Friday, November 30, 2007

"We're All Embarrassed"

That's the money quote from Knicks Coach GM Architect Of Mass Destruction Isiah Thomas. Tonight on the much more entertaining than the game post-game show on TNT, Charles Barkley, in referring to the Knicks in their breathtaking 104-59 loss to the Celtics, started his analysis with, "The problem with the Washington Generals is..."

The late game in the doubleheader were the disappointing Nuggets sleeping their way through the second half against the suddenly rejuvenated Lakers, in what eventually wound up being a 25-point loss. As we came back from commercial, Chuck wasn't on the set, then came in halfway through the open, saying, "If I have to watch these games again, I want a raise. Hazard pay."

Once again, the Round Mound of Rebound speaks a lot of truth. The score at the end of three quarters tonight in Boston -- Celtics 82, Knicks 41. Here is how gutless the Knicks were: they shot 30% from the floor and missed 53 shots. Number of offensive rebounds: seven. Over half of this game was spent with the Celtics having a 20-point lead, the Knicks could not buy a bucket, and yet -- no offensive rebounds. Gut. Less.

To quote Bob Dylan, can *this* really be the end? TBS showed a clip of Isiah Thomas saying that he "did not know where this game came from." Um, Isiah? It came from you assembling a Frankenstein team that can't play defense, has no heart, and does not care about anything but their own numbers. It brewed together in an environment of paranoia, harrassment, and utter incompetence. And it was displayed on national television, for the world to see.

Knicks-Bucks tomorrow night. If I had to bet... I think they come out and beat the Bucks, because Isiah Thomas Can Not Be Killed, Can Not Be Stopped, And Can Not Be Fired.

But you've got to hand it to the man. By the time he's done, no one will remember that he once played basketball. They will only remember this. The Knicks are just that special.

Epic Drop: Top 11 Irritating NFL Fan Types

Which one are you? I'll confess to 11, 8, 6 and 5... but never, ever #1. My Masstermind conversion is nothing like that.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

NFL Picks, Week 13: I Am The Champion, My Friends



Well, Tools, it's finally happened -- my picks have BROKEN THE .500 BARRIER. That may not sound impressive to you, but it's a better record than the World Wide Lemur's Leading Masstermind. And just like it says on Frank Sinatra's grave, the best is yet to come!

This week's picks, of course, have to come early, thanks to the NFL's need to put the week's most-anticipated game on a cable channel that no one gets. What a PR disaster. Oh, wait, I forgot -- the NFL has no PR disasters. Players are killed, teams run up scores, half of the teams have quarterbacks that you should not watch without getting community service credit... but the league has never been better! Quick, let's complain about MLB salary inequity and the fact that NBA players have lots of kids out of wedlock!

Anyway... no time to be bitter. Or to think. Don't you just love football on every day of the week? YOU WILL!

On to the picks!

* * * * *

Green Bay as a 7-point dog in DALLAS. The Cowboys blow people out, but with both teams having QBs that turn the ball over, I think the Pack covers the spread. They've also had a crazy amount of good luck this year, so it's hard to see that going away in a hurry. Finally, though the Pack don't run the ball well, the Cowboys also don't cover that great... so it's all coming down as too close for the spread. Tough call, though.

MIAMI covering as a 1-point favorite against the New York Jets. By the numbers (points for, points against), the Dolphins might actually be a better team than the Jets, and their defense has looked like an NFL team the last few weeks. John Beck has to look better at home against a bad team, as opposed to being in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, and the Dolphins special teams have also shown a pulse recently. Add it up, and I think the Dolphins cheat history and finally get a win.

MINNESOTA covering 3.5 against Detroit. The Thanksgiving game against the Packers may have been the levy break for these Lions, who will have another week where they get absolutely nothing on the ground and have QB John Kitna get smacked around because of it. Meanwhile, the Vikes have had flashes of competence at WR, which should continue against a bad Lions secondary, and the Vikings should really be able to run the ball here, too. Neither of these teams should go to the playoffs, and neither will.

PHILADELPHIA covering 3 against Seattle. The Sehawks were down early and often last week in St. Louis and Gus Frerotte -- yes, Gus Frerotte -- before they picked it up enough to get the win. Things will go worse for them against a suddenly frisky Eagles team that is coming off their best loss ever against the Patriots. There is also this: some of the worst losses in the Reid Era have been to the Seahawks. One suspects that this won't be forgotten about, and when it comes down to it, the Eagles simply need and want this one more than the Seahawks, who could probably win the NFC West with an 8-8 record.

TENNESSEE covering 4 against Houston. I finally saw some Houston football last weekend, and Owen Daniels has some potential -- I see him being another Todd Heap. Unfortunately, that's the 2007 Todd Heap, the face of my first fantasy team ever to miss the playoffs -- so he gets open, but drops the ball and/or fumbles it. This whole game will come down to whether or not Albert Haynesworth can make the start for the Titans; if he can, the Texans won't run the ball well enough to have a diversified offense, and the Titans can go back to being a good defensive team when that happens. If he's out, flush.

INDIANAPOLIS covering 6.5 against Jacksonville. The Jags are my hate team; I just don't think that they are that good, mostly because they play such a boring, low margin kind of style. On the fast track in Indy, against a Colts team that's starting to get healthy again and is better than they've shown recently, I think they get exposed a bit, and we can all stop talking about how David Garrard hasn't thrown a pick.

WASHINGTON covering 5.5 against Buffalo. This kind of emotion is hard to predict, but against a Bills team that stopped trying once the Patriots showed up, I can't see how the skidding 'Skins don't come out like gangbusters and lead by three emotional touchdowns at the break. Reality and loss will hit next week, when they get Chicago at home on a short week in a de facto elimination game, but this week will be all about honoring the memory of Sean Taylor with a win. Marshawn Lynch missing the game is also a big help.

San Diego covering 5.5 in KANSAS CITY. What to do with this Charger team? They remind me of the Seahawks, in that they are gutless frontrunners that should be better than they are, and would probably benefit greatly from a coach change. This week, they are in Kansas City against a Chiefs team that gave up the first road division win for the Raiders since the 1970s (OK, not really, but close). After the Broncos punted the win against the Bears away to Devin Hester last week, the Chargers have to put together a little run to convince people to bet them in the playoffs, right? The False Confidence Norv Drive Starts Now!

San Francisco as a 3-point dog in CAROLINA. What loathsome household task would you rather perform than watch this game? I'd go with cleaning the gutters, or maybe painting the drywall; you'd have more thrills. The Niners come off a Houdini win in Arizona, while the Panthers come off their latest stink bomb against the Saints. If David Carr is involved, you have to go the other way. If Trent Dilfer is involved, you have to... give the ball to the suddenly on the radar Frank Gore, and hope that the Niners pass rush makes a few plays. Or go work on putting plastic on your old windows for the winter.

ST. LOUIS (pick 'em) against Atlanta. Is anyone going to this game? Is anyone, other than the degenerate gambler and desperate fantasy player, in any way interested? Both teams have quit, both teams have coaches that need to be euthanized rather than fired, and both teams are probably better than their rec... no, actually, they are just that bad. I, um, like the Cardinals if Marc Bulger can play, just so that he can rack up big after-the-fact numbers for my DOA fantasy team. As for the Falcons, anyone that can write more than 100 words about them at this point in the season may be related to one of the players.

Cleveland in a pick'em against ARIZONA. This might actually be the most fun game to watch in the NFL this week, just because neither team can stop the pass, both teams are prone to wild plays, and the WRs are just off the hook. I think we're going to see 900 yards of offense and 70 points in this game with 10 sacks and 5 turnovers, and as Cleveland is destiny's darling and the Cardinals are the Cardinals... the Browns pull off the win in the last minute. Good times.

Denver covering 3.5 points in OAKLAND. For two straight years while living in the Bay Area, I received free Raiders tickets. Both years, it was the Broncos. Both years, the road team handed the ball to their RB (Portis one year, Reuben Droughns the next) until he got to 200 yards. Both years, a cold drizzle turned into a cold rain, with the field deteriorating, the crowd starting ugly and getting uglier, and me leaving in the third quarter. This year? More of the same, though maybe with a little more from Jay Cutler and a little less from the RBs.

Tampa Bay aas a 3-point dog in NEW ORLEANS. This is the Bucs' chance to seize this bad division by the throat, and maybe even dream of a top 2 seed in the event of a collapse from the Cowboys-Packers loser. I'd like their chances more if Jeff Garcia was completely healthy, but I think he'll be good enough by Sunday to take advantge of a Saints team that can't avoid turnovers or stop Graham and Galloway. And as improbable as that Tampa #2 seed sounds, remember, it's just the Eagles being able to catch a punt in Week 1 from being a heck of a lot closer to reality...

CHICAGO as a 1.5 point underdog to the New York Giants. That Giants' second-half collapse really crept up on me this year, I have to admit, but now that it's here, at what point does Tom Coughlin through Eli Manning under the bus? From watching last week's freakout against the Vikings, you can say this for definite and forever for Fredo Manning; if he starts the game badly, there's no coming back from it. The Giants would have been better off telling the world he got hurt in the second quarter, putting in Hefty Lefty Jared Lorenzon, and handing the ball off to Ward and Droughns for 40 times, then seeing if Tavaris Jackson would throw a pick or two for them. Instead, they lost a home game where the opposing QB threw 13 - 13! - passes... and now they have to to Chicago and face a Bears team that is licking its chops at no longer having Fat Ced "Three Yards and a Cloud Of Lard" Benson clogging things up. So long as the Bears don't let Sexy Rexy face extreme pressure, I like their chances for the, um, upset. There is also this: Plex Burress is looking more and more hurt every week, and really isn't helping the team now.

PITTSBURGH covering 7 against Cincinnati. Will the Steelers' field consist of actual grass this week? Will Willie Parker finally take advantage of another cushy matchup against a terrible defense (he's got over 1000 yards this year with his whopping two touchdowns, all of it against defense that rank in the bottom five of the league) to give his fantasy owners more than a cheap payday? And will the Bengals continue to throw the ball all over the lot and rack up big yards to help cover for their boom-or-break defense? Yes, yes and no, respectively, as the Steelers finally wake up from their two-week coma of playing down to terrible opponents in advance of their showdown with the Patriots. The big key to the game for the Steelers is Santonio Holmes, who should be back in action. The Steelers also have this to worry about: if they want to win their division against those surprising Browns, they can't lose this game. The schedule gets a lot tougher after this.

New England covering 20.5 -- no, 23.5 -- against BALTIMORE. If the Ravens can convince Todd Heap that he's not fat and ugly and hideous and that he should come out of his room and put down the Haagen Dazs... they'd have the kind of middle-field weapon that the Eagles used to great effect last week. Kyle Boller is a little like Jay Feeley, in that he'll be playing this game with no expectations and does have some talent. The Ravens have some serious athletes on the defensive side of the ball, and a good home crowd. New England comes in a little banged up for once, and with some doubts about their ability to run the ball... and none of that will matter that much, because Willis McGahee is not Brian Westbrook, and the ugly truth of the Ravens this year is that they really aren't that good against the pass any more (witness the 21-3 loss at home against the Bengals, which would have been a lot worse with any kind of red zone competence, as the 21 came from 7 field goals). Here comes that Bestus Team Ever talk again.

Last week 10-6
Year to date: 83-82-11 (OVER .500 WITH A VENGEANCE -- 13 games over .500 in the last 5 weeks)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Epic Drop: Top 12 Myths About Being A Carnie

Learn more about my glamorous life as a Carnie. I've got the strained thumbs and proud ink to know of where I speak... and no, before you ask, I can not get that stuffed animal for free, even if your kid really, really, really wants it. You want it, you knock over the milk bottles. C'mon. It's not hard. Unless you're gutless.

Perspective

Last year at just around this time, I worked with a bright and very personable 24-year-old guy. We weren't in the same department, but I knew him, liked him, and tapped him for information on a fairly routine basis. He was a kid from Canada who had moved to New York City at the request of our employer, and he utterly loved NYC. He also loved partying, and went out a lot during the week, to the point where you could tell when he was dragging at the office. But he worked long hours and got his stuff done, so no one really noticed or thought too much of it, other than the occasional jibe about him not sleeping in the six months since he came to New York.

Then he turned up dead, and no one knew how or from what.

A year later, I still don't know the circumstances surrounding his death, but the most likely story was an accidental overdose, or someone killed for being with someone he shouldn't have been with. The choice to not spell out what happened was the choice of his parents, and given the magnitude of their loss, so be it.

The office was more or less shut down for the better part of a week, both in New York and in our other locations, because people were just that wiped out by the loss. The body was flown back to his hometown, and over 1500 people were at the funeral, so it's not like he was just popular in the office. A week later, there was a memorial service in which the entire New York office was gathered together to light candles and talk for an hour about everything he meant to us. It was nice, and I guessed it helped some people, especially the younger folks in the office who worked with him on a daily basis.

A month after that, my department was laid off and given severance packages that you would have considered insulting if they weren't so clueless. It was the third round of such happy fun in the first (and last) six months of my employment there, and as far as I know, it wasn't the last. I scrambled, found another gig in a week and a half, and a better one than that four months later. The clueless company is still around, still in turmoil, and in one of those twists that just make me more convinced of the existence of the Beavis God (i.e., a supreme deity that has the taste and refinement of the dumber of the two geniuses from the old MTV cartoon), I have the privilege of working with them at my new gig. Nothing like having to be a professional.

The reason why I bring this all up is, of course, Sean Taylor. And the fact that his passing made me remember the coworker, who I really haven't thought of for, oh, 10 months.

The death of the required by sportswriter law to somehow include the word troubled safety of the Washington Redskins is making a lot of people wax philosophic, and others to try to spin it into a greater narrative of What's Wrong With People In The World Who Aren't Like The Speaker.

I'm going to be very rude and very blunt here, and ask just about all of these people to stop talking in front of microphones, and for the media to stop giving them that opportunity. Not out of respect for the dead, but out of respect for the process.

Grief is personal. It's also contagious. And given the more than occasional deaths of pro athletes, not unprecedented. When the Eagles lost Jerome Brown, it became a year-long motivational speech of questionable taste for a defense that played with constant emotion; one expects the Redskins will do something similar. And in a year or two, or more likely a few more weeks, the Skins will have moved on, because that is what the living do.

Sean Taylor's death was tragic and senseless and sad and no worse, really, than the death of my coworker a year ago, or the death of anyone that you've ever known. His passing is no more meaningful, or less, than that. The vast number of people who are now talking about it don't need to make more out of it than that, but given who they are and the public nature of what they do, such tact and decorum isn't going to happen.

They also really don't need to tell me about how Taylor's coworkers are all going to be fine, because Taylor's managers are like family. My old company was just like a family a year ago, while we all held candles and remembered our guy for who he was, not how he ended. It didn't stop people from being canned, because that's the way the world works. Your family is your family. The people that you work with are not, even if they are young and fast and strong and possessing of the great attributes necessary to perform in sports.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Epic Drop: Top 13 NBA Thieves

Your list is here, and it required research and everything, so go read it. Fun fact: the list will make over $170 million this year to play basketball. And many of them even play occasionally!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Epic Drop: Top 10 Unbelievable NFL Developments

Your list is here, and the class action lawsuit from people who had offensive players in their fantasy leagues in tonight's abomination of an MNF game is here...

Punished for Competence: The Philadelphia Eagles Story

Ah, Philly. A day after the season's best effort, one that validated the organization as being able to prepare a world-class game plan and give the biggest spread favorites in NFL history all they could handle on the road, dropping the team to a 5-6 but still very much alive playoff situation, and how does the local media and fan base repay their efforts?

QUARTERBACK CONTROVERSY!

On Philly.com, where you go if you want to read the Philadelphia Daily News or Inquirer without admitting to it in public, 72% of 12K+ votes this afternoon say that the Eagles should start Feeley next week "no matter what."

Now, I'd understand this if Donovan McNabb were, say, Bobby Hoying. Or maybe even Rodney Peete. But he's not. HE'S THE BEST QB IN THE HISTORY OF THE FRANCHISE, YOU FREAKING IDIOTS. And he's not, believe it or not, responsible for the effort and effectiveness of 21 other starting football players.

But beyond that... let us analyze AJ Feeley's performance objectively, as if he were just another quarterback, rather than the face of the franchise that has not made us totally and completely happy by giving us the Super Bowl win that we will be in eternal misery until we get, waah waah waah, Mommy the world is mean and filled with other teams that won't just let us win because it's been a real long time since we won.

We would note the following. For the positive, AJ:

> Didn't get rattled or throw in the towel when down on the road

> Made many legitimately fine throws, especially on 3rd down

> Got rid of the ball quickly, and stood tall in the pocket against odd-man blitzes

> Showed fire and passion, and seemed to be actually enjoying himself

> Didn't look over-matched at all against (gulp) Tom Brady

Unfortunately for the Feeley Forever Friends (which, if the Eagles lose with him against Seattle this week, would scatter like roaches in the kitchen after the lights are turned on, only to reform as the Kevin Kolb Kollektiv, and yes, the acronym is intentional, because I'm officially suspicious of the motives of some of you people), there were also some negatives.

AJ also

> Created three turnovers that were, without a doubt, the difference in the game, all of which were bad decision-making combined with bad execution. If that had been Don, the story wouldn't have been Close And Encouraging Win, it would be Don Must Go Because You Can't Have Those Mistakes From Your Starting QB. I quite agree.

> Does not seem to have the arm strength to throw a deep out, which means that by next week, that's what you'd be seeing as opponents clog the middle with linebackers and safeties that are not older than some coaches (looking at you, Seau and Harrison)

> Failed to lead the receiver consistently, especially in the second half, leading to several stalled drives and missed opportunities

> Isn't that much younger than Don, doesn't have a stronger arm or quicker feet, and has never looked good in any system other than this one, and in small doses

> Might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, given that the go-for-it throw on 2nd and 4 wasn't just unnecessary and dangerous, it would have also left *way* too much time on the clock for Brady if it *had* worked

Now, I'm not going to completely bury AJ. He played well, better than anyone had a right to expect, and if Don can't go against Seattle, I like the Eagles' chances to win anyway.

But he's AJ Feeley, people. There's a reason why he was available, and why the Eagles got him back for nothing after trading him away.

Here is that reason: He's not that good.

Donovan McNabb is. If you think his time is past and you want to see Kolb, well, fine. I don't agree, and won't until the team is eliminated from playoff contention, but at least you're not Completely Wrong and An Imbecile To Boot.

So, please, for the love of our reputation as football fans that actually know something about the game, stop falling for the Controversy That Isn't. Don's your QB. Root for him. And better yet, root for the rest of the team to give that kind of effort, regardless of who is under center. That's what fans do.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Epic Drop: Top 21 Consolations for Eagles Fans

Your list is here, and speaking as the biggest New England Fan That Could Ever Be, I *told* you that the Eagles were practicing treachery. That, plus all of the ridiculous calls that the road team got made me seriously question my faith in a Superior Being, but thankfully, the Massterminds prevailed... and will never, ever be so tested again.

Treachery!

Real fans of the New England Patriots (or, as I like to call those of us who have quaffed deeply and repeatedly from Coach's Mighty Vessel Of The One True Kool Aid, Massterminds) learn how to sniff out Treachery at every corner, as the enemies of Excellence and Legendariness seek to drag you down to their human, pathetic and reprehensible level of defeatedness. It makes me sick, the way these inferior men scheme and connive in their ways to cheat us all of History.

This week's opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles, are going about things in a particularly novel way. They intentionally got their star QB, Donovan McNabb, injured in last week's game against Miami. (And if you don't believe it was intentional, then why were the Eagles throwing on nearly every down against the 30th-ranked run defense in the NFL, at home, on a rainy and windy day, against an opponent who was starting John "Chris Weinke II" Beck on his first start, when the Dolphins' only chance of scoring was to have Ted Ginn Jr. return kicks? It makes no sense.)

Anyway, McNabb suffered ankle and thumb injuries, and is now said to be out for the planned SNF Eaglevisceration. Making matters worse for the visitors, who opened as 17.5 point underdogs and are now trading at 24.5, is that the Eagles back-up ia AJ Feeley. (Admittedly, the same AJ Feeley who QB'd the Dolphins past the Patriots once, but he's still AJ Feeley. It's not like this is someone to be really scared of, like a Koy Detmer.)

So, one of two things will happen under center for the Eagles on SNF:

1) McNabb will start, in a devastating piece of unsportsmanlike deception, and the Eagles will throw the ball all over the place regardless of his condition, or

2) Feeley will start, and the Eagles will attempt to *run* the ball, in a craven display of abandoning their true nature. This would also (the horror!) be their best tactical move, since it would put the ball in the hands of their best player, RB Brian Westbrook.

The visitors are also trying to pull the same trick in their defensive secondary, where third-string safety and unsuccessful kickoff returner J.R. Reid may get the start over the injured Quentin Mickell.

Now, the casual (i.e., non-Masstermind) fan will see this all as good news for the Patriots, as a heavy underdog is also injured in key positions. Lord knows the team could use some, what with that single failure this year to cover the spread and all. But as a Masstermind, I sense... treachery!

Isn't this just *like* the Eagles, as part of their Kevin Kolb-like ways, to create the Mother of All QB Controversies with Feeley, in the historically improbable event of an Eagles win? Is Andy Reid, who, it must be said, had the (gasp!) better of Coach Belichick in the Patriots Super Bowl win for the entire first half, before Coach's Special Tapes gave the Patriots the intellectual and completely fair and above-ground because we did it and the other team didn't boost, merely trying to exact his completely unnecessary and unsportsmanlike revenge on Coach while also creating the Ultimate QB Controversy Ever in Philadelphia?

Indeed, these are treacherous times for the One True Team, and seeing how this all unfolds will make for absolutely riveting television, for upwards to a quarter or more of actual football. I, for one, would sooner wish the Patriots fiery torment from a 45-man case of tainted Mexican food poisoning, right around the 8:15 kickoff, then miss a second of it.

Fingers crossed and stout hearts, my fellow Massterminds! Tomorrow night, we ride... to defeat treachery!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Cost of Things

Fourth quarter, UNC 14, Duke 14, under two minutes remaining. UNC faces fourth and one on the Duke 46.

And punts.

It appears that $291,000 is not enough money to purchase even a single testicle these days.

Tough Times in Oaktown

So the Southern Californian Angels of The Greater San Diego Megalopolis signed Torii Hunter to 5 years and $90 million, under the thought that he'll provide protection in the order for Vlad the Impaler... and as Hunter is still just 32, it's probably not that bad of a deal, though he hardly strikes you as an $18mm a year player, Gold Glove or no. I'm also not at all scared, as an A's fan, by their deal of Orlando Cabrera for Jon Garland. as I kinda think that Garland is a worse idea than giving a kid some starts, especially since the Angels are said to have a farm system and all. If these are their big off-season moves, it's probably a net zero on the whole, and doesn't take them from the 94 win up to the 100 win plateau. They are still, after all, on the hook for many more years of Gary Matthews Jr. (.742 OPS last year), and had Garrett Anderson as their third-best offensive player last year. If Torii Hunter doesn't produce like he's got a contract to earn, they are still going to struggle to score runs, and at some point, that bullpen is going to show some serious cracks (K-Rod and Shields' ERA crept up to 2.81 and 3.86, respectively, and both numbers were the highest they have been in the last five years).

No, the bigger problem is that the speculation has begun as to what kind of haul they will get for Haren and Blanton... and the awful idea that moving both for prospects might be the best idea. When your big off-season move is to move Magical Man-Elf Marco Scutaro to Toronto... well, how exactly does the team propose to win games next year? The offense was paced by Jack Cust, who has no defensive position. The next best hitter in 2008 could be Daric Barton, who also has no defensive position, at least as of yet. The team is on the hook to Mark Kotsay and Eric Chavez for more money than anyone else wants to give them right now, thanks to way too much interest in back surgeries. That profile of Injured But Presumed Talented includes Bobby Crosby, Rich Harden, Huston Street, Justin Duchscherer, Mark Ellis...

Well, this isn't exactly the young and exciting team that you'd want to see in advance to a new park opening, with seats and suites to sell and a rising motion to pitch. Seattle's ascension last year also means that the division is more than Angels Or Bust. I'm also not as up on the A's farm system as I used to be, and they did get a couple of useful pieces last year in Travis Buck and Cust. But it still looks a lot closer to 75 wins than 95, and while Hunter is not going to be a great player for the Angels in three to five years at $18 million, he's going to be plenty good before then.

Of course, this is all contingent before the Other Shoe Dropping... which is the word that Johan Santana's days as a Twin are over. On the off chance that he doesn't go to MLB+ East, and wins up in LAALand... well, then they go to 105+ wins with any kind of health, and the rest of the division gets to play the sucker wildcard bet. Which, as we all know, is always reserved for MLB+ East Runner-Up.

So, on the off chance that someone of influence in Green and Gold sees this, my single plea... if you have to deal Haren or Blanton, deal both and flush the year... but move them *out* of the AL, so that you don't get to see them tear you up for the rest of their careers. Because Danny Haren is a stone cold killer, and Joe Blanton is just the kind of smart pitch-to-contact guy that the A's kind of offensive players can never do anything with.

And after you fire sale these guys, announce that you did it because you knew you weren't going to win this year, and cut the ticket prices. Because on some level, the fans of this team *know* that you've been cashing luxury tax checks from MLB+ for years now, and not spending that money on the team. And if you haven't really been trying full-out, why should the fans pay full-out?

Japanese Tourists Are Prepared



H/t, With Leather. And as funny as this is, it's also a little sad, really, because this is how the US is viewed now. A US version would have "I no vote for Bush", "I don't have a car" and "Please don't vengeance torture me." (I keed, I keed. What American does aerobics or learns a foreign language?)

Troll Musing

One of the ways that you know you've made it as a blogger is when you acquire trolls. We've managed to avoid them for the most part here at FTT, but they're all over the place at Epic Carnival, which is probably to be expected, given that the place (a) gets high traffic, and (b) is an invitation-only "superblog". So we get the usual amount, plus the jealousy factor, plus the possibility of someone in the group using the Anonymous tag to make a few points. I've written about it before.

There are two points that I'd like to make about this, and then I promise to get back to actual sports stuff that someone might care about...

1) In the past 10 months, I've made some 600+ posts between here and the Carnival. I've generated dozens of links from blogs that get a lot more traffic than mine, and have had some very encouraging moments from the community and various individuals. Finally, it's the Web; no one's charging you to read my stuff.

At this point, what you see is what you get. I might have good and bad days, but this is the level; if you don't like it, please do us both a favor and read someone else. I'm really not going to quit from your opinion. (Though trolls aren't, for the most part, known for their ability to deal with reality.)

2) Mark Twain once said "I could live a month on a compliment", and that's as true today as it was in his time. Bill James also once wrote that if any of his readers ever heard him on sports talk radio, he really wanted them to call in -- because, oh Lord, there were some real idiots out there, and if you cede the day to them, it just meant that he was going to think twice about taking the job a second time.

So if you like something, throw a little love the author's way. Ballhype recommendations are nice and all, but comments are better, especially if it's getting trolled. This can be lonely work, especially on days when the ideas aren't flowing. Your kind words matter.

Now, we return you to your regularly scheduled foolishness.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Week Twelve NFL Picks, In Which We Give Thanks

My Fellow Tools,

Sometimes it's a burden, really, to have the amount of knowledge that makes one a True Masstermind. You get so tired, on a day to day basis, of the ignorance, jealousy and vindictiveness -- every last bit of it unwarranted, given our past performance of only bringing joy, light, sportsmanship and honor to the world -- that is directed towards the Patriots, or, as I like to call them, The Forty Five Best Human Beings To Ever Grace The Planet With Their Existence. (Best Team Ever is *so* last month.)

It's difficult for the Haters -- and that is all they are, Haters -- to accept that Coach is a better person than they are, especially when they are getting ready for Thanksgiving. Because, let's face it, what in your life do you really have to give thanks for, beyond the fact that you are alive at the same time as This Unspeakably Wonderful Team?

Your health means nothing when stacked up against that of Mike Vrabel. You may love your kids, but not as good as Wes Welker loves his. (I'm assuming he has them, by the way. He's just so virile, you have to assume.) And you may provide for your loved ones, but even if you didn't, the Patriots would still be undefeated. And that's all that matters, now and forever.

Thankfully, some in the mainstream media (or as I like to call them, the Handmaidens) are finally starting to see the light on the Patriots. In SNF's game against the Bills, as the Patriots were going for it on 4th down while up by 5 touchdowns in the second half, Al Michaels and John Madden didn't take the easy way out and point out that this was running up the score, showing poor sportsmanship and causing traditional American values of fair play and honorable competition to be tossed aside like so many pieces of turkey offal. (Which, by the way, is the de facto condition of every Patriot opponent by the second half. But I digress, an indulgence that Coach and His Fellow Gods Among Men would never succumb to.)

Instead, Michaels and Madden talked about how much Coach *respected* Dick Jauron, the coach of the Bills. COACH RESPECTS HIM!

And I, for one, was moved by the fact that Coach respected some other, lowly, inferior, substandard, capitulating and compliant coach.

It speaks of Coach's inherent charity, a condition that he does not get nearly enough credit for from the ravenous media hordes that hound his every step and do all they can to try to take a good man down. The coverage of his all-too-understandable efforts to have sex with other people's wives (as if they should put their own needs before Coach's) alone have been relentless, if, by relentless, you mean the NY Post and a few bloggers. Meanwhile, it's been *hours* since Andy Reid's kids have been on my television, and considering that I live within 100 miles of them, I'm concerned for the safety of my children. I ask you, my fellow Tools, where is the fairness? WON'T ANYONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?

Coach's respect for Dick Jauron, and his likely respect for that guy whose wife he slept with, has inspired me. So I've started respecting more things this Thanksgiving, starting with the live turkey that I killed with my bare hands in front of the kids for our dinner. When the Shooter Wife failed to support me in that decision, I showed my Belichick-esque respect by slapping her around for a while. Next, I went out and asphyxiated a prostitute when the experience didn't last long enough, out of respect for her skills. Finally, I strangled a hobo when my respect for the prostitute hadn't calmed down enough. I never knew respect could be so good for your hand muscles!

Truly, this Thanksgiving, I respect you all. Nearly as much as the Patriots will respect the Eagles. Now, on to the picks!

* * * * *

Green Bay covering 3.5 at DETROIT. It's a little hard to say, given that this is the Bestus NFL Season Forever And Ever... but all of this holiday games are going to, um, suck. The Lions are determined to prove that running plays are the work of the devil, which is making them extremely easy to defend, and this Pack team has been able to feast on pass-wacky offenses all year. Besides, it wouldn't be the holiday without various announcers getting well and truly sloppy over Brett Favre.

DALLAS covering 14 against the Jets. Now that the Jets have their face-saving win for the year against the stumbling Steelers, they'll be more than ready to tuck in and take the confetti from the Cowboys. Expect a monstrous day from Jones and Barber as the Jets try to keep Owens from being the lead clown, and with Patrick Crayton iffy, maybe this score will be close for a while... but Kellen Clemens on the road to me says Short Fields, and Tony Romo knows what to do with this. A big day, as well, for Jason Witten's owners.

Indianapolis covering 11.5 at ATLANTA. Seriously, we can't get some NBC Flex Time Magic happening on the one day a year where the NFL football should really Not Suck? The Falcons will be a trendy cover pick against a Colts team that's still a triage scene, but without some starters of their own on the DL, the Colts will simply run Joseph Addai and Kenton Keith on their way to a 28-point day. Also, now that Peyton Manning has had a little more time to work with the back-ups, I'm expecting a little uptick in production. After last week's washout against the Bucs, this Falcons team is just about ready to mail in the rest of the year.

JACKSONVILLE covering 7.5 against Buffalo. The Jaguars are starting to look more than frisky after last week's mouth-smacking win against the Chargers; when your scatback levels the defensive MVP in what was probably the week's most replayed highlight that didn't involve Moss or Owens, that's a sign that your year isn't going to include a trip against a Bills team that only moved a little more than Kevin Everett against the Pats on SNF. (What, too soon?) Historically, this is just the kind of game that the Jags gag on, but I'm guessing this is the time when the wolf actually shows up.

CLEVELAND covering 3.5 against Houston. As much as it kills me to lay out the extra nickel on the Browns, who can only win games by 3 points, I'm going to here. For once, the Kardiac Kids (and yes, Browns fans, I do remember Brian Sipe) are going to lay the smackdown on a Texans team that's just kinda there. Seriously, name me a Texan that isn't Mario Williams, Matt Schwab, Ahman Green, Ron Dayne or Andre Johnson. It's an entire team of no-names, playing on the road against a Browns team that's beginning to think it has Destiny on its side. They might be right.

KANSAS CITY covering 5.5 against Oakland. The Chiefs had to take a little bit of a good feeling away from last week's close but no cigar game in Indianapolis, with Brodie Croyle hooking up with Dwayne Bowe for a tying touchdown in the fourth quarter. I'm expecting more this week despite the sudden retirement of Priest Holmes days before what would have been another nice little burst of free agent production against the Raiders defense. As for the Silver and Black, they hardly ever win in KC even when they are good, not that too many people remember when they were good by now. (2001. Our attention spans keep shrinking, don't they?)

ST. LOUIS as a 3-point dog against Seattle. Is the NFC West the worst division in league history? Very likely, really, but I am a little surprised by the short margin given the division leaders, given their rousing 2-game winning streak and all-around better-looking game in the post-Alexander era. So why am I taking the Rams? Is it the 2-game winning streak (albeit against those world-beating Saints and Niners), the dome-field advantage, or the known gutlessness of the Seahawks as a road favorite? All of the above, really, but if you are betting this game heavily, you need to get out more often.

NEW YORK GIANTS covering seven at home against the vikings. I hate this Giants team. Just when you think you have them figured out for the second-half choke, they turn around and become the first time this year to get out of Detroit with a win. Now they get the AP-less Vikings at home, with some QB To Be Determined To Suck Later, in a setting that's just made for them. Worse yet, with the Eaglevisceration that will happen in New England later on Sunday, and the Skins a year too early for Jason Campbell and 20 years too late for Joe Gibbs, they are a near-certain wild card bet. And they still suck. Gah. Burress and Shockey with the big days here.

TAMPA BAY covering 3 against Washington. A week after giving it their all and coming up just short in Dallas, the Skins continue on the road against a Bucs team that probably had harder practices than their win against the Leftwichian Falcons. Everyone wants to slag the NFC South for its bad play, but this Bucs team looks OK to me, and should even win a home playoff game before getting crushed on the road. If the Skins do win, it will be all on Campbell; the Bucs will not let Clinton Portis take them out.

New Orleans covering 3 in CAROLINA. So, who do you like in this game -- the talented offensive team that periodically stinks up the joint, or the defensive-minded home team that starts a QB that's older than most of the league's coaches? Bad choices abound in this one, but I'm going to go with the idea that this will be one of Drew Brees's good weeks, and that the Saints know enough to treat Steve Smith with deference and respect, especially in pre-game warm-ups.

CINCINNATI as a 1.5 point underdog against Tennessee. I was so looking forward to betting on Vince Young on the road here, coming off his triumphant win in Denver, against a Bengals team that took out the Cardinals and looked to be playing for more than their lack of pride. So what happens? Denver takes advantage of yet another home game under the lights, and the Arizona Football Cardinals win what has to be their first game in cold weather in a decade, thanks to two INT returns for touchdowns against Carson Palmer, both of which counted against my desperation hunch play of the Bengals defense in the Beyond Stupid CBS Sportsline fantasy football scoring system. Someone needs to start a class-action lawsuit against that site, by the way. Anyhow... I'd take the Titans here, but without Haynesworth in the lineup, they are a sieve against the run, and if Jay Cutler and Some Martinez can light up the Titans, what will Palmer and the best WR corps that isn't New England do, at home?

ARIZONA covering 10.5 against San Francisco. In case you haven't noticed, I'm looking for a lot of blowouts against dog teams this week, and while the Niners did show the speck of a heart against the Rams at home last week, they still lost. Also this: they start Trent Dilfer at QB, which makes one wonder just how they have been getting the 11 points a game they've been scoring. I hate to give the Cards double digits against anyone; the defense is very erratic, and they are always one good hit away from many quarters of Tim Rattay. But this Niners team may actually be the worst team in football, 2 wins or no, and the Cardinals still have their division to play for. Besides, 11 + 10.5 is still less than the Cards will score.

Baltimore covering as a 9.5 point underdog in San Diego. How many times will Norv Turner suck a gambler into a big cover? Once more this year at least, but not this week. I'm looking for the Ravens to come out with a little bit of anger after the win that wasn't, and for Kyle Boller to continue to grow into the role a bit against a Chargers defense that just isn't as good as advertised, especially in the secondary. I don't think they'll win, but I do think they'll cover, late.

CHICAGO as a 2-point home favorite against Denver. One of the best bets historically has been to go against the home winner of a MNF game the next week on the road, and that describes this Broncos team perfectly. The Bears will counter with the Rex Cannon and a running game that showed a hint of life last week, as Fat Ced Benson finally broke a long one, then sat on the bench and bogarted the oxygen tank for the rest of the day in Seatttle. Between Jason Elam and Todd Sauerbrun, I think the Denver kicking game will give Devin Hester some chances.

NEW ENGLAND covering 22 - no, 25 -- against the Eagles on SNF. This line could move in the next few days depending on the health of Donovan McNabb, but it really shouldn't, and if the Eagles were smart, they'd probably play it safe and keep him out of the game anyway. If they want to try to cover the spread, they should run Westbrook for even more than the career-high 32 carries they gave him last week, and try to get Buckhalter and Hunt to get that number up to 40... and if Feeley starts, that's what they'll try to do, until the Pats pack 9 in the box and make Feeley and the WRs try to carry the mail. But the offense isn't really the Birds' problem here, just as it isn't really the problem for any of the Pats' opponents; the problem is that Brady has time, and he has receivers all over the field that just can't be covered. Look at the highlights, and every receiver is open by yards; the throws aren't hard, really. I know this is sacrilege and all, but a fair number of QBs would have 45+ TDs on the year with this system, which means the opponent's defense is getting burned 3 times a game at a minimum. Now, add that to a secondary that gave up 3 TDs to James Thrash, Keenan McCardell and Jason Campbell in their last road game... and it's hard to imagine, really, the Patriots having to punt while the game is in doubt. If the Pats had somehow lost a game before this one, I wonder if this game would have been flexed out. The Birds' ability to have an entertaining night game is under serious suspicion right now, and you never know what the ratings will do in a blowout. But no matter what, you can trust on one thing: the Handmaidens will not talk about running up the score, and no defensive player will hit Brady when the game is out of doubt. Because they all know better now, you see. They've been taught.

PITTSBURGH covering 16 against Miami. As Johnny Rotten sang, anger is an energy... and the Steelers will take a lot of frustration out against a Dolphins team that, for no reason I can fathom other than to make sure they have the first pick in the draft, is starting John Beck. I haven't seen a QB this gun shy since the halcyon days of Bobby Hoying, or maybe Andrew Walter. For Pittsburgh, this may be the last best hope for Willie Parker's owners to realize anything more than an overpaid Fred Taylor level of production for their first round pick; he's barely a step up from freaking Julius Jones right now. YOU HEAR ME, PARKER? JULIUS JONES! FRED TAYLOR! WHAT MORE DO I HAVE TO DO TO INSULT YOU INTO SOME ACTUAL FREAKING PRODUCTION?

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Last week: 7-7-2
Year to date: 73-76-11

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Epic Drop: Top 10 People I Am Thankful For As A Spots Blogger

Your list is here, and I realize that I've been double-dipping on Zeke recently... but we're just not going to have him very much longer, and we will never see his like again. (Take a moment amongst yourselves. I'm getting all verklempt.)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Highly Improbably Fantasy Basketball Team Names

My apologies, Tools... while in the past I've provided you with the finest the blogosphere had to offer in naming your football and baseball teams, I have neglected my hoop brethren. But from checking out our site logs, I found a Tool viewer who got here by searching for those very words.

Better late than never, of course. And you can always change it, of course. As always, these all fit the 20 character Yahoo limt.

Sex Me Don Sterling

More Walton Wisdom

100% Koncak

Beware Of Uwe Blab

Kobe's Rough Trade

Ride With Stabury

Take Me With Spurs

I Blogged Arenas

Boston Celtilingus

STEPHEN A SUCKAS

MLB+

One of my friends who I am not a big enough sports blogger to give a cutesy name to and refer to incessantly asked me the other day where I thought Big MLB Player X was going to sign with. I realized, as I started to rattle off the usual suspects of teams that could commit to a big long-term contract, that we need a new division just for Hot Stove League talk: the teams that are capable of buying proven talent on the open market.

The story of the Boy Who Cried Wolf tends to miss out on one critical point: eventually, the Wolf *does* show up, and the hammer comes down. That hammer, at least where MLB is concerned, is Competitive Balance. CB is the idea that every team has a chance at the start of the year, if only they have a good year.

That might have been true once, and still is true to some extent. But when the big breakthrough last year in the AL was that a Cleveland team that everyone thought would be good in 2006, but was good in 2007, and the Cubs spend $300 million and make the playoffs anyway, because while they are the Cubs and far from wise or prudent, every blind pig can stumble upon a good year from Ted Lilly...

Well, the simple fact of the matter is that the rich teams aren't as dumb as they used to be, and the poor teams aren't getting any smarter (or, for that matter, spending the money they are supposed to be getting from the revenue sharing plan).

Add this to the simple fact that the good teams have a large source of talent that is simply an auction marketplace (that would be Japan), and you take a bad situation and make it even worse. It's not that every player from Japan is an instant superstar, and you could even argue that most of the players have been bad bargains. However, it's not like every team in the league didn't know that Daisuke Matsuzaka would be good. But only a few teams could even consider signing him. (You can put Kei Igawa in that list, too, but only if you want to watch Yankee Fan get really, really bent.)

One of the nice things about baseball is that it has such a rich history, you can generally find everything that is happening now has happened before. What this looks like is the pre-farm system era, when teams simply paid for minor league stars. Since then, there has been the slow but steady flattening of the disparity between good and bad teams, as the farm system, draft and lessening of income differences helped to bring more teams beyond the level of punching bag.

But trends are just that, and when the snapback comes, it's noticeable. And when that snap causes fewer teams to say competitive, that's another problem. (What, we'll go to three wild cards per league?)

Cynics will point out the large number of World Series champions in recent years, but it's not who wins the Series that defines the era. It's the consistent presence of similar teams in the playoffs. And maybe this is really only a BOS/NYY problem, but it's hard to imagine how the NL doesn't eventually get there as well.

In the 2008 playoffs, Boston will qualify for the post-season. So will the Yankees, and at least two of the following four teams: Cubs, Dodgers, Angels, Mets. So that's half the field, more or less certain. 162 games to decide four spots. Welcome to the Hot Stove League of 2007, the new era of MLB+.

Now, if only we could reconfigure the standings to reflect the new order...

Epic Drop: Top 12 Reasons Michael Vick Surrendered Early

Your list is here, and it must be good, since it's more than ten and all.

It still astounds me, really, that a guy could fall this far this fast; I think it may be unprecedented in American sports history. Who else, really, was as big as he was, and self-destructed so unnecessarily? Sure, there were Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, but that took years, and they were still capable athletes, even in the throes of addiction. There have been any number of shocking and career-ending injuries, but that really doesn't have the same feel as what Vick did to himself. OJ is the most obvious corollary from the terms of Media Circus, but Murderenthal was 20 years past athletic relevance when he went to town (allegedly).

In this, as in many other things, the only QB ever to run for 1,000 yards in a season... is unprecedented.

SAVE ISIAH!

According to various sources in the New York media, Isiah Thomas could be canned at any moment for the Knicks' failures, which include a six-game losing streak.

I think I can speak for everyone in the sports blogosphere, as well as all of the other NBA franchises (especially the ones that have traded with the team)...

SAVE ISIAH!

As a frequent NBA blogger, I'm not sure I can get through the season without seeing what happens next with the Worst GM and Coach in League History. Say this for the man, but he's made Utter Irrelevance *fascinating*. I can't get enough of this Knicks team. From the comically inappropriate marketing (seen on a train last week, "Experience the Ride" -- oh, yes, yes, it has been An Experience) to the breathtakingly bad PR of the Anucha Browne Sanders case, to the simple and beautiful joy of watching a team with comically bad chemistry and startling athletic talent. Seriously, what is Nate Robinson if not a spectacular athlete that has no business getting minutes in a professional basketball league?

Rumor has it that the Knicks are going to get Jerry West to deal with this. No one should encourage that kind of elder abuse. Keep Isiah, and let's see what happens when the team is mathematically eliminated in February. Does Zach Randolph go on a 3-state killing spree? Does Eddy Curry burst at the seams in an explosion of Krispy Kreme? Does Starbury start dressing in drag and conduct the live action version of "Where on earth is Carmen Sandiego?" Does Q-Rich do a one horn salute in his pining to be reunited with Darius Miles?

Isiah does *not* need to be away from this. No, what absolutely needs to happen is a trade with the Kings for Ron Artest. Only then will the Knicks have the perfect combination of Insane, Insane, Insane, Insane and Insane, and a team that will be literally terrifying on many, many levels.

Come on, James Dolan. You've stuck with Isiah this long. Go double down and hit on 17 when the dealer is showing a 4 with the Golden Boy. He needs your faith and confidence now, more than ever -- and we all need that, too. Bring in Testy, and this is all going to work out *PERFECT*.

SAVE ISIAH!

Your Opinion Means Nothing

(We make with the Shouting of the Out to Longtime FTT Contributor and Hall of Fame Commenter Tracer Bullet, who provoked this piece.)

Sports talk radio in the greater Philadelphia is among the Most Stupid in a particularly stupid industry, and has as much to do with any other factor for the area's bad reputation for athletes. This form of the media, more than any other, has been on the drumbeat for the forced evacuation of the best quarterback in the team's history, who would be Donovan McNabb.

With the team coming back to beat the vaunted Miami Dolphins at home with Number Five on the sidelines with a bad ankle, you can be sure that the siren call of Dump The Star will begin again, just as they have in the past for Allen Iverson, Charles Barkley, Von Hayes, Eric Lindros, Ricky Watters and countless others. When you have a Daily Broadcast of Hate, you always need a new Eurasia, after all.

Independent of the, um, merit of Dump Don is the following point... the Eagles sell out just about every game. While there were many empty seats at yesterday's game, there was no danger of it not being broadcast locally, and absent a Kotite-like decade of utter futility, that's going to continue to be the case. The stadium is too nice, the rowdy element has gone way down since the Vet days, and the waiting list for tickets, given the attrition rate and hyper-lucrative sell-up rate to out of town swells, is basically Your Lifetime. I know people who have tickets who rarely go to games; it's a simple money-making enterprise for them.

There is also this. The organization has shown innumerable times (short list off the top of my head: Trotter, Stallworth, Owens, Staley, Vincent, Taylor, Simon, Walker) that it will evaluate talent and make decisions on personnel regardless of the public popularity of the individual player. It also routinely operates well under the salary cap, which also causes the fan base to howl in agony routinely. (For the record, I kind of join in that, especially when I see them fail to cover punts or kickoffs. Gah.)

So... are the sports radio maroons just howling into the wind when they call for the ouster of any player, or do they actually have an impact in making a player Not Long For This Town?

If you ask one of the people who work in that industry (and if you have a conversation with them, by all means, please ask them what they first wanted to do in life, before they settled for this version of pornography)... they'll trot out the list of talented malcontents that have taken the express route out of town, and lo, there have been many. But malcontents get tossed from any town pretty quickly, especially if an organization is stable and long-term, which is the very definition of the Eagles under owner Jeff Lurie.

No, the more likely point is that the Eagles Will Do What The Eagles Will Do... and whether that means throwing the ball an unconscionable amount of times against the NFL's 30th-ranked run defense on a wet and miserable day until your Not Quite 100% From A Brutal Knee Injury QB gets hurt, or having the coach also be the GM, and having him continue in both capacities even after his family becomes a national embarrassment... or drafting a QB in the second round several years before your starter is quite ready to be moving on...

Well, here's the deal. You're watching it, you are buying the tickets, and if they somehow pull off the Utterly Impossible and win in New England next week, you are going to be doing the same thing for the playoffs. If they don't win, you are probably watching until they are eliminated, even though they are somehow going to need to win in Dallas, which is looking as likely as winning in New England.

Finally, there is this -- given their track record as Best Era in Franchise History, albeit with many recent patches of borderline painful and/or unwatchable football (I'm looking at you, Cowboys Loss At Home On SNF), maybe that's all for the best.

Because no matter how many athletes get ridden out of town on a rail by yammering media meatheads, the yammering media meatheads keep their jobs.

And maybe, just maybe, we'd be better off if they didn't.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

One Small Question

If you are the defense, and the opposing QB lines up out wide for some kind of trick play, why doesn't your CB try to take his head off in the five yard chuck zone, where you can legally plant one on him?

Some fine day, some CB will do this -- heck, if it's me, I call up the FS and double-team him, and risk the 15 yard penalty -- and that will be the end of that little ploy. Quick.

Masstermind Disappointment

A hollow victory today for my Patriots, who rang up 56 points on a road game against the thoroughly frightening Buffalo Bills on SNF. The game was well in doubt into the second quarter, when noted Pats Killer JP Losman connected with Ewok Roscoe Parrish on a long TD pass that was so totally offensive pass interference, I set my dog on fire in protest. (Luckily, Hobbs had his vengeance in the fourth quarter, when he returned a fumble for the Pats' 8th touchdown of the night. and the one that finally made me relax and realize that this one, too, was in the books.)

In the next drive, Brady was called for his first intentional grounding of the year, and I immediately IM'd all my fellow Massterminds. "Here we go!" I said, and was immediatley joined by dozens of notes of assent. First the NFL moves the game to a night game, just to make the Pats' bye week rustiness a little longer. But the real killer was when the Orlando Magic totally cheated their way to the first loss of the season agains the Celtics.

I'm sorry to say this about the now 8-1 Celtics, who still have the top record in the league and all... but if this kind of thing happens again, I think we have to seriously consider making them leave the New England area. It's been nearly two months since a New England fan (and, of course, no one cares about the NHL, unless the Bruins were really really good, too) had to deal with the utterly *common* experience of dealing with defeat.

As a Masstermind, it sickened me, and utterly took all of the joy out of today's 46 point squeaker. I can only hope that the team will do better next week against those AJ Feeley-led Eagles. (I am assuming, of course, that Donovan McNabb does not make the start with his bad ankle. If he does, you know that the fix is in.)

Oh, and one final point -- all of you who were so cowardly as to take the Pats with just the ordinary point spread, rather than the Masstermind spread that I took? YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER.

Epic Drop: Top 10 Things That NFL Telecasts Don't Have To Tell Us Anymore

Your list is here, and it's based around one really small and telling point... my home town has more going on than cheese steaks and the Rocky Balboa statue. Honest. There's the Liberty Bell, the Reading Terminal Market, the Franklin Museum, the weird wonder that is City Hall, the colonial look of Olde City, South Street, some beautiful areas on the Main Line... and that's just off the top of my head. But if you are watching the league's telecasts, it's video of a cheese steak, every freaking week. Come on, people. Just try a little, is all I'm asking.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Better Know A Me

Lo and behold, an interview with yours truly, up now at the Carnival.

I don't think it has enough restroom sex for money, but your mileage may vary.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Epic Drop: Top 10 Winners in the Bonds Indictment

Here's your list. I figure that I'll be the only blogger who writes about Bonds today. It's just not that big of a story, really...

And here's your bonus winners: ESPN, who will milk this thing for another month of higher than usual ratings and annoyance, late-night television shows, if and when the writer's strike is canceled, the MLB Players' Association, who no longer have to worry about San Francisco Left Fielder messing up their merchandising deals. all of the previous Roid Boys (who's going to be bothering Mssrs. McGwire, Palmeiro, Sosa, et al now?)...

Hey, you know what? It's harder to find a loser in this situation than a winner really. Oh, wait... I think I know who the loser is...

NFL Week 11 Picks: Willfully Stupid

In my day job today, I had one of Those Moments that are why you call it work. A manager wanted to do a really dumb thing. I showed him why it was a really dumb thing. He didn't listen, then made his dumb thing worse.

In moments like this, of course, if you are young, or care about your job and career and employment, you will just want to scream or beat someone down. It's physically painful to be in the presence of Willfully Stupid; it is utterly maddening. It's also something that happens more in the NFL than in any other league, or at least, in more obvious ways.

At least three or four times in just about every game, there will be a moment of Willfully Stupid -- a 3rd and 1 call with a slow developing, straight up the gut running play that gets stuffed, an unnecessary and ineffective blitz, a completely unnecessary penalty, a booming punt into the end zone from the 40... and we're not even going into the breathtaking dumbness that is the announcing.

The NFL is also a place where Willfully Stupid sometimes works. It has the ability to show the team that the coach has such confidence in them that they can more or less tell the opposition what is coming and still pull it off. But in general, you can get a sense of who a team is by counting the Willfully Stupid moments; they are like preventable turnovers, or unforced errors in tennis.

When I'm on the fence with a pick, I try to isolate what I know about teams and pick against the Willfully Stupid... but in many of these moments, I'm as guilty as the team I'm picking against. My eyes told me the Giants stunk early this year, and I picked against them for weeks when they didn't. It took too long for me to accept that the Niners had completely quit on their coach and year. And so on.

Everyone who picks games has the Willfully Stupid teams and trends. The trick, of course, is to become aware of them.

And just because everyone needs more Ed Wood in their lives... I give you Plan 9 for Week 11. It's stupid!



Now, let him finish.

And with that bracing battle cry... on to the picks!

* * * * *

San Diego as a 3-point dog in JACKSONVILLE. Anyone who watched the SNF game knew the Chargers stole a game that they had no right to win, that Philip Rivers looks absolutely lost as a QB, and that Norv Turner might be the worst game-day coach in the NFL. So why take them after a cross-country trip against a Jags team that has spent most of the last month kicking sand in the face of their opponents? Because Jack del Rio may be worse, and because the Chargers defense just strikes me as more opportunistic than the Jags right now.

Cleveland as a 3-point favorite in BALTIMORE. There was an actual Todd Heap sighting last week! It was very exciting, watching him run around, like an actual football player and all. Of course, the good times couldn't last, and Heap of Hurt is again likely to miss a game that his team desperately needs him for. Even if the Ravens had their nominal top receiver, I'm not sure they'd get past this plucky Browns team, who have the best young WR-TE tandem in the league in Edwards and Winslow. Unfortunately for the Browns, Winslow won't stay healthy enough to make this an experienced tandem, but Edwards in the air is just something to see right now.

DETROIT as a 3-point home underdog against the Giants. How can I pick the Lions after their historic rushing non-attack against the Cardinals last week, against a Giants team that looks poised for a bounce-back after getting slapped around by the Cowboys? Because... I'm willfully stupid about how these Giants aren't actually good, and the Lions are just a different team at home and on turf. When your RBs are Jacobs and Droughns, I just don't see you keeping your QB upright against speed rushers on a fast track. Either way, this one will be close. Finally, there's the track record of the Giants under Coughlin in the second half of the year; it ain't good. Both of these second-place teams need this one badly, and both are, in my opinion, good candidates to slip out of the playoff picture late.

New Orleans as a 1 point dog in HOUSTON. This line says two things to me -- that Vegas is bent at the Saints for being inexplicable, and that they think with two more or less blah teams, go with the home team coming off a bye. The critical difference is that the Saints have better talent, especially at QB and WR, and are still in the running for a playoff spot, because their division is basically horrible. In a need game for both teams, I trust Drew Brees a lot more than I trust Matt Schwab.

GREEN BAY carrying 10 against Carolina. I really don't believe that much in this Packers team; if my Eagles wind up getting into the playoffs and having to go to Lambeau, the prospect will not fill me with despair. But at this point, I think I'd comfortably spot any winning team in the NFL 10 points against this Carolina team, who are 28th in the league in yardage, have the choice of a fossil (Testaverde) or a stiff (Carr) at QB, and have seen the total eclipse of Julius Peppers, who has all of a sack and half this year. He won't get any in this game, either.

Kansas City covering 14.5 at INDIANAPOLIS. The world seems to think that the Colts will just shake off two straight losses and a monstrous number of injuries with home cooking and an angry Peyton Manning... but I'm just not seeing it, not even against a Chiefs team that will start Brodie Croyle and won't have Larry Johnson again, either. I think the Colts will win this game, but I also think that they will struggle in the red zone, and with Adam Vinateri missing from short range last week, maybe they don't cash in as much as they should.

Oakland as a 5.5 point underdog in MINNESOTA. If Adrian Peterson were healthy, with the Raiders' recent struggles stopping the run, this would be a double-digit spread and I'd probably take the home team. Without AP, the Raiders will chase down Chester Taylor, who will still get his 100+ combined yards, but won't change the world. Meanwhile on the other side of the ball, Daunte Culpepper gets to wreck vengeance on his old franchise, and could find Jerry Porter more than his customary 3 times a game against a porous Vikings secondary. Vengeance is Daunte's!

PHILADELPHIA covering 10 against winless Miami. The Birds saved their season with their best quarter of the year last week in Washington, and they'll put the hammer down early and often against a Dolphins team that starts rookie John Beck on the road, without any real weapons at RB, WR or TE. With a win, the Eagles would go to .500 and the periphery of the NFC playoff race. With the Patriots looming on the schedule next week, there can be no letdown, and it's hard to see how a rookie QB (albeit a 26-year-old one) making his first start against a Jim Johnson blitz scheme can succeed.

Tampa Bay as a 3-point favorite in ATLANTA. A surprisingly meaningful matchup, with the streaking Falcons (2 is a streak) hosting the first place Bucs, who are coming off a bye. It's also a homecoming game for longtime Buc Warrick Dunn, who may be forced to carry the whole load with Jerious Norwood still questionable. I'm looking for the Bucs defense to take advantage of Joey Harrington's mistakes, and for Joey Galloway to carve up the most overrated CB in the game, Atlanta's DeAngelo Hall.

CINCINNATI as a 3-point home favorite against Arizona. The Bengals looked like a completely different team last week with Chris Henry giving them an explosive #3 WR, and with the defense jumping all over a bad, bad, bad Ravens team. I'm looking for them to keep up that momentum against a Cardinals team that frequently doesn't show up outside of the desert, and rarely gets back to back good performances from QB Kurt Warner. The Bengals need to be better in the red zone than they were against the Ravens, and they will be.

JETS covering as 9-point home underdogs against the Steelers. A bit of a trap game for the 7-2 Steelers, who enter the clown portion of their schedule (next week, they get the Dolphins at home on MNF) after taking care of business against the Browns despite special teams breakdowns. I like the Jets, coming off a bye and with Kellen Clemens having extra time to get used to the first team, keeping things close throughout at home.

DALLAS covering 10.5 against the Redskins. Last week's loss to the Eagles just seemed devastating to these eyes for the Redskins, who got three touchdowns from their putrid WRs and then saw their defense fall apart to Brian Westbrook. Now they have to try to save their season on the road against the class of the conference, who have the passing weapons to torture an over matched Redskins secondary. I like Jason Campbell as a QB in the long term, but he doesn't have the weapons to play catch up or win a shootout, both of which will happen this week.

St. Louis as a 3-point favorite in SAN FRANCISCO. Anyone who watched the MNF game, where the Niners did not have a first half first down before a feeble Hail Mary heave before the half, could see that this was a team that was absolutely, positively gutless. Meanwhile, the Rams broke their winless season with a surprisingly potent offensive display in New Orleans. Assuming the weather doesn't make a for a mud slog in the muck at Candlestick, this will be another step back towards respectability for the Rams, who have had two games of the old Marc Bulger and like it very much, thank you. Meanwhile the Niners have to wonder if former #1 overall pick Alex Smith is (a) healthy, (b) an NFL QB. On some level, they are probably hoping for the former, even if that means more of Trent Dilfer.

SEATTLE covering 6 at home against Chicago. I'm on record as saying the Seahawks are better without Shawn Alexander than with, and they'll have another chance to show that this week against a Bears team that scuffled their way past a bad Raiders team after their bye week. The Bears are going to Rex Grossman, which is probably the right play given the team's lack of a truly dominant defense, but it's still hard to imagine the Rex Cannon being better than the hometown bullies and a sizzling Matt Hasselbeck. Once again, the real problem with the Bears... is that they kept the wrong running back.

New England cover 20.5 on the road against BUFFALO. The real line is 15.5, but in my new role as a Top Masstermind, I'm honor obliged to take the Pats with more than the points offered by Las Vegas. This week, that won't be a problem, especially with Marshawn Lynch questionable and the Pats coming off the bye. Finally, true excitement returns to the NFL!

Tennessee as a 2-point dog in DENVER on MNF. This is a tricky game between two teams that I don't trust or understand. The Tennessee defense is the best of the units on the field in this one... but the Denver home-field altitude advantage is considerable, and the Titans offense has been doing the team no favors, with some pundits even calling for the return of Kerry Collins (OK, they are the braying jackasses of ESPN who are probably just trying to be outrageous, but still). I'm looking for Lemdale White to exert his will, and for Jay Cutler to make some big mistakes.

Last week: 8-5-1 (closing in on .500, baby!)
Season: 66-69-9

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Epic Drop: Top 10 Cautionary Lessons For Kids from the Life of Ricky Williams

Your list is here, and I have to say, Toolies, I'm conflicted.

On the one hand, I'm on the record as welcoming Slick Rick back to the NFL, but his return does make the Dolphins a much more dangerous opponent in Week 15 for the Greatest Team That Could Ever Be.

Luckily, the game *is* in New England, which could be absolutely crucial.

We Are All Living In Isiah Thomas's House

In describing the latest attraction in the all-day circus that is the New York Knicks, Isiah Thomas had this to say about his starting point guard taking his $15 sneakers and going home, rather than stick around to get torched by Steve Nash and the Suns:

"Whatever matters we have in-house we'll try to keep in-house."
Now, I don't know if Starbury got permission to go, and won't get into the perks of a job where you get paid tens of millions of dollars and get to leave whenever you like.

But I do know this: Phoenix is nearly 2,500 miles away from New York, according to Mapquest.

Which means that Isiah's house, and the situation that he thinks has been kept in, IS THE BIGGEST HOUSE IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD... and from my seat here in New Jersey, I do believe that my house is *in* his.

Now, I have lots of papers that saw this house is my house. Which means that Isiah's claims of ownership are about as valid as his claims of competence, and that he should really be paying me money for rent. Lord knows that I'm not comfortable with Isiah having any management responsibilities in my life, but the pain of that status can fade quickly with monthly payments.

So pay up, Zeke! And none of those Red Lobster gift certificates. I want cash.

(Hey, look at it the bright side. With Jerome James, Jalen Rose, Allen Houston, Malik Rose, Steve Francis, Penny Hardaway and dozens of other travesties on your record, nobody will even notice this one.)

Epic Drop: Top 10 NFL Players That Their Teams Have Been Better Without

The list is here, and the presence of so many highly drafted running backs is not a coincidence, really.

Don't worry, though -- all of this will be forgotten about by the next opening day and fantasy league draft, and someone in your league will draft a Bronco RB high, because this will be the year that they don't mess around with the position.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

NBA Potpourri

Just to show that this blog still covers more than the NFL, and the Patriots... here's where we are after two weeks in the NBA.

1) The Celtics own November. I kind of expected that the team would get off to a good start from the talent infusion, but they are also doing something that they have to do, given their short bench and star reliance -- they are blowing people out. With a point differential of 16.6 points per game, they're leading the NBA, and should be able to keep the heavy stress down... but note, please, that Pierce, Allen and Garnett are averaging over 39 minutes per game. Doc Rivers isn't, um, smart, and that's going to cost them in the long run.

2) Detroit's back with a vengeance. When we last saw the Pistons, they were looking old and spent in gagging up a playoff series to LeBron James and the Cavs. They've answered the bell with a 5-1 start and a 10-point differential. They are getting great production out of their second unit, with Hayes, Maxiell, and Murray giving them solid minutes and defense. Here's another positive: Sheed doesn't have a technical yet, but he does have 15 points a game, with efficient three-point shooting (44%). Plus, when your big man is doing that, it opens up lots of things for other players. (This is one of the reasons why the Mavs have won so many games with Dirk.)

3) The Southeast is horrible right now. With Washington and Miami combining to go 2-10, and the Hawks squandering big early wins en route to a 2-4 start, it's Orlando or nothing... and the Magic really aren't that good, either. With Boston, New Jersey and Toronto all looking competent or better, the torch of Worst Division in the NBA has clearly passed.

4) Kevin Durant will not win the Rookie of the Year. Simply because the voters will not pull the trigger for a low percentage gunner on a 20-win team that's going to spend the entire season doing the Lame Duck Wiggle, even if he's the only one with 20 points per game. There's some talent here, but with Durant shooting 39% from the forward position and the team dropping 5 points every game from no one getting to the free throw line, don't expect this to get better soon. Welcome back to the big boy seat, PJ Carlesimo!

5) Phoenix should be fine... but while I made fun of this idea in preseason, they really might miss Kurt Thomas, of all people. Boris Diaw has shown no signs of being the supremely useful player he was in 2005, Amare Stoudemire has been banged up, and Brian Skinner fits in here about as well as, well, he fits in anywhere. Any team that's giving Sean Marks minutes has issues with its big men, and it's all leading to too many minutes for Grant Hill... and we all know what happens next, right?

6) Houston (shh!) may be better than the Spurs. Not by the numbers (both teams are 5-1, and the Spurs have a higher point differential), but consider this -- the Rockets are doing this with a new coach (Rick Adelman, who is already making Yao Ming look like a good passing big man again), new frontcourt rotation (Luis Scola gives them quality minutes and a non-Dikembe option for when Yao sits), and a dramatically different situation at point guard, where Mikes James and Rafer Alston are giving them 17.5 points, 6.6 assists and nearly 3 three-pointers a game.

The ceiling might be higher here, assuming, of course, that McGrady and Ming finally stay healthy -- and if both teams are at full strength in a playoff, Gregg Popovich will get them past Adelman. I'm just not thinking the Spurs will be healthy.

7) Does Don Nelson does know that the year started and he hasn't retired? Last year's fun-time first-round playoff story, your Golden State Warriors, are 0-5 after a brutal stretch against the Jazz, Cavs and Mavs. They'll get back gun-toting captain Stephen Jackson soon, and they've been fighting flu and other maladies... but if they don't start winning soon, they could be out of this early, with a big long East Coast road trip coming up at the end of the month.

They give up 12 more rebounds than they get per game, shoot a lot worse than the opposition (.506 to .463), don't defend (um, see .506) and are giving up an incredible 46% on three-pointers. Andris Biedrins may be the only decent big man on the roster, which you kind of expect from Nellie Ball, but this is ridiculous. Also telling: they shoot 67% from the line, with nobody on the team over 76%. So if you're behind, foul 'em with impunity, really. Last year's playoff run could be fool's gold (en state), especially if Jackson decides to exercise his Second Amendment rights again...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Epic Drop: Top 10 Patriot Motivational Plays

Your list is here, and your bonus point is this... the Patriots are, shh, still playing with the possibility of an undefeated season.

I don't know why more people aren't writing about this, but as a Masstermind, I'm glad that they aren't.

We wouldn't want to jinx it, after all.

Epic Drop: This Week's Top 10 NFL Winners

Your list is here, and for the record, I am shorter than Darren Sproles, who is pictured at actual size next to these words.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Patriots Uber Alles

My fellow Tools,

On Thursday, November 8th, I announced my Ascension to Masstermind Status by joining the Patriot Bandwagon. In case you missed it, click here.

In that announcement, I promised something to you all:

I will outhomer and outsmug Bill Simmons.
Well, clearly the Sports Guy reads FTT, or has it read to him by some ESPN employee. Because just yesterday, he upped the ante to truly epic levels, by devoting over 3,500 words in his picks column (in which nothing was actually written about this week's NFL games) to his contention that last week's Patriot *win* was the clearest case of the NFL trying to fix the game for the Colts.

He did so by, I am not making this up, comparing the game to the sports movie "Victory", in which crooked Nazi referees try to help the Nazi soccer team win.

I would link to this, really, but I am afraid that those many words of pure genius would hurt your eyesight with their sheer brilliance. Truly, I had a hard time getting through them all myself, and I am a Trained Professional and True Masstermind.

Anyway... let me be the first to start the slow, respectful clap for you on this one, Bill. I think every Masstermind is impressed by your willingness to link the Colts to Nazism, and to make the calls in a *win* so aggravating that you're still holding a torch for it a week later. (Also, in a week where your wife gives birth to your second child and first son. Truly, sir, your commitment and priorities are beyond reproach.)

As an Eagles' fan, I've known obsessive fandom, but in my history, we've always just been happy to have a win, so much so that the calls were almost instantly forgotten. You know, because we were too happy to have the victory, and grateful for our team prevailing.

As a Masstermind, I'm now realizing that this standard is for losers. It's not good enough to win. It's not even good enough to cover the spread. The only outcome that is now good enough is the complete and utter destruction of the National Football League.

This may sound harsh or over the top to you non-Massterminds, but hear me out. The only way that all of you will (a) join us as Patriot fans, and (b) ensure that the lesser fans of lesser teams never again prevail is to ensure that the Patriots never, ever lose or fail to cover the spread again -- which is to say, end football as we know it. (After all, at some point, God will call Coach home to take over for that wussy slacker Jesus, and at that point there is bound to be an adjustment loss or two for the new Coach.)

Here's how it will happen.

1) WE Win out for the rest of the year and playoffs. Duh.

2) Next, WE add the best player in the college draft next year with OUR high draft pick from the Niners. (You know, the one that the NFL didn't take away from us FOR NO GOOD REASON.)

3) THEN, WE win every pre-season game in 2008 and play OUR starters for all four quarters, so that WE win by 60+ points every week. It's going to be important to set the tone early. WE will have no need to worry about any of our players being injured, because Coach will tell God not to let that happen, and God always does what Coach says.

4) In 2008, WE go 19-0 again, by even greater margins than 2007, and with even more outlandish run it up tendencies. If the Patriots kickoff in a non-onside manner, punt, allow a point against, or have a drive that fails to results in a touchdown, WE will have failed to achieve TRUE PERFECTION. (If this standard seems unreasonable, you are a loser, and probably someone who doesn't obsess about the officiating after your team wins and your wife gives birth.)

5) In 2009, win all 23 games again in the same fashion as 2008, but with more plays where our defense scores a touchdown. Shutouts aren't going to be enough anymore.

By the time 2009 ends, NFL games will have all of the drama of watching an elephant crush the heads of the condemned, and some of the lesser teams in the league will surely be having attendance issues. The television ratings will also probably be in the toilet, too, and with the make-backs from the networks to the advertisers and the drop in merchandise sales for all non-Patriots apparel, the league will be on the brink of collapse.

At this point, the Patriots will deliver the final blow by announcing that they are leaving the NFL for a task that provides more of a challenge to them. The team will then transition to an elite anti-terrorism force all over the world. You know, kind of like "The A-Team", but with more killing. Lots more killing. Because if you think Coach runs up the score now, you should see what he does when there's an actual body count.

Have I also mentioned that Coach will get to decide who's a terrorist, and who isn't? Oh. Well, now I have. And frankly, with the most-read sports site on the Net stating that the Colts are just the same as the Nazis in a movie, I wouldn't be sleeping too soundly if I were, say, Peyton Manning. Or a fan of Peyton Manning.

Then, and only then, will Coach and the Patriots have delivered The Final Solution to the NFL problem.

Now, if you will all join me in a strong, manly salute to the Patriots. Just raise your right arm in tribute, and don't bend it -- because WE are the Patriots. WE don't bend, or show weakness, or lose. EVER AGAIN. NFL WITHOUT END. JOIN US OR DIE.

Thank you. Good night, and Coach Bless.

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