Thursday, December 30, 2010

Miscellaneous Me

I have some miscellaneous resolutions for the new year:

- I resolve to care even less about sports' all-star games than I already do.
- Fans vote for all these guys and fans are (a) dumb and (b) extremely bias.
- The games are terrible to watch.
- Some of the best NFL players of the year (Matt Cassel, Peyton Hillis and Darren McFadden) did not make the Pro Bowl.
- There is an NBA all-star ballot and rules of who gets on it rather than every player being eligible. This would be the dumbest award voting on the planet if the MLB Gold Glove voting wasn't so awful.
- The only redeemable thing about the all-star game in any sport is the change made in the NHL where two captains will pick the teams and play against each other. This is fantastic and should be adopted in every single sport.

- I resolve to buy an HD television and come to the 21st century with the rest of you.
- Directv's ability to pause what you're watching in one room and commence in another has to be the most pointless technology ever. Who has that many TVs and is moving around that much while engaged in a show?
- Chevy Chase and Dan Akroyd are still working in 2010, and starring in network sitcoms and big budget movies to boot. In 1975-76, (SNL season 1-2) the gambling odds on this would have been terrible yet just a decade ago it would have been off the board.
- Is there another pair of actors who starred in the same show more than 25 years ago and went from entertainment stars to no where to be found and back to prominence again?

- I resolve to watch more NBA basketball and attend at least one Wizards game before the season ends.
- Even with all the talk of contraction, the product is great and the talent level is the best it has been in a long time.
- I am of the belief that having dominant teams and terrible teams is better for a league than having a giant middle class.
- Didn't Kevin Garnett and Michael Jordan do the powder stunt (throwing the talcum powder in the air or clapping it between hands at the scorer's table, but making it a semi-exciting spectacle in the process) in pregames before LeBron James even got drafted?
- Is it just me or does any time in any basketball game a referee calls a 3 second violation, the guilty team complains and demands they "call that both ways!"?

- I resolve to be more understanding.
- I hate it when, late in December, someone tells me they’ll see me next year. Yeah I get it, next week is also next year.
- I actually said this to someone and as I was saying it, I just thought how much of a jackass I sounded like.

- I resolve to keep following sports even though things like Brett Favre, Andy Pettitte's text message, Larry Walker's and Jeff Bagwell's Hall of Fame candidacy, and someone thinking Michael Vick should be killed are all headlines during the final few days of 2010.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

NFL Fantasy Title

This is it. For most leagues, the NFL fantasy champion will be decided tonight with the Eagles - Vikings game. Perhaps the finals match-up is already over at this point (such as in my league where I am leading by 7 and my opponent has no players left) or maybe the winner won't be decided until the final ticks of the Tuesday night game clock. Either way, it has been an interesting fantasy playoffs.

For the leagues that count week 17 as their title week and this may simply be semi-finals match-ups, good for you, but I will not pander my article to you people. In most leagues, this is it. Next week is the time to start paying attention to that fantasy basketball team you've ignored since the start of December.

There are a handful of interesting fantasy players in this final game of the 2010 fantasy season. In fact, a number of them have already been quite influential in teams making the championship game.

In week 15, fantasy semi-finals games, the three most important players were on the Eagles or Vikings. The Eagles' representative was none other than Michael Vick. He put up nearly 40 fantasy points in the most important match-up to date for his owners. Ever since you (and me) added Vick off the waiver wire back in week two, we have been riding him. He missed a few games mid-season, but for the most part, he has been the league's fantasy MVP, and for a player who wasn't drafted, that is quite amazing. Vick has, by himself, won weeks for his owners and week 15 was just a cherry on top, advancing many an owner to the title game.

Tonight Vick may do the very same thing yet again. Any fantasy player down by a couple dozen with Vick still to go has to have confidence he may get it done. Hell, even someone down by 40 cannot count themselves out. Not with this guy. The only defense against Michael Vick might be Andy Reid. If the coach lets him play the entire game, Vick owners will be feeling good.

However, Michael Vick is not the only quarterback with huge fantasy implications in tonight's game. And I'm not talking about Brett Favre. If Joe Webb plays tonight, he could sway some championship games, as he did last week with semi-finals match-ups.

In week 15, Joe Webb was questionable to start at quarterback for the Vikings. This would have been inconsequential news except for the fact that Joe Webb is wide receiver-eligible in fantasy football. He played some receiver for the Vikings; they moved him back to quarterback; Favre is hurting, Tavaris Jackson is out, so here we are. Or, more accurately, there we were. A player playing quarterback, easily eclipsing 12 points no matter how badly they play, is eligible at wide receiver, a position where only 13 players in the league have averaged over a dozen fantasy points per week. Starting Joe Webb at wide receiver while he starts at quarterback would be a secretly awesome advantage for anyone willing to gamble during their semi-finals match-up.

Then we all know what happened. The Metrodome roof caved in. Favre got a little longer to rest. The game was moved to a different stadium, and Favre started. Here's the kicker. This was the last game of the week. Anyone who gambled with Joe Webb at wide receiver would have little to no alternate option come game time. Plan backfired and it might have cost you a trip to the championship. But, of course, life is more interesting than even scripted plot could imagine. Favre starts but gets knocked out. Joe Webb owners, albeit a tad late, get their dream scenario and Webb comes in to play quarterback. He goes on to have a terrible real-life game but the plan works out anyhow. He scores a quarterback-measly 12 fantasy points, yet that is good enough for a top 25 wide receiver performance. The Joe Webb gamble paid off for someone somewhere gutsy enough to try it. I'm glad I had Vick to rest on instead.

But Joe Webb was not even the strangest Vikings fantasy story of week 15. He may have come in, mid-game, and carried some owners to the championship game from the wide receiver position, but one of his teammates had an even bigger impact on title match-ups, without even touching the ball.

Adrian Peterson is a top five running back. Even with a tough week 15 opponent in the Bears, Peterson would be started by every player who owned him. What better option would you have? So, the week progresses, some Peterson owners have a bit of a cushion, some may be down a few points, all are eagerly awaiting Monday night's game, the last of the week, with their big time running back still to go. However, come game time, Peterson, with just a simple knee bruise, is labeled inactive. He's not going to play. Fantasy hopes and dreams are crushed before the first whistle is blown.

This very scenario happened in my league. In the other semi-final match-up, (the one I was not a part of) one player was down two points. Just two. He had Adrian Peterson left to go and the other owner had no one. It was almost a slam dunk. Unless Peterson got absolutely shut down, and fumbled a few times, this owner would be title-bound. After all, Peterson had been at least average in 13 of the 14 weeks of the season. The only exception, the only week he scored less than 7 points, was the prior week against the Giants. And that had been with a giant question mark at quarterback in front of him and a tenacious Giants defense. Even so, he still managed 26 yards, which would be good enough to advance his owner this time around.

Game time approaches, the crushing news is reported, and there is no recourse. Unless he had added Toby Gerhart earlier, on a whim, he had no hope to replace Peterson with anyone, even having heard the news before the game kicked off. This was the last game of the week. Peterson had been his last hope.

So it is what it is. He was eliminated and his opponent advanced. (By the way, the saying "it is what it is" has to be the dumbest set of words people routinely speak. It is impossible for something NOT to be what it is. I mean come on! Of course 'it is what it is.' There's no alternative. If it wasn't what it was, it wouldn't be what it is!)

If those week 15 fantasy stories hadn't been enough, the week 16 championship game had its share of big time performances as well.

Week 16 was led by the Chiefs. Dwayne Bowe, Jamaal Charles and Matt Cassel got back on track against the pitiful Titans. They, along with a number of quarterbacks, pushed many an owner to fantasy glory. Eight different QB's scored at least 20 fantasy points this week. One of those top signal callers was none other than Tim Tebow.

I am on the side of believing Tebow will never be a good starting quarterback. This is still yet to be proven. However, the thing I cannot debate is that he has looked respectable in his first few shots at it. The Broncos announced the change from Kyle Orton before last week's game, and very few fantasy owners took notice. Unless you were desperate, there was no reason to look Tebow's direction. However, after a solid first start, I am sure Tebow was added and started this week, and he delivered. This may be the only title Tebow ever delivers, but we'll take it.

Of course, week 16 was not all happiness and sunshine. As with the week before, there was some fantasy heartache from unexpected places. After being questionable each injury report for pretty much the entire season, fantasy stud Maurice Jones-Drew finally missed a game. Owners who had ridden his performance of 12+ fantasy points in seven of the past eight weeks all the way to the title game, would be forced to look elsewhere for production. At least with Jones-Drew, unlike Peterson the week before, owners were given time to find that replacement.

In an even stranger and more demoralizing turn of events, Peyton Manning screwed over his fantasy owners on a play where he ran the ball. Manning, who has been up and down this season in most people's minds, has actually had a very consistent fantasy season. And this final game was no exception. He scored over 19 points, making it over a dozen fantasy points for Peyton in 13 of his 15 games. But it was the points he did not get that were the story.

Much like Brian Westbrook's famous play from a few years ago, Manning was scampering around the edge on a beautiful bootleg, and had a clear shot at the endzone, but rather than run it in for the score and the six fantasy points, he slid down to run the rest of the clock out and secure a win for his team. Obviously Peyton couldn't care less about six fewer fantasy points, but I am sure there are at least a few owners out there who will lose their fantasy title by less than six points. That's fantasy football for you.

So here we are. One game remaining. Perhaps Vick has carried you all this way and you need one more performance to clinch that title. Perhaps Manning or Jones-Drew screwed you out of your title shot. Or just maybe you are again banking on the wide receiver-eligible Joe Webb to bring your team fantasy glory and hoping, with the rest of us, that Brett Favre will not show up to play.

Whatever the case may be, fantasy football is always exciting and always unpredictable. I'm glad I am assured of my 2010 championship, but am also relieved to have navigated such a mine field of question marks and injuries that was this fantasy season. Now how long until MLB opening day?

(Same image used as previous NFL Homage posts)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Guilty pleasure

The term "guilty pleasure" is often used to refer to things we enjoy but are embarrassed about enjoying. It is something we like that, for some reason, feel we should not like.

The term is rather idiotic. I am going to let Chuck Klosterman take it from here in a piece he wrote for Esquire. The following will be tremendously paraphrased and may not do him justice, yet is all Chuck's.

The only reference to a guilty pleasure that makes sense is a technical one, something that makes you feel good while in the act but makes you feel bad afterwards. Examples of this are drinking five glasses of vodka before work or sleeping with your neighbor's wife. These are guilty pleasures.

However, when people give examples of guilty pleasures, those are not things being referred to. People use the term to describe eating chocolate or liking the movie Road House. Labeling these things as guilty pleasures is insane for two reasons. "It dictates that (a) people should feel bad for liking things they sincerely enjoy, and (b) if these same people were not somehow coerced into watching Road House every time it comes on TBS, they'd just as likely be reading A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man."

There's Chuck's point. People shouldn't feel bad for enjoying something that gives them pleasure especially when they wouldn't be doing something productive otherwise anyway. You're not listening to Britney Spears' new album in place of studying thermodynamics so why feel guilty about it?

I used to consider watching MTV's Real World/Road Rules Challenges a guilty pleasure. I felt like I shouldn't enjoy these shows because they are somewhat dumb. However, Chuck Klosterman has shined a new light on this. I don't watch these challenges to emulate the contestants or to see good acting or even for the promiscuity and rude behavior. I watch them because they bring me joy and excitement and I will no longer feel bad about this.

The most recent Challenge season just wrapped up this week. It was called Cutthroat and lived up to its name. Let me interject by explaining the actual reasons I love these shows. First, I do not watch The Real World. Perhaps oddly enough, I have no interest in that show even though it is the Cheers to the Challenge's Frasier. The Challenges are awesome because they are sports and strategy at their best. Well, not at their best, but at their most entertaining. Each Challenge season pits teams against each other, whether it be teams of one, two, a dozen, whatever. Each season has different rules but the overall theme is always the same. These people are competing against each other in events for prize money.

As the Challenge has progressed, it has been tweaked, not from the producer's side but from the contestants' side. There have been 20 Challenges (they run more than one a year occasionally) and in the beginning, the best players won. Not every event was athletic, but the cream rose to the top. However, as the years went on, the show began to be more about forming alliances and securing votes. The best athletes demanded the most respect, but did not always win, and were sometimes targeted.

I call these folks athletes with no level of sarcasm or irony. The players, especially the men, are monsters. They are huge, athletic, strong, imposing figures. They have to be to compete on what the Challenge has turned into. No more are there eating contests or funny, throw-away events. Cutthroat's final challenge this past Wednesday had the final teams running a half-marathon with checkpoints along the way. The checkpoints were not lines to cross, but rather giant tires to push, bodies to carry, puzzles to solve. Two players were sent to the hospital and only one team finished.

The enjoyment from watching these shows stems from my love of watching people compete, find loopholes in the rules, forming strategy, etc. The team that ended up winning Cutthroat's final and the largest cash prize was not the team who performed the best throughout the season. Instead, it was the team who was able to trim its worst players away before the end and was left with the best group to compete for the top prize. Being conniving is nearly as important as being strong and fast.

It was not one of the best Challenge seasons. Many of the heavy hitters were not competing this time around. There were also some rules in place that seemed a bit quirky to me. However, that doesn't take away from the fact that I find this show tremendously pleasurable to watch and I will no longer feel guilty about that.

As Chuck Klosterman would say, watching this is not my conscious alternative to something better. Were I not watching The Challenge, I would not be "working on logarithms, or studying the liner notes to out-of-print Thelonious Monk records, or searching for factual errors in The Economist. If we weren't watching...we'd probably just be going to the bar earlier."

I couldn't have put it better myself.

(Chuck Klosterman selections come from Esquire and his book Chuck Klosterman IV)
(Image taken from

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

NFL Homage: Week 14

Peter King, long-time Sports Illustrated writer, has a column titled Monday Morning Quarterback or MMQB. This is speculative hearsay as I have never read it. But that is the rumor. Similarly, Gregg Easterbrook, short-time author, has a column titled Tuesday Morning Quarterback or TMQ. This is factual, as I have seen the links to it, but have never read it. Supposedly TMQ is an homage to MMQB where, in both, the author summarizes the goings-on of the previous NFL week of games. Well, in the Sports Pinata, each week I will be writing a post about the previous slab of games, call it an homage to an homage as I am copying the idea, but as I have never read either man's work, don't know if I will be copying ideas. Let's hope not. On to week fourteen.

I owe Brad Childress an apology. Every week prior to his firing he would come to the microphone before games and say, "If Brett Favre is healthy, he will play. He gives us the best chance to win." Slightly paraphrased, that was the message. And every week, after seeing Favre throw a terrible late interception and get thrown down with another injury, I would call Brad Childress a liar. How could Favre give the Vikings the best chance to win?? Well, Brad. I'm sorry. You were right. I watched the Vikings play the Giants last night in Detroit and it was clear. You were right. THAT was why Childress kept saying what he said each press conference. Sorry, but now I know.

Tavaris Jackson starting wasn't the only story from last night's game. Eli Manning started his 100th consecutive game! He's never missed a start in his entire career! This guy is amazing.

Okay, but seriously, the Giants played the Vikings in Detroit and it wasn't even the craziest weather-related story of the weekend. Sure the game was pushed back a day and relocated because of some insane snow fall, but they still played inside. Somehow the New England Patriots managed to put up 36 more points in a dismantling of the first place Bears while the snow was coming down. The yard lines on the field were not even visible throughout the game. Apparently the Pats didn't need them.

If snowfall isn't your cup of tea, we also had a Jets - Dolphins game in a downpour where a punter was the game's best player. Miami punter Brandon Fields made sure his team won the field position battle. Not only did he average over 56 yards per boot, but he punted 10 times! I have no Elias Sports Bureau at my disposal to study such statistics, but this has to be one of the few times in football history a punter has accumulated over 500 yards of kicks in one game. He constantly switched field position for the Dolphins, allowing them to escape with a victory on a day their offense scored one touchdown and gained 131 total yards. Talk about winning ugly.

In other ugly news, Quentin Tarantino has a new movie coming out. Also, the games in week 14 had a theme to them. For the most part, they were all blowouts or offensively challenged. It was hard to find more than a couple well-played, reasonably high scoring games. Some were the result of the weather. Others were because of injuries to key players (see: Packers, Green Bay) but many more just had NFL players playing poorly. Here's week 14's best of the worst: the stars who sucked.

Quarterback - Aaron Rodgers. The number one fantasy quarterback on the season, by a comfortable margin, could get nothing going up until the moment he was knocked out of the game. He ended with 46 yards passing and a pick before leaving with a concussion. Rodgers killed many fantasy playoff dreams on Sunday, perfectly illustrating the unpredictability of fantasy football.

Running Back - Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles. On Sunday, Peterson was ready to go, hoping to be receiving hand-offs from Brett Favre. On Monday, with Tavaris Jackson behind center, the Vikings offense could do nothing. The Giants completely shut down the explosive Peterson, limiting him to 26 total yards. Meanwhile, on Saturday Jamaal Charles signed a brand new five-year $32.5 million contract. On Sunday, he too came up small in a game where his team needed him. The Chiefs ended up getting stomped by their division rival Chargers, lowering their lead to just a single game for the AFC West title. Charles ended with 49 total yards and, like the entire Chiefs roster, was not able to get in the end zone.

Wide Receiver - Calvin Johnson and Dwayne Bowe. Both Johnson and Bowe were casualties of the ugly Sunday we had in week 14. Johnson's Lions scored just 7 points but squeaked out a victory. Bowe's Chiefs, as previously mentioned, were shutout. Johnson fared slightly better than his counterpart, gaining 44 yards receiving and totally 5 fantasy points, while Bowe ended with under 10 yards from scrimmage, netting a dreaded zero for his owners. After being on fire for two months, Dwayne Bowe now has 3 yards gained in his last two games combined.

Tight End - Chris Cooley. Antonio Gates missed yet another game. His fellow NFL tight ends picked up some of the slack. A number of the top guys had nice games. Chris Cooley was not one of them. 22 yards gained in week 14 was Cooley's lowest yardage output of the season. He wasn't even targeted until a large chunk of the game had progressed. The Redskins were relying heavily on a tremendous day from Ryan Torain running the ball, but could have used Cooley to get in the endzone. Instead, they squandered another winnable game.

D/ST - Bears. The Chicago Bears are supposed to be the classic, rough, cold-weather defense. They breathe heavily, showing the cold in the air, yet wear short sleeves and have no fear in their eyes. That Bears team didn't show up to play on Sunday. To be fair, they may have retired a couple decades ago. But this current Bears team had been having a great season up until Tom Brady took the field. They should expect a nice rebound performance next week when they play against Tavaris Jackson and the Vikings, wherever the game ends up being played.

The New England Patriots are the lone team to have clinched a playoff berth. This, along with the many division games still remaining in the final weeks should set up so that all the best players are still trying their hardest in the fantasy playoffs. Perhaps the scheduling tweak worked to prevent resting players, or, more likely, it has just been one of those seasons.

I still don't have a Super Bowl match-up guess I am confident in.

This has been week fourteen's NFL homage to an homage.

(Same image used as previous NFL Homage posts)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

My Roger Ebert impression

I am not a licensed movie critic. In fact, I don’t even know if movie critics get licensed or they just spout off long enough that people being to listen to their opinions.

I don’t watch many movies in the theaters. I still have not seen Avatar. (I know!) I do enjoy movies, but only certain ones, movies that I have a vested interest in. I can’t wait to see The Avengers movie and The Hobbit but those are not released until 2012. I know the plots and already know I enjoy the characters. Thus, those movies will be fun for me whether they are actually “good” or not. Rarely will I want to see a movie just from the trailer. Inception was one of those times. It looked freaking awesome, and it was, plot holes be damned.

The most recent movie I saw in theaters, a movie I had to see, was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One. I am invested in this series. I’ve read every book; I have seen the previous six movies, multiple times. (They have tremendous cable re-watchability.) I am no Roger Ebert, but I’ll give it my best shot. Here is my review of HP 7.1:

The first six movies in the Harry Potter series were solid and entertaining. The casting was tremendous. Even with the passing of the actor who played Dumbledore in the early films and a recast, it still remained great. The children seemed to grow up perfectly, although, for movie purposes, Hermione Granger seemed prettier than I think was intended in the books. The first film hit it on the head. She had wild, unkempt hair and looked kind of frazzled/nerdy. However, as the movies progressed, Hermione looked better and better. I never got that impression in the novels. The real problem occurs when Harry starts to have feelings for Ginny. The book describes Ginny as the most beautiful girl, who all the boys want to be with. However, Hermione in the films is just as pretty, if not more so. It was really the only casting problem in any of the films.

As for the movies themselves, the first two were fun and a bit campy. The main three actors were all children and the movies were children’s movies. Starting with The Prisoner of Azkaban, the movies got better, more adult. There were dark scenes. The actors began to seem like they were playing the characters in the scenes rather than just being in the scenes as the characters, if that makes sense.

The common thread from movies one through six was that they were probably better for people who had never read the books. I cannot possibly know for sure as it is impossible to view a film both ways, but that is the impression I came away with. They moved smoothly through the plot and each ended well as compared to the books. However, readers of the books were always very aware of how much storyline was omitted. There was just too much to cover for it to be any other way, but disappointment was unavoidable. After every movie, I was more concerned with what was left out than what was put in, whereas a viewer who had no novel experience would just enjoy the film for what was shown. And each movie worked well that way.

I cannot say the same for the seventh film. It actually seemed like the exact opposite occurred. The movie was more enjoyable only if you had already read the book. Now this seems counterintuitive. The plot would be known and nothing would come as a surprise having already read The Deathly Hallows. However, because of the way the movie was delivered, the alternative is much worse.

I personally felt like the movie moved too quickly. They jumped from scene to scene, trying to cover as much as they could. There was really no way around this. Even splitting The Deathly Hallows into two films doesn’t solve the problem. It is impossible to translate the feeling of hopelessness and dread into a two hour film. The book was so powerful because, along with all the action, there were the months and months elapsing in between, where the characters were questioning their motives, giving up hope, etc. The movie didn’t have time for that.

As soon as Harry, Ron, and Hermione ended up in London, they broke into the Ministry of Magic. It didn’t take eight weeks to scope out the scene, make plans, steal identities, etc. like in the book. The movie didn’t have time for that.

As soon as Ron left, angry, he came back, sorry. It didn’t take months and months, moving from place to place, knowing it would be impossible for Ron to ever find them again like in the book. The movie didn’t have time for that.

They tried to give us an impression of the time passing, drop dates, and moving the tents each and every scene, but it felt rushed to me. But imagine if you hadn’t read the books. It didn’t feel rushed. It felt worse. It felt like nothing happened.

My dad saw the film and came out of it voicing that exact opinion. He felt like nothing happened. He wasn’t aware of the time frames that were elapsing. He couldn’t have known the beginning scene was taking place in July because all they told us was it was Harry’s birthday. They mentioned it was Christmas time when they arrived in Godric’s Hollow and that was it. The rest would be guess work for someone who had never read the book.

Through the eyes of a newbie to the series, the characters went from place to place, searching for horcruxes, only destroying one, and then the movie came to an end. That was all. They wouldn’t know any of the back-story, the detail you could read in between the actions. The movie went from scene to scene with no explanation.

To a story veteran, the scene in Xenophilius Lovegood’s home was of vital importance. Harry found out what the deathly hallows were and what that meant. He discovered what Voldemort had been searching for and found at the end. Harry discovered why Voldemort had kidnapped an old wand maker and visited an old dark wizard in prison. It was all to obtain the most powerful wand in existence. To someone watching the film, learning for the first time, it was inconsequential. They would not have understood what all the flashes of Harry’s dreams even meant. It was never described who Voldemort went to visit, who he kidnapped for information, what he was searching for. The scene in the Lovegood’s home was simply the telling of a fairy tale and nothing more.

I could go on. The scene in Godric’s Hollow was equally as bare to a person who hadn’t read the book. As was the scene in the Malfoy’s manor. How could any moviegoer know what summoned Dobby the house elf or what Bellatrix was referring to in her bank vault if they hadn’t read the book? It was all nonsensical gibberish. Or even worse, it was all ignored as pointless.

I had been critical of previous movies for leaving too much out. But they were clearly stand alone movies. I am critical of The Deathly Hallows Part One for rushing through too much story but for also making a movie that cannot truly be appreciated just by watching it on its own. Perhaps this is the unavoidable fault of making a part one of a two part tale, but I had no problem with the ending. The problems lie during the body of the movie where too much happens too quickly to please the veterans and not enough is explained to appease the rookies.

I am still eagerly awaiting Part Two. I am excited to see how certain scenes turn out, namely the break-in to Gringotts Bank and the final battle at Hogwarts. However, I wish Part One had done a better job of either following the flow of the first six films or deciding to go in the other direction. By toeing the line they seemed to have left both groups slightly disappointed.

(Image taken from

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

NFL Homage: Week 13

Peter King, long-time Sports Illustrated writer, has a column titled Monday Morning Quarterback or MMQB. This is speculative hearsay as I have never read it. But that is the rumor. Similarly, Gregg Easterbrook, short-time author, has a column titled Tuesday Morning Quarterback or TMQ. This is factual, as I have seen the links to it, but have never read it. Supposedly TMQ is an homage to MMQB where, in both, the author summarizes the goings-on of the previous NFL week of games. Well, in the Sports Pinata, each week I will be writing a post about the previous slab of games, call it an homage to an homage as I am copying the idea, but as I have never read either man's work, don't know if I will be copying ideas. Let's hope not. On to week thirteen.

Every team has played 75% of their schedule. Only four games remain. An even better question than who the best team is, is who is the most surprising team? Some are surprisingly bad, others surprisingly good but check out the cavalcade of teams up for this debate: the Dallas Cowboys, the Chicago Bears, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the St. Louis Rams, the San Francisco 49ers, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Indianapolis Colts and the Oakland Raiders. This is what makes the NFL great/frustrating to follow. The parity is tremendous so every week is a surprise.

Of the happy surprises, the most unlikely, to me, are the Jaguars. This was clearly the worst team in the AFC South as recent as two months ago. Since then, Houston has fizzled, Tennessee has fallen off a cliff, and Indy is succumbing to injuries and a pressing Peyton Manning. Meanwhile, the Jags are playing good football. They've won four of their last five games and really had that Giants game won as well. I still don't see them making the playoffs even though they are in first place heading into week 14. I guess that's the definition of a surprise team. I still can't persuade myself to buy in.

Some people would throw the Kansas City Chiefs on the list of biggest surprises of 2010. I will not. The reason is I saw this coming. I picked the Chiefs to make the playoffs prior to the season. They have a two game lead in the division with four to play and they face San Diego this week. A win on Sunday would all but secure the AFC West crown. Well it would if it wasn't for those pesky Raiders. Who'd have thought the week 17 match-up between the Chiefs and Raiders could decide a division champ?

It's a fun story, especially since both teams are winning old-school style. Neither has a tremendous passing game with the exception of the three weeks Dwayne Bowe turned into Jerry Rice circa 1995.

(That analogy is even funnier because I had to look up Rice's stats and spend a few minutes deciding what year to use. It didn't really matter. I could have picked anything from '86 to '96.)

Yet both the Raiders and Chiefs can run all day. Each team has a pair of backs capable of putting up a big game any week. Kansas City and Oakland rank first and third in the NFL in rushing respectively.

Unfortunately, while the AFC has some fairy tale stories, the biggest surprises in the NFC are most definitely disappointments, led by the Cowboys. Dallas, Minnesota and San Francisco were three guarantees for playoff spots prior to the season. Although at 4-8 the 49ers could still win their division, sadly, I am going to consider them a disaster nonetheless. Disasters are more in my wheelhouse.

Now not every fantasy disaster lines up with a team losing or a bad performance. This is what separates the lineup of 'stars who sucked' from real life. That, and the fact that people seem to care more about ESPN's power rankings than my lists each week. I don't get it.

Quarterback - Eli Manning. Here is a perfect example. The New York Giants thumped the Redskins last weekend. It was an epic blowout. They ran up and down the field. However, or perhaps consequently, Eli had a bad game numbers-wise. He threw for 161 yards and 1 interception; a terrible fantasy performance out of a usually reliable starter. Not what owners were hoping for trying to clinch spots in the fantasy playoffs.

Running Back - Chris Johnson and Ray Rice/Rashard Mendenhall. Rice and Mendenhall faced each other. The Ravens played the Steelers. For the uninformed, both the Ravens and Steelers have great defenses. We're going to split the shame here since neither did well yet neither was expected to do much better against their respective defensive opponents. Chris Johnson is a different story. After the worst game of his career last week and what may have been the worst game ever in NFL history for a player drafted in the first round in fantasy leagues, he was supposed to get a little breather against a porous Jaguars defense. He did not. 67 total yards from scrimmage probably led to another loss for Johnson owners banking on their top guy coming through. I would say you should feel good anyways just by looking at his match-ups in the fantasy playoffs, but after these past two weeks, I've lost my confidence.

Wide Receiver - Dwayne Bowe and Dez Bryant. The aforementioned Bowe ended his streak of Jerry Riceian weeks. He was held without even a catch after scoring 13 touchdowns in his last seven games, with at least one touchdown every week. Dez Bryant was also soaring up the fantasy receivers list before week 13 ended. Rather than just having a poor game, Bryant suffered a broken ankle and will miss the remainder of the year. It's a tough "break" for Bryant owners, no pun intended. Well, actually, I did intend the pun, but I would have said the same thing verbatim if he had not broken a bone and instead ruptured his spleen...Although then I might have said something along the lines of this being tough for Bryant owners to stomach.

Tight End - Tony Gonzalez. Tight ends around the league must have heard my calls. Week 13 was a tight end fantasy bonanza. Six scored in double digits, including Vernon Davis and Ben Watson who both gained over 100 yards receiving. Of course nine of the 12 most highly owned tight ends scored fewer than 6 points. Baby steps. Gonzalez was obviously one of the nine and he's owned in nearly 100% of leagues. I put him here to hope that he's not being valued any higher than any of the other tight ends not named Antonio. Don't keep a second tight end on your roster to play the match-ups for any reason. Roster spots could be used more wisely.

D/ST - Jets. Boy did the Patriots stick it to their division rival. The Jets allowed a whopping 45 points on Monday night, most certainly netting negative fantasy points in leagues that allow it. They had been showing some signs of weakness recently with all the last second victories but I didn't expect a drubbing like this. The game was 17-0 by the time the first quarter rolled to a close.

With the exception of the Jets-Patriots game, the other big match-ups actually did live up to the hype. The Steelers-Ravens game was a defensive struggle all game, turned by a Troy Polamalu sack/forced fumble late in the game. The Falcons-Bucs game was also an even match until Atlanta was able to open the flood gates, scoring 14 straight fourth quarter points on their way to victory.

The week 14 games are made up of a bunch more division battles but perhaps the most interesting games are between non-division foes. The Raiders and Patriots will both be on the road against division leaders while the Rams will be playing the Saints in New Orleans. Nothing comes easy in the last quarter of the NFL season.

This had been week thirteen's NFL homage to an homage.

(Same image used as previous NFL Homage posts)

Monday, December 6, 2010

ACC Champions

Another year, another title. Not that I'm complaining, but did you expect anything different?

2010, Virginia Tech's fourth ACC title since joining the conference seven years ago, did get off to a rocky start. However, the goals never changed and the outcome remained the same. Every Hokie football season is about winning the conference championship and making the BCS Orange Bowl. And that is exactly where we're at. The journey getting there was just a bit more roundabout than normal.

It started, as everyone knows, at 0-2. Two losses to Boise State. Well, not really, but kind of. VT lost to Boise the first game of the season, in a shootout. Both teams scored in the 30s with the Hokies falling just short. Then, just five days later, VT had another game against the James Madison we-are-obviously-going-to-overlook-this-FCS-team Dukes. Well, they obviously overlooked the Dukes. Or, they were too worn out from their week one opponent to be up for a game five days later. Or they just got outplayed. Anyone who watched the game will agree with me that it was most likely one of the first two. Nevertheless, a loss is a loss. Virginia Tech was 0-2 and out of the top 25.

Perhaps I was delusional. Perhaps I was simply not as spontaneously worrisome as some of my fellow former Hokies. But I was still feeling okay about the season. Obviously disappointed about the losses, it was still the case that we hadn't played a conference game yet. Our goal was still within reach. The first two games really hadn't effected that.

Let me interrupt myself to explain. Many non-Hokies might think, because of our preseason ranking, that our season goal may have been to make the BCS title game. This would be slightly wrong. Our pipe dream is always to make the title game. A preseason top 10 ranking was a good starting point for that. However, Virginia Tech is never, really, a national title contender. Not in my mind. We are good. We are always good. Seven straight years of 10+ wins proves that. But we are not in that top tier.

Everyone knows the top tier. It's comprised of SEC and Big 12 schools for the most part. It's the group of teams that really has a legitimate shot at making the title game each and every season based on talent, recruiting, schedule strength and impressions in the minds of the pollsters. This group is malleable. It is even slightly cyclical. Florida State and Miami used to be members of the tier, back in the 90's. Notre Dame was too. USC may be falling out because of penalties, but they'll be back. The point is however, that VT has never been up 'there.' Every so often we get a top 5 ranking but it doesn't last.

Like many other schools around the nation, our goal each season is to win our conference. Winning the ACC and receiving that automatic BCS bowl game berth signifies a successful year. From that point, winning the Orange Bowl would put the cherry on top, but the ACC title is our Super Bowl ring.

Okay, so where was I? Ah yes, 0-2. From that point, rallied by the coaching staff and the veteran players, this team decided they agreed with me. No one actually contacted me about this or desired my input, but it was obvious Tyrod Taylor and I were on the same page. Those first two games didn't matter. Let's get back on track for conference play. From that point on, including notching two out-of-conference wins, the Hokies never lost again in 2010. They swept through the remaining schedule, going undefeated in ACC conference play, a feat that hadn't been done this century.

It was thanks to the veteran leadership; it was the talented offense; it was mostly the fact that VT knew their goal was still alive.

In the end, this team was a juggernaut. Starting off slow perhaps just fueled their fire. Everyone then thought of them as a lost cause, not worth following anymore. The VT defense was not as sharp or as talented as years past. It finished outside the top dozen defenses in the nation for the first time in years. But the slack was picked up by forcing turnovers and by the offense.

This team scored 30+ points nine times this season. During the 11 consecutive victories to end the year, they average 38 points a game, and remember, nine of those were conference battles. The offense was, dare I say, dynamic, for the first time since number 7 left early for the NFL.

The team was led by senior quarterback Tyrod Taylor. He won conference player of the year. In the ACC title game, you could see why. He played one of his best games of his career on Saturday against the Seminoles. I have never been the biggest Taylor fan. I have always thought of him has widely overrated. He was good, but not great. I guess he fit VT well then. T-Mobile, as he was affectionately called as a freshman, could always run. Boy could he run. He is the school's all-time leading rushing quarterback. Yes, ahead of Michael Vick. But his passing skills never did anything for me. The problem was always I wasn't sure if it was really his fault.

I don't know enough intricate details about the offense to know if the lack of big-time passing plays in the past had been the fault of Taylor getting antsy in the pocket, the receivers running poor routes, or the play calling being poor. Any of the three was possible. As Tyrod developed, he began to seem more comfortable behind center yet the big passing numbers didn't come. Even this year, he is a tremendously efficient passer, yet didn't accumulate big yardage. Too often he would sit behind his blockers waiting and waiting, then run. Could he not find open receivers? Did he not have confidence to make tough throws? Were the receivers not good enough to create separation? Were the plays being called not creative enough to confuse a defense? What was it? I still don't know. I just always had the thought in my mind that a stand-out QB wouldn't let this happen. If Tyrod was excellent, those throws would get made and completed. Instead, he tucked it under and ran. It was probably the smart play, but to me it meant Taylor was a very good quarterback but nothing more.

Aiding Taylor in the Virginia Tech backfield this year was a textbook three-headed monster at running back. Ryan Williams was the incumbent, the star, the all-around best. Darren Evans was the bruiser, the former leader returning from injury. David Wilson was the spastic speedster, the new guy trying to earn carries. With all three healthy, the offensive coordinator didn't really know where to turn. Early on in the season it seemed to be more of a hindrance than an advantage. No one could get into the flow of a game. Then Ryan Williams got hurt. This may have turned the season around. He got hurt early on in the Hokies' third game. They were 0-2 at this point if you recall. From that point forward, even once Williams returned, the offense seemed to flow more smoothly. Darren Evans got his chance to re-acclimate himself to the team he couldn't help in 2009. David Wilson got the opening he needed to be given more carries and show what he could do.

The final season tallies show all four guys, including Tyrod Taylor, carried the ball over 100 times. All four men scored at least five rushing touchdowns, led by Evan's 11. And all four backs averaged at least 4.5 yards per carry. Whether they really needed Williams to get hurt to figure out everyone's role or not will be left unanswered. The fact is, it worked out.

An embarrassment of riches at the running back position, helped by the super-efficient season of Tyrod Taylor, turned VT into an offensive powerhouse for the first time in a long time, and led them to the season they had.

Now some people will wonder 'what could have been.' They will say, often in a mocking tone, "Just imagine if they hadn't lost to JMU!" Well, allow me to save you the time of wondering: it wouldn't have mattered. In fact, neither the JMU game or Boise State game mattered. Allow me to explain.

Virginia Tech went 11-2. They finished 13th in the final BCS rankings. They are going to play in the BCS Orange Bowl.

Let's say they had still lost to Boise but rebounded to beat JMU as most expected they would. They would have finished 12-1. They might have reached the top five in the BCS rankings, most likely finishing between 4th and 7th. They would have been placed in the BCS Orange Bowl.

Okay so what if, somehow, they BEAT Boise State but lost to JMU. Perhaps they took the Dukes too lightly after a huge victory. They would, again, have been 12-1. With a bad loss, they would have finished anywhere from 7th to 11th in the final BCS tally and been awarded a trip to the BCS Orange Bowl.

Now wait, what if they had gone undefeated? What if they got away with a victory in that first game against Boise AND went on to throttle the FCS' JMU Dukes? They would have finished with a record of 13-0. Unbelievable. They would have finished 3rd in the BCS rankings and, you guessed it, been playing in the BCS Orange Bowl.

In the end, those first two losses meant nothing. They made for a fun story, a nice redemption season by the Hokies. But they really didn't matter. Virginia Tech still accomplished its goal, the same goal we have every season: to win the conference championship.

Now beating Stanford would be a nice cherry on our sundae.

(Image taken from

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

NFL Homage: Week 12

Peter King, long-time Sports Illustrated writer, has a column titled Monday Morning Quarterback or MMQB. This is speculative hearsay as I have never read it. But that is the rumor. Similarly, Gregg Easterbrook, short-time author, has a column titled Tuesday Morning Quarterback or TMQ. This is factual, as I have seen the links to it, but have never read it. Supposedly TMQ is an homage to MMQB where, in both, the author summarizes the goings-on of the previous NFL week of games. Well, in the Sports Pinata, each week I will be writing a post about the previous slab of games, call it an homage to an homage as I am copying the idea, but as I have never read either man's work, don't know if I will be copying ideas. Let's hope not. On to week twelve.

What is Roger Goodell doing?

Goodell went from the up-and-comer, making moves and taking sides, to a man who has lost his mind. It started with the crack down on off-the-field incidents. Players were going to pay for making bad choices off the field. Good. I liked it. Suspend Vick. Suspend Vincent Jackson, Roethlisberger, fine. Whether it was failing a substance test, or doing something illegal, Goodell was all about harsh penalties.

Then something happened. Roger got a little power hungry I assume. Rather than go through the proper channels to institute penalties, he just decided to become NFL dictator. During this season, he, almost randomly, decided to institute penalties and fines for rules he just made up. To put it over the top, the dictator then went back and penalized players for the rules he created after they had already played games without them. This would be like a cop pulling a driver over for being left-handed. He suddenly determined it is slightly more dangerous to be a south paw driver since the gear shift is only accessible with a driver's right hand. So the cop pulls a driver over, tells him he just made up this new law and is going to arrest him for it. That's Roger Goodell.

So now we have a power hungry commissioner who suspends harshly and creates rules and punishments before players even know the new rules are in place. He is potentially out of control. So what happens? In Week 12, two players battle Fight Club style on the field, ripping off each others' helmets. Andre Johnson literally pummels Cortland Finnegan in the face repeatedly. And it wasn't like some NBA fights where every punch thrown misses; Johnson was beating him on the ground. What will Roger Goodell do with this baby?

Umm, almost nothing. He fines both players $25,000. Neither was suspended. Wait, whaaa? First of all, the fine was less than players were receiving for hits in-game while play was going on. James Harrison got fined more for a legal hit a few weeks ago. If that wasn't ridiculous enough, neither player was suspended for a single game.

Now, Cortland Finnegan did not deserve a suspension. I agree with that part. He is annoying; he's a dirty player and a pest. But that isn't grounds for a suspension. He ripped off Johnson's helmet, so he was ejected and fined accordingly. The penalty fits the crime. He is an agitator and that was pretty much it.

What about Johnson though? He deserved to be ejected and fined for the same reasons as Finnegan. The difference is the boxing display he put on after the helmets were discarded. He popped Cortland directly in the face at least twice, once while on top of him on the ground. His actions were far worse than any helmet to helmet hit from any point prior in the season. But why was he given no suspension?

Because he is a nice guy.

Okay, now Roger Goodell has me confused. Which is it? Are you a dictator laying down the law, making examples of people, or are you a softy who lowers penalties for the nice guys in the league even if their actions were far worse than allowed? Perhaps Andre Johnson was egged on. Well, in fact, I'm almost sure of it. Perhaps it was all Cortland Finnegan's fault. But, really, that doesn't matter. Andre Johnson should have been suspended for the remainder of the season. If that is too far for a "good guy", then he has to be suspended at least a game minimum. And remember, Johnson has been fined for fighting before, so he isn't a first-time offender in these instances.

The real quagmire in this is the change of heart from Goodell. Just a few weeks ago, he instituted new rules and harsh fines for questionable hits. He then fined players for the rule after they already played games before the rule existed. He claims to support player safety, yet wants a league with two more regular season games each season even though concussions are already piling up at record pace in the 16 game schedule.

Dictator Goodell has me confused. That's for sure. The bottom line is he messed up his most recent royal decree. Andre Johnson should not be taking the field this Thursday. I don't care how nice he is.

Okay, I'll step down from my soapbox now. There is too much else to cover.

Week 12 was host to a flurry of close games and compelling endings, including the Falcons win, Giants comeback, Steelers and Browns victories, and failed rallies by the Eagles and Broncos. But the most exciting finish happened in a 20 point blowout. The Texans-Titans game was the scene of the aforementioned on-field fight, yet the final score was a huge story in and of itself. You see, the Texans shutout the Titans, 20-0.

The Texans, perhaps the worst defense in league history, shutout an opponent. The Texans hadn't allowed fewer than 24 points in ANY game this season! If I had to guess, I'd say Houston's defense was owned in zero fantasy leagues. There is no possible explanation for why an owner would have started Houston unless they play in a 25 team league. None. And yet, they scored 17 fantasy points. Isn't fantasy football great?

For the other side of the fantasy spectrum, here's this week's lineup of 'stars who sucked.'

Quarterback - Philip Rivers. Rivers had a bad statistical game. He threw for just 185 yards and no touchdowns. It was his first and only bad game of the season. No, seriously. Rivers has scored at least 13 fantasy points in every week this season, before week 12, and scored 20+ five times. I hear fantasy MVP nominee in Philip's future.

Running Back - Chris Johnson. Chris Johnson was so bad he doesn't even get to share the limelight with another back. He doesn't deserve it. You can throw Frank Gore or Steven Jackson on here for aesthetics (neither gained even 70 total yards), yet Johnson would only get half the criticism that way. Here was CJ's stat line from Sunday's game, and keep in mind, Tennessee's opponent was the historically bad Houston Texans: 7 carries, 5 rushing yards, 2 receiving yards, no touchdowns. The number one overall fantasy player for 2010 drafts gained 7 total yards from scrimmage and ended with less than 1 fantasy point. I don't even have perspective to put that in it's so bad.

Wide Receiver - Roddy White and Reggie Wayne. Both these men have the initials R.W. Both are on teams who are vying for a playoff spot. Both White and Wayne have a talented QB throwing them the ball, and each had a tough week 12 opponent. Both White and Wayne had pressure to perform being their team's number one threat. Neither stepped up. Roddy and Reggie gained 49 and 42 yards respectively. The only difference: White's team won in a nail-biter, and Wayne's team got blown out. Go figure.

Tight End - Antonio Gates. He's back! Antonio Gates is back! Well, sort of. He played at least. He didn't look back. He didn't even look 50%. Running on two bad feet, he puttered through the game, finishing with a pedestrian 4 fantasy points. Let's hope this is just a stepping stone to getting the real Gates back in fantasy circles because not a single tight end in the entire league gained 100 yards this past weekend.

D/ST - Packers. Green Bay was having a great fantasy season. They had scored in double digits a number of times already, and had the opportunity to come up big against a potential future NFC Championship opponent. Instead, they were just plain ordinary, allowing 20 points, recording 2 sacks and nothing else. As the paragraph about the Texans defense proves, you might as well flip a coin for your fantasy defense heading into the playoffs.

Speaking of playoffs, there are some great NFL match-ups next week, a week which is indeed fantasy playoff territory for some leagues. The good crop of games is headlined by the three latest starting games: Falcons-Bucs, Steelers-Ravens, and Jets-Patriots. And with Michael Vick facing the suddenly stout Houston defense on Thursday night, there is no where to turn anymore for easy points. Not in today's NFL.

This has been week twelve's NFL homage to an homage.

(Same image used as previous NFL Homage posts)

Miscellaneous Me

- Welcome back Conan. Oh how we've missed you.
- Conan O'Brien's new show on TBS seems the same as his old show. Why did people expect otherwise?
- I don't understand the worry from people about him going head to head in ratings against Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Wasn't he already doing that at NBC?
- Along those same lines, why is there a difference between network talk shows and cable talk shows and the worry people won't be able to find TBS? Really? Can't find a TV station? What year is this?
- Why are there network-appropriate subjects? Why is Conan more "Fox" or "cable" than he was "NBC"? When have you ever not tuned in to something you wanted to watch because of what station it was on?
- CBS televises programs for an 'older' audience, yeah. But if there was a show on CBS I wanted to see, I'd watch CBS. I can't fathom any argument to the contrary.

- Prince Amukamara is the coolest name any Nebraska Cornhusker football player has had since Ndamukong Suh way back in 2009.

- The saying "old wives' tale" seems blatantly offensive yet no one seems to mind.

- I'm glad we are whittling down the non-AQ teams in college football because although everyone loves Boise State and Utah and a Cinderella story, I'd just like to cut the fairy tale and see Auburn play Oregon for the title.
- No offense TCU.

- This is a bad year for television dramas. There are none on TV I'm interested in watching.
- The best comedies going right now are Community and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
- Always Sunny is definitely not for everyone.

- I greatly prefer white meat over dark meat.
- That previous sentence would sound much more racist if Thanksgiving didn't just happen.

- Is it just me or does Jake Locker remind you of Jay Cutler?
- All the tangibles, strong arm, mobility, but neither won in college.
- Both could very well be the third QB taken in their respective drafts. (Obviously Cutler already was.)
- I'm still not sure if Locker would be happy with that comparison, or even if I can consider Jay Cutler's NFL career a success or failure either way.

- New Saturday Night Live cast member Jay Pharoah is the best impressionist they've had in a decade.
- In many scenes, his impressions are actually too good to make the scene funny. It just sounds like the celebrity talking.

- Jimmy Johnson won his fifth consecutive NASCAR title. Good for him.
- I don't know enough about NASCAR to make any comments other than that.
- I don't know what NASCAR stands for.

- People shouldn't put up Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving weekend. I am making a stand on this.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

NFL Homage: Week 11

Peter King, long-time Sports Illustrated writer, has a column titled Monday Morning Quarterback or MMQB. This is speculative hearsay as I have never read it. But that is the rumor. Similarly, Gregg Easterbrook, short-time author, has a column titled Tuesday Morning Quarterback or TMQ. This is factual, as I have seen the links to it, but have never read it. Supposedly TMQ is an homage to MMQB where, in both, the author summarizes the goings-on of the previous NFL week of games. Well, in the Sports Pinata, each week I will be writing a post about the previous slab of games, call it an homage to an homage as I am copying the idea, but as I have never read either man's work, don't know if I will be copying ideas. Let's hope not. On to week eleven.

Every Tuesday for roughly eight weeks, I had written this article and the Dallas Cowboys had been awful. They took the field each game but didn't really seem to put forth much effort. Then, Wade Phillips was fired. Jason Garrett took over the team, running the offense. Let me interrupt myself for a second. Jason Garrett took over the team, but he had been running the offense the whole season. Nevertheless, with the exact same roster and same lineups, the Cowboys have been utterly explosive these past two weeks. The first game I can attribute to the players stepping up to save their jobs. That seemed likely. If they played terrible again, even with the new coach, Jerry Jones would see the problem lied with the roster makeup. But coming out firing on all cylinders would show the owner that they just needed a new coach to motivate them.

However, after saving their jobs for at least the rest of the season, Dallas came out again on Sunday, against the Lions, and put up 35 more points. If this happens again, if the Cowboys play really well on Thanksgiving against the Saints, there is only one logical explanation. Jason Garrett was sabotaging Wade Phillips to get him fired.

Bill Simmons mentioned this a few weeks ago as one of his crazy conspiracy theories, but all the pieces fit. The same group of players, under the same offensive play caller are suddenly scoring in bunches. Garrett had reason to "tank" his offensive coordinator duties too, because doing so allowed him the chance at being interim head coach. Finishing 2010 strong guarantees him the front running position to be full time coach next season. Once the Cowboys started off so poorly, there was really no reason for Garrett to be good at his job. And he wasn't.

Exit Wade Phillips, enter his replacement Garrett, and suddenly he has a reason to be good at calling offensive plays. This probably did not happen. There is no way to prove it one way or the other. But, from a tactical standpoint, it would make sense. That's all I'm saying.

As for another comeback, that mirrored the Cowboys' season of sorts, the Buffalo Bills made for an interesting afternoon on Sunday. They were down 21 to the Bengals at halftime. The team with the worst record in the league is down 21 at half. Call in the evening reporter; he can write his game recap column now. But wait. The 1-8 Bills roar back, score 35 unanswered points, and themselves win in a landslide. The NFL has become so unpredictable it's crazy.

Perhaps the epitome of unpredictability are the New York Jets. They seem to have the skill of luck this season. Every year there is a team that gets all the breaks. Last year it was the Saints. It doesn't always have to be the eventual Super Bowl winner, but in 2009 it was. Is 2010 the Jets' year to have "it"? It certainly seems that way.

Sunday now made three straight weeks the Jets have won in the final ticks. The two previous games were both overtime victories. But this Texans win might have been the most miraculous out of all of them.

Even though they lead the league in wins, and have a blowout win against the Bills in their resume, the Jets are winning games this year by an average of only 8.8 points. You would expect an 8-2 team to be plowing through people, but that simply is not the case. If you remove that week 4 Bills game, the Jets' other 7 wins are victories by less than a touchdown on average.

To be fair, both their losses were close games, but a first place team living so much on the edge either seems like a recipe for disaster or the makings of the "it" team of 2010. There really isn't another option here.

Speaking of no other options, the Vikings fired Brad Childress and Brett Favre continues to start week after week. I'm sure week 12 will be no exception, yet Favre's inclusion on the 'stars who sucked' lineup for week 11 speaks to how bad Childress had it with a QB who has been terrible/hurt, yet cannot be benched.

Quarterback - Brett Favre. He hasn't been on this team much, but mostly because I don't consider him a star anymore. He has had only two double digit fantasy games all season. Week 11 wasn't any worse than many of the others, but that's saying something. Favre threw for barely over 200 yards, no touchdowns, and tossed his 17th interception on the year. The Vikings are now out of it, their coach is gone, and maybe Favre will just go away after the year. Maybe.

Running Back - Frank Gore and Ahmad Bradshaw. Bradshaw's poor outing was really the downfall of the Giants at Philly on Sunday night. He couldn't get anything going, fumbled yet again, and ended with just 24 total yards. Brandon Jacobs was more of a factor in the game, and if Bradshaw cannot stop fumbling, that may become a trend as New York fights for a playoff birth. Gore, much like Bradshaw, had been having a nice season. In fact, week 11 was the first time since the first game of the year that Gore ended with single digit fantasy points. Coming against a porous Bucs run defense made it worse, but Frank should bounce back next week against the lowly Cardinals.

Wide Receiver - Anquan Boldin and Randy Moss. Boldin wasn't much of a factor against the Panthers, but his team did not really need him to be. The Panthers are shaping up as the worst team in the NFL now that the Cowboys have started trying again. Boldin's one point fantasy day speaks to the inconsistency of wide receivers really all season long. One guy who actually has been very consistent is Randy Moss. He has consistently done nothing since 2008. Another game without a single catch is my cue to remove Randy from the status of star wide receiver. He really hasn't performed like a star in a long while, but if you had him on your fantasy team (drafted as your number one receiver most likely) it would have been hard to bench/drop him before. Now that he has settled into the Titans offense and still produces nothing, it's not so hard anymore.

Tight End - Vernon Davis. With Antonio Gates out AGAIN, the rest of the tight ends in the NFL had yet another chance to make up ground on him and failed. There is clearly not a single other reliable tight end in the league. Hopefully Gates is back next week, for the sake of tight end still being a position in fantasy circles come 2011. Davis ended with a zero, but really the bigger issue here is only three tight ends even scored in double digits, two of them were owned in fewer than 5% of leagues, and one goes by the name of Hoomanawanui.

D/ST - Jets. New York's luck this season even shined on the defense this week. They really didn't do much but still escaped with the victory. Allowing 27 points, forcing just one turnover and a single sack, the Jets scored a measly 3 fantasy points. They truly are a better real life defense than fantasy defense. Week 5 was their only double digit scoring week all year long. Although getting 10+ points from your defense is unlikely, a top tier defense should come through big more than once. For some comparison, Pittsburgh has done it five times already and Green Bay already four times.

If you're expecting to make the fantasy playoffs, your lineups should be rounding into shape by now. Hopefully you have a set lineup where you aren't wasting talent on your bench. There are no more byes to plan for and having a talented guy on your bench in the playoffs is really just a waste.

As for the real life playoff picture, I think we have to give it another week at least. Really the only thing to be sure of is the half dozen teams that are not making it.

This has been week eleven's NFL homage to an homage.

(Same image used as previous NFL Homage posts)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Show yourself!

You know how in kids' cartoons like X-Men, when there is a shape-shifter, the other characters never know if they're speaking with the real person? Is this really Logan in front of them or just Mystique in disguise? The personality seems a little off but everything else is a perfect double. This analogy is only slightly apt.

The New York Giants are a shape-shifter of sorts. The problem is, rather than just having to wait 22 minutes until the episode is over, we might be forced to wait another three weeks until the real team reveals itself.

You see, it is quite possible the New York Giants are a terrible team masquerading as the best team in the NFC. It is also equally as possible that they are a Super Bowl contender showing the facade of a team that will miss the playoffs.

To try to figure out which is the real Giants squad, let's start with the good.

They are 6-3 right now. They are in a tie for first place in their division. They are only one game out of having the best record in the conference. The Giants have, statistically, the number one total defense in the entire league. Yes, number one. Look it up. To round out the argument for them being a Super Bowl contender, to go along with their top ranked defense, they also have the number two rated offense in the entire NFL. Number one and number two. Can't get much better than that. Throw in the fact that the Giants won five straight games before last week, and they have a good case for being the best NFC team.

However, is that a description of the real Giants or is this? Their most recent game was a thumping at the hands of the disastrously messed up Dallas Cowboys. Because of that loss, there are six other NFC teams with a record the same or better than the Giants right now. To make matters worse, when they play poorly, they play reeeally poorly. The Giants were not close in any of their three losses. All three were blowouts, with the closest one actually being the Cowboys game, a 13 point deficit.

The reason for this is turnovers. The Giants rank in the bottom third in the NFL in turnover differential, a stat that many believe is the most important to any coach. Because of a lack of care for the ball in many games, the Giants actually looked very bad even in some of their wins, namely the Panthers game and the Lions game. To top things off, the Giants are getting injured heading into December, rather than getting healthy. Their best possession receiver, Steve Smith, just went down. They also just lost their starting left tackle, David Diehl, to add to their injured center, the two most important linemen on a roster. Throw in the fact that the Giants still have to play their most deadly NFC East rival, the Eagles, twice in the final seven weeks, and getting into the playoffs seems like a pipe dream at this point.

So, which is it? Who are the real New York Giants? There are two easy answers. The first is, "I have no idea." The second is, "They are somewhere in between." Picking either of those answers would be pretty lazy of me though.

To find out the truth, let's examine the good to see if it's all actually good, and vice versa with the bad.

The Giants have the number one defense and number two offense in the NFL. These are facts. Digging a little deeper however, we see that they are just 14th in the league in points allowed per game, probably a more important stat than yardage allowed. So their defense is perhaps closer to middle of the road than actually number one. Also, the defense has been buoyed by a couple dominating performances that may have skewed the total numbers. This Giants team demolished the Bears and Jay Cutler in week four, and embarrassed the Seahawks in week nine. In those two games, the Giants allowed a combined total of 272 yards from scrimmage and 10 points. That is from both games combined.

The offensive ranking is a little misleading as well. They are still in the top ten in the league in points scored per game, however, they seem to score in bunches, and only score in wins. They are only averaging 14 points per game in their losses, while in their wins they put up 32 points a game. These numbers are going to be far apart for most teams, but the great teams don't get routinely blown out. That is the conclusion to draw from this. The Giants are not managing to keep games close when they're behind.

And yes, the Giants are truly only a game out of first place in the conference, with only three losses. Yet so is half the NFC. So the good stuff isn't all good. What about the bad?

Well, the G-Men did get thumped by the Cowboys, but I actually expected the loss. Rather than seeing the Cowboys as a disaster of a franchise and playing them with Wade Phillips as their coach and with all the players having quit on him, the Giants instead had to face the Cowboys in their first game under Jason Garrett. Thus, Dallas would not only be invigorated under the new leader, but also playing their hearts out to prove it was not the players' fault. The first eight games were Wade Phillips' fault. If they laid another egg in week ten, suddenly Wade gets a pass and people realize this roster is crap and players need to get cut. Instead, they play their best game of the season against a Giants team that, admittedly, looked a little flat, and now the blame gets thrown entirely on Wade because he couldn't motivate these guys like Jason Garrett did. Dallas needed to win last week if only for those players to keep their jobs for the rest of the season.

The injuries are also a concern, but New York has stayed relatively healthy compared to other teams. They lost Mathias Kiwanuka for the year over a month ago, but have other players at his position to cover the loss. The same goes for Steve Smith and David Diehl. Although the replacements may be a shade worse, Mario Manningham and Shawn Andrews are talented players who I have confidence in.

So the bad has some silver linings as well. That means, we are still stuck. Is this a good team or a bad team? In the end, it comes down to match-ups. Everything in the NFL always does. Any team can beat anyone else on any Sunday of the year.

In the Giants' remaining seven games they play Philadelphia twice, Washington twice, home against Jacksonville, at Minnesota and at Green Bay. If we conservatively give the Giants splits against both the Eagles and Redskins, that puts them at 8-5. They would need to win two of the remaining three games to get to 10 wins, the normal playoff threshold. I see that as quite doable, especially since Minnesota's season might be over by this coming Monday. The question then is 10 wins going to be good enough?

To be comfortable, the Giants would need to sweep the Redskins, rather than take a split, and get to 11 wins. That should be good enough for a wild card even if Philly manages to top that. If New York gets in to the playoffs, I am feeling good. For some reason, Eli Manning makes people upset. Giants fans don't like him and opponents don't think he's any good. Well I am one Giants fan who is on Eli's side. I would put him in the top five quarterbacks in the NFL. Come playoff time, I feel confident with Eli under center, no matter who that center happens to be. With a fantastic running game and great pass rush, this team is built for the playoffs. Let's just hope they get in.

(Image taken from

Friday, November 19, 2010

I wish I had known in high school

People who tell you they do not regret anything in their lives are liars. "If I would have changed anything, I wouldn’t be where I am today, every step mattered." That is the normal argument. That's bull.

You get where you are today because of what type of person you are. Wishing you could go back and not shoplift from that store when you were 14 would not somehow mutate you into a person who didn't learn from mistakes and became a bank robber.

If that is actually the case, and every little thing has vast effect on how my life turns out, I have to be more careful.

Since that is not true, I am free to regret many things that I did in my past. I would change tons of stuff. High school especially could have been so much better if I had known some things I know today.

The first thing I wish I knew in high school was how little high school matters. Everything seemed like a big deal when, really, nothing was a big deal. I am not so much talking about the learning aspect of it. That was important. But that was also the easiest part of high school. Learning/studying/test-taking was a piece of cake. I don’t recall ever failing any single test in my four years. Hell, I don’t think I ever got more than one or two C’s.

The part that didn’t matter but which seemed hard at the time was being a high schooler. Acting how you thought you should act rather than how you wanted to act seemed to be an important high school skill. Talking to girls was a high school skill I never acquired until long past graduation. Making friends was easy, but making good friends was hard. I knew a lot of people (pretty much every single person in my school) but, looking back, wouldn’t consider myself good friends with more than just a few. Even now, I only still communicate with a handful of people I went to high school with.

But my high school regrets go beyond the schoolhouse.

In high school I wish I had known to be more of a Jay-Z guy than a Nas guy. Now, I’m stuck with Illmatic, which is great, but have no old Blueprint CDs and listening to Empire State of Mind feels like hopping on the bandwagon of perhaps the most famous male musician going today.

I wish I had known to not quit playing an instrument myself. Actually, I quit playing the saxophone in middle school technically, so I suppose I wish I had started playing drums or something in high school. It’d be fun to be musically inclined in my life today. Instead, I am forced to take people’s word for it when they tell me if some melody is in perfect harmony. In fact, I don’t even know if that sentence makes sense.

I wish I had ridden a bike around in high school. I wish I had ridden a bike at all; I wish I owned a bike in high school. We weren’t bicycle children. Now, I have no cycle stamina in a situation where I could feasibly ride my bike to work everyday.

Probably the thing I wish I knew the most was who would end up winning the 2001 World Series. Boy would that have saved me a lot of heart ache. If ahead of time I knew about the broken bat single by Luis Gonzalez that would have been excellent. I could still have been pissed, but I wouldn’t have been heart broken. I mean, all those late inning home runs, by Jeter and by Brosius; Byung-Hyun Kim, how could the Yankees lose?

I also wish I had been aware of the New England Patriots’ up-coming title run. Not because that particularly bothered me, but because I could have made a lot of money. That came out of nowhere. The odds would have been tremendous, especially in 2001.

As far as sports in my personal high school life, I wish I had known to work harder. I wish I had known how cool it would have been looking back if I was a star of the high school basketball team. It wouldn’t have mattered to anyone but me probably, but who else matters? Instead, I didn’t like it, ending up playing in the town leagues and dominating when I still didn’t really know how to push myself.

In high school, I wish I had gone to more New York Knicks games. Not because I wanted to see them play, but to see the other guys play, the guys who are gone now. There were games when Jordan played at Madison Square Garden while I was in high school; Iverson played there as well, and now he’s off playing in Turkey, most likely ending his American basketball career. Tim Duncan and Kobe played there back when they were young and chipper. A handful of the top 50 players of all time played just an hour or so from my house on numerous occasions and I never took advantage. I went to one Knicks game that I can remember now. I think they played the Pacers, so...yeah.

High school would have been better if I had known about the steroids in baseball. No, it wouldn’t have changed my opinion of Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire. And no, I wouldn’t have liked baseball more now or less then. But knowing what era you’re in while you’re watching would have been a real time saver. Now I’m forced to debate whether players like Jeff Bagwell, Frank Thomas and Larry Walker were actually good or were just part of the era. Their Hall of Fame numbers are a lot better than some current hall members, but I didn’t watch carefully enough in high school to make judgments now...ya know, if for some reason I had an MLB Hall of Fame vote.

I wish I had started writing a lot more in high school, and then into college. Instead, I just started this blog in 2010, am learning on the fly, and am no closer to becoming a famous baseball writer who is given an MLB Hall of Fame vote.

Maybe by the time the stars of today are eligible, I'll have that vote, and will be able to fairly judge their career performances compared to players of years past. For now, I'll hope the current voters make the right decisions (which they often do not) and look back, wondering what could have been.

(Image taken from

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

NFL Homage: Week 10

Peter King, long-time Sports Illustrated writer, has a column titled Monday Morning Quarterback or MMQB. This is speculative hearsay as I have never read it. But that is the rumor. Similarly, Gregg Easterbrook, short-time author, has a column titled Tuesday Morning Quarterback or TMQ. This is factual, as I have seen the links to it, but have never read it. Supposedly TMQ is an homage to MMQB where, in both, the author summarizes the goings-on of the previous NFL week of games. Well, in the Sports Pinata, each week I will be writing a post about the previous slab of games, call it an homage to an homage as I am copying the idea, but as I have never read either man's work, don't know if I will be copying ideas. Let's hope not. On to week ten.

Week ten of the 2010 NFL season was one for the record books, literally. If you watched the Monday night game, you saw this stat: this was the only week in NFL history where 13 different quarterbacks threw for at least 300 yards. Cassel, Roethlisberger, Manning, Smith, Brady, Garrard, Vick, Hasselbeck, Kitna, Hill, Anderson, Ryan, and Schaub all ended with over 300 yards passing. Oddly enough, six of those men lost their game, including the top three. Also, four other quarterbacks ended with between 290 and 299 yards passing. And this was on a bye week! Four teams didn't even play games in week 10.

Taking the win or loss out of it, even though Matt Cassel threw for 469 yards and 4 touchdowns with no interceptions, he was not the most impressive QB performance of the weekend. That distinction belongs to Michael Vick. Vick is the only quarterback in league history to have a stat line of 300+ passing yards, 50+ rushing yards, 4+ passing touchdowns, and 2+ rushing touchdowns. The only man ever. He put up 49 fantasy points, securing victory for all of his owners, everyone except me. Yes, I managed to start Vick and still lose, since my opponent notched 174 points for the week, out-pacing my 166. This is why I like fantasy baseball more.

Even with that otherworldly performance, Michael Vick may not even be the fantasy story from that Monday night game. Ryan Torain, a man not owned in all leagues yet widely owned, was the first man I can ever remember to be questioned all week because of injury, seemingly be healthy enough to play, and marked inactive after the inactive lists were submitted and he was marked active. Somewhere between whenever those lists are made official and the coin toss, Torain did enough damage to himself to not see a single snap in the game even though he was active and expected to start. Securing the oddness of this story is that since Washington was playing in the Monday night game, Clinton Portis was officially out, and LeSean McCoy is owned in all leagues, there was only one man that could have even been added to replace the actively inactive Torain, and that was Keiland Williams.

To round out the newsworthy week, the Bills got their first win, the best teams in the league all lost, again, and two more games needed an extra session to decide the winner. Whoever is in charge of good luck charms for the New York Jets should be given a raise. The fact that they managed to win in OT again doesn't bother me, but that the Browns somehow managed to NOT run the clock out and secure the tie is a little boggling to the mind.

Not everyone was as lucky as the Jets this week. Here is week ten's lineup of 'stars who sucked.'

Quarterback - Peyton Manning. Peyton Manning sucked. Perhaps for the first time in his career, not including playoff games. 185 yards and no touchdowns left Peyton with a poor 7 fantasy points and put him nowhere near that list of 13 QBs who caught fire. Of course, unlike six of those aforementioned passers, Manning's team won.

Running Back - Rashard Mendenhall and Michael Turner. Two of the few running backs who are universally owned in fantasy leagues ended with pitiful scores. Neither scored a touchdown and neither topped 60 total yards from scrimmage. However, both faced a top tier opponent. The difference is Mendenhall's Steelers faced what was supposed to be a porous Patriots defense and he only finished with 5 fantasy points. Whereas Turner faced the staunch Ravens D and fared even worse. Let's call this a toss up. They both sucked.

Wide Receiver - Reggie Wayne and Brandon Marshall. I'm not sure if Wayne's bad day was because of Peyton's or vice versa. Either way, both guys make the 'stars who sucked' lineup. I don't go around placing blame; I just look at results. Brandon Marshall also had some quarterback trouble to deal with. Starter Chad Pennington got hurt on the first drive of the game. Chad Henne, benched starter, came in and also got hurt. Former Chief Tyler Thigpen finished the contest and all through the revolving QB door, Brandon Marshall only managed to haul in three passes. I'd say this was because of the quarterbacks but Marshall hasn't been good in five weeks.

Tight End - Jason Witten. It's funny. Witten made the team last week and I jumped on him because of how bad the Cowboys looked as a whole. Well, this week, the Cowboys thumped the Giants, looked awesome, and Witten was even worse. He ended with a fantasy zero if your league offers no fractional points. This is just another example of why any tight end not named Antonio cannot be trusted.

D/ST - Steelers. Sure, the Redskins were much worse. But, to be fair, they are much worse in real life too. Thus, they are not a 'star' worthy of being placed on the 'stars who sucked' team. The Steelers, on the other hand, were approaching "best defense in the league" territory before the stinker they laid against the Pats. Perhaps Tom Brady was on a level where no team would have been able to stop him, yet totaling zero sacks and zero turnovers, and ending with a negative fantasy score for the week put Pittsburgh owners in quite a hole. I'd feel confident starting them the rest of the season, but mainly just because I'd have to. There is no better replacement.

Some updated advice for any fantasy team owners under .500 right now: go trade for Brook Lopez. He's fantastic and off to a very slow start. Also, he plays basketball. Move on to fantasy basketball, your football season is over.

This has been week ten's NFL homage to an homage.

(Same image used as previous NFL Homage posts)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Turn up the Heat

As a precursor, albeit an obvious and possibly not necessary precursor, let me say I have no favorite NBA team. I am a basketball fan, but never found allegiance with any city's team. If I rooted for, say, the Kings, I obviously would not want the Miami Heat to succeed; I would be buying my Cousins jersey and trading for Beno Udrih as a nice fantasy sleeper, hoping for the unlikely Sacramento title run.

But since I am an NBA vagabond, I am free to flip and flop my rooting interest with whomever I choose, and the Miami Heat are who I am rooting for.

There are many reasons for this, some tremendously sensible, others very nonsensical.

The first, and perhaps the most important reason is that LeBron and Co. saved the NBA. Not literally of course, but in the mind of viewers.

You see, people don't watch the NBA. I personally don't watch regular season NBA games unless there is some specific reason, like I happen to be in the arena for said match. Otherwise, I can miss the entire NBA regular season and not bat an eye. By "miss" I am referring to not watching any game from start to finish. I follow the standings, follow the players and stats, play fantasy basketball, and the sort, but watching a complete NBA game was always pointless, especially since most regular season games mean nothing in the scheme of the entire season.

Until now, that is.

Now, every Miami Heat regular season game means something. Not necessarily to the Heat themselves, but to their opponents. Everyone gets up to play them. Every Heat game is must-watch entertainment. Even last night's Heat - Celtics game got Paul Pierce all riled up afterwards, leading to a semi-funny tweet that got re-tweeted much too often. But the point is, the Celtics cared about a game in mid-November only because of their opponent.

This will continue to happen all season long I assume, making the Heat the only team that is must-see from November through May. The NBA has stars that people enjoy watching. Durant, Kobe, or Carmelo might affect some television numbers, but unless you're a die hard fan, there's no point in wasting your time watching any other specific team all season. Too many of the games are just pointless.

Besides tuning in to watch the greatest NBA soap since Shaq and Kobe shared a locker room, fans will also be sticking with this team all season to see if they can put "it" together. Putting it together has different connotations depending on who you are referring to. If the Knicks put it together, they have a chance to make the playoffs. Same goes for the Kings. If the Thunder put it all together, they have a chance to make noise in the Western Conference Finals. But if the Miami Heat put it together, they have a chance to win five straight NBA titles. There's the dividing line. There's the greatness factor that Miami brings.

To piggyback on that point, I enjoy rooting for greatness. Unless you root for the opponent, I see no reason to root against a great team. Dynasties, no matter what the media would make you believe, are the best thing a sport can have. People may say they love parity but people watch dynasties. Fans that root for underdogs are really just troublemakers. They would rather see something fall apart than come together.

Everyone loves Cinderella runs by small schools in NCAA March Madness...but only up until the Sweet Sixteen or so. After that, no one wants to watch George Mason or Richmond anymore. We want to see the best two teams play each other.

If college football ever got rid of the BCS, switching to a 12 team playoff, and we had a fluky title game where BYU played Pittsburgh, critics would be calling for a new BCS faster than Marlo turned on Prop Joe.

Underdog runs are fun only up until a point. Do you know how embarrassing it is that the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series in 2006? Do you recall how bad that team was? At least the Giants this season had dominant pitching.

So I would rather see the Miami Heat make the finals than some of these other up-and-comers, just because I would rather my NBA finals be a great product rather than an odd story.

Not saying that the Heat are clearly the best team, because thus far they clearly are not, but when the best team does not win the title, I, as a fan, feel a bit slighted. Was the regular season a waste of my time and energy? Do we really know nothing about this sport if such an upset is possible? I feel more comfortable as a fan, more secure in my sports knowledge, when the best team comes out on top.

This is why I want LeBron to be able to coexist with Dwyane. This is why I want Chris Bosh to not suck and the Heat to find someone to play inside. This is why I want LBJ to switch permanently to point guard or for Mario Chalmers/Carlos Arroyo to catch fire. This is why I want Mike Miller to come back. I want the Heat to be a championship caliber team. I want to have greatness to root for.

I know at least one other person who is on my side with this: David Stern.

(Image taken from