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.

  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.]

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.