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 December 31, 2007 - 06:50 PM | chris
Random Thoughts and Rebuttals

A random thought and then a response to Lucas' Mitchell Report comments:

-In the Tom Brady vs. Randy Moss MVP debate, I've been up in the air all year. The difference in the Patriots' offense between last year and this year has been astronomical, mostly in part to the attention that Moss draws from defenses, the pass interference calls that Moss draws (despite the offense PI calls that he generates himself), and his ability to make tough fingertip catches in traffic. At one point in Saturday night's game, Brady dropped back to pass and was immediately surrounded by rushers, at which point he sprinted backwards for 10 yards, pratically closed his eyes, and heaved the ball at about a 70 degree angle up the field in the direction of Moss. Randy didn't make the catch, but he almost did, and last season when it was either take the 15 yard sack or throw in the direction of Reche Caldwell it would have most definitely been a sack. However, my decision in the MVP debate was made the moment that Moss laid on the field after a helmet-to-helmet hit, seemingly injured. The first thing that went through my mind was "now maybe Brady will spread the ball around a little more instead of trying to force it to Moss to break Jerry Rice's record". If it were Brady lying prone on the field, my first thought would have been "the season is over". Moss has been a fantastic 4th round draft pick, but Brady for MVP.

Now to respond to Lucas' Mitchell Report thoughts:

On whether it was right for Mitchell to lead the investigation: I'd also have to say no here, although I don't buy any of the nonsense floating around that the New York teams were singled out and the Red Sox were spared because of George Mitchell's ties to the Boston organization. Because he had no subpoena power, his entire investigation relied upon finding quasi-credible witnesses who would roll over on players in order to save their own asses or because they had nothing to lose. You're much more likely to find this in a large organization, especially one with many players already under investigation for steroids purchases (Giambi and Sheffield with the Yankees). All Mitchell needed to do was find somebody already involved in federal steroids investigations who no longer feared legal action due to already being involved in legal proceedings. Seeing names of Yankees and Giants players did not surprise me at all as a result of this, not because of some vast conspiracy. Still, if you're trying to clean up your image and you're intent on airing the dirty laundry and cleaning house anyway, there's no reason not to go with an independent, third-party investigator.

On what to do about the records/statistics from convicted users: The media hand-wringing about revising statistics is patently ridiculous. The Mitchell report contains the names of players who were tangentially connected with two or three core witnesses, not an entire encyclopedia of every player who ever jabbed himself with Winstrol. It may seem easy to go back and wipe Barry Bonds' home runs off the record books, but what about the pitchers who surrended those shots, do we lower their ERA's accordingly? What if it was a game winning home run, do we credit the other team with a victory? If so, how do we explain that the Giants finished 1 game behind team X in the historical standings even though the Giants went to the playoffs? What if the pitcher who surrendered the home run was also using steroids? Statistics are a factual record of what occurred when, they can't be changed by waving your hands around like the kids at the end of the Charlie Brown Christmas special. In the early 1900's there was the Deal Ball Era, the mid to late 1990's and very early 2000's is the Steroid Era. Comparing statistics between eras is pointless anyway, just leave them be.

Now for a more personal question, how do you feel now that your favorite team has signed a player (Eric Gagne) named in the Mitchell report? Does this affect at all how you feel about him or your opinion of the Brewers organization? I have some HGH thoughts also, but I'll save them for later in the discussion.

 December 29, 2007 - 02:55 PM | chris

For my most recent foray to sunny Florida for Christmas I had the opportunity to fly Skybus "Airlines", a new low-cost carrier based out of Columbus. The perks are $10 tickets and that Columbus is their "hub". The bad news is that to get the $10 tickets you have to wake up at 6 AM the day they release the tickets, which is usually 6-8 months before the flight, and that they only fly to a few cities.

In order to keep costs down they don't have things like a 1-800 number to call to schedule/check flights, free snacks on the plane, or things like "employees". Ha! Kidding about that last one. Kind of, at least. Although you have to buy your tickets online and can check in to your flight online, you have to wait in an interminable line at the airport to check your bag, despite paying to check the bag online (yes, you have to pay $5 per bag you check).

The same slow-moving people who take the bag from you are the ones who meander down to the gate in the basement of the airport (yes, the Columbus airport has a basement. No, there are no "gates" per se as much as doors directly out to the tarmac with numbers on them.) when it is almost takeoff time to announce that the flight is on-time, despite the departure time being 30 minutes later than the time on your ticket. If they do dare to admit that a flight is late, they will notify you by posting a paper sign at the gate (and by "gate" I mean "podium") with the updated departure time. But at least it's a very professional sign. Or one written on a torn-off sheet of printer paper in magic marker, one or the other.

Once it is time to board your "on-time" flight, you can kindly line up in 3 groups for "open boarding", much like Southwest (although I hear they don't do this anymore). To get into group 1, you pay $10. To get into group 2, you check in early online and then promptly go to the airport and sit on the floor in the basement, with all your children and things spread out as if you're having a picnic, so that you and your children can be tripped over by everyone else trying to use the restroom (yes, at least the basement has restrooms).

One redeeming quality about Skybus is that they have all new, full-sized aircraft. At least until they realize that they are hemorraging money despite having seemingly no staff and can save on jet fuel by flying old aircraft straight out of Catch Me If You Can or cramming everyone on a regional jet. Manning this full sized aircraft are trained, professional flight attendants in tasteful uniforms. Either that or possibly-over-21 girls in sparkly t-shirts advertising Skybus' few destinations who make jokes about the amount of turbulence that will be on the upcoming flight, giggle with each other, and chitchat with the copilot whilst the plane is in flight (to be fair, the copilot was out of the cockpit to use the restroom).

As I mentioned previously, there were no free snacks on the plane, everything was for sale. You could get a can or soda or tiny bottle of water for $2, a dinner (i.e. sandwich) for anywhere between $5 and $10, or a piece of jewelry or last minute Christmas gift for various prices. Yes, there is a skymall-esque catalog in the seat pocket in front of you containing not overpriced motorized tie racks or massage pillows/gloves/chairs/headrests/blankets/pants but instead jewelry and trinkets that they wheel around on a cart near the end of the flight.

Finally, the plane touches down (unless you experience the unlikely event of a water landing) and before you leave you are informed that your flight today was sponsored by Nationwide Insurance, the Free Maurice Clarett fund, or some other local Columbus outfit. Approximate flight time: 2 hours. Approximate time in line waiting to check your bag or board the plane that is somehow still "on-time": 1.5 hours. Similarity to that TV commercial where the people put a quarter in the slot to use their tray table or window shade: startling.

NE at NYG: The Pats are playing for history, the Giants are playing to restore any shred of confidence that Eli Manning may still have. NE

NO at CHI: The Saints apparently still have some remote, bizarre way they can make the playoffs, but after the way they laid an egg last week against the Eagles don't count on it. CHI

CAR at TB: The Bucs lost to the 49ers last week. Pencil in my pick for them to lose in the first round of the playoffs. TB

BUF at PHI: One of these teams will be mediocre, the other will also mediocre. Can they just cancel this one? PHI

CIN at MIA: The Dolphins played like an actual team during the second half last week, for the first time all season. CIN

JAX at HOU: I still don't buy the Jaguars. Can they beat the Colts on the road in the playoffs? Probably not. Can they beat the Pats on the road in the playoffs? Probably not. They just might be good enough to win a 1st round game against a team that won't realize that their offense is 1-dimensional, but that's it. JAX

DET at GB: I don't want to upset the NFC fans out there, but both the Packers and Cowboys have kind of wheezed to the finish line. Not a good sign. GB

SF at CLE: The Browns showed last week why they will lose in the first round of the playoffs if they make it. Unless they play that other team that I said would lose in the first round. CLE

SEA at ATL: I'm not sure if it's possible, but can I pick 4 NFC teams to all lose in the first round of the playoffs? SEA

DAL at WAS: This is a classic nothing-to-play-for game. WAS

PIT at BAL: I'm not sure if the Steelers have anything to play for, but the Ravens lost to the Dolphins. PIT

KC at NYJ: I'm not really sure what direction either of these teams are going in. Neither has a blue-chip QB of the future, neither has a solid defense to build around, neither has a solid offensive line to build around. GIDCAOTW. NYJ

SD at OAK: It's kind of disappointing to see the Chargers winning after the amusing early-season struggles. A lot of people hate the Patriots for various reasons these days, but it's hard to like a team as loudmouthed, underachieving, and steroid-ridden as the Chargers. SD

MIN at DEN: People say Adrian Peterson has no chance to break the rookie rushing record since he missed 2 games with injury and is about 400 yards behind, but I say have you seen the Broncos' run defense? MIN

STL at AZ: The Cardinals are like the Bengals' non-felonious doppelganger. Equally powerful offense on paper, equally poor record to show for it. AZ

TEN at IND: Even with nothing to play for, the Colts will knock the Titans out of the playoff picture, finally. IND

 December 21, 2007 - 06:05 PM | chris
Another Point Counterpoint?

Lucas, now that the dust is settling a little bit on the Mitchell report should we share our expert opinions on it? There are a number of interesting things to debate more rationally than the experts including: Was Mitchell being a Red Sox employee a conflict of interest? What to do about records/statistics from convicted users? Should steroids and HGH be treated the same way by major league baseball in terms of enforcement and punishment? Did the east coast bias work against teams like the Yankees for once in that more information was available about steroid purchasers than for smaller-market teams? Jose Canseco: big jerk or the biggest jerk?

Care to take me up on any of these?

NYG at BUF: I think there's a little too much support for the Bills in this game, and normally I'd go the other way, but this is a classic Giants collapse at work. BUF

GB at CHI: Which came first, the boring Chicago offensive scheme or the bad Chicago QB? The world may never know. GB

CLE at CIN: This is exactly the type of random, meaningless game that the Bengals win. Upset special. CIN

KC at DET: Normally a .500 record would be a positive improvement for the Lions, but after their fast start it'll only be viewed as a disappointment. DET

HOU at IND: Time for the Colts to rest their starters, ensuring that in their first playoff game it will take Peyton Manning until the 3rd quarter to get in rhythm again. IND

PHI at NO: The Eagles had their Super Bowl last week, now it's back to normal. NO

OAK at JAX: Jacksonville looks great now, but they still aren't good enough to beat the Pats or Colts on the road. JAX

ATL at AZ: The fact that the Falcons won three games this season is a testament to how many bad teams are in the NFC. AZ

TB at SF: Tampa Bay has a chance to be the worst 11-5 team ever. I already will predict they lose their first playoff game, no matter who they play. TB

NYJ at TEN: The Titans are one of those mediocre AFC teams that would be 12-4 in the NFC. TEN

MIA at NE: I was really hoping for 0-14 vs. 14-0, but this will have to do. NE

BAL at SEA: I'm sorry Brian Billick apologists, but when a team almost beats the Patriots but then loses 2 weeks later to the atrocious Dolphins that is the surest sign their is of a poorly coached team that relies totally on motivation. SEA

WAS at MIN: I don't really like the Vikings, but I can't see Jason Campbell winning a game where the running game is taken away yet. MIN

DEN at SD: You sould not believe how relieved I am that the Broncos are eliminated. SD

 December 19, 2007 - 09:14 PM | chris

What are this week's uninspiring NFL Network matchups?

PIT at STL: The Steelers are in danger of losing their division to the Browns. I just can't see that happening. PIT

DAL at CAR: I don't care if Homer Simpson is at this game, there's no way the Cowboys lose this one. Bonus observation: Guess who the Panthers' team leader in touchdown passes is, by almost a 50% margin over the player in second place. Did you guess Jake Delhomme, with 8, who has been injured and on IR since week 3? This would be why the Panthers are terrible. DAL

 December 14, 2007 - 06:40 PM | chris
A Bitwise Death in the Family

Yesterday our Tivo-like device died, a death made even more painful considering the backlog of new scripted shows from this past season that I've been watching in careful rations during the WGA strike that was lost with it. While it is to late for me, it's worth pointing out that I've now had two shoddily-designed knockoff Tivo-like devices behave in the same manner when the hard drive starts getting full. Despite the fact that there is a clear system in place for automatically deleting older material when disk space gets short, both times this has happened to me I've had similarly bizarre results.

The first time, with my Dish Network knockoff DVR, about 50 hours of random programming spontaneously disappeared when the 100-hour disk got down to 20 hours or so. There was no rhyme or reason to what disappeared: old shows, new shows, shows marked "keep", shows not marked, a random assortment of all were banished to the realm of wind and ghosts.

Yesterday, with my Time Warner knockoff DVR, all shows recorded in the past 3 weeks spontaneously disappeared when the woefully-small 40-hour disk got down to about 5-10 hours. Again, shows marked "keep" were not kept, and I had the added bonus that the list of recorded shows magically reverted back to one from 3 weeks ago. If I tried to watch one of the listed shows that magically reappeared after being deleted last month, I would get a "this show could not be found" error, since the data didn't actually exist.

This strikes me as extremely poor for a number of reasons. These are consumer-level electronics that should not need massaging or assistance by a career programmer. My microwave also contains a computer, but when my Hot Pocket is almost done cooking the timer never spontaneously resets itself. Plus, thanks to pointless attempts at copy-protection, I am unable to back up the data on the DVR like I can on my computer in the event something bad happens. I am stuck relying on the programmers of whatever OS is running in there to be able to properly handle auto-deletion without corrupting all of my data.

The good news out of this was that Time Warner's customer service was much better than I was expecting. I called last night and was on hold for maybe 30 seconds, the service representative was polite, and they were able to come out and replace our DVR this morning (and the maintenance person actually came at the time we were promised). Let this be a lesson to all manufacturers of substandard products: good customer service masks shoddy production.

BUF at CLE: The best game of the day, and I can't say I'm sold on either team. Neither has a particularly good defense, and Buffalo's offense is also spotty. Whichever team makes the playoffs will be easy pickin's for the Steelers in the first round. CLE

TEN at KC: We're about due for a random KC home win over a mediocre team. KC

GB at STL: Remember when the Rams were unbeatable at home? We may have another Brock Berlin sighting this weekend. GB

BAL at MIA: I'm sticking witht he Dolphins here. This is it guys, your last best chance. MIA

NYJ at NE: Unfortunately it looks like snow this weekend, I was hoping for a big blowout this week. As much as I felt uncomfortable about running up the score in other Pats games, in this one I want to rip out the Jets' heart and stomp on it, providing no one gets hurt. NE

AZ at NO: Even in the NFC, advertising this game as "playoff-environment" is false advertising. AZ

JAX at PIT: The Steelers have taken over the mantle of "worst field in the league" from the Pats, and they'll be more used to playing on that slop than the Jags will. PIT

ATL at TB: Remember when the Falcons were Bill Simmons' sleeper playoff team? TB

SEA at CAR: Only the Patriots are good enough to pass on every down. Upset special. CAR

IND at OAK: The Colts make a surprise appearance in my GIDCAOTW, the Raiders are bad enough to drag the whole game down. IND

PHI at DAL: If this game were in Philly, I could see an upset, but not in Dallas. DAL

DET at SD: If this game were in Detroit, i could see an upset, but not in San Diego. SD

WAS at NYG: I don't know what to think about either of these teams. They both have decent defenses and streaky QBs, and neither will do a thing in the playoffs if they somehow make it there. NYG

CHI at MIN: Two Adrian Petersons? Which one will rush for 3 yards this week? MIN

 December 13, 2007 - 07:28 AM | chris

According to the Christmas songs they play so often on the radio, I'm too busy "mistletoing" and "jingle belling" to make picks, but I will tear myself away from my "scary ghost stories" to pick these meaningless boring games.

DEN at HOU: Like the '72 Dolphins, I will pop the cork on the champagne once the Broncos are eliminated from the playoffs. I don't care how bad they are, they still scare me. DEN

CIN at SF: I could easily see the Bengals losing this one, but then they wouldn't finish the season at 8-8 and make it seem like they were actually respectable this year. CIN

 December 07, 2007 - 06:34 PM | chris
Week 13

Lucas had a great idea last week to do 4-word picks, but I'll do him three better: 1-word picks, at least one for each team with no repeats. It's your job to figure out what, if any, significance they have.

MIA at BUF: MIA: Due. BUF: Mediocre. MIA
STL at CIN: STL: Injured. CIN: Underachieving. CIN
DAL at DET: DET: Reeling. DAL: Streaking. DAL
OAK at GB: OAK: Scrubs. GB: Home. GB
SD at TEN: SD: Mouthy. TEN: Inconsistent. SD
NYG at PHI: NYG: Rush. PHI: Controversy. PHI
CAR at JAX: CAR: Decrepit. JAX: Close. JAX
TB at HOU: TB: Overrated. HOU: Overachieving. TB
MIN at SF: MIN: Resurrection. SF: Pathetic. MIN
AZ at SEA: AZ: Unfathomable. SEA: Coasting. SEA
KC at DEN: KC: Rebuilding. DEN: Demolishing. DEN
PIT at NE: PIT: Overconfident. NE: Tired. PIT
CLE at NYJ: CLE: Upset. NYJ: Special. NYJ
IND at BAL: IND: Impressive. BAL: Whiny. IND
NO at ATL: NO: Underwhelming. ATL: zzzzz. NO

 December 05, 2007 - 04:15 PM | chris
Week 12 and a Half

Apparently there is another football game tomorrow night, so let's continue my quixotic attempt at catching up to Lucas.

CHI at WAS: Ugh, two incredibly boring offenses square off. A few weeks ago Tim Keown wrote a great article about how NFL coaches often try to shoehorn players into their own systems rather than designing a system around the players they have. This seems incredibly foolish and is another reason why the Patriots do so well while other teams do not. Last year, when the Patriots' receiving corps consisted of a bunch of has beens and nobodies, many of whom couldn't run reliable patterns, the offense relied on short pass after short pass. This year with better, more experienced receivers, the Patriots only use the short pass to get Donte Stallworth the ball and go deep much more often. The Bears are the perfect example of using the same system regardless of players, as they attempt to be a ball-control running team when their running back is Cedric Benson (or at least until he got hurt). Not that Rex Grossman is a great quarterback, but Devin Hester is an exciting player. How about occasionally letting Hester run draw plays as a running back or catching screen passes? Later in the season you often see the worse teams start doing well as they enter "nothing to lose" mode because they start playing more aggressively and using more gadget plays and going for it on 4th down. Wouldn't they be better off using the gadget plays, which only work once or twice anyway before other coaches have them on film, earlier in the season when they still have a shot at winning something? Where was the Jets' Brad Smith in week 3 or 4 when the games meant something? WAS