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.