Saturday, December 28, 2013

Bob's (Abbreviated) Best of 2013 List

This has been a very strange year for me. Changing jobs and states has caused me to miss a lot of 2013, namely sports, movies & music. That being said, this transition has also caused me to take a blog hiatus so I thought I could ease my way back into the fray with an abbreviated "Best Of" list for the year.

Best Movie: The Way Way Back

In a year that I saw very few movies, it says something that I have seen this one twice. To me, this is the movie that I aspire to write. Hilariously funny at times, yet poignant and well written throughout. It does not rest on the comedic laurels of Sam Rockwell (who may be the most underrated actor of this generation), but instead seamlessly weaves in other interesting complex characters like Steve Carell & Toni Colette. Newcomer Liam James settles in nicely to this classic coming of age movie.

Best Album: Vampire Weekend "Modern Vampires of the City"

I almost backed off this album because like every other Vampire Weekend CD, it dominated my summer listening and then tapered off when the fall rolled around. That being said, this CD is great start to finish. "Obvious Bicycle" and "Don't Lie" standout as some of the best tracks of this very unpredictable, yet consistent collection of tracks.

Best Song: "Royals" by Lorde
I understand that this isn't a "cool" or "unique" selection, but this song takes the cake for me for a few reasons. First of all, because Lorde came out of nowhere. Not just from a popularity standpoint, but also from a geographical standpoint. To have a song become that mainstream without pop-factory lyrics is a pretty rare thing. I still dig it after hearing it a few hundred times.

Worst Movie: Now You See Me
I really hated this movie on so many levels. First and most importantly, it was totally absurd. I can suspend disbelief for the right story, but there were far too many holes to look past. I shouldn't be surprised that the writer who brought us "Super Mario Bros" and the director who brought us "Transporter 2 & The Hulk" would produce this 2 hour waste, but I am surprised that so many people like it.

Friday, December 20, 2013

My Incredibly Fantastic Favorite Christmas Song List

Two years ago my counterpart on this blog wrote his Christmas Song list.  I didn't want to be redundant that year so I sat and I waited two whole years to unveil my Top 10 Christmas Songs.

10. Christmas Is the Time to Say "I Love You" - Billy Squier
I'm fine with traditional Christmas songs but when I'm driving around looking at Christmas lights or drinking egg nog with family and friends I like my Christmas songs upbeat and fun.  This song is most certainly that.

9. 2000 Miles - Pretenders
Though not intended as a Christmas song, it's only played at Christmas time and I love it. If you are going to have "Christmastime" as a lyric in a song, it's going to become a Christmas song.

8. Do They Know It's Christmas? - Band Aid
For tonight thank God it's them instead of meeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!  Nuff said.

7. Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree - Brenda Lee
A classic Christmas party song that no one should ever try to cover.  It's perfect just like this.

6. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings - Barenaked Ladies (with Sarah McLachlan) We Three Kings is my favorite traditional Christmas carol.  Barenaked Ladies covered it in a way that you can put it on a Christmas Party mix without bringing down the mood while respecting the integrity of the carol.

5. It's The Most Wonderful Time of The Year - Andy Williams
This song immediately makes me want to throw on a Santa hat and skip around my house while whipping strands of garland around like a rhythmic gymnast.  One thing I don't relate to in this song is telling scary ghost stories at Christmas time.  To each their own though.

4. Christmas All Over Again - Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
See my blurb for #10.  Except this song it better.

3. Thanks For Christmas - XTC
One of the most underrated Christmas songs out there.  I wish it got more play.  It says everything I feel about Christmas.

2. What Christmas Means to Me - Stevie Wonder
I tend to sing this one louder than any other Christmas song when I'm alone in my car.  I wish it was longer.

1. Father Christmas - The Kinks
This song doesn't conjure up warm and fuzzy Christmas feelings but I only listen to it at Christmas song and it's still amazing.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Week 14 Jets Rant - With a Chart!

Remember last month when the Jets beat New Orleans and were 5-4 with a bye week and the lowly 3-7 Buffalo Bills coming up next?  That was a good time.

Even though Jets fans were riding high after the New Orleans win, signs the wheels were about to come off the season actually started that week.  It was the week they put the training wheels on Geno Smith.  The Jets had some brutal games against New England, Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati but something about them was oddly watchable.  They were throwing the ball down the field.  Since the Cincinnati game in Week 8, Geno Smith hasn't completed double digit passes in a game.  The Jets defense is pretty good but not good enough to overcome three and outs over and over again. 

I'm on record as a Mark Sanchez apologist but I was slowly getting on board with Geno Smith a little bit.  It was probably more on board with Marty Mornhinweg but either way, the Jets offense was moving the ball a little.  It was encouraging.  But when they overachieved to the point where the playoffs were a possibility they then decided that they weren't going to let Geno blow it for them.  But that's exactly what they did.  Geno can say all the right things in the media but the Jets shattered his confidence and he's now a historically bad quarterback.  He's broken and I don't want to watch him any more.  The sweet line graph below shows the decrease in first downs the Jets are getting per game.  The line indicates when Geno's training wheels were put on.

The question now becomes what do the Jets owe to their fans going forward?  We're coming up to Week 14 now and Geno Smith has started every game.  If the Jets haven't seen all they need to see from this guy, then I am very concerned.  I'm not going to say I want to see Matt Simms start or I want to see David Garrard start since none of them are the long term answer either, so I'll just say I want to see Not Geno Smith as the Jets QB.  They've thrown up three consecutive "no competes" and it's very hard to watch.  I just need to see something different.  From a franchise standpoint I get why they have to start Geno Smith but if they have to do it, can they please open up the playbook again?  If we have to keep watching this guy, then can we at least see the ball travel more than 6 yards in the air?  I can take the turnovers to an extent if we're trying to push the ball down field.  If the Jets are still evaluating Geno Smith can they at least evaluate him by letting him do something?

I know John Idzik is trying build something here but at the same time don't the fans deserve a somewhat watchable product?

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Ball is Tipped...College Hoops 2013-2014

Although it doesn't come with the pomp and circumstance of MLB's Opening Day or the anticipation of the first weekend of NFL games, college basketball(and their television partners) seem to be making an effort in recent years to put some quality games together for the opening night slate.  Last year we had Kentucky/Maryland and UConn/Michigan State.  The Syracuse/San Diego State aircraft carrier debacle did put a slight damper on the evening but at least the effort was there.  Compare that to the opening night of games in 2011 where we had Arizona/Valparaiso, St. John's/William & Mary and Mississippi State/Eastern Kentucky.  That was it.  Even as a die hard college basketball fan those three games don't really move the needle (although as a die hard St. John's fan, it moved mine).

This year it looks like(on paper) that there are even more watchable games on tap for opening night.  Everyone is talking about UConn/Maryland, Oregon/Georgetown and Duke/Davidson.  I'm looking at three lesser talked about games that I think should be interesting watches:

-Boston College at Providence:  This is an under the radar game no one is talking about.  I'm very high on Providence.  Brandon Austin is one of the early front runners for Big East Rookie of the Year so his suspension hurts some but this team returns the Kadeem Betts, LaDontae Henton, Kris Dunn and leading scorer Bryce Cotton.  And once they get Austin back, that's a formidable starting five.  I haven't seen them picked higher than 6th in the Big East.  It wouldn't shock me at all if they finish in the top half of the conference.  Boston College has a chance to be sneaky good too.  Oliver Hanlan, Ryan Anderson and Joe Rahon are three solid options.  BC has a good chance to finish in the middle of the pack in the ACC which will classify as a pretty good season going forward in that mega conference.  I think we are looking at two teams here that, at worst case, on the NCAA Tournament bubble come march.

-St. John's vs. Wisconsin:  I have no questions about Bo Ryan's ability to coach defense but I am curious as to how defensive oriented teams like Wisconsin handle the new rule changes.  Win or lose this game, Wisconsin will be in the tournament and towards the top of the Big 10.  This is a big game for St. John's and the new Big East.  As much as Steve Lavin is trying to keep the expectations lowered, this is an immensely athletic roster  which should make the NCAA Tournament.  An early season win against a Big 10 power would be a nice statement for the Big East and St. John's.

-Florida Gulf Coast at Nebraska:  I know, I know.  Nebraska has been widely considered the worst team in the Big 10 during the preseason but if you're a college basketball fan and got swept up in Dunk City last March, don't you want to see if Joe Cooley keeps these guys playing with the same style and fearlessness?  Don't you want to see Brett Comer throwing lobs to Chase Fieler?  Aren't you curious to see what the transfers from high majors, Jamail Jones(Marquette) and Nate Hicks(Georgia Tech), add to the team?

Honorable Mention:
-Buffalo at Texas A&M:  The start of the Bobby Hurley era at UB.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Mark Sanchez Apologist

One rule I have about sports betting is that I can't bet for or against my favorite teams.  Winning money on my team losing doesn't lessen the blow of the loss and I'm just superstitious enough to believe that maybe if I didn't bet on my favorite team to win that they wouldn't have lost.  I'm aware it's irrational, yet I still don't want to feel those feelings.

So yesterday was "big" news from Jets camp.  Although it's been unofficial for over a week, Geno Smith was officially named the starter for Week 1.  The reason I brought up the sports betting is that the Jets Win Total in Vegas right now is 6.  If I was capable of betting on this, I think the under is a pretty solid bet with Geno Smith playing.  He's not ready.  If Sanchez was starting the season I would have been more inclined to take the over.  Don't get me wrong, the Jets are not a playoff caliber team but if I'm putting a number to it, I believe Sanchez is worth at least 2-3 wins more than Geno Smith right now.

So after everything I've seen during the Mark Sanchez era, how can I justify a statement like that?  Easier than you think:

2009-2010 - These years are easy.  Two AFC Championships games and beat Tom Brady and Peyton Manning on the road in the playoffs.  Also overlooked is his 9:3 TD to INT ratio in the postseason. 

2011 - Sure he turned the ball over 22 times but it wasn't all negative.  He also accounted for 32 touchdowns (26 passing, 6 rushing).  He was only one of seven QBs to reach that amount that year.  Also take in to account that they chose Santonio Holmes over Braylon Edwards(whom Sanchez obviously had a better re pore with) after the 2010 season and replaced him with a fresh from prison Plaxico Burress.  They also let one of his favorite security blankets get away in Jerricho Cotchery and replaced him with a finished Derrick Mason.  If you watched that year you saw Plaxico and Mason weren't able to get any separation.  He was routinely throwing to covered receivers.  The Jets missed the playoffs and took a step back as a team, but Mark Sanchez actually showed me the ability to put TDs on the board.

2012 - Of course Sanchez takes a lot of blame for last year.  It was a terrible year.  But I also put a lot of it on Tony Sparano.  Brian Schottenheimer wasn't a great offensive coordinator, but at least he was an offensive coordinator.  Rex Ryan has made a lot of decisions that people question over the years, but for me the worst decision he made was bringing in Sparano to run the offense.  Week to week it looked like the team didn't even have a game plan.  I don't know if any quarterback could have succeeded in that "system" last year.

I'm not saying that Mark Sanchez's leash should have been infinite; I just really wanted to give him one more year under an actual offensive coordinator.  I'm not saying Marty Mornhinweg is some offensive wizard who could have saved Sanchez's career or anything but like Brian Schottenheimer, he's a guy who at least has a plan week to week.  If Sanchez fell on his head this year then I was fine going with Geno Smith at some point.  But as an organization it was always going to be harder to go from Geno Smith back to Mark Sanchez then it was going to be going from Mark Sanchez to Geno Smith.  So now that it is Geno Smith from Week 1, I imagine we'll never see Mark Sanchez throw another pass in a Jets uniform. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Review: Mike Doughty at City Winery (7/31/13)

I wasn't ready for the live music buzz of the Newport Folk Festival to be over, so I decided to head into NYC last night to catch Mike Doughty's first show at City Winery. Although I have seen Doughty almost a dozen times, I was excited to hear him playing Soul Coughing songs for the first time in quite a while and I was dying to check out the venue.

Before I get to describing City Winery itself, I must say that this may be the most poorly located music venue in all of the city. I used to think that the Wetlands was bad (right at the exit of the Holland tunnel) but turns out being at the entrance to the Holland tunnel is far worse. After cruising through the first 60 miles of the trip from CT, the last 5 miles took me well over an hour. Ultimately, I ended up parked 10 blocks away and I definitely learned to avoid trying to get close to the venue next time.

As for City Winery itself, I would say that I really liked it, but not quite loved it. For starters, it is significantly bigger than I was expecting. Several of the tables in the back would be further away than the farthest points in most venues of this size (Joes Pub, BB Kings).Because of that, it wasn't nearly as intimate as I was expecting (unless you were seated with strangers as my friend and I were, and in that case it felt very intimate). That being said, the tickets were affordable, the food was solid, and the sound was terrific.

At this point in Mike Doughty's solo career, I'm not exactly sure why he would dip into the well of Soul Coughing songs. He has made his feelings abundantly clear that he wanted to separate himself from the band and their songs, but maybe this was a way to sell some extra tickets. Or perhaps he is tired of people screaming out requests for "Circles" and he just caved. Either way, it worked because the room was filled with people eager to hear both solo and Soul Coughing material.

This was a solo acoustic show which, although definitely missing something without Andrew Scrap Livingston, is always an enjoyable and raw experience. Before engaging with the audience, he launched into Ruby Vroom's "Janine," which was a great start and by no means an accident as it references the nearby Holland tunnel. He also later played other fantastic SC songs including "True Dreams of Wichita," "Sleepless," "St.Louise is Listening," "Unmarked Helicopters" and "Circles."

But the real treat of the show was how heavily he relied on Haughty Melodic. It was one of the 3 solo albums he chose for the first show, and he played "I Hear the Bells," "You're Misfortune," "Looking at the World From the Bottom of a Well," "Sunken-Eyed Girl," "Bustin Up a Starbucks" and "American Car." Sprinkle in "27 Jennifers," "Take me Home (Country Roads)," "Mistress" and a few others and it was a set that I would have handpicked myself.

The biggest complaint I have is that it was way too short of a show. Although he can cram 20+ songs in 80 minutes, it definitely left me wanting to hear more. In fact if the lag time in between the early show and the late show wasn't as long as the actual concert (it was also 80 minutes) I might have considered staying for both. All in all, a fun night but next time I'll get tickets for both shows and take the subway.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Random Thoughts during the MLB All-Star Game

I have been so MIA lately, that I feel the need to blog, and blog big. And what is bigger than the annual baseball classic? The answer is, well, several things. But I'm going to do it anyway. I'm not sure how to set this up so I'm a gonna jump right in and live blog while I watch.

NL lineup being announced, Edward Mujica looks Amish. I assume you capitalize the A in Amish, but I'm not sure. It's not a religion, I guess it's more like being an eskimo. Should that be capitalized?

I can't believe that both JJ Hardy and Chris Tillman of the Orioles are all-stars. Hardy is batting .251 and Tillman has an E.R.A. that's almost 4, was there no one else deserving?

Yadier Molina has a sick neck tattoo. I don't think there is a scarier thing you can do to your body than get a tat on your neck. Throw in a bandana covering your mouth and I'm terrified. If you compare today's gangstas to the gangstas of the 80's, there is no comparison. I'd deal with a guy in a Raiders baseball cap any day of the week.

Matt Harvey starting this game is cool. I have become a very big fan, especially after watching this bit on the Jimmy Fallon show. Classic, very cool dude.

2013 American Idol winner Candace Glover? Granted, I don't watch the show but how is it possible that I have never even heard that name before? Pretty talented kid though.

When are we going to replace Joe Buck and tim McCarver? Buck is such a tool. He just said "no duh." And McCarver seems like he was just rescued from a senior center.

Tom Seaver is about the throw out the first pitch. Admittedly, I don't know enough about his career. Let me look it up. 12 x all-star, 3x Cy Young, 171 complete games and 311 wins. Those are some intense stats.The Mets traded him for Pat Zachry, Steve Henderson, Doug Flynn and Dan Norman. They spiralled out of control and finished in last place the next 3 seasons.

Mariano Rivera is the absolute tit. Its pretty cool that the AL team is focused on winning this game for him.

Mike Trout leadoff double. Cano HBP. This Matt Harvey guy stinks. Cabrera strikes out on a wicked slider.  Cano being taken off the field, he's done. This could be potentially devastating for the Yankees. It could single handidly end their season if it's serious. It could also single handidly change my thoughts on Harvey. Davis flies to center. Bautista strikes out. Harvey is back and better than ever.

This Chevy Silverado comercial makes me want to buy a pickup truck and I hate pickup trucks. Well done ad wizzards.

Got a phone call and by the time I was off the NL was mowed down 1-2-3.

Tom Seaver has one of the most horrendous shirts on now. It's all butterflies. I'm dead serious.

AL down in order. I'm starting to get bored.

How is Chris Sale 6-8 with an E.R.A. under 3? Thats bonkers. NL down in order too. I don't know if i'll be able to finish my 6 pack if it keeps at this pace.

Kershaw dealing, one down. Ken Rosenthal is talking now, but I don't know what he is saying, I can only see red. He needs to get punched. Speaking of needing to get punched, Pedroia steps up to the plate.

X-Rays negative on Cano's knee. Remember, negative = good.

Bottom of the 3rd commencing. Sale vs. Tulo. Sale vs. Cuddyer. Sale vs. Harper. Inning.

Tyler Corbin for the NL. First bit of action in a while as Cabrera takes him to the gap for a standup double. No outs, lets see if the AL can plate a run. Davis rips a single to right, Miggy holds at 3rd. Bautista hits a deep fly to center. AL is on the board, 1-0. Double play to end the inning.
AL 1 - NL 0

Beltran leads off the bottom half of the 4th with a single off King Felix. McCutchen pinch running, steals 2nd. Moved over to 3rd and now Wright has to drive him in with 2 outs. He does not.

Adams Jones leads off the 5th with a laser double off Cliff Lee. Mauer sneaks a single through the left side, runners at the corners. Hardy grounder up the middle, almost a nifty DP, but instead it's an RBI groundout. Trout ends the inning with an executed DP.
AL 2 - NL 0

3 more outs.

Jason Grilli seems like a cool dude. It's almost impossible not to root for the Pirates, I can get behind this run even though I don't think they're going to sustain this Cinderella season.

3 more outs.

Bottom half of the 6th, Balfour in. Harper down. Carpenter up. This Balfour/Carpenter matchup is what we've all been waiting for. Boo, fly out. HUGE letdown. McCutchen K's. Inning over. The music of Phoenix plays them out. You don't know what that means? Neither does Bill O'Reilly.

Walk, double play, strikeout. Moving to the bottom of the 7th.

Sick play by Machado to nail Goldschmidt at first to start the inning.Cecil in to pitch to Domonic Brown and mows him down. With that crazy shift, I still don't get why guys don't bunt there. Leyland managing this like it's game 7, another pitching change. Delabar pitching to Posey. Sweet splitter to get Posey swining. I will now go back to not knowing who Steve Delabar is.

Perez leads off the 8th with a basehit. I can't wait until this game is over. Pheralta bloops a single, two on, no out. Torii Hunter is at the dish against Kimbrel. Battle of guys I dig. 6-3 DP, runner moves to 3rd. Mariano warms up and is ready for the 8th. Kipnis doubles to deep left, AL up 3-0. Inning over.

Neil Diamond on to sing Sweet Caroline. Not sure I am on board with this development.

Maybe I missed the explanation, but why is Mo pitching the 8th instead of the 9th?

First batter faced is Segura. He grounds out to start the inning. Allen Craig up and hits a rocket to LF, snagged by Gordon. 1-2 now against Gomez. Not exacty murderers row this inning. Grounder to short, inning over. Slightly anticlimactic, thanks to Jim Leyland.

Leadoff triple by Prince Fielder in the top of the 9th doesn't get the AL another run. Moving on to bottom of the 9th for Joe Nathan.

First two up, first two down. Comes down to Goldy against Nathan. He launches a loooong double. I really wish I kept him in my fantasy baseball league. I'll never get over it. Pedro Alvarez time, another fantasy castoff. Popped him up. Game over.

Sale gets the win, Rivera gets the hold, Corbin gets the loss, and I get the award for worst blog idea ever.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Navigating the 2013 Newport Folk Festival

 Like last year, I'm going to try to outline how I'm going to navigate this year's Newport Folk Festival.

This year the Newport Folk Festival announced their lineup in rolling fashion instead of the whole lineup at once.  I thought there were pros and cons to doing it this way.  The biggest pro though was that it gave me ample time to listen to a band I wasn't overly familiar with without being overwhelmed with having to do the same with the other handful of bands I was going to need to spend some time with prior to the fest. 

As the lineup was rolled out, I knew I was excited to see (in no particular order), The Mountain Goats, John McCauley, Jim James, Father John Misty, Colin Meloy, Trombone Shorty, The Avett Brothers and The Lumineers. 

But since the announcements ended I've immersed myself in mostly artists who were playing the festival and started to look forward to acts like Hey Marseilles, Kingsley Flood, The Last Bison, Phosphorescent, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Houndmouth, The Long Bellow, Shovels and Rope and Lord Huron.  At one point I purposely stopped listening to NFF bands in fear that I was starting to like too many of them and I was setting myself up for some conflict disappointments.

But now that the schedule is out and I've had a day or two to sit with it, this is how I plan to navigate this year's festival:

2:30pm - 3:15pm
The festival immediately kicks off with a big conflict.  This comes down to Hey Marseilles and Kingsley Flood.  I like both of these guys but over the last few weeks Kingsley Flood's Battles has become one of my favorite albums from anyone playing at this festival.

3:35pm - 5:50pm
I'm going to head over to the Harbor Stage to see The Mountain Goats.  I've been in to their latest album since it came out but I'll probably cut out of that set a little early to try to catch the end of Phosphorescent since I'll be heading over their anyway.

6:10pm - 7:05pm
I plan on seeing John McCauley's whole set.  I'm a fan of Deer Tick and his other side projects so I'm hoping to hear him break out a song or two from Middle Brother and Diamond Rugs.

7:10pm - End of Day
I'll take the temperature of the group.  I'm going with two kids (1 and 3) so if it's not time to go yet I'll head over and see Old Crow Medicine Show.

11:45am - 2:30pm
I'm positive I'm starting my day off with Hurray for the Riff Raff but from their it becomes a mess.  The Lone Bellow and Houndmouth are a pretty big conflict for me.  I'm probably going to lean Houndmouth being that Penitentiary is a top 5 songs I most want to hear at the festival.  So ideally I'll be able to hop back and forth through the tunnel and hear some of Rayland Baxter and The Lone Bellow before settling in for the Houndmouth set.

2:30pm - 3:15pm
Bounce back over to Shovels and Rope and catch 45 minutes of there set while preparing to come to the cruelest conflict of all.

3:25pm - 4:55pm
I celebrate Jim James' entire catalog.  MMJ, his solo, Monsters of Folk and New Multitudes.  So it's a no-brainer that I'll be at the Fort Stage for the start of his set.  The shocker of all shockers for a big Jim James fan like myself...I am going to leave it early for Father John Misty.  Probably.  I do like Jim James solo but based on his other festival set lists, leaving early means I'm probably missing Wonderful or Bermuda Highway and one of his Monsters of Folk songs.  Luckily I saw a Jim James solo set in Philadelphia earlier in the year so it takes the sting out a little bit.  At the same time though, I'm seeing Father John Misty in NYC three days before Newport.  Fear Fun is my favorite album of 2012 and it's probably every 4th album I still listen to.  Being that I will have seen them both prior means that I can probably stop driving myself crazy with this decision and just go with the flow.

4:50pm - 6:15pm
There is almost a half hour between Father John Misty and Colin Meloy so I'll go over and catch some Trombone Shorty.  From there I'll decide whether or not I want to do one more bounce back and forth between Trombone Shorty and Colin Meloy at the Quad Stage.  Because there is no way I'm not going to be at the Fort Stage again at 6:15.

6:15pm - 7:30pm
The Avett Brothers were the announcement that really put this festival over the top for me.  I've been a fan for a few years and I saw them a few years ago at Mountain Jam and was really looking forward to the next time I was going to see them live again.  Just a great live band.

Sunday for me doesn't have as many "must-sees" for me as Friday and Saturday which honestly might be a nice change of pace.  It'll allow me more freedoms to just go where the wind takes me and bounce around to a few different sets.  I do know that I'm planning on catching a lot of Black Prairie and Lord Huron.  The act I'm most looking forward to on Sunday is The Lumineers.  Their debut album is great from beginning to end.

Newport Countdown Playlist

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Yasiel Puig and the MLB All Star Game

I normally don't care about the MLB All Star Game.  Sure, as a baseball fan, I'll peek to see who made the team when it's announced but that doesn't mean I'm going to watch it.  The one interesting debate regarding this year's All Star Game is on the candidacy of the Dodgers' Yasiel Puig.

Puig has played in only 27 of the Dodgers 82 games thus far (roughly 33%) but since his call up, he has had arguably the best 27 game start to a major league career.  He's hitting .443 with 8 home runs and 21 runs scored and his tear is still going strong.

So based on only 27 games, does Yasiel Puig deserve to be on the National League All Star team?  Is it fair to another player who might be deserving and has played the whole year?  For me, my answer is yes.

Now if a similar situation happened in 2002, my answer is different.  Once Bud Selig (stupidly) made the All-Star game determine home field advantage for the World Series, roster fairness became a little less important.  I understand that Puig doesn't have the sample size where you're confident he'll keep this up in the second half (and he definitely won't), but the National League is trying to win this game now.  So what if after the All-Star game Puig hits .150 with no home runs and never plays in the majors again? So what if 2013 is a year we look back on and laugh when we see Puig's name on the All-Star team.  The All-Star game is, first and foremost, a game for the fans.  Yasiel Puig has captured the imagination of baseball fans in first his 106 at bats.  Couple that with the fact that there is something at stake in the All-Star game, why not capitalize right now on using MLB's hottest player? It seems to me that his inclusion on the roster should be a no-brainer.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

My First Experience with Netlfix Original Content

I recently finished the Netflix original series House of Cards.  I've watched full series on Netflix before but this was my first foray in to original content on a platform like this.  The pros of this kind of programming roll out are obvious.

Even though the full season was released on February 1st, I didn't start watching it until early April.  Normally, if I plan on watching a television series, I'll be there from the beginning.  Not necessarily because I'm really looking forward to it, but I don't like to have anything spoiled for me.  My daily magazine and Internet reading material has the potential to spoil things for me if I fall too far behind.  Or if it becomes a buzz worthy show, my friends might accidentally clue me in on something I may not know.  I guess I have an unnatural desire to be caught up.  But this is where the biggest con comes in.  I did watch the season yet I feel like if I did want to talk about it, I'm on an island.  Even the one person who I thought would watch it if it was on regular television doesn't have Netflix and has no urgency to subscribe.  He figured he'll just "Free Trial" it when Arrested Development Season 4 gets released and plow through them both then.  (Without being spoilery) Luckily, House of Cards isn't a water cooler show.  It was entertaining but there isn't really a lot I would want to text a friend about after watching a new episode.  It actually felt like I was watching a show that aired on basic cable last year and I was just catching up.

With Arrested Development on the other hand, I'm actually worried about how that whole viewing experience is going to go.  That was a show me and my friends would talk about and quote for the whole week before the next one aired.  What if everyone I know doesn't devour at least half the season on May 26th?  How will I know which quotes and can throw in to conversations and when it's okay to do it so?  First world problems I guess.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My Thoughts on the Revis Trade and The Upcoming Draft

I'll start with the Darrelle Revis trade.  It's tough to lose (who I thought was) the best defensive player in the NFL but I'm in support of it.  Ideally I would have liked to get another mid-round pick in this year's or next year's draft but still, I think it's a move that had to be made.

I'm in agreement with the Jets philosophy that no matter how good a player he might be, you don't pay a corner back $16,000,000 a year.  I'm shocked that Revis took no guaranteed money in his deal.  There is no way he plays out that contract.  Right now Tampa Bay can afford that luxury because most of their contributing pieces are still on their first contract.  When Doug Martin, Lavonte David, Mike Williams, Mark Barron and Mason Foster (etc.) start needing new contracts, on top of deciding whether or not to give Josh Freeman big money, freeing up Revis' money as he gets to 30 years old is going to start looking more and more like a good solution to those problems.

I'm also tired of hearing that the Jets could have offered the same deal with no guaranteed money.  What would have been the point?  The Jets aren't Darrelle Revis away from a Super Bowl.  Why pay him 16 million a year if the they are trying to rebuild?  Having two picks in the top half of the first round is a great opportunity to accelerate the rebuilding process a little.

One thing I'm not going to miss about Darrelle Revis is the constant threat of holding out and accusing everyone of lying to him.  Every off-season (including this one) has been exhausting as fan.  And he's going around saying the Jets never even tried to offer him a contract.  If his agents made it clear that they weren't budging on 16 million a year and the Jets are philosophically opposed to paying a CB that type of money, why should he have expected them to?  And as far as the Jets telling Revis that they planned on him being a Jet this year is all part of the business.  The Jets had little to no leverage to begin with, if Idzek tells Revis that they have every intention of trading him the they lose even what little they had.  He needs to stop taking the business side of football so personally.  Especially since somewhere someone always is willing to pay him.  It's not like he's ever been getting ripped off.  Out of college, after his holdout, the Jets paid him above slot.

After all the bad press the Jets get, it is very important they don't mess up this draft.  Especially the first round.  That's why, although it's not the sexy thing to do, I play it super safe.  I'm worried that most mocks have the Jets taking Barkevious Mingo at 9.  He's undersized and only managed 4.5 sacks his last year in college.  That sounds like too much bust potential for me.  I'm not interested in Jarvis Jones at 13 either.  Normally I'm all about the guy who produces over the guy with measurables but if I'm the Jets I can't risk taking a guy with Spinal Stenosis.  It has already cut short a few careers already and Jones is already going to be a 24 year old rookie.  Too risky.  I think with one of the two picks they need to take one of the guards, Jonathan Cooper or Chance Warmack.  Putting one of those on a line with Nick Mangold and D'Brickashaw Ferguson in their prime would be a can't miss pick.  I also would like for the Jets to immediately replace Revis.  Granted, Dee Milliner can't replace Revis but I've been very disappointed in Kyle Wilson's development and the thought of him lining up as the other starting CB does scare me a little.  Chances are he's not around by the 9th pick but if he is, I think they have to grab him. 

I know everyone says the Jets need a pass rusher in this draft.  I don't disagree but their situation cries out for just taking the best player available.  It'd be nice if it Dion Jordan or Ezekiel Ansah fell down to them but other than those guys I'd stay away from a pass rusher in the first round.

Some other guys I wouldn't mind seeing the Jets take later:

-Miguel Maysonet, RB, Stony Brook
Being a Long Islander, having a local guy on the Jets would be fun.  And they do need another RB.

-Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
I love Lattimore.  I don't think I'd take him before the 4th round but based on who he is, and how hard he works, someone will take a chance on him somewhere in the 3rd.

-Denard Robinson, ATH, Michigan
Granted, he has little experience as a WR but instead of taking Tavon Austin at 9 overall, why not take a chance on a play maker in the 4th or 5th round.  **Added bonus, if Rex still believes in the Wildcat, this guy is ideal.

**I'm only partially kidding

-Phillip Thomas, S, Fresno State
The Jets are in dire need of safeties.  They signed Dawan Landry who is more of an in the box safety and while I really can't speak to Thomas' coverage skills on tape, I value production and he had 8 picks last year

Monday, April 22, 2013

I Really Like (And Am Going to Miss) New Jersey

In the winter of 2001, I moved from Long Island to a cozy one bedroom apartment in Lawrenceville, New Jersey with my soon to be wife. From that day forward, New Jersey has hosted almost all of my major life events. It has seen me change jobs not once, not twice, but three times. It has seen me get engaged and married, both events taking place in New Jersey. It has also seen my wife and I get pregnant and have our first child. That’s just the tip of the iceberg for the great state that I called home…until now. Starting today, I officially work in Connecticut. And although I still own our dream home in Collingswood (anyone want to buy it?), it’s only a matter of months before that chapter is closed. In honor of New Jersey, here are my top ten things I will miss the most.

10. Not Pumping My Own (Cheap) Gas: This may seem trivial, until you live here and have to leave the state for any reason. Quite simply, this is a major luxury. As if getting gas for 30-50 cents less a gallon wasn’t enough, pulling up during a rain or snow storm and not having to get out of the car is very big deal.
9. Princeton:  This is the town by which I measure all towns. It has the perfect blend of shopping (ZoĆ«), fantastic restaurants (Mediterra & Triumph), bars (Tigers Tale) & culture. Throw in one of the most beautiful college campuses and you’re all set for a perfect weekend.
8. The Jersey Shore: Admittedly, I never became quite the shore aficionado that I wanted to. That being said, The Jersey Shore is fantastic. No other state can boast the amount and variety of beach towns that Jersey can which makes it impossible not to find the one that’s right for you. Me, I’m a Cape May guy.
7. Sports Culture: Other than the Devils, NJ claims no other major team to be their own. But try telling that to the Yankees and Giants fans of North/Central Jersey and the Phillies and Eagles fans of South Jersey. And yes, we have the New Metlife stadium where both the Giants & Jets play, but we also have Campbell’s Field & Arm & Hammer Park which are beautiful kid friendly parks.
6. Philadelphia: Before you curse me out, hear me out. I know that New Jersey doesn’t need Philadelphia to be awesome. But we have it, and that’s awesome too. More than half the population of New Jersey can get to Philadelphia in less than an hour and I have had the luxury of living 5 miles away for the past 7 years. This city is easy to get in and out of, boasts restaurants that rival New York’s best and have without a doubt the best selection of live music venues of any major city I have ever been to.
5. Live Music: As I just mentioned, Philly has no shortage of great music venues. But you can add that to the plethora of bars, coffee houses, and stadiums of NJ. From the larger Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden and the PNC Banks Arts Center in Holmdel to the more intimate Maxwell’s in Hoboken and the famous The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, one could ask, who needs New York?
4. Location, location, location: This is real estate 101, and the whole state qualifies. Proximity to everything is a huge advantage to living in New Jersey. And if you can deal with the occasional logjam on the Turnpike, you can get to New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, The Shore and even Washington DC in less than a few hours.
3. Collingswood: Man I am going to miss this town. As my wife and I scouted potential towns in Connecticut, I couldn’t help but think that none offer the culture, cuisine and comforts of Collingswood. The BYOB restaurants are second to none (see Zeppoli, Indeblue, & Sappori) and the farmers market remains the best I have ever been to. If that’s not enough, throw in best restaurant for families in South Jersey (The Pop Shop), a Patco Station & the Scottish Rite Auditorium.
2. Jersey Pride: I don’t even love Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, or Pork Roll but I love the fact the New Jerseyans do. The people of New Jersey have a pride that is unmatched in other states and that is evidenced any time the people of the state need to band together. Anyone who witnessed the pride and resilience of the towns affected by Hurricane Sandy no exactly what I’m talking about.
1. The Food: This could be a separate blog all its own. It has been near impossible to lose weight in this state (Gov. Christie I feel your pain). Everywhere you turn, there are the best wings, the best Italian food and the best hoagies. And as restaurateurs leave the major cities for the suburbs, we are starting to see 4 star restaurants popping up everywhere from New Brunswick to Jersey City.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Quick Thought on the Mike Rice Situation

Really quick on Mike Rice, he should have been fired and now he was.  Now the focus will be on Rutgers AD Tim Pernetti and should he retain his job.  In my opinion I can't make that decision without knowing whether or not his coaching methods calmed down after his suspension and fine earlier in the year.  A part of me respects the fact that he gave Rice another chance and opted to try to "rehabilitate" him over firing him immediately.  Now your hearing stuff like, "how can Pernetti fire him now when he saw the tape and chose not to fire him in the fall?"  To me, the answer is obvious.  Now that the tape became public, Mike Rice will never be able to walk in to a recruits house and win the living room ever again.  This day in age, every recruit and their family will see this video.  No parent is going to be okay with their son playing for Rice and subjecting them to that kind of treatment.  The video hampers him from being able to be an effective college basketball recruiter which cripples his ability to put a quality team on the floor.  Maybe Pernetti believed in Rice's coaching ability and second chances.  It's not what I would have done, but I can't fully fault him for that.

Reinventing The Ultimate Fighter: Why This May Be The Best Season Ever

I have come full circle on The Ultimate Fighter. What started out as my introduction to MMA instantly became must watch TV for me as I followed the show and it's fighters season after season. But, admittedly, I began souring on it the last few seasons for many reasons. Every component of the show started to seem stale, and with very few of the fighters actually making a mark in the UFC it was hard to consider this the same breeding ground that produced Forrest Griffin, Diego Sanchez, Josh Koscheck & Rashad Evans. Instead we were starting to see winners sporting a sub .500 record and many of them getting the pink slip before we could even say coaches challenge. But, to Dana White's credit, he doesn't resist change. He embraces it. And that is what smart businessmen do. Dana revamped the show and is now in the midst of the best season I can remember. Even Entertainment Weekly listed it atop their "Must List" a few issues ago. So what is different?

Most importantly, the fights. Great fights make great seasons. This season, thanks to Urijah Hall, we've enjoyed some devastating knockouts, a few sudden victory battles, and many surprises. There have been some disappointments as well, but they pale in comparison to the seasons that seemed to only have boring fights (see The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights). Perhaps the vetting process to make the show got better, or perhaps they just got lucky. But no matter how Dana assembled this cast, it worked.

Next, the coaches. It is easy to utilize TUF as a platform to create juice for otherwise juice-less fights (see Bisping vs. Miller) but Dana White knew that the formula wasn't working. So he offered the gig to two of the best guys in the sport, who needed no extra promotion to sell their fight, and man has it paid off. Not only are these guys good on TV but they are also tremendous coaches. Sonnen in particular, has somehow transformed himself from UFC carnival act to a motivational guru. This season has also shown that you absolutely do not need trash talk to make a season. These coaches seem to get along fine and that hasn't hurt at all. The trash talk on previous seasons had become transparent anyway and it very seldom translated into fireworks inside the octagon.

Lastly, the show has very subtly changed the way it is filmed. It has moved from a standard reality show format and now mirrors the well produced Countdown shows that they use to promote upcoming fights. There is a much greater sense of urgency in the filming of the fights, the interviews and the training, which makes it feel much more intense. Speaking of training, there is more of it and less of the bullshit in the house. Which is good because if I saw one more Junie Browning or Julian Lane I was going stop taking The UFC seriously.

So lets see if Dana White can keep this TUF magic up. The Ultimate Fighter has been on my "Must List" for a while, but it'll take a few more seasons like this to continue getting EW type press.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Some 2013 New York Mets Predictions

It's another year where the Mets are not going to the postseason.  Before the season officially starts, I'm going to offer up some predictions:

-I was all prepared to like Collin Cowgill.  He comes across to me as a gamer.  I guy who I'd like having around as a 4th outfield.  I'm not sure he is an everyday player and I'm afraid I'll turn on him at some point this season.

-Jon Niese will win 14-15 games and pitch well causing people to say things like, "he could have won 18 games on a contender."

-Ike Davis will again hit around 32 homeruns and drive in 90 runs.  But his batting average will get back to the .260 range.

-Marlon Byrd does not finish 2013 as a member of the New York Mets.

-Shawn Marcum has a 3.50 ERA...but only has 11 starts.

-Brandon Lyon has double digit saves.

-Lucas Duda will hit 25 home runs.

-Daniel Murphy will miss an extended period of time and will never regain the second base job from Jordany Valdespin.

-Once again the Mets will be surprisingly around the .500 mark around the All-Star Break before the wheels come off and the cream starts rising to the top.

-The Mets will finish over their Vegas win total of 74.5.

Happy Opening Day!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

NCAA Tournament Play In Game Picks

 I'm all for these NCAA Tournament games on Tuesday and Wednesday.  What I'm not okay with is calling them the "First Round."  To me, they always will and always should be called "Play In" games.  The NCAA is the one bracket with 64 teams on it.  Not 64 lines with 8 other teams shoved in to open nooks and crannies of the bracket. 

While I'm here, I'll also mention that I do believe the Play In games should be all 12 seeds or the last 8 teams in the tournament.  Teams like Liberty, James Madison, LIU-Brooklyn and North Carolina A&T have earned their way in to the field of 64 by winning their conference tournaments.  Teams like Boise State, Middle Tennessee State, LaSalle and St. Mary's didn't do enough to be locks on Selection Sunday and should play on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Wouldn't it make a better night of TV if instead of having a game with two 16 seeds battle it out each night, you added Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland and Virginia to these play in games? 

All that being said, here are my picks for the tonight and tomorrow's Play In Games:

Liberty (+3) over North Carolina A&T

In picking a game like this you can't go by which team is hotter right now since they both came out of nowhere to win their conference tournaments.  But one thing I look for out of these smaller schools is what's the one thing that each of these teams does best.  In this case, Liberty is good at shooting the three and NC A&T is good at blocking shots.  Liberty is limited offensively in the front court and rely heavily on the three so I don't see NC A&T's interior defense really coming in to play that often.  Also, NC A&T is one of the worst three point shooting teams in the country.  I think this 20 loss fairy tale continues for one more game.

Middle Tennessee State (+3) over St. Mary's

I've gone back and forth on this one.  MTSU has only beaten one team of St. Mary's quality all year and it was at home.  St. Mary's will have the best player on the floor in Matt Dellavedova.  A part of me wants to take St. Mary's because I think he deserves not to have his career end in a play in game.  I also would like to pick St. Mary's so I would have two games to raise my arms above my head and yell "STEVE HOLT!" every time Stephen Holt scores.  But I think MTSU is a bad match up for St. Mary's.  They both are capable three point shooting teams except MTSU defends the three well and St. Mary's does not.  Also, St. Mary's lacks depth and MTSU can run 11 deep at you.  And honestly, a part of me is taking MTSU because in my friend and I's attempt to predict the bracket we had MTSU out in favor of Tennessee.  Usually I take the team I miss to lose in their first game and it never works out for me.

LIU-Brooklyn (-1.5) over James Madison

Jump all over this game now while the line before it moves.  James Madison suspended their best player for the first half of the game for getting arrested this week.  And that is on top of the fact that LIU is the better team anyway.  This is LIU's third consecutive tournament.  Their three best players have participated in the last two.  If the Colonial Tournament wasn't decimated by conference re-alignment and APR sanctions, there is a good chance JMU isn't even here right now. 

Boise State (-1.5) over LaSalle

I went back and forth with this game as well.  I actually changed over to Boise State for the last time while I was in the middle of typing this.  One interesting thing about Boise State is that their losses have usually come when they were massively outscored at the FT line.  Their last few loses were by 6, 4 and 10.  They were outscored at the free throw line by 8, 15 and 14 respectively.  The Mountain West was an outstanding conference this year and Boise played the upper echelon of that conference pretty evenly except for that one area.  LaSalle on the other hand is one of the worst teams in the country at getting to the free throw line.  Now that can be largely due to their reliance on the three point shot.  But as good as LaSalle is at the 3, Boise is actually better.  Wait...I just learned that LaSalle is one of the best teams in the country at defending the three.  I'm stopping before I change again.

I was actually looking for an image of brackets to put at the top of this post.  I did a Google Image search and ended up with more images of the inside of people's mouths than I was comfortable with.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Some Quick Bracket Thoughts

**The "first round" tournament games will always be the play-in-games to me and therefore will be referred to as such.

It's been stated over and over, but Oregon is wildly under seeded.  I understand they got bumped a line for procedural reasons but I don't see how Oregon was not the highest seeded Pac-12 team let alone two seeds lower than Colorado and six seeds lower than UCLA.  They slumped to a 5-4 record after Dominic Artis got hurt but still finished second in the conference regular season and won the tournament.  I honestly thought that once Oregon got a 12, that Cal and Colorado were in trouble.  In the bracket that me and my friend do each year, we had them as a five figuring Arizona and UCLA would be around the 6 or 7 area.  

I'm a big supporter of the mid-majors but I'm still curious as to how Middle Tennessee State is in over Tennessee.  It's fine they had the #6 Strength of Schedule in the country but I think scheduling is only half the battle.  They have to win some of them.  Their best win was at home to Ole Miss (who as a 12 seed might not have made the tournament without Sunday's win).  And not for nothing, look at that schedule and tell me how that's the 6th best in the country.  Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled for them and honestly am more intrigued by what MTSU can do in this tournament than what a middle of the pack team from a lousy power conference can do.  I'm just surprised is all.

The selection committee says they don't set up potential match-up on purpose.  I don't believe them.  I was actually shocked that with Kansas as a 1 seed and Missouri as a 9 they didn't try to set that up as a potential round of 32 game.  I started thinking, "Hmm.  Maybe they don't set those up on purpose" as they announce Roy Williams could be sitting there facing Kansas in the second round.  Guess they weighed that as more interesting than rekindling an over 100 year rivalry that was killed just this year.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Breaking Down UFC 158

After what seems like an eternity of waiting, the much anticipated match between reigning welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre and former Strikeforce champ Nick Diaz is finally here. It has been impossible not to buy into the hype, the trash talking, and the absurdity that is Nick Diaz but the question is can Nick Diaz really stand toe to toe with the arguably the best fighter in the world?

I, for one, am not convinced. I will say that a small part of me is actually rooting for Diaz. He is the anti spokesperson. The villain. But he is also a real guy, and not a product of the most prominent fight camps or promotions money can buy. And more importantly, this guy is a guaranteed entertaining fight. He wants to brawl, and as he said, he does it because that's his job. This is what puts food on the table for this Stockton, CA native. He says he is not excited to fight. He is not ready. And I like that honesty. But GSP has never been more fired up. The last time he was antagonized this much, he destroyed Koschecks eye socket. If I was Nick Diaz, I wouldn't be excited either.

This card also has two other key welterweight match ups, Condit versus Hendricks for the number one contender and also Jake Ellenberger will try and continue his rise against former UFC contender Nate Marquardt. Below are my main card selections.

Mike Ricci over Colin Fletcher via decision: For the record, I could not care less about this fight and I am still perplexed how its on the main card. Ricci couldn't even win a very lackluster season of TUF where he was destroyed in the finals against Colton Smith. But this event is in his hometown and Fletcher is a striker, which is stylistically a better match than Colton was. It'll be close, and it it'll probably be boring.

Chris Camozzi over Nick Ring via TKO: I will never buy into Nick Ring, despite his record. He has the gayest nickname in all of sports, and hasn't really impressed me in any of his fights. His win over Court McGee was controversial to say the least, and Camozzi is coming off 3 straight victories. I see Ring having his hands full. The promise will be broken.

Jake Ellenberger over Nate Marquardt via decision: I used to like Marquardt, but that was a long time ago. He has a history of coming up very short in these decisive fights, and Ellenberger was on a total roll before being caught by Kampman last June. I expect the Juggernaut to regain his form in this fight, despite being undersized. Nate the Great will gas and lose the last two rounds of the fight.

Johny Hendricks over Carlos Condit via KO: I LOVE this fight. I honestly have no inkling whatsoever how it will go down, and I could see any number of things happening. Both of these guys have fought against the best of the best in the weight class, so both will be ready for this fight. The only difference I see is that Condit has had his title shot already and I think that may make the Bigg Rigg hungrier. He is also better at takedowns, which could prove pivotal in a close fight.

Georges St-Pierre over Nick Diaz via TKO/Doctors Stoppage: I actually believe GSP when he says he will deliver the biggest beating ever seen in the octagon. And Nick Diaz may be the toughest human being on the planet, so I expect him to endure an absolute barrage. Don't get me wrong, I am not counting Diaz out. His long jab may be the most formidable weapon GSP has seen in a while, but in the end I don't think he has the KO power that will be needed to surprise GSP.

2013 Record: 2-3

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Movie Review: Life of Pi

Going to the movies is a completely different escape for me than it was 4 years ago. Although a trip to the theater has been my favorite pasttime since I can remember, it is definitely different after you have a child. Now, the act of walking into the theater, buying an enormous diet coke, and sitting down in peace and quiet is almost as important to me as the movie itself. So take that into consideration when reading this movie review.

Most of us knew the premise of Life of Pi without having seen it due to a very descriptive trailer and promos. But arguably my favorite part of the movie came before Pi (Piscine) Patel and his family embarked on a journey to Canada from India on a Japanese shipping boat with all of the family's animals from the zoo. The story is told by a now adult Pi to a writer who had heard glimpses of this fabulous tale of survival. He starts by discussing the origin of his name, the family zoo, and his adolescence. This is brief, but essential as it sets up the internal struggle that Pi had between his own naive morals and beliefs and that set forth by his father. Pi had a fairytale view of life that was immediately shattered when his father let the Bengal from the zoo (Richard Parker) tear a goat to shreds in front of him to teach him a lesson. But it wasn't until after the tragic sinking of the Japanese shipping boat that Pi's beliefs would be tested.

Pi finds himself in a lifeboat at sea with a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and the previously mentioned Richard Parker. I must say, this is where the movie lost me a little bit. Not just because not much happens in the following hour, but because I had a hard time relating to the teenage Pi played by Suraj Sharma. I have an easier time embracing solitary plot lines (see Into the Wild, 127 Hours) when I feel connected to the character. Because I wasn't connected to Pi, who spent way too much time screaming in vain, I found myself waiting for stuff to happen. Luckily, Ang Lee did a remarkable job making this part of the movie as visually stunning as possible, so it wasn't exactly boring.

A brief stop at a floating island overrun by meerkats could have probably been a few minutes longer, but instead it was a welcome pit stop right before Pi & Richard Parker washed ashore in Mexico. Pi becomes distraught when the tiger disappears into the Mexican jungle without so much as a glance back to acknowledge their joint feat. However, at no point did I ever really feel that the two were connected so this didn't register for me as much as it should have.

Later, as he recounts his journey to Japanese insurance agents he is met with disbelief in his fabulous tale of survival at sea for 227 days. This is when he is encouraged to tell the real story, which he offers as a parallel tale on a boat with a cook, a sailor, and his mother. At the end we are left to decide, much like the agents, which story we deem to be more likely. When he asks the writer which one he believes, the writer responds saying the one with the tiger because "its a better story" to which Pi replies, "and so it goes with God."

3 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Look Back at Joe Schmo 3

Chase Rogan - Season 3's "Schmo"

Last night Joe Schmo Show's third season wrapped up.  I thought it was very good television but I felt it could have been even better.  Here are my gripes:

-The Joe Schmo Show is a mean spirited show.  There is no way around it.  That's a large part of why I watch it.  They are making one of these fame seekers go through the ringer of a fake reality show trying to make them look as ridiculous as possible.  I don't know if we've gotten more sensitive as a society in the 8+ years between Seasons 2 and 3 but it almost got nauseating how over the top in their praise of Chase got just to make what they were doing seem less cruel.  To be honest, this was by far the cruelest season of the three.  The first season was a contest for money.  The second season was a fake dating show.  This season they took a guy looking to get out of his current job for an exciting life as a bounty hunter. This show just wasn't going to change his life monetarily, he thought it was a chance to change his day to day life even after the show was over.  That's messed up if you think about it.  I just wished they called a spade a spade here and comment on how ridiculous Chase looked and how incredible it was that he bought all that stuff they threw at him.  Instead we were peppered episode after episode how smart he was and how great of a competitor he was.  Sure, casting probably did underestimate Chase's athleticism but the guy thought winning a two week reality competition was getting him a job as a bounty hunter. 

-"Allen - The Buddy": This role should have been the most important one on the show.  If you've seen the first season you know that the job Brian Keith Etheridge did committing to being Matthew Kennedy Gould's friend and confidant is what made the final reveal of that season both heartbreaking, funny and awesome.  "Allen" was supposed to be this guy but their relationship never amounted to more than the two more level headed members of their alliance.

- "Karlee - The Deaf Girl": I know they were spoofing on Marlee Matlin's turn on Celebrity Apprentice but personally thought the whole character was in bad taste.  Don't get me wrong, there was some good comedy mined from her character (more so from her interpreter) but Jo Newman was easily the least impressive cast member.  She had the hardest job on the show but she was a constant threat to blow the whole thing up.

Some of the things I did like:

-Lorenzo Lamas: I was surprisingly upset when he was "voted" off first and happy he was added back to the game later.  He really sold everything the writers set up for him and was the biggest source of comedy from the actors in the house.

-Spirit Animals: No part of the show made Chase look as ridiculous as he did as when he was looking deep into his llama's soul. 

I'd probably place it as the second best of the three.  Season 1 was a masterpiece and more than any of the Schmos who followed, Matthew Kennedy Gould will always the first person you think about when it comes to this series.  Time has already forgotten the Schmos from Season 2 and think in a few years time will forget Chase Rogan as well.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Goodbye Bracketbusters

The storm that is conference realignment in college sports has left a lot of destruction in it's path but one of the least talked about casualties of all these changes is the ending of ESPN's Bracketbuster event.  This February 22 and 23rd will be the 10th and final edition of the event.  It started as an 18 team event that swelled to as high as 142 teams last year.

I'm sure I'm a little more biased towards this event as University at Buffalo graduate who attended most of the home games when I was there as well as making the trek to Cleveland for the MAC Conference tournament whether or not Buffalo even advanced to the Gund.  After college I moved back to Long Island so it was tough to get to see many games so the potential of getting a game on ESPN was always exciting.  It gave me a reason to care about their RPI despite a zero percent chance of an at-large NCAA Tournament birth.  I believe that this is the 9th year that Buffalo is participating.  They were far away from a televised game this year but in their 9 years they were good enough to get three of them televised.  So that was always a treat.

The spirit of the event was to get the mid-major schools a chance for one more opportunity to get a  quality win before the season ended.  A lot of these higher quality mid-majors are the class of their conference and probably wouldn't have another opportunity for another good win once non-conference season ends.  In a few instances it was really useful and really worked.  Look at VCU's run to the Final Four in 2011.  If they don't get that win at Wichita State during Bracketbuster weekend then they don't even make the tournament.

The other benefit of Bracketbusters was getting rare exposure to see some of the mid-major tournament teams before the brackets come out.  Look at last year's tournament teams.  Wichita State, New Mexico State, Long Beach State, Davidson, Iona, VCU, Ohio, Creighton, South Dakota State, Murray State, UNC-Asheville and St. Mary's all got televised games.  Three of those teams won a game in the tournament and Ohio went to the Sweet 16.  If you watched the UNC-Asheville/Ohio game, you're on the Walter Offutt and DJ Cooper bandwagon before someone like Digger Phelps and Dick Vitale tell you Ohio is potential upset pick.  Maybe you know who J.P. Primm and Matt Dickey were before they almost became the first 16 seed to beat a 1 seed (Syracuse).  

It was a great and useful event and it's a shame it's ending.

Jim James Album Day!!

Regions Of Light And Sound Of God is out now

Saturday, February 2, 2013

UFC 156 Predictions

I'm typing this from a friends house, so you'll have to pardon how brief it is. I love tonight's card & I'm intrigued by some of the match-ups. Here are my main card thoughts and how I would bet them.

Ian McCall (+210) over Joseph Benavidez: I expect this to be a hotly contested fight, but I'm picking McCall
based on his close bouts against Mighty Mouse and his awesome nickname.

Jon Fitch (-220) over Demian Maia: From a betting standpoint, I don't love this bet. But Fitch is at a point in his career where he can't lose to Maia if he wants to stay relevant enough to be mentioned as a title contender, so I expect he won't.

Antonio Silva (+320) over Allistair Overeem: I'd take Silva strictly from an odds perspective. In the heavyweight division, anything can happen and I'll roll the dice on +320.

Rashad Evans (-600) over Lil' Nog: Obviously, -600 means everyone and their mother is picking Evans and I will too. His resume of opponents is better than anyone's in the sport, and I expect he'll handle Nog and win by decision.

Jose Aldo (-175) over Frankie Edgar: I hate picking against my favorite fighter, but Aldo is just too good. He is in the class of Jones, Silva & GSP and this win will help cement that legacy. I will not be rooting for him however nor would I be surprised if Edgar shocks the MMA world.

Friday, January 11, 2013

NFL Divisional Round Playoff Picks

Since it went so well last week, I'm going to give my picks for the NFL Divisional Round too!

Baltimore (+10) at Denver

Is it weird that despite Peyton Manning probably being the league MVP this year and an overall 13-3 record and being 7-1 at home, I still don't buy Denver as a Super Bowl team?  Don't get me wrong, I think they are winning this game but Baltimore is so seasoned and in the playoffs every year.  I don't see them getting handily beaten.  And I know that Peyton has been to two Super Bowls and won one of them but pass the Wild Card round of the playoffs and Peyton Manning is a 6-6 QB with a 16:13 TD to INT ratio.

The Pick: Baltimore +10

Green Bay (+3) at San Francisco

I have to take Green Bay.  For me it boils down to Aaron Rodgers in revenge mode.  He grew up here, he was passed over by San Fran.  I like what Kaepernick brings to the table as a QB but it's his first career playoff start.  I don't like the spot for San Fran here even at home.

The Pick: Green Bay (+3)

Seattle at Atlanta (-2.5)

I kind of thought Seattle would be getting a little bit more than 2.5.  I hate betting on Atlanta in the playoffs.  For the purposes of making picks on a blog nobody reads, I don't believe in buying points here so I can't take an average road team in the playoffs getting less that a Field Goal.  I really want to root for Seattle so I may lay off this one.  I'm scared if I take Seattle that I'm doing as a bandwagon rider.

The Pick: Atlanta (-2.5)

Houston at New England (-9.5)

Houston looks like a shell of their earlier season self.  I can't imagine they are going to give New England anything they can't handle.  Matt Schaub looks shaky lately and if New England's defense has a strength it's that it's pretty decent against the run.  I'm glad this is the last game of the weekend.  Usually I'm trying to navigate giving my kids a bath and watching the end of the 4:00pm Sunday games.  I have a feeling I'll be comfortable tuning out by the end of this one.

The Pick: New England -9.5

Playoffs: 1-3
(although I would have switched the Minnesota pick over to Green Bay once Ponder was out. But I'll own the loss.)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Some thoughts on today's Baseball Hall of Fame Voting

Some thoughts on the Hall of Fame vote today:

-Are the Baseball Writers' Association of America the most self-important people you can think of or what?  5 guys turned in a blank ballot?  Oooooh.  Message received.  Turn in a goddamn ballot and leave the steroid guys off if that's your choice.

-And what's with the first ballot bias?  If a guy is a Hall of Famer, put him in the Hall of Fame.  In all honesty, I think you should have one year of eligibility on a Hall of Fame ballot.  There should be no debate on if someone is a Hall of Famer.  If you have to think about whether or not a guy is worthy of the Hall of Fame, he's not worthy of the Hall of Fame.  Because of a first ballot bias, Biggio sits in a class with Pete Rose and Rafael Palmeiro as (retired) guys in the 3000 hit club who are not in the Hall of Fame.  I hope they feel good about that.  And the fact that Piazza got 57.8% of the vote means that he's not included in the Bonds and Clemens cloud of PED guys.  The guy is indisputably the best offensive catcher of his generation.  The fact that he's not a first ballot HOFer is a joke.

-Guys who vote for Shawn Green and Aaron Sele for the Hall of Fame should have to sit in front of a committee and explain themselves before having their votes taken away.

-For what it's worth, my ballot would have went: Biggio, Morris, Piazza, Schilling, Clemens, Bonds and McGwire.  Screw the steroid use.  It is what it is.  Biggio hit a HOF magic number with his 3000 hits for me and the other guys I felt I was watching Hall of Famers as I was watching them.  Reggie Bush won the 2005 Heisman trophy and Joe Paterno won 409 games.  I know what I saw.  It's ridiculous already that baseball's all time hits leader isn't in the Hall of Fame.  I'm not keeping out the Home Run King as well (no matter how much I hate him).  As for Bagwell, don't get me wrong, he was awesome but for me he was just another big offensive player at a big offensive position.  For me, he's the one who gets hurt by the era he played in.  Doing what he did, when he did it, never really felt special to me.  I don't care about WAR and OPS and stuff.  I'm old enough now that I experienced these guys' whole careers.  I don't need to go back and analyze their stats to make my decision.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

All Light Beers Are Not Created Equal: Is Your Beer Punking You?

First, some back story. Years ago I was told that Coors light was only 3.5% alcohol by volume (ABV) and I believed it. That became part of the basis for putting it on the bottom of my beer pecking order, right above Keystone Light & Busch. But then, I found out I was wrong. It was 4.2%, just like Bud Light, Miller Lite, Micehlob Light (4.3%) & even Guinness. I still don't drink it, but that's just because its terrible. But that is why the baseline for light beer is set at 4.2%. Unless of course you are in Colorado, Kansas, Utah, Oklahoma & Minnesota where they sell something ridiculous called "low point beer" in Supermarkets and convenient stores. That carries an ABV of 3.2% and that's why when I visit my brother in Colorado, we don't buy our beer in Supermarkets.

Recently, I was at the local chain bar, PJ Whelihans (which comes up Wheel Iguana w/ predictive typing) and I decided to make my beer of choice for the night Heineken Light. It was on special for $3, plus I was watching my weight and it tastes pretty damn good. But I noticed at the end of the night that I was feeling very little effects of my several beers, or at least much less effect than my friends. So when I got home I googled alcohol content in Heineken Light and was shocked to see that it was 3.5%. You might think, "so what? what's the difference?" Well, I'll tell you. At 4.2%, most light beers are at a 16% reduction in ABV from your standard 5.0% beer (Budweiser). That's a pretty significant drop, but that's what you have to do to remove calories and that drop off often allows us to drink more and for longer. But at 3.5%, you are at a drop off of 30% and are much closer to drinking "low-point beer" than you are a regular light beer.

Why am I telling you this? Because quite frankly, people should know. For the same reason it's important to know that if you are drinking a Stella Artois or a Sierra Nevada, you are drinking beers that are 5.2% & 5.6% respectively. People have developed, or tried to develop, drinking thresholds because it makes the effects of alcohol consumption more predictable. But it would take 10 Heineken lights to equal 8 Bud lights or 6 Sierra Nevada's, so maybe $3 isn't such a good deal after all.

Friday, January 4, 2013

NFL Wildcard Weekend Picks

I'm getting back in the picks game!!!

Cincinnati (+4.5) at Houston

I don't like the way Houston finished up the year.  Losing 3 out of 4 to close it out, albeit against all playoff teams, doesn't sit well with me.  Cincinnati on the other hand already essentially played a playoff game this year.  Week 16 in Pittsburgh was pretty much a loser goes home game and they won.  Also, if you look at Cincinnati's 6 losses, other than Week 1, they don't get blown out.  Take away that 31 point loss away and their average losing margin in their other 5 losses is only 6 points per loss.  I think this is a field goal game in either direction.

The Pick: Cincinnati

Minnesota (+8) at Green Bay

Like Cincinnati, Minnesota has already played in playoff games this year.  I hate when teams play in Week 17 and then again the next week in the playoffs.  I don't think Minnesota is intimidated by Green Bay.  Other than the win last week, the lost at Green Bay in early December by single digits.  And check this out:

Green Bay is that big purple slice!  I know the Packers, Lions and Bears are going to have the biggest pieces of the pie here but Green Bay can not stop Adrian Peterson.  20% of his total rushing yards is a pretty big chunk.  Another reason I like Minnesota to cover is because Minnesota is 5th in the NFL in sacks and Aaron Rodgers gets sacked more than any QB in the NFL.  Green Bay should win but Minnesota isn't a great matchup for them.

The Pick: Minnesota

Indianapolis at Baltimore (-7)

I would not place money on this game.  I hate when teams rest their starters in Week 17 which is what Baltimore did last week but for this game I'm going with my gut.  Despite 11 wins on the season, the Colts don't look like a playoff team to me.  Baltimore is in the playoffs every year, they are seasoned and they are home.  I think they win this game by double digits.  I won't be putting money on that though because I'm also a believer in story book endings in sports.  The Andrew Luck and Chuck Pagano running story lines through the season have scared me off.

The Pick: Baltimore

Seattle (-3) at Washington

I'm aware that Seattle is a different team away from home and that the Redskins have gone on a borderline magical run to win the NFC East.  But even with all that, I think Seattle is the superior team and with RGIII banged up, I'm taking the road favorite.

The Pick: Seattle

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Few Hundred Words on the 2012 New York Jets

I'm prepared to talk about the Jets 2012 season now.

I've mentioned in the past that in all my years of being a Jets fan, this might have been my least favorite.  At least during the 1-15 debacle I was a freshmen in college with my whole life ahead of me.  My distaste for this season doesn't come from Mark Sanchez regressing terribly, a 6-10 record, putting up less than 20 points a game, having the best defensive player in the league injured for the year or still not having a legitimate pass rusher.  It was because of the media.  Record wise, the Jets had done the same or worse than 2012 on three other occasions already.  It's fine.  It happens.  The one thing that got under my skin all year was that the Jets were a "circus."  Granted, they did sign up for extra media attention when Woody wanted to bring in Tim Tebow but I think the public and media perception of how much Tim Tebow SHOULD have been used overshadowed how much the Jets planned on using him.  Prior to the season people were predicting that Tebow was here to eventually unseat Sanchez but the Jets never said that.  They emphasized that Sanchez was the starter and Tebow was the back up and there would be a package of plays for Tebow that would be sprinkled in.  Rex also said that Tebow can be used lightly or up to 20 plays a game depending on the situation.  Everyone seemed to run with that "20" number.  I'm sure you can point to Rex starting Greg McElroy over Tebow in Week 16 as mishandling the Tim Tebow situation but if you look at it objectively, you could not start Tebow in Week 16.  It was abundantly clear by that point that Tebow was not coming back next year.  Personally I don't think you could have risked Tebow having any chance for success in a meaningless game.  That would have caused an even bigger uproar.  But at no point in the season did I think the Jets lied about Tebow's role.  I think it was blown out of proportion because he was Tim Tebow.  If they never made that trade and Drew Stanton was sitting as the #2 then Sanchez would have been benched weeks before he was.  The Jets had a package for Tim Tebow and they know he can't run a pro style offense.

I understand Rex has kind of made his bed with all the negative press the Jets get but other than his off base statement about how this could be the best team he's ever coached, Rex was very tame this year.  He was still media friendly but without any bold predictions and rarely talking playoffs or looking ahead.  I do believe that Rex Ryan will be a head coach again and he will have learned from his mistakes here and be successful (Spoiler Alert! I don't think he's back next year.)

Touching on what actually happened on the field this year, I want to blurb about a few players:

-Shonn Greene: Another yawn of a 1000 yard season.  I'm ready to move on from him.  I like Bilal Powell better (although I don't think he's a workhorse either) and I'm a believer in not spending a lot of money on RBs.  The Jets don't have a lot of flexibility with the cap so I'd task my new GM with finding a cheap alternative to pair with Powell.

-Braylon Edwards: Despite having zero success since he left the Jets, I always said that the Jets picked wrong when they kept Santonio Holmes over Edwards.  I view Santonio Holmes as a glorified slot receiver masquerading as a #1.  When healthy I like what Edwards brings to the table.  Sure he drops a few too many but he also makes some tough catches as well.  I'd take this opportunity to bring him back on the cheap.  They still need help at WR but going in to next season with Holmes, Edwards and Jeremy Kerley as their Top 3, for some reason I wouldn't hate that based on their cap restraints.

-Mike DeVito: He's an unrestricted free agent now and I'm going to miss him if he goes.  I was surprised to learn he made 2.5 million this year and he earned every penny.  He is the blue collar guy that the Jets defense needs.  Not flashy but he is really solid against the run.

-Quinton Coples: It was tough to see Chandler Jones have 6 sacks halfway through the season and going from confused by Seattle's pick to wishing Bruce Irvin lasted just one more spot.  But although the Jets still desperately need a guy who can get to the QB on his own, I'm currently okay with Coples.  He showed me flashes this year and surprisingly led the team in sacks this year (only 5.5 but still).  I'm not getting too excited because apparently he has a history of lacking motivation but so far so good.

-Kyle Wilson:  It confuses me why he is getting such a pass.  I know the Jets some how ended up the year with solid numbers against the pass but I can't honestly say I think Wilson played well.  He's not developing at all and I don't care what defensive back metrics you can throw at me, just watching him week in and week out, he seems to get toasted once or twice a game.  I'm holding him to a higher regard than I should because of his draft status and maybe that's not fair anymore but if Antonio Cromartie or Darelle Revis leave one day, I don't think he's the answer as a starter.

So far in to the new year, the Jets let go of Mike Tannenbaum which was definitely the right now and they gave Rex a reprieve right now.  I am on record as saying that I would like their to be a way for Rex to coach the team next year but if the GM goes, the coach has to go too.  It's not fair to the new GM to not allow him to bring in his own coach.  What I believe is happening is that Woody will hire a GM and Rex will be interviewing with him to keep his job.  And personally I don't think Rex Ryan will be back.  And if he is back, I won't be able to shake the notion that we hired the wrong guy as GM and he was only hired because of his willingness to let this situation happen.  It's a tricky situation as a Jets fan.

The beauty of the NFL is that it's not impossible to change a team from a 6-10 record to 10-6 record in one year.  So hopefully the Jets hire a good ringmaster to bring the big top down on all this circus garbage.

See?  Circus analogies are annoying.