The Rachel Maddow Show - Early Impressions
Tuesday, September 30, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
The L.A. Times reports that Rachel Maddow's new show is performing extremely well in the ratings. First things first - good for you, Rachel Maddow.

I've watched the show several days a week now since it began airing. Overall, I'm very impressed with the show. She has many of the same comments and topics as Keith Olbermann, but without all the snark that I'm sure turns a lot of people off of him. Even my mother, who isn't the type who would enjoy Olbermann, commented, "You know... I realy like this girl!" when watching the show at my house. Still, it's a relatively young show and there's still plenty of room for improvement.

Here are some of the things I think the show needs to work on:

1) Find your own identity. While she has some notable differences from Olbermann, watching the two shows back-to-back feels a bit repetitive after awhile. Maddow needs to work on being more than just "Keith Olbermann Lite! Now with 50% less snark and with 100% more lady parts!". She started at least 2 different shows with Olbermann as her intro guest, which certainly doesn't help.

2) More balance. Yes, it's nice to have someone who isn't afraid to take a position (particularly since I agree with her 95% of the time). On the other hand, unlike people who watch Fox News, I'm not interested in a show that's just an echo chamber of my own views. I give her props for bringing on Pat Buchanan to argue points with her, but he's a bit of a shouter, and doesn't do a good job articulating his views. I'd like to see more neutral or conservative guests who aren't stark raving lunatics.

3) Wider range of guests. I know part of this is due to the fact that the show is very young and people were probably waiting to see how "legit" it was going to be, but a large chunk of guests have been drawn from within the NBC/MSNBC family (of course, MSNBC hosts the show, which I'm sure you all know). It sort of feels like they just run around the studio looking for commentators working on other NBC shows in order to fill interview/guest slots. I'd also like to see guests appear in person more often, if possible, since it's sort of weird seeing her sit in this big old set at her big old desk, talking to a screen.

4) From her interview at Afterellen.com, Maddow has said this about her outfit choice:
“I feel like in terms of what I look like, I’m working in a very visual medium for the first time in my life, and I’m just sort of trying to get by in terms of the basic, the minimum that I need to do visually in order to be allowed to be on television,” she says. “And so I put on the suit, so that I can go on TV. I let the makeup ladies put makeup on me, which they do to their own satisfaction. I don’t pay much attention to it.”
Now, I get that. I hate dressing up too. I think Maddow is adorably butch-lite in her general appearance. However, I have a personal aversion to the "scoop-neck shirt under a blazer" look that she has worn EVERY SINGLE TIME now. Rachel, you are an attractive and handsome lady. And everyone knows attractive and handsome ladies look best when rocking a collared shirt under their blazer. Those funky little low necked shirts just make it look like you aren't wearing anything underneath your jacket at all. And since my opinion is clearly so important to you, I'm sure you'll get right on fixing that.

In all seriousness, I do want to end on a positive note. I really like the show and it's quickly becoming Must See TV for me. A lot of these problems are due in part to how young the show is. As she continues to get good ratings, hopefully more guests will be willing to come on. I'd like to someday see a major politician sit down on the show for an in-depth chat.

MSNBC airs this show like 4 times a day, so there's no excuse for you not to watch it. Tune in - you will probably like what you see.
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NFL Week 4 breakdown
Sunday, September 28, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
Lots of good stuff to talk about this week, so let's get right to it.

Worst. Trip. Ever. Poor Arizona. They went on this road trip two weeks ago, looking good at 2-0 and starting to move up the power rankings. Kurt Warner was turnover-free, the offense was clicking, and the defense had two great games. They lost a tough game to Washington. Then they didn't get to home since the team decided to just stay on the East Coast and practice there, rather than travel back and forth. Then the Jets put up a whopping 56 points on them. And finally, in a rather futile attempt to try and narrow the score, with 27 seconds left in the game (and down by more than 2 scores), their star receiver Anquan Boldin suffered a nasty helmet to helmet hit that knocked him unconscious and caused him to lay there helplessly until they managed to backboard him and cart him away (note: apparently Boldin checked out okay, but it was very scary for everyone at the time). Now they're 2-2 and looking rather mediocre. I'm guessing the Cards can't wait to get home after these two awful weeks.

I stand corrected. The problem with making pronouncements and predictions early in the season is that it doesn't matter what the landscape looks like in weeks 1-2. It matters how things look in week 16 and 17. You can get a team like the Lions, who fool you with a 6-2 start, only to self-destruct in the second half of the season. You can get a team like the Giants, who looked terrible at beginning of the year, but ended up winning the whole damn thing. So, allow me to make the following corrections:
  • The Chiefs are no longer absolutely terrible. They're not good, per se, but they did finally look like they got a little something going on offense in their upset of the Broncos. So, they're off my "teams I don't like" list for now.
  • The Redskins are not terrible. In fact, they're playing like champs right now, with wins against 3 legitimate teams. Jim Zorn really has this team clicking right now. And young Jason Campbell seems to really be benefitting from the tutelage of a former quality QB.
  • Brett Favre may have been worth the 2nd round pick after all. On the other hand, I'd rather have 2 TDs a game that matter, versus 6 in one game, so I'm not 100% sold yet. However, he does give them a shot at the playoffs, which they wouldn't have had otherwise.
Allow me to make a few suggestions. I'm not going to bother with teams that are terrible (see: Lions, Rams), because the only suggestion I can make would probably be along the lines of "Why don't you just go kill yourself?". Other teams like the Dolphins and Falcons have probably righted the ship, but will need a year or so to come along. However, there are a few teams out there that have a good shot at playoff success right now, but have a few things that may end up biting them in the butt if they don't fix it.
  • The Bills need to learn to start faster on offense. They can't keep relying on fourth quarter heroics to save them. It should not have taken them 2 full quarters to figure out how to score on the Rams defense.
  • The Eagles need to learn to play less conservatively. 4th and 1 from the goal line, and you run Correll Buckhalter straight at the Bears defense?! Jesus. Andy Reid's play calling is going to be the downfall of that squad. Also, speaking of goal line running, that would go a lot easier if they'd invest in a true power runner, which they do not have.
  • The Broncos obviously need to work on their defense. But I also think that they need to put more effort into establishing the run game. If they want to be a pass-first offense, fine, but on occasion you're going to run into a defense that can shut down Cutler, and you're going to need a decent running game to get through those games. This running back by committee nonsense isn't going to cut it.
  • The Packers shouldn't panic yet - they lost to 2 good teams. However, Ryan Grant is clearly not 100% recovered from his injury and is KILLING them with his fumbles. Two weeks in a row he's fumbled and had it result in a TD, and that has made the difference in those games.
Studs of the week. Incredibly, Brett Favre still manages to set personal bests, putting up 6 TDs for the day. Laveranues Coles was the beneficiary of 3 of those TDs from Brett, and also had 105 yards. Larry Johnson was impressive with 198 yards and 2 TDs in the Chiefs upset of the Broncos. Drew Brees, you are the man, with yet another 300+ yard, multiple TD performance. Jason Campbell didn't have a huge fantasy day, but was the key to the Redskins' upset against the Dallas Cowboy. Sometimes being a stud is about more than just numbers (which is why Kurt Warner isn't on this list). And lastly, Matt Bryant makes the list, for going out and kicking a hell of a game under the most horrible emotional circumstances I can think of (he buried his 3 month old son on Saturday, then flew in, joined the team on Sunday, and kicked 3 FGs that made the difference in the game).

Teams I like this week. They had me a little worried in the first half, but the Buffalo Bills rallied and looked like the #1 team in the AFC East. Ditto for the Tennessee Titans in the AFC South, who should scare a lot of their opponents at this point. Meanwhile, the Washington Redskins are starting to make a believer out of me. They haven't had a single offensive turnover this season. Amazing.

Teams I don't like this week. You may have fired Scott Linehan this week, St. Louis, but there is no helping your feeble defense out. Philadelphia - you're a better team than that, but you've got the Redskins next week, and may be staring down the possibility of starting 2-3 for the season. Cowboys, I have no idea why you decided to keep the explosive Felix Jones completely out of the offense in a close match-up.
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Fey and Poehler Rock the Palin Couric skit
Sunday, September 28, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
Normally, my main complaint about Saturday Night Live is that their skits run too long. But this SNL skit spoofing the Sarah Palin interview with Katie Couric the other night has the opposite problem - it's so genius, I don't ever want it to END. Enjoy:



Edited to add a super bonus video from Sarah Silverman endorsing an effort called "The Great Schlep", which encourages young Jewish voters to visit their grandparents in Florida to convince them to vote for Barack Obama. Some NSFW language there, but hilarious stuff, nonetheless.

The Great Schlep from The Great Schlep on Vimeo.
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Week 4 Predictions and Thoughts on the Value of Draft Picks
Thursday, September 25, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
Week 4 Picks

This is a tough week to call. Note for all you fantasy players out there: this is the first week teams will have a bye, so make sure you check your lineup and adjust accordingly. Also, warning: Willie Parker and Brian Westbrook are not likely to play due to injury.
  • Falcons at Panthers*
  • Browns* at Bengals - battle to see which Ohio team sucks more. I think Derek Anderson will step up his game and save his job by leading the Browns to victory. If not, get ready to see Brady Quinn as early as the 3rd quarter.
  • Texans at Jaguars* - paging Sage Rosenfels...
  • Broncos* at Chiefs - start every player you can from the Broncos. I'm pretty sure even the water boy might even catch a TD in this game for the high scorin' Broncos.
  • 49ers at Saints*
  • Cardinals at Jets*
  • Packers* at Bucs
  • Vikings at Titans* - the red hot "en fuego" defense of the Titans will have their hands full with Adrian Peterson, but sport a pretty nasty run game of their own on offense (with a more capable passing game as well)
  • Chargers* at Raiders
  • Bills* at Rams
  • Redskins at Cowboys*
  • Eagles* at Bears - the Eagles must protect Donovan, who is recovering from a nasty chest injury that has held him out of practice this week, or the Bears will steal this one
  • Ravens at Steelers* - ditto for the Steelers, who can't let Big Ben take another beating like last week
Just a note - the normally solid Peter King has picked the Rams over the Bills this week. Blasphemy!

Value of a 2nd Round Pick

Earlier in the pre-season, there were several high profile trades, all of them involving a 2nd round draft pick in 2009. Here's a breakdown of the major transactions:
Now, a second round draft pick isn't something to be traded lightly. You get a player who's an excellent prospect out of college, but who won't command the insane salaries the top first rounders get. Look at how well several 2008 2nd round draft picks are playing right now - Eddie Royal, DeSean Jackson, and Felix Jones are all already making a huge impact for their teams. Previous second rounders in the past few years include Devin Hester, DeMeco Ryans, Maurice Drew-Jones, Greg Jennings, Tony Ugoh, and Paul Posluszny. A second rounder is a guy you can groom and have on your roster for years to come.

So you better be sure you're getting a great deal, player-wise, if you're going to give up that pick. The jury's still out, but since Taylor joined the Redskins, he's already been injured twice and won't be playing in the very important match against Dallas on Sunday, and at best they'll probably only get 1-2 seasons out of him. Shockey was shaky for the Saints and is now out for at least 4-6 weeks. And Favre is obviously struggling to produce in this new offense - by the time he masters it, they may only get 1-2 seasons out of him.

We'll see how the rest of the season goes, but right now it's looking like the teams that are receiving those 2nd round picks are going to have the last laugh.

Attention Al Davis...

It's a shame what Al Davis has done to the Raiders franchise in the last decade. It's a shame what he's doing to poor Lane Kiffin, who mistakenly thought that he'd get a fair shake as head coach, when he took the job that no one else wanted. Al, if you really don't like Lane Kiffin, that's fine. I mean, the Raiders improved under his watch and all, but if you want to undo all that progress, that's your perogative. But don't hamstring your team by creating a situation where you make their lives miserable because you're trying to make things SO uncomfortable for Kiffin that he'll quit, just so you don't have to pay him the rest of the 4 million you owe him. That's peanuts to someone like you, we all know that, and it just makes you look petty and shortsighted. Give the man his money and his walking papers, and attempt to let your team salvage an already terrible season with a head coach they know will make it through the season with them.
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House Cleaning Edition
Thursday, September 25, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
Some random tidbits from around the web that help clarify or enhance previous posts this week. Please enjoy this hodgepodge of information.

Technology
Football
  • The Lions have finally fired Matt Millen. That's great, but it's also about 3 years overdue. And really, they needed to do this BEFORE the season began, when it would have made a difference in terms of personnel decisions.
  • I was right that struggling teams have indeed been eyeing the QBs on the bench, hoping to get results like the Vikings, Bucs and Titans. Trent Green will start in place of Marc Bulger for the struggling Rams. Derek Anderson is on a short leash, with the Browns stating that they're prepping Brady Quinn just in case.
  • It's funny how the body works. The injured limb taking out stars Roscoe Parrish for the Bills and Marques Colston for the Saints? A thumb. The injured limb holding back Antonio Gates and LaDanian Tomlinson of the Chargers? A toe.
  • Please keep Bucs kicker Matt Bryant in your thoughts. His 3 month old son tragically died this week.
Culture
  • The more I hear about La Lohan's father, the more I understand why she went so insane a few years ago. Lindsay further sorta confirms her relationship with Samantha Ronson.
  • In that same article, Simon Cowell discusses Clay Aiken's recent announcement and speculates that it won't hurt his career at all.
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From Ellen to Lindsay
Wednesday, September 24, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
So, the buzz around town right now is that Lindsay Lohan has finally officially outed herself. I say "officially", because it's been fairly well reported that she has been in a long term relationship with DJ Samantha Ronson for some time now. What's interesting is that while the news outlets are mentioning it, it's without the salacious gossip-y feel that you might have gotten 10 years ago. It's sort of more of a "Well, it's about time" sort of sentiment that I pick up when I read the various reports.

It's interesting how far lesbian visibility has come since I was in college. I still remember the firestorm that erupted when Ellen Degeneres showed up on the now famous cover of Time with the headline, "Yep. I'm Gay." People went bananas. Jerry Falwell dubbed her "Ellen Degenerate" and the pressure eventually caused her show to collapse and get cancelled (now, I've always contended that the problem was that the show just wasn't that good, not that people were particularly upset about the gay content, but I can't really prove that). Now, fast forward 12 years, and here's Ellen on the cover of a major magazine again. Only this time it's People Magazine, with a glossy glamourous 5-6 page photo spread of her wedding.... to Portia di Rossi. And it's almost the same exact sort of cover and story the magazine did for Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' wedding.

Really, what's remarkable is how UN-remarkable this is in today's culture. I mean, yes, there is still rampant homophobia and so forth (believe me, as a gamer I still hear the term "fag" and "you're gay" slung about as insults all the time), but there's definitely been a gradual shift where mainstream America's panties are just slightly less in a bunch about gay and lesbian issues than they used to be. A dude like Clay Aiken can come out, (see this week's cover of People, where he outs himself and shows off his cute new baby at the same time), and no one really gets excited. Again, there's this sort of "Aaaaand?...." reaction, because homeboy wasn't fo0ling anyone.

This of course brings me to my last piece of optimistic evidence that America is slowly becoming more tolerant of gay and lesbian people being out. I was in the supermarket, pretending to examine my can of Goya beans at the checkout, but secretly glancing at the ABC Soaps magazine sitting there. Yes, it's time for me to out myself.... I am an All My Children fan. It's shameful, I know, but I have come to love that goofy daytime soap, with its wild over-acting, crazy stories, and of course... La Lucci. The storyline that was running when I became a first time viewer was when Erica Kane's daughter Bianca was just about to come out of the closet. Since then (circa 2000), Bianca has pretty much stayed a major character and has shockingly stayed gay. She even has had some romantic storylines of her very own (chaste though they were).

Anyway, I picked up the magazine because of the cover story announcing that Bianca was returning to AMC for a long term storyline (Eden Riegel, the wonderful actress who portrays her, had taken a break from the show for about a year or so). Inside, they talked about how Bianca was returning from France, and what that would mean to the other residents of Pine Valley, etc. But what really caught my eye was a side bar speculating about whether she would be bringing Maggie back to town with her. The exact text was, "Will Maggie, Bianca's true love, be returning with her?" That really surprised me, because this is the sort of magazine that's geared towards a traditionally socially conservative base comprised of housewives from middle America and so forth. And yet the magazine was guessing that a housewife in Peoria would be very interested in whether Bianca's "true love" would be coming back. The use of that term was really important, simply because it was the same sort of language and writing style they would have used to talk about any heterosexual pairing on the show.

The magazine described Bianca as one of AMC's most beloved characters, which was also fascinating. I know that every AMC fan I've run across does indeed adore Bianca. And again, that's a remarkable thing. To me, that's amazing to think that a legion of mostly heterosexual fans would be cheering for Bianca to find true love, even if it were with a woman. Now if only poor Bianca could get a storyline that allowed her to do more than occasionally hug her partner, we'd be on a roll.

I could go on and on about the importance of gay and lesbian characters in TV and movies, in terms of how it helps sway public opinion on gay and lesbian rights, but that's a post for another time, I think. In the meantime, head over to AfterEllen.com to read more about the "Walmart-ing" of gay and lesbian visibility.

*note: AMC still has a long way to go in terms of their gay/lesbian storylines, but they're making an effort, misguided as it sometimes is (i.e. the dreadful transgendered Zoey/Zarf fiasco)

Edited to add: I'm not sure Lindsay identifies as a lesbian, which is fine. She outed her relationship with another woman, but I wouldn't be shocked if she dated a man in the future, either. Just wanted to clarify that.
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Hello, Sexy
Tuesday, September 23, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist

So, details are starting to emerge about the new "Google" phone. To be clear, for those of you who aren't familiar with this concept, the Google phone is not like the iPhone, in that Google isn't not getting into the hardware manufacturing game (like Apple has). The important contribution Google brings to the table is the software platform known as Android, which enables many of the iPhone-esque functions of the G1 phone made by T-Mobile.

I have long coveted the iPhones being rocked by my friends and co-workers, but have been putting off purchasing one. I liked a lot of the functionality (as well as the sexy look), but was put off by the following:
  • Tight integration with iTunes. Frankly, Apple's insistence on selling DRM'd music really pisses me off, and I resent having to use their music distribution system to manage my phone.
  • Speaking of DRM and all things proprietary, Apple's bizarre level of secrecy had many devs complaining about how difficult it was to develop for the iPhone.
  • Only service available is via AT&T, which has ridiculous pricing and questionable availability of their "3G" network (originally, the iPhone could only use the really slow EDGE network, if there was no wi-fi available).
  • Expensive as hell. The price has come down finally, but still requires a 2 year commitment to AT&T, and a data plan STARTING at $70/month.
  • Battery that you can't replace without paying $99 for the Apple people to do it for you.
  • Weird on-screen keyboard. My clumsy thumbs continually mess up when trying to type on my boyfriend's iPod Touch.
  • Yucky camera - only 2 MP and no flash or zoom? Lame.
Things I like about the G1:
  • Integration with Amazon mp3 store. Millions of sweet, sweet non-DRM mp3s available at your fingertips. And the best part is, if I buy a track via my phone, later I can download it to my computer and upload it to my Sansa mp3 player, as well as sharing it with my boyfriend on his iPod. You simply could NOT do that if you purchased a track through iTunes.
  • Google is one of the kings of open source development, so I feel good about devs working with the Android SDK to continue to provide awesome apps moving forward.
  • Association with Google means getting all my beloved Google apps on my phone.
  • Slide out keyboard. My clumsy thumbs thank you.
  • T-Mobile is a more appealing vendor for me.
  • Since Android is a development platform, it will be easy for other vendors/carriers to implement similar smart phones, and easily port any existing apps to their new phones. That means more competition between cell phone manufacturers, which should lead to better variety of choice for the consumer.
Things I don't like:
  • Still too pricey.
  • First gen things make me nervous.
  • 3 MP camera is better, but still lacks flash.
  • Not quite sexy enough, from a purely superficial standpoint. I'd love to see HTC's Touch rocking the Android platform.
  • No support for Microsoft Exchange yet (probably next generation, but don't throw out your corporate Blackberry just yet)
  • No 3.5mm headphone jack? For shame, T-mobile!
Engadget has tons of coverage on the G1, with continual updates throughout the day. Wired also has an article up at their site.

UPDATE: some housekeeping notes:

1) I meant to say the HTC Touch, not Dream, as the Dream IS the G1 phone, as my buddy Mark so helpfully pointed out.

2) Yahoo has a nice in-depth article about the G1 features, for those of you tempted to buy it.

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NFL Week 3 breakdown
Monday, September 22, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
I'm very happy with this year's NFL season thus far. The wild and unpredictable nature of the league this year makes every game a potential thriller or upset (though it also completely ruins my ability to pick winners, as evidenced by my 9-4 record this week).

Good call, coach. The Bucs and the Vikings made the unexpected choice of benching their starting QB for their backup QB this week. The Titans also sort of qualify, since they declared that the injured Vince Young would need to win his starting job back once he's healthy, which I see as a strong rebuke of Young's play and a strong indicator of what they think Kerry Collins can do for them. Normally, this would be a sign of a team in major trouble, but so far it seems to be working out pretty good for all three teams, as they all pulled out important victories under the guidance of Brian Griese (who put up a stunning 400+ yards on the Bears), Kerry Collins, and Gus Ferrotte (so THAT'S what a Vikings passing game looks like). Meanwhile, Mike Nolan's decision to pull last year's starter Alex Smith in place of J.T. O'Sullivan is looking like a great decision that just might save his job in San Francisco.

You have to wonder how long it's going to take teams like the Texans, Browns and Lions to start wondering what the guy standing on the sidelines holding the clipboard might be able to do for them. Don't be shocked to see Brady Quinn get his shot this year if the Browns continue to stink it up.

Teams that have improved this year. Without a doubt, the Miami Dolphins and the Atlanta Falcons have made massive improvements on the personnel front that will have impacts in future seasons. I'm not going to declare either team a winner just yet, but they should each win about 6 games, if everything goes well for them. And more importantly, you can see players on both teams starting to believe they can pull out a victory. I have been impressed with Matt Ryan from the Falcons so far. He's not putting up gaudy numbers, but he's been making some pretty throws, including a gorgeous pass that went at least 55 yards in the air to Roddy White for a TD, and I get a sense that the other 10 guys in the huddle believe in his leadership.

To be fair to the Dolphins, they were not as bad as their record last year suggested, losing several heartbreakers at the last minute. This year, the Dolphins should be able to play spoiler for several teams. Pennington gives them some leadership at the QB position (again, he won't put up gaudy numbers, but he is capable of handing in a decent performance), and with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams sharing the RB load, they have a pretty good run game. And the management team of Sparano, Parcells and Ireland seem to have instilled a new attitude in the 'Fins, which is great.

Teams that are terrible this year. Yes, last year the Falcons and Dolphins were embarassing. But as I said, the Dolphins at least made a game of it, and were competitive in many of their losses, and the Falcons had suffered an unbelievable crisis at QB and coach that wasn't their fault. The same cannot be said for the Chiefs or Rams. I cannot describe just how BAD these two teams are. Oh wait, I can.... the Rams got into the red zone in the second quarter of this week's game for the first time this entire season. Meanwhile, they have given up an average of 456.7 yards per game and 38.7 points per game. This means they are unable to take advantage of their talented (and VERY well paid) RB Stephen Jackson, because they are so far behind and are forced to throw the ball all the time to try and close the gap.

Attention Herm Edwards: I am available to play QB for you. I am only 5'5", incapable of throwing more than 20 yards and am burdened with lady parts, and yet I still feel I may be an upgrade for you at that position. I cannot be worse than Tyler Thigpen, who only completed 38% of his passes, for a measley 128 yards and 3 INT.

Lastly, if you want to see the face of a team that feels like losers, look no further than the struggling Lions.

Studs of the week. Hands down, Ronnie Brown, who single-handedly destroyed the faltering Patriots for 4 rushing TD and 1 passing TD. Seriously, that was one of the great all-time individual performances by a player at any position. Fantasy football coaching stud of the week? Me, for picking up and starting Ronnie Brown this week. Michael Turner performed as expected and ran for over 100 yards and 3 TD (for those who heeded my advice and started him this week, you're welcome). Granted, he won't have the benefit of playing the lowly Lions and Chiefs every week, but the guy is for real. Drew Brees completed 39 of 48 passes, for 421 yards and a TD. Brandon Marshall had 155 yards and 1 TD - how scary is this guy? Reggie Bush looked Westbrook-like with 73 yards rushing, 75 yards receiving, and 2 TDs. Now if only Reggie could get his attitude under control (I'm still irritated at his ridiculous taunting penalty last week)

Teams I like this week. Hate to say it, but the Cowboys look great. Special kudos to their amazing O line, which makes Tony Romo and Marion Barber look so good. Seriously, most quarterbacks have to deal with a pocket that is a lot like a Yugo - cramped and likely to fall apart at any moment. Meanwhile, Romo gets to work with a Cadillac of a pocket, with up to 6 seconds to make a throw (that's an eternity in football time). It's easy to make 50 yard passes when you've got all day to stand around. This week I also like the Dolphins, for getting creative on offense and making the Patriots defense look like chumps. Congrats to Coach Sparano for his first win as an NFL head coach. Lastly, the Ravens DEF looks great and the team is looking a lot like the squad that went on to win the Super Bowl on the back of a vicious DEF and a game managing QB. Joe Flacco still needs to develop some more (and they could always use more weapons in the passing game), but the Ravens are getting it done this year.

Teams I don't like this week. Until further notice, assume that the Chiefs and Rams are ALWAYS at the top of my list (edited to add: Michael Lombardi agrees with me). Tom Brady doesn't play defense, so what's New England's excuse for this week's debacle? They look bad in all aspects of the game, and it's clear that Cassel is already losing the team's confidence. Randy Moss is already showing signs of dogging it on the field. Also exposed are the Indianapolis Colts, who lost to the Jags this week. I used to joke that Peyton Manning had Hall of Fame numbers largely because he almost never got pressured in his career. There were games where you thought he wouldn't even need to bother washing his jersey, so pristine and sweat-free it was. Now we're starting to see what Manning looks like when his O line isn't that good, and that should really worry Colts fans. I'm not sure why Oakland paid JaMarcus Russell all the guaranteed money, if they're only going to let him throw 10-13 times a game. They should have saved money, and gone with the Dolphins' snap-it-straight-to-the-RB scheme, bypassing the QB position entirely. New Orleans and Denver, get your defenses in order, stat. Lastly, I love you Buffalo, but you can't play like that every week and expect to make it past round 1 of the playoffs.
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Week 3 Predictions and Thoughts on What Pro Athletes "Owe" Us
Friday, September 19, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
Some brief notes from around the league, followed by my Week 3 picks, and then a discussion on what pro athletes "owe" to the game, their fans, and their teams.

There's an article up at ESPN.com about how Ed Hochuli remains devastated by his officiating mistake during the Broncos-Chargers game. I wrote about that in a previous post, but I do want to say that overall, Hochuli was and remains one of my favorite refs. What's impressive about him is how forthright he's been about the mistake. He admitted it immediately to Norv Turner, he admitted it to the fans (watching the game, he pretty clearly explained that he messed up but the rules prevented him from changing the initial call), he continues to apologize - not once did he try to excuse himself. People are human, they make mistakes. The test of a man is how he responds to that. I think Hochuli deserves a second chance. Let him atone by officiating the scrub games and then bring him back to the big matches next year (a suitable punishment might be having to officiate only Chiefs games for the whole year).

I agree with Michael Lombardi: Philly fans need to show Donovan McNabb more love. Key stat from that article - McNabb 114 touchdowns passes in the red zone with only seven interceptions in his entire career. That's money right there.

Week 3 Picks
  • Jets at Chargers*
  • Bengals at Giants*
  • Browns at Ravens* - while I thought it was unfair to judge the Browns - particularly the offense- by last week's performance (just how good CAN your passing game be in 40 mph winds?!), I'm still going with the Ravens here
  • Cardinals* at Redskins - Kurt Warner looks sharp so far, and if the Cards want to be legit contenders, they really need to win this game.
  • Chiefs at Falcons* - Darren McFadden tore up this defense last week, so here's a free fantasy tip: you MUST start Michael Turner this week
  • Cowboys* at Packers - I hope I'm wrong here, but it's folly to bet against the 'boys in September
  • Dolphins at Patriots*
  • Lions* at 49ers - I have a feeling that Kitna's going to step it up here, if only to save his starting job
  • Panthers* at Vikings - give me Delhomme and Steve Smith for the win
  • Raiders at Bills*
  • Rams at Seahawks* - ugh. Terrible game.
  • Saints at Broncos* - The Saints' secondary is terrible, and Jay Cutler's going to make them suffer by hitting Marshall and Royal for huge gains
  • Steelers at Eagles* - could go either way, but I'll go with the home team here
  • Texans at Titans* - like I said, I think the 2-0 Titans are a better team with Collins at the QB position
Slate.com has a fascinating article up entitled "Vince Young might not be cut out for the NFL - and that's okay". It does a good job explaining that a job in the NFL, while it seems on the surface to be a dream, is actually NOT all sunshine and roses. Definitely recommended reading.

It does bring up an interesting point though - I've often wondered how much of an obligation a player - particularly a very public, very well paid player like Young - has to the fans and the team he belongs to. On one hand, I sympathize with players who get booed by vicious fans, or who feel pressured to continue playing because of leeches around them (i.e. sponsors who threaten them if they don't continue to perform, family/friends who "depend" on them). On the other hand, a lot of us have jobs that we hate sometimes, and we're stuck in them for the next 30 years if we want to be safe, so it's hard to feel bad for someone who gets millions guaranteed to them, no matter how much they suck.

So, question - where is the line? When can we say a player has "given enough" to walk away with his head held high? Or does that the fact that a team gives a guy millions mean they can treat him however they want? Does the fact that my tax dollars are donated to building a new stadium for my hometeam (because God FORBID they sit in old hot tubs or have lockers that are too small) mean I can demand a certain level of excellence from them, that I can belittle and boo and scream if they don't perform?
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*Ring ring!* "Hello, Kettle? This is the Pot. You're Black!"
Wednesday, September 17, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
This is almost funny: Prominent Clinton backer to endorse McCain.

Here's why she claims she doesn't like Obama:
“This is a hard decision for me personally because frankly I don't like him,” she said of Obama in an interview with CNN’s Joe Johns. “I feel like he is an elitist. I feel like he has not given me reason to trust him.”
Here's a blurb about Ms. Forester de Rothschild:
Forester is the CEO of EL Rothschild, a holding company with businesses around the world. She is married to international banker Sir Evelyn de Rothschild. Forester is a member of the DNC’s Democrats Abroad chapter and splits her time living in London and New York.
I'm going to trust you to see the humor in a woman married to an international banker with the surname of "Sir" who splits her time between London and New York calling someone like Obama "elitist." I wonder if she paused to put down her caviar and remove her pearls before she said that.
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Fr0zenshiFt Frag Video
Wednesday, September 17, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
For those of you who are familiar with first person shooter (FPS) games, please enjoy this video from a clanmate of mine. Fr0zen is a sick soldier. Pay special attention to the way he uses his first rocket to pop his enemy up in the air, where he then AIRBLASTS them with the second rocket. It's hard to describe what an amazing skill that is.



In other news, it seems that Google is thinking about buying out Valve. I assume the digital distribution system known as Steam is what attracts them. As long as the developer staff is left alone to continue making new content for Team Fortress 2, I'm fine with that. However, since I'd love to work for Google, maybe I should hurry up and apply to work for Valve now, so I get swept up when Google buys them out.
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When Did "Elite" Become A Dirty Word?
Tuesday, September 16, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
I was going to title this post "You May Be Smarter Than Me, But That Don't Make You Better Than Me!" but it was a bit too long to fit.

David Brooks, of all people, at the NY Times penned an outstanding article titled "Why Experience Matters". Go read it now

Brooks discusses one of my favorite topics - the idea that perhaps (just perhaps) electing people because they have no experience in the system might not be a good idea. He skirts around a point I've been making for some time now: the growing anti-intellectual movement, the growing sentiment in conservative circles that to be "elite" is somehow a bad thing.

The problem is due to the way that elite can be defined. According to merriam-webster online "elite" can be defined as:
a singular or plural in construction : the choice part

b
singular or plural in construction : the best of a class

c singular or plural in construction : the socially superior part of society

d: a group of persons who by virtue of position or education exercise much power or influence

Now, the problem is that the sentiment directed at definitions C and D above, is also directed at people who fit the definition of A and B. Here's what I mean: a person fitting C and D is that one "thinks he's better than me." It is linked to our cultural distrust of a ruling class (D) that holds power over us, not because of any individual merit on their part, but through some artificial system of birth or inheritance.

Compare this to a person who fits the definition of A or B - one who through their ability and skill qualifies as "best in class." Now, obviously, you are aware of my personal bias towards Barack Obama, so consider this public disclosure. However, looking at his background, it is not only fair, but accurate to suggest that he is indeed an "elite", in the A or B sense of the word. I freely admit that he is "better" than me when it comes to matters of national politics. One does not go to Punahou (which has a crazy admissions test), Harvard Law School (and then become an editor of the law review there), and then teach Constitutional Law without being an exceptional person. Normally, such a person should be celebrated. After all, we would only want the best engineer to work building a plane we fly on, or the smartest, most gifted teacher to teach our children. So why wouldn't we want the best legal/government scholars to head up the government that controls so much of our life?

This is where a person like Sarah Palin enters the debate. As part of our collective misinterpretation of the word "elite", we falsely define the opposite of that idea as a person who is "common." Again, let's turn to merriam-webster for a definition of the word "common" (note, I snipped out the definitions that don't apply):
1 a: of or relating to a community at large b: known to the community <common nuisances>

2 a
: belonging to or shared by two or more individuals or things or by all members of a group

4 a
: widespread , general b: characterized by a lack of privilege or special status <common people> c: just satisfying accustomed criteria : elementary

5 a
: falling below ordinary standards : second-rate b: lacking refinement : coarse

7: of, relating to, or being common stock
Many make the fatal mistake of associating definition 5a and 5b with 4b and 7. In other words, lacking privilege or special status does not mean that person is merely adequate or mediocre when it comes to their personal skills and qualities. In fact, you can be a common man from humble beginnings who possess an elite intellect. Conversely, just because you have a mediocre intelligence doesn't mean you qualify as a "common" person either (see: our current President).

Let's go back to the money section of Brooks' op-ed piece:

And there’s a serious argument here. In the current Weekly Standard, Steven Hayward argues that the nation’s founders wanted uncertified citizens to hold the highest offices in the land. They did not believe in a separate class of professional executives. They wanted rough and rooted people like Palin.

I would have more sympathy for this view if I hadn’t just lived through the last eight years. For if the Bush administration was anything, it was the anti-establishment attitude put into executive practice.

And the problem with this attitude is that, especially in his first term, it made Bush inept at governance. It turns out that governance, the creation and execution of policy, is hard. It requires acquired skills. Most of all, it requires prudence.

What is prudence? It is the ability to grasp the unique pattern of a specific situation. It is the ability to absorb the vast flow of information and still discern the essential current of events — the things that go together and the things that will never go together. It is the ability to engage in complex deliberations and feel which arguments have the most weight.

How is prudence acquired? Through experience. The prudent leader possesses a repertoire of events, through personal involvement or the study of history, and can apply those models to current circumstances to judge what is important and what is not, who can be persuaded and who can’t, what has worked and what hasn’t.

Experienced leaders can certainly blunder if their minds have rigidified (see: Rumsfeld, Donald), but the records of leaders without long experience and prudence is not good. As George Will pointed out, the founders used the word “experience” 91 times in the Federalist Papers. Democracy is not average people selecting average leaders. It is average people with the wisdom to select the best prepared.

It's time that America wakes up and realizes that the "elite" smear is only hurting this country by belittling people who dare to excel through the traditional educational method. What is interesting is that the party that slings the "elite" slur more than anyone is the one attempting to suppress traditionally Democratic voters in poor, urban areas. Talk about a class of privilege exerting power over a socially disadvantaged group....
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The Force is With Me
Tuesday, September 16, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
Though she will always be Princess Leia to me, I realized awhile ago that Carrie Fisher is also a really awesome lady in real life. I've read some excerpts of her writing, and it is fantastic stuff. I'm contemplating going to see her one-woman show here in DC. Check out this hilarious interview with Carrie Fisher at U.S.A. Today.

I will be light on the posting through Friday, as my crazy chinese grandmother and great-aunt will be in town with my parents to celebrate my birthday with me. So, for those of you looking to get me stuff, here's some Carrie Fisher-related cool stuff that I like (feel free to give these as gifts to any cool nerd/feminist/political junkie in your life, not just me):


Princess Leia in 08 t-shirt



Postcards From The Edge


30 Rock Season 2 DVD One of my favorite episodes of the season, "Rosemary's Baby", featured Carrie Fisher.

Tickets to see Carrie Fisher's one woman show in DC
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NFL Week 2 breakdown
Monday, September 15, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
Week 2 was a wild and woolly affair. Let's get right to it.

Strict Letter of the Law vs. Good Common Sense. Many of you may remember last year's crazy affair between the Ravens and the Browns, where the Browns kicker Phil Dawson kicked what would have been the game-tying field goal. The ball hit the post, hit the cross bar, and bounced out. The refs called the field goal no good, the Ravens started to celebrate, it looked over. However, everyone in the stadium watching the replay could see that the ball did in fact make it through the posts, before bouncing back out, so it should have been a good try. However, the current rules at that time did not allow reviewing field goals on instant replay. The refs gathered together at mid-field to "confer" and suddenly they did the right thing, reversed the call, and the game went into OT. Now, you'll never get them to admit it, but really, the refs were looking at the stadium display, and though technically it wasn't kosher, they did the right thing, saw they made a mistake and reversed the call. They let the players determine the outcome of the game in OT.

Well, yesterday, the Chargers made a dramatic comeback in the 4th quarter and were leading the Broncos by 7. The Broncos drove all the way down the field, but Cutler fumbled the ball on the 10 yard line, with the Chargers recovering. Game over, right? Nope. Ed Hochuli waved off the play as an incomplete pass. The booth made the call to review, where it was obvious that it was a fumble. However, Hochuli had blown his whistle nanoseconds before the Chargers recovered, making it a dead ball, giving it back to the Broncos on the 10. The Broncos went on to throw a TD 2 plays later, and then made a spectacular and insane 2 point conversion to win the game by 1 point.

Now, what Ed should have done while under the hood is think about the spirit of the dead whistle rule. The idea is that the ball is dead, because once the whistle blows, you don't know who stopped their effort (and therefore would have no idea who would have recovered the ball, etc). However, the only people near that ball were Cutler (who fell down) and a Charger who clearly recovered the ball cleanly. There were no other players within 5 yards of the ball. So the idea that perhaps someone else would have recovered the ball or knocked it out of bounds had the whistle not blown was obviously impossible. Hochuli should have done the right thing and pretended not to notice his own whistle, or allow that the ball was recovered right before he blew the whistle.

It's a shame because Hochuli is normally a great ref, and this is going to haunt him. It's a shame because the Chargers should have won this game, and instead are now 0-2 for the season. A ref's call should NEVER be the deciding factor in a game, particularly when it's the wrong call.

Black is White! Up is down! If I told you Saturday that there were two games about to be played between the Colts and Vikings, and the Seahawks and 49ers, and that the resulting scores of the games would be 33-30 and 18-15, which score would have you matched to which game? The Colts look shaky with their offensive line in tatters, but having Peyton Manning behind the wheel means you have a chance to win every week. The same cannot be said for the Vikings who, despite having one of the premier backs in Adrian Peterson (who ran for a ton of yards), still can't get it done, only scoring 5 field goals for the day. It's been said over and over again, but the Vikings are a built-to-win-now club, and they can't afford Tavaris Jackson's continued underperformance.

If I had asked you at the beginning of the season which tandem would be the more feared 1-2 punch at WR, the Patriots' Moss/Welker or Broncos' Marshall/Royal, which would you have picked?

If I had asked you at the beginning of the season which 2 teams would be 2-0 and which would be 0-2, and your choices were the Jacksonville Jags, San Diego Chargers, Carolina Panthers (sans their star receiver Steve Smith), and Arizona Cardinals, what would you have said?

Studs of the week. Despite 2 turnovers (1 official and 1 unofficial) at critical moments, Jay Cutler had a huge game and continued to prove that he is the undisputed next big thing at QB for the league. Kid looked sharp, going 36 for 50 with 350 yards and 4 TDs, plus making the 2 point conversion throw that won the whole game. Meanwhile, good old Kurt Warner just refuses to act his age, putting up 361 yards and 3 TDs (he would have had more, but Wiesenhunt took mercy on the Dolphins and played Leinart towards the end). Also - Brett who? Aaron Rodgers had another spectacular week for the Packers. In the non-QB section of the league, Darren McFadden ran for 164 yards and 1 TD against the JV squad masquerading as an NFL team known as the Kansas City Chiefs, and Anquan Boldin snagged 3 TDs.

Teams I like this week. Don't look now, but the Buffalo Bills are 2-0. They're not sexy, but they get it done. They've got 3 cream puff teams coming up against Arizona, St. Louis and Oakland, so don't discount the possibility of them starting 5-0 this year (I give Arizona the best shot at an upset). I also like the Titans this week, with Chris Johnson looking very promising and Kerry Collins giving them an upgrade at the QB position in terms of decision-making and pass throwing ability. Green Bay also looks good, but they worried me a bit letting the Lions come back from such a huge deficit. Next week's game at Dallas will tell you if the Packers are for real or not.

Teams I don't like this week. The Raiders may have beaten the Chiefs, but JaMarcus Russell does NOT look good at the QB position. He looks like a defensive end throwing the ball on some weird fake field goal trick play. They won't be able to run all over better teams, and Russell's glaring flaws will be magnified even more. The Chiefs and the Rams are clearly the JV squads of the NFL, so be sure to start any fantasy players you have who are going against these 2 teams. Meanwhile, the Saints are showing the same inconsistency, particularly in the defense, that damned them in the two previous seasons.


***(pictures are AP photos taken from the ESPN site)
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Politics! (make me want to kill myself)
Friday, September 12, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
As I've been telling some friends, I'm completely worked up and angry about politics these days, so I haven't been blogging about it as much as I would normally.

Frankly, I'm exhausted. The choice is just so obvious here. The level of deceit the McCain campaign is willing to stoop to is just breathtaking. And the media's obvious bias towards the GOP is also crazy, given the myth of the "liberal media" I keep hearing tossed around. There's this idea that the media's responsibility is to give both sides equal amounts of time to discuss an issue. But that's a false sense of parity. If an issue can be argued from both sides, fine. But when one side says one thing, and then the other side wants to counter with a blatant lie, the media SHOULD NOT allow the other side to just tell the lie. It is the media's responsibility to uncover the truth, not to let two opponents say whatever the fuck they want.

A great analogy was published over at Adam Miller's blog:
An average is not a rationale. An analogy: If Democrats thinks a round wheel works best and Republicans thinks a square is preferable, the Democrats are not acting in anyone's benefit by reaching "across the aisle" and settling for an octagonal wheel. The Democrats are simply correct; their efforts to compromise suggest only that they are unsure of their correctness, or do not believe settling on the correct answer is important.
Case in point: the McCain ad accusing Obama of supporting legislation to teach explicit sex ed to kindergarteners. It has been well documented that one of the main points of the legislation (supported by multiple respected health, education and family groups, by the way) was to teach young kids how to spot and avoid unwanted advances from adult predators. It also went out of its way to provide an opt-out clause for any parent who didn't want their child exposed to the education.



Anyway, for those of you mysteriously still on the fence, here's some articles for you to check out:
  • Fascinating article on Cindy McCain's scandalous past drug use (not that I'm going all straight edge on you - what is more concerning is the way she went about abusing her charity to feed her habit and the lives that were destroyed because of her actions.
  • Does Sarah Palin's claim that she wouldn't be the first VP in history never to have met with a foreign leader prior to taking office hold water? Hint: no.
  • John McCain will abandon any position that he used to support, in order be elected. The current list of flip flops stands at 76 documented cases, not to mention the fact that he flip flopped by hiring the same political attack dogs that so scurriously attacked his family back in 2000 (among the rumors spread was a lie that McCain's adopted daughter from Bangaledesh was born out of wedlock with a black woman).
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Tony Kornheiser Must Be Stopped
Tuesday, September 09, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
One of my favorite comedies of all time is Christopher Guest's awesome "Best In Show", a mockumentary about dog breeders getting ready for a faux Westminster dog show. For those of you who haven't seen it, drop what you're doing RIGHT NOW, proceed immediately to the nearest rental store, and go pick up this DVD (or better yet, buy it, since it is well worth watching multiple times). For those who have seen it, you know that one of the highlights of the movie is Fred Willard, portraying one of the television commentators.



What's hilarious about it is that you get the feeling that Willard has never watched a dog show in his life (and in fact, may have never seen a dog before) and you can sense the frustration of his fellow commentator.

Now, the real life equivalent of that is Tony Kornheiser working Monday Night Football. Don't get me wrong - I like Kornheiser on Pardon The Interruption, and obviously he knows a bit about sports. But you would never guess it from listening to his banter on MNF. Mike Tirico is the play-by-play guy, while Ron Jaworski (a.k.a. "Jaws") gamely tries to break down the more intricate points of the game at hand. Kornheiser.... is just sort of there, doing his best to completely derail the conversation. He'll talk about almost anything BUT the game going on in front of him. And, just like Best in Show, his fellow commentators are often completely irritated by him.

King Kaufman chronicles Kornheiser's latest baffoonery, in which Kornheiser seems to think that no QB other than Brett Favre has EVER thrown a well-thrown pass over 20 yards or made a dramatic throw off-balance.

One holdover from the old days of trying to dress up the game to appeal to the casual fan is Tony Kornheiser, who on Monday just would not let up on the story line of Rodgers replacing Brett Favre. He identified Rodgers' every move as Favre-like and attributed every hand-clap in Lambeau Field to Packers fans seeing Favre when they looked at Rodgers.

He'd already been hitting that theme pretty hard when Rodgers threw a nice bomb early in the second quarter, Greg Jennings making a beautiful catch down the middle at the Minnesota 6-yard line for a 56-yard gain.

"That is exactly the kind of pass that Brett Favre would have thrown," Kornheiser gushed, "and look at the way the crowd responds right now! It's Aaron Rodgers, and he's waking the echoes of No. 4 with a play like that."

Waking the echoes? I don't know. I've been to a lot of football games, some of them before Brett Favre even got to Southern Miss, never mind Green Bay, and I'm pretty sure the home crowd always responds in a favorable manner to a 56-yard pass by the home team to the 6-yard line. Even if the pass wasn't particularly Favre-like in any way.

I was incredibly frustrated by the endless prattling about Favre by Kornheiser. It was a disservice to poor Aaron Rodgers, who's been nothing but classy in the face of all the Favre retirement hysteria. The kid played a great game and deserved to be praised on his own merits, not endlessly compared to some guy he used to back up.

What's more offensive about Kornheiser though is the way he comes at every game with an agenda in mind. I've heard him say on several occasions "That's not what people want to see! The story they want to see is... [insert storyline here]". He comes at games with a particular storyline he wants to push and discuss, even if events on the field don't support that. Again, going back to this week's game, it was clear Kornheiser was hellbent on talking about Brett Favre, no matter what. He's done it in previous games, deciding ahead of time which players he wanted to focus on, and what angles he wanted to push. One of the great things about sports is the element of surprise - that an unlikely hero could arise at any moment, that a "sure thing" player might fail in epic fashion, that the underdog might just win. By deciding what stories are important in advance, Kornheiser is detracting from the best part of watching live football. We don't tune in because we want some artificial drama between two players (i.e. the "Manning Bros duel" from last year's Colts-Giants game). We watch because some dude we've never heard of named Dante Rosario might end up catching the game winning pass with 1 second left on the clock.

A great sportscaster has the ability to quickly analyze what's going on on the field of play, and then say something that will provide the viewer with some interesting fact about what they're seeing. Some are insiders, who have tidbits about every player on the field - i.e. what their approach to the game is, or some quote from the player that illustrates something about their play or character. Some commentators can break down the play to illustrate how it works, what advantages and disadvantages it has, so that the viewer better understands the more advanced part of the game. Kornheiser does neither of these. Basically, he talks about whatever dramatic storyline he had prepared before the game, and spends the rest of his time making non-football related comments that distract the other guys in the booth.

Consider these contributions from Kornheiser from the first and second quarter of the MNF game this week:
  • "That's exactly the kind of pass Favre would have thrown. Does it remind you of him at all?" (now read that quote to yourself 400 times, since that's how much he talked about Favre)
  • "He looks like Jack Black, only bigger."
  • "Our cheese curds are saltier than your cheese curds."
Frankly, it needs to stop. Kornheiser needs to go back to his column, radio show and PTI, and leave MNF alone. MNF gets some of the marquee matchups throughout the year, and it sucks as a fan knowing that if I want to watch the ONLY game airing at that time, I must suffer through Tony Kornheiser's never ending rambling.
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NFL Week 1 breakdown
Monday, September 08, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
So, week 1 of the NFL regular season is upon us, and already it's shaping up to be a crazy year. Allow me to share some observations. And yes, I know it's early, and anything could happen later in the season to change my opinion, but this is what I've got so far.

Tom Brady is probably done for the season. This is obviously one of the biggest stories from around the league. At around 1:35pm EST or so, you Jedis may have felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. Those would be the fantasy football owners whose seasons just flashed before their eyes.

It's hard to understate how much this shakes up the entire AFC picture. First of all, within the AFC East, the Jets are suddenly the #1 contender to take the division. The Bills are now much more likely to make the playoffs (either by defeating the Jets for the division title, or claiming a wild card). Even the Dolphins can hold out hope at defeating the Patriots during the regular season.

Outside the division, suddenly the Chargers, Colts, or even Steelers now feel like they can win the #1 seed much more easily. Teams who were dreading matching up against the fearsome Brady-led passing attack now know all they need to do is contain Randy Moss.

Other signficant injuries of note. Titans QB Vince Young looks to be out for 2-4 weeks. To be honest, I'm not sure that's going to hurt the Titans much. Kerry Colllins is a capable QB, and frankly Young hasn't looked great, so it won't be hard to post better numbers. Nate Burleson, WR for the Seahawks, may miss time as well. For the already injury-devastated receiving corps of the Seahawks, this is a catastrophe. There is literally almost no one left to throw to on that team. Pity poor Matt Hasselbeck. Pity my fantasy team who was counting on Burleson to carry me at the WR spot one more week till Steve Smith comes back from his suspension.

Certain teams didn't get the memo about how they were supposed to suck this year. Teams on this list include the Chicago Bears - suddenly looking like the fierce 2006 Super Bowl team they were, instead of the disaster of 2007 - and the Atlanta Falcons, who shocked the Lions for the first win of young Matt Ryan's career. The Bears defense was its usual dominating self, taking advantage of Manning's obvious discomfort and rustiness. Kyle Orton was impressively cool and managed the game just the way they needed. Matt Forte looks like the real deal. Speaking of the real deal, Matt Ryan was exactly as advertised. His nickname in college was "Matty Ice" because of his coolness under pressure, and watching yesterday's game, it's no exaggeration. This kid is ready to start now, and though he won't face the Lions' lousy defense every week, he shows all the signs of being a true star within a few years. Michael Turner was also everything we thought he might be, absolutely destroying the Lions singlehandedly for 2 TDs and 220 yards. The Carolina Panthers also get credit for hanging tough and beating the Chargers without their star receiver (who's suspended 2 games for sucker punching a teammate).

Studs of the week. Willie Parker of the Steelers also had a field day proving all the critics wrong (many had him on their "don't draft him whatever you do!" lists this year), running for 138 yards and 3 TDs. Donovan McNabb also has a chip on his shoulder this year and absolutely tore it up against the terrible Rams. I thought he looked great at the end of last season and I think he'll be great again this year (assuming he stays healthy). Drew Brees was awesome, and so was his teammate Reggie Bush. I've already mentioned Michael Turner.

Teams I like this week.
I love when a team puts a good plan together, and then goes out and executes it perfectly. The Buffalo Bills played their kind of game, dominating on defense, being steady on offense, and owning special teams. This is why a lot of teams don't want to play them this year - they're a better team than their individual stats would suggest. I also liked the Atlanta Falcons, mostly because I felt really bad for them about last year (none of which they deserved), so it was nice to see something good finally happen for that club.

Teams I don't like this week. The Patriots have been avoiding the backup question for years, and it's finally caught up to them. After the QB injuries last year, the Patriots needed to go out and invest in a backup QB they can believe in. You can't tell me they think Matt Cassell is the best they could do. Also, they're insane if they don't consider having Daunte Culpepper work out for them. I also don't like the Redskins this year, who looked bad across the board (see my previous post).

I'll update this post after tonight's game.

***(pictures are AP photos taken from the ESPN site)
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Washington Redskins - Week 1 breakdown
Friday, September 05, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
Well, the NFL regular season kicked off last night, with the Giants versus the Redskins. It was one of the duller games I've watched in the last few years. Anyway since I live in DC (and because it was the only game on), I'll break down what I thought about my home team.

From what I saw last night, this season is not shaping up well already for the Redskins. They got pretty much man-handled by the N.Y. Giants. The failure was pretty much across the board, save for special teams, where Rock Cartwright provided one of the only glimmers of hope.

Offense
They just looked plain bad. Jason Campbell struggled to find his rhythm in the West Coast offense, and didn't complete a pass until the second quarter. That is unacceptable. Clinton Portis ran a decent game, but he took a lot of hard hits. He won't last the season if the passing game doesn't take some of the slack for him. The O line struggled all night, though I will say that the Giants rush is one of the more difficult ones to face. Overall, the offense only made 11 first downs and just over 200 total yards. Part of the reason they only made 11 first downs was due to the fact that they kept throwing 3rd down passes to guys who weren't past the first down marker.

Defense
Brandon Jacobs had his way with the line, literally running over many of their players. Jason Taylor was ineffective in the pass rush (I'm giving him a slight pass for now, since he's slightly injured, which may have affected his ability to explode off the line). The secondary was burned by Plax Burress for over 130 yards. The secondary dropped several easy interceptions.

Coaching
The team started poorly, and it looked like the coach was able to do little to motivate his squad to play better. Zorn also showed a poor grasp of coaching basics, like simple time management. The offense showed little hustle thorughout the game and they ended the first half with time outs still left!

Overall, it was a poor effort. This is what you get when you hire a coaching staff before you find a head coach. Don't be surprised to see the Redskins go under .500 this year.


***(picture is AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
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Why Are There Nothing But White People at the Republican Convention?
Friday, September 05, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
The Washington Post has an observation about the overwhelming homogenous-looking Republican convention. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to look at the convention videos and think "Wow, there's nothing but white people there.".

The article then discusses the Republican Party's troubles recruiting minorities to their party. They talk about how there's not enough "role models" in the party, and if ONLY they had gotten their 3 African American candidates elected in 2006, that would have really "turned the tide" for the party. The article mentions how they attempted to reach out to voters at the 2000 convention by featuring Colin Powell, along with a preacher and a gospel choir as well.

This all misses the point. You can't just make token gestures once every 4 years and expect minority voters to just change their minds. In fact, stunts like the Powell appearance smack of that classic "But some of my best friends are black!" statement. They don't seem to realize that giving up on the black vote because the Democrats happen to have a black candidate this year is, in itself, pandering and insulting. It implies that black voters will choose race above the issues.

Frankly, just look at the conduct of the Republican party this year alone. Their VP nominee openly mocks community organizers, as if it's incredibly hilarious that people (particularly in poor urban communities) would take time out of their day to help their neighbors and create better communities to live in. Yesterday, Georgia Republican Rep. Westmoreland called Barack Obama "uppity". And here's the terrible part: as of this blog posting, not a single Republican has had the courage to condemn him for that. These are just a few examples of the incredibly tone deaf nature of the party of late, so it doesn't take a big leap of logic to guess why minorities are pretty much avoiding this party like the plague.
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Stupid Is As Stupid Does
Wednesday, September 03, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
McCain ad: Palin more qualified than Obama

Now, this article is just one of many hilarious "talking points" the McCain campaign has been trying to push. I keep coming back to the same two thoughts:
  1. How stupid do they think we are?
  2. Just how stupid are we?
The Republicans think they can just keep repeating the same blatant lies over and over again, until people start to think they're true. If they just stick to the "talking points", eventually people will just accept them as facts. And the scary thing is, I think it may work. This election is a test of whether the American people are capable of seeing past the lies and distortions and voting with their heads, not their guts.

The Republicans are really pushing the limits of reasonable thought with the Palin experience question. I've heard several of them say, with a straight face, that Palin's stint as a small hamlet mayor and her 20 months as governor make her more qualified than Barack Obama to serve at the highest level of the executive branch. Now they've gone even further and are suggesting that she is more qualified than Joe Biden. That's just insane.

Let's catalog some of the more outrageous claims that the Republicans have been floating:
  • Palin has served as the commander of the National Guard. Okay, technically the office is empowered to direct the Guard when it comes to state level activity (i.e. emergency relief). But Palin has never ordered the Alaska National Guard to do anything in her tenure as governor.
  • Palin has fought government spending, including, in her own words, "saying thanks, but no thanks" to the Bridge to Nowhere. Except that's not true at all, and in fact her own running mate specifically named her when talking about ridiculous earmarks. She even hired lobbyists to bring more federal funds into Wasilla, even though lobbyists had never been used there before.
  • The fact that her state is close to Russia means she has "foreign policy experience". I've heard several people mention this. Frankly, this is so stupid, I'm not going to bother rebutting it, because if you don't get why this is a bullshit argument, you're probably too stupid to process the rest of what I'm saying.
  • From McCain himself:
    "She's been governor of our largest state, in charge of 20 percent of America's energy supply ... She's responsible for 20 percent of the nation's energy supply. I'm entertained by the comparison and I hope we can keep making that comparison that running a political campaign is somehow comparable to being the executive of the largest state in America."
    Yes, largest in terms of land mass. But Alaska is sparsely populated, and has few of the problems that test governors of larger states (and thus make them experienced in terms of what they may address as president). Alaska is awash in natural resources, only has a part time legislature that serves 90 days a year, and has a strong libertarian streak.
I watched parts of her speech last night, and was struck by several things. First of all, it was a partisan attack speech designed to appeal to the traditional right wing base, not one designed to present her viewpoints to independent voters. That was strange. She's already got the love from the base - the problem is how to appeal to the swing voters. Does presenting a sarcastic, nasty speech really paint the right picture? Will swing voters fall for the blatant lies she told in her speech?

Second, I'm surprised by the praise many people are heaping on her, with headlines saying things like "Palin goes on the attack." Let's be clear here - McCain's people had a speech ready before a VP nominee was even picked. Now, yes, they had to re-write once Palin came along, but only because the tone was too "masculine". So to suggest that the speech's content had anything to do with who Palin truly is as a person is a bit much. The only thing it showed was Palin's ability to speak in public and to read a prepared speech that was handed to her. So congratulations, Sarah Palin - hooked on phonics worked for you. But let's be clear here - the message was written before the woman ever came along, and the rest is all smoke and mirrors and one big political ad. The message was predetermined - Orbitz gum is ALWAYS going to make mouths happy, choosey moms are ALWAYS going to pick Jif peanut butter, and Sarah Palin was ALWAYS going to "go on the attack."
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