Thursday, January 29, 2009

Badvertising: Super Bowl Preview

It would be criminal (not to mention incredibly lazy) for me to miss out on the best Badvertising opportunity of the year. Naturally, we're talking about the Super Bowl here. As I've said before, the idea of just "watching for the commercials" is dumb, because the commercials are often available to view at your leisure on Youtube or the websites of the various companies. In many cases they'll even post the ads prior to the game, which is great for me since it gives me a bunch of material.

Looking over most of these "sneak previews" I have to think (and hope) that these are the weaker commercials in the bunch. None are particularly great, and it makes sense that the companies would put them out there early in order to build some buzz. If they debuted during the game they'd likely be overshadowed by the better or more memorable ads in all the post-game commercial buzz. My guess is that they realized that their 3 million bucks would go down the tubes unless they put their ads out there.

Enough with this pseudo-marketing analysis, lets get to the commercials.

Doritos- Too Delicious

Kinda funny, but I'm not sure why you'd advertise that your product is so good is makes people vaporize.

Doritos - Power of the Crunch

That looks like it hurt. Probably as much as eating a bag of Doritos.

Miller High life- One Second Ads

Like it, though apparently these might not be the actual one second ads. Still not gonna touch a Miller, but I do enjoy the campaign. Rule

Nice concept, but sooooo long and soooo annoying after a while.

Pedigree Dog Adoption Drive

Ha! Love that Frisbee toss! another "controversial" ad that's actually lame and boring

GoDaddy has done this for 4 or 5 years. Every Super Bowl they make a "Racy" commercial like this which is supposed to drive up the traffic at their server. I haven't checked, but my guess is that nothing actually racy happens if you go to their web page to watch the ending. Porn sites don't advertise on the Super Bowl broadcast. They don't need to, they're porn sites!

I have no idea how GoDaddy can afford a Super Bowl ad each year given that they sell domain names and it seems like every domain name has been taken already. Personally I think GoDaddy is either a money laundering front or else some rich guy's idea of a weird joke.

The interesting thing about these ads is how fame can seriously affect people's perceptions of sexiness and desirability. Danica Patrick, the spokeswoman, is a lovely woman but not really an amazing knockout. There are millions of women as pretty as she is, yet because she's kinda famous millions of horny people will flock to a website for the chance to see her in the buff (which I doubt will happen). I guess its the novelty of it.

Heineken - Warrior

What you drink is your destiny? I want to like this commercial but I can see why they wouldn't want to go up against Budweiser by saving it for game time. Even if the message is nice, its a kinda boring and weird ad which wastes John Turturro.

Pepsi Max- Diet Coke is for Pussies

Note: this is a video of a video

Screw you, Pepsi. First of all, physical comedy loses its funny if no one actually gets hurt.

But even worse, this ad relies on that lamest, stupidest and most insulting of ad pitches: use our product, or you're a pussy! Screw you, Pepsi, I've been drinking Diet Coke (and occasionally Diet Pepsi) my entire life, and I LOVE the taste of it. Hell I think I need one right now.

You call you're drink "The first diet soda for men", huh? Given the situations depicted in your commercial, maybe it would be more accurate to call it the first diet soda for idiots. "Oh, I'll stick my head out a limo and get my ripped in half by a parking structure entrance! You know, since we're out celebrating how I didn't kill myself through various other acts of stupidity and negligence today"

If these men are so tough, why are they even drinking a sissy diet cola in the first place? Shouldn't they proudly swill the darkest, sweetest, most unhealthy soda that they can get a hold of, which is probably only available on the black market? Or even better, shouldn't these guys be drinking a real manly drink like Scotch or Bourbon?

Maybe I'm overreacting. I'm gonna go get a Diet Coke.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Super Bowl musings, part 2

I was thinking about all the crazy and fun prop bets which people make on the Superbowl. Most are related to the game itself but a fair number are things like "What song will Bruce Springsteen Open his halftime set with?" or "How many times will Al Michaels cough during the broadcast?" A lot of these seem crazy given that they would be so easy to rig if the right people wanted to. Springsteen can pick whatever song he wants. John Madden can talk about food as much as he wants. The producer can show (or not show) whatever the object of the prop bet is as much as they want.

Even some of the things in the game are kinda easy to fix. There is a prop bet that Larry Fitzgerald will be tackled by his hair (yes, its true). What's to stop a Steeler from doing just that in the course of a play if they really want the bet to come true? And speaking of which, what exactly would constitute a "tackle" by the hair? Is merely touching the hair enough, or must the tackle itself result from a hard tug on Larry's Dreads?

This got me to thinking about another possible prop bet: What odd segment will the open up the official broadcast, in an attempt to make everyone realize that the Super Bowl is not just a game but a important life changing cultural event?

Let me explain.

Last year, the Super Bowl broadcast officially started with a montage where a bunch of NFL players and Armed Forces personnel recited the Declaration of Independence. Which is nice enough, but it was also kinda weird to be in the middle of beer commercials and inane pregame hype and suddenly BAM this serious montage comes on.

A few years ago was even weirder, with an ancient looking and earring sporting Harrison Ford reciting Dr. Seuss's "Oh, the Places You'll Go", with some help from Joe Montana and Jerry Rice.

So my question is what (if any) non football related opening NBC will do to kick off the "official" broadcast this year?

Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is almost upon us (*tears*). And anyone who knows anything about the Super Bowl knows that the real appeal isn't the game; its the prospect of gorging yourself into a food coma that puts Thanksgiving to shame. Seriously, the Super Bowl is usually much better than Thanksgiving because the food is actually stuff you want to eat and the variety is a lot better. Pizza, chicken wings, tacos, beer, nachos, beer, chips and dip, sandwiches, beer, tacos, beer, chili, cookies, pie, cake, donuts, beer... really its whatever you want it to be. Not like Thanksgiving with its oppressive stranglehold of dry Turkey and various vegetables. Most years I have to fill up on stuffing just to get a full meal.

Oh ya, and there's some commercials and stuff.

A lot of people who are freaks and not football fans still watch the game "for the commercials", which is stupid for a number of reasons. First, most of them actually suck. This is because most advertising is stupid, and just because you paid 3 million dollars for the airtime doesn't make the spot itself any better. A shack in Beverly Hills is still a shack. Combine this with the fact that any company shelling out 3 million bucks a pop for airtime is going to make at least three dozen executives sign off on it and you're all but guaranteed to suck the creativity out of all but the best spots.

Another reasons why its dumb to watch "for the commercials" is that the commercials themselves get more coverage than the actual game, and there will already be a flood of media "report cards" and stories about them by the time the Lombardi trophy is lifted. In this day and age you can find these highly priced spots on Youtube and watch all the ads at your leisure.

Nevertheless, I realize that the Super Bowl is a holiday and if you want to come over and hang out with all the normal people and your excuse is to watch the commercials, more power to you. Just remember that some of us are watching the game which is taking place between the commercials, so please keep your non football yapping on low and avoid blocking the TV during a play.

Speaking of commercials, apparently Coke has decided to take advantage of the Steelers appearance in the big game to remake a classic commercial in updated form. Here's a video with a sneak preview.

Not bad. Not great, but not bad. My guess on the supposed "twist": Troy pulls off his hair as a wig and tosses it to the kid. I know its pretty obvious, which is why its probably what the ad writers decided to go with. I'll be truly amazed and probably entertained if they can come up with another "twist" which makes any sense.

Enjoy the game.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Keep your eye on the ball

This video is from a high school game. If I had to guess I'd say this team is from Bubblegum Tate Memorial Globetrotter High School.

And people complain that kids today aren't sound in their basketball fundamentals.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Prediction Perils

Just a quick thought on the NFL draft.

Offensive Tackle Andre Smith, who played at Alabama, is a beast. He's practically a Meast. Great physical skills, talent, and production in his college career. He won the Outland Trophy and was the rock of one of the best O-lines in the nation.

Smith is coming out early for the NFL draft. He's widely predicted as "the No. 2 overall draft pick". Its really incredible how far this prediction has gone. On message boards, news stories, and mock drafts he's almost universally touted as going at no. 2.

This is crazy, for a couple reasons. First, no one, and I mean no one, can predict the NFL draft worth a damn. Sure the top 5 picks are generally pretty easy to figure out, but even that can be a crap shoot. Its especially hard given that there are months (technically 99 days) of workouts, combines and draft analysis between now and the end of April. Who knows how Smith and his fellow draft class will be shuffled around as they impress or disappoint the scouts.

Finally, its especially crazy because it assumes that the Lions, who are the only 0-16 team in history and desperately trying to rebuild their shattered team in the wake of Matt Millen, are going to draft Georgia QB Matt Stafford with the first overall pick. This is insane, absolutely insane. Lets think about this:

Option a) draft a beast of an O-lineman who can step in an play productively this year and possibly develop into a franchise tackle. At the very worst you get a solid mauler who isn't going to take long to get up to speed.

Option b) draft an above average but not spectacular QB, who wasn't even the best QB in his own conference, and of course pay him a lot more than you would have to pay Smith because of the so called "QB premium". Try and plug him into an offense which sucks, behind a line which doesn't have Andre Smith, and hope he doesn't get killed before he plays the season or two usually required for a QB to catch up to the NFL learning curve. Which assumes he ever will. Let's remember, for every Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco (who by the way benefit greatly from a very strong supporting cast, something Stafford won't have), there are a dozen QBs who end up as lunch meat because they are rushed into playing too soon with a weak supporting cast.

I'm not saying that Smith couldn't be a bust or Stafford couldn't be a star, but the idea that Stafford should definitely go first and Smith will definitely be #2 is crazy, especially at this juncture.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Its Caarrrnnee Asada.

Today is a sad day. Legendary actor and possessor of ripped pecs Ricardo Montalbán has passed away at the age of 88. Montalbán was perhaps best known to our generation as Khan Noonien Sighn from Star Trek. Khan was a genetic superman of superior strength, intellect, cunning, charm and passion, and Montalbán played brought him to life beautifully. Rumors abound that Montalbán wore a "fake chest plate" during filming, because Khan appeared so muscular and Montalbán was in his 60s at the time. These rumors turned out to be totally false, as apparently he was a regular piece of geriatric beefcake. We should all age so well.

Besides his role as Khan, Montalbán starred on the TV series "Fantasy Island", made appearances in dozens of other TV shows and films spanning most of the 20th century, and even starred on Broadway. He never stopped working, lending his voice work to commercials and movies even in his last years.

As would be expected from a man with such a distinguished career, Montalbán had a sense of humor about himself and his industry. Montalbán described the stages of his career as:

1. Who is Ricardo Montalbán?
2. Get me Ricardo Montalbán.
3. Get me a Ricardo Montalbán type.
4. Get me a young Ricardo Montalbán.
5. Who is Ricardo Montalbán?

Vaya con Dios, Senor Montalbán.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Food Network is my favorite network. Yes, even more so than ESPN, which all too often tears at the soul with mind numbing programming (I might have mentioned that before).

There's a new show premiering this week on FN, Chopped, which looks to be a mix of Iron Chef and Food Network Challenge. According to the commercial, four random chefs are brought in, given a secret ingredient, and told to whip up a dish. These creations are judged, low score is booted, rinse and repeat until we have one chef left standing. Ted Allen will apparently be the host, a decent choice given that Alton Brown is probably otherwise engaged. You need a someone known FN personality to MC a show like this. Allen knows his stuff and has a more sophisticated and appropriate presence than someone like Mark Summers.

There's no doubt that I'll be tuning in and giving this show a chance to win me over. What I really wonder about, however, is how the formatting and editing will work. The show is at 10 PM. My best guess is that its an hour long. No way could you pack three 30 minute cooking rounds into a mere half hour, and a 2 hour show is too long to syndicate and really gain a following.

Yet even with an hour you have only 45 minutes or so of programming after commercials. In that time they'll have to introduce the chefs, reveal the ingredient, and have 3 rounds of cooking and judging. At first glance, this doesn't seem like such a problem. On Iron chef they squeeze the reveal, 60 minutes of cooking, and the judging into a mere 44 minutes. Similarly, the FN challenges condense up to 6 hours of prep time into an hour. However, on those shows the cooking is in one contained block and therefore easier to break up into just highlights. You can have several blocks separated by commercials dedicated just to the cooking, with intro and judging as bookends.

In this case, however, you have judging injected between the cooking rounds. The only way I can see making this work is to cut out a ton of the actual cooking. If you do so, however, I fear you'll lose some of the appeal of having a cooking show in the first place.

Whether this effects the show at all remains to be seen. I imagine that FN has audience tested this thing, so hopefully my fears will be unfounded and we'll have another good show to enjoy.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Old College Try

Well, that's that. Congrats to the Gators on their win and their crystal football.

I'd say it was a great game but... it kinda wasn't. Now, just because it was lower scoring than expected doesn't necessarily mean it was a bad game. I can appreciate good defense as much as anyone. But there were a number of boneheaded plays, stupid penalties and overall lack of crispness on both sides for most of the game. The month layoff for these teams seem to put the offenses on ice, and it took about 3 quarters for them to get even a little thawed out.

They'll be a lot of hemming and hawing about the outcome here. The Big-12, Oklahoma, Sam Bradford and Bob Stoops will all take heat for not living up to some impossible standard. The SEC will get more credit than its due for the solid performance of the Gators. Make no mistake, they won fair and square, but they gave Florida just as much (if not more) of a game then formerly undefeated and SEC runner up Alabama did, so to denigrate them for this loss would be stupid.

This game, just like every other football game ever, came down to execution (or lack thereof) on a handful of select plays. Specifically, the Oklahoma offense, despite churning up a lot of yardage and moving the ball at will for much of the game, will be haunted by the few plays they didn't make. The two goal line stands were obviously crucial. Kick field goals and you're up 6, still in it at the end, and the whole game changes. Manage to punch it in from the one and you're even more golden. And of course there was the blocked FG, which we can't count as good but certainly looked good coming off the kicker's foot. Throw in an amazing/freak interception in the 4th quarter and it doesn't look promising.

Basically, Oklahoma's lack of execution left 6-17 points off the board early in the game. Credit the Gators for making the plays to stop them, but I also have to question what, exactly, the Sooner coaches were thinking on some plays. The Sooners had a high powered offense which relies on at the line adjustments. The team lines up, checks the D, then they all look over to the sidelines to get a play call or adjustment. They do this with a fairly high tempo, but sometimes its just not worth it. In fact, on the first Goal line stand I'd argue it actually hurt them. They had 3rd and goal at the 1, with probably the best O-line in the nation. They ran up to the line and got set while Florida still wasn't lined up right to stop them. Then, instead of just snapping for a wedge-QB sneak or a handoff up the middle, they stopped, looked over for a "new" play call, which allowed Florida to get set. After giving the Gators time to recover they ran the handoff, which was stuffed. The same thing happened on 4th down, with another stuff as a result. I'm all for intricate offenses and complexity and the like, but dammit sometimes you should just line up and GO! Don't worry about complexity, don't let the defense get set, just plunge ahead and score the damn touchdown.

This happened again on a short yardage situation, where the Gators literally did not have a tackle in the game. Instead of going right at that gap, the Sooners went through their whole routine, which allowed the Gators to get a tackle in place, and then ran right at him! Just GO!

Another thing I have to question is what the Sooners were thinking on their second goal line stop, right before the have. They have first and goal from about the 8, with 10 second left and no timeouts. Your only choices are to throw to the endzone or throw it away, so as to preserve time for a FG try if you don't make it. The Sooners run a pass which was intercepted after it was tipped and bounced off of what seemed like 10 different players. Fine, tips and picks happen. But the pass was for a slant to a closely covered receiver who had only reached the 2 yard line. Even if he catches it he's likely tackled and time runs out. Bad decision all around.

The exact same thing happened on Oklahoma's final offensive play. In desperation mode, Oklahoma went for it on 4th and 4 late in the game. Slant pattern, knocked away by the defender (who might have gotten there early but there was no flag). Even if he had caught the pass, the receiver was still short of the first down make. It's not like it was 4th and 20. It shouldn't be that hard to get 5 yards down the field, especially when you absolutely have to.

The Sooners tight end #18, Jermaine Gresham, is a great physical prospect but needs work on his simple game management. He was clearly the go to-receiver and had 2 TDs and a number of other big catches. But he also hurt his team with dumb decisions. Not once, not twice, but three times during the game when the Sooners were trying to move the ball quickly he had a chance to step out of bounds but instead choose to barrel forward. The resulting extra yardage was next to nothing, but the seconds (and timeouts cost) were critical. And that pretty much sums up how this game went for Oklahoma: lots of nice plays, too many unforced mental errors. The Gators won this game not just with speed or strength (the teams were actually pretty even in these categories) but because they were able to execute and not make these kinds of silly mistakes. Credit them and their coaches for being able to shake off the rust of the layoff and execute enough to win.

So that's it. Tebow is scheduled to ascend directly to Heaven at any minute. Bob Stoops will forever (unfairly) be branded a loser. Utah, USC and Texas will forever be slighted by our fatally flawed system. The debates will rage ad infinitum, nothing will change, and we'll be right back where we left off a year from now.

Circle of life and all that. Many college careers are ending. Some will throw their hat in the NFL ring, while others will stay around to enjoy the collegiate life for one more year. New blood will be infused into the college ranks, as signing day is less than a month away. Sunrise, Sunset. And whatever happens, we'll all (sorta) be back at school in the fall.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

BCS Title game: Viva, Guac!

Sweet Pete Carroll, can we kick this game off already?!?!?

I've read all I can read about Florida, Oklahoma, the BCS, what it means to be a "National Champion", and all other topics even tangentially related to tonight's game.

I've written some about it and been too lazy to write a lot more. My feelings about the legitimacy of the so called "national title" and the need for a playoff are known, and if I ever get them organized they might make a great manifesto someday. Say what you want about Karl Marx, at least he was enough of an achiever to get his thoughts down on paper and in print.

Tonight's game, for better or worse (probably the latter) will crown a "Mythical National Champion" of NCAA Division 1-A college football. They'll deserve to be champs as much as anyone, and for all the bitching I and many other smart people do about the rottenness of the system, it shouldn't take away from the fact that these are two fine teams who have had great seasons. At this point in time, and for the foreseeable future, this (flawed) system is all we have, so lets hope this is a good game.

I've wavered a bit on who I want to win. Like most people, I think Florida has an edge going in, but its not much. There are a thousand different variables which will effect the outcome, most of all which team handled their 6 week layoff better and has less rust. I think its Oklahoma which will be hurt more by the layoff given the timing and rhythm needed for their offense to be successful, so we'll have to see how quickly they can get back in game mode. The great thing about sports and especially football is that anything can happen. A lucky bounce, a crazy fumble, a tipped interception, an untimely injury, a fluke play: any or all of these things can happen, and in a game like this its likely that the outcome will swing on at least one of these things.

I like both these teams, and hate both these fan bases, and really really hate both the fan bases of their respective conferences. Given that I dislike the fans of the SEC just slightly more than the Big-12 (for now), I'll be pulling, ever so slightly, for the Sooners. Really I just want a competitive game, as this will be the last college football for at least 6 months.

My (ignorant) head says Florida, and my (wary) heart says Oklahoma. My (hungry) stomach says its time for taquitos and guac. Viva, Guac!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles

Jennifer 8 Lee, columnist for the New York Times, is writing a book about my favorite subject: food. Specifically its about "Chinese" food, most of which is about as Chinese as Prince Charles. At first it doesn't sound particularly interesting for a book topic, at least compared to the typical book in the foodie/history/sociology hybrid genre. Kung Pao Chicken doesn't exactly have the same cache as the subjects of Salt or A History of the World in 6 Glasses. However, I watched this entertaining presentation by Ms. Lee and now I'm excited to check it out when I get a chance. Like most things, "Chinese" food is as seemingly innocuous thing which actually has an interesting history which is part comedy and part tragedy. Enjoy.

Movie Review: Get off my lawn!

Ladies and Gentleman, we have a winner. The Best Comedy of the year is Gran Torino. See it, embrace it, love it. This may be the rare pic to win both a major Golden Globe and a Golden Raspberry award, and both would be well deserved.

If the Golden Globes somehow pass over this comedic gem for Best Comedy or Musical they'll lose whatever credibility they have. In fact, this is both a Comedy and a Musical, with Eastwood himself crooning out the closing song as the credits rolled. Yes, you heard that right. Clint getting his Celine Dion on. Its every bit what you might expect, and like the rest of the movie its comedy gold.

The premise of this movie is simple. Walt Kowalski is the last "real American" holdout in a deteriorating Detroit suburb. He's a ornery sumbitch who loves only his dead wife, dog, 3 packs a day, cooler full of PBR and the eponymous car of the flick. Over the course of the movie he softens just enough to take the neighbor boy under his wing in order to try and impart some manly wisdom to the lad. Naturally there is tension with the gangs who roll in the neighborhood and want to bring the boy into their group. Guns are flashed, tough words are exchanged, punks are roughed up a geriatric, kids are told multiple times to "get off my lawn", and the final resolution actually comes as a bit of a surprise.




With the exception of The Man himself, who turns in a performance that at least is somewhat believable, the cast ranges from stiff to unintentionally funny to downright atrocious. The writing is little better and the "editing" makes you wonder what exactly they left out. The pacing is glacial, characters rice-paper thin and the symbolism has all the subtly of Clint bashing you over the head with a wrench pulled from his belt.

None of this matters. In fact, its all necessary, because the layers upon layers of crap somehow mesh into Clint Eastwood, I salute you. No other actor could have pulled this off to such perfection. Plug in an action star like Norris or Schwarzenegger (ha!) and the comedy falls flat. Try it with a more mainstream dramatic actor and we'd lose all believability. Only Clint could pull this off so perfectly, and if turning this pile of crap into pure entertainment isn't worthy of an award, I don't know what is.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Pyramid of Stupidity

All time great coach John Wooden has said a lot of great and inspirational stuff (or at least has had a lot attributed to him). One of his most famous sayings is that "Sports don't build character. Sport reveal character".

Whether Wooden is right is a matter worthy of debate. Which is appropriate, given that sports is a fertile ground for debates of all kinds. Sadly, most of these debates are dominated by idiocy of one kind or another. Homerism. "Expertism". Short-sightedness. Egoism. Occasionally even racism. Mostly though, its just downright stupidity.

I've talked about this before in my posts about the stupidity of "overrated" and various other topics. But its still really frustrating to me as a fan of not only of sports but of "Sport", and a fan of really good analysis and appreciation for the beauty of our great games, that so much stupidity still abounds. We have more sports, with more coverage, and more accompanying analysis than ever, and yet the average sports fan can be counted on to continually display their ignorance at any opportunity.

Anyone who has taken a cruise around the Interwebs knows that stupidity abounds, especially on message boards or comment sections. Antagonism seems to be the order of the day. Anything said or written which is even slightly less than wholly positive about your favorite sport, team or player is a blood insult which is reason to bring out one's proverbial fangs. While there are some really good and even great websites and blogs dedicated to analyzing sports, even their comment sections abound with idiots.

Of course, the Internet is hardly the sole source of sports stupidity. Ever tried watching ESPN, the self proclaimed "Worldwide Leader in Sports". Its mind numbing. A typical Sportscenter will contain a dozen "analysis" segments, and 90% of it fails to provide anything insightful. I thought I'd miss Sportscenter when I lost my cable access, but in reality it hasn't been missed.

Its no surprise that the asinine abundance extents to those who are supposedly paid to not be stupid, namely announcers and sportswriters. Granted, without them we'd never get the comedic styles of great sites like AwfulAnnouncing or FireJoeMorgan, but such lemonade making is a small consolation.

Recently I was in the car and made the mistake of switching over to AM and listening to sports talk radio. The topic at hand was the upcoming BCS title game, and specifically whether or not the offensive numbers of the Oklahoma Sooners were just the product of weak defenses in the Big-12. Now, Oklahoma set a record for points scored in college football. No team has ever scored so many points. No team has ever scored 60+ points 5 games in a row. The Sooner's lowest point total of the year was 35, achieved against TCU (#2 overall defense in the entire country at season's end) and Texas (top 10 Defense and number 3 overall team in the country). While Florida has a strong D, the idea that they'll just manhandle the Sooners is a big... well, stupid. They may win, but either way it should be a good matchup between two great teams.

Or so I thought. According to caller after caller after caller, this game is going to be a blowout. Ask any caller from "Big 12 Territory" and the Sooners will romp all over the Gators on Thursday. One guy went so far as to claim that, were the game to be played in Norman, the line would be -10 for Oklahoma. That's right, a 13.5 point swing against a team which has gone on the road and won in the most hostile of SEC environments and is quarterbacked by the most focused, intense, unflappable college QB in a generation.

Not to be outdone, every caller from "SEC territory" was willing to bet their firstborn that Big-12 football was a actually travelling series of 7 on 7 drills and that the Sooners thus have no chance. Predictions ranged from a total blowout to a nuclear explosion taking out the Oklahoma sideline being preferable to what the mighty Gators were going to do to them.

All this frustration has led me to twist Wooden's classic quote and turn it into a question: Do sports create stupidity, or do sports reveal stupidity? In other words, is it the result of the homerism, regionalism and information overload which comes with our modern sports culture? Or are sports simply a convenient avenue for all the repressed idiocy of a million talk show callers to express their "genius" insight to the world?

Monday, January 5, 2009


As in, we hit one. Two actually. First, the declared victory of Al Franken (excuse me, Senator Franken) means that I (finally) win the department election pool. I'm currently taken suggestions as to what to spend my hard earned prize money on. Should it be a Sproles jersey or a Scifres jersey? Or maybe one of each?

Speaking of Sproles and Scifres: YEEHAW, WE WON! For one more week, we're alive. For one more week we get to daydream about the Bolts in the Super Bowl. The road had been uphill for some time and its only going to get steeper in Pittsburgh, but as I've said this is a team of fighters and I know they'll always have at least a punchers chance.

There is a lot of praise to give out, so lets start at the top: Good job Norv. Yes, Norv, you've done it again. Whether or not you can keep doing it is a mystery, but you got it done on Saturday. As did Ron Rivera, whose defense played outstanding.

Outside of an embarrassing play in which the Colts caught the D trying to substitute, the defense held the offense commanded by the league MVP to 10 points. They got stop after stop, including a vital 3rd and 2 stop which gave the offense one last chance to tie the game. Everyone on D made plays. Eric Weddle seemed to be everywhere, making tackles and breaking up passes. The line held strong and managed to get some pressure on Manning. And hats off to Steven Cooper, who mirrored Manning in their personal Spy vs Spy style showdown. (Try and guess which one is Black Spy and which one is White Spy).

Special teams were obviously huge. Coverage was strong, the return blocking was good, Nate kicked well despite a slight injury. But of course the early front runner for Special Player of the Year in 2009 is Mike Scifres. Its funny to think about what Scifres said in more than one post game interview, that he couldn't go to bed and dream of having such a great night. I would have thought (hoped?) that punters had enough sense to dream about being running backs or quarterbacks. I guess when your life's work is punting it probably infects your subconscious. Whatever the inner workings of his mind, I hope this game finally gets Scifres the attention he deserves as the games top punter. I anticipate a big carry-over into next year's pro-bowl voting.

Moving on to the offense. The line did a fine job of run blocking for over 150 yards. Pass protection was spotty at times but solid enough when it really mattered. Chambers, Gates, Nanee and even Jackson, who had no catches, all came up big. AJ Smith singled out Jackson for praise after the game, as he kept playing hard despite being the focus of the Colts secondary all night.

Rivers had solid game. His one mistake, the interception in the endzone, was the result of being too pumped up after his big 13 yard run and 4th down conversion. Besides that Rivers was good, and just as important as what he did is what he didn't do. Specifically, he didn't hold onto the ball too long. He didn't force passes (except for the pick). Several times he threw the ball away and lived to pass another day. A great job of managing the game on his part.

LT deserves some praise as well. He was clearly struggling with his injury but still gave it all he had and managed to contribute to the victory both on the scoreboard and in the emotional response from his efforts.

Welcome to the team, Michael Bennett. Hope you had enough rest, since you're likely to get plenty of action against the Steelers.

And finally... last but not least (except in height). The star of the game. The guy who takes up the least space yet has the most nicknames.

The Little Guy. Pocket Hercules. Notorious T.I.N.Y. Tiny Jesus. Tiny Darren. Sprolesy.

He's shorter than my girlfriend and weighs less than the kicker, but man can he run. Sproles tore it up every which way on Saturday night, and it was oh so fitting (and familiar) that he should end the game with a TD scamper around left end in overtime. I hope he get rested, because he'll be public enemy # 1 in Pittsburgh and they'll be gunning for him.

Congrats on the victory to the whole team, and good luck next week.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Playoff ponderings

Its game time. Its playoff time. Before kickoff, I have a few thoughts on this Charger team.

It almost goes without saying that this season has been frustrating in many ways but a lot of fun in several other ways. Going to my first "away" game, in the storied football city of Pittsburgh no less, was a great experience. It would have been even better had the Bolts pulled it out on the road, but in the end the result doesn't effect where we are now.

Through all the ups and downs, the one thing I take from this team is that they are a group of fighters. No matter the score, no matter the standings, no matter the odds, you know they'll always fight till the end. As long as they have one more game, one more quarter, one drive, one down, one more breath in their lungs they'll fight their asses off to try and win. As a fan that's all you can really ask for. Luck, fate, serendipity and the occasional Hoculi are all part of how things play out, and you can't control them, but what you can control is how much you're willing to give in pursuit of victory.

I salute our Bolts for their character and making the playoffs, and salute management for picking players who are not only talented but truly professional men of high character who have so often stared down adversity and not blinked. Let's go get a victory tonight.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Jersey Boys

I've not big on having replica jerseys, mostly because I didn't really have a favorite team until the last 5 years. I actually had one once as a kid, a Barry Sanders #20 which I wore ragged when I still thought that wearing a jersey as an everyday shirt was cool. Thankfully I outgrew that phase while I was still young enough to get away with wearing a football jersey in May.

I do appreciate that the jersey is prime game day material, and I'm thinking of getting one for the Chargers. But which one? The choice to go with Powder blue is obvious, but the number and name are an important consideration. I'm not really interested in a throwback like Fouts, since I wasn't around for his era, and I'd sooner have a nameplate that read "Loser" than one which read "Seau" given recent developments with Jr. I won't get a custom job with my own name, since that's pathetic. The only custom jobs which interest me are a # 17 "Marmalard" and #50 "Power", but both have drawbacks. Most people won't understand either, they aren't really things I want to explain, and the identity of the offense no longer revolves around the Power 50 play.

So throwbacks and customs are out, meaning we have to select from among the readily available jerseys off the rack. The contenders, in no particular order:

#21 Tomlinson

The clear front-runner in this race. LT is the face of the Charger franchise, a Hall of Famer, and an all around stellar human being. A legitimate hero on and off the field to the People of San Diego. Even though he'll be leaving the Bolts within a few years, this is a jersey with long term appeal. He has the appeal of being the last guy out for the Chargers. What I mean by that is when player announcements are made during pre-game, LT is always last for the offense. Every team has a last guy out, the long time fan favorite who gets the loudest cheer as he enters the field. In Pittsburgh it was Hines Ward. In Indy its Peyton Manning. And in San Diego its LT.

#17 Rivers

I'm probably Philip's biggest fan and one of his biggest defenders. The guy has all the athletic ability of a 14 year old softball player, and yet has managed to win 3 division titles and put together a legitimate MVP caliber season this year. He's lead the league in Passer Rating and TD passes, the latter of which broke Dan Fouts single season Charger record which stood for 26 years. The problem is that Rivers could be gone in a few years and, unlike LT, he won't be riding off into the sunset but rather playing out his career for another team. Granted, odds are 9/10 that Rivers will be re-signed and finish his career in San Diego, but you never know. He also doesn't have quite the resume that LT has, and a regression is possible though unlikely.

# 85 Gates

Another good choice, though again free agency may rear its ugly head in a few years and snatch Antonio away from us. I love Gates, but for some reason his jersey just doesn't do it for me like the others would. I wouldn't hate it as a gift, but I doubt I'll be buying it for myself.

# 56 Merriman

This is a very interesting option. Shawn has the cache of being the "last guy out" for the defense. He's undoubtedly the soul of the D and a huge emotional leader, and his absence has been felt this whole year. Which is also part of the problem: Shawn hasn't seen the field since the Panther game, and odds are that next year is his last rodeo with the Chargers. Unlike Rivers and Gates who will likely be re-signed, I fully expect Merriman to take a huge payday when his turn at free agency comes, and those checks won't have lightning bolts on them. That reality puts a damper on a jersey choice which should otherwise rival LT's in terms of appeal for me.

# 93 Castillo

Bit of a dark horse hear. I like Luis and love that he'll be here long term. A northwestern Grad, Castillo always strikes me as the nerd of the team, the token honor student, and as the THS on most of my football teams I can relate to that and enjoy it.

#31 Cromartie

Not after the season he's had. I know he's hurt and playing through pain, but Cro has been a let down this year. Hopefully he'll recover soon (like, say, Saturday) and get back to his Pro-Bowl self. His odds of leaving as a free agent are also high, diminishing his appeal.

# 83 Jackson

Another dark horse candidate. VJ's had a great year, becoming the first Charger in 7 seasons with 1000 yards receiving. He's fun on a reverse and does a great job of downfield blocking. But then again, who is Vincent Jackson? When was the last time you heard his name called, Josh?

#76 Williams

A jersey with major appeal to me, though not to a lot of others, which is a problem since it makes it hard to find. As is typical, the big man who does the dirty work doesn't get a lot of love in the replica jersey market. Jamal has played like a beast this year. If Merriman is the Soul of the D, Jamal is the guts. The big, strong, run stuffing, double team splitting, pocket collapsing, all you can eat buffet devouring guts.

#43 Sproles

We all love Tiny Darren, but I'd feel weird wearing the jersey of a pro who I have 50 pounds on. Maybe if I keep my New Years resolution and get down to a svelte 181 like Sprolsie I'll feel more comfortable with it. Also, Sproles is a free agent with an uncertain future, so its best not to invest too heavily at this point. God willing we'll be watching him a year from now with a size medium # 43 on my front and back. Speaking of which, do you think the reason that Sproles picked such a high number for his jersey is that he's trying to pump himself up and feel bigger?

# 5 Scifres

Good luck finding a jersey for the league's best punter (I couldn't even find a picture of one). But assuming I could, I might seriously consider it. Punters need acknowledgement too, and none deserves it more than ours.

# 95 Phillips

An outside chance here. Shaun has slipped a bit this year but he's always flying around and making plays.

Any of the O-line: #73 Marcus McNeil would probably be my choice. But this group has gone soft in the last year, and unless they regain that smash mouth attitude and fast we'll be sunk. The team record 289 rushing yards against Denver is a start. Its also pretty hard to find their jerseys. If I was going in this direction I think the "Power 50" would have been the best way to go, but as it is they are unlikely to make the cut for any number of reasons.

As you can see, this is a big decision. I'm also a little wary of jinxing the team by buying my first jersey just 24 hours prior to the playoff opener. Hopefully I can narrow things down and make a good choice in time for kickoff.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Maybe they need more lean meat protein

L.T. is hurting. Gates is hurting.

We're playing the Colts in the playoffs.

I've seen this movie before.

Hopefully the sequel has the same ending as the original. It should be a close game either way.