Sunday, December 30, 2012

Top 10 Albums of 2012

Bob's Top 10 Albums of 2012

I can't believe I almost let this year draw to a close without popping out a "Best of" list. It was a rather limited year for concerts and movies for me, but thanks in part to a network of friends that purchases (never pirates) and shares music, I feel like I was relatively entrenched in music this year. This list represents my favorites.

10. Glen Hansard - Rhythm and Repose: This album has a special significance to me because I got it shortly after the death of our dear friend's son Hayden. This collection of songs about hope, despair and love became the soundtrack to a very difficult period of the year. Favorite Track - This Gift

9. Smashing Pumpkins - Oceania: I can't tell if I'm making this pick for nostalgia sake or if I legitimately consider this one of the years best albums. I'm sticking with it for the sole reason that it pumped me up for yard work this summer. Favorite Track - Violet Rays

8. The Shins - Port of Morrow: I thought I was off these guys. I saw a very mediocre show of theirs and then became a little disenchanted with James Mercer's snarky pretentious nature. But this CD proved that I just can't quit em. Favorite Track - 40 Mark Strasse

7. Ben Folds Five - The Sound of the Life of the Mind: Always a favorite of mine, BFF hadn't released a new album in 13 years and I had kind of written the group off as done. Not so fast. This album has a little bit of everything, from uptempo anthems to beautiful, heartfelt ballads.
Favorite Track - Hold That Thought

6. The Mountain Goats - Transcendental Youth: Of all the albums on this list, this one was the most recent addition so it hasn't had the favor, or disfavor, of being listened to quite as much. That being said, I love the energy of this CD and lyrically its fantastic. It probably took a spot away from The Japandroids, so you be the judge if I got it right. Favorite Track - Lakeside View Apartments Suite

5. Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls: Maybe I am missing it, but I don't see this album ending up on many lists for best of the year, and I can't figure out why. Finally their live cult status has hit the masses and I think they capture it perfectly. Favorite Track - Rise to the Sun

4. Jack White - Blunderbuss: I have been wanting to jump on the Jack White bandwagon for some time, and despite having a few Raconteurs tracks, I never really went for it until this year. It paid off, as this album is one of the most unique and brilliant of the year.
Favorite Track (Maybe of the year) - Hypocritical Kiss

3. Of Monsters and Men - My Head is an Animal: Another album that I haven't seen on many lists is this one, an extension of the EP they had released a year earlier. This album is overflowing with sing along melodies and concert anthems. I cannot wait to see how they follow this up.
Favorite Track - From Finner

2. Grizzly Bear - Shields: This is an incredible album, rich with unique sounds and complex musicstry. At points this sounds like it could be a side project of the Beta Band, My Morning Jacket & The National. Probably not for everyone, but its definitely for me. Favorite Track - Yet Again

1. Passion Pit - Gossamer: Much like beer, if you come out in the summer and I enjoy you, there is a solid chance I'll be talking about you for a while. This album dropped right at the peak of my summer and became a staple for trips to Rhode Island, The Jersey Shore & Long Island. It is a feel good CD start to finish, but not to the extent that it can't be taken seriously. Its fun, and better than that, it's great. Favorite Track - Constant Conversations

Honorable Mentions: Milo Greene/Milo Greene, Japandroids/Celebration Rock, John Mayer/Born & Raised, Marillion/Sounds That Can't be Made

Monday, December 17, 2012

Loving the R.A. Dickey Trade!

It's weird to think that in back to back years the Mets are going to lose an NL Batting champion and the NL Cy Young award winners in back to back years coming off the years they won them.  As a lifelong Mets fan the Jose Reyes divorce was tough for me but as much as I loved R.A. Dickey's time as a Met, I am over-the-moon about this trade.

Even if Travis d'Arnaud and  Noah Syndergaard flame out and never see the majors, I will forever stand behind this trade 100%.  If you are bringing R.A. Dickey back to the Mets this year, you are essentially returning the same 74 win team from a year ago. The Mets need to retool.  If they are able to land a guy who might be able to catch for the Mets for the next decade and be one of the cornerstones of the franchise you pull the trigger without question.

I hate to boil down a human being's worth like this but R.A. Dickey was found money for the Mets.  He learned the knuckle ball on his own, the Mets didn't spend any resources developing him and they weren't paying him anything.  They took him off the scrap heap and gave him a chance.  To be able to turn him into (according to Baseball America) the Blue Jays' first and third best prospects is a coup (Baseball America also ranks Toronto #5 in their Organizational Talent Ratings).

I give Sandy Alderson a ton of credit for pulling the trigger on the trade.  R.A. Dickey was asking below market value for him and the easier thing to do would have been to hold on to him.  He was a P.R. and ticket selling asset to a team that needs both.

Thoughts on my First Trip to the Barclays Center

On Saturday I made my first trip to the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival triple header.

I heard some negative things about the exterior but I actually had no problem with it.  I thought the whole promenade area outside the main entrance was very well done.  The 360 degree screen is a very nice touch.  I can see why people might be put off by the "rust" color of the exterior but I don't mind it.  It's a nice change from the concrete looking boxes that everyone else seems to play in.  I'm willing to see how it ages before I bash it's outside aesthetic.

Even though I'm now in my mid-30's and have been to hundreds of sporting events, I still feel the anticipation of walking through the gate and seeing the playing surface in person .  My favorite thing about the Barclays really plays off that.  Normally when you enter a venue, you start on the concourse and have to find your gate number, walk through the narrow hall and into the arena.  Here, you get your ticket checked and straight ahead you are already looking at the scoreboard and you can walk right up and overlook the court.  It's something that I've never seen at a sports venue before and something I greatly appreciated.

I didn't like everything about it though.  Other than the overlook of the floor, the rest of the building doesn't really have a lot of personality.  It was just nice and new but nothing special.  A lot of good food options though.

Even though I am in my mid-30's and should have reached the point where I just buy tickets where I want to sit, I'm still a "buy the cheap seats and move down" guy.  Next time I go to the Barclays Center I will most definitely just buying my tickets in one of the lower two sections.  The level 200 is just too steep of an angle for me personally to enjoy a basketball game.  Probably my least favorite view of an indoor sporting event I've ever had.  Luckily for me, I was able to move down to mid-court about 10 rows off the floor for the middle game of the triple-header and were able to give the usher a few bucks to sit us in the lower section for the third game.  But I don't want to take the chance of not being able to move down next time I'm there.  For viewing a game, I'll take the Garden over the Barclays every time.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

UFC on FOX 5: Diaz vs. Henderson Predictions

With all the injuries befalling the UFC these days I'm pumped that this card seems to be making in to December 8th intact.  The Henderson/Diaz main event should be a great showcase for the UFC on network TV

Mike Swick vs. Matt Brown (+130)

After a two and a half year absence Mike Swick finally came back to the UFC in spectacular fashion with the Knockout of the Night over DaMarques Johnson.  It was great to see because Swick had been battling so many injuries but I had him down in the first round against Johnson who is no longer even in the UFC.  I'm not putting too much stock in to that because after 30 months there is probably a lot of ring rust to shake off but I'm counting this as Swick's real return to the UFC.  Matt Brown has 8 wins in the UFC and out of those 8 opponents only one is still in the UFC (Stephen Thompson).  As unimpressed as I am with his resume, Matt Brown is a much more game fighter than Johnson was.  I'll be rooting for Mike Swick but I think he needs a few more live rounds to get his octagon legs back.  I'm picking Matt Brown to outwork him enough to get the decision.

BJ Penn vs. Rory MacDonald (-300)

As frustrating as BJ Penn was in the last few fights, it's going to be nice to see him back again.  Unfortunately, I think he made a terrible decision asking for this fight against MacDonald.  I don't care what roster of sparring partners he put together and I don't care if you can actually see abs on BJ Penn for the first time ever as a welterweight.  Whatever shape Penn gets himself in to, it's not going make him as quick or as big as MacDonald is.  And with over a years worth of ring rust on Penn I can see this not getting out of the first round.

Mauricio Rua (+160) vs. Alexander Gustafsson

I'm a Gustafsson fan.  When this fight was announced I was already to pick him to win this fight.  He is an up and comer and he has all the measurables you could want in a fighter.  Although he has main evented a card before, this is by far the biggest stage he's ever been on.  Shogun is only 31 but he has a lot of miles on his tires.  I see this fight going the distance and I know Shogun does tend to gas some but he's more equipped for three rounds of what I believe will be primarily a stand up fight.  I think it'll be close fight with Rua eeking out the decision.

Benson Henderson (-140) vs. Nate Diaz

Henderson was my favorite WEC fighter and is arguably my favorite UFC fighter so I'm probably picking this more with my heart than my head.  Nate Diaz is really coming in to his own.  What he did in his last two fights is really impressive.  I did not see him beating Donald Cerrone yet he landed close to 300 significant strikes and landed over 80% of his punches on the way to the win.  Then he goes out and submits a guy in Jim Miller who had never tapped before.  That being said, I do like Henderson in this fight.  In my eyes he can't be finished with strikes especially from Diaz.  He landed hundred of punches on Cerrone and it went to decision.  We've seem Henderson in some pretty deep water in submissions yet somehow always get out of them.  Diaz is, in my opinion, the best submission artist he'll fight to date but until I see someone put him to sleep or get him to tap I don't think I can bet on that to happen.  The Diaz brothers have cardio for days but Henderson's average fight time is now over 3 rounds (15:11).  I like Henderson to defend his belt as Nate Diaz goes into the championship rounds for the first time.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Lucky Week 13: Bobs Road Dog Locks

Don't ask me why I waited until week 13 to post my locks of the week, just read them, bet them, and thank me. I will keep this weekly post going as long as I maintain a winning percentage above .500. Once I dip below, including if it happens this week, I will throw in the towel. Without further adieu, here are my picks in the league where they play....for pay.

Jacksonville Jaguars +6 @ Buffalo: Does anyone really think Buffalo is that much better than Jacksonville? I hope not. Buffalo has dropped 4 of their last 5, while the Jaguars are 1-1 with Henne at the help and have put up a scorching 61 points in the last 2 weeks. I expect a high scoring game which generally doesn't favor the spread, I just happen to think the Jaguars will come away with the victory. I'll take the 2 free field goals.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers +7 @ Denver: Its easy to buy into Denver as this Peyton Manning led juggernaut, but I don't entirely buy it. Yes they have won 6 in a row, but only one of those teams had a winning record at the time, and that is super mediocre San Diego. Tampa Bay on the other hand is 4-2 in that stretch, with their 2 losses combining for a total of 8 points against New Orleans and Atlanta. Denver may win this, and I kind of expect them to, but I guess it will be close late.

Indianapolis Colts +4.5 @ Detroit: For the record, I'm not totally in love with this game. But here is the thing, the Lions are done. That last loss was bone crushing, and probably eliminated all hops of the playoffs considering they still have games against Green Bay, Atlanta and Chicago on the schedule. The Colts on the other hand, are 2 more wins away from a playoff spot. With Houston coming up twice in the last 4 weeks, this is almost a MUST game for Luck & co. I expect they win, but if they lose, I expect it close enough that those points cover.

Season: 0-0-0

It's Time for a New Big East

It's time Big East.  I know the big money is in college football but the Big East wasn't built on football.  It's a basketball conference and it's time to stop playing this conference realignment game and get back to basics.  Look at the basketball only schools that will be left after all the chips fall (because you know UConn and Cincinnati are leaving eventually):

Seton Hall
St. John's

Historically three of those seven are perennial tournament teams (Marquette, Nova and Georgetown) and the Hall, St. John's and Providence have occasionally made cameos over the years in the big dance.  And as of now those three finally seem to have coaches that have them heading in the right direction.  And DePaul...well at least they bring the Chicago television market.

To make this work and because a stable conference again they'd unfortunately have to jettison Temple and Memphis with them having football but the rest of the incoming teams like Houston, SMU, Central Florida and Tulane they let go as well and get out of the football business altogether.  Let them go start another conference with Boise State, San Diego State and Navy.  I'll name it for you.  The Coast to Coast Conference (C2C for short).  Boom!  Basketball built the Big East and should keep the name.

Ideally you'd like to think that the Big East could just poach the Atlantic 10 but as of now, they actually have what the Big East should want, a basketball driven conference.  But if you were able to add Xavier, Dayton, St. Joseph's, Butler, St. Louis, VCU and maybe a Duquesne to the above 7 basketball only Big East schools, they are probably looking at a 5 or 6 big league.  But of course that would probably be easier said than done.  If you look into smaller conferences you can try to pick up some solid mid-major teams like a Drexel or Davidson too.

The Big East as we know it is dead.  They can't quick fix replace any of the teams that have left.  The conference also can't sit around and wait for the remaining schools with a football team to try to leave just  to replace them on the fly with lousy football programs and lousier basketball programs.  It needs to be rebuilt with quality basketball only schools and patience.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I'm There. It's Time to Blow Up The Jets

It's that time for another Jets rant.  I was going to do this earlier but I needed some time to collect my thoughts or else this would have been more of a ramble.

So I've finally come to the point where I'm ready to blow it up.  It's a hard conclusion for me to come to because I do believe Rex Ryan will be a pretty successful head coach in the NFL.  Unfortunately if he does, his stop with the Jets will be the place he made the mistakes he will learn from.  If I'm making a pie chart...screw it I'm making a pie chart:

As you can see, I place most of the blame on Mike Tennenbaum.  I understand Rex Ryan has input on players but when it comes to putting a bad roster together, the GM is the one who needs to take the fall.  Tennenbaum loves trading up in the draft to get guys he wants (Revis, Harris, Greene, Sanchez) and it's kind of worked out (and I'm counting Sanchez as kind of working out if you go back and look at that trade*).  That's on Tennenbaum.  Rex can coach defense.  The history is there as a coordinator and in his first couple of years as a head coach.  Ideally I would still like to give him a couple of more years but someone needs to be the scapegoat for this year.  Brian Schottenheimer was the guy for last year so they can't go back to the Offensive Coordinator well again and fire Tony Sparano.  So the guy has to be Tennenbaum.  Unfortunately for Rex they need to be a package deal.  It's unfair to bring in a new GM and not let him hire a new Head Coach.  And if they made the new GM keep Rex it would only be delaying the inevitable that situation never works out.  Just cut ties and blow the thing up.

Where I fault Rex Ryan the most is actually in the hiring of Tony Sparano.  That was a miserable hire and you could see it coming from a mile away.  Just because Rex wants to run a certain type of offense doesn't mean they had the pieces to run it.

Notice on the pie chart that Mark Sanchez isn't represented.  I actually feel really bad for this guy.  He has the talent to succeed in this league.  I'm sure of it.  But the Jets broke him and they did it at every turn.  The receiving core they marched out there in 2011 was so old and incapable of getting open.  They had Santonio Holmes as a #1 when in reality he is a glorified slot receiver, Plaxico Burress who was helpful in the red zone but completely unable to get any separation between the 20s and an on his last legs Derrick Mason.  Gone was Jericho Cotchery who was his most reliable receiver and gone was Braylon Edwards who was the only guy on the team who could actually stretch the field.  Somehow he managed to throw for 26 TDs and run for 6 more.  Then forget about the Tim Tebow disaster.  I tried to talk myself in to is possibly working but every Jets fan knew that it was going to be a disaster.  Not only didn't it work from an on field aspect, the media writing about Tebow week in and week out has made this season unbearable.  I would trade this season in for the 1-15 season in a heartbeat.  

If the Jets had lost a normal game to the Patriots on Thanksgiving then I actually think this regime would be safe for next year.  There are a few legitimate excuses for a down year.  Their best defensive player (if not the best defensive player in the league) and their "best" offensive player are out for the year.  But to lose the way they lost on a football holiday on national television means heads have to roll.

As a lifelong Jets fan I would like to close out with a prediction:

At the urging of Woody Johnson Tim Tebow gets his shot.  The Jets finishing up the last five games facing teams with a combined record of 18-37 they run the table with Tebow at the helm.  The 9-7 record doesn't get them in the playoffs but it saves every one's job.  The Jets brass are convinced that Tim Tebow is their guy for 2013 completely ignoring the fact that they were playing lousy teams.  Tim Tebow being a disgusting NFL quarterback leads the Jets to a 4-12 2013 season wasting yet another year.

*Jets move from 17 to 5, give up a 2nd rounder in the same draft and send Kenyon Coleman, Abram Elam and Brett Ratliff to Cleveland.  Look at what Washington gave up for RGIII this year (two future 1st round picks and a 2nd rounder in this past draft. And that was only to move up 4 spots).  The Jets gave up essentially nothing to get Sanchez.  The worst thing a Jets fan can do is wonder how the draft would have shaken out if that trade never happened.  The Browns traded the 17th pick that was the Jets pick to Tampa to select Josh Freeman.  Cleveland flubbed the 2nd round pick they got from the Jets (David Veikune) but the player who went with the pick right after was LeSean McCoy.  I'm not super high on Freeman but the offense does seem like it would be in better hands with Freeman and a do-it-all back like Shady McCoy doesn't it?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Time To Dust off Final Draft. Thanks Magic Hat!

Being that I am an "event drinker" and I only had a few Bud Light bottles in my fridge, I picked up a six-pack of Magic Hat's Hex.  It's their "Ourtoberfest" but I got it anyway even though we are in November.  Anyway, my first two bottle caps were cute little rhymes like "It feel neat with bare feet" and "Everything has more cheer with a beer" or something like that.  Then I opened up my third and BOOM!  I looked at that bottle cap and I said, "You know what bottle cap?  You're right."  So as soon as an idea strikes me, I'm getting the Final Draft out.

This inspirational story brought to you by beer.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Down With Election Day!

For me this morning it took me less than 5 minutes to vote at 9:00am this morning.  But there are people who actually wait hours.  In all honesty, I live in New York, my vote here for president doesn't really matter.  The only thing these days I'll wait over an hour for is gas.  If I saw anything more than a 45 minute line to vote, I'm turning around and leaving.

I love Election Night coverage and not because it's just another excuse to "Event Drink."  It's just a highly entertaining night.  But what if instead of one day to cast your vote, polling places were open all week?  There'd be virtually no lines to vote, networks can run a nightly two hour show in prime time every night and it would give retired old people something to do for a full week!  Not only that but couldn't you see that actually getting a better representation of voters?  If people see election results unfold over the course of multiple days and it's not going the way they want it to go it might push them to their polling places.  As much as people push to get people to vote there is still a strong "my vote doesn't matter anyway" sentiment.

I'm sure there are hundreds of ways this idea could be knocked down but it was just a quick thought. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Is 5 yards worth a Time Out?

I'm a football fan and have seen probably thousands of games on TV so I obviously think I know more than an NFL head coach.

There is one thing that continuously blows my mind while watching games and it seems to happen in pretty much every single one.  Why do NFL head coaches value 5 yards over preserving timeouts?

Let's take last night's Jets/Texans game.  Now the Jets probably wouldn't have won the game anyway, but wasting two time outs earlier in the 4th quarter took away any chance they had of actually trying to pull the upset:

Wasted Timeout #1

Houston is up 23-14. The Jets had just completed a big play down to the Texans' 16 yard line.  Of course they then wanted to take Sanchez out and go with the ridiculous Tebow package which causes confusion and they have to burn their first timeout with 13:17 left in the 4th quarter.  I know red-zone trips are precious but is wasting a timeout worth the difference between 1st and 10 at the Houston 16 and 1st and 15 at the Houston 21?  You're in a position at the 21 to get to within one score with TD or FG in that spot.  Are those 5 yards worth not being able to stop the clock at the end of the game if you need them?

Wasted Timeout #2

On their next drive after kicking a FG to get within 23-17, the Jets hit a screen pass on 2nd and 18 for 19 yards and 1st Down to the Houston 35 with 8:31 left on the clock.  Of course it's time to take Sanchez out and put Tebow back in which again causes personnel confusion and they burn another time out.  Once again I know it's a big spot in the game but you are within a TD with 8 and a half minutes left.  It's probably going to come down to one possession at the end of the game.  Is burning a timeout in that spot to go from 1st and 10 at the Texans 35 to 1st and 15 from the Texans 40 in that spot worth it?  A drive isn't dead when it's 1st and 15.

The Jets ended up getting the ball back at their own 16 with 3:28 to play.  They still had one timeout and the two minute warning to work with.  That's still a lot of time but Sanchez ended up throwing a pick on 3rd and 18 after a sack as he rushed to the line to squeeze one more play in before the 2 minute warning.  

I'm not saying the timeout management is why the Jets lost this particular game . Even after the last interception the Jets could have still gotten the ball back with a minute left.  Still unlikely at that point but not having any timeouts doesn't even give you a chance.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

We're Out of Weeds

I'm not the first one to say that Weeds probably should have ended after Season 4.  Season 3 was a little uneven but I think the first two seasons earned itself enough credit to see if they could continue to carry a story with these characters once the Agrestic setting played itself out.  After Season 4 it became apparent that they couldn't.  If I felt that way after Season 4, why did I stick around to see it through Season 8?  Like every other sucker who did I'm assuming because after Season 4 each season I went in kind of expecting it to be the last so in a way I felt pot-committed (oh snap....PUN!!) and had a need to see how it ended.  As far as how the story ended, I'm mostly satisfied.  I'm less satisfied by the actual execution but the show has been a mess for so long that I can accept that and just take a step back and look at the resolution for each character:
-Nancy: Since she survived a gun shot wound to the head you knew that her story wasn't going to end with her dying.  But I'm actually happy with the way that her story ended.  Business wise she was successful but she ends up alone and no longer needed.  She's a multi-millionaire but she's not really happy.  And it's probably what that character deserves
-Andy and Silas: They end in pretty similar places.  They both carved out nice little lives for themselves clear across the country from Nancy or her influence.  Both have kids.  Silas is married, Andy has a restaurant and both seem genuinely happy.
-Shane: Shane was probably Nancy's biggest punishment.  As a result of her choices when he was a kid he ends up morally flawed.  He's killed as a teenager and now he's a corrupt alcoholic cop.  
-Doug: Where Jenji Kohan misjudged the audience is that she thought Doug Wilson needed a resolution to his story.  His only role on this show was to still try to make this a comedy.  And she failed miserably.  He kept trying to be squeezed into the show when they just should have cut him out and focused more on the drama.  How are we really supposed to feel about seeing Kevin Nealon as a cult leader dressed in purple robes trying to reconcile with his son who I don't think we've seen since Season 1?  It was ridiculous and a huge miss.
Another huge miss and distraction in the series finale was that they tried to get to cute with technology advances 5 years in the future.  I'm all for time jumps in series finales.  I'm a huge fan of epilogues but stuff like the cell phones and the projection keyboards...too much.  It was unnecessary and only took away from the episode.
As much as it was long overdue to end, there is a part of me that's a little sad it's over.  Despite it's shortcomings, Mary Louise Parker and Justin Kirk always acted the crap out of whatever they were given.
On a final note, it's weird to think that it may have been my longest tenured scripted television show.  Without thinking to hard about it, I'm not sure there are many shows left that began in 2005 that I'm still watching.  I think that honor is now held by How I Met Your Mother which started later in that year.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Is the UFC in trouble???

For starters, I understand that the UFC is not really in trouble. It is just that Mixed Martial Arts, more specifically the UFC, has catapulted into one of my favorite sports to watch and follow in the last 7 years and the excitement is starting to wear off for me for a number of reasons. At this point I still get more excited about a good UFC event than I do about an NFL Sunday, an NBA Playoff game, or any NHL game including the Stanley Cup. I am not the only one either, the sport has grown leaps and bounds since Dana White and the Fertitta brothers purchased the organization for a measly 2 million dollars in 2000 and has now surpassed boxing in almost every measurable way. But I think it may have gotten a bit off track.

Let's start by what the UFC did right.

1. They cleaned the sport up. A lot. Even before White took over, the writing was on the wall for the UFC, that if they didn't clean up their act there were very few, if any, states that would be hosting their events. So over a period of years, the implementation of  timed rounds, weight classes, illegal strikes (headbutting, fish hooking etc.) and the requirement of gloves started turning the UFC into a legitimate sport. As expected, this increased the mass appeal significantly.

2. The Ultimate Fighter. Maybe the most brilliant and well timed decision by the UFC was to use Reality TV as a platform to get the casual UFC fan into the sport and also into the competitors. Imagine watching "The Real World" except at the end of each episode, 2 of the housemates fight in an octagon for the ability to stay in the house. Brilliant. The show wasn't without growing pains however, in fact, the format of the first season is almost laughable (athletes being asked to leave the house without ever fighting because they lost a challenge) and many changes have been made to the increase the validity of the winner. But many fans credit the finale of TUF 1 between Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffin to be the most critical moment in the UFC's growth.

3. Less is More. Despite being the big dog, the UFC was not without competition (internal and external) early on. So to make things a bit easier to manage, they started swallowing them up. They added the WEC, WFA, Pride, & Strikeforce both increasing the talent pool dramatically, making the titles more relevant and unifying, and more importantly keeping fans tuned into one brand and one brand only, UFC.

Those are just a few of the many things that the UFC has done over the past decade to become the fasting growing sport in America. Add in the personalities and the increased level of skill and athleticism amongst the fighters, this sport was quite frankly impossible to ignore. But something seems to have happened in the last year and the enthusiasm, at least among my camp, has waned. Although I am still an enormous fan, below are couple of things I think the UFC NEEDS to do to right the ship. Dana, read this and call me.

1. Less is More: We get it, people love the UFC and we understand that the time is now to get it to as many people as possible in as many ways as possible. But what has happened is the UFC has become watered down. Case in point, UFC 151 and 152. The first event gets cancelled because after injuries, there was no viable way you could sell that card to people. It's easy to point the finger at Jon Jones as the guy who cost the UFC that event, but if that card wasn't so thin to begin with you wouldn't have been in that predicament. Now look at UFC 152. Aldo and Rampage pull out with injuries, and the best you can come up with is Stephan Bonnar and Anderson Silva to headline that event? I love both of those guys, but if Silva enters that fight at anything less than -1500 to win, I'll be shocked. Its a transparent and desperate move and UFC fans are smarter than that. They may get it, but its because they're starving for a good event not because they love it. That won't last forever, people like me have stopped getting every card. Look at the hedline fights of the evnts between now and November, they just aren't as good anymore. Free events on Fuel and Fox are great, but not at the cost of the PPV cards. If you can't make them all strong, consolidate. Please.

2. The Ultimate Fighter: You see what I'm doing here, right? Listen, I LOVE the show. It is still must watch TV for me. I have blogged episode recaps of several of the seasons and haven't missed an episode since I started watching. But the talent isn't as strong because real good UFC prospects go straight to the big show and what you get in TUF is about 14 1/2 guys that can't hack it in the UFC once the show is over. What's worse, is even the losers (I'm talking real losers, not finals losers) still get several fights in the UFC after the show is over. How does a guy who doesn't make it to the finals get a crack at a UFC event right after the show? What needs to happen is some sort of UFC Developmental League. Move the guys who don't win the show into that for a few fights against other TUF alumni and up and commer's. Make the glory of winning even more special by limiting the path to the UFC to only 1 or 2 guys from each season.

3. Clean Up the Sport: I'm talking here about the 500 lb gorilla in the room, the officiating. There has got to be more accountability with the refs and with the judges. I have seen way too many bad decisions and early and late stoppages with no repercussions other than a nasty tweet from you. Add 2 more judges to prevent fluke decisions. Clean up how the fights are scored so that takedowns don't trump damage. And please make every main card fight 5 rounds. 3 rounds is just not enough to decide who a top contender should be. These guys deserve a legit shot to showcase themselves. And outside of the rules and regs, clean up the management of fighters. Guys like Jon Jones have started to damage the sport. Not because he didn't take a fight with Sonnen on short notice, but because he isn't a UFC guy. He doesn't care about anything but Jon Jones. Same thing with Nick Diaz. There are guys like them in every sport, but started hitting them where it hurts with more suspensions.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Thank God This Jets Offseason Is Over

I get very excited about Jets season.  I love it.  I ingest every column or blog I can.  But this year, it is by far my least favorite offseason ever.  It's not that I don't have high hopes for them this year, I do.  I think they can be a 10 win team but it's gotten to the point where I have to stop every Jets article half way through because I can't read about Tim Tebow anymore.  I just can't.  I know he's a popular guy but I don't get it.  The Jets have been running the Wildcat for years.  Adding Tebow the player to run it is not a big deal.

But Tebow the person ruined training camp for me.  I do not believe the Jets camp was a circus.  Every beat writer I heard said it was overblown when the national media was all over the Jets camp atmosphere.  So there was more people at Cornell this year.  I didn't see any of them on stilts.  And because Tebow is here the media made a big deal out of mundane camp happenings like fighting.  Every team has fights in camp.  Heck Rex Ryan told Rob Turner to go start a fight with Vernon Gholston with HBO cameras around a few years ago.  Little was made about that and the coach essentially ordered a Code Red!

I'm just tired of it.  Right now I have not seen one person predict the Jets to make the playoffs.  But other than not fully addressing their RT situation, they did get faster on offense and defense.  And despite their turnstile at RT last year they were still 8-8 so they weren't bad to begin with.  So Tim Tebow is here now as a backup QB and Wildcat QB and that's made them worse?  I don't see it.

I finally can't wait to get this season going.  Hopefully by next week the Jets will be 1-0 heading to Pittsburgh, Tebow will have seen 6 or 7 Wildcat snaps for about five yards a play and everyone will finally see how not a big deal this whole Tebow thing really is.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Annual NFL Over Under Game - 2012 Edition

For the MLB and NFL seasons we draft 6 teams based on what Vegas has as their win total.  The prize usually involves the loser paying for a 2 hour open bar or something in that vein.  Here is how the selections went:
(The full list of the NFL Win Totals are on the left side bar.  My explanations for my picks are under the graphic)

Arizona Cardinals - Under 6.5
It's probably the one I'm least confident in.  They went with John Skelton to start Week 1 but the QB situation is going to be a problem all year.  The reason I'm not totally confident is that I'm still trying to figure out how they won 8 games last year.  They aren't in the strongest division so it wouldn't shock me in the least to see them go 3-3 in the NFC West.  Outside their division the easiest games left are probably vs. Miami and at Minnesota.  I'm thinking 5 or 6 wins.

Houston Texans - Over 10
In a normal year I would fear that Matt Schaub would get hurt and Houston would stumble to an 8-8 type of year.  Matt Schaub probably will get hurt again this year but I don't think any team in the AFC South is an above .500 caliber team.  If they don't get 6 wins from this division this year then they are not the team I think they are.  They have some tough games on the schedule this year (i.e., Green Bay) but I think at worst I push the 10.

New York Jets - Over 8.5
Everyone seems to be down on the Jets and I'm not really sure why.  Actually I'm pretty sure I know why and it has to do with Tim Tebow being on the roster.  He's dominated the off-season news for the Jets and it makes them look like nothing else happened.  But they got quicker on both offense and defense and it's my expectation that Mark Sanchez puts it together and has a good year.  I said before I saw what Vegas had their win total at that I see a 10-6 team.

San Francisco 49ers - Over 9.5
With the NFL the way it is now it really wouldn't surprise me to see San Fran take a step back to being a 8-8 team.  But like I said above with Arizona.  The NFC West is a pretty weak division.  I think Seattle is the only real team that could even finish 8-8 there this year.  5-1 through the division seems likely and with their defense going 5-5 against the rest of their schedule seems doable.

Tennessee Titans - Under 7.5
There was a time I wouldn't touch the under with Tennessee when Jeff Fisher was there.  But these Titans are resting their hopes on Jake Locker and Chris Johnson finding his form again.  It's not a strong division but there is nothing about this team that excites me.

Washington Redskins - Under 6
The NFC is arguably the best division in football and Washington is easily the worst team in it.  RGIII will be exciting but they have no weapons around him.  Throw it trips to Pittsburgh, New Orleans and the Giants and games against Atlanta and Baltimore, I just don't see too many wins on their schedule.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

How To Tarnish A Legacy in One Easy Step - The Jon "Bones" Jones Story

I'm writing this under the assumption that you already know about the fate of UFC 151.

By all accounts UFC 151 was a lousy UFC PPV card.  It didn't matter though.  I was going to buy it.  Jon Jones as interesting, dynamic fighter and we might ever see another like him in MMA for a long time.  He is building a sense of invincibility around him that's reaching a Mike Tyson-esque level where on one hand you're paying to watch him dismantle his opponent and on the other, you want to say you were watching if someone pulled off the upset.  But now because of Jon Jones there is not even a UFC 151 to buy.

I didn't watch Jon Jones' UFC debut.  Prelims weren't easily available at the time but his reputation grew pretty quickly.  It was actually after his DQ loss to Matt Hamill that I began thinking that this guy is not going to lose for a long time.  There is no doubt that Jon Jones was going to be champion one day.  Fortunately for him, and apparently, unfortunately for us he was probably given the opportunity to fight for a title ahead of the UFC's plan for him due to injuries in the light heavyweight class.  Before he won the title he seemed like a talented, humble kid with goals.  He even took the title shot on relatively short notice (43 days is by far his quickest turnaround in his UFC career).  Since he won the title he's become a diva.  I have no problem with guys fighting only for the money.  As a fan, I have a problem with a guy SAYING he's fighting only for the money.  You hear him trying to shun a Lyoto Machida rematch because the PPV buys in their first meeting weren't the greatest.  And the icing on the cake today, having a chance to single handedly save a UFC event by fighting a guy he would destroy in Chael Sonnen who was willing to take this fight on 8 days notice.  And knowing what I know about Dana White, I'm sure that if Jones had reservations about taking the fight, White would make it even more than worth his while if it meant not having to withstand the black eye the UFC has today for cancelling a whole event.  Not to mention that you have to think in the unlikely event that Sonnen caught him and won the title, based on Jones' body of work, he'd get an immediate rematch.  It's just sad and ridiculous to me.  It makes me think that despite all the talent in the world that maybe Jones is more insecure in those talents than he leads on.  I don't know.

Jon Jones can be champion for the next 10-15 years but for me, today is how I'll always remember him.  I'll watch a Jon Jones fight on FOX or on an episode of UFC Unleashed and even though I know it doesn't make a difference if one person doesn't buy a UFC PPV, but I don't see myself paying for one of his cards ever again.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Supply and Demand: My Quest for a 2012 Newport Folk Festival Poster

Notable economist and Youngstown State University professor Albert "Juice" Sumell once stated "there is a supply and demand for everything in this world, even people. The supply of you is one. The demand for you could be less than one, if you're a loser." That possible insult was wrapped in a conventional truth, that there isn't anything tangible or intangible, that doesn't have a supply and demand. I think we all understand this idea, but sometimes the supply and demand of something is related to its limited availability, say oil, and other times it can be manufactured, for example baseball cards. My story today revolves around the latter, manufactured supply and demand.

For the 4th time in 5 years, I attended the Newport Folk Festival this summer. We were rookies the first time we attended the festival back in 2008, not fully understanding the fantastic culture that is very unique to the Newport Folk Festival. We enjoyed ourselves so much, that we bought posters to commemorate our experience. The poster that year was nothing special, very college dorm room, but to us it represented an epic memory. Just seeing that poster hanging in my house brings back memories of watching She & Him perform on the Harbor Stage while it poured outside. And that year, not only was a tradition of annually going to festival born (we skipped one year due to pregnancy) but so was born the tradition to start a collection of posters to adorn the walls of my house.The following years, the posters were fantastic, and you could tell that they were evolving more into limited edition art (much like the New Orleans Jazz Festival posters) and less like the one we purchased in 2008. That coupled with the increasing demand of posters, made them hot commodities at each of the last few festivals. And to be honest, I was okay with that. As long as I got one.

This year, I did not. I was so excited for this year's poster, because it was not only tradition at this point but it was by far the coolest one I had ever seen. So, despite corralling 6 people, including my 3 year old son and my 3 year old niece, I was still able to get to the festival at 11:15 on Saturday, only an hour after the gates opened. I walked through the entrance, smiling ear to ear (because its the happiest place on earth) and poster tube in hand only to see an enormous line at the merchandise tent and only to hear my son telling me had to go to the bathroom. And by the time I put my stuff down, headed to the porta-potty's, and made my way back to the line, like Keyser Soze, they were gone.

I'm sure this all sounds like sour grapes, and maybe it is, but I am just having a very hard time (still, almost 3 weeks later!!) dealing with the fact that only 250 people of a record 10,000 were able to get posters for this event. That means, even the first person to get to the festival on Sunday had zero chance of grabbing one. At this point I've tried everything, from contacting the artist/company to reaching the 8+ thousand people that follow newportfolkfest and newportnow on twitter. Hell, I even tried contacting Jim James of My Morning Jacket. Clearly, I am losing my mind. But, the quest is over and I've given up.

My blog partner Keith (who luckily got a poster, the bastard) and I recently exchanged stories about losing wallets and having them turn up years later, with the moral being sometimes what you're looking for eludes you until you aren't looking for it. But after the last week of searching, I think the moral is that it's easier to find a lost wallet than a poster for the Newport Folk Festival.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

My thoughts on the Newport Folk Festival

My last Newport Folk Festival post for awhile.  I promise.

Biggest disappointment: The Weather

On Saturday I was forced to leave my favorite band's (My Morning Jacket) set early to get on a water taxi line.  Selfishly, I'm at peace with it because I didn't miss anything.  I was able to hear their abbreviated set while on the line.  Our big concern was for our 2 month old who my wife had to wear for the 90 minute water taxi line.  My two year old was loving the rain.  The whole time you could see him kicking his feet and smiling in the stroller.  Since neither of our kids woke up with a cold the next day, years from now it will be another "remember how crazy it was when..." story.  On Sunday I wasn't planning on staying for Jackson Browne anyway but my wife was looking forward to seeing Tallest Man on Earth.  In fear of having a similar experience to Saturday's downpour, we bailed on that set a little early as well when it started to rain.  But he sounded amazing.  Side note though, for most of the day when it was overcast it was great not to have to worry about the sun burning my kids.  I'd sign up for overcast any year.  Better than unrelenting 96 degree heat.

Runner up: Being shut out of getting a poster.

Biggest regret: Not getting to the Harbor Stage earlier on both days

I really got in to Apache Relay in the weeks leading up to the festival but unfortunately were only able to get there for the last 5 songs or so.  But my recent fan-dom was warranted.  They were great.  On Sunday we wanted to get there early again but the urgency wasn't there since we figured the ground was wet and as much as I was getting into the Deep Dark Woods album they weren't as high on my list as Apache Relay.  But the feedback I got from their set makes me wish I'd had a little more hop in my step Sunday morning.

Runner up: I was only able to stay for four First Aid Kit songs.  The Lion's Roar has been in rotation for a few months but something about it just clicked with me recently where even post-Festival it's still in heavy rotation.

Best decision I made: Leaving Deer Tick early to see Alabama Shakes

I love Deer Tick.  I was lucky enough to have a ticket for Friday night's show at the Newport Blues Cafe.  But the first half of their set at the Festival were the same songs I heard the night before.  I'd go see the same Deer Tick show every day of the week and twice on Sunday but it made the call easier to go see Alabama Shakes who just killed it.

Runner Up: Setting up shop by the Quad Stage instead of the Fort Stage. Other than The Head and the Heart, the bands I wanted to mostly see were on the Harbor and Quad stage which is easy to bounce back and forth between.

Top 3 Favorite Sets (no particular order):

Alabama Shakes: Their reputation as a live act is justified.  Just a fun, high energy hour.

Dawes: To be honest, I got in to Dawes through Middle Brother last year and if I'm rating the three bands who contributed to that album, I'm putting Dawes third.  But I can't stress enough how good they were in Newport.  When My Time Comes is about as good a live song as you can have.

New Multitudes: I liked the album going in to the festival but seeing them do it live gives me a whole new respect for it.

Honorable Mention: My Morning Jacket was on their way to an epic set.  I just can't put it in my top 3 because of how it ended.  Me leaving a MMJ set seemed unfathomable to me at the time so I wasn't in a good mindset at the end of it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ultimate Newport Folk Fest Playlist

Somewhere in between my 300th and 301st time listening to Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" to please my wife and 3 year old son, I realized that I needed a new playlist to get me ready for the summer and the slowly encroaching Newport Folk Festival. As we've discussed before, the lineup this year is STACKED, so coming up with an abbreviated playlist was no easy feat. But, I have tackled impossible tasks before, so I knew I could do it again. And I did. So if you're going to the Folkfest this year and can't figure out how to get through the next 2+ weeks, download these tracks immediately and it will help you manage. And if you aren't going, download these tracks anyway and may God have mercy on your soul for being so foolish to miss this event.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

UFC 148 Predictions

After what feels like an eternity, the UFC is finally giving its fans the most anticipated rematch in the sport's history this weekend when Anderson Silva looks to defend his title a record 10th straight time against trash talking Chael Sonnen. All fans remember what happened 2 summers ago, when Sonnen man handled Silva for 23 straight minutes before finding himself caught in a triangle forcing him to tap out, but will this time be different?Although the card loses a lot with Faber/Barao moving to UFC 149, it's still a pretty impressive event loaded with previous title holders, title contenders, and legends of the sport. Below are my predictions on 5 of this weekends fights.

Chad Mendes over Cody McKenzie via decision:  Mendes was on a complete roll before losing to Jose Aldo, which hardly is black mark on your resume. "Money" had won 6 in a row, most of which were more against complete fighters than McKenzie. For Cody, this fight represents an enormous jump in class, and I'm just not sure he is ready for it. His guillotine submissions are notorious, but Mendes should be able to avoid the submission and work him for the duration. Mendes isn't a finisher, so I like this fight going the distance.

Dyon Hung Kim over Demian Maia via decision: Kim has won 4 of his last 5, with impressive performances against Nate Diaz and Amir Sadollah. He was KO'ed by Condit, but outside of that he has looked good of late. Maia has lost to Weidman and Munoz in the last calendar year and has never really become the "contender" many thought he would be. His outstanding submission skills have been on vacation since 2009 and you have to wonder if he is outmatched against the best of the weight class.

Cung Lee over Patrick Cote via KO: I had a real hard time with this one. Both fighters are hungry for the victory with them losing a combined 5 of their last 6 fights. Both legit strikers, you would probably favor the much younger Cote in that category. But sometimes, you have to give the edge to the legend who wants to put a stamp on his legacy with an impressive win over Cote.

Forrest Griffin over Tito Ortiz via KO/TKO: You have to hand it Ortiz, he's been active with this being his 6th fight in less than 3 years. The problem is, he has lost 4 of them, and in most cases he has been destroyed. The win against Bader surprised everyone (including Bader when I spoke to him this past September), but I am not convinced that this was part of Ortiz's comeback trail. I look for a motivated Griffin to pick up where he left off the last time these two met, which is a very advantageous position.

Chael Sonnen over Anderson Silva via decision: For the record, I will be rooting hard for Silva. I was never a huge fan of his antics, but after rewatching some of his title defenses and recently watching the documentary "Like Water" I have a new found respect and admiration for him and his brilliance. But after hearing Silva's comments recently regarding what he intends to do to Sonnen this Saturday, I couldn't help but think Sonnen had officially entered and effected Silva's psyche. I am a little surprised that Vegas has this as Sonnen +240, which almost makes me think that people really do think Silva is going to break everyone of his teeth. Although I am hoping that's the case, I think Sonnen will be the one backing up his words on Saturday.

Check out the fights this Saturday at 10 PM and also be sure to check out the prelims on FX beginning at 8:00 EST.

Navigating the Newport Folk Festival

I've been looking forward to seeing the Newport Folk Festival schedule with both excitement and dread.  I'm on record as saying this is the best festival lineup I've ever seen, so obviously I was going to have to make some tough choices I didn't want to make.  But after finally seeing the schedule, it's not THAT bad.

A few months ago I made a Top 5 bands I want to see at Newport list and although it's nearly impossible to stick to a plan, here is how I'm going to try and navigate the Newport Folk Festival and how I'm going to try and see them all:

11:30am - 12:15pm
Being that I'm going to be getting two kids ready to go to the festival and we'll have to set up our spot at the Fort Stage I'll probably be starting my day with some Brown Bird as we set up and then shooting over to the Harbor Stage for Apache Relay.  I've been listening to their American Nomad album a lot leading up to the festival and I'm really enjoying it.

12:30pm - 1:30pm
I'll probably try to stay at the Harbor Stage for the beginning of Spirit Family Reunion.  If nothing else, from what I heard of them so far, my 2 year old will stomp and clap along with them.  I will leave to head back to the Fort Stage for The Preservation Hall Jazz Band for the rest of their set.  I've seen them a few times already and they are a lot of fun.  And I'd imagine we'll be getting our first of many Jim James sightings during that set.

1:40pm - 4:20pm
DAMN YOU NEWPORT FOLK FESTIVAL!!!! This is by far the most painful part of the weekend.  Deer Tick was my #2 band I want to see at NFF but I really want to see Alabama Shakes.  With two young kids coming this year I'm not going to get to see Deer Tick at the Newport Blues Cafe or that would have made my decision here a little easier.  But alas, I'll be high-tailing it from PJHB to see Deer Tick from 1:40 to 2:15 and then booking over to Alabama Shakes for the remainder of their set.  That's probably the best I can do there.  Honey Honey gets the shaft here from me but luckily it looks like I'll have another chance on Sunday.  Immediately following Alabama Shakes I'm going to hop back and forth between First Aid Kit and Sharon Van Etten.  And honestly, my goal is to at least hear First Aid Kit do Emmylou and Sharon Van Etten do Leonard.  If I can pull that off before going to see Dawes then I will high five myself.

4:25pm - 6:05pm
From Dawes I'm heading over to see Blind Pilot.  Last year I tried to keep popping back and forth through the tunnel between the Harbor and Quad Stage to see Head and the Heart and Middle Brother.  I might do that to catch some Iron and Wine.  I have a longer history with Iron and Wine but I'm leaning Blind Pilot these days.  After those two sets I'll probably try and catch 10-15 minutes of the Guthrie Family Reunion before getting back to the Fort Stage.

6:05 - 7:30

11:30am - 1:40pm
After setting up again for the day I'd like to hop over to the Harbor Stage.  I've been listening to Deep Dark Woods on Spotify and I'd like to see them as well and make my only appearance at the Museum stage for Honey Honey for a few songs before trying to catch the last half of Trampled By Turtles.

1:40pm - 3:00pm
Definitely want to see The New Multitudes.  I'll see their whole set and then catch the tail end of Charles Bradley.

3:00pm - 5:15pm
The second worst conflict of the weekend for me.  The hop to the Fort Stage to the Quad stage is not easy enough to risk going from Charles Bradley to Gary Clark Jr and back to Head and the Heart so I might have to skip Gary Clark Jr. entirely unfortunately.  I want to see as much Head and the Heart as I can but them and Of Monsters and Men overlap by 10 minutes.  So being that I did see three songs from Head and the Heart last year, I'll probably ditch out on the end of them to go see Of Monsters and Men in their entirety.

5:15pm - 7:30pm
If the situation presents itself I'd like to see some Conor Oberst but I might just be content to head over to the Harbor Stage and lock down my spot for Tallest Man on Earth.  From there maybe I'll catch a little Jackson Browne if my kids are cooperating after what will be a long weekend for them.  Catching a water taxi before the rush might out weigh trying to hear The Pretender.

I'd put my chances of executing this plan at close to 0% but it's still going to be fun to try.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

2012 NBA Draft - Two I Like, Two I don't Like

I hate the NBA yet I love the NBA draft.  And not for the reasons someone like Bill Simmons likes it with the weird suits and awkward handshakes, I love it because it's kind of a goodbye to the college players that I enjoyed watching before they become irrelevant to me in the NBA.

Despite there being only one potential "can't miss" super star there is a lot of depth and with the lack of international players, I'm familiar with almost everyone that is projected to be drafted.

I'm not going to do a mock draft because on sites like CBS and ESPN they are put together because those guys have access to GMs and scouts.  I'm going to give you some players that I think are going to be overvalued and undervalued based on where I see they are projected to go.

Players projected to go too high:

Bradley Beal - SG - Florida
I like Beal as a player, I really do.  But seeing him go as high as 3 overall is ridiculous to me.  The era of a Dwayne Wade or Kobe Bryant being the best player on an NBA Champion is just about over.  We're entering the era of the athletic SF and PF.  Look at the best SGs to be drafted the last few years: Klay Thompson, Marshon Brooks, Evan Turner, Jordan Crawford, James Harden and Tyreke Evans.  They are all complimentary players.  And I get a SG might have to be taken higher based on the quality of the draft but I don't see a huge difference between the 2-20 pick in this draft.

Dion Waiters - SG - Syracuse
I see him going 7 to Golden State in the ESPN and CBS mocks.  Golden State has two picks in the 1st round and if I'm them I hope Drummond falls to 7 and then take a Jared Cunningham with the 30th or 35th pick.  I honestly don't see that much of a difference between the two.  I guess I'm still in the belief that unless you're a playoff team who traded in to the Top 10, if you have a Top 10 pick you are not a very good team and should still be aiming to draft someone who will be the best player on your team at some point.

Players projected to be drafted too low:

Andrew Nicholson - PF - St. Bonaventure
In any sport it seems like GMs and scouts fall too much in love with a player's workouts and not enough of what they did in college.  Andrew Nicholson might lack a little of the athletism you would like in an NBA PF but he is a winner.  He took a lowly A-10 program, put them on his back and took them to the NCAA Tournament.  You can't put a measurable on that.  And not only that, he improved himself from a guy who took zero three pointers in his first two years to a guy who took 53 of them in his senior year and hit 43% of them.  The team that gets him in the early 20s is getting a solid player.

Jae Crowder - SF - Marquette
If GMs drafted solely on effort, Jae Crowder would be a top 3 pick.  Of course he's only a 6'4-6'5 SF which this day in age is too small for a SF but he's solidly built and has over a 6'9" wingspan and is capable of guarding three positions.  He's big on the glass for his size and he is always in a position for steals.  He's a capable scorer and shooter (35% from three).  He's projected in the mid-to-late 2nd round.  That guy can play on my team any day.

Monday, June 11, 2012

I'm Ready to Start Panicking - Mets Fan Style

My hiatus is over.  I didn't really have time to post as my wife and I welcomed our second kid in to the world.  But I'm back just in time to start panicking over the Mets.

I know I could be overreacting right now as a Mets fan but, I am now in fear of Johan Santana's no-hitter on June 1st being the catalyst in the wheels coming off on their surprising early season.

I shouldn't say the no hitter is the reason, but it's Terry Collins' handling of the pitching staff after the no-hitter.  Johan Santana is a creature of habit.  I completely understand that off of his surgery and 134 pitches you would want to do something to lighten his load, but giving him extra rest was not the way to do it.  By giving him extra rest and shuffling the pitching staff around it created a domino effect that resulted in losing 6 of their last 7.  Just say Santana is on a 110-115 pitch count for each game.  Have him start on normal rest but have him only throw 90-95 pitches.

Lets take a look at the last two series:

June 5th - @Washington - Lost 7-6 in 12
This was Chris Young's first start back from the same surgery Santana had.  As a means to push Santana back the Mets opted to go with a 6 man rotation and start Jeremy Hefner the next night.  So not only was the bullpen shorthanded with Hefner slated to start tomorrow, Jon Rauch had an elbow issue and was unavailable to pitch.  So 5 man bullpen.  My question   Of course it goes 12 innings and the bullpen blows leads in the 8th, 10th and 12th.  Knowing what we know now that the Mets would send down Pedro Beato and keep Jeremy Hefner up when the rotation stabilizes, wouldn't it have been nice to have Hefner available in the pen to eat some more innings instead of stretching Frank Francisco and Elvin Ramirez into second innings?

June 6th - @Washington - Lost 5-3
Hefner didn't pitch terribly after allowing a three-run homer in the 1st but this is where Santana should have been pitching on regular rest.  Based on how he's been this year you'd like to think he would have done as well or better than Hefner did in his 6 innings.

June 7th - @Washington - Won 3-1
Thank god for R.A. Dickey.  On regular rest by the way.

June 8th - June 10th - @ Yankees - Swept all 3 games
It's hard to assume this series would have gone much differently than a sweep even if the Mets staff was on regular rest.  The Friday night game was a foregone conclusion.  Anyone who expected anything from Santana was misguided.  Long rest = disaster for him.  It would have been Niese's turn and there was probably nothing he could have done with the way Kuroda pitched.  Gee on Saturday battled despite not having his best stuff and who knows what Chris Young would have given you on Sunday.

The point is, this is a brutal stretch of schedule for the Mets and as fun as this season has been so far, Mets fans know how fragile it is.  By babying Santana too much, I feel they probably cost themselves a 3-3 stretch in these which is a lot less damaging than 1-5.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

America's Got Talent! Or does it?

I'll start by saying that I am as big of a Howard Stern fan as you can be without being part of the wack pack. I have listened to Sirius exclusively for the last 5 years and wondered how I went without Stern and company for the several years prior to that. That being said, my expectations were not extremely high going into his new gig as a judge on America's Got Talent because quite frankly, the show doesn't interest me. On top of that, the incessant discussion of his addition to AGT has made his radio show borderline unlistenable for the last few months. That being said, this Monday night I sat down with my wife to watch the inaugural episode and I must say, I still have no interest in it.

I think the problem with the show is not the judges, the format or even the extremely dull host Nick Cannon. The problem, at least so far, is the talent. Where other shows compete at one talent (DWTS, American Idol, The Voice), America's Got Talent opens its arms for various talents, which seems to then produce very mediocre talent. The real problem with mediocre talent, is that when someone shows up that has even a shred of chops, they laud them with praise as if we were witnessing something special on stage. To conclude the first episode a father and daughter act sang a very average version of James Taylor's "you've got a friend." The judges gave a standing ovation and Howard went as far as to call them "perfection." Really? You would have thought Sonny & Cher had come back and graced the stage. In fact, two episodes in, I haven't seen anything that seems worth the price of admission, let alone worth a million dollars.

When it comes to the judges, the surprise to me is that Howard Stern is not all that interesting. His comments/criticisms often seem too rehearsed and not witty enough. Howie Mandel, who obviously has more experience with this than Stern, seems much more comfortable and therefor funny, in his judging role. The ratings are down from last year by 30%, but this year they decided to go up against Dancing With the Stars, which is not a small endeavor. In fairness, the season is still young and I do expect both Stern and the talent to get better. I plan on giving it at least 5 episodes before hitting my buzzer.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Best Live Music Venues

As this summer approaches, I find myself getting entrenched in concert mode. In addition to attending the aforementioned Newport Folk Festival and the soon to be announced lineup for the Xponential music festival, I have also gotten tickets for Radiohead, Marillion, Jason Mraz, and hopefully there is more to come. But I have also spent some time reflecting (not really) on the countless concerts I have been too and wide variety of venues (good and bad) that have hosted me. So I decided to take a look back at my concert history and rank the top 10 venues. The only criteria I used is that I had to have been there at least twice, which unfortunately excludes many venues in cities other than Philadelphia and New York.  I also excluded any festival grounds (sorry New Orleans Fairgrounds and Fort Adams!) because that is a whole different concert experience.

10. Johnny Brenda's (Philadelphia, PA) - This venue boasts one of the best microbrew selections and also one of the smallest stages I have ever seen. Overflowing with character and offers a great balcony if you want to be literally on top of the performer. Acts I've seen include Matt Pond PA, A.C. Newman, Rhett Miller

9. House of Blues (Chicago, IL & Atlantic City, NJ) - I decided to combine these two cities just so I could get H.O.B on the list. An obviously iconic place provides a great concert atmosphere, albeit slightly generic. Guster, Matt Pond PA, Maroon 5

8. Theater of the Living Arts (Philadelphia, PA) - A much improved venue from when I originally started going there 10 years ago, the TLA gets some of the best acts in Philly and now offers improved balcony seating. Knock on the TLA is that occasionally alcohol is not allowed on the main floor which sucks. John Mayer, Jason Mraz, Martin Sexton, Portugal.The Man, Mike Doughty, Sufjan Stevens, Flight of the Conchords, Gomez

7. Central Park Summer Stage (New York, NY) - This doesn't need much explaining, great music + central park = awesome. Although I am only two for two at Summer Stage, one of those happens to be a top 5 concert of all time. Guster, Ben Folds, New Pornographers

6. Tin Angel (Philadelphia, PA) - If you are looking for an intimate concert experience, this is it. Every show feels like its happening in your living room and therefore is very predisposed to audience participation and stage banter. I could really make a case for this to be higher on the list because I have never had a bad experience there but it does feel a bit too small at times. Ari Hest, Peter Himmelman, Ellis Paul, Richard Schindell, Grant Lee-Phillips

5. Jones Beach Theater (Wantagh, NY) - This is a nostalgic pick for me, because I haven't been there much in the last 10 years but I can confidently say that is the best open air theater I have ever been too (no, I haven't been to Red Rocks yet). Friendly acoustics, a great breeze, and a beautiful backdrop have made average shows seem much better than average. It is a dry venue and I despise the extra seating added in 1998, but where else can you see Neil Diamond, Iron Maiden, and Dave Matthews Band all in the same summer? James Taylor, Steely Dan, Hootie & the Blowfish, Tom Petty, Rush, Dave Matthews Band

4. Bowery Ballroom (New York, NY) - Ahhh, the Bowery Ballroom. Home to some of the best concert memories of my 20's. I really love everything about this place. Great size, acoustics, and pre-show drinking (bar downstairs is great) make this a sure bet for a fun night out. Not sure if the area around the BB has improved, because that would only make it better. Sloan, Vertical Horizon, Del Amitri

3. The Stephen Talkhouse (Amagansett, NY) - There are way more shows that I kicked myself for not going to then shows I have been too here, which is partly because this place is so much fun and also hard to get to. Another intimate venue, but unlike the Tin Angel this place feels more like you are crashing a party. Small, but friendly bar and a handful of tables if you come early or pay for the premium tickets (hint, its worth it). Martin Sexton, Kathleen Edwards, October Project

2. The Bottom Line* (New York, NY) - Outside of my father, if I had to point to my biggest musical influence growing up it was definitely The Bottom Line. Going to this place as a teenager made me feel connected to music and like I was part of a scene. Fantastic layout, terrific sound and incredible french fries...If I had a dollar for every memory in this place, I would have several dollars. Ellis Paul, Moxy Fruvous, Weird Al Yankovic, Buster Poindexter, Jude Cole, Peter Himmelman, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

1. World Cafe Live (Philadelphia, PA) - Established in 2004, the World Cafe Live has been the most integral part of my live music scene ever since. In a way, it picked up where the Bottom Line left off in the late 90's (other venues filled in during the 6 year interim). The WCL did everything right when they opened and because of that, other venues can only hope to match the various components that make this place great. There is an upstairs, for more acoustic and slightly more obscure acts, that also has a great bar and terrific food. The downstairs is pristine, a beautiful bar, perfect floor space, and an incredibly neat balcony where you can actually purchase cushions on a couch for a show. Top it all off with free shows every Friday sponsored by WXPN (Counting Crows, John Legend, Joe Jackson, Andrew Bird, The National) and it makes sense why I have been there close to 50 times in less than 10 years. Mike Doughty, Bob Schneider, Justin Currie, Rhett Miller, Josh Ritter, Josh Rouse, Joe Henry, Darius Rucker

Venues that just missed or I have only been to once: The Wetlands* (New York, NY), Fez Under Time Cafe* (New York, NY), Scottish Rite Theater (Collingswood, NJ), BB King Blues Club (New York, NY), Newport Blues Cafe (Newport, RI), Irving Plaza (New York, NY) & The Mann Center (Philadelphia, PA)
* indicates venue is no longer open

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Diamond Rugs album makes me feel ________

One day I would like to walk in to one of those dark neighborhood bars at two o' clock in the afternoon, go to the jukebox and put this album on from beginning to end.  You know the type of bar, one with those shuffleboard tables with sawdust on it and only like two or three locals in it.  I want to sit at the bar line up six pints in front of me and just go to work on them as the rest of the album plays out.

Counterpoint: Bob's Newport Folk Festival Top 5

After reading, Keith's blog regarding his top 5 for this years Newport folk festival, I thought it best I add my two cents. Admittedly, I was very disappointed this year when Keith announced that he would not be able to attend New Orleans Jazzfest . To me, that is the festival to end all festivals and although this years lineup wasn't as stellar as years past, I was still greatly looking forward to acts such as My Morning Jacket, Bon Iver, Iron and Wine, & jazz legend Herbie Hancock. I had planned on going to the Newport Folk Festival anyway, but I thought I had missed my opportunity to see MMJ & others in a festival setting this year.

Boy, was I wrong. When the NPFF lineup was announced on March 1st, I was floored. Not only did it match the Jazzfest lineup (which is hard to do because Jazzfest has 7 days of music compared to Newport's 2) it far exceeded it. That is precisely why this festival sold out by mid April (the event had only sold out once before, which was last year in early July) causing many in the Schildt family to wonder why they waited so long to get tickets. So without further adieu, here are the 5 acts I am most looking forward to at this years ridiculous lineup.

Honorable Mentions: Blind Pilot, Deer Tick, Punch Brothers, Alabama Shakes, Iron and Wine

5. Of Monsters & Men - This could easily be my number 2 or 3 if they had hit my radar screen a little earlier. But their 4 song EP followed by their full length "My Head is an Animal" instantly makes them a top 5 for this year. Keith is right in suggesting that Of Monsters and Men are tailor made for this festival. I expect them to blow the proverbial roof off.

4. Jackson Browne - This is a tough one, because currently my interest lies more in seeing bands like Blind Pilot or Alabama Shakes over someone like Jackson Browne. That being said, I grew up a HUGE Jackson Browne fan, and unlike many other iconic singer songwriters of his generation, I feel Browne isn't past his prime. And to me, there is no better setting and venue to see JB, than at the Newport Folk Festival at Fort Adams. Early prediction is that "These Days" or "Late for the Sky" to close out his set on Sunday might will be an epic festival memory.

3. The Head and the Heart - Much like Keith, I was very torn when TH&TH were scheduled opposite Middle Brother last year. I chose the opposite path of my blog collaborator and spent most of my time with the Seattle powerhouse and I never looked back. TH&TH were by far the highlight of last years Newport Folk Festival for me, and my only regret is that I witnessed the epic performance alone. After the festival I missed several chances to see them play sold out shows in New York and Philly, so this year, I am praying that there are no schedule conflicts and I get to enjoy them in their entirety with my festival crew.

2. Wilco - Despite being slightly separate from the actual festival by playing the Friday show, I am extremely stoked about Wilco. I haven't seen them live in I would guess 7 or 8 years, and since then they have added significantly to their catalog with standout albums "Sky Blue Sky" and last years "The Whole Love." The atmosphere will certainly be different than the weekend portion, but in a way I am glad they are playing by themselves. There are so many songs I want to hear them play, I am excited that they will have an extended set to do it.

1. My Morning Jacket - I will agree with Keith on this one without a doubt. They are the best band I have ever seen live, and this festival will give MMJ fans a little something different when they play half of their set acoustic. I cannot wait to see what they decide to rock out too and what they decide to "folk up" for the festival. Jim James is obviously a huge supporter of the NPFF (he is 1 of 5 on the Folk Board Advisers) and I couldn't be happier that he has participated in 3 of the 4 festivals I have been too.

Monday, April 23, 2012

My 2012 Newport Folk Festival Top 5

I was planning on sitting this Newport Folk Festival out. My second kid is going to be born in late May so with two kids and one of them being two months old it seemed easier to be home-bound this summer. The morning the festival was announced I got a text message from Bob (the other contributor of this blog) saying: "Do yourself a favor and don't look that the Newport lineup." Of course I looked and I honestly believe that this is the best festival lineup I've ever seen and there was no way I couldn't try to make this happen. My wife didn't need a lot of convincing and by the end of the day we had our weekend passes and our hotel booked.

I look at the lineup every day wondering how they are going to schedule all these acts that I want to see without there being some major conflicts so I've taken to trying to rank them in order of who I'm looking forward to seeing the most

Barely outside the top 5: Alabama Shakes - I've been hearing Hold On for a few months now but I picked up their new album and been checking out their performances online. I've been loving it so far and I wouldn't be surprised if I made this list in two more months if they wouldn't have forced their way on to it.

5. The Tallest Man on Earth - There are a few bands on this list that I may like better than TTMOE but since I got into The Wild Hunt album a year and a half ago I thought he was tailor made to play at Fort Adams. Even though I probably consider myself more of a Dawes fan than a TTMOE fan (spoiler alert...Dawes are not in my top 5), I'm looking forward to this guy and that venue in a big way.

4. The Head & The Heart - Last year was one of the most difficult festival conflicts I've ever had to face. The Head and The Heart were at Newport last year as well but they were opposite Middle Brother. I was planning on splitting the two sets but only ended up hearing three TH&TH songs. I have no regrets because Middle Brother was awesome but I'm not going to miss TH&TH this time around.

3. Of Monsters and Men - If you asked me to make this list two months ago these guys would not have been on it (not like anyone asked me to make this one). I posted about this album in early April so in the interest of not being redundant. Check it out here. I can't listen to this album without imagining seeing these songs live at the Newport Folk Festival

2. Deer Tick - I was not overly familiar with Deer Tick last year. I got in to the Middle Brother album in preparation for the NFF last year and ended up loving it and branching out in to Deer Tick, Delta Spirit and Dawes off of that. My friend ended up getting tickets to the Newport Blue Cafe one night where Deer Tick was taking up residency for a few nights. When we walked in it felt like we crashed a party. Since that time I've listened to Deer Tick probably more than any band between last NFF and this upcoming one. This time I'm looking forward to feeling like I was invited to the party.

1. My Morning Jacket - No brainer. The best live touring band out there as well as my favorite band. As a matter of fact, it was the 2008 NFF that got me in to them to begin with. Jim James played a solo set that year and he was the "man of the Newport Folk Festival." He was coming out with She & Him, Calexico and you'd see him all over the place checking out different acts. Two months later I saw MJJ for the first time as a band in Philly and this NFF will me my 12th.

Think about the fact that I had to leave bands like Dawes, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, New Multitudes, Conor Oberst, Sharon Van Etten and Blind Pilot off the list. Those bands would make for a great festival themselves.

Also, check out my Spotify playlist for acts playing at this year's Fest:  Newport Folk Festival 2012

***Addition***-In case you missed it, Bob wrote his companion list: Check it out