Monday, September 29, 2008


College Football Revolves around rankings. Every major sport has rankings them in one form or another, but only in Division 1 college football do they actually make a substantive difference in championship and bowl game match ups. While my hatred for the whole ranking system, and its corrosive monopoly on the psyche of college football, is well documented, I concede that rankings are still an important part of our (flawed) system.

Nevertheless, I am perpetually perturbed by the inanity and logical inconsistencies of the ratings culture. For example, while watching a game recently, the announcers were discussing the upcoming Alabama-Georgia game that night. They quickly reached agreement that Georgia coach Mark Richt should motivate his players by telling them that "they deserve to be #1". The Bulldogs entered the game ranked as "only" # 3, a horrible travesty which needed to be corrected. I'm not sure if Coach Richt included this in his pregame speech, but whatever he said didn't really take. The Bulldogs were down 31-0 at the half to the Tide and ended up losing 41-30 at home. In the new poll today they are #11.

The point of all this is simple: stop whining about ratings. You were "only" # 3, a mere 4 weeks into the season? Tough. Win your games, take care of your business, and I promise you at the end of the year you'll get your just rewards. (Note: promise does not apply to Auburn). Your team being #1 now means nothing. It may sound nice, it may make you feel good, but its worth bupkis.

Extending this train of thought, we hear a lot about conference strength and strength of schedule arguments based on rankings. "The SEC has 5 teams in the top 10!" "So and So team beat the #N and #Y teams!". The problem with these kind of appeals is simple: after those 5 top 10 teams finally play each other, some will lose (in fact, the probably all will lose), and then will fall, so they will no longer be ranked so high! Of course, losing team X will still get to say that they only lost to highly ranked team W, so their ranking won't suffer too much. Similarly, Team W will rise in the rankings, because they beat still fairly highly ranked team X. Its all very zen.

Similarly, after you beat a team, they no longer have the ranking they previously had. So how should we compare these types of wins (and losses)? If you played a team ranked # n, and beat them, and then they fall and keep falling, did you really beat # n? If a team you played suddenly starts to rise in the rankings long after you played them, does your fate link to theirs? Good luck finding a straight answer from most fans.

Another thing that bothers me is the unspoken rule that losses much automatically drop teams in the rankings. Granted, most of the time it makes sense: if you lose, you probably weren't as good as your ranking suggests. Maybe. Most of the time. But consider the following example from this week as it relates to this norm:

Penn State, ranked # 12, hosted Illinois, ranked # 22, on Saturday night. Penn State is having a great year, blowing out every team they played so far. The Fighting Zooks put up a good fight against a hostile environment but ultimately fell 38-24, the final margin widened by some late scoring as the Nittany Lions put the game away. As a result of their success, Penn State rocketed up the rankings to # 5. Illinois, because of their loss, fell out of the top 25.

To me, this seems logically inconsistent. If Penn State really is a top 5 team (and I think they are), then why should Illinois be punished for losing a relatively competitive game on the road against them? Considering they have two losses, both to current top 5 teams, isn't it logical that they could still be worthy of the #22 ranking they had? Isn't it also possible that the #22 team could lose this kind of game to the #5 team. On the flip side, if the Zooks really don't deserve to be ranked, then why should Penn State be pushed up so far for the win?

The answer, of course, is easy: the polls are done but hundreds of busy, under informed voters who basically take a look up and down the sports pages on Sunday morning, make a note of who won and who lost, and "re-position" teams according to the lazy standard of "win goes up, loss goes down".

I'm certain that I'm tilting at windmills here with my plea for rankings sanity, a unified theory of ranking if you will. I only hope that, since we are tied down to this craziness for the foreseeable future, maybe we can inch towards a more coherent system of thinking about and ranking teams. Let's do it for Auburn. Think of the tigers.

Coach em when they're up, Coach em when they're down

The St. Louis Rams are terrible. They are perhaps the worst team in the National Football league, with their only legit competition coming from the now Matt Millen-less Detroit Lions. The Rams are bad on both sides of the ball, but their real weakness is their defense. It's truly awful, giving up an excess of 400 yards a game and tying an all time league record with 7 consecutive games of giving up at least 30 points, a record they have a chance to break next week.

After their awful 0-4 start the Rams have decided to fire their head coach, Scott Linehan. On the one hand, this makes some sense: clearly something isn't working. A change is needed. Coaching matters in all sports, but I would argue that it matters most in football. Its not the only thing that matters: you still need talent, health and some luck. But, more than any other sport, coaching is vital in football for success. Coaches spend hundreds of hours a week on game planning, they make substitutions and adjustments constantly, and most importantly they actually call the plays on every down.

All that said, I wonder what kind of "change" is supposed to happen just by firing the head coach. Its not like these guys are just barely losing as a result of some poor decisions by Linehan. They are getting blown out because they simply aren't that good. Is firing Linehan supposed to fire up the players? Is it going to make them faster, stronger, smarter, healthier or more confident? If anything it should have a detrimental effect on them: they realize the season is lost, that they're being coached by a team of monkeys, and that they have played so poorly they got their coach fired after just 4 weeks. Sounds like a devastating combination to me, not a recipe for a turnaround.

The worst part about this is that they fired Linehan and replaced him with Jim Haslett. Who is Jim Haslett, you ask? The Rams Defensive Coordinator. That's right, the guy in charge of one of the all time worst defenses in NFL history. The defense which is their biggest problem, the thing keeping them from even being competitive in games. If anything, Haslett is MORE at fault than Linehan, because he actually sets the defensive game plan and makes the in game calls and substitutions. This is the guy who is supposed to turn things around? Good luck with that, St. Louis. But not too much luck: you're still the best thing that gamblers have going this year.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Beavers Dam > Walls of Troy

Well, that was exciting and unexpected.

OSU just held by their fingernails to down #1 USC 27-21.

Congrats to the Beavers and the only remaining member of the Chaminade Pac-10 contingent.

A few thoughts on this development:

The next 49-72 hours of the college football world will revolve around this story. Mostly because its Thursday and hence its the only story available, but also because it will bring up a lot of questions about National Championship Game implications. Which I personally think is over dramatic, because besides USC there are only a handful of teams who were in the mix for the BCS NCG, and they mostly all came from two conferences: the SEC and the Big 12. I consider Penn State a legitimate Dark Horse candidate at this point, but they still have a tough row to hoe. Only one team from each conference can make it, so the real question going into today was whether USC could elbow its way in ahead of one of the two conference champions.

The Trojans are now on the outside looking in, but its waaaayyyy too early to write them off. They'll still win their share of games, probably repeat as Pac-10 champs, earn a BCS berth of some kind, and may yet figure in the MNC hunt. Given what we saw last year, where each week was a round of Russian Roulette for the top teams, I don't think anything can be taken for granted. The SEC teams will all beat each other up. So will the Big-12 teams. If SC can run the table (and you better believe they can), they'll likely still be one of three or four teams in consideration for the two BCS NCG spots at the end of the year.

The whole "overrated" theme which makes my ears bleed and my brain want to explode is about to hit full cresendo. The following things will be called "overrated" by someone: USC, OSU, Penn State, the Pac-10, the Big 10, the SEC, the Big 12, chocolate chip cookies, golden retriever puppies, Mark Sanchez, the USC Defense, and bubble gum. Its enough to make me dislike football, which is saying something.

The funny thing is that last year, after SC lost to Stanford, it was a major blight upon them. Whenever their name came up the same thing was said "Well they lost to Stanford". It was said with the kind of contempt that is usually reserved for calling someone a pedophile. Whats especially funny is that OSU has, just a few weeks ago, lost to Stanford and now beaten SC. But while OSU will get praised for their win and SC's criticism will be tempered if OSU has a successful season, technically this is a team which lost to the Cardinal the same as USC last year. The inconsistency is funny, if not frustrating to those of us who value a little consistency in our football yammering.

Pete Carroll's got some work to do, but give it some time and I believe his team will be back in the hunt.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Farewell to the Cathedral

Like any good, patriotic American, I was raised to hate the Yankees. Its natural. Its innate. The Yankees were the first team I ever hated for hate's sake, which is a big step in any sports fan's life.

In recent years my hatred for the Bombers has mostly mellowed into indifference. I even take a sort of perverse pride in rooting for A-Rod, since he's the best player on the planet and still the idiot Yankee fans hate him as much as any non-Red Sox player.

Whatever my feelings about the guys in Pinstripes, I have a special reverence for Yankee Stadium. The Cathedral. The House that Ruth Built.

I doubt many in my generation realize it, but Yankee Stadium is more than just hallowed ground for baseball fans. Sure, its the home of the sport's marquee franchise, stomping ground of dozens of Hall of Famers and host of 37 World Series. In the past 85 years it has hosted a ton of other huge events, both sporting and non-sport. These include:

3 different Popes saying mass.

30 World Championship Boxing Matches. Perhaps the most famous of these bouts was the 1938 Heavyweight rematch between Max Schmeling and Joe Fraizer. Other boxers who fought at the Cathedral include Max Baer, Sugar Ray Robinson, Jack Dempsey and Muhammad Ali. The very first televised boxing match was contested there in 1939.

Hundreds of College Football Games. Most were played by local schools such as NYU or Forham, but the stadium also hosted the Army-Notre Dame game from 1925-1947, and again in 1969. The famous "Win one for the Gipper" game was played at Yankee Stadium. Its hard to fathom just how big that game was back in those days: the two premier schools in the country dueling it out, more often than not with national title implications. I don't think there is an equivalent annual game these days. There was even a bowl game there once, the 1962 Gotham Bowl (sponsored by Batman perhaps?) in which Nebraska defeated Miami 36-24.

Professional football was also played at Yankee Stadium. Red Grange played there in the 20's, and it was the home of the New York Football Giants from 1956 to 1973. Included in that stretch was "The Greatest Game Ever Played", the 1958 NFL championship game between the then Baltimore Colts and the Giants. It was the first overtime game in NFL history and it helped propel professional football into the mainstream.

In addition, plenty of huge concerts, faith revivals and other big events have been held in the House that Ruth Built. There are few venues in the world which rival it in history and significance, and in this country I think only the Los Angeles Colosseum, host of 2 Olympics, comes close in terms of comparison.

Last Sunday night was the last sporting event ever held at Yankee Stadium. It was a big to-do, with all the old timers coming back, $200 bleacher tickets and pre and post game ceremonies. Normally I might be jaded by such efforts to commemorate something in an artificial way, but this was an exception.

Part of me thinks its silly to get so worked up over a building. Its just a place where sports are played, and its not like the sports are over. In truth, little of the current Yankee Stadium is "authentic". The grass dies every year, the dirt, chalk and bases are changed constantly. Their have been remodels and the huge renovations in the 30's and 70's. Besides, if it was really that important they wouldn't be moving and tearing it down.

On the other hand, I think its totally natural that we should fondly remember and cling to places which we consider "sacred", and I believe that Yankee Stadium, whatever its form, qualified as a sacred place in our culture. I don't think we should take it overboard with the reverence for special places. The everlasting conflict in the Middle East over Holy Places proves just how ingrained this kind of behavior is among our species, and how dangerous it can get if we let sentiment overwhelm reason. But within reason I think its valid and important to recognize certain places as significant, and Yankee Stadium certainly qualifies. Any place which charges $9.00 for a can of Bud Light had better damn well be special.

I was lucky enough to visit Yankee Stadium several times in the last two years, always for a Yankee game. My last visit was with some friends who were visiting from California. My buddy is a huge baseball fan and had planned this trip specifically for the purpose of taking in one last game at the old ballpark.

We got Friday night tickets but were disappointed by a rain out and some shitty buffalo wings at a local pub. The reschedule was set for the following night, which messed our plans a bit but turned out to be a blessing in some ways. Only half of the ticketed crowd was able to make it, so we were able to move from our original location, with this view:

To a much better section behind home plate, with this view:

It was the second half of a doubleheader so we missed a few stars who were taking game 2 off, but there were still 4 probable Hall of Famers there: Jeter, A-Rod, Pudge and Mariano. Its amazing to think about, and a fact which gets taken for granted by so many Yankee fans.

My camera has a video feature on it, but because I suck I was too incompetent to capture any really good moments as part of this last hurrah. I missed a grand slam, the YMCA, God Bless America, and a lot of other blog worthy things. Here's my best stuff:

1) Me attempting to tape an at-bat, and spazzing out over a foul ball headed my way. After that I realized that watching the game through the video screen was a dangerous idea.

2) A-Rod grounding out and getting the Business from idiot Yankee Fans:

3)Rivera making his signature entrance to save the game:

4) The final out.

5) Yankees win, and they play Sinatra on Repeat for 20 minutes.

So now its out with the old and in with the billion dollar new. March of progress and all that. I've hear that the new ballpark will be so advanced that they could charge up to $15 for bud light. What a time to be alive.

NFL picks: Week 4

YEEEHAWW!!!! Last week was awesome. Not only was there some serious Shnide getting off of, but I was a spectacular 12-2-1 with my picks. Damn I wish I had bet some money. That way I could have let my winning ride this week and lost it all!

Last week's awesomeness on my part raises my season record to 28-15-2. So lets keep this going, I'm feeling hot. As always, home team in caps and pick in bold.

Buffalo -8.5 LAMS
Possible suicide pick this week.

PANTHERS -7 Dirty Birds

Should be a fun game but the Panthers will pull away at the end.

KITTIES -3.5 Browns

Two desperate teams. Both are desperate for a win, but Cleveland is desperate for a QB. Bengals are the pick at home.

DA BEARS +3 Iggles

The Eagles look scary, but this should be a close, low scoring affair.

Christy Cooley +11 Jessica Simpson

Check out those... points.

Donks -9 CHEFS

I hate to say it but the Broncos are gonna cruise to 4-0. The Chiefs are truly awful. I feel terrible for the people of Missouri. Its bad enough that the Royals suck and the Cards will miss the playoffs. They also have to deal with probably the two worst teams in the NFL. Chase Daniel has a lot of pressure on him from desperate fans in The Show Me State.

JAGS -7.5 Moo Cows

I have a feeling this game should be closer, but I think the Jags can cover this at home.

-5.5 49ers

Sean Payton's poor playcalling won't be enough to hold back the Saints. Should be a shootout.


The Jets are sinking and fast, while the Buzzsaw will continue to tease before they collapse.

Bolts -7.5 RAIDERS

Feels weird to me, like the Carolina game. If we can stop the run its a cover. If not, it will be a long day.

BUCS -1 Packers

When in doubt, pick the home team.

Vikes +3 TITANS

A poor man's version of the Eagles at Bears game. The Titans have been playing with house money and I think their run is up.

Ravens +6.5 STEELERS

This line just doesn't seem right. The Steelers are hurting bad, and the Ravens are 2-0. Admittedly that's wins over the Browns and Bengals, but I still think this will be closer than a touchdown.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

OH, no

A bit of sad news: Japanese Baseball Legend Sadaharu Oh has decided to resign, at least for the time being, from his job as the manager of the Softbank Seahawks. Apparently Oh was suffering from stomach cancer and so had to get his entire stomach removed. This would have killed a lesser man, but Sadaharu is no pansy, and he kept on managing up till now. The lack of stomach issue has worn him out and so Sadaharu has decided to take some personal time to get better.

As a baseball fan I have great respect for Oh and his achievements, including his incredible 868 career home runs. While I agree that, had he played in America, he wouldn't have had such high home run totals, I do believe he would have been a success and likely still have been a Hall of Fame Candidate.

It was a great thrill for me and my friends to see Oh in person a few years ago when we attended the inagural World Baseball Classic semifinals and finals in San Diego. It gives you some idea of just how revered he is in Japan that he would be chosen to manage their international team in a sport they really care about. I think it would be proper to compare it to the selection of Coach K as head of our men's Olympic basketball team, though perhaps Oh is even more beloved in Japan than Coach K is in America.

One incident which sticks out especially was in a round 2 game between the United States and Japan. There was a controversial call which went against Japan, and as a result the Japanese players were upset and almost refused to take the field. All it took was a cool look and a swift rebuke from Oh to get them back in the game.

So here's hoping for a full recovery and many more years of health and happiness. There's speculation that, if he feels up to it, Oh could be tapped again as the Japanese Manager in the next WBC, so feel better Sadaharu and we hope to see you again in the Spring.

QB rating is (gasp) overrated

Yes, I pulled out the dirty "o" word. But for good reason: its late, and I couldn't think of a better title on short notice. Its got "rated" right in it. Come on, you think of something better.

There's an old cliche which says that "there are lies, damn lies, and statistics". I'm not hostile towards statistics like a lot of people. Stats are just numbers, they can't hurt you, you just have to interpret them properly and know which ones are useful (not many) and which are bull (the rest).

Into the latter category I put the NFL QB rating system. Philip Rivers is my team's QB. He's having a great start of the season, leading the league in QB rating and playing great football. But after watching all his games and looking at the corresponding QB ratings, I have to call Bullshit. Let me explain:

In game 1 Philip was 17-27 for 217 yards and 3 tds. He had no turnovers and averaged 8 yards a pass attempt. Pretty good performance, and for his efforts Philip got a rating of 125.1.

In game 3 Philip was 19-25 for 250 yards, 3 tds and 1 terrible interception with was returned as a pick-6. He averaged 10 yards a pass attempt and earned a rating of 130.

In game 2, on the Road, battling back from an 18 point deficit, Rivers was 21-33 for 377 yards, 3 TDs and 1 pick which really wasn't a pick and would have been overturned except for some broken replay equipment. Rivers lead the comeback and put his team in position to win, and averaged a gaudy 11.42 yards per attempt.

So, for what was really his best performance of the year, what QB rating did Rivers get? 120.4.

Granted, that's a great rating. But really, of what use is a statistic which rates a QB's best game as his worst and vice versa?

On the other hand, my QB is now leading the league in this category. Suck it, Cutler lovers.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Getting Off

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are OFF THE SHNIDE!

That was the theme today, turning things around and getting it going in a positive direction.

My Fantasy Team finally got off its Shnide, getting its first victory of the season (take that Danielle!)

My Bolts finally got off their Shnide, with a sloppy but satisfying 48-29 victory over the Jets.

And I got off a sort of personal Shnide by passing my comp exams. It wasn't that I was on a losing streak or I had failed before, but its great to be done. The whole time I was studying for and waiting for my results it was like a weight was down on me. Frankly it took some of the joy out of life. Being done is liberating more than anything else.

So watch out Oakland, Ryan and whatever the hell I have to do next for school. We're off the Shnide baby! Ain't no stoppin us now!

What (Team) Dreams May Come, Part II

I had another Charger dream last night. They lost. They were 0-3. I was smashing the hell out of stuff. I was mad. I was furious. I was desperate.

I woke up.

It was seriously like A Christmas Carol where Scrooge wakes up and realizes he hasn't missed Christmas. Waking up and realizing that the Chargers were not 0-3 was a moment filled with joy.

I don't think I was dreaming about this game too specifically, since there were players in the dream who aren't on the Chargers, but it definitely was the Chargers and they were definitely 0-3.

This isn't healthy. They need to win.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pathetic Payton

Memo to Sean Payton: You're an idiot.

I really hate to sound like TMQ here, but there's a lot of wisdom to the "kick early, go for it late" philosophy.

But really, the decision to go for it on 4th and goal in the first half wasn't what killed you. It was your failure to realize that your O-line absolutely sucks at run blocking. Totally and in all ways. So what do you do at critical short yardage plays? You cram as many people into the smallest possible area and then run your third string running back right into the line.

Reggie Bush takes a lot of shit for his poor rushing numbers. Some of it is warranted, but any honest assessment of the situation must take account of the fact that the Saints give him absolutely nothing in terms of running lanes. People say he's to timid and fancy, dancing around instead of hitting the hole. The problem is that most of the time there is no hole, and his dancing around is his desperate attempt to make something out of nothing. Watch a Saints game sometime, its true. The basic Saints offense is to slam Reggie into the line on first down into the teeth of a waiting defense, which knows the play is coming and has all eyes on # 25. The play gains maybe 2 yards, and then the Saints go back to passing. They might as well forfeit first down and just start 2nd and 9 every time.

Speaking of Bush, why wouldn't you put him in on a critical 4th and goal try, or on that critical 3rd and 1 try? At the very least you could motion him around to distract the defense, which was totally keyed into stopping your pathetic handoff attempts. You have to figure that on that 4th down try he could have leaped over the pile for the end zone. And on the 3rd and 1, you called up a play which can only work if the back is fast enough to outrun the unblocked backside linebacker. Isn't Reggie Bush a better bet for this than Thomas?

Whatever. The media gives you a free pass because of you're one decent season after Katrina, so I guess we have 4-5 more mediocre seasons of your idiocy to look forward to. Enjoy, New Orleans.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Bar and the Pole

I can't help but laugh about this story. Basically, a lawyer was representing a stripper in some legal matters. The stripper "paid" part of her legal fees with lapdances. But now the lawyer is in trouble for this and is being suspended for 15 months from lawyering for it.

A few thoughts:

Stripping is a profession, and lapdances are a legitimate "service" which I believe can be used in exchange for goods and services. This happens a lot with lawyers, trading legal fees for non-monetary services. I know of one lawyer who got a car in exchange for his work on behalf of a cash strapped client.

The real mistake here wasn't the "exchange" if you will, (though I'm sure that's what really got him in trouble) but the fact that he apparently tried to screw over this woman (both literally and figuratively). According to the story she complained that he didn't properly credit her account for her time and that he tried to innappropriately touch her while she was dancing. He denies this, but I have little sympathy for the guy since he apparently didn't think about the ramifications of his actions. I wonder if he was smart enough to have a real contract written up to prove the legitimacy of this arrangement, but I'm pretty sure the answer is no.

The lesson is clear: strippers are people too. People who you shouldn't mess with, cause they will turn you in and ruin your life if you try to screw them over. Just remember: no matter how in the wrong they may be, the shit is gonna rain down on you.

Friday, September 19, 2008

With an oink oink here

Bacon is the perfect food. I'm talking about real bacon, from the belly of a pig, not that fruity "turkey bacon" crap. Bacon is great because it goes with, in, or on almost anything, or you can just eat it. Want to spice up a sandwich? Bacon. Unhealthy that too-healthy salad? Bacon. Looking to impress hillbillies at a state fair? Country fried bacon! Yeehaw!

But recently I was disturbed by some bacon I purchased and ate. It wasn't the bacon's fault (I could never be mad at you my love), it was the supermarket. I bought some thick cut bacon from FreshDirect. It was described as "rind on". Not really knowing what it meant and seeing a great price I jumped at the opportunity for some wholesome heart loving food.

It was only after cooking and eating some that I realized this "rind" business is stupid. The rind is basically inedible and just gets in the way. What the hell was the point of that, FreshDirect? I would understand more if the bacon was uncut in a slab, but it was already sliced!

So listen up FreshDirect and other grocers: fix up that bacon right. Cut off that awful rind and stop selling it to your customers. Take pride in your bacon.

NFL Picks Week 3

So last week was a little rough. Not only did my Chargers have a win stolen from them by his hunkness Ed Hochuli, I went 5-9-1-1 with my picks (one push and one non-play because of the Ravens/Moo Cows Hurricane-out). That brings my season record to 16-13-1-1.

Time to rebound this week, and just as the Bolts will look to get things going against the Jets so will I try to turn my luck around. As always, home team in caps, pick in bold, witty ditties which offer no real insight underneath.

FALCONS -5.5 Chefs

Oh dear lord. Nothing to see here people.

Browns +2.5 RAVENS

Browns are desperate to get off the Shnide.

Raiders +9.5 BILLS

I know the Bills are the hot team right now. But 10 points? I just can't make that pick on International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

DA BEARS -3 Tampa Bay

Expect a close one but Bears at home is the pick.


Thank God this isn't a Sunday Night or MNF game. Can you imagine the Romo/Rodgers/Farve talk?

Who Dat +5.5 DONKS

Please. Please please please.

Jags +5 COLTS

Jags are angry, Colts are hurting. 5 points is too much for this line.

Bo Jangles +3 Gus Ferrotte

The Carolina Panthers have this guy at QB:

The Vikes have a guy who once headbutted a wall and injured himself for the year. Who you gonna pick?

Joey Porter's Mouth +12.5 MATT CASSELL IS A FUTURE HOFer

Joey Porter is a loudmouth idiot, but even he wouldn't take give those points.

Bengals +13.5 BIG BLUE

Probably a bad pick, but I'm just hoping that the Bengals won't be so inept this week. Dammit TJ I need some fantasy points! I can't lose to Danielle this week!

IGGLES -3 Stillers

I bet Pennsylvania has been a real joy this week. Eagles get this nod because they are at home and because of Ben's shoulder issues.

Lions +4 49ERS

In any other week this would be the worst game. They lucked out with that Chefs vs Falcons matchup. It still pretty much sucks though. Logic tells me to pick against the Lions, but logic is incompatible with the 49ers.


Eek. Think about this: the Rams are so bad they are getting 10 points from an 0-2 team whose QB has a sub 50 QB rating and who is so desperate for a healthy reciever they just brought in Koren Robinson. Ouch.

TITANS -5 Moo Cows

Titans continue their run at the AFC South.


Good Offenses, no defenses, should be a fun shootout.

BOLTS -9(thousand) J E T S! JETS JETS JETS!

Dear God we need this one. LT or no LT, Merriman or no Merriman, Norv or no Norv. The Chargers are coming back with a vengeance, and that Vengeance is gonna stomp all over Brett Favre's neck.

Farewell summer

Autumn is coming. Its been pretty warm here in the city as of late, but today is different. The sun isn't quite so warm. I felt the beginnings of that familiar cool wind blowing in off the River. Not the nice, cool breeze that you love on a hot day, but the cold northern gusts which will burn your skin in the winter months as the world looks dead. Its not at full strength yet but I know its only a matter of time.

Today I wore jeans out of necessity for the first time all summer. It makes me sad to think that the weather is only getting worse from here on. It's something I always took for granted in LA and SD, where the sun shone almost every day and even the cold days weren't so bad. I went years at a time only wearing shorts (except for formal occasions of course).

Better go out and enjoy this while it lasts.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Letting it out

A day later and my brain is still fried from the game yesterday. So in an effort to let go I have a few thoughts to send out.

To Ed Hochuli: I still love you. I know, our relationship is gonna be rocky for a while. You've hurt me badly, and my trust is a fragile thing. But we both know I can't stay mad at you. You're everyone's favorite ref and for good reason: you've got the brawn, the brains, and the attitude that we all aspire to in our officials. You made a mistake, a horrible, horrible mistake, but I know you didn't mean to.

I've read that Ed, that lovable muscle bound hunk in stripes, is feeling awful about his role in robbing the Chargers of a victory. This is according to the Head of NFL Officials who apparently has spoken to Hochuli several times in the past 24 hours. The NFL announced that it will be investigating the rule applied by Hochuli, an incredibly swift announcement by their standards, indicating just how terrible the call was. It was also announced that Hochuli will be graded down for his performance, which will affect his status as a playoff ref. I really hate to see one (albeit horrible) call ruin a fine career. Feel Better Ed.

To Mike Shanahan: Eat a dick, you leather faced idiot. Shanahan had the gall to claim that Hochuli and Co did a great job yesterday. He said he grades the officials every game and said they did the best job of any officiating team in he can remember. Yes Mike, the NFL is thinking of changing their sacred rulebook, pundits and fans coast to coast are in agreement about the screwjob, and Ed Hochuli could get fired, but they did a "great job".

To My Frontrunning Brother: You didn't even watch the game, so you don't even know how bad your "team" blew it. They blew an 18 point lead at home. They were shut out in the Second half. They were saved by utter incompetence on the part of the Zebras.

To those who say "The Chargers got screwed, but..": But what? They were screwed. A lot of people are saying that they still had a chance to stop the Broncos. That's true, but its also irrelevant, because they already DID stop the Broncos. Getting a goal line stand and a game securing turnover is no easy task, and to ask any team to do it twice for no other reason than that a whistle incorrectly blew half a second early is ludicrous. Imagine if a closer came in to secure a one run ballgame. He gets three outs, only to be told by the umpire that the other team gets six outs in the last inning. Seem right?

To Lehman, AIG, and the rest of the tanking Financials: You're all idiots. And I think that "The Tanking Financials" has potential as a band name.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Big Daddy Makes it All Better

Big Daddy Drew has done it again. He has the perfect reaction to yesterday's screw job in Denver.

Life ain't so bad. Though I'd like to know where that Hammock is located.

Beat the Jets.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mile High Mugging

The Chargers got jobbed today. The lack of working replay equipment cost them a vital turnover. A whistle that shouldn't have been cost them the game at the end.

Like most Charger fans, my emotions have run the gamut in the wake of this travesty. Shock. Depression. Anger. Frustration. Wrath. Envy. General pissed off-ness. If PMS is anything like this I really feel sorry for women. At least I had an excuse: my team got screwed over big time. If your body makes you like this monthly for no reason, well, that sucks.

Ed Hochuli made a terrible call. In fact, its worse than that, because it wasn't even a call. It was a whistle that shouldn't have been. It took a win from the Chargers column and gave it to the Broncos. Yes, the Chargers still had a chance. Yes, they could have stopped the Broncos on 4th down or on the 2pt conversion. But fuck that, they shouldn't have had too, since they already stopped them!

I like Ed Hochuli. He's generally a good ref, a good personality, and fun to watch. I don't blame him for the equipment malfunction. I do blame him for his call at the end. Ed's human like all of us. I don't think it was malicious, biased, or intentional. I don't think he was "paid off" and I really hate when that's the first response to a big blown call. That said, he was in the wrong and it gave the Broncos an undeserved last chance. Jay Cutler should be a goat for fumbling away the game. Mike Shanahan should be taking heat for losing an 18 point lead at home. Instead Cutler is praised as the new hot QB in the league (despite being outplayed by Rivers in this game) and Shanny is being stroked by all the pundits as "gutsy", "ballsy", and "more man than you'll ever be".

It sucks, it truly does, to lose a game in that fashion. To have your team fight its way back from 21-3 on the Road, fight though injuries to most of your top players, and come all the way back to take a 38-31 lead. To get what should be the game sealing turnover, only to have it taken away.

Ok, so whats to be said about this?


It doesn't matter what we say. How much we complain, whine, bitch or gnash our teeth.

This is the NFL. In the NFL there is one constant, unbreakable law:

"You are what your record says you are."

The Chargers are 0-2.

They are 2 games back of Denver in the AFC West.

Things are bad.

The defense is starting way too slow and soft in games. The offense is good but still is stalling out early as well. Injuries are mounting. Norv is gonna have a stroke, while half of the fan bases is on suicide watch.

There's only one thing to do: win.

Beat the Jets on Monday. Protect the House.

Go to Oakland and beat them.

Head down to Miami beach and beat the Dolphins.

Come back and beat the Pats.

Win, and keep winning.

This year can take two directions: it can be like 2005, when the Chargers were perhaps the most talented team to not make the playoffs.

Or it can be like the last two years, where early season struggles are washed away with the sweet balm of victory.

Get it done.

You are what your record says you are. Period.

The Conference of Crappiness

The Pac-10 was (almost) a total embarrassment this weekend. USC may have deflected a lot of criticism with its 35-3 disemboweling of the Buckeyes on national television, but even the sweet musk from that stellar performance can't cover up the retched stink that wafted from the rest of the conference. First, the good:

USC was fantastic in their rout of OSU. They are undoubtedly the favorites for the BCS title game and the road is open for them. Just about the only downside for the Trojans is that their conference is so bad that any slip up will be toxic.

Oregon, sans starting QB and on the road, staged a mighty comeback against Purdue, finally wining in double overtime. Bully for them. At this point Oregon is the only legit contender in the Pac-10 for SC, though that may change.

Oregon State, after embarrassing losses to Stanford and Penn State (the latter a real pummelling), manages to beat up on lowly Hawaii, 38-7. Hey, a wins a win, and if beating up on the Warriors is good enough for Tebow and the Gators its good enough for the Beavers. They need some confidence, since Pete Carroll is bringing the Boys up to Corvallis next week.

Now, for the bad:

Washington, coming off an emotional 28-27 loss to BYU last week, was absolutely destroyed by Oklahoma, 55-14. At home. Just terrible. The Sooners are playing as well as any team in the country right now, so don't be surprised if they are in the BCS title game picture at the end of the year.

But really, Washington losing is not a suprise, especially not to a powerhouse like Oklahoma. Lets get to some real shockers:

New Mexico 36, Arizona 28. What?

Washington State 17, Baylor 45. Baylor? The Baylor Bears? I know Wazzu sucks, but damn. Baylor?

Stanford 14, TCU 31. Ok this isn't a huge suprise, and apparently it was a close game for a while.

# 23 California 27, Maryland 35. Huh? The sad thing is the Bears had to rally just to make it this close.

# 15 ASU 20, UNLV 23 OT. WHFHDJKFHDSJKFDS!!!!!!!! A ranked ASU lost, at home, to an unranked MWC team. This is what Dennis Erikson has for us? This is the mighty Sun Devil Resurgence?

But really, all these games, shocking and upsetting as they are for a Pac-10 fan, pale in comparison to this next atrocity. Small children and those with weak stomachs should stop reading now. I can't be held responsible for any injury that may occur.

BYU 59. UCLA 0.

That's right.

I checked.

I double checked.

That was the score.

I was out and about when this game was played so I checked in on my phone. I didn't believe it. I still don't believe it, having seen no video highlights. Maybe this is all a big misunderstanding. The game was played in Utah after all, maybe the pony express riders who brought in results got it wrong.

But I doubt it.

First, I wanna say that I half expected a bad loss this week. As I said in my previous UCLA post following the Tennessee win, the Bruins are an up and down team prone to wild mood swings. But this is even worse than I imagined. I don't even know how this is possible. UCLA has (had?) a decent defense. Or at least we thought they did. So how did they give up 59? They also had an offense that didn't look like a bunch of monkeys running in circles. So how did they score 0? Could they not even get any garbage points? This just boggles the mind.

UCLA's loss is a blemish on the whole Pac-10. I know that they will win more games, including conference games. Any team that loses to them will have the shame of losing to a team that lost 59-0 to a non-BCS team. Maybe BYU is great: they do have the nation's longest winning streak (dating back to last years loss against... UCLA!). They are ranked high and could run the table and make a BCS game.


I just can't make sense of it.

But I can rant about it.

Yesterday's results are a perfect example of why the whole rankings/overrated/underrated thing in college football is stupid and meaningless. UCLA beat Tennessee, a pretty decent team from the undisputed best conference in college football. They had defense, toughness, heart, a QB who was on fire and a new flashy coach who put it all together. They were on top of the world, bold, brash and ready for all comers. The press fawned over them. The Bruins were back, baby, and whoa to BYU who was their next victim.

BYU on the other hand, won a close and controversial game against a very poor Washington team. They were lucky, they were vulnerable, they were maybe... overrated?


So maybe Washington actually is pretty good then?


So maybe Tennessee isn't that great then, since they lost to UCLA?

The jury is still out, since all they have is a 35-3 drubbing of lowly UAB. We'll have to wait for next week's Florida game to see. But what if they play it close against Tebow and co? Or even win? What are we to make of the "ratings" then?

Nothing, because there's nothing to them.

Football is a fluid game. Football teams constantly change, from year to year, month to month, game to game and even series to series. The problem with trying to "rate" football is that the small sample size gives us only momentary glimpses of how good or bad a team really is, and only during a very small window. UCLA beats Tennessee at one moment in time. A lot of things happen, and they lose 59-0 at another moment. A lot more things will happen, and then they'll have another moment.

The semi-point of all this is that rating teams continues to be a fool's errand. But despite this, rankings are all we have and so they'll continue to be the lifeblood of the media, fans, and Internet message boards for the foreseeable future.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Red Letter Day!

Holy Katz's Pastrami on Rye: I've got a follower! Hello Follower! This is great, I've had 3 international hits and now a follower (a good All American Follower at that!)

I'm not sure what I did or didn't do to deserve this, but I'm not dumb enough to look a gift horse in the mouth. Welcome Follower, its nice to know my rantings are read by someone.

And now I've got the urge to go to Katz's again.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Badvertising: Cure Insurance

So I'm winding down the day, enjoying a rare episode of the Simpsons which I have not yet seen. It cuts to commercial, and I see this:

WTF! Did I just see the slacker little brother of the WalMart Smiley Face drop 2 F-Bombs on Network TV?

The other crazy thing about this ad is the implication that discounts for Credit Scores and Education are somehow bad. Since Insurance is all about measuring responsibility and maturity, and Education and Credit Scores are (weak) measures of such maturity, this premise doesn't really hold. Its a little ironic when they then claim to be the official insurance of Rutgers Athletics.

But really, TWO F-Bombs in 10 seconds on Network TV!

Given them this: the ad is effective. It got my attention, so much so that I had to write a post about it, and I don't even own a car. Wait, how does that serve me at all? *&#@K Them!!

UPDATE: I'm not sure why the video won't work. I've tried to fix it but had no luck. Just google "Cure insurance commercial" and the video will come up.

Merriman Aftermath

Congrats to Antwan Applewhite, who was called up from the practice squad after the Chargers put Shawne Merriman on IR. Antwan is a SDSU product who put in his dues last year on the practice squad. The promotion means he gets to be on the team and gets a nice hefty raise (roughly 195K extra for the year).

The question I have is who will replace Shawne as a Captain on the defense. Shawne was elected by his teammates as one of two defensive captains for the year, along with Jamal Williams. He'll still be around but an official captain has to be on the active roster. Norv said today that the third place vote getter will be announced as the new captain on Friday. I'm guessing it won't be a lineman since they already have Jamal. Of the linebackers, I would have guessed Steven Cooper, but he's still on suspension for 3 games. That leaves the secondary. My money is on Quentin Jammer, since he's the veteran of the secondary. Normally the free safety would be the pick, but Eric Weddle is only in his second year. Jammer seems like the choice, but we'll have to wait and see.

NFL Picks: Week 2

So I had an great week with my NFL picks. I was 11-4 (11-5 if you count the failure to make a Chiefs/Pats pick as a forfeit, which I don't). 11-4 will win most divisions in this league filled with parity and rife with knee injuries. The sad thing is this is probably my high water mark for the year, but as they say "You are what your record says you are", and my record says I'm the man. For now.

Time for this weeks picks. Pick in bold, home team in Caps.

CHEFS -3 Raiders

Damon Huard gets his annual chance to win a bunch of games off the Bench before the "starting" QB comes back and kills the Chiefs.

BENGALS -1 Titans

Not really sure about this one. No Vince Young might be a blessing for the Titans. When in doubt, go with the home team.

Colts -2.5 VIKINGS

Vikings are pissed. Colts are pissed. Colts are better.

Saints -1 SKINS

No Colston makes this a tougher call, but I'm going with the 1-0 team over the 0-1 team. Bold, I know.

Packers -3 LIONS

The more things change.


This will be a bloodbath, and I don't see it getting to be a blowout either way.

Giants -8.5 RAMS

Suicide pick of the week.

Bills + 5.5 JAGS

I'm not drinking the Bills Cool-aid just yet, but I'll take those 5.5 points.

Falcons +7.5 BUCS

Bucs are already on QB #2. They'll probably win but this will be closer than 8.


One team that totally sucked versus another which totally sucked. Home team gets my pick.

Fish +6.5 BUZZSAW

The Cards giving a TD? Tony Sprano thinks this is Bullshit.

Pats +1.5 JETS

Go Matt Cassell! Do it for Chatworth! What, wtf? Am I rooting for the Pats? AHHHHHHHH!!!

Ravens +4.5 MOO COWS

Ravens win, Texans get blown the fuck out, and the the Ravens are getting points?

Chargers -1.5 Donkeys

Never pick against my team. We really need this one.

Stillers -6 BROWNS

On there way to being AFC favorites before an ugly collapse.

Iggles +7 BOYS

Should be a great game. Two best teams in the NFC (at the moment), two teams and cities that hate each other. Expect an All-out war.

Book Review: The Audacity of Hope

I read a book. I deserve a cookie. But there are no cookies, so I'm gonna write a review instead.

I've just finished Barack Obama's second book The Audacity of Hope. I figured that since I'm gonna vote for the guy, and I even gave him money, I might as well take the oppourtunity to see what he's really about. Finding a copy was an adventure. My main library said they had a copy, but despite the best efforts of myself and two librarians it was impossible to find. They figured it was likely stolen. A trip to a second library yielded success.

This book is basically a series of essays, each one of which addresses some overarching policy or societal theme. Obama talks about political polarization, health care, the economy, family, national defense and other things. In each chapter he relates experiences from his life in and out of politics, with a focus on his life as a senator. Occasionally he will interject with policy ideas which he believes would help remedy our national ills. I don't agree with all of them, but they serve more as a starting point for discussion rather than a comprehensive blueprint.

What's interesting about this book was its release in 2006, only two years ago but what seems like eons in political time. Several things have changed in the interim, not the least of which is that Obama is now an official nominee for president. There are a number of small things in the book, word choices or the inclusion of certain passages, which you might have expected a presidential nominee not to include for fear of offending somebody and costing them votes. I wonder if the text would remain unchanged if the book was released today. Another big change is the mentions of Obama's former pastor the Reverend Wright, whose congregation Obama publicly left early this year because of controversy about Wright's sermons. Its ironic that the title of the book comes from one of Wright's sermons and now, just two years later, Obama and Wright are publicly at odds.

The book is an easy read, which I mean in a good way. It's engaging and not overly preachy or dull. Obama is a good, not great, writer who comes off as honest, smart, self-effacing and passionate about his points of view. More than that, he really seems to understand not only politics but America, what ails our society and what our strengths are. I think he uses a few too many words at times and relies too much on pleasing both sides with his examples. He'll frequently be discussing something and cite both a liberal and conservative example, a practice which makes sense given the aim of the book but makes getting through the text a little more of a strain than it could be. Nevertheless the book never drags.

I can easily see how those who come to this book with hard political beliefs will interpret it as confirming their points of view. Liberals will love it and get fired up about Obama, while conservatives will have lots of things to hate. But it is the open minded reader, whether conservative, liberal or moderate, to whom this book is addressed and who will get the most out of it. I urge anyone to give it a try. You may not have your mind changed on politics or policy, but more than likely you'll get to thinking about things in a new and more positive way.

Lights Out

Well that didn't take long. So long to Shawne Merriman for the season. He gave it his best shot but apparently it just didn't feel right. Jyles Tucker will have his chance to shine and earn all that bonus money, and he better do it fast because otherwise Jay Cutler is gonna send us to 0-2. The question I have is what the Chargers are going to do with that precious roster spot. From the practice squad you have Antwan Applewhite who is an OLB. Also on the practice squad is DE Keith Grennan who apparently was promised by the Chargers that he would be the first call up from PS if needed. There are also rumors about former Patriot Roosevelt Colvin being signed.

It seems like half the teams in the league have lost someone to a major knee injury and its only Week 2. Already we've lost Merriman, Osi, Brady, and a bunch of other guys, not to mention Vince Young's MCL sprain and recent freakout. Here's hoping this epidemic is over before any other players go down.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Badvertising: HFCS

I've decided this blog needs a temporary break from Football and Politics (very temporary), so here's another installment of my award winning* Badvertising feature. This time we look at two spots which are part of a campaign to set the record straight about that most maligned of healthy, organic foods: High Fructose Corn Syrup. For too long this great staple of our pioneer ancestors has been unfairly maligned by the Health Nazi Elitists, and now the Corn Refiners association has decided to fight back. Lets roll the tape:

The first video does a good job of demonizing the would be demonizer, by making the white mom seem like a total elitist snob because she apparently gives a crap about what her kids eat. We all hate people like this, phony "know it alls" who spout off BS for no reason other than to make themselves feel smart and then can't back it up with facts. Its pretty effective, actually, as even the strictest health nut would rather down an oil barrel of HFCS than have to put up with a whiner like this.

I like the second video better because its not so over the top. Instead of an annoying mom disparaging her hostess with petty concerns, its just some dope who wants a Popsicle but has to feign an interest in eating healthy before giving in. Both ads are smart because its a woman doing the sales pitch in defense of HFCS, as women are generally more interested in eating healthy and more trustworthy about what food are "good" and "bad" for you.

Of course, both these ads are technically right in their claims: HFCS is made from corn, has the same calories as Sugar, and is fine (maybe?) in "moderation". But these claims are also misleading in their honesty. Corn has its nutritional values, but its not exactly health food, especially when you strip if of all its vitamins and such in order to squeeze it into a highly sweetened goo used in processed foods. HFCS does have the "same calories" as sugar, but when was the last time you heard people saying they wanted MORE sugar in their diets?

But worst of all is the claim about "moderation". Yes, HFCS is probably not awful for you in moderation. Most things are ok in moderation. The trouble with HFCS is that its in EVERYTHING. Almost any processed food which needs the slightest hint of sweetening will get it from HFCS, because our massive farm subsidies make corn so cheap HFCS has become the sweetener of choice for almost all food producers. HFCS supplies the American diet with tons of excessive empty calories devoid of vitamins or antioxidants. This is why its not good for you, and this is why you should watch out for it.

The problem with (or effectiveness of) these ads is that they make watching out for HFCS in your diet the equivalent of something painful and unfun like Veganism. "OMG, I can't eat ANYTHING with Corn Syrup in it cause its wrong and I'll get six types of cancer and so will my dog"! Turning down a 15 calorie Popsicle or being a chiding harpy about some fruit punch for your kids is behavior deserving of scorn. But the reality is that in order to consume HFCS only in moderation, as advocated in these commercials, you have to be actively be careful about what products you buy and consume.

Whatever you think of these ads, you have to hand it to the Corn Refiners of America: they have balls. You don't see the Lard Producers of America or the National Council of Salt putting out such bold ads in favor of their products.

* Some award you never heard of. In the future.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Who's (subconsciously) ready for some FOOTBALL!

My Ego, Id and Superego are apparently chomping at the bit for the full start of the NFL season today. Also pumped with anticipation are my inner child, conscience and medulla oblongata. How do I consciously know about the excitement of these subconscious pigskin fans? Consider some evidence:

I didn't set an alarm for this morning, and while I didn't stay out all night I didn't exactly turn in a 9 PM. I would expect to sleep in till at least 9 on a lazy Sunday like today under these circumstances, as I do every week. So what time was I roused? 6:30. Barely before the sunrise. I was unable to fall asleep again, as my lower brain functions were so pumped up for kickoff. Damn them all, the games don't start for 6 1/2 grueling hours!

Even weirder was that I had a strangely detailed dream about the Charger game today versus the Panthers. It was a frustrating dream because there was a lot of other things going on in the dream, most of which were distracting me from my mission to actually watch the game. From what I did "watch", here are the details:

  • First, The Chargers were down 8-0 early in the Second Quarter. How the Panthers got 8 so early in the game I have no idea. Was it two FGs and a safety or a TD with a two point try? Neither seems very probable at that early point in the game, but remember this was a dream.
  • The Chargers got on the board with a Safety, making it 8-2. Jacques Cesaire earned the safety by beating his man on a pass rush and sacking Jake Delhomme in the Endzone. I know it was Jacques because I saw his number 74 jersey making the play.
  • In my dream Shawne Merriman's knee didn't hold up and he injured it completely, ending his season in the first game. If its possible to be sad in a dream, that what I was. In a way it was ok though, because I quickly accepted the fact that he gave it his best but would be out for the year. But of course I was happy when I woke up, realized it was a dream and knew that his knee was still (sorta) intact.
  • The offense was struggling for some reason, but whenever I was watching they could move the ball. I remember a great halfback pass from LT to Gates, LT being chased by two defenders and throwing a perfect spiral right into Gates hands. Gates then ran most of the way to the Endzone but was stopped short. I didn't see what happened on that trip but when I later was watching again we hadn't scored for some reason.
  • The Bolts were still down 8-2 early in the third when the dream ended.
I can only speculate that this dream was my brain replaying last year's opener versus Da Bears with subtle variations (and of course the fact that this was the Panthers). Given that I think this years opener will be a lot like last years, meaning it will be a hard fought physical game in which the Chargers will be favored but will have to earn their victory, this dream makes a lot of sense. Or maybe I'm just a football junkie in bad need of my fix. Perhaps an intervention is in order. But please, for my sake, hold it till after the game today.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Pro/Con: Conference Title Games

With college football season just beginning, lets take a moment to look forward a bit to its end. No, I'm not advocating a faster conclusion to the season of our glorious semi-pro national obsession. I want to talk about Conference Title Games. Several College football conferences employ a division system in their standings, and naturally the winners of the the two divisions play in the conference title game at the end of the year. These games are often the center of controversy, as they usually play a big role in determining the bowl selection and the all important BCS title game participants. There are a wide range of opinions on their value and drawbacks, so since I've got nothing better to do lets examine the issue a little closer.

First, I want to emphasize that this analysis mostly applies to BCS conferences. The MAC, Conference USA, and smaller conferences utilize these games to determine their champions, but the results don't usually affect BCS and MNC considerations. So while some of these arguments can apply to these smaller games, which are usually exciting and worty watching, overall the considerations are not the same.

First, the Pro Side:

  • Conference title games give us high quality football between teams who are usually good and playing well at the end of the season. This is what competition is all about: the best taking on the best with it all on the line.
  • CTGs are the closest thing we have to a playoff in Division I-A football. This really is a setup where it is decided on the field.
  • CTGs can boost a team on the cusp of a BCS title game appearance by giving them a timely win over a quality opponent.
  • CTGs give teams without national title hopes something to strive for, a coveted Conference title and a BCS Berth. This can be a huge motivator and I think its good for the sport and its participants, as I feel too much emphasis is placed on the race for the National Title. In recent years FSU, Pittsburgh, and LSU, just to name a few, have earned conference titles and BCS berths by upsetting higher ranked teams in their CTGs.
  • CTGs make a buttload of money for their conferences, which is why they will never be scrapped.
And some Cons:
  • Title games can hurt a team which would otherwise already be in the National Championship game. For teams like this, the risk outweighs the reward. Why should a team that is already undefeated and ranked high have to risk its national title chance by playing, at a neutral site, a fired up team hell bent on playing spoiler? Especially if the top team has previously beaten the lower ranked team? Off the top of my head I can think of Kansas State, Nebraska, Texas and Tennessee as schools who were locks for the BCS Title game but were nipped in the CTG and instead had to settle for a lesser bowl and no shot at the MNC. Granted, a MNC should beat good teams to earn their title, but how much is too much to ask and how much is fair? Bizarrely, the one time this didn't hurt a team was in 2003, when Oklahoma was whipped 35-7 by Kansas State and yet still weaseled its way into the National title game, which it lost. This set up the Split title of 03, something which is still bitterly hated by LSU and SEC fans to this very day despite the fact that USC got screwed out of their rightful place in the Sugar Bowl against LSU.

  • This argument is often heard coming from SEC fans, who claim that their title game, combined with their overall conference strength, makes it unfair for their poor suffering football factories in pursuit of the MNC. They especially curse the "weakness" of the Big and Pac 10, conferences with no title games. The counter to this is that NCAA rules require 12 teams in a conference to have a title game, something that neither the Big or Pac 10 have. Also, these conferences play 9 in-conference games, as opposed to the Sec which plays only 8. In the Pac-10, you cannot duck any opponent in any year. So, in effect, the Conference Title Game is the 9th inter conference game. Given the reputation of SEC teams to schedule home games against patsies to ensure out of conference success, its questionable how unfair this really is. On the other hand, not all SEC teams are so easy on their OOC scheduling. And of course a win in a CTG could actually elevate a borderline team into the National Championship game, so this can only be judged on a case by case basis.

  • Title games shield undeserving teams and hurt more deserving teams when it comes to bowl selection. For example, last year Georgia was the "hottest" team in football at the end of the year. But due to their very poor start they failed to even win the SEC East, and as such didn't get a shot at the SEC title game against LSU. Granted, I'm sure they would have loved to play. They would likely have been favored, and a win might have propelled them to the BCS title game (see Pro argument # 3 above). But in failing to even win their division, Georgia was shielded from a potential loss to LSU, which would have pushed them down the polls and out of the Sugar Bowl. So by standing pat (actually, by failing) Georgia was rewarded with a consolation prize of a BCS bowl. The exact same thing happened to LSU the year before, where they failed to win their division but were shielded from a potential loss against eventual MNC Florida, and so they slid right into the Sugar Bowl. A similar situation happened with Mizzou and Kansas. Both were top 5 teams, with Kansas undefeated going into their matchup. Mizzou won a thriller, and earned a spot in the Big 12 title game, where they lost to Oklahoma. Because Mizzou lost "last", they were pushed below Kansas in the final rankings, and when the BCS bowls were announced Kansas was Orange Bowl Bound while Mizzou had to settle for the Cotton Bowl. This despite the fact that the Tigers has just beaten the Jayhawks a week prior! It seems especially unfair to punish teams who were good enough to make it to the big game and reward those who fell short.
  • Conference Championship games can make a mess of the bowl season. The winners are given automatic berths into BCS games, and due to rules about how many teams a conference can have in the BCS and the convoluted process of awarding bowl selections deserving teams can often get screwed. Also, the matchups can suffer as well, though this is a lesser concern as the team has earned their bowl trip on the field.

  • CTGs may seem hollow in their outcomes. Consider two teams, A and B. Both are good and in the same conference but different divisions. Team A beats team B in their regular season matchup and is undefeated in conference play (never mind MNC considerations in this example). Team B wins their division and meets Team A again in the CTG. This time, Team B wins, and is declared the champ. Maybe this is fair, maybe not. Why should Team A, undefeated in Conference and previously a victor over Team B, have to put it all on the line again? What if Team B is only 5-3 (or worse) in conference but manages to win the rematch? Is Team A's 8-1 really worse than Team B's 6-3? Especially considering that the teams are 1-1 with no rubber match? Why should Team B get another bite at the apple, and walk away with the hardware and a BCS berth? One could argue that this is what happens in playoff systems, so if you advocate for deciding things on the field then you have to embrace these possibilities. Last year the Giants earned their Super Bowl ring by beating Dallas, as team which had twice beat them in the regular season. But the difference is that the Giants had to earn their third chance by both making the playoffs and winning in round 1, while the Cowboys had the benefit of Home field advantage and a bye week prior to the game. In this Team A/B situation, Team B gets another shot without having to work their way through a playoff systems and team A gets no advantage earned from prior performance. Its just a straight up re-do. Granted, there may also be mitigating factors. Maybe Team A had a cakewalk conference schedule while Team B had a bear. Or B was on the road in their previous meeting, or had key injuries, or what screwed by the refs or whatever. But for each legitimate example I'm sure there is just as strong a counter example as to why this setup doesn't seem right.

As you can see, this is a thorny issue to sort through with a lot of different viewpoints and counterarguments. Whatever your decision, its clear that Conference Title Games are here to stay. It might seem from my lopsided amount of text in this article that I am on the con side, but actually I am (mostly) happy with Conference Title Games, as I believe we can always enjoy more exciting football.

Lights On

I wanna get my two cents in on this before the official kickoff of the season. As any football fan knows, Charger Linebacker Shawne "Lights Out" Merriman has decided to play football this season, despite a fairly serious knee injury, a combination of a torn PCL and Torn LCL in his left knee. Merriman criss-crossed the county seeking the opinions of 4 of the best orthopedic surgeons about how to proceed. All four doctors told him to get immediate surgery, which would have ended his season before it began. The worry is that by playing on the damaged knee Shawne could do further damage to it, possibly irreversible damage. As a young man entering what should be the prime of his career, a worsening of the injury could be devastating to his ability to play football at a high level. In a sense, he would be sacrificing one season in order to save the next 5-10. Were he an aging veteran it might not be that big a deal, but Merriman is set to be one of the stars in the NFL for years to come if he stays healthy.

Given Merriman's contract situation, where he has only 2 more years remaining before free agency, shutting down for the season makes financial sense as well. If he gets healthy and has a strong 2009 season, teams will be throwing money at him from all directions, enough to set him up for life. This is his chance for a huge payday. If, on the other hand he gets hurt worse and can't play at his usual level, or if there are questions about his health, then he stands to lose a lot of money when his current contract runs out.

Despite all these factors, the Chargers have cleared Merriman to play, and Shawne himself has decided that he feels good enough to play this year and will put off surgery until the end of the year. Analysts and former players have urged him not to play and questioned the Chargers' decision to clear him.

I'm torn over this. I'm a Charger fan and a Merriman fan. I still remember listening to his very first San Diego Interview on Draft Day 2005. I was running and listening to draft coverage on my walkman while Mikey and Eddie of The Mikey Show introduced us to Shawne Merriman. In the years since Shawne has made 3 Pro Bowls, lead the league in sacks, been DROY and in the running for DPOY. He's become a celebrity, a Charger Fan favorite, a defensive captain and leader for his team. He's a flashy guy, but whats often lost is his dedication to numerous charities.

It hasn't all been great. As much as we Charger fans love Shawne, he's reviled by much of the rest of the league. He's hated for his flashyness. He's hated for his screwy "lights out" dance, which is often imitated in mocking fashion by opponents. He was suspended 4 games in 2006 for testing positive for a banned substance, something which has fueled the hatred against him from all corners. Despite passing all his other tests, despite not gaining a pound since college, despite his grueling workouts and continued success under intense scrutiny, to millions of haters he'll always be "Mer-ROID-man". His accomplishments will always be questioned, fairly or unfairly, and his failures will always be cheered by haters from every corner. No doubt many of these same "fans" are secretly hoping for his knee to explode now that he's made the decision to play.

Whatever the detractors may think or say, Shawne is our guy. He's the face, heart, and soul of our defense. Which is why this situation carries such mixed feelings for a fan like me.

I want the Chargers to win the Super Bowl. For the city, for the fans, and most of all for LT. Knowing the contract and age situations, the window is NOW. Next year is a possibility, though in football you should never look that far ahead. After next year the window may be shut and shut for a long time. Having Shawne play now, assuming he really can stay healthy and play at his high level, is a big piece of the Super Bowl puzzle. Losing him for this year would be tough. A lot of "experts" have claimed that Merriman's absence won't be as big as expected, but I just don't buy it. I'd rather have him than not have him, and anyone who says otherwise shouldn't qualify for "expert" status.

Sadly, I believe he won't be a Charger after 2009 given the size of his potential contract and the other players the Chargers have to resign at the same time. So I have a selfish reason to want him to play this year, since he likely only has two more seasons with the Bolts.

At the same time, I'm a Shawne Merriman fan, and I'd hate to see him ruin his chance for a big payday, jeopardize his career and maybe even his place in Canton someday. Even if he won't always be a Bolt, he has a lot to give this game still providing his health holds up.

When its all said and done, Merriman is a grown man making a tough career decision. True he's risking a lot, but the fact is that football players play football. Injuries are a part of the game and can happen anywhere, anytime. NFL player are not conditioned to be timid about such things, and are trained to play through pain and fear. A highly competitive guy like Merriman is no different, so it shouldn't be too surprising that he wants to play.

Shawne's also a tough SOB, a man who grew up homeless for a time, playing tackle football in the street. It would be cliche to call him a "warrior", and overly dramatic given the real warriors who serve in harms way, but in the context of football that's what he is. The fact that he's willing to push through pain and put a lot on the line in order to not let his teammates down should be applauded. I just hope we are applauding him in February as he's hugging the Lombardi Trophy, not in September as he's being carted off the field and onto IR.