Monthly Archives: September 2011

Weekend Preview: So Much Mediocrity

You're not mediocre JGL

Here’s your weekend preview:

Movies:

50/50: Explores the lives of two friends after one of them (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is diagnosed with cancer.

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

Uninformed Commentary: So far the critical and audience on opinions on this one match up, which is fairly rare because the average audience member for just about any movie is an idiot. I love Joseph Gordon-Levitt, so I would love to see this, and probably will.

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Dissecting the Eagles’ 1-2 Start: Week 4 NFL Picks

Wahh

As the two people who have read these picks columns know, I have an intense burning hatred for the Philadelphia Eagles. That’s why these past few weeks of hand-wringing over the Eagles’ 1-2 start have been delicious for me. I wish I could find a bottle of the woe-is-me, crybaby tears that Michael Vick shed after last week’s beating at the hands of my beloved NY Giants (I don’t know if he actually cried, I just like to imagine that he did). I could use those as my whole sustenance for the rest of the football season.

In all seriousness, the Eagles are actually, probably, I hope not, a pretty good team. They’re stocked with talent and look better on paper than the team that won the NFC East last season. However, since I’m a bitter little man, whose distaste for the rest of humanity has been compounded by the collapse of my Red Sox, let’s dissect Philadelphia’s weaknesses one-by-one shall we?

1. The Eagles defensive scheme has a major design flaw: In the offseason, the Eagles promoted their offensive line coach, Juan Castillo to defensive coordinator (you read that correctly, he was the O-line coach) and Castillo installed what is known as a wide-nine alignment on the defensive line. For those unfamiliar with football X’s and O’s, a wide-nine entails the defensive ends being split out very wide, outside the tight end, getting into a deep sprinter’s stance and looking at the ball for the snap. Once the ball is snapped the ends make an end rush towards the quarterback. The wide nine allows defensive ends to take advantage of their superior athleticism compared to offensive tackles and create havok for quarterbacks as we’ve seen Trent Cole do these first few weeks.

However, the wide-nine has a major design flaw. It is very vulnerable to runs behind the tackles. Because the defensive ends are so far wide, and completely focused on getting to the QB, the offensive tackles don’t have to worry about blocking them on rushing plays (note: this also leave the defense open to screen passes and quick passes to the sideline, which the Giants used to great effect in Week 3). Offensive tackles can get to the next level immediately and clear out the linebackers, clearing easy paths for running backs. This makes it essential that the linebackers in a wide nine perform at a high level, bring us to our next point…

2. The Eagles linebacking corps is dogsh*t: The Eagles linebackers have been a weakness going on three years now, but management hasn’t done anything to fix the problem. They even let designated run stuffer (although he sucked at it) Stewart Bradley flee to Arizona before the season started. Which members of the Dream Team are Brian Rolle, Moses Fokou and Jamar Chaney supposed to be? Christian Laetnner (all three of them)? And don’t try to sell me on Casey Matthews, maybe in two or three years, but for a supposed Super Bowl favorite, I ain’t buying.

3. Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg are one of the worst playcalling combos in football: The fat walrus and his doofus assistant get off way to easy with the media. They’re poor clock managers and have no idea what they’re doing in terms of playcalling. Evidence: the Eagles getting stonewalled on the 1 yard line in the 2nd quarter. LeSean McCoy tore the Giants defense apart on Sunday to the tune of 128 rushing yards, and it was evident that he was going to have a big day from the first quarter on. So what did the Eagles do when faced with 1st and goal from the 1? A couple QB dives and a hand-off to the full back, who lost two yards. They didn’t even try to give the ball to McCoy or for that matter Ronnie Brown, who was brought in for exactly those types of situations. For a Giants fan it was a delight to watch, and it also gave the boys in blue more free hits on Michael Vick. Speaking of which…

4. The Eagles O-Line is awful: Philadelphia plays in a division that features Justin Tuck, Brian Orakpo, and DeMarcus Ware as headline pass rushers. You think they might invest in a halfway decent offensive line to protect their fragile QB, who holds the ball a long time trying to make plays. Left Tackle Jason Peters is the most overrated lineman in football, but line play is about the whole performing better than the sum of its parts. The Eagles haven’t done nearly enough to build the type of line necessary to sustain a championship run. But hey, at least they have lots of good cornerbacks. How’s that working out? *looks at Eli Manning’s passing stats from Week 3* HAHAHAHAHA

Picks follow after the jump, I’m much better at these than Ryan: Read the rest of this entry

Pilot Review: Suburgatory

Suburgatory (Wednesday 8:30 ET, ABC): When single dad George (Jeremy Sisto) discovers a pack of condoms in his daughter Tessa (Jane Levy)’s drawer, he freaks out and moves the family from Manhattan to the Suburbs. Hilarity ensues, kinda.

Uninformed Commentary: This is the definition of a middle of the road comedy, unlike The Middle which airs immediately before it and sucks monkey nuts. Suburgatory paints in broad strokes and doesn’t really have any new insights into the human condition, but that’s perfectly acceptable. Not every comedy can push the envelope. The cast, which also features Alan Tudyck (Firefly) and Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm) is likable and the absence of a studio audience of mouthbreathers helps. There’s not a whole lot to see or read in to here. Unless you’re a liberal and need to find subtext in everything.

Will it last? If The Middle, which is about the least appealing show on television, can get a second season, I don’t see why Suburgatory can’t. Although, they should probably find a better name for the show.

 

 

The View From a Collapse: A Red Sox Fan’s Perspective

It had to be this way. There was no other way it could end.

Since 2004 Red Sox fans have been spoiled. We’ve forgotten what losing felt like. Not just regular losing, but Red Sox losing. The kind that comes with the perfect timing, just when you believe that things will go your way. The kind of losing that physically hurts, that cruses your soul and leaves you shaken for days, wandering around in a daze, wondering exactly where it all went wrong. The kind of losing that makes you want to stay in bed, to avoid any and all contact with the outside world, because it only serves as a reminder of your pain.

If you think this is all hyperbole, ask any Cubs fan how losing feels. Better yet, find a Braves fan right now and ask them.

As Red Sox fans we never thought that we’d have to feel this way again. 2004 exorcised nearly a century’s worth of demons from Boston and made us believe that we could be winners. 2007 cemented our new found confidence and self-esteem, made us believe that we actually were the big boys now and that the 21st century belonged to us.

But a funny thing happened along the way to our much dreamed about century of dominance. In 2008, the Tampa Bay Rays, who had been a punching bag for the Red Sox throughout their brief existence, emerged as a contender, led by an electric left fielder named Carl Crawford and rookie third baseman Evan Longoria, who would quickly establish himself as one of the best players in baseball. We dismissed the upstart team from Tampa at first, but they forced us to take notice by taking the division title and then beating Boston in seven games in the ALCS.

2009 was even worse, as the Red Sox saw a division lead evaporate in the second half of the season as a juggernaut Yankees team steamrolled the American League, like a world champion locomotive. Still, we shrugged it off. The 2009 Sox had been hurt by injuries and we reasoned that with some health and reinforcements from free agency the Sox would be back on track soon enough.

2010 was rock bottom, or so we thought. Sox GM Theo Epstein made a rare strategic blunder over the winter, referring to the season as a “bridge year” before it even started, a gaffe that the Boston media pounced on. The Sox got off to a horrible start in April, yet had somehow managed to claw their way back in to contention by the mid-June before it all unraveled. On Friday June 25th, star second baseman Dustin Pedroia fouled a ball off of his foot, breaking his navicular bone. It was a day after his best game of the season, in which he hit three home runs in a win against the Colorado Rockies. In the next few days, the Red Sox lost pitcher Clay Buchholz and catcher Victor Martinez to injuries as well, and by the time they returned, the Rays and Yankees had created enough space in the standings that Boston could forget about any October celebrations.

Coming in to the 2011 season it was apparent that the team needed a face lift. The days of Big Papi and Manny Ramirez making pitchers piss their pants from the 3 and 4 holes were over. The Sox needed to find players to anchor their lineup for the next decade. And Theo Epstein did just that, emptying the farm system in  a trade to get first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from the Padres and dishing out big bucks to steal Crawford away from the Rays. The Red Sox were now an offensive juggernaut, built to grind opposing pitching staffs into tiny piles of dust. And for the most part, they did just that. After a slow April, the Sox went on an all-out blitzing of the American League. Gonzalez led the way, with his graceful opposite field swing and easy power. David Ortiz seemed rejuvenated, although a far cry from the 50-plus homer Papi of 2006, he hit over .300 and smiled that magnanimous Papi smile that we had all grown to love. Leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury developed a legitimate power stroke, turning himself into a modern-day Fred Lynn, except with Tim Raines speed. The only everyday player who didn’t meet expectations was Crawford, who got off to a terrible start, started to heat up, pulled a hamstring and came back as a model of mediocrity. Still, between May and September the Red Sox were the best team in the American League and looked like a comfortable lock for the playoffs.

The last weekend of August, the Yankees came to Fenway for a three game series. Up until that point, the Sox had handled New York, even knocking around Yankees ace and Cy Young candidate CC Sabathia, who looked invincible against every other team in the league. That weekend, the Bombers took two out of three at the Fens, and although we didn’t realize it at the time, the character of Boston’s season changed irreparably. The Sox followed that series by losing two out of three to the Texas Rangers and then two out of three to the Toronto Blue Jays. When the Rays swept Boston in a weekend series starting September 9th, cutting a wild card lead that was once nine games to a mere three and a half, it was officially panic time. The Red Sox fell into a September tailspin the likes of which the franchise has never seen, even in the 86 years of futility between 1918 and 2004, winning only seven games during the month and failing to do so much as win two games in a row. Suddenly, every flaw seemed exaggerated and every turn of luck seemed to go against the team. A thin starting pitching staff, made weaker by a mid-season back injury to number three starter Clay Buchholz, cratered completely with aces Jon Lester and Josh Beckett unable to stem the bleeding. Relief ace Daniel Bard went from lights out to imminently hittable. Third baseman Kevin Youkilis went down with a sports hernia. Every line drive seemed to be right at a defender.

And so there we found ourselves on September 28, with the Sox tied for the Wild Card, desperately needing a win over the lowly Orioles to preserve a season that began with the highest of expectations. And for eight and a half innings, it really looked like things were going to go our way. The Sox scored a run on a balk. Dustin Pedroia homered on a pitch up near his head. Jon Lester, working on three days rest, was nails, going six strong innings. Daniel Bard looked like Daniel Bard in the eighth. And there in the ninth was Jonathan Papelbon, breathing fire and getting two quick, easy outs. There was no way that Boston was going home tonight. And then Chris Davis doubled down the first base line and like so much this September everything unraveled. Papelbon quickly got ahead of the next batter, Nolan Reimold, only to leave a pitch over the middle of the plate which turned into a ground rule double. The next batter, Sox killer Robert Andino, lined a pitch to left, which popped out of the glove a of a sliding Crawford, allowing the winning run to score and putting the final nail into Boston’s coffin. It was an appropriate ending for Carl, who after signing one of the richest contracts in club history, turned in a season so putrid that he actually wrote a public apology to Boston fans.

Meanwhile, in Tampa, the Rays clawed their way back from a 7-0 deficit, exploding for six runs in the eighth inning and getting a last-strike homer from little-used Dan Johnson to tie the game. Minutes after the Sox had blown up, Evan Longoria laced a pitch over the left field wall in Tampa and the Rays had captured the wild card. It all felt so right. So familiar.

Sox fans won’t get any pity, and we don’t deserve any. The truth is, we’re the worst kind of sports fan. We’re petulant, entitled children, convinced of our own superiority and general awesomeness. Years of losing caused us to become bitter, spiteful little people, with shriveled up souls. Winning allowed us to unleash our most disgusting, boastful character traits, which we had kept bottled up for so many years out of extreme shame. Scratch even the most seemingly level-headed Red Sox fan deep enough and you’ll find Tommy from Quinzee, tucked away in the deepest crevice of his reptile brain, in the past we just rarely let him out. Yet suddenly, after 2004 and 2007, being a Red Sox fan was no longer something you hid from new acquaintances, girls you were trying to sleep with, and prospective employers. We reveled in our team’s success  and made sure that we shoved it in everyone else’s faces.

Well now that’s over, at least until next October. For a lifelong Red Sox fan, those words have a bitter, but familiar taste. On September 29th, Boston will wake up, and life will continue, but in a way we’ll have turned back the clock. The talk-radio mouthbreathers will be on in full force, calling for anyone and everyone’s heads, and they may have a smidgen of a point for once. Local media trolls, like the ever-repulsive Dan Shaughnessy will be piling on, and trying to score new book deals about some invented “curse.” It will all be unbearably typical and sad for a city that cares way too much about sports.

That is, after all, all this is. It’s just sports, and it doesn’t really matter. It still sucks.

Dane Cook Is Coming Back to Ruin Your Weekday Nights

Hey, remember when Dane Cook was a person that people cared about? You know, before we all realized that he didn’t have any actual jokes and he stole most of his material? Well after about two seconds out of the limelight, which apparently was enough for everyone to forget how much he sucks, he’s back:

Dane Cook is heading to NBC to headline his own network comedy series. Amid interest from multiple networks, the actor-comedian has signed a development deal with NBC for a half-hour project targeted for next fall. Cook will star in the comedy and produce through his SUperFInger Entertainment banner.

Guhhh.

Cook most recently guest starred on the FX comedy Louie last month in a much-talked-about episode where he and series star Louis CK put to rest the so-called joke-stealing controversy.

I enjoyed that episode of Louie thoroughly and it did cast Cook in a very human light. That said, I have no desire at all to see him on my teevee dammit. And given Cook’s popularity with the mouth-breathing frat boy demographic it’s pretty much a given that whatever single-camera piece of sh*t sitcom he hastily slaps together will get at least three seasons of run. It’s moments like this that have made me completely lose my faith in humanity.

But Now Who Will Complain About Everything?

Terrible news everyone! America’s most lovable curmudgeonly old fart, Andy Rooney is calling it quits after 5000 years of complaining about everything. I bet this is because those neighbor kids wouldn’t turn off their hippity-hop music and pull up their pants:

 Andy Rooney, who began his run as the end-of-show commentator on 60 Minutes in 1978, will make his final regular appearance on the CBS newsmagazine this Sunday, the network said today — though it’s possible that the 92-year-old will stay on in some reduced capacity. His final original essay — his 1,097th, according to the Associated Press — will be preceded during Sunday’s telecast by a career retrospective segment on Rooney with correspondent Morley Safer. The network is preparing a press release now.

For some reason the words, “reduced capacity,” being used to describe Andy Rooney made me laugh. Was Andy ever young? My theory is he was born an 80 year old infant like Benjamin Button, except he didn’t age backwards. That’s probably why he kept getting grumpier as the years progressed.

In all seriousness, Rooney has been one of the most recognizable figures in TV journalism for over 30 years which is quite an accomplishment. It will certainly be strange not having him around at the end of 60 Minutes. My recommendation? Replace him with Panthers owner Jerry Richardson. It’ll be like nothing ever changed.

Gregg Easterbrook Offers Conclusive Proof That Blitzing Never Works (or Something) (Updated)

When we last left Gregg Easterbrook, he was busy claiming that increased protection of quarterbacks and receivers has nothing to do with the recent offensive explosion. He was also busy complaining about the realism of science fiction television, how coddled and lazy 1st round draft picks are, and of course, blitzing. So what’s on tap for this week? Watch Gregg sing the praises of the Buffalo Bills, exactly three weeks after excoriating them as cheap for cutting Trent Edwards! Marvel as he compares the Detroit Lions to America’s auto industry with a metaphor that is totally not cliched or lazy. Read on after the jump:

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Pilot Review: ‘Terra Nova’

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Terra Nova (Mon. 8:00 ET FOX): In the year 2149 the Earth is a polluted wasteland with little hope until a fracture in time is discovered, leading to a time 85 million years ago in a different time stream. Pilgrims enter the portal hoping for a new beginning, but discover that things that aren’t exactly perfect in pre-history. The plot revolves around the Shannon  family, whose father Jim has been imprisoned for fathering a third child. When his wife is recruited to go through the portal (she’s a doctor), Jim escapes prison to reunite his family.

Uninformed Commentary: I feel like this plot was concocted specifically to piss off Republican politicians. Pollution from human activity destroys the world? Dinosaurs existed 85 million years ago and not 10,000 like the Bible says? WHERE IS THE JESUS??

In all seriousness, the writing and acting left a little to be desired, but these types of fish out of water sci-fi dramas can take a little while to develop (or in the case of Lost they never develop at all). At least there were some hints at intrigue. That and dinosaur attacks; I f*cking love dinosaur attacks.

Will it last? I hope so. This is definitely the most ambitious TV series in a while both in terms of premise and visual effects. My guess? Based on the strength of the pilot this should garner a following, hopefully the plot progresses quickly enough to hold peoples’ attention.

Weekend Recap: Holy Crap Did You See That!

The Lion King 3D won the box office for the second straight weekend, earning $22MM and likely taking some money away from Warner Bros. which released its own kids’ movie Dolphin Tale this weekend. Expect a Lion King reboot in the next three years, this time in 4D smell-o-vision.

Moneyball earned $20.7MM to take second, making it the largest opening for a baseball movie opening ever and proving that people like Brad Pitt more than Kevin Costner. The movie has been well reviewed, as are all movies based on Michael Lewis books, and there is some early ‘Best Picture’  and ‘Best Actor’ buzz building.

Rounding out the movies opening this weekend were Dolphin Tale, Abduction, and Killer Elite; which finished third fourth and fifth, respectively, earning $20.2MM, $11.2MM, and $9.5MM. Apparently, Abduction is #1 in Brazil, Venezuela, and Argentina which is not that surprising considering that those countries are very fond of llamas :

On the teevee, Breaking Bad continues to be awesome. The first few episodes of this season were fairly boring, but it was really just a slow burn building up to the explosiveness of the past three weeks. Sh*t has officially gotten real for Walt White and Aaron Paul and Giancarlo Esposito deserve every Emmy for the rest of time for their portrayals of Jesse Pinkman and Gus Freen this season.

Boardwalk Empire debuted on Sunday as well and was excellent as usual. With True Blood and Entourage in the rearview, HBO’s sunday night lineup is much improved.

After losing two out of three in the Bronx this weekend, my Red Sox are holding on to a one-game wild card lead over Tampa. Boston heads to Baltimore for the final three game series of the season while the Rays will end their season in NY. The Red Sox should be able to secure a playoff spot by winning 2 of 3 over the Orioles, however, the Yankees have already secured the top seed for the playoffs and will probably trot out their B-lineup against the Rays. The next three days will be very interesting.

As for football, you can read my recap of this weeks games and my picks here. And no, I have not stopped smiling since the Giants beat the Eagles. Suck it, Philly!

NFL Week 3 Recap

Here are the results for Sunday’s games. Updates tomorrow and Tuesday for the Sunday and Monday night games. (home teams in caps)

My Pick: San Fransisco (+2.5) over CINCINNATI Reality: 49ers 13 – Bengals 8: Feels good to be right. Right now the Niners look like they might have a chance at winning the NFC West, mostly because the NFC West is terrible. The Bengals are still the Bengals and Marvin Lewis will probably never get fired no matter how much they suck.

My Pick: New England (-8.5) over BUFFALO Reality: Patriots 31 – Bills 34: It doesn’t matter what happens the rest of the season, the Bills have already won their Super Bowl. Before we start burying the Patriots (as much fun as that would be) recall that they lost to the Browns last season and still won 14 games.

My Pick: NEW ORLEANS (-4) over Houston Reality: Texans 33 – Saints 40: Who needs defense anyways? That sh*t is boring…

My Pick: NY Giants (+7) over PHILADELPHIA Reality: Giants 29 – Eagles 16: *Smiles uncontrollably*

My Pick: Miami (+2.5) over CLEVELAND Reality: Dolphins 16 – Browns 17: I sincerely feel bad for anyone who watched this.

My Pick: Denver (+6.5) over TENNESSEE Reality: Broncos 14 – Titans 17: See above

My Pick: Detroit (-3.5) over MINNESOTA Reality: Lions 26 – Vikings 23 (OT): I almost threw the remote when Detroit kicked the winning field goal on a first down instead of trying to advance the ball farther to score a TD. Then I remembered that I didn’t have any actual money on the game, because I am poor.

My Pick: CAROLINA (-3.5) over Jacksonville Reality: Jaguars 10 – Panthers 16: People who watched this game are the real losers. WOOF.

My Pick: SAN DIEGO (-14.5) over Kansas City Reality: Chiefs 17 – Chargers 20: Norv Turner special, I will, however, keep picking against the Chiefs no matter the line.

My Pick: NY Jets (-3.5) over OAKLAND Reality: Jets 24 – Raiders 34: I don’t have a pithy line for this one.

My Pick: Baltimore (-3.5) over ST. LOUIS Reality: Ravens 37 – Rams 7: Seems about right. It’s going to be a long season in St. Louis.

My Pick: Atlanta (+1.5) over TAMPA BAY Reality: Falcons 13 – Buccaneers 16: I think I’ve overestimated the Falcons, their offense just hasn’t been nearly as good as expected, plenty of yards, but not enough points to show for them.

My Pick: Arizona (-3.5) over SEATTLE Reality: Cardinals 10 – Seahawks 13: *FART*

My Pick: Green Bay (-3.5) over CHICAGO Reality: Green Bay 27 – Chicago 17: This will be a pattern for the Bears. They’re capable of beating bad teams, but they can’t hang with the truly elite.

UPDATE:

My Pick: Pittsburgh (-10.5) over INDIANAPOLIS Reality: Steelers 23 – Colts 20: Colts fans have a new Jesus, his name is Curtis Painter and he’s pretty unimpressive as far as deities go.

UPDATE:

My Pick: Washington (+5.5) over DALLAS Reality: Redskins 16 – Cowboys 18: Expect volumes to be written expounding the toughness and prowess in the clutch of Tony Romo only for his to throw a last minute pick to kill in week 16 to kill the Cowboys’ playoff chances.

Week 3 Record: 9- 7