series' declining fortunes, 16 of those aired in its last 18 months.]
  3. Bryce Walton was probably best known as a frequent contributor to the science-fiction pulps of the 1940s and '50s, though he also wrote mystery stories in the '60s.  "Woman" is one of four RMT episodes he wrote, and one of six from Alfred Hitchcock Presents.  [But it's the only one to appear in both series.]
  4.  

23 November 2010

Tuesday Football: More Victory Weighting

If it's the fourth week of November, then Thanksgiving must be near. In the NFL, that means it's time for the playoff races to start taking form.  Here's where Victory Weighting begins to matter.

[Press the "Victory Weighting" button to see how my system works.  The "VW Standings" button takes you to the standings with the Victory Weighting rules in effect.]

Officially, the playoff projections look like this:
  • NFC byes:  Atlanta (8-2, South leader), Philadelphia (7-3, East leader)
  • NFC first-round hosts: Chicago (7-3, North leader), Seattle (5-5, West leader)
  • NFC wild cards: Green Bay (7-3), New Orleans (7-3)
  • Just outside the NFC picture:  Tampa Bay (7-3)
  • AFC byes:  New York Jets (8-2, East leader), Baltimore (7-3, North leader)
  • AFC first-round hosts: Kansas City (6-4, West leader), Jacksonville (6-4, South leader)
  • AFC wild cards: New England (8-2), Pittsburgh (7-3)
  • Just outside the AFC picture:  Indianapolis (6-4)
The official projection requires 9 tiebreakers:
  1. Divisional tiebreakers in the NFC Norh, AFC North, AFC South and AFC East (4)
  2. Qualfying tiebreakers:  Green Bay vs. New Orleans vs. Tampa Bay, Jacksonville vs. Indianapolis (2)
  3. Seeding tiebreakers:  Philadelphia vs. Chicago, Kansas City vs. Jacksonville, Green Bay vs. New Orleans (3)
By contrast, Victory Weighting yields an alternative playoff picture:
  • NFC byes:  Atlanta (Strength 32, South leader), Green Bay (Strength 30, North leader)
  • NFC first-round hosts:  Philadelphia (Strength 28, East leader), Seattle (Strength 20, West leader)
  • NFC wild cards:  New Orleans (Strength 29), Tampa Bay (Strength 28)
  • Just outside the NFC picture:  Chicago (Strength 28)
  • AFC byes:  New England (Strength 31, East leader), Baltimore (Strength 28, North leader)
  • AFC first-round hosts: Kansas City (Strength 24, West leader), Jacksonville (Strength 24, South leader)
  • AFC wild cards: New York Jets (Strength 30), Pittsburgh (Strength 27)
  • Just outside the AFC picture:  Indianapolis (Strength 24)
The applicable Victory Weighting tiebreakers are:
  1. Divisional tiebreaker:  Jacksonville vs. Indianapolis
  2. Wild-card tiebreaker:  Tampa Bay vs. Chicago
  3. Seeding tiebreaker:  Kansas City vs. Jacksonville
That's right:  under VW, there are only three ties to break.  That's much easier, ¿no?


Fantasy update:  Boy, did my teams suck this week.

I didn't expect much from The Fluttering Horde (6-4), because Peyton Manning and the Patriot defense were supposed to cancel each other out.  Manning's three interceptions cost the Horde nothing, as the points simply moved from Manning to the Patriot defense.  Manning's three touchdowns were also worth less, since they transferred points from the Patriots' row to his.  Unfortunately, my running backs and tight ends -- including those riding my bench -- also canceled themselves.  Despite its sad 104-78 loss, the Horde is still in good shape to make the playoffs.

The Middlemen (6-5) now face a new problem:  they're too talented.  Yahoo! considers literally half the Middlemen roster so valuable that I can't cut them.  Without the flexibility to replace injured and/or struggling stars, I'm stuck with a team that's fading faster than Miles Austin.  After taking a 96-82 loss to The SDPackers, the Middlemen are barely hanging onto their playoff position.  I really, really need Antonio Gates to get healthy again.

17 November 2010

Scooter Blogging: (2) Wednesday Football

Watch.  Glare.  Watch.
My father and two sisters went to Texas for a family event, and (partly to care for Scooter) I decided to stay and house sit. I finished tilling the backyard garden today, and a few more small outdoor tasks remain ahead of the first winter snows. Last week, we were in shirt sleeves, but the cooling has finally begun for good.

As you can see from these pictures taken today, Scooter is just fine.  She's engaged in that favorite afternoon activity, sleeping on her blanket.  Here, little naps alternate with bits of today's South Africa-United States men's soccer match.  The thunderous din of 51,000 vuvuzelas didn't bother her nearly as much as her dad's presence with a camera.

Likewise, Ian Darke's voice on ESPN didn't perturb The Cat of May Colors™.  On the other hand, Darke has annoyed me in the past; but apparently, he's secured the post of voice of the American men's national team on U.S. TV.  He didn't say anything obviously colonialist on today's ESPN broadcast, so I might actually get used to him.

The game itself ended in a 1-0 win for the U.S., but both sides were trying out new players.  It felt less like an international friendly than the second half of an NFL exhibition game.


Fantasy update:   Real life, abetted by schedule confusion on my part, hurt my teams this week.  With the family trip coming in two days, I spent a good chunk of last Thursday helping my father get ready.  By the time we were done and I had taken a nap, the Ravens-Falcons game had kicked off.

Oops.  I'd forgotten about that early game.

The Fluttering Horde was to have dropped Atlanta kicker Matt Bryant, as Horde regular Rob Bironas was back from his bye week.  On top of that, with no one to pass to, Peyton Manning was headed to the Horde bench in favor of Bryant's teammate, Matt Ryan.

Meanwhile, no one in the public league cared to trade for Michael Vick, so maybe he'd start for the Middlemen this week.  Why not?  Vick was up against Washington, while Middlemen regular Joe Flacco faced the Falcons.

Neither substitution went through.  Thursday night was too late.

The Horde did just fine.  My permanent receiver corps racked up 60 points, including Mike Thomas's hail-Mary touchdown, and despite missing Ryan's best performance of the year, the Horde defeated the Southside Hitmen, 121-106.  At 6-4 in a two-division league, the Horde is likely headed to the playoffs.

The Middlemen?  Not so much.  Vick was the 'I win' card, breaking fantasy-football records, but he was still on my bench.  In a bizarre match that also saw both sides reduced to eight men, the Middlemen fell 110-100 to the Dallas Drunks.  Their 6-4 record is still good for a playoff spot, but it's the last one.  Aaarrrrrgh.


09 November 2010

Tuesday Football: Halftime!

Next week, the Packers, Saints, Raiders and Chargers take the week off. When the final gun has sounded next Monday night, every NFL team will have played nine games. In short, the 2010-11 season has reached its halfway mark. As such, it's time to take stock of some things I hold dear about the league.

Bearing up or down?  My beloved Chicago Bears currently stand at 5-3, good for second place in the NFC North and a tie for the last wild-card spot.  All's well, right?  Not so fast.  Their only quality win came against Green Bay at home.  Jay Cutler has actually gotten worse from last season.  He hasn't thrown so many interceptions, but now he just looks lost.  Setting himself as a better man than his linemen hasn't helped.

At the same time, nor has that horrible offensive line, recently dubbed the "Yahtzee Line" by a radio commentator.  The Bears seem to be tossing five big men onto the field every week and hoping for the best.  No offensive coordinator, including legendary Mike Martz, can rescue a situation like that.  The O-line disarray will, in time, doom the Bears, along with the terms of Martz and head coach Lovie Smith.

Left:  Jay Cutler.  Right:  Lovie Smith.
It's the Yahtzee Line that explains why I've never hated Coach Smith as much as my fellow Bears fans.  Back when he reached Super Bowl XL, it was with a strong offensive line and a powerful defense.  Last year, both those units muddled through at about half strength.  This year, the defense is healthy, but the offense remains a mess.  Pretty standard Bears football, if you ask me.  Coach Smith, on balance, is just average.  Barring a deep playoff run (not likely), he's not good enough to stay on in Chicago past this season, but nor are the Bears' problems all his fault.


Fantasy update:  This week, it's the Fluttering Horde that's floundering.  I spend all week researching just who can take over for Jacksonville WR Mike Thomas (bye), the Dallas defense (must I explain?) and Carolina RB Johnathan Stewart (fired, 'cause he -- sing it! -- suuuuuuuuucks).  The solutions?  The Patriot defense, Houston WR Jacoby Jones and Arizona RB Laron Stephens-Howling.  Jones and Stephens-Howling worked beautifully, but the Patriots (sing it!) suuuuuuuuucked so hard on defense, they actually cost me a point.  Andre Johnson and Peyton Manning are no help, so the Horde falls, 104-81, to the Purple Dragons.  It's the third loss in a row for the Horde (5-4), which falls to the middle of the table.

Happily, with DeSean Jackson back, the Middlemen (6-3) won their game, defeating the Techno Vikings, 98-84.  The public league has turned into a four-team scramble for the top.  It may be time to trade Michael Vick (whom I don't really need) for more wide-receiver power, now that Miles Austin is fizzling.


03 November 2010

Late Tuesday Football

No time to get out the weekly post yesterday, as it was Election Day.   My father and I made some pulled pork, which went to a couple of campaign headquarters.   I was happy to have had time to vote.  I'm still trying to collect thoughts over the results and the dismaying reactions today from President Obama and Harry Reid.  For now, suffice it to say that when I voted for Obama two years ago, I was hoping he'd perform more like Tom Landry than Wade Phillips.


Last week's quiz answer:  Here are the six big tournaments I mentioned, in the order a game was first played in Texas:
  1. March 1971:  NCAA Men's Final Four, Astrodome, Houston
  2. 13 January 1974:  Super Bowl VIII, Rice Stadium, Houston
  3. 9 May 1981:  Game 3, 1981 NBA Finals, The Summit, Houston
  4. 17 June 1994:  FIFA World Cup, Cotton Bowl, Dallas (Spain vs. Korea Rep.)
  5. 8 June 1999:  Game 1, 1999 Stanley Cup Final, Reunion Arena, Dallas
  6. 25 October 2005:  Game 3, World Series, Minute Maid Park, Houston.




Fantasy update:  Another injury-racked week, another pair of poor results, and, surprisingly enough, another split.

The Fluttering Horde had to wait until Monday night just to double its score, and it lost 97-67 to the Smoking Popes.  Vernon Davis went down early, the Dallas defense stunk and the only Popes player not to score was Jamaal Charles and his 240+ total yards.  The Horde falls to 5-3 and fifth place overall.

Meanwhile, the Middlemen lost new acquisition Kenny Britt early, but escaped with an 83-80 win over Mean Machine.  Not pretty, but I do get back to third place at 5-3; and it'll be nice to have DeSean Jackson back.


26 October 2010

Tuesday Football: The World Series, and a quick Texas sports quiz


The Texas Rangers have finally made it to a MLB World Series, just in time to add to their former owner's misery.  Dallas arbitrageur Tom Hicks lost ownership of both the Rangers and Liverpool FC, the latter just 10 days ago.  Fans in Merseyside and the Metroplex are, I'd imagine, equally happy to be rid of Hicks, who managed to run both clubs aground.

Liverpool FC, now siblings to the Boston Red Sox, will need time to recover from their Hicks-inflicted wounds, but the Rangers open their first Series tomorrow night in San Francisco.  [Go Giants!]  Over the weekend, the series shifts to Arlington, marking only the second time World Series games have been played in Texas.  With that in mind, here's a one-question quiz:

Rank the following major championship events, in order of their first staging at a venue in Texas.  (Hint:  Only some of these required Texas-based teams.)
  1. FIFA World Cup
  2. World Series (MLB)
  3. NCAA Men's Final Four
  4. NBA Finals
  5. Super Bowl (NFL)
  6. Stanley Cup Finals (NHL)
Leave your answer in the comments.  Good luck!


Fantasy recap:  The Fluttering Horde had to deal with bye weeks from several key players, so their week was hard enough.  Alas, Jay Cutler's astonishing incompetence for the Bears gave Osogood 32 points' worth of defense.  Ahmad Bradshaw had another solid week, but it wasn't enough to save the Horde from a 116-100 loss.  The Horde (5-2) falls to fourth place overall, and third in its division.  The good news is that The Smoking Popes (1-6) are up next.  With Manning, Johnson and Braylon Edwards all back from their byes, it should be an easy win.

Sadly, the Middlemen (4-3) are in free fall.  Tony Romo's broken collarbone last night effectively takes WR1 Miles Austin out of action, only a week after WR2 DeSean Jackson suffered a concussion.  With no decent receivers left, the Middlemen took a decisive 96-74 thumping from the Warriors, their third loss in four weeks.  Until Jackson and Romo come back, it's hard to see this team contending.

19 October 2010

Tuesday Football: This new NFL controversy isn't new

This gridiron weekend would have been horrible enough had its only incident been the errant tackle that left Rutgers University defensive tackle Eric LeGrand paralyzed below the neck on Saturday.  But then came Sunday and the brutal helmet-to-helmet hits taken by DeSean Jackson, Zack Follett, Joshua Cribbs, Mohamed Massaquoi and Todd Heap.  Only Follett avoided a concussion (though New Jersey hospital officials did observe him overnight).  Jackson is essentially out of next week's action; the others may not play, either.  [Best wishes to everyone on this list.]
On Sunday night, NBC commentator Rodney Harrison called for the NFL to start handing suspensions for helmet-to-helmet hits.  Besides being the defender who unsuccessfully marked David Tyree's miraculous catch in Super Bowl XLII*, Harrison (wearing #37 at right) is remembered as one of the dirtiest defenders ever to play the game.  When even he's telling the NFL to suspend rough defenders, maybe the league should listen.  The good news is that the league is prepared to do just that, maybe even before this blog entry posts.

It's hardly the first time the issue of hat-to-hat hits has surfaced.  Since 1998, the league has imposed fines on such hits.  That sort of enforcement works on second- and third-string defenders, but first-stringers earn enough to render it ineffective.  Since 2007, the NFL has advised game officials to eject players in these cases -- but not one offender saw a red card yesterday.  This summer, the league and the NFL Players' Association considered formally outlawing helmet-to-helmet hits on ballcarriers, but didn't follow through.  Now, faced with this disastrous weekend, and surely aided by Harrison's nationally-televised recital of his own case, the NFL will finally follow the Canadian Football League's lead.

Here's what I'm wondering:  Is it just me, or have defenders just gotten meaner? There seems to be at least one concussion suffered every week, just in the NFL.  We're starting to see more players suffering concussions at the college level, too.  [Ryan Mallett, anyone?]  Maybe players and coaches should take another look at how tackles and hits are made these days.

*Picture by Barry Chin, via boston.com

Gates trips leaders.  And vice versa:  Of course, not all game-ending injuries come to the head or the spine.  San Diego tight end Antonio Gates, for example, caught two passes for 12 yards before hurting his toe in the Chargers' game at St. Louis.  The Chargers hope he'll be able to go next week against the Patriots, but it doesn't look likely right now.

Gates' foot issue affected both my games.  His injury, combined with a Miles Austin dud at Minnesota, consigned the Middlemen (4-2) to a 101-92 defeat at the hands of the Juken' Jockstraps.  Before suffering his concussion, DeSean Jackson offset an awful performance by the Atlanta defense.  Chris Johnson's touchdown last night came too late, as the Middlemen fell to second place.  With Jackson and (probably) Gates both out, next week promises a stern test for the bench.

On the other hand, the Gates exit suited the Fluttering Horde (5-1) just fine.  It crippled Anything But Last, which also suffered a 6-yard whiff from Giants wideout Hakeem Nicks.  Peyton Manning's 307-yard, two-touchdown performance (bo-ooo-ring!) put the Horde within 0.04 points of the lead going into the Monday-night game, and Titans kicker Rob Bironas kicked in the finish.  The Horde won, 108-88, knocked ABL from the ranks of the undefeated and took the division lead.  Next up: my other twin nephew and Osogood, to whom I traded Wes Welker.   So far, that trade hasn't hurt.

12 October 2010

Tuesday Football: BCS stadiums, by the numbers

As college-football fandom prepares for the release of the first BCS rankings, I thought I was going to write a big post about the importance of the sport to so many public universities in the U.S.  That would have entailed spending several hundred words to state the obvious:  the BCS is so big, it could've been the sixth monster in Monsters vs. Aliens.

Instead, I'll cite some statistics about college-football stadiums.  A few details about the 61-venue sample:
  1. Only stadiums at public universities count.  I'm intentionally excluding several private schools with big football programs, including USC, Stanford, BYU, Miami (Fla.), Notre Dame and Boston College.
  2. The sample covers only the six conferences explicitly covered by the BCS scheme, plus the Mountain West.
  3. Statistics reflect conference alignments for 2012.  Nebraska counts as a Big Ten team; Boise State, as a Mountain West club; and Colorado and Utah, as Pac-10 sides.
And here are the simple numbers, courtesy of a Wikipedia aggregation.  Wikipedia may not be the greatest source for this kind of stuff, but for this post, the numbers are good enough.

Atlantic Coast Conference: 
  • Included colleges: 8
  • Average stadium capacity:  64 302
  • Largest included stadium:  Memorial Stadium, Clemson (82 300)
  • Smallest included stadium:  Byrd Stadium, Maryland (51 500)
Big XII Conference: 
  • Included colleges:  9
  • Average stadium capacity:  68 031
  • Largest included stadium:  Memorial Stadium, Texas (101 119)
  • Smallest included stadium:  Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Kansas State (50 300)
Big East Conference: 
  • Included colleges:  5
  • Average stadium capacity:  56 672
  • Largest included stadium:  Raymond James Stadium, South Florida (82 300)
  • Smallest included stadium:  Rentschler Field, Connecticut (40 000)
Big Ten Conference: 
  • Included colleges:  11
  • Average stadium capacity:  78 220
  • Largest included stadium:  Michigan Stadium, Michigan (109 901)
  • Smallest indluded stadium:  Memorial Stadium, Indiana (52 180)
Mountain West Conference: 
  • Included colleges:  7
  • Average stadium capacity:  43 189
  • Largest included stadium:  Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego State (70 561)
  • Smallest included stadium:  War Memorial Stadium, Wyoming (32 580)
Pacific 10 Conference: 
  • Included colleges:  10
  • Average stadium capacity:  60 177
  • Largest included stadium:  Rose Bowl, UCLA (92 542)
  • Smallest included stadium:  Martin Stadium, Washington State (35 117)
Southeastern Conference: 
  • Included colleges:  11
  • Average stadium capacity:  82 268
  • Largest included stadium:  Neyland Stadium, Tennessee (102 459)
  • Smallest included stadium:  Davis Wade Stadium, Mississippi State (55 082)

Fantasy update:   Another weird week.  One team did nothing but score touchdowns, the other scored exactly one -- and both won their games.

In a spectacular first-place showdown with the Tin Men, both teams posted the week's two highest scores -- but the Middlemen prevailed, 144-123.  Spectacular performances by Matt Forte, Chris Johnson, Miles Austin and the Atlanta defense powered a record-setting day.  Both teams now stand at 4-1, but I hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Meanwhile, the Fluttering Horde struggled, staying in the game only because opponent Crown My Ass left Forte on his bench.  Late in the Eagles-49ers matchup, I was ready to put Vernon Davis on the trading block.  But Davis came up with the Horde's only touchdown, which proved just enough for an 86-81 come-from-behind victory.  Next week, the 4-1 Horde engages in its game of cat-and-also-cat against undefeated Anything But Last, run by my former in-law.

05 October 2010

Tuesday Football: Oy!

This blog spends two pages complaining about the way the NFL handles overtime, but I shudder to think about the first time that happens in the Super Bowl.  The ensuing chatter will consume North America for a month.

On the other hand, we could have what happened in Australia in the last two weeks. St. Kilda and Collingwood played in the AFL Grand Final two weeks ago.  So far, so good; it was just another championship game. But then St. Kilda rallied late to force a 68-68 tie.   Instead of overtime, the AFL scheduled a replay. More than 100,000 fans went home confused, with a request to come back in a week -- to watch the Saints and Magpies play an extra game.  That's exactly what they did.  Fans of both teams snapped up all the replay tickets, leaving none for the general public.  Their reward?  A 108-52 Collingwood blowout last Saturday afternoon.  Too bad for St. Kilda, who last won the Premiership in 1966.  Since then, their fortunes have tracked those of their NFL namesakes in New Orleans.  It would've been nice to see both set of Saints -- both perennial also-rans -- come away winners in the same year.  Oh, well

If you haven't seen an Australian football game, you've been missing an chaotic, fast-paced, high-scoring and incredibly fun form of the sport.  While you wait for the deejay to bring the tunes, it's a perfect background for Friday-night parties.  The 2011 season begins in March.  Hopefully, someone stateside will give us live games to watch before the next Grand Final.

Lucky weekend:  Over on the fantasy-football side, well, I was lucky this week.  The list of roster disasters was long:
  1. Injuries kept Andre Johnson and Steve Breaston from playing for the Fluttering Horde.  I didn't have enough active wide receivers, so I had to waive Breaston for Jacksonville's Mike Taylor.
  2. The Middlemen lost Miles Austin to his bye week, then Michael Vick went down with his nasty rib injury.  That effectively removed both Vick and his favorite target, DeSean Jackson, from the Middlemen lineup.  On top of that, the Middlemen dumped a New York Giant defense that ended up sacking the Bears 10 times.
  3. The Bears' woes hurt both teams, essentially blanking Greg Olsen for the Horde and Matt Forte and Johnny Knox for the Middlemen.
Given all that, in theory, I should have been lucky to avoid two losses.  In practice, I was unlucky not to win twice.  The Horde's opponent, who will remain unnamed, fielded only five players, so the Horde cruised to a 94-36 win.   The Middlemen lost 82-78 to the previously winless Hurricanes -- but only because New England scored 18 special-teams points and blocked both a punt and a field-goal attempt.  It was like losing with a full house on the river.

The bizarre combination of good luck and bad luck leaves both teams at 3-1.  The Middlemen fall to second in their league, while the Horde stays in third place.  Oy!



28 September 2010

Tuesday Football: Oddities and farewells

I joined my father and my sister in visiting my oldest sister in suburban Omaha, Nebraska, so there wasn't time to update the Victory Weighting standings, nor much time to spend my fantasy-football teams. The actual football news only made things crazier this weekend. Fasten your seat belts.

Children of the Corn.  Huskers:  It's not difficult to describe the affection Texans have for their high-school and college football teams, or Hoosiers' similar love for basketball.  Nebraskans' dedication to the University of Nebraska football team is different.  It has to be witnessed in person.

It's not that the evidence can't be described.  The Cornhuskers' Saturday-night game with South Dakota State, for example, was televised... on a pay-per-view basis.  Sure, Boise State was on free TV, but I'm sure the PPV scheme worked.

Saturday night came, and there was cooking going on at my niece's house.  The cilantro supply having run out, my nephew-in-law and I went to the supermarket to replenish it.  What's playing over the store PA system?  Is it top-40 drivel?  Soft-rock drivel?  Alternative-music drivel?  Oh, no, it was a kind of drivel I thought didn't exist in the U.S.

It was the Nebraska-South Dakota State game, live on statewide radio -- and all over the supermarket.  That's dedication!

Victory Weighting update:  The Falcons-Saints overtime game this Sunday illuminates the central feature of the system.  On this week's VW Standings page, you'll see that New Orleans leads the NFC South with the highest Strength, even though the Saints lost to Atlanta.  Right now, the Falcons hold the head-to-head tiebreaker, with a 3-1 Strength advantage over the Saints.  Should they win the return game in regulation, however, the Saints would gain 4 Strength.  They would then win the HTH tiebreaker from the Falcons, 5-3.


Fantasy audibles:  With only one computer at my niece's house, I pretty much had to have my fantasy lineups set Friday night.

The Middlemen sucked up their reservations about Michael Vick's character and used him to replace struggling Alex Smith.  Against a high-powered No Clue 2010 team, I benched original starter Joe Flacco for Vick.  Flacco made me look bad by passing for three touchdowns, but Vick trumped that with four touchdowns.  His 33 points were barely enough, as the Middlemen squeaked by with a 117-114 win.  At 3-0, they stay atop their public-league table.

The Fluttering Horde also made a big deal, trading Wes Welker to shore up its bench.  That may hurt later in the year, but this week, the damage came from disastrous performances from the 49ers, Saints and Packers.  Flying Hawai'ian 3, run by my niece Amber's partner, dealt the Horde its first loss, 82-79.  With the Niners in coaching disarray, Vernon Davis heads to the bench, and Chicago's Greg Olsen will assume TE duties.  Despite this week's struggles, the 2-1 Horde remains in third place overall.

Last, but not least: Condolences to the family and friends of George Blanda, who passed away Monday at the age of 83.  Finding players better than Blanda is not difficult.  Finding one as versatile and persistent as he was is impossible, and will probably remain so.  As my friend Matty Boy has reminded me, QB/punter Sammy Baugh and punter/tackle Lou Groza came close; Danny White, a little less so.  But that's about it.  Godspeed, Mr. Blanda.


21 September 2010

Tuesday Football: Thanks for visiting Cowboy Nation

Blog buddy, birder and fellow Texan expat dguzman commented on last week's Tuesday Football post, fretting about her beloved Dallas Cowboys.  I assured her that my Bears were actually much worse, and that the 'Pokes should prevail at home in Week 2.  That prediction failed, and -- deeply as I hate Jerry Jones' outfit -- I'm worried, too.

It wasn't always that way.  As a kid growing up first in Austin, then in the Rio Grande Valley, I adored the Cowboys.  Somewhere in my family album live pictures of me, a seven-year-old decked out in a full replica of Duane Thomas's road uniform.  We had gone to my grandparents' house in San Marcos to watch the NFC title game.  Sadly, that was the game Dallas lost 26-3 to Washington's infamous Over-The-Hill Gang -- so one of those pictures shows me sprawled across the couch, bawling my eyes out.

My affection for the 'Pokes survived for a long time after my family moved to Illinois.  Eventually, I did adopt both the Bears and the Browns, but we made sure to catch the Cowboys.  [In return, CBS, which televised NFC games back then, made sure that watching Cowboy games would be easy.]  I even cared about them as new owner "Bum" Bright trashed the team in the mid- and late-1980s.

It was Jerry Jones who finally got me to abandon the Cowboys.  At that point, I had long since stopped being a kid.  Going 3-13 was one thing, but replacing Tom Landry with Jimmy Johnson, the Gordon Gekko of college football, was unforgivable.  The Cowboys I knew and loved had ceased to exist.  Better to fret about the Bears' interminable quarterback search than worry one more minute about Jones' new toy.  To hell with the new Cowboys.

Since mine is a Texan family by birthright, they Cowboys still come up every weekend in the fall and early winter.  One of my sisters still roots for them, but the rest of us have moved on, mostly to the Bears.  If the Cowboys do miss the playoffs this year, we'll be sad -- not because we once loved them, but because it will represent one of the worst wastes of gridiron talent we've seen in a long time.

Fantasy update:  Score two more victories this week.  The Fluttering Horde rode the Peyton Manning-to-Andre Johnson connection to a 95-78 win over Toothless, the team run by one of my twin nephews.  Meawhile, The Middlemen backed deadly receiving with a crushing Miami defense to roll over TheSDPackers, 108-95, and move to the top of the table.

Victory Weighting update: The Week 2 standings are up.  Washington lost to Houston, but the overtime period they played puts them alone atop the stunningly weak NFC East.


17 September 2010

AutoTune of the month

Up until now, I've despised AutoTune. It turns out that, until now, no one has made good use of it.  Enjoy this Quote of the Month nominee from Jacob Isom, Texan skateboarder and now national hero.



Administrivia

  • The Victory Weighted standings for the new NFL season are up.  Expect three updates every Sunday and a fourth late Monday night.
  • I learned of this video from Informed Comment, Juan Cole's most excellent daily notes on the Muslim world.  Not surprisingly, its emphasis these days are on the AfPak theater and Iraq.


14 September 2010

Tuesday Football: Nothing but net

More Scooter, with tennis:  Let it be known that Scooter has taste, or at least an eye for gridiron.  For the second Monday night in a row, my cat watched 30 minutes of gridiron with me.  This time, it was the second half of the Ravens-Jets game.  Instead of actually watching the action, though, she faced away from the TV and waited for me to scratch her ears.  Clearly, she recognized how horrible the Jets were on offense.  She went off to her nightly mousing well before the final gun sounded.

It wasn't much prettier to me, either, and I ended up switching to the last set of the 2010 U.S. Open men's tennis final.  That's champion Rafael Nadal at the left, pulling yet another incredible winner.  Everyone marveled at his tricks, including Novak Djorkavic, who managed to kick ass and still lose.

I bring the tennis up because it showed up on a channel where it normally doesn't belong.  Usually, the men's final at Flushing Meadows airs on CBS on Sunday afternoon.  That was the plan this year, too, but rain pushed the match back to Monday.  With an event so important to tennis, you'd think that CBS would preempt its normal Monday programs to show the delayed match live.  Unfortunately, this week's episodes of CSI: Modesto and Survivor: Northern Marianas Islands were more important; so the match ended up on ESPN2.

Even worse, ESPN2 warned that, if it hadn't ended by 21:15 CDT, the match would then move to ESPN Classic.  (Match point fell just after 21:00, so that didn't happen.)  In short:  the U.S. Open men's tennis final was about to fall from a broadcast network all the way to a channel that wasn't even on basic cable.  To say the least, this does not bode well for the sport of tennis (at least not in the U.S.).

A little personal landmark: The Chicago Bears opened Sunday with a 19-14 win over Detroit on a Calvin Johnson mistake.  It's worrying to see my beloved Bears struggle with the Lolcats Lions, but that wasn't the important part this week.  The big news is that, for the first time, I wore a Bears jersey while watching the game.  It's an orange Brian Urlacher replica, given to me as a birthday present last May.  I also got a coach's polo shirt, which I plan to wear for road games.

Yep, I'm now not just an NFL fan.  I'm an obsessed NFL fan.  Um, hooray?


Fantasy football update:  I opened with wins in both my leagues.  In the family league, Peyton Manning and Wes Welker combined for five touchdowns to lead the Fluttering Horde to a 99-73 upset of the defending league champions, the Smoking Popes.  Andre Johnson had only 33 receiving yards, but I didn't need him any more than the Houston Texans did.

In the public league, I left Bears RB Matt Forte and his 30 points on the bench, yet still coasted to a 102-88 win over the Dallas Drunks.  Woo-hoo!


07 September 2010

Tuesday Football: Of horses and butterflies

Scooter the BCS fan:  Last night's Boise State win over Virginia Tech was such a compelling game, my cat Scooter saw fit to watch the entire second half with me.  She made herself comfortable next to me as I watched the game, and she kept her eyes on the game the whole time.  When Virginia Tech missed its last fourth down, she up and left, returning to her nightly mousing duties.  To be fair, she was in an unusually friendly mood yesterday, but that doesn't explain her actually watching the game.  Very weird.

The game was close, and it made compelling drama, but it wasn't very well played.  Boise had to beat itself as well as the Hokies.  Now, some requests:
  • Virginia Tech:  Please, never let me see those black jerseys again.  In fact, the next school that wears black when it isn't one of its colors ought to lose a scholarship or two.  [See:  Oregon football, Duke basketball, and too many others.]
  • Boise State:  Neat helmets, but do your road uniforms really need 37 shades of gray?  Put some orange back, for heaven's sake!
  • Brent Musberger:  How stupid do you think the TV audience is?  "Boise State's not used to this weather"?  In the first place, the vaunted humidity in Landover was only 43%.  In the second, Boise is in Idaho, not freakin' Arizona.  On top of that, BSU is still in the same league as Hawai'i and Louisiana Tech, places where 43% humidity is often a relief.  Sheesh.

Behold!  The Fluttering Horde!  My original fantasy-football team is back, complete with new name, new logo and new players.  I named the Horde after another set of characters from the Venture Bros. cartoon, namely, The Monarch's minions.  The monarch-butterfly wings on the helmet are sure to strike fear into my opponents.  Otherwise, they will have to deal with Peyton Manning passing to Texan WR Andre Johnson and 49er TE Vernon Davis.  I did better in mock drafts, but those assumed 8- and 10-team leagues, and we ended up with two six-team divisions.

It'll be a tough opener, against my league's defending champions, the Smoking Popes.


31 August 2010

Tuesday Football: All over the map

Football related thoughts abound this week.

You shouldn't do that on television:  I can understand why, as Comcast does here in Chicagoland, a local cable channel shows games involving area schools.  The same channel also has programs for local politics and the local arts scenes, so these games clearly qualify as local-interest programs.  I can see myself caring about a football game between, say, Geneva and Batavia, partly because those two schools are close to my home.  I could easily understand why a football fan in Sacramento would watch a televised game between Grant and Folsom, two Sacramento-area high schools.

But could someone at Disney please explain to me why, in the name of all that is unholy, a resident of exurban Chicago could possibly care about that Grant-Folsom game?  I don't care how highly ranked those two teams are, they're both 3300 kilometers and two hours west of me.  Why should I care how highly regarded individual players on either side are, when some -- if not all -- of them will crash and burn once they start playing college football?  [For what it's worth, I graduated from my school two years after a high-school All-America running back who fizzled in the then-Big 8, and a year ahead of an eventual NBA player who starred in the Big Ten.]

Apparently, people who have better things to do care that much about high-school sports.  At least the ESPN channels think so.  That's why, besides the Grant-Folsom game, I had to click away from at least four other nationally televised high-school games this weekend.  This is just more attention and adulation for athletic young people who already have too much of both.

He's staying?  Okay, fine:  To my surprise, Bob Bradley is staying on as coach of the U.S. men's soccer team.  During the World Cup, I opined that he should be replaced.  The team started quickly enough in its 2-0 loss to Brazil a month ago, but that needs to become the rule instead of the exception.  I'm not convinced that he's the man to make that change.  On the other hand, a 2-0 blowout of Spain, a Confederations Cup final and (at long last) a group win at the World Cup itself are real results; and Bradley also deserves credit for those.  I would've replaced him with Jurgen Klinsmann, and let him move on to Aston Villa.  (That would've been worth tracking.)  Besides those two men, though, I couldn't imagine an alternative as the U.S. skiper; so keeping Bradley makes some sense.


Twice the fantasy fun:  I wasn't sure that my fantasy-football league was going to convene this year, so I went ahead and joined a public league at Yahoo!.  That league auto-drafted last Friday, and I ended up with RB Chris Johnson, WR Miles Austin and TE Antonio Gates.  I've decided to call this team The Middlemen.

As it turns out, my old league is playing.  The draft is this Sunday night, and (as you may gather from my new tag line) I do not plan on having Brett Favre on my team this time.  Given his latest ankle issues, maybe the Vikings won't, either.  My team has a new name and its own helmet, which I'll reveal next week.


28 August 2010

Because this beer's just so manly!

Because it can, MillerCoors (or whatever it's calling itself these days) has several ad campaigns just for its Miller Lite product.  All the ads are aimed at men, and most of them revolve around the "men suck at relationships" meme.  The exceptions are a set of five spots from ad agency Draftcb, all of which look like this:



If the only problem with this ad were its sexism, it would be pretty ordinary. (It's for mass-produced alcohol product, after all.) What makes it worth posting about is the other ways it and its siblings so miserably fail. Let's count.
  1. It is, in fact, more sexist than usual.  The guy may look funny with his huge shoulder bag, but so what?  Why should the bartender care if no one else in the joint does?
  2. Oh, that bartender.  Yes, she's pretty -- and she's remarkably snooty.  In high school, she must have thought that because she was prettier than everyone else, that also made her better.  When the rest of us graduated, we were pretty happy to be rid of girls like this.  If I ran into someone like her at a bar, I'd find another place to drink.  Hell, I'd run as fast as I could to that other place.
  3. "Do you care how it tastes?"  Why, yes, you bubble-headed moron, I do care.  If I wanted actual beer right now, I'd have ordered something other than Miller Lite for myself.
  4. And then there's that "Man up!" tagline.  If "Man up!" means "Dare to drink this swill!" well, that would smack of accuracy.  Somehow, I doubt that's what the marketing geniuses at Draftcb intended.
Heavens, do these ads ever suck.


17 August 2010

The Defenders of 9/11

Mark Lennihan/AP, via the NPR Web site
When President Obama defended the Córdoba House project last Friday, I was sure that all the posturing from the GOP would have ended.  Silly me.  This isn't the party of Eisenhower, Nixon, or even Reagan; it's a loudmouthed collection of racists, Dominionists, warmongers and old-school fascists* who might well dismiss Joseph McCarthy as a commie pinko.  Of course, they were going to try turning Córdoba House into a campaign issue.  For Republican campaigners, there's nothing but win.  Who cares if innocent Muslims get demonized yet again? They aren't voting GOP anyway.  The real points are to (a) rally the teabagger base and (b)trick Democrats into demoralizing their base, again.

One thing I've yet to see, though, is a direct connection to "9/11" -- not the actual 2001 attacks, but the metaphorical cudgel that the Cheney-Bush cabal created from them.  I remember arguments with conservatives during the Bush years.  Anytime the right-winger sensed that he could no longer win an argument with logic, his inevitable response was to invoke 9/11.  Leave Iraq?  "No way; 9/11 changed everything."  End warrentless wiretapping? "9/11 changed everything."  Opposed to No Child Left Behind?  "Too bad; 9/11 changed everything."  [I'm not even making that last one up.]  For Bush's supporters, the attacks were a way to "unite" the nation behind even the worst Bush proposals.

But time has passed, Chimpy has retreated to Dallas and Cheney has gone back into hiding.  Most of us have put 9/11 the event in the past, where it belongs.  But in blocking Córdoba House, the Republicans are trying to bring back the trauma.  If they succeed, and they also take either house of Congress this November, they will have revived 9/11 as a weapon.  They didn't stop at Muslims the last time they used it, and there's no reason to believe they will this time, either.

In other words, the GOP must defend 9/11.  It's too important a tool for them to just let fade away.

* Supporters of increased corporate influence in government, like Mussolini and Pinochet.  Used properly, it's a more elegant word than the clunky "corporatist."

More administrivia:  I've opened the two Victory Weighting pages to comments.  If you have more questions about the system, feel free to comment on either page.


05 August 2010

Administrivia alert #1

I've been playing around at the edges of the blog design, adding and dropping widgets, and enjoying the new Pages feature.  A purplish button bar now separates the title from the posts; and right now, it has a button marked, "Victory Weighting."  Press it, and you'll find a page explaining what Victory Weighting is (an alternative standings scheme for NFL games) and why I think the NFL should adopt it.  Last year, I put the Victory Weighted standings in a widget at the bottom of the page.  This year, they'll live on a semi-permanent page of their own, and you'll be able to get to it via the purple button bar.

I love, love, love this new feature, and the toolbar widget Google provided to go with it.  Thanks, Google!  (But no thanks for trying to cut a side deal with Verizon!  Bad business, there.)


03 August 2010

The Ghost-Grey Cat Presents: (7) All Unregistered Aliens

Episode 779:  All Unregistered Aliens
First aired:  9 February 1978
Author:  Victoria Dann

Play the teaser

A doctor helps anywhere.  What is so special about here?  -- Uncle Stefan

This past week saw a Federal judge set aside most of Arizona's infamous SB 1070, one day before it was to take effect.  The news reminded me of one of the most unusual episodes from the CBS Radio Mystery Theater.

"All Unregistered Aliens" starts as a hospital drama, but writer Victoria Dann needs only a couple of minutes to steer away from that well-worn path.  For one thing, the center of this drama isn't a hospital, but a free clinic in a struggling urban neighborhood now dominated by immigrants and street gangs.  Dr. Anne Quiller (voiced by Ann Williams) grew up in the area when it was a little more prosperous, and, for reasons she doesn't quite understand, she has just come back to run the clinic.  Her uncle Stefan (Court Benson), proprietor of the local cafe, never left, and she finds herself turning to him for advice on navigating a terrain she no longer recognizes.  Apart from an immigration-obsessed cop's efforts to convince her to snitch on her clients, Quiller's life has settled into a comforting, if not entirely comfortable, cadence.

A botched warehouse prank sets triggers the main story.  One of the would-be pranksters, a teenager named Cleo, has been shot, and his brother Eli (Earl Hammond) must try to get medical attention.  A full-scale hospital isn't an option:  it could treat his wounds properly, but it might also expose his status (and Eli's) as an illegal alien.  Eager to avoid deportation (effectively a death sentence for them), they go instead to Dr. Quiller's clinic.  Without the resources to treat him, she can only leave poor Cleo to die at Eli's side.

Suddenly, Quiller finds herself in a difficult spot.  Cleo dies, but his body disappears.  The police won't help her; in fact, they think she's hiding Cleo.  She must solve the case herself, and that means answering some uncomfortable questions.  Who are Cleo and Eli, really?  What is their nationality?  And why has Quiller herself really returned to her old neighborhood?

The story feels more like a tour than a mystery, but it does exemplify Radio Mystery Theater's willingness on contemporary social issues every now and then.  "All Unregistered Aliens" made its debut just ten days after the ultimate midpoint of the RMT run.  By then, the series had already addressed not just illegal immigration but also even touchier subjects like race and abortion.  RMT certainly didn't do that every night, but it did so more directly than most crime-drama series do today.

Score:  89/100.  Not great, but solid, provocative and, for 1978, even innovative.

Why do I call it "innovative?"  The reason includes a spoiler, so I'm putting it beyond the fold.

13 July 2010

Adult Swim's summer hits and misses

The World Cup is over?  Let the withdrawal begin!  Ack!


Near the top of my list of vices is a tendency to watch way too many things on Cartoon Network, especially the late-night Adult Swim section.

Hit:  Mary Shelley's Frankenhole is the latest from Dino Stamatopolous, creator Moral Orel, a brilliant sendup of fundamentalist Christianity that died a miserable death, both creatively and in the ratings.  Stamatopolous followed it up with SuperJail, a tawdry and violent show that's more typical Adult Swim fare.  I hated it, so when Frankenhole started, I avoided it.

[Correction:  Stamatopolous had nothing to do with Superjail.  Still, given Morel Orel's sad fate, my comment about Frankenhole stands.]

That may have been a mistake.  In this show, Dr. Frankenstein didn't stop at creating his famous monster.  Among other things, he's discovered gateways to parallel universes.  Fool that he is, he's opened them; and, on the basis of the first episode I saw this weekend, considerable hilarity has ensued.  I'll stream in the other 10-minute segments that have aired.  Hopefully, like the one I've seen, they'll be close in tone to Moral Orel's brilliant first season.

Misses:  [as] opened two live-action series this summer, both centered on popular comedians.  My feelings about them are not good.  Check it Out! with Dr. Steve Brule features John C. Reilly as the pathetic, forlorn host of an early-morning cable-access show.  Reilly plays the part too well: Brule needs therapy, not more episodes.  Meanwhile, Children's Hospital, Rob Corddry's much-ballyhooed expansion of an Internet series, opened Sunday night.  The opener was made for WB online viewing, so I'll give it pass.  But it doesn't look promising at this point.

Hit:  The Boondocks started its long-awaited third season back in May rather slowly.  The season low came with "The Story of Jimmy Rebel," in which the bizarrely racist Uncle Ruckus hooks up with his favorite singer, who writes and performs racist songs.  It could've been a funny installment, but the writers went overboard with the songs.  From there, the season has improved dramatically, including a brutally funny riff on Tyler Perry.  Series creator Aaron McGruder has reportedly declared that this will be the series' last season.  If so, that would mark a big loss for Adult Swim.

Miss:  Just today, the official Venture Bros. blog confirmed a 12 September start date for new episodes.  The same post tells us that Season 4 has now ended.  For my favorite Adult Swim show, it's two small pieces of bad news.  The original plan was to grant Venture Bros. a 16-episode season 4, split into two parts.  The first eight installments aired last winter, and the season was to restart late this spring.  Production delays took their toll, pushing the restart  back to 22 August, then to the now-official 12 September.  At some point recently, Adult Swim and VB creator Jackson Publick decided to re-label the second half of Season 4 as Season 5.  There is a Venture Bros. panel at Comic-Con in San Diego, so we should soon hear more on the show's near-term future.

Here's hoping the restart makes its new deadline.


11 July 2010

A picture of justice

You know what the best thing about the World Cup is? The best team usually wins the final!

In the NBC photo above, Andres Iniesta is the man in navy blue, celebrating the game-winning goal in extra time of the 2010 World Cup Final.  I don't know who the flustered Dutchman is, and frankly, I don't care.  At the end of 120 minutes, Spain prevailed, 1-0, over the Netherlands.  ¡Viva la Fúria Roja!  All hail Spain!

Much will be made of the lack of scoring from the new champions.  La Fúria only scored eight goals in their seven matches, and they even opened with a 1-0 loss to the Swiss.  They didn't have the best defense in South Africa (that would be Paraguay, Spain's quarterfinal victim), but it was more than good enough to frustrate the field.

As for the Oranje:  they have turned out to be world soccer's answer to the Pat Riley Knicks.  Let me explain.  Back in the 1990s, having taken over the ailing NBA team in New York City, Riley realized that (a) while he had talent, he didn't have enough to overcome the Jordan-Jackson Bulls and (b) Knicks management would never give him enough.  His answer?  Turn the Knicks into a team so physical, it could just bully its way into the NBA Finals.  At that, he succeeded -- but in the process, he literally set the entire Eastern Conference back a decade.

I think that's what happened to Holland this weekend.  Seeing no hope of overcoming Spain's superior personnel, Dutch coach Dirk van Marwijk had his players turn violent, collecting yellow cards and pulling crap like the assault at the right.  In this picture from ABC, Nigel de Jong delivers a flying kick to the chest of Spain's Xabi Alonso.  (I'm not exaggerating; it was a flying kick straight from a martial-arts movie.)  For that crime, de Jong got only a yellow card instead of the red that should've been handed him.

The word "crime" pretty much describes the Dutch effort today, including their complaints about the officiating.  Excuse me?  You guys turn the World Cup final into a bad MMA fight, and then turn around cry about anything?  Here's hoping that doesn't fly any higher in the Netherlands that it is anywhere else.

Ian Darke, I take back some of my screed against you yesterday.  The real disgrace was the Oranje today.  I'm so glad they lost, Scooter can hear me purr.