Monday, November 30, 2009

Why no Best of Ellen Cleghorne?

In the past, I've expressed my love for Saturday Night Live. While this season hasn't really tickled my fancy, outside of the Taylor Swift episode, I've been watching a lot of classic episodes from the late 1980s and early 1990s lately, along with the Best Of discs for several performers from that era. At that point, you are past the weird, early-1980s casts of Anthony Michael Hall, and into Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Dennis Miller, Kevin Nealon, Adam Sandler, David Spade and Chris Farley.

However, for each of these above-average performers, there is some other cast member pulling a Kristen Wiig and getting way too much airtime. (See how I turned a right on to Topical, as Daniel Tosh would say?) From the title of this entry, you can no doubt tell that I'm referring to Ellen Cleghorne.

According to Wikipedia, she was on the show for four years, then basically dropped off the face of the Earth. Since Wikipedia normally records every single little aspect of a person's career, she REALLY must not be up to much.

I guess after leaving SNL, she had her own sitcom on the new WB network for a single season. This means that it must have been one of the most wretched shows ever if it only lasted a single season on the WB, since they nursed along anything with a pulse - The Steve Harvey Show, Charmed - for years and years.

Because of this, I feel it is the duty of SNL to release a Best Of disc for Cleghorne, to satisfy my morbid curiosity. She didn't really play any compelling or funny characters, so I'm also interested to see how they would fill up two hours of such a product. You could even make it a double disc for $20, along with the entire run of Cleghorne!, her WB show. Let's go NBC, let's get a hand in and get this done!

The Cleghorne picture is from the always-excellent Saturday Night Live transcript web site, which is here.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pickin' Pigskin with Kristin: Week 12, Part 2

Miami over BUFFALO (3)

Kristin: Miami

I think that Miami is clearly the better team. However, after watching 10 minutes of the T.O. show while channel surfing, I feel pretty sad for Buffalo. In the episode, TO was welcomed to Buffalo with open arms and even given a key to the city from the Mayor. However, that key came with two conditions: 1) TO score 10 touchdowns this season and 2) Buffalo make the playoffs. I wonder if he will really return the key after this season or just leave it at the bottom of a drawer somewhere. He does however have a great smile (not as good as Randy Moss) and seems very likeable when edited onto his own TV show. So I guess, I feel bad not only for the pathetically disappointed city of Buffalo but for TO himself.

Seattle over ST. LOUIS (3)

Kristin: Seattle

I thought St. Louis played surprisingly well last week, until I was reminded how stupid Detroit is by their blow-out on Thanksgiving. It is a shame because the Detroit uniforms are really pretty.

PHILADELPHIA over Washington (9)

Kristin: Washington

Last week, Washington's defense looked great (until minute 56 they looked really great). While they may not be able to score, if they can keep Philly from scoring, then they will still beat the spread. Also, they can't lose heartbreakingly at the very end of the game if they are losing by more than 9.

Oh and for fun - this is the Washington joke I was told at work this week: The Redskins adopted a team cat and are letting it live in the locker room. The team was very excited to learn that cat can do tricks. For example, when the team scores a field goal the cat will jump about and give all of the players high-fives. It's really amazing, and the fans love it. So, what does that cat do when they score a touchdown? ... We don't know yet.

ATLANTA over Tampa Bay (12)

Kristin: Tampa Bay

I don't think that Atlanta is anything special, and Tampa Bay, while bad, can hold their own.

Indianapolis over HOUSTON (3.5)

Kristin: Houston

I am picking Houston for three reasons. 1) I am following my plan to only and always pick Houston at home. 2) Indy only beat Baltimore by 2 points and Baltimore isn't a fabulous team; my point here is that Indy is beatable and that they have been winning tight games - a.k.a. not more than a field goal. 3) If this is the only shot for Indy to lose before the end of the season, I can't bear to be rooting for them just so that my pick is right.

CINCINNATI over Cleveland (14)

Kristin: Cleveland

Boo hiss, I am annoyed at Cincy for not winning last week. In revenge, I am not picking them even though I still think they will win - just not by that much.

NY JETS over Carolina (3)

Kristin: NY Jets

Common people, the Jets are way better than Carolina, and they are at home.

SAN FRANCISCO over Jacksonville (3)

Kristin: San Francisco

I really think that either team could win this game, so I am choosing the team that is more fun to cheer for - you get to sing the Rice-aroni song.

SAN DIEGO over Kansas City (13.5)

Kristin: Kansas City

San Diego really isn't that great. I don't think they deserve a spread this big.

MINNESOTA over Chicago (11)

Kristin: Minnesota

Hello ass platter, meet the Vikings.

TENNESSEE over Arizona (3)

Kristin: Arizona

Tennessee doesn't know how to win games.

NEW ORLEANS over New England (1.5)

Kristin: New England

I have been rooting for the Saints all season, but I'll oviously put that on hold for the Pats game. People keep saying the Saints are winning by playing cupcake teams, which I am willing to believe as they beat the Giants on the eve of their collapse and otherwise have been playing softy teams. I hope that this is all true so that the Pats win, but I also think that even if the Saints are as good as their record looks the Pats can still take them. Especially once we start healing from all these injuries and get our depth back.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pickin' pigskin with Bob and Steve: Week 12, Part 2

Picks brought to you today by the ridiculously hot Sofia Vergara of Modern Family [left], which is one of my favorite two new shows, along with Glee.

Miami over BUFFALO (3)

Bob: Miami -3

I wrote in Miami before I did any research, just because I feel as though the Dolphins have been far better than the Bills this season. Surprisingly, the numbers put these two teams relatively close to each other (with Miami still being superior, but not by that much). Buffalo has managed to win some games against decent opponents and managed to hang in with Jacksonville last week. However, I’ve decided that I don’t like to bet against the Dolphins, since they seem to like to spite me. This could be an interesting game, even if the opponents are fairly mediocre.

Steve: Miami -3

Even without Ronnie Brown, I think the Dolphins are vastly superior to the Bills, so I'm not sure why this number is so small. It's not so much that the Dolphins are now a juggernaut without the guy who really makes the Wildcat go. It's more that the Bills are a complete mess right now, and they don't have anyone who can really play quarterback all that well.

Seattle over ST. LOUIS (3)

Steve: Seattle -3

Another line that looks highly suspect to me. I don't know if the Seahawks can defend well, but the Rams' entire offense consists of handing Stephen Jackson the ball and getting out of the way, which can make it somewhat easy for opposing defenses. I also think that Hasselbeck will be able to laser the ball all over the field against the Rams' poor defense.

Bob: Seattle -3

I had to look this line up again, even though I was the one who originally wrote it down. So long as they aren't playing the Lions or the Browns, the opponents of the Rams should be favored by at least a touchdown. That isn't to say the Seahawks are great, but their woes seem to linked somewhat more to a difficult schedule than putridity. Still, the line hasn't moved much toward the Seahawks since I looked it up, meaning that Vegas doesn't think much of Seattle.

Speaking of putridity, I wonder how Rams fans feel about the beginning of the Kyle Boller era. Initially, fans must have had mixed feelings when Bulger went down. He was having an awful season, which came on the back of several other unspectacular seasons. So while you never want to see your starting quarterback go down, they were probably happy to get a chance to try out Kyle Boller. Of course, being excited to see what Kyle Boller (lifetime QB rating of just above 70 with 47 TDs and 47 picks in his sex year career) is something that will soon make you sick, because you just got excited at the chance to see yet another terrible quarterback. I imagine you kid of feel like Marty McFly when his mother came on to him--“alright, this hot chick is hitting on me. Wait, that's my Mom.” That's about the part where you go puke.

PHILADELPHIA over Washington (9)

Bob: Washington +9

I have no idea what to make of either of these two teams. The Redskins are hard to score on, but their offense is so anemic that it means they have a legitimate chance each week of being held to single digits. The Eagles seem like they’re good, but they don’t have a great record and nearly managed to lose to the Bears last week. I don’t feel great about this since I get to witness the ‘Skins’ putridity week after week, but I’ll take the points on a spread this wide with two paradoxically teams.

Steve: Philly -9

I've gone with the Redskins the past two weeks, so I think I've been on that bandwagon a bit too long. For these sole reasons, I'm going with the Eagles, even though they have a propensity to shit the bed against crappy teams – See the Raiders.

ATLANTA over Tampa Bay (12)

Steve: Tampa Bay +12

What a tricky game to pick. Frankly, the Falcons have been unimpressive to me, while the Bucs have been kinda, sorta spunky lately. If their coach wasn't a complete and total moron, I would feel more comfortable going with them. By the way, it seems like there are more and more bad coaches proliferating in the NFL than ever. Magini sucks, this Tampa Bay guy sucks, Brad Childress and Wade Phillips are going to keep their jobs through no fault of their own... Just a whole lot of suck out there.

Bob: Tampa Bay +12

I agree with you — these two teams are on two completely different trajectories. Atlanta has gone from looking pretty good to this side of bad, while Tampa Bay has looked a good deal better than they did for the first half of the season. I might take the Falcons if the spread weren't so wide, because they badly need a bounce-back game. I also don't feel great about the Bucs since they got throttled by a mediocre Saints defense last week. I better stop writing before I talk myself out of this pick.

Indianapolis over HOUSTON (3.5)

Bob: Houston +3.5

At some point the Colts are going to have a bad game. Alternatively, Houston is going to have to have a good game at some point. I think this could be the week where Houston has a good first quarter, the fans smell blood, and they help the team knock the Colts off this week. I would feel better about this pick if Owen Daniels were still around, but honestly I think Houston will be in good shape to face the Colts. They saw them a few weeks ago and were able to stay within three in Indy.

Steve: Indy -3.5

Meh. I would feel more confident about Houston if this line was higher. After their close calls the past couple of weeks, and the earlier scare this year with the Texans, I think the chances are high that the Colts just destroy the Texans.

CINCINNATI over Cleveland (14)

Steve: Cincy -14

The Bengals... You disappointed me last week. I hope it doesn't happen again this week.

Bob: Cincinnati -14

I'd feel better about this pick if the Bengals regularly scored more than 17-24 points per game (they have only done this twice). But I think the Bengals might take stock in your disappointment, because “the Emperor is not as forgiving as I am.”

NY JETS over Carolina (3)

Bob: J-E-T-S -3

This is the week of the three-ish point line. We have no less than six games that have a spread of three or three and one-half points, and the Pats-Saints game is listed at three some places. Hopefully this means we will have a lot of competitive games, and the matchups seem less awful than some previous weeks.

Like so many other matchups, though, these two teams are unknown quantities. Carolina has a decent, but by no means great, defense. Their offense can either be really good or really terrible. The Jets used to have a good defense, but the only team they’ve looked good against recently was the Raiders. The Jets offense gets the job done but the Sanchise keeps making stupid mistakes. The difference may be that the Jets will have the opportunity to run against the Panthers, who give up an average of 130 yards per game on the ground, which could help cover the Sanchise’s mistakes. Should be close, though.

Steve: Carolina +3

I agree that this seems like a close game, but on closer examination... The Jets are the better team to me, and they're home, and the margin is just so small. Although, the Sanchise just had a very Delhomme-like game last week... You know what, screw it. I'm bucking the conventional wisdom and going with the Panthers.

SAN FRANCISCO over Jacksonville (3)

Steve: Jags +3

To me, the Jaguars have been the more impressive team lately, so I'm not entirely sure why they're not favored against San Fran. Of course, I imagine this is because I angrily cut David Garrard the other week.

Bob: Jacksonville +3

Even though people have been big on the 49ers this year, this line is perplexing. The Jags have been statistically better, have the better record, and have just looked better. Not just lately, but all season. I had to re-check this line as well. This is an easy pick.

SAN DIEGO over Kansas City (13.5)

Bob: San Diego -13.5

The spread is a little rich for me, but the last time these two teams faced off—at Arrowhead—the Chargers won by 30. KC has looked good the last few weeks, but San Diego has looked better.

Steve: San Diego -13.5

I agree completely with your analysis. Although the Broncos have apparently decided not to punt on the rest of the reason, the Chargers now seem like the class of the division, as LDT has stepped into the Juvination Machine.

MINNESOTA over Chicago (11)

Steve: Minnesota -11

Another strange line to me. Why isn't Minnesota favored by more? They've dominated in their recent games, and the Bears have stunk. So the two teams meet, and the Vikings aren't favored by two touchdowns? It's not quite December yet, so I'm not willing to bet against Brett Favre yet.

Bob: Adrian Peterson -11

Brett Favre nuthin'. The Bears are in the bottom tier of the league against the run, so the show is going to be all about him.

Let me take this opportunity to mention an SNL skit I thought was particularly funny last week. It featured Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who played Tommy in Third Rock from the Sun (I didn't recognize that name initially, either). As a matter of fact, even though Joseph Gordon-Levitt doesn't have a whole lot of star power (the last movie I remember him in was 10 Things I Hate About You... wait, holy shit, he was Cobra Commander in G.I. Joe????), he was actually pretty funny, had a decent monologue, and was pretty good in the sketches of which he was a part. The sketch I found particularly funny features Gordon-Levitt portraying Lloyd Dobler (that's right, Steve's enemy John Cusack) in the iconic scene of Say Anything, where he hold a boombox over his head playing Peter Gabriel. This, interestingly, is the song Kristin and I danced to for our first dance at our wedding. I highly recommend you give the sketch a look-see.

TENNESSEE over Arizona (3)

Bob: Tennessee -3

Vince Young is to 2009 what Kurt Warner was to 2008 — a quarterback who people wanted to count out each week but for some reason was able to just keep winning. Arizona hasn’t played a quality team in a month and a half. Even though it’s a stretch to call the Titans “quality” at this point, Arizona may be surprised when an opponent actually puts up a fight.

Steve: Arizona +3

I've been driving the Vince Young bandwagon all season, but this week, he's facing a formidable adversary in either Kurt Warner or Matt Leinart. By the way, I really hope Leinart gets a clean shot at the starting job somewhere when he becomes a free agent. Vince Young has proven that some guys – him, Leinart, Brady Quinn – really deserve more of a shot at the starting position as opposed to these washed-up hazbeens. The Football Outsiders did a good article about this on ESPN, but I think some of these teams gave up far too quickly on their quarterbacks of the future.

NEW ORLEANS over New England (1.5)

Steve: New England +1.5

And again, I feel like I've typed this 500 times, but the line for this seems too small. The Saints aren't bigger favorites? Really? They are undefeated. I mean, it's silly that I'm complaining, since I am picking the Patriots anyway, but really. I thought the Saints would be favored by 3.5 at least. The Saints seem overrated to me because they play in the NFC, which is full of overrated teams to me – If it wasn't for a Dolphins' second half collapse, the Saints would have lost that game, and the Dolphins are a middle of the road AFC team.

Bob: New England +1.5

The Patriots have no excuse if they lose this game. They have a far superior defense and their offense ranks just behind the Saints in terms of yardage gained. The Saints have had the opportunity to play the Lions, Bills, Jets, Panthers, Rams, and Buccaneers, all of which have been below average teams. The best teams they have played have been the Eagles, Giants, and Dolphins, all of which really are middle-of-the-road. Then again, the Patriots absolutely should have beat the Colts, too.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Lusting after DJ Hero

Above is a gameplay video for DJ Hero, the latest installment of the Guitar Hero series - Skip ahead to about 30 seconds for the actual beginning, since he has a couple of false starts. I would already own it, except that you have to buy another accessory - a DJ turntable device - that means a $100+ price tag. Also, if I can barely handle Guitar Hero on Normal, then the button juggling needed for DJ Hero seems like it would destroy my fingers.

However, from the above mash-up of "Sabotage" by The Beastie Boys and "Monkey Wrench" by The Foo Fighters, you can tell that the musical quality of the game is incredibly high. As far as I can tell, all of the mash-ups are originals, and I imagine when and if the game releases an official soundtrack, it'll sell even better than the actual game, because of its lower price tag.

Other standout track worth listening to: "Hollaback Girl" by Gwen Stefani with "Feel Good Inc." by The Gorillaz. The song featured in the commercial for the game, "My Name Is" by Eminem mixed with "H to the Izzo" by Jay-Z, or if you prefer, Jay-Z and The Jackson Five. And one of the more inspired and weird mixes, "Rapture" by Blondie with "Intergalactic" by The Beastie Boys.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Turkey Day!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Please enjoy a song medley from DAG, David Alan Grier, on Loveline, above. His Thanksgiving song comes in at about 50 seconds, but the other songs he sings are also entertaining.

Some other classic Loveline bits: DAG giving his children names based on medicine. Adam tries to help out a phone sex operator. And a caller has no idea about how big things are.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pickin' Pigskin with Bob and Steve and Kristin: Week 12, Part 1 and Standings

Happy early Thanksgiving, folks, and enjoy your Turkey Day as much as WWE diva Kelly Kelly does!

Green Bay over DETROIT (10)

Steve: Green Bay

Detroit was surprisingly spunky against the Browns, with Stafford playing at 90 percent of the Favre Grit Scale. Unfortunately, he gets to play a real team with a (presumably) real coach and defense on Turkey Day. This is even assuming that he plays, since I have no idea about how injured he is.

And also, Green Bay, you screwed my over last week by missing the cover by a single freakin' point. I realize that it didn't really matter, since Bob and Kristin went the same way, but still. I'd rather us all win another game than getting another loss.

Bob: Green Bay

I'm starting to feel like these teams are covering/not covering just to spite me. The Browns are terrible, yet the Lions just barely beat them in overtime. Ditto for Green Bay. I guess this just means that Vegas is getting really good at picking these lines, but still, there's a part of me that thinks whoever I choose will lose.

Green Bay has been erratic all season, so I'm not happy taking them with a 10-point spread (even if the Lions aren't setting the world on fire). The only thing that makes me comfortable about this line is that Detroit has been atrocious the last few Thanksgivings - they lost by 37 in 2008, 11 in 2007, 17 in 2006, 20 in 2005, and 32 in 2004. This team hasn't managed to win since just after Barack Obama was elected to the Senate. So I'll take the Packers.

Kristin: Detroit

I think perhaps it is foolish to pick Detroit to cover in this situation just because they scored a bunch of points and had a lot of heart to pull out the last second win last week, considering it's much easier to score against Cleveland than Green Bay. However, the Lions are one of the traditional Thanksgiving game teams so maybe home field / history / mashed potatoes will be on their side in this one.

DALLAS over Oakland (13.5)

Steve: Oakland

This line seems way, way too high, considering that the Cowboys managed only seven points this week, which is less than the spread for this game. The Raiders also beat my Bengals, and while I feel like I should punish them by picking Dallas, there is the chance that Bruce "at least I'm not JeMarcus Russell" Gradowski can lead them to cover in another game.

Bob: Dallas

This line is so high because the Cowboys live for playing on Thanksgiving. They are the anti-Lions in that sense, winning by 23, 31 and 28 in the last three years. Even during the the dark Drew Bledsoe days, the Cowboys were tearing it up on Thanksgiving. Also, people forget that the Packers and 'Skins defenses are pretty fierce, leading them to count out the 'Boys unfairly. The Cowboy offense is just waiting to bust out, and the Raiders are just the team to do it against. My only concern is that Gradkowski somehow busts out, collecting the negative karma that was collected by the Raiders during the JaMarcus Russell era. I think, however, that the Raiders won't be able to keep up with Dallas.

Kristin: Dallas

Now I know this seems like an even more foolish pick, but I have three things to back me up on this one. A) I think the teams that traditionally play at home on Thanksgiving have an advantage in the form of the emotional warm fuzziness and those turkeys they bring in with 8 legs (which is just a little gross). Dallas has ruined multiple Thanksgivings for my family, as my uncles wake up from their post-turkey naps to Dallas returning a kick for a touch-down or some other flashy quick points stab in the heart. Stupid 1990s.

B) If Dallas can carry forward what they put together on that final scoring drive last week they might have a shot - I don't agree with these stupid run plays that don't go anywhere, they need to let Romo run quick pass plays and work on his confidence, which we all know is his main weakness.

C) I picked Oakland earlier in the season the week after they woke up and had a big unexpected win only to be burned by their inconsistency and crappiness. Just as you can't count on Dallas to be that bad two weeks in a row, you can't count on Oakland to be that good two weeks in a row.

Giants over DENVER (6.5)

Steve: Giants

Another line that seems silly with the result of the Week 11 game. Maybe the lines will move a lot based on Sunday, but as it stands right now, they all seem kind of silly.

Bob: G-Men

At first I really, really wanted to take the Broncos here. I feel as though this free fall needs to end eventually and the G-Men didn't win very convincingly against a bad Atlanta team. But the Broncos lost against a San Diego team that doesn't seem great (despite being 7-3 - really?) and the Redskins the week before. Something bad happened to this Denver defense and I don't care to bet on them until they figure it out.

Kristin: Giants

I figure even the Giants (who appear to have vaguely remembered how to play football) can beat Denver (who seem to have entirely forgotten how to play football).


We have a change at the top of the standings, and I've managed to crawl my way back into contention, as all of us kind of pick to the middle. Last week's results and the overall standings:

Kristin: 10-6 (81-78 overall, first place)
Steve: 9-7 (79-80 overall, third place)
Bob: 6-10 (80-79 overall, second place)

The picture of WWE diva Kelly Kelly is from, appropriately,'s Thansgiving photo gallery. The eight-legged Madden turkey comes from here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

At The Commercials: Christmas means horrible commercials

I could honestly go the rest of my life without seeing another horrible commercial for jewelry, such as the above one for Kay. It actually took me a while to get the double meaning of their advertising slogan - every kiss begins with K(ay) - because I was always too focused on trying to frantically change the channel when their commercial came on.

This commercial, along with another one here, is so unbelievably shmaltzy in its appeal. Listen, I'm a passionate, passionate guy, but even I don't like clearly manipulative and simple cheese like this. For similar reasons, I find the animal abuse commercials with Sarah McGlaflin manipulative.

The only jewelry commercials worse than Kay's are for the ones for Jared. These are so destructive to the mind that 1) there are about 500 spoofs of them on YouTube and 2) you can't find the actual commercials on YouTube. Marriages are emotional enough - Why do we need these over the top cryfest commercials as well? boo.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Best American Sports Writing series is appropriately named

Imagine my good fortune when I discovered the 2008 edition of one of my favorite series, The Best American Sports Writing, in a bargain bin at my local Waldenbooks / Borders. Three hundred plus pages of good writing for $3? Score!

For those unfamiliar with the concept and too lazy to click the above hyperlink, the concept of the book is relatively simple. The series editor scours publications and accepts submissions, and pares down thousands of articles to about 50 to 100. He then forwards these to the guest editor, which is normally a sports-writing luminary like Michael Lewis or Mike Lupica or Dick Schaap. This guest editor then makes the final decision on the 20 to 30 articles that will make the final cut for the book.

The best part about the series is the sheer range of the articles. For example, the 2008 edition has fare you would expect, like a great profile piece on how the death of first base coach Mike Coolbaugh rippled through his former team. However, it also has unconventional pieces, like a long piece on the training regimen and background of the Cincinnati Bengals' cheerleading squad.

If you're not into sports, then I'd recommend the other limb of the series that I've read and enjoyed - The Best American Travel Writing. The title sounds cheesy, but they're actually strong pieces of journalism, somewhat Hemingway-esque. I had to read an edition for Travel Writing while I was in college, and I actually found that as an incredibly useful class for a reporter to take, even though it technically qualified as a writing course.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pickin' pigskin with Kristin: Week 11, Part 2

DETROIT over Cleveland (3.5)

Kristin: Detroit

As I think about this game, all I can wonder is - What fans are actually going to show up? I mean, do any Browns fans think the team is worth traveling for and does Detroit have any fans left? Further, from what 8 Mile has taught me about Detroit, they are too busy having sex standing-up in public places to be distracted from their guns and old cars to attend a sporting event. Additionally, what nice young family is going to wade through this sea of sex, guns, and falling apart cars to make it to the stadium? What college-aged guy that couldn't afford college or beer-bellied man that couldn't afford his house can afford to waste their money on tickets to such a match up? Hmmm?

JACKSONVILLE over Buffalo (9)

Kristin: Buffalo

I really don't think that Jacksonville is 9 points better than Buffalo. Possibly this is because I really don't think much of Jacksonville period, and I am extremely frustrated that I can't even really make fun of them - because I honestly can't keep them straight from Carolina. Who thought it was cool to add two cat-themed expansion teams? A crazy old cat lady? I find these two team names as confusing as a crazy old cat lady finds social interactions, the urge to save newspapers, and male anatomy.

Pittsburgh over KANSAS CITY (10)

Kristin: Kansas City

Pittsburgh has been unreliable to cover most of this season, while this is a smaller spread I just don't feel like picking them.

Indianapolis over BALTIMORE (1)

Kristin: Indianapolis

Frankly, I don't want to think about the Colts at all, or the refs they have bought off, or the clocks they have tampered with, or any of it. I am just thankful that per my request Bob did not actually break any of our furniture or walls last week.

NY GIANTS over Atlanta (6.5)

Kristin: NY Giants

I can't believe the Giants have fallen so far that they would play competitively against Atlanta - but then again, how the mighty have fallen this season (I'm talking to you Denver).

GREEN BAY over San Francisco (6.5)

Kristin: Green Bay

I have to go with Green Bay primarily because they are at home.

MINNESOTA over Seattle (11)

Kristin: Minnesota

Do you ever wonder where all the negative energy people have been sending at Brett Favre this season is going? It's certainly not reaching him and covering him with the plague or acting his age or anything like its desired effect. But, all that negative energy must be going somewhere - like maybe it explains the worsening in Afghanistan, or explains why it was raining so so hard on my drive home from work earlier this week that people needed to pull over to the side of the road, or explains why Bob hates when I wear the color teal - which makes me want to cry.

DALLAS over Washington (11)

Kristin: Washington

After last week, how can I not fall into the trap they have set and pick the Skins again? Woot! However, I would like to lodge a formal complain that this game of all games, this rivalry of all classic football rivalries, is NOT being played on Thanksgiving DAY and hasn't been in recent years. This SHOULD be the Thanksgiving game. The 4 p.m. watch during dinner or directly after dinner in your happy food coma game. Everyone knows it. It's like not having mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving. Let's start a petition.

New Orleans over TAMPA BAY (11.5)

Kristin: New Orleans

Go Saints!

Arizona over ST. LOUIS (9)

Kristin: Arizona

I usually don't pick Arizona because I don't think much of them. But, right now I am longing for some AMAZING Pina Colada chapstick that I got from Phoenix. Not sticky, good smelling but not overpowering, with just a hint of tint.

NEW ENGLAND over NY Jets (10.5)

Kristin: New England

I could really go for a punisher game. Bonus points for making QB Hepatitis cry.

Cincinnati over OAKLAND (9.5)

Kristin: Cincinnati

In keeping with my Cinci = I want a pet Bulldog theme: Bob insists that it is the right time to buy a condo instead of continuing to rent. It is difficult to find a place in Arlington that we can afford that isn't in either a subpar location or in a giant apartment building or full of junky old appliances, old carpet, and super tiny. I think hardwood floors and a nice yard area, even if it;s just a courtyard, would be best for Ocho. However, maybe ugly carpet would be okay, since we could save up to replace it once he was potty trained.

San Diego over DENVER (3)

Kristin: San Diego

Is whoever got hurt for Denver still hurt? I should look that up before making this pick.

Philadelphia over CHICAGO (3)

Kristin: Philadelphia

Yikes. I'm surprised that Chi is only back by 3 considering how frequently they have been served their own ass on a platter this season. If you had one, I wonder where you would store your ass platter. Hopefully, not in the kitchen mixed in with the other platters. Like how we used to keep the spoon we used to scoop out wet cat food mixed in the other spoons and had to stop guests from using it- because while clean, you just don't want to be eating with the cat food spoon.

HOUSTON over Tennessee (4.5)

Kristin: Houston

Only and always take Houston at home, and never think too hard about Tennessee - or you will start to believe they might win.

The bag photo is from here.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pickin' pigskin with Bob and Steve: Week 11, Part 2

DETROIT over Cleveland (3.5)

Bob: Detroit -3.5

I hope the NFL makes a DVD of all the terrible games they have had this season and call it Who Wants it Less? It goes without saying that if you actually intend to use these recommendations to inform your gambling decisions, take my advice and do NOT bet on this game. These two teams are just awful and are hard to predict.

Neither of these teams have a good defense (No. 31 and No. 32 by average yardage), but Detroit's offense is mediocre. That's a compliment when compared to Cleveland's offense, which is No. 32 in terms of average yardage and scoring. This game has all the makings to be as bad as Cleveland-Buffalo was a few weeks ago.

Steve: Cleveland +3.5

As bad as the Lions were last year, I feel like they're even worse this year, but they've managed to just get lucky in a game and actually win one. Outside of some early season touchdowns, Stafford has looked pretty miserable at quarterback, probably because he has to worry about getting his brains mashed in on every snap.

JACKSONVILLE over Buffalo (9)

Steve: Jags -9

Ahhh, Buffalo. You finally got rid of Dick Jauron, who sucked. I wish you would just up and move to Toronto already. Seriously, people are quick to worry about the Bills moving, while overlooking the fact that Buffalo sucks as a city. They shit the bed with the Sabres, and the Bills are poorly supported as well. Just move to Toronto, which is a gorgeous city, and be done with it.

Bob: Jacksonville -9

I've never fully understood the whole firing-the-coach-before-the-season-ends thing. Football isn't like baseball or basketball where the coach's contribution to a team is largely during game time. Football coaches provide the game plan, which is drawn every week out of the larger strategy the coach has built over time — e.g. he has built a fast defense and will try to work to that strength each week. Firing a coach midseason isn't going to change the fact that the correct personnel may not have been drawn together. The contribution coaches do have on the field is clock management, at which Jauron was bad but it didn't really influence the Bills this season. All the clock management in the world isn't going to help the Bills when they lose by 13, 20, 28, 11, 21, and 25, which comprises a third of their season. The two close games they have lost came against the Pats and Browns, and both losses could be connected to inopportune fumbles by the Bills and not coaching decisions. I'm not defending Jauron because he wasn't a great coach. But firing him at this time does nothing but make the fans feel a bit better.

As for the game, Buffalo ranks dead last against the run so Miller Jenuine Draft should have a big week.

Pittsburgh over KANSAS CITY (10)

Bob: Pittsburgh -10

For all the teams we know are bad this year (including Kansas City), Pittsburgh is one of the teams we can actually be pretty sure is good. So why is this game so hard to pick? For one, Pittsburgh seems to lose their ability to win when Troy Polamalu gets hurt. Losing a safety shouldn't affect a team so much, but Pittsburgh must need its Samoan good luck charm. Also, Kansas City has the ability to score, even if they can't do so consistently. Finally, Pittsburgh seems to be content to allow teams to hang around so it's not necessarily a good move to pick them to cover. However, Kansas City lost their No. 1 receiver this week so I just don't feel comfortable picking them to stay with the Steelers this week.

Steve: Pittsburgh -10

Ugh, don't remind me that Bowe got suspended. The gutpunch about him and Brown both getting hurt this week is that it is so late in the fantasy season that I can effectively do nothing about it. Seriously, I still have Bowe on my roster, because the only decent guy on the waiver wire to replace him with is... Drum roll please... Kevin Faulk. Bye bye, chances of a fantasy championship! And to make things worse, one owner is throwing a hissy-fit because our commissioner is refusing to make four substitutions for him.

Indianapolis over BALTIMORE (1)

Steve: Indy -1

I feel like this game could be a trap for the Colts, coming off a big come-from-behind win against the Patriots. However, I really like this Caldwell guy. The situation reminds me of Pittsburgh, where Tomlin took over for the vastly overrated Bill Cowher and immediately took them back to the Super Bowl. Likewise, I feel that Tony Dungy was overrated as a coach, and he succeeded just because he was better than the lunatic he replaced, Jim Mora Sr.

Bob: Ugh -1

I agree with this looking like a trap game, but I just can't take the Ravens when I know there secondary has been lit up occasionally this season. This game is going to go one of two ways— either Peyton Manning will lead this team to another win another game that they shouldn't really have won through his bizarre combination of luck and skill, or Ed Reed is going to pick him off three times and Baltimore will dominate.

NY GIANTS over Atlanta (6.5)

Bob: Atlanta +6.5

At the beginning of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, you get to see Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn land on a Trade Federation starship, be ambushed, and shoot their way out of the ship. The sequence involves them melting their way through a door with their lightsabers, which is something that many Star Wars fans may have wondered if it was possible, since it never happened in the original trilogy. The movie shows so much promise and looks as though it will not disappoint the fans who waited over 20 years for a new Star Wars movie to come out. Almost immediately after that sequence, though, Jar Jar Binks comes out and takes a huge, steaming dump in the middle of the movie. Everything subsequent to that was ruined for fans.

Well, Jar Jar took a huge dump on the seasons of these two teams a few weeks ago. Both teams looked good out of the gate but have since looked just awful. Remember when beating Atlanta was a huge deal for the Patriots? It wouldn't be now. Remember when the Giants looked like the best team in the league? Now, I'm not even sure if they're good. Considering how bad both of these teams have been lately, I'll take the points.

Steve: Giants -6.5

I think your Star Wars reference is quite appropriate here, young Jedi. The Giants look pretty mortal now that they're done with the “complete and utter cupcake” portion of their schedule. However, that being said, I have no idea what the eff is up with the Falcons. They lost to some cupcake last week, so I have no faith in them until they beat a decent team again. The winner of this game will earn some respect from me, which I'm sure will motivate them this weekend.

GREEN BAY over San Francisco (6.5)

Steve: Green Bay -6.5

This line seems really small to me. If the Packers can protect Aaron Rodgers, then they can score in bunches. That seems like a big “if”, but hey, since when has San Fran been a good, consistent team? Aren't they still messing around with Alex Smith at quarterback? I don't think they can score 21 points, whereas I can see the Packers putting up that many points easily.

Bob: Green Bay -6.5

I think the smallness of this line is driven not so much by the fact that people think San Fran is good, but because the Packers seem to have an inability to play well consistently from week to week. On paper, this should be a 10 point spread but the Packers may have one of those games where Aaron Rodgers holds the ball for 15 seconds too many times and thus gets sacked a bunch. The Packers are one of those teams I wouldn't gamble on this season, along with all those games that feature crappy teams playing each other, because it's more like roulette than actually thinking you know who will win.

MINNESOTA over Seattle (11)

Bob: Minnesota -11

In an episode of South Park, Stan notes about Bono, “That's why he's able to do so much. Try to help so many people, but still seem like such a piece of shit.” The premise of the entire episode is that Bono is literally the world's largest piece of crap, which the head of the European Fecal Standards raised as his child. Well, Brett Favre is also a huge piece of shit, perhaps linked to the dump Jar Jar Binks took on Episode I and the Falcons and Giants season.

Steve: Minnesota -11

I like the continuity between your selections this week, Bob. It's a proud day for Penney, Andy and the other Hansons out there. Yeah, Brett Favre really is one of the most evil men alive now, and Vikings fans should feel dirty winning with their arch-nemesis on their team. It would be equivalent to the Red Sox finally winning in 2004, but if they somehow got Derek Jeter on their team to do it.

DALLAS over Washington (11)

Steve: Washington +11

Hey, this pick is completely insane! But the Redskins have been frisky lately, and, well, I'm just being a contrarian here. I'm shooting from the hip, from the gut, being a maverick, like Sarah Palin! Also, this gives me an excuse to run a photo of Tina Fey, and honestly, who doesn't want to see more of Tina Fey?

Bob: Dallas -11

Boy, it would make Kristin's father's day if the Redskins could manage the upset here. Actually, funny story on this one — usually Kristin will get unhappy if I spend all day Sunday watching football. She has no problem with me watching the Patriots, but she generally doesn't want me to watch the 1 p.m., 4 p.m., and night game on Sunday. So when I was talking to somebody about our weekend plans, I mentioned that we would be watching football on Sunday, particularly the Patriots game. Kristin quickly interjected that we would be watching the Redskins-'Boys too, which is great because it means I get a 1 p.m. and a 4 p.m. this week (OpenOffice can go to Hell, by the way, because it keeps automatically capitalizing the next letter after the period in p.m.).

Unfortunately, I think the Redskins might get beat pretty badly this week because an often overlooked strength of the Cowboys offense is their run game, which also is the Redskins defense's Achilles heal. If Jason Campbell were going to choose a week to blow up and try to salvage his season, though, this would be the game since the Cowboys pass defense is still pretty bad.

New Orleans over TAMPA BAY (11.5)

Bob: Tampa Bay +11.5

New Orleans hasn't been covering the double digit spreads anymore, looking vulnerable, while Tampa Bay has looked frisky the last few weeks. This means, of course, that this game is going to be a 20 point blowout.

Steve: New Orleans -11.5

I'm glad you said the game will be a 20-point blowout – That means I'm safe going that way. Thanks!

Arizona over ST. LOUIS (9)

Steve: Arizona -9

On one hand, Arizona has been blowing teams out. On the other hand, the Rams really suck this year. What is a guy to do?

Bob: Arizona -9

Arizona has been taking care of business against bad teams. The Rams have been known to make games interesting, a la last week where they somehow came close against the Saints, but it is hard to pick a team that is averaging barely double digit points per game to cover.

NEW ENGLAND over NY Jets (10.5)

Bob: NY Jets +10.5

I still can't communicate rationally about the Colts-Pats game last week. So I won't. This game could easily be a Belichick “eff you” game where they put 60 points on a team to show that they can, even against a quality defense like the Jets. But the Pats seems to have a hard time blowing teams out playing in normal weather in this country.

Steve: Patriots -10.5

Again, you made my argument for me, Bob, similar to the New Orleans pick. I definitely think this game has high “eff you” potential, between the Pats losing the first game to the Jets, Ryan breaking down and crying to his team this week, the freefall that the Sanchise finds himself in, and the Patriots' defense looking to pummel the Jets to prove something. It's not like the Jets dominated the first game between the two teams, and this time, the Patriots are at home, and Brady is playing much better now, and the Jets are playing much worse.

Cincinnati over OAKLAND (9.5)

Steve: Cincinnati -9.5

Why is this line smaller than the Patriots-Jets game? Cedric Benson probably won't play for the Bengals, but really, nobody shows up to play ever for the Raiders.

Bob: Cincinnati -9.5

Cedric Benson is a significant loss for the Bengals, but Larry Johnson isn't a huge downgrade. The guy isn't a great person but he's a decent running back. I think he was limited this year at least in part by the fact that Kansas City's O-line being subpar. However, the Bengals have been living and dying by their defense, so fortunately for them Cedric Benson doesn't play there. Oakland has been known to surprise teams in the past, but generally they just lose miserably.

San Diego over DENVER (3)

Bob: San Diego -3

I won't pick any team the week after they lose to the Redskins. Also, Chris Simms isn't particularly good and won't be Josh McDaniels' new Matt Cassell. What has the world come to where losing Kyle Orton is actually a significant downgrade for a team?

Steve: Denver +3

Ugh. This game... I have no idea what way it could go. Really, at the start of the season, I would have thought that Simms would have been just as good of a choice as a starter as Kyle Orton, who I viewed as supremely overrated because of his win-loss record with some dominant Chicago defenses behind him.

But this year, I think Orton has dramatically stepped his game up. As a result, the Broncos have surprised everyone... and now he's gone, apparently. On top of that, LDT showed a pulse last week – Who knew? Every trend seems to favor the Chargers for this game, so I'm bucking them and instead banking on the Broncos.

Philadelphia over CHICAGO (3)

Steve: Philly -3

The Bears are a mediocre team, and the Eagles only seem to show up against good teams... I have no idea what this means for this weekend. Anything could happen! The NFL, where average vs. below average happens.

Bob: Cheesesteaks -3

How does one get a body like Brian Westbrook? I'm not talking about him being ripped or something, I'm talking about his body breaking down more than the Millennium Falcon or a Ford. Injured again? Did this guy do something to piss off a higher power? Does he need to pull a My Name is Earl and set about fixing his karma? The Eagles made a huge move when they drafted LeSean “Bones” McCoy this year.

But I won't ever pick the Bears again this year unless the spread is wider. They are just awful.

HOUSTON over Tennessee (4.5)

Bob: Tennessee +4.5

A few weeks ago, ESPN's executives must have been incredibly worried about this game. Houston hasn't exactly been setting the world on fire but Tennessee just looked awful. Now, viewers of this game may actually be treated to honest-to-goodness football.

Houston is probably the better team—they have been better on both sides of the ball statistically—but Tennessee has been a completely different team these last few weeks. It is tempting to take Houston, particularly since they are coming off a bye, but I am not going to bet against Vince Young and his bizarre karma-good luck thing. Also, Chris Johnson is who I thought he is.

Steve: Tennessee +4.5

I should coach the Titans, since I would have been playing Vince Young from week one. Hey Jeff Fisher, fuck you buddy.

The picture of Admiral Ackbar comes from this nutty site that has a post complaining about the unfairness of The Blind Side taking a swipe at George W. Bush. The picture of Tina is from here. The picture of Stacy and Clinton is from here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Losing man card points with Glee

The lovely women of Glee.

At the risk of losing more points off my Man Card, I must say that Glee is quickly becoming my favorite comedy slash drama on television. Spoiler alert: This week's episode was the best of the season so far.

My favorite part of Glee has been its evolution from a somewhat-shallow, somewhat-stereotypical show to something deeper as its characters have become developed. This last episode, which delved into Quinn's homelife, actually succeeded in making her a sympathetic figure. Given the status she started with in early season episodes, that's quite the feat.

The expansion of the secondary characters, such as Quinn [left, looking fetching if I do say so] and the previous week's episode featuring the cheerleading coach, is what has made Glee special in my mind. The pacing and character development is in stark contrast from, say, Heroes, which introduces and dumps or overexposes characters in rapid succession. There is a gradual roll-out with Glee, and I daresay that it is the best show in television at this currently. Each episode gives you a little snippet of the ensemble - Lost is great at character development too, but the pace is so plodding at times that I prefer Glee, looking solely at that aspect.

One odd aspect of the show is the older ages of the actresses involved. Outside of my guidance counselor crush Jayma Mays, everyone else is six to eight years older than their character. This is especially true for Rachel, who is quite visually appealing... but her character is a high school sophomore. What the heck? The actress, Lea Michele, is 23. The same thing goes with Quinn, played by the 23-year-old Dianna Agron.

Still, despite my confusion about their character ages and the effect this has on their hotness, Glee is incredible. I will have to make a Top 10 list after all the current seasons of the shows I watch conclude, but it wouldn't surprise me if the show made my Top 5.

The photo of Agron comes from her IMDB photo gallery. Lea Michele's photo is from here. The Jayma Mays photo is from here. And the picture of Heather Elizabeth Morris is from here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pickin' Pigskin: Standings and Week 11, Part 1

CAROLINA over Miami (3)

Steve: Miami +3

You know, I don't really care that Ronnie Brown is on injured reserve, even though it potentially ruins my entire fantasy season. (Seriously, if there is a God of fantasy football, he friggin' hates me. This is the best season I've had, with an outside chance at winning the playoffs, and my only consistent running back gets placed on IR late in the season, after the trading deadline, and after all the decent players have been processed on waivers. Screw you, Fantasy Football God.)

... anyway. I think people are riding too high on the Panthers recent decent play, and I think Evil Jake Delhomme has been waiting in the wings, waiting for everyone to get confidence in Good Jake Delhomme again, and will now viciously rape and strike and rape the unsuspecting populace. Also, maybe Good Chad Henne will escape from whatever prison he's in, and maybe that guy from West Virginia won't suck this week.

Bob: Carolina -3

What was already a forgettable year is about to get worse for the Dolphins. Losing Ronnie Brown was incredibly bad for the Dolphins, since he was taking a decent number of snaps in the Wildcat. This is effectively blowing up the Dolphins' primary offensive wrinkle. Having Ronnie Brown go down might be the equivalent of losing your starting quarterback for the rest of the season. Chad Henne has had flashes of greatness, but Carolina's real weakness is the run and I'm not sure if Ricky Williams and his vegan diet are going to be able to a) handle the Wildcat or b) grind out the yards necessary to win this game.

I agree, though, that Bad Delhomme is just waiting to come out sometime soon. What is an apt comparison to waiting for the inevitable but unpredictable return of Bad Delhomme? Is it watching the latest Britney Spears comeback and knowing that at some point she's going to end up flashing her crotch or holding her kid outside a car window? Waiting for Pat Robertson or Lou Dobbs to say something incredibly racist and nobody really care? You know it's coming, but you just can't predict when. On a smaller scale, I guess the comparison is waiting for your dog to rip into the trash or have an accident inside the house. I hope John Fox keeps a spray bottle on the sideline.

Kristin didn't have any commentary for tonight's game, but she did pick Miami.


On to the weekly and yearly standings:

Bob: 7-8 (74-69 overall, first)
Steve: 7-8 (70-73 overall, third)
Kristin: 6-9 (71-72 overall, second)

Kristin continues to slide a bit here, as I'm now only a game behind her for second place. Woohoo, go me! Bob still holds first place over both of us though, by three and four games respectively. Him and I only picked two games differently this past week, and of course, we split them. Sigh.

As far as Fantasy Football goes, my team finally won this week on the strong Sunday night performance of Brady, Watson and Reggie Wayne. Of course, the news this week has been absolutely horrid, as Ronnie Brown is on injured reserve and Dwayne Bowe got a four-day suspension for testing positive for a banned supplement. There goes my #1 running back and #2 wideout! I should still make the playoffs anyway, being 7-3 and in a tie for first in my division, and third overall. But unless some guys already on my roster play completely over their heads, it'll be hard to get a first round bye.

The picture of, uh, picks, is from here. A hot picture of Britney Spears was surprisingly hard to find, but it was on this site for generic computer wallpapers.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The ancient vagueness of the Internet: Names

As the Internet has progressed, there are some bad things that have happened, such as comments on ESPN stories. However, there have been some good things - Such as people finally getting appropriate web site addresses for themselves.

The best / worst example of this was Major League Baseball, which for years was only accessible via:

This is quite annoying, since you would naturally think that would bring you to the proper site. Nope! Instead, some lawyers owned it, which must have been great for them because they were constantly overwhelmed with traffic for Major League Baseball. Click here to see what the site used to look like - Apparently people would get so misled that they felt the need to put a link on their site to the actual MLB.

Anyway, MLB eventually bought them out, as most big companies did. This of course led to a perverse situation where people would just squat on domains - like - and hope that someone would buy them out. Carolla famously refused to, and called the guy a pussy multiple times on national radio.

... I'm not really sure where I was going with this entry tonight. Sorry! The baseball clip art is from here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pickin' Pigskin with Kristin: Week 10, Part 2

Because I'm feeling bad about posting these so late, and because I haven't thought of my own entry for tonight, here are Kristin's football picks for the week. She did get these in before games started on Sunday, just so everyone knows. Also, I don't care what anyone says, I find Kristin Cavallari hot.
Atlanta over CAROLINA (1.5)

Kristin: Atlanta

Atlanta is the faster, more put together team.

MIAMI over Tampa Bay (10)

Kristin: Miami

I wonder if this game will get a lot of Florida on Florida hype. I would guess not so much because they are more into college ball. I think that Miami comes on strong, because despite looking tired and bored at the end of last weeks game, they really are a good team.

MINNESOTA over Detroit (16.5)

Kristin: Minnesota

I'm sick of picking the Lions as an underdog team. Also, it's time for a blow out Vikings game, and this surely could be it.

NEW YORK JETS over Jacksonville (7)

Kristin: Jets

I'm taking the Jets at home, but I would love to see this be an upset.

TENNESSEE over Buffalo (7)

Kristin: Buffalo

Tennessee isn't strong enough to go up by 7, even at home.

PITTSBURGH over Cincinnati (7)

Kristin: Cincinnati

Cinci won in a freak last minute play when these two teams met earlier in the season, while I wouldn't expect such a photo finish again - I do think that this game will also be closer than 7.

New Orleans over ST. LOUIS (14)

Kristin: New Orleans

Go Saints.

OAKLAND over Kansas City (2)

Kristin: Kansas City

Oakland can't be trusted to win, even at home.

ARIZONA over Seattle (9)

Kristin: Seattle

Seattle is highly inconsistent, but I don't like Arizona.

Denver over WASHINGTON (3.5)

Kristin: Denver

What??? 3.5??? Is someone smoking something, is someone hurt? Why is this spread so small???

SAN DIEGO over Philadelphia (1.5)

Kristin: Philadephlia

Philly is on a roll, and I want to see San Diego fans cry.

Dallas over GREEN BAY (3)

Kristin: Dallas

Apparently Dallas has gotten its act back together. Let's see if that's true.

Baltimore over CLEVELAND (10.5)

Kristin: Baltimore

Baltimore - still better than a bad team.

INDIANAPOLIS over New England (3)

Kristin: New England

Go Pats GO! The first true test of a healed T. Brady. Let's hope he passes with flying colors.

The Kristin Cav photo is from this site.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Getting freaky with SuperFreakonomics

Note - I will not actually be having sex with a book. Sorry for the misleading title.

However, I will say that I highly enjoyed the latest book from Steve Dubner and Steve Levitt, SuperFreakonomics, which is a "super" follow-up to their earlier work. I am coincidentally selling the book on eBay as we speak. Don't take my selling of it as a negative endorsement though - It's simply a financial motive on my part, since the wait was too long to get it from the library, and it did cost me $20, and I want to recoup some of that. My only regret with the book is that it is barely more than 200 pages.

Those 200 pages sure are splendid though. For those unfamiliar with the premise, the authors - a journalist and an economist respectively - take a look at several issues that seemingly aren't connected, but secretly are. For example, the introduction of the television to parts of rural India has caused violence against women in those areas to fall. In the initial book, the authors were able to prove that sumo wrestlers threw matches, which was similar to... Chicago-area teachers cooking the results of state testing.

The most controversial research in the previous book was that the legalization of abortion (Roe v. Wade) led to a reduced crime rate in the 1990s. Paraphrasing their reasoning: Women who got abortions were normally poor and not really fit to be parents yet, so their potential children were more likely to get arrested young, and thus more likely to commit violent crime. If they didn't have their kids - and they didn't - then the crime rate would fall - and it did.

Sure, other efforts, like pumping money into enforcement and crime deterrent, had an effect. But the point of Freakonomics is that some decisions have very, very unintended consequences. It's almost important to note that the authors do NOT take a moral stance on the issue - They don't say this is a reason to endorse abortion, but rather, they say that this is an effect of it.

The most controversial stance in the new book is that the solution to global warming and pollution is to... commit more pollution. Huh? Basically, the authors talk to a group of rogue inventors who have determined that the easiest way to lower global temperatures back to what they once were would be to simulate a big volcanic explosion. When the last one when off in the early 1980s, it basically undid years of pollution up until that point. Using that as their premise, the easiest way to undo years of pollution would be to snake a hose up into the stratosphere that would periodically release small amounts of sulfur into the atmosphere, blocking out some of the Sun's rays.

It is a completely wacky idea, and I doubt we'll ever see it. Environmental lobbyists in the book scream that it won't work, and I've heard the idea has elicited even more critical scorn after the book's release.

However, I do think we have to start thinking this way in terms of solving pollution. People are NOT going to cutback on consumption, and thousands more are getting added to the grid everyday in developing third-world countries. It seems unfair to say to them, "Well we got ours, and because we know how bad that is now, I'm afraid you're going to have to wallow around in shit for a few more years."

Therefore, I'm taking the Bill Nye approach. One time on Loveline, he was asked by Adam Carolla why it was important to go to the Moon when you had problems like the war in the Middle East and the economy here to solve on Earth. Nye rightly pointed out that you have to work toward solving ALL of these problems ALL the time - You can't just standstill completely on any one issue. As a society, yes, we should be looking at ways we can lessen our reliance on fossil fuels and to use alternative energy sources... but we should also be looking at aggressive solutions like terraforming and geo-engineering, in case we do need to use them.

I have some other thoughts on some of the other essays of the book, which I might give at a later date.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pickin' Pigskin with Bob and Steve: Week 10, Part 2

Atlanta over CAROLINA (1.5)

Bob: Atlanta -1.5

At first I looked at this game and thought that this was one of those ridiculous lines. After all, Carolina has not done anything great this year while Atlanta at least has Matt Ryan, right? Upon further review, however, neither of these teams looks very good at all. Atlanta’s wins have come against Miami, Carolina, San Fran, Chicago, and Washington, while Carolina’s have come against Washington, Tampa Bay, and Arizona. So even though these two teams have inverses of each other’s records, the line makes a lot of sense. It is just hard to tell who is going to win this game.

I originally wanted to pick Carolina because I think that Carolina’s defense is actually pretty decent, while Atlanta’s offense is only moderately good. But looking at some other circumstances—namely DeAngelo Williams’ knee injury and Atlanta’s ability to score versus the problems Carolina has had stopping teams from scoring—I flipped the other way.

Steve: Atlanta -1.5

I still think Carolina is worse than they look because of Delhomme's rampant craving to throw interceptions. It would be like if you had a really hot girlfriend, but every week, she managed to throw up at a party. At a certain point, you would just be like, “Okay, that's enough, I can find a hot girlfriend that won't throw up all over everyone's shoes.” (A classy comparison on my part, by the way.)

MIAMI over Tampa Bay (10)

Steve: Miami -10

Tampa Bay switched their quarterback, which could account for why they haven't looked like complete ass in recent weeks. However, I don't think they can stop the Dolphins, who almost pulled the upset against the Patriots last week. Although, I am worried about the phaseout of Ronnie Brown from the running games. Hey Dolphins, actually run some plays for him! He can do more than just be the guy who gets the Wildcat snap.

Bob: Miami -10

I originally thought that since Tampa Bay looked frisky last week, this game could be close. Not necessarily win No. 2 for the Bucs, but close enough that it might be worth it to take the points. Miami isn’t exactly setting the world on fire, so a 10 point spread is a tough pill to swallow.

But I say to swallow that pill (considering the pills that are advertised during NFL games, there’s a good chance you’ll either get an erection or lower cholesterol, so bonus!). Tampa Bay is just awful against the run, and if there’s one thing we know it’s that Miami can run the ball. I hope the Wildcat formation burns in Hell, but for this week it makes this decision a little bit easier.

MINNESOTA over Detroit (16.5)

Bob: Detroit +16.5

Another game where the two teams have inverted records. This is a tough pick for me, because Detroit showed signs of life after their first win in a year, but has since gone back down into the depths of mediocrity. However, (and I have been burned by this logic before), the Vikings don’t have a tendency to blow teams out; they have only won one game by more than 16 points despite playing the Browns, Lions, and Green Bay. In addition, the Lions have shown an ability to hang in there. Although an upset would probably be too much to hope for against Brett “666” Favre, I’m hoping that Matt Stafford can at least manage a cover here.

Steve: Minnesota -16.5

I think you're absolutely high to be picking the Lions here, but that 16.5 line – essentially meaning the Vikings need to win by two touchdowns and a field goal – is quite daunting. But you know what? Screw it! On paper, the Lions have been just as horrible this year as last year, but they managed to eek out a win.

NEW YORK JETS over Jacksonville (7)

Bob: New York Jets -7

For a while there, John Cusack made a bunch of good movies. He was a fringe member of the so-called Brat Pack, appearing in Sixteen Candles, One Crazy Summer, and Say Anything, all of which are great teenage coming of age films. He then fell of the radar a little bit, before a few movies were written seemingly just for him—Grosse Pointe Blank, Pushing Tin (which also gave us the travesty that was Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton), and Being John Malkovich, all of which played in part on the comical neuroses that we first saw really coming out in Say Anything. His series of really good movies climaxed with High Fidelity in 2000. It was a great movie and seemed to be the perfect part for him even though it was based on a book.

Granted he had made a few stinkers up to that point (*cough* Con Air *cough*), but every actor is going to have a few downs. Still, at that point, things were looking great for John Cusack. How could he make a terrible movie like America's Sweethearts, Identity, or Must Love Dogs? Wait, he starred in all of those movies. Crap. Yet, every time I hear about a new John Cusack movie, I'm super excited about it. He has repeatedly had bizarre movies that I don't understand why he's making or movies that look good but end up being disappointing. Yet, when I heard about 2012, I was wicked excited again. It's like I have some Pavlovian response to John Cusack being in a movie.

Why do I tell you all about my John Cusack man-crush in a football column? Because I feel like the Jets season, in some ways, has been like John Cusack's career. They had a fantastic start of the season and looked like contenders. Yet, in their last five weeks they have looked beatable, including one of the all-time bad game plans against Buffalo (really, Buffalo gives up tons of yards on the ground, the Jets gain tons of yards on the ground, yet Rex Ryan decides to stake the game on Sanchez passing?). For whatever reason, though, I don't want to count them out just yet. Two of their four losses have been against the bizarre Wildcat Dolphins and the third came at the hands of the unbeatable looking Saints. Identity and 1408 could have been good, they just were poorly executed. Not John Cusack's fault. So I'm still not ready to count the Jets out yet. Plus, they are coming off a bye and Jacksonville has not exactly been setting the world on fire.

Steve: Jets -7

Wow, that was the most convulated John Cusack analogy ever! I agree with your take on the Jets, so instead, I'll use my space to rant against High Fidelity, which I think is a secretly horrible movie. On the surface, it seems good, like Requiem for a Dream. But I watched it again a year or so ago, and I was left with one thought – His character really is quite a miserable person. He is insanely neurotic and his actions in the movie are almost psychotic. And the ending... I feel like he just settles for the blonde, who's main problem is seemingly that she isn't fucking nuts like he is.

TENNESSEE over Buffalo (7)

Steve: Tennessee -7

Speaking of frisky teams, the Titans sure have looked decent ever since Vince Young took over the reigns! If only some smart, dashing guy had advocated that move at the beginning of the season, even if he is still iffy at picking games...

Bob: Tennessee -7

Well, there you have it. In my string of being wrong about just about everything last week, I wrote “I know that Vince Young was one of those guys who 'just wins' a few years ago, but I think the luster has worn off him.” Well, turns out that somehow Vince Young continues to “just win.” That, and Tennessee happens to have a certain runningback named Chris Johnson who is running like he's on a mission. Which is actually why I'm picking Tennessee here—Buffalo is giving up an average of 173 yards on the ground each week. If I were Jeff Fisher, I might just run my own version of the Wildcat the entire game.

PITTSBURGH over Cincinnati (7)

Bob: Cincinnati +7

Wow, this would be game of the week if the Mannings weren't playing the Bradys this week. Statistically, Pittsburgh is the somewhat better team, but Cincinnati seems to have some kind of intangible ability to pull off wins. The Bengals won the first matchup between these two teams, but it was a kind of fluky win. The Steelers have the home field advantage this week, but the Bengals managed to win convincingly in Baltimore last week. The Steelers have had convincing wins against contenders Minnesota and Denver in their last two games. Color me befuddled. I'm not going to feel good however I pick this game, so I'll just go with the points.

Steve: Cincy +7

I feel like I have to pick the Bengals, because otherwise, their streak could end just like *that*. (Imagine Airplane! when you read that.) And hey, if they beat the Steelers once, maybe they can stay within seven... Not really likely, but I'm willing to stake my (poor) reputation on it.

New Orleans over ST. LOUIS (14)

Steve: New Orleans -14

Dear Saints, please do not pull a Colts. By that, I mean do not let an inferior team stay kind-of close the entire game, and ruin this pick for me. You should beat the Rams by about 70 points. If you need some motivation, please remember that a ram would totally kill a saint if it had to, and the inverse is not true.

Bob: New Orleans -14

The luster seems to be wearing off New Orleans. They've had two close calls in as many games. There probably is a way to beat this team, but somebody better figure it out quick because there are a bunch of pancakes on their schedule. That being said, the Rams are scoring less than 10 points per game while New Orleans is scoring an average of 38. So I don't feel like this is even a challenging pick.

OAKLAND over Kansas City (2)

Bob: Kansas City +2

You smell that? Do you smell that? Raiders-Chiefs, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. I hate the smell of Raiders-Chiefs in the morning. You know, one time we had a bomb of a game, for three hours. When it was all over, I walked up. We didn't find one of 'em, not one stinkin' good player. The smell, you know that dog-crap smell. Smelled like... New Jersey. (Hopefully that gets through, but for people who don't love Apocalypse Now as much as I do, that's a retake of Colonel Kilgore's speech from the aforementioned movie.)

Seriously, though, are the even going to televise this games in its home markets? These two teams are just atrocious. They are both at the bottom of the league on offense and defense. This could either be a game where the final score ends up being 33-37 or 2-9. You just can't predict it. The Chiefs are slightly less inept than the Raiders on offense, but they also just released their starting running back and are now featuring a guy named Kolby Smith, a fifth-round draft pick who in his career as a reserve has averaged 3.5 yards per carry. He might look like a superstar, though, against a Raiders defense that is giving up an average of over 160 yards per game on the ground. Believe it or not, the Chiefs defense is even worse in terms of average overall yardage, largely because of their terrible pass defense. Which I'm sure that JaMarcus Russell is well position to take advantage of, with the No. 31 passing attack he leads. No matter who wins this game, we all lose.

Steve: Kansas City +2

Your line at the end conjures up images of Alien vs. Predator, except that these two teams are about the polar opposite of those two mythical (I hope) beasts. This is more like the South Park election of Turd Sandwich vs. A Giant Douche. We still lose if either are elected, and they both smell bad.

I do quibble with your usage of rushing yards allowed here, though. Of course the Raiders give up more yards on the ground per game – Teams score at will on the Raiders, and thus run the ball 500 times in the second half against them. I feel like JaMarcus turning the ball over every time he touches it has a greater effect on their defense, since they still have some talent on that side of the ball.

ARIZONA over Seattle (9)

Bob: Arizona -9

I normally wouldn't be comfortable taking Arizona to win with such a wide spread, but these two teams matched up against each other less than a month ago at Seattle, and the Cardinals beat them by 24 points that day. Since then, Arizona has only lost in a game where Kurt Warner up and threw five interceptions. Also, when I was checking out Arizona's schedule on Yahoo, I noticed that Yahoo already had the Cardinals penciled in to win 27-3, the same score they won by in the first game. There is no way that this is a computer glitch, it must be that Yahoo has seen the future. So there's no way I'm betting against that.

Steve: Arizona -9

Seattle has been friskier lately, but still. The Cardinals should win this one going away, especially since they're not playing at Seattle, where I feel like the Seahawks are a superior team. I mean, Seattle doesn't have the Sonics anymore, so where else are Seattle sports fans going to go on a Sunday? (Sorry.)

Denver over WASHINGTON (3.5)

Bob: Denver -3.5

How the mighty have fallen. What would the spread have been on this before the Broncos got thrashed in succession by Baltimore and Pittsburgh? At least double-digits, right? This line is insulting. The Redskins are so bad, a local church felt the need to point out that God still loves them (a picture that I immediately posted on my Facebook). And Denver only needs to win by more than a field goal? What are people worried about, that master game-planner Jim Zorn has found Denver's weakness and will be able to exploit it just like those mediocre Pittsburgh and Baltimore teams? This is exasperating. If Josh McDaniels can't win by four or more points this Sunday, he should be fired.

Steve: Denver -3.5

I agree with you completely. This line looks utterly insane and silly. The Redskins have home field advantage, but I still feel like the Broncos should be two touchdown – or at least one touchdown – favorites. Whatever. I'm starting Moreno this week, so hopefully the Broncos can get up big and then just pound the ball for the fourth quarter, getting me sloppy yardage and touchdowns.

SAN DIEGO over Philadelphia (1.5)

Bob: Philadelphia -1.5

Speaking of the mighty and falling, San Diego is averaging 70 yards per game on the ground. That is the absolute worst in the NFL. That is absolutely crazy. I just Googled “LaDainian Tomlinson,” and the first headline was “LaDainian Tomlinson is washed up.” Talk about understatement. Upon further research, I was reminded that Tomlinson isn't the only significant, washed up player selected in the 2001 draft. Ladies and gentlemen, Philadelphia's own Mr. Michael Vick! In an angle that doesn't really seem to be being played up, the 2001 NFL Draft featured the Chargers trading their No. 1 overall pick to Atlanta, which the two teams used to pick Vick (Atlanta) and Tomlinson (San Diego). The Chargers received two other picks from the Falcons, which were used to draft Tay Cody, who lasted in the league all of three years, and infamous former Patriot Reche “Headlights” Caldwell, who also is no longer in the NFL. It's hard to believe that in eight years, two players of Vick and Tomlinson's caliber have gone from premiere players to a huge crap sandwich.

In terms of overall yardage, these two teams are extremely similar. Philadelphia has a much better run game (see last paragraph) but San Diego has the superior passing game. San Diego's rush defense is not very good at all while Philadelphia's pass defense is pretty mediocre. Honestly, this game is going to come down to which coach makes an epic mistake first—Norv Turner or Andy Reid. I'll give the edge to the Eagles since both teams have only beaten one good opponent—the Giants—and the Eagles won much more convincingly.

Steve: Philly -1.5

Just like your John Cusack analogy, I will agree with your pick while disagreeing with your analogy. First, getting about eight quality / All-Pro years that the Chargers got from LDT is a great return on that draft pick. In return, the Falcons got the privilege of watching Vick continually tease them with his talent. To make a comparison, LDT is like dating a girl who is a solid 7, but who is very pleasant to be around. Yeah, the Chargers never really won much with him around, but that's not his fault – You knew coming into the relationship that you needed to give a little more, and you didn't (you meaning A.J. Smith here), so now you're splitting amicably. I mean, LDT even knows that you have another lady – represented here by Darren Sproles – and he doesn't mind that much.

Conversely, Michael Vick is a 10 who is so batshit insane that it makes you constantly forget that she's a 10. Early in his career, it was injuries and inaccuracy that you had to put up with, but you kind of overlooked these because, well, he / she was still a 10. However, the dog-killing incident is equivalent to a girl fucking your best friend. You absolutely, positively can't overlook that, and Vick essentially killed that franchise for a year. And in Philadelphia, he and Tony Dungy are already making noise about getting out there to Buffalo (or Toronto, given how things are going there).

Dallas over GREEN BAY (3)

Bob: Dallas -3

I am really beginning to hate Green Bay. First, they gave us Brett Favre and beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl. In 2007, they could have knocked off the Giants and then lost to the Patriots to preserve the perfect season. Then, they dicked around with Brett Favre, which made him determined to play until he dies. Finally, they put forward this year's team, which despite the fact that it has great statistical numbers it is completely unable to win games. They lost to the Bucs. The Bucs! On that alone, I don't want to pick them.

And remember when Dallas fans were hating on Romo a few weeks ago? That went from visceral hatred to crickets chirping in a few short weeks. I'm still not sure if Romo can win when it counts, but I'm glad that I, at least, stuck with him.

Steve: Dallas -3

You should get props for standing by your man, Tony Romo. I mean, when he's blasting through every hot celebrity out there, he really needs your support as well, Bob Hanson. Howdareyou.

Anyway, yeah, Green Bay is beyond frustrating. I feel like Rodgers is a poor man's early-career Peyton Manning – He needs a better supporting cast and general manager to give him the support he needs. I feel like if you put him on Minnesota, they would be undefeated, since he makes less stupid mistakes than Favre.

Baltimore over CLEVELAND (10.5)

Bob: Baltimore -10.5

Boy, I bet getting benched sure helped Brady Quinn's confidence. Eric Mangini is a master coach.

Steve: Baltimore -10.5

I didn't think Mangini's problems in New York were of his own making, but after seeing how this year in Cleveland is playing out, good lord... It's not like the Browns were any good anyway, but how he has played out the quarterback situation is reason to dump him alone.

INDIANAPOLIS over New England (3)

Bob: New England +3

I am, all at once, extremely excited and incredibly nervous about this game. I mentioned earlier that the Chargers and Eagles are very similar in terms of total yardage. Well, so are these teams. The Patriots and Colts respectively have the No. 2 and No. 4 offenses, complemented by the No. 7 and No. 8 defenses. The Colts have the better passing game but are also more vulnerable against the pass. The Colts give up, on average, one less point on defense but also score one less point on offense. There are three reasons I pick the Patriots: the Colts have started to look vulnerable, Belichick has far more experience, and Peyton Manning has to be getting tired from carrying his team. Also, considering how similar these two teams are, I wouldn't necessarily be surprised if it ends in a tie, so I'll take the points.

Steve: New England +3

All of the injuries to Indy, specifically to Bob Sanders and Adam Vinateri, make me go for the Patriots. Also, Randy Moss has finally been taken off the injury list, so he hopefully won't cost me another week of fantasy football. He's not even on my team, either! But if he had been able to stretch another six inches last week, he would have scored another touchdown, and I would have won. Sigggghhhhh.
The picture of Romo's new girlfriend is from here. The turd sandwich and giant douche are from the excellent South Park Studios site. And Lohan still looking hot is from here.


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