Thursday, December 31, 2009

PODCAST: Avatar

I know this is supposed to be a sports blog/podcast, but I can't help myself.  In this podcast Kieran and I dive into James Cameron's Avatar in attempt to make sense of it all.



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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

NFL Season Enters it's Final Week

As the NFL regular season winds down, most of the playoff teams are set.  In the NFC it's the Saints, Eagles, Vikings, Cardinals, Packers and Cowboys.  In the AFC it's the Colts, Chargers, Patriots, Bengals and two wild card that are going to lose in the first round.  The AFC wild card conundrum seems to come up every couple of years.  There are five 8-7 teams eligible for the final two spots (Ravens, Jets, Broncos, Steelers and Texans).  The Ravens and Jets have the inside edge to clinch- win and in- and the others need some help.


But does any of this really matter?  American sports are so playoff driven that the final few weeks of the regular season are useless to many teams.  The drama and the aura of football goes through phases in the regular season.  The first weeks of the season are like reuniting with an old friend.  You catch up as if a day hasn't past since your last reunion.  But after you spend months and months together, you start to notice that this friend isn't so great.  The relationship is strained by penalties and yellow flags.  You begin to question who is actually controlling the relationship; you and your friend or the refs.  What I'm getting at with this analogy is that when the NFL is supposed to get good; cold weather, playoff positioning, fantasy football playoffs; the people that seem to be the biggest deciders for the outcome of the game are the refs.  Follow me here... They say that players adjust to the refereeing as the season goes on.  If you can't touch a receiver beyond 5 yards of the line of scrimmage, then the defense will adjust to that interpretation of the rule.  But it seems like as the season moves on and on, the ticky-tack penalties are called more often.  I can see a couple explanations for this. (1) Players (especially defenders who make tackles- more susceptible to injury) get more and more worn down as the season wears on, so they try to clutch and grab to keep up with the speedy receivers.  In this case, the refs may be calling the games the same, yet it is the players who change their playing style due to injury.  Expanding on the injury issue, there are a number of practice squad players who replace injured players.  There's a good reason the replacements are practice squad players; they're not that good.  They can't keep up with the speed of the game.  The other theory I have is that (2) the league office is all up in the referee's business about what fouls to look for.  Roger Goodell's empire feels like it can make the NFL perfect.  It is a far from perfect game, however. The game has evolved tremendously since its invention.  The problem is that the game can't evolve during the season.  I'm going to go ahead and say that option 1 seems more likely, but anything is possible with Goodell at the helm.

Last week's picks: 5-11 (ouch); overall: 49-30

Stuff to come later:  Playoff preview podcast; Avatar Synopsis in podcast form; the Dark Age (span between end of football season and beginning of baseball season)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Week 16 Picks

To make it more interesting, I'm picking this week's games with the game lines included.  Let's see what happens. (Chargers at Titans doesn't count for this week.  I'm writing the day after their game).
Home teams are in caps
PACKERS (-14) over Seahawks
Raiders (+3) over BROWNS
BENGALS (-13.5) over Chiefs
Bills (+9) over FALCONS
DOLPHINS (-2.5) over Texans
Panthers (+8) over GIANTS
SAINTS (-14) over Buccaneers
PATRIOTS (-9) over Jaguars
Ravens (+3) over STEELERS
EAGLES (-7) over Broncos
CARDINALS (-15) over Rams
Lions (+13) over 49ERS
COLTS (-5.5) over Jets
Dallas (-7) over REDSKINS
                                      
Last week: 11-5; Overall 44-19 (overall record does not reflect picking game lines)

In an interesting ploy, every single home team, with the exception of Washington, is favored to win this week. Look for some weird games this week.  Late in the season there seems to be a team to lose a head-scratcher, but then show up in the playoffs. (Cardinals. 2008. Prime example.)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Avatar

Since the Broncos lost to the Raiders this weekend, my mind is off football until the playoffs.  I have no idea who is going to win the AFC wildcard, and at this point it doesn't make a difference trying to sort it out.  Instead of focusing on a football column this week, I am going to focus on the best movie I've ever seen: Avatar.



There are so many layers to Avatar that I don't know where to start.  I don't have any business breaking down acting, story structure or sound composition, but I do have business in what the movie made me feel and think about.  The best word I can think of to describe what viewing Avatar is like: immersion.  The 3D depth the screen provided provided a sense of belonging for the viewer in the world of Pandora.  I felt engulfed by the environment, and I certainly did not want to leave.  The main character, Jake Sully (played by Sam Worthington), was along for the same adventure as the audience was.  Jake was literally the eyes, ears, and arms of the audience.  He asked questions, touched glowing plants and narrated his journey along the way.  His narrations provided evidence of his learning experience; a learning experience the audience was able to share congruently.  This is why the movie had such a profound effect on audiences.  Many people went to see a movie touted as a game-changer, but left after seeing a movie that could be touted as a life-changer.  Not a life changer in the sense of changing your life in a religious way, but more of an imagination way.  There are certain levels of imagination that need to be addressed, though.  One sort of imagination is that of magic and vampires.  Such things lie outside what I like to call the realm of possibility. They require no explanation other than the fact that they are what they are.  I'm not using this article to take a shot at the likes of Harry Potter and Twilight (I will say that they are not my favorite, but I understand why people like them).  Rather I will try to explain why Avatar is such a catalyst of imagination because it pushes scientific knowledge to the extreme. Technology and imagination are merging, and it is believable.  This is the idea that Avatar strikes at.

A few points I want to get at:
1.) What if... What if Avatar is within the realm of possibility and such a life could be lived through another body.  Would the 'driver' prefer his real human life, or the life of his real world character?
2.) Subtleties.  The little things in the background are what make a movie re-watchable.
3.) The Human Effect.  During the movie I felt the 'savage' label would be better attached to the humans on Pandora rather than the natives themselves.


1.) What if... This question nagged at me the most after watching Avatar.  What if such a world was possible? A world not too distant (a fictional world in the real Alpha-Centauri system; 4 light-years away), and a world similar to ours. I could go on and on about this question, (and perhaps I will in an upcoming podcast) so I will highlight a few ideas I have. Living your life through a different character is already commonplace in our society. Anybody who has played The Sims or World of Warcraft has an avatar; a second life so to speak. The former begs the question as to which life is more preferred. In Jake Sully's case, he was a paraplegic who took orders in his human life, while in his avatar life he was a regarded member of society who found the love of his life. Which life is better; which life is more real? The more fulfilling life of course. While modern day avatars are just computer programs, and not living bodies, it is conceivable that in the near future a person might be able to control a real body while plugged into some contraption. Everything in Avatar is within the scientific realm of possibility: it's a good idea, think about it.

2.) Subtleties: I'm not exactly going out on a limb by saying that the makers of Avatar put a lot of effort into the movie. Every piece of the screen is filled with a spectacle worth looking at.  What intrigued me the most, however, were the subtle connections to our life. Humans have a global network of computers that people can access almost anywhere on the world. Pandora has a similar network, but it's network is comprised of every living thing on the planet. The spinal cord/hair attachment on the native Na'vi is something that grows on you as a viewer. How cool is it that a single person can access all the data in the world just by literally plugging their body into the ground. The internet is naturally occurring on Pandora.  There are some little things too: four-fingered hands on the Na'vi; the Na'vi are left-hand dominant.

















3.) The Human Effect: Many viewers found themselves internally cheering against the humans as the movie progressed. The human leaders on Pandora often called the native Na'vi savages, when in fact they were the savages themselves. Is it ironic that Jake found more happiness living a life of possibility and learning? Not necessarily so. That should be the life of a human, and it is for the most part. People wake up everyday not knowing what the day will bring. That's what imagination is. The ability to make something out of nothing. Perhaps as the humans in Avatar were destroying planet Earth (as Jake eluded to when he referred to the Earth as no longer being green) they became more savage, while those who value their planet became a more prosperous civilization. It can be a very liberal message, and while this movie is not meant to be political, it still provides some interesting thought.



















I have seen nothing like this movie in my life. There are so many trains of thought Avatar can lead one's mind to. I love the originality James Cameron is able to produce on the screen. With so many movies being based on books and comics, it is uplifting to see an original story have such a profound effect on an audience as a whole. Thank you, James Cameron.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

PODCAST: Week 15 preperations

It's time for another podcast.  Kieran is back on as we prepare to see two undefeated teams.  We chime in with picks for each game this weekend (but don't worry, we are quick with the crap games- there are a few).  Later on we jump in with some baseball offseason convo.  Enjoy.



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Picks from the podcast:
Colts over JAGUARS
SAINTS over COWBOYS
Patriots over BILLS
CHIEFS over Browns
Falcons over JETS
Texans over RAMS
TITANS over Dolphins
Cardinals over LIONS
BRONCOS over Raiders
CHARGERS over Bengals
RAVENS over Bears
SEAHAWKS over Buccaneers
EAGLES over 49ers
STEELERS over Packers
Vikings over PANTHERS
Giants over REDSKINS

Undefeated

Week 15 is coming up and the NFL still has two undefeated teams at 13-0. The Saints and the Colts have history within their grasp. They've proven that they can win any type of game, whether they bring their A-game, B-game, or any sort of game. They each have shown that they can force the opponent into mistakes that hand the game to them. The mere presence of Peyton Manning on the sideline forced the Patriots into making the decision to go on that 4th and 2. The outcome allowed the Colts to drive just 30 yards to score the winning touchdown. Similar for the Saints, the presence of the Saints' daunting offense made a mentally frail kicker for the Redskins miss a game clinching 23-yard field goal. It's obvious that these teams have karma on their side. For what reason would they kill that karma just to get some rest for their players? Both teams are going to get a bye week heading into the playoffs, so they have a rest period already built in.



An inherent problem with cruising into the playoffs is the loss of in-game intensity. Teams that have to win all their games to clinch a playoff spot are in a playoff atmosphere for weeks. Top seeds don't have to face the 'win or go home' scenario like the wild card teams do. This may be a reason as to why a number one seed has not won the Super Bowl since 2003 (Super Bowl XXXVIII, Patriots over Panthers). The Saints and Colts already have a target on their back. Losing a game is not going to change that. So at this point history is within their grasp, so why would they walk away from it? My only hope is that the players are left to decide these final three games for each of these teams. Two undefeateds in the playoffs... do dreams come true? I say yes. We are watching history.
Last week's picks: 13-3; Overall 33-14

Friday, December 11, 2009

PODCAST: Week 14 picks with the bros

Kieran, Brewster and myself dissect the upcoming week of NFL action.  "If you have a pirate ship in your stadium, you can win at least two games a year."  And of course, a Jersey Shore update.



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My picks from the podcast:
Steelers over BROWNS (oops)
Saints over FALCONS
RAVENS over Lions
Packers over BEARS
TEXANS over Seahawks
COLTS over Broncos
Dolphins over JAGUARS
Bills over CHIEFS
VIKINGS over Bengals
PATRIOTS over Panthers
BUCCANEERS over Jets
TITANS over Rams
Redskins over RAIDERS
Chargers over COWBOYS
Eagles over GIANTS
Cardinals over 49ERS

Snickers...

Monday, December 7, 2009

"The Situation" that was Week 13 & PODCAST

Matt and I discuss the best parts of football (the NFL) as well as some of the worst parts (the BCS).  Later we chime in with some college basketball talk, as well as an update on what a 'guido' is.



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Some of the fakers have been exposed, and some of the takers have made the next step.  Only four more weeks of football until the playoffs take over.  What questions are left to be answered?  Can the Colts and Saints go undefeated?  Is Brett Favre slowing down late in the season again?  Are the Patriots merely average or just taking a late-season hiatus before they try in the playoffs?  And who the hell is Bruce Gradkowski?  I do know one thing: that play Robert Meachum made for the Saints was tremendous.  More on that later.  Week 13 review, let's do it.

Disappointments:
Will the real Pittsburgh Steelers please stand up?  No, they can't.  Not with out their defensive heart and soul Troy Polamalu spending his Sundays watching from the sideline.  Nobody can pick up the slack for a guy who runs around like Mike the headless chicken (add flowing locks of hair, subtract feathers, then you got it), and puts the fear of Samoa into any quarterback sizing up a secondary.  And when that opposing quarterback is mighty Bruce Gradkowski of Toledo Rockets fame, then you better be scared.  But honestly, what does a guy like Bruce have to lose when he plays for the Raiders.  The Raiders are supposed to lose every week, but have secured victories over three teams regarded as playoff contenders in the Bengals, Eagles, and Steelers.  How do they do this?  Their locker room is filled with guys who don't give a shit who or where they are playing, and sometimes their pissed-off-meter peaks and they steal a victory from the jaws of Al Davis' iron grip.  But being pissed only gets you a handful of victories: 4.  Good for you Oakland.

There comes a point when the underdog can't pull it off anymore.  The Titans admirable attempt to make the playoffs after starting 0-6 took a hit with their loss to the Colts.  Not all is lost for the Titans.  Chris Johnson is only 496 yards away from eclipsing 2,000.   Talk about a fantasy stud.  Thanks for being there for me, CJ.

Stuff to Get Stoked About:
The Broncos appropriately trounced the Chiefs with some old school downhill running and defense.  If Kyle Orton is the focal point of the Broncos' offense, then the team will not be successful.  But if the bubble screen to Brandon Marshall offense keeps clicking, then the Broncos can make a run.  What happened to the crowd at Arrowhead?  Unfortunately the Chiefs and their half full stadium are often featured on TV when the Broncos aren't  on.  When the going gets tough, then just don't go the the games.  Good for you Kansas.

Robert Meachum's strip of the ball after the Redskins' interception and ensuing run to the endzone to redeem Drew Brees' interception.  Oh yes!  I can't say I knew who Robert Meachum was before the week started, but he's probably my twenty-third favorite player now.  What a heads up play that was in a league where a lot of stupid mistakes are made.  The review on the play could have ruined the whole thing.  Thankfully it didn't.  This play has led me to cheer for both the Colts and Saints to go undefeated (although the Broncos would have to drop this weekend's game for this to happen... I'm willing to sacrifice).  There was bedlam every time an opponent did something positive in '07 with the Patriots making a their undefeated run.  I want that again.  But twice.  NFL playoffs are awesome and dramatic.  But what's the fun in 7 or 8 loss teams making runs through the playoffs.

Since the Patriots are not the same team they were in years past, the NFL should admit the Dolphins into the playoffs.  It's already been established that Tom Brady still isn't mentally over his knee injury, and the Pats' D is incapable of stopping anybody.  The Dolphins and their wildcat deserve another shot at the postseason.  An injury plagued squad, (loss of two best offensive players: Chad Pennington and Ronnie Brown) has treaded to a 6-6 record, so they likely need to run the table to clinch.

Last week's picks: 11-5; Overall: 20-11 (started week 12)

Friday, December 4, 2009

PODCAST: It's NBA Time

Me and Kieran discuss rookies, contenders, and how the playoffs are going to look.  Later we sprinkle in some USA World Cup soccer talk.  Enjoy.


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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Week 13 Quick Picks

I covered this in the podcast, but here are my picks in writing. HOME TEAMS ARE IN CAPS.

Jets over BILLS: Jets D plays well.  Silent Toronto crowd.  27-20.
Eagles over FALCONS: No Matt Ryan for Atlanta.  Chris Redman plays well for a half, that's it.  31-17.
BEARS over Rams: Cutler has a big game against a crappy team.  33-13.
BENGALS over Lions: Easy schedule for Cincy gives them the #2 seed in the AFC.  28-10.
STEELERS over Raiders: Big Ben returns with a vengeance.  24-3.
Titans over COLTS: I want the Titans to make this run. Chris Johnson is the man.  28-27.
Broncos over CHIEFS: Not pretty, but a win for McD.  21-13.
DOLPHINS over Patriots:  Wildcat strikes again against Pats.  They don't bounce back.  17-7.
Saints over REDSKINS: Saints struggle for a half, but roll to 12-0.  31-21.
PANTHERS over Bucs:  Even without a QB, Carolina runs over the Bucs in an ugly one.  13-6.
JAGUARS over Texans: Texans have no heart, and MJD has a heart of  gold.  27-17.
Chargers over BROWNS: Another huge game for Phil and company. 35-10.
GIANTS over Cowboys: It's December and the 'Boys struggle.  22-18.
49ers over SEAHAWKS: Whatever.  21-16.
Vikings over CARDINALS: Favre continues to make a case for MVP.  42-28.
Ravens over PACKERS: Rodgers makes a costly mistake late.  24-20.

Week 13 Picks: IN PODCAST FORM!

Me and my buddy Kieran analyze each game in the NFL this weekend and make picks on each.  Enjoy.



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